Stay Back – Unstable Cliffs

Sunset Cliffs in Ocean Beach is my kind of place.  I spent a lot of my formative pre-college days listening to the pounding waves against the cliffs and enjoying the distance from the hippies and crowds of OB proper.  Usually out on the cliffs you have the company of a few joggers, a few more seagulls, and a lot of wind.  It’s just a nice place to be.

Sunset Cliffs - Unstable Cliffs

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If you’re a property owner, however, I’d be a little more worried.  The cliffs are always eroding, sometimes in a spectacular way, and I wouldn’t want my house right across the street.  They put up these little fences around areas of particular danger, and I thought the sharp man-made lines just seemed so out of place in all the rounded nature around it.  I like the lines in this picture, and it’s one of the few that makes me feel ok breaking the rule of thirds.  Maybe even more than in this one.  I think that because there is one man-made object in the whole frame, it makes sense to sort of hide it in plain sight.  It lets nature stay balanced all around.  I think it would have looked sort of funny anywhere else.

Update 2009/11/19/16:25:

Oh yeah… one more thing I didn’t mention above.  I threw a little vignette on this picture.  I don’t use this a ton and when I do, it’s mostly for portraiture.  I tried to keep it pretty subtle too, but I think it works well here for the same reason it does in portraiture – you’re bringing all the eyes into the middle and you don’t want people drifting out the sides.  Just thought I’d mention it!

Vignette – A Bug And A Feature

A friend of mine emailed me recently. He was curious what was going on with this picture and how he might recreate the effect himself. Probably old news to photography buffs out there, but hey – it’s always fun to talk shop, right?

University of Washington Statue with Vignette

Anyway, the dark-around-the-edges effect is called a vignette. Usually this is a defect – toy cameras like the Holgas that all the hipsters know so well are famous for light leaks and vignetting. Camera and lens reviews sometimes talk about it, but only as a reflection of poor quality.  You can also see this image sometimes when you use a filter on the front of a lens, especially a thick filter or a wide-angle lens.

Vignette isn’t always a bad thing.  When done on purpose, the effect can work well as long as you don’t over do it. There is a setting in most image editing programs to do just that, but interestingly enough, the original purpose most often seemed to be to remove unwanted vignetting, not to add it in, so to create a vignette, you’re going to want to run the vignette setting in the negative direction.  Personally, I think it works best on a classically-styled image where the subject is in the middle of the frame and the area directly surrounding the subject is largely empty – portraits, especially wedding photos, come to mind.  Free frame, courtesy of vignette.

Want to add one yourself?  Click the link for a few instructions.

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