Glen Goffin Photography

Monday, June 22, 2009

56 Avoiding flats-ville ... or at least bring your GPS

Two posts ago, I included a picture of a farmhouse in the late afternoon sun. It has a kitschy, flat, folk-artsy, 2 dimensional feel ... almost as if it had been painted by Grandma Jones out in the barn under her wide-brimmed, wicker sun-hat. At first, I hated it. Really. Then I tried reviving it by layering a texture hoping it would add 'depth' to the image. That helped. Over time that folky look has grown on me. Now I like the result.

I've been asking myself - what was the culprit? Bad photography? Yes, of course. Nonetheless, I plan to invent endless excuses in the next couple paragraphs :)

Flat Light
When light does NOT fall off with distance or flow and ebb across the image, it can get pretty boring. No dimensionality. Add the fact that bright sun creates shadows that are inky black with no detail. Yuck. The Grandma-Jones image was WAAAYHAYHAY like that! That mid to late day, clear-sky sun has that effect. Like looking across the desert at noon. Nothing ... nada ... just bright. Oh, barnacles ... the mind-numbing uniformity of it all!!!

Flat Perspective
Long distance photography (telephoto) removes the perspective cues our eyes depend on to distinguish depth. It's kind of like those popsicle-stick puppets we used to make as children or like those squiggly amoeba thingies you see in pond water under a microscope. Except of course they don't move ... and .... well ... they don't look anything like amoeba. Oh ... and it's not a microscope. Otherwise, it's exactly the same.

In fact, movie directors use this technique to "put" their big name actors in the midst of burning building and such. They pull way back and use a long lens. That lets the actors stand well away from the building but look like they are next to it.

Flat Composition
Rule - it's good to establish a clear foreground, middle ground and background in order to give your image depth. I hate rules.

The image in question had grass in the foreground that became a big green blob. Could've been the sewer drain had overrun and flooded the farm for all you could tell. Except, well, no cockroach canoes were floating on it at least.

Flat Focus
When the DoF is narrow so that only a tiny bit is in focus and things get blurrier as they fall away, it enhances the appearance of depth. When you focus past the hyperfocal distance of your lens (at the given aperture), then everything is in focus. No more falloff. Flats-ville. Of course, this is the most common approach to landscapes because it is often equally annoying to see blurry parts in landscapes.

So, if you pay attention to these details you will likely cure the flats-ville blues and certainly be a better photographer than I! Then again, I'm sure you already are :D

Peace out bean sprouts,


Ángel Corrochano said...

What I like more is as you combine wisely, the clear and alive tones of a flower in first term, with a green but dark bottom saturated of, forcing to emphasize it flower. Brilliant


Ángel Corrochano said...


What I like more is as you combine wisely, the clear and alive tones of a flower in first term, with a green but dark bottom saturated of, forcing to emphasize it flower. Brilliant


J. L. T. said...

Oh, I love your flowers, these little, little drops on it, like on a pearl necklace... fantastico! have a nice week.

Debra Trean said...

beautiful pink roses

Soiamastone said...

haha! Grandma Jones:) You are funny and your pictures are beautiful. In fact the first picture makes me think of the roses on cakes that are made out of frosting, I always wanted one as a child on my slice!

Glen Goffin said...

Angel, Janine, Deb, Jules - Great friends of this blog are what make it worth the effort. Thank you as always for your thoughtful and kind comments. Peace, Glen