During my visit to Romania I was driving with a couple of local photographer friends through the countryside of Maramures region. We’d look for anything visually interesting along the road and occasionally, we'd stop. At one stage we drove into a fog-enveloped stretch of the road. To me fog presents an opportunity for potentially atmospheric images with a strong sense of mood. You just need a subject in the frame to really make the most of it.
I had my eyes opened and soon in the distance, I noticed an outline of a man ploughing land with horses. The scene was very atmospheric. We stopped, got a little closer and I began shooting.
I was getting wide frames while the man was still working. They were great, as far as telling the story in an illustrative and literal manner. On the left is one of the better of those wide frames. The story it tells is of a man working hard on his land. But, I wanted something that felt more powerful.
As the man came closer, my friends invited him to chat. He lit a cigarette and started puffing away. Now that the man was so near I noticed that in front of me I had the ingredients for a different image, one that could tell a similar story, yet be more powerful.
main reasons I think it works
The image is powerful partly because it's a close-up and it emphasises what’s important – the man's face, the tired eyes, the mud-covered hand, the torn sleeve and his working, countryside outfit. Despite the framing being pretty tight, there are still enough details to tell virtually the same story as the wider frame did. The horses and the soil are still visible and, it's not hard to make a connection between everything.
This tighter-framed image is not a literal illustration of the man at work that I achieved with the wide frame, but it is the same in essence. Additionally, the decision to frame up-close in this case was like turning up the volume on the human element in the scene. This inevitably leads the image to resonate more on an emotional level.
The fog that prompted me to look for something to shoot in the first place played its part in making the image work too. It did add a certain mood to the scene, but it also had a more straight-forward purpose. The fog blocked out any elements that could have distracted from the story.
Any given scene might have the potential for a couple or even several strong images. They might be from a similar angle or, you might need to move around, wait and get closer, as I did in this situation. Sometimes you can tell a story more emphatically by framing tighter. In the case that you have a human being in front of the camera, you can really increase the emotional impact by getting up close to that person.
So the main tip is – Explore different ways of framing. In fact, don't ever stop at just one way of seeing the scene. Move around, get closer, or wait for the subject to get closer. It's only through trying various ways of framing the same scene that you can get the most out of it.
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