The important thing is not the camera but the eye.
-- Alfred Eisenstaedt
A couple of days ago, I sought reactions and feedback about two images from people who are on the mailing list for this blog. The images (above) were of a grave site in the San Jose Cemetery in Albuquerque, one of my favorite nearby photography locations.
I had visited the cemetery a few days earlier -- along with about 10 other photographers on an organized field trip -- and came home with 185 images. But this particular scene was especially interesting to me; indeed, during the shoot I kept coming back to it as the cloudy sky and the evening light changed -- and took 25 shots from different angles, exposures, flash, no flash, etc. (Readers of this blog will remember this is called "walking around the teacup." See blog post of February 22 in the blog archive listed to the right of this column.)
From those 25 images, I winnowed them down to two that I really liked. But by that time I had lost most of my perspective, and couldn't decide which one I liked better. So I asked the people who follow this blog, and I got a great response: 48 out of 87 possible respondents (55%) - a fabulous response rate for anyone in the survey business.
Not surprisingly, there were many advocates for each image, and they cited various things in support of their choice or against the other option. Some analyzed the images from a metaphorical or symbolic perspective. Others looked at them more technically. Many just went with their gut.
For example . . . the flag.
Some observed that the flag in Version #1 is more "present" or visible. Others thought that it was "droopy" in Version #1 but "optimistic" or "affirmative" in Version #2. (There was a pretty stiff breeze going, so in fact I had no control over the position of the flag; it was totally luck of the shutter click.)
Similarly, the cross in the background on the left was seen to be more distinctive and visible in Version #1 than in Version #2:
Another interesting observation is that Version #2 is a more traditional "head-on" view. The headstone and the picket fence (in the background on the right) are vertical with respect to the frame of the image, while the crosses and other things are tilted.
In Version #1, the only thing close to true vertical is the central cross. Everything else is off-vertical because the image was made from a slightly lower and closer perspective.
Some people preferred Version #1 for this reason; others preferred the verticals of Version #2.
(And, yes, as usual, I was lying on the ground to get these images!)
But the biggest point of difference (and contention) between the two images was the sky. And interestingly, the same feature that appealed to some was disliked by others -- namely, the great contrast between the white and the dark clouds in Version #2:
Many disliked this element because they believed it distracted from the main point of focus -- the headstone and cross. (Indeed, many professional photographers would agree: light spots in photographs attract the eye.)
On the other hand, some really liked the contrast. To one it looked more "spiritual," and to others it enhanced the ominous look of the dark clouds or the difference between light and dark, life and death. Another observed that it gave the image a full range of tones from bright white to dark black -- a virtue in black-and-white images.
(By the way . . . where was that big white cloud in Version #1? Answer: Hidden behind the headstone by moving the camera lower and closer.)
And the Winner Is . . .
Having said all that, there was a clear preference among those who responded: Version #1. As of this date/time, the tally is 31 to 17.
My thanks to all who offered preferences and reasons. It has been a fun and fascinating exercise to see how differently we all "see."