View Full Version : Are Narrow images cliches ?

Ken Lee
10-Jan-2004, 18:08
I was looking over someone's web site and it occurred to me that most of the images were in a narrow aspect ratio, shot in the fog.

I decided to try a few of my own... Are they all cliches ?


tim atherton
10-Jan-2004, 18:33
do you mean is every panoramic/rotating lens photogorpah a cliche or is yours?

Ken Lee
10-Jan-2004, 18:49
Tim - I asked the question sincerely about the narrow aspect ratio in general and I do appreciate being corrected in any way, by anyone.

On reflection, I see that there are many cliches, in many aspect ratios, many subjects, etc.

Perhaps it would have been better had I asked something like this: "Does the narrow aspect ratio lend itself more to cliches, than other ratios do ?"

Mike Troxell
10-Jan-2004, 19:00
"Does the narrow aspect ratio lend itself more to cliches, than other ratios do ?"

There are probably more 8x10's than any other aspect ratio (well, except for the standard size you get back from the drugstore/photofinisher). Lets change that to "Does the 8x10 aspect ratio lend itself more to cliches, than other ratios do?" Cliches are what people make of them. Any size can be anything, depending on who made the photo. I don't think that panoramic, or any other size, "lends itself to a cliche". Its the photographer themselves that does that.

tim atherton
10-Jan-2004, 19:05
"Perhaps it would have been better had I asked something like this: "Does the narrow aspect ratio lend itself more to cliches, than other ratios do ?""

Okay - I see what you are saying.

In a way I think it can, but I think it's more an issue of the format more easily dominating the compostion than in some other formats. So you have to be better/work harder to overcome that. It's often easy for the horizon line to dominate. In some ways, I think it often initially makes a slightly weak image look stronger than it really is on taking a longer look.

But there are some amazing images in these formats. I've learned that LF photogorpaher Geoffrey James, who is on this list, does a lot of work in this format and has done for years - I have his Italian Gardens book and it's quite stunning (as well as a book on the Roman Campagna). I think he also has some in his Olmstead book. I've seen some of his colour ones as well, from a book on the Mount Royal Cemetary in Montreal. And I think he is currently working on a series on urban Toronto. Personally, not many cliches there...

Of course the master of this, in some ways, was Sudek - if you ever get a chance to look at his big book of panoramas (wish I'd never sold mine...) it's quite wonderful - and very fresh. Along with his panoramas from the industrial "black triangle"

I've also learnt recently how much of the difference there is between just the panoramic format - a slice of film with a WA lens, and using a camera with a raotating scanning lens. I am really starting to feel the latter more often gives the sort of image that draws me to it. There is a real difference. Now, should I buy a Noblex... :-)

I guess you really need to know how to use this format - so in a way, I think it probably is easy to fall into cliches...

Ken Lee
10-Jan-2004, 19:05
Yes, you are right. Thanks !

Ralph Barker
10-Jan-2004, 19:47
FWIW, Ken, I think the panoramic aspect ratio, loosely defined, can be very effective. But, I think it depends on the subject. That is to say, I feel the subject/composition needs to fit naturally within that aspect ratio. In the case of your posted image, for example, I feel the ratio is a little forced, as we don't see all of the tree. On the other hand, forcing the panoramic view might be better than a large expanse of empty foreground. You're the best judge of that.

tim atherton
10-Jan-2004, 19:50
"I feel the ratio is a little forced, as we don't see all of the tree."

why do we need to see all of the tree... - it never seemed to worry Atget :-) (I never see all a tree when I'm stood close to it, just parts)

Christian Olivet
10-Jan-2004, 20:47
The first glance at the photograph above brought nothing close to the feeling of "I've already seen this". I think that cliched photographs have more to do with our seeing than the format of the camera. I think many times we get so inspired by someone else's images that consciously or unconsciously we try to make them ourselves. Some times this works for us. Sometimes it kills our seeing. Most times it merely creates yet another cliched photograph to be bored at. In my case, being not that experienced of a photographer, the issue of my images being a cliche or not is not a concern. My shooting is mostly a learning process. Nothing else tought me more photography than shooting photographs. Looking at photographs may inspire and broaden our minds, but doesn't teach photography. Doing both I think is the best of approachhes.

Jorge Gasteazoro
10-Jan-2004, 22:25
Ken, check these (http://www.afterimagegallery.com/osbornnew.htm) out. I think the "panoramic" format works very well here and there is nothing cliched about these images.

Ralph Barker
10-Jan-2004, 23:34
Tim (and, Ken) - what I meant was the base of the tree, not literally "all" of the tree. Including the base of the tree, I feel, would have improved the balance in the composition, and kept the eye within the frame. But again, that might not have been possible. Just my opinion, however.

tim atherton
10-Jan-2004, 23:42
"what I meant was the base of the tree, not literally "all" of the tree"

Okay... :-) I still don't think it's really neded.

One thing that intrigues me is that they say that the view you get from a scanning camera like the Noblex most closely resembles the human point of view with our two eyes working together (which, incidentaly, mine don't, not having binocular vision - maybe that's why I prefer 8x10... as a result I also don't have the effective 3D (or at least stereoscopic) view most people have - apparently, what I see is already closer to the 2D of a photograph - which is another subject altogether. Though one thing I have discovered is that it's a condition found in suprisingly high numbers among photographers...)

