Appreciating the Vertical Image
Seize the Vertical
With 35mm film cameras, DSLRs, mirrorless…MOST cameras, it takes some extra maneuvers for the vertical frame. Horizontal photos are easy: You hold the camera, right hand at the right and left hand at the left. For verticals though, do you put right hand over the left? Or do you hold it the other way around?
Now your arms look like a pretzel.
It’s a simple enough technique to figure out but sometimes, most times, the tendency is to photograph and achieve the horizontal results. With phones now though, verticals are actually easier.
After looking at my body of work some months ago, it was evident that there was a crazy lack of verticals in my gallery of images.
The thing is, I LOVE verticals. They’re fun to make, they offer a wonderful perspective and there is usually no other orientation I’d want to see when it comes to a photograph, or painting, displayed on .
Recently, the need for a photo walk was heavy so I ventured out with the mindset of “I’m going to capture verticals.” My Leica 35mm M6 at my side, loaded with Kodak Portra 400 film, I set out to see what I could find.
There’s a business development about two miles away from home that constantly draws me in for photography. It has clean backgrounds and simple lines; difficult characteristics to obtain in the tree-filled surroundings of northern Michigan. There’s an old car wash as well as a furniture store and laundromat. It may not draw you or other people in, but it certainly appeals to my appreciation for banal and beautiful photography. Oftentimes, the simpler the better, and that’s what this development provides.
Composing Within a Vertical Frame
The 28mm lens that I often use is important because it forces the photographer to approach close to the subject. It’s taken some time but after becoming familiar with the close proximity, it’s a favorite lens. It’s a prime lens also which I can’t recommend enough. It forces one to move the feet and to learn how to use one focal length.
If you haven’t tried this yet, you definitely should. Learn your equipment, whatever it is; take time and practice, practice, practice. When you’re comfortable and knowledgeable with the technical aspects of the camera, that’s when you can focus more on the art of photography.
An old ‘Car Wash’ sign caught my attention. The lettering font dated the sign beautifully, as did the lettering color. Across the parking lot, maybe 40 yards away, was a couch facing toward the wall. The abstract nature of this scene drew me in and I photographed it. An area like this is ideal for when one is inspired by the “New Topographics” movement and minimalism.
With vertical images, it has taken me a while to compose well. At first, there was a lot of negative space at the top and bottom of the frame. This can be cool, but I was trying to fill the frame with interesting subject matter. With time, practice and patience, I’ve started to improve on my vertical compositions, at least, to my liking. Sometimes it’s fun to take a while to compose a photo and sometimes it’s fun to photograph instinctually; when you photograph a lot, you’ll find which methods and techniques work best for you.
My next stop was in downtown Traverse City. After parking and walking, I traveled through some neighborhoods that have a variety of homes from old to modern. One, in particular, caught my eye with cursive house numbers. I stepped back a bit to photograph this scene because I wanted to show the house in its environment of trees and street.
Practice composing and photographing in the vertical format, that’d be my suggestion and takeaway. Anything you can do to challenge yourself and flex your creative muscles will make you a much more well-rounded photographer; plus, you could have a lot of fun doing it.
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use the more you have.”~Maya Angelou