The Aspect Ratio Feature as a Compositional Tool.
One of my primary image making tools is a Panasonic Lumix DMC LX3. I mentioned this camera in yesterday’s post, East Brookfield Station, October 25, 2009 and I’ve also detailed its use in previous posts.
The Lumix LX3 has a sliding switch above the lens that allows control of the camera’s aspect ratio (in other words the relative dimensions of the frame). This gives the photographer the ability to compose images using different proportional rectangles and easily change from one to another as it suits the composition.
I find this an extremely valuable tool when making railway images. There are three basic ratios, 4:3, 3:2, and 16:9 (popular as the HDTV video format), as well as a 1:1 square ratio (that must be accessed using the camera menu). Most of the time I use the 3:2 aspect because this makes maximum use of the sensor area.
The 16:9 aspect gives a broader rectangle that can be very useful in landscape style images. It is a good format for photographing railway locomotives and equipment broadside, and can be used to accentuate a variety of compositions.
Keep in mind, the aspect ratio simply determines the dimensions of the rectangle and does not affect the focal length of the lens (controlled separately).
Someone might ask, ‘why not just shoot everything with the sensor at its maximum and then crop later?’
I find that using the different aspect ratios in the field changes the way I see and thus allows me to compose images that I might not recognize otherwise. While I could certainly crop after exposure, having the ability to work on site produces a different photograph (and perhaps more intuitive) than one cropped later.
I’ve included a variety of 16:9 aspect images exposed over the last ten days. Along with a comparison between a 3:2 and 16:9 aspect of the same subject.
This pair of image demonstrates the relative dimensional difference between the 3:2 aspect ratio (top) and the 16:9 aspect ratio (bottom).
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