Paul Moshay
11-Jan-2004, 01:11
Jorge, Thank you for the link to the Osborne photographs. What wonderful images, I just love the aspect of the images, and the subject matter, no cliches there. Paul

Jorge Gasteazoro
11-Jan-2004, 02:10
You are welcome Paul, they are beautiful photographs.

See Geoffrey, I CAN admire a great digital print....:-)

Jean-Louis Llech
11-Jan-2004, 04:28
I don't know if I have correctly understood your question. What do you call exactly a "cliche" ?
In my opinion, you shoot a photo because, at one moment, what you see brings you an emotion, and you NEED to "catch" this emotion in order to create it one more time when you see the photo.
I don't bother if this photo can be called a "cliche" by somebody else. It's just a relationship between me, my memory and the photo. What is nice and ugly is a personal affair.
Forgive me if I have misunderstood your question.
As far as I am concerned, I am very pleased with this photo.Technically speaking, the ratio looks like the human sight. And I feel a real pleasure, (thus a positive emotion) when I look at it.
Continue to make such photographs, it is very good.

james mickelson
11-Jan-2004, 07:24
I like this image. Very nice balance here from my perspective. All images can be considered cliches'. Whether format, style, technique, all can be considered cliches. Find an image that stands as a single idea, when taken together with the breadth of images in existence. But each image still has it's own unique character when viewed in it's singularity. It's the viewpoint of someone and therefore it is unique. I saw an Emmit Gowen last night that I thought was beautiful. But upon thinking further, I had seen the same image before in many other artists images, but yet it was different at the same time. It was a genre and there are many that have the same look and feel to them as this one did. Just because an image has a certain aspect ratio doesn't in itself make it a cliche. There are few truly unique images. One artist that jumps out at us with his unique vision is RobertParke Harrison. He is published by Twinn Palms Publishing. Take a look at a truly unique vision. Just the ideas alone are unique but the style and technique make it very unique indeed. But here again the artist borrowed heavily from those who went before him. Does that make his images cliches? You be the judge if you think it matters. If we become too concerned with being different, we lose what the art is all about. Creating something of ourselves. Our unique vision even if it looks like another's work it is still our own.

Jim Rhoades
11-Jan-2004, 07:35
I think not. It's not the format but the subject that creates the cliches. I know the guy's making good money but if I see another cute brown dog in a dress driving a golf cart I'll puke. Oh no, did I just give him another stupid idea? And I thought I had a problem with creativity.

John D Gerndt
11-Jan-2004, 09:19
I might be that what is to be feared when jumping into a new format or means of making some type of image is to fall into a long establish pattern that will bring derision upon oneself. “Dang, hasn’t this guy ever looked around for guidance before boring us with the same old thing?” Congratulations Ken for braving the initial onus of asking a question instead of the wasting someone’s time and yours with re-inventing an old idea.

Yes, there are quite a few clichés given that there are billions of images out there, even in a rarer format/aspect ratio, but many clichés sound like wisdom the first time around. Learn from viewing.

A scanning panoramic camera does render differently than a wide-angle lens, it is capable of SUCH a wide field – it looks strange to most of us. The timing/rendering of a moving object too is unique to the scanning method. Given these caveats, you can take some wide angle prints and crop them with paper sheets and see how the different aspect ratio changes the feel you get from the image, then you’ll have to enlarge it (maybe just in your mind) and you’ll have examples of what to do and what not to do.

I believe every method has points to be exploited. What exploits you are capable of, is only to be found by yourself via lots of looking and lots of doing. Start with the looking and know that by choosing something rarer, you will set yourself up for a harder search.

And don’t be like me and get lost in the looking! I must continually remind myself that one is made a photographer by making photographs!

Best of luck

Geoffrey Swenson
12-Jan-2004, 09:32
Thanks Jorge,

Those are sumptuous images! See!?! Technique/method is somewhat secondary to the Image – It is the photographer mostly :-))

Ernest Purdum
14-Jan-2004, 20:28
Long after reading your thread, I was reminded of it. Apparently early Chinese painters didn't think so. I was looking at a landscape which measured out at about 17" wide by 41" high.

Bruce Watson
14-Jan-2004, 20:33

Interesting thought. I have some difficulty with that as well - the 8x20 format and similar sizes. However, I understand somewhat why people like them. My speculation is that its about limits.

The parallel I see is with poetry. Some people like to have a framework within which to write. Iambic pentameter anyone? Haiku maybe? 8x20 perhaps?

I'm thinking about masking off my ground glass myself, just to see what it's like. I'm thinking more along the lines of a 1.618 aspect ratio -- the golden proportion. You know, that famous 3.09x5 format ;-)

Ken Lee
15-Jan-2004, 05:20
Ahh yes... that good old 3.09 x 5.0


Bruce Watson
17-Jan-2004, 07:44
Exactly. It does have a strange appeal, doesn't it?

Ken Lee
18-Jan-2004, 09:50
Yes, it does. I really ought to spend some time concentrating on that format.

I guess if our own physiology is based on that ratio, it makes sense that we would find it appealing.