Eye of the Beholder - A Picture within a Picture

Is an image just an image or does it contain much more?

After I have uploaded, processed and sorted my images I often find that I have more than a single image for a photo file.  The image at right is an original file from my recent trip to frozen Lake Baikal in Siberia.  I intended to show the ice fisherman in his environment and wanted to include a bit of background and surrounding elements so that the setting would be clearly defined and allow the viewer to understand what it is like to be an ice fisherman.  Unfortunately, this image has a few problems. 


I unintentionally captured a fellow photographer in the upper left; the right side has a distracting color element which takes your eye away from the main subject; the ice fisherman and the fisherman's face are too small relative to the full image.  As a result, the most interesting aspect of the image, the fisherman, is lost amidst these mistakes.

So, what to do about this?  My first thought was to crop in tighter so that I could eliminate my fellow photographer and also get rid of the distracting color element on the right.  This resulted in the image below which I think portrays the scene much better and gives the viewer a much better idea of who this fisherman is via the detail of his face.  This is the first "picture within a picture".

But, could I find any other images from the original that would also be compelling.  My next idea was that the colors, although pleasing (I usually prefer color because color is such a big part of what we see and does convey feeling), may also distract from the man's face.  To use a standard photography phrase, what if we "remove some of the reality" by removing the color and converting to black and white.  This might further focus on the fisherman.  So, below is another "picture within a picture".

I like this one even better.  A more classic black and white portrait which I think really grabs the viewer and makes you examine the man's face and not get lost in the blue sky, red cheeks, etc.



But, when showing photos to friends and family in a Lightroom presentation, this photo came up in a smaller, cropped thumbnail and my wife said, "now there's your shot".  So, this created another "picture within a picture" (below) which I think best captures the ice fisherman.  From this close cropped, black and white image, there are no distractions and the image really jumps up in your face and makes you look and makes you think about this man's life and activities.  How did his face get like this? What is he looking at? What is he thinking about?

From a single, original image, there are often several other images each of which can convey a slightly different subject and different meaning to the photograph.  How many and what they look like depends on creativity, vision and what you are trying to convey.  So, always look for a "picture within a picture".

Who Goes to Siberia in the Winter?

Photographers do.  Well, maybe crazy photographers do.  They go, as I will next week, to experience the frozen environs of Lake Baikal near the city of Irkutsk in southern Siberia.

Lake Baikal, Irkutsk and Surrounding Area (image credit: Google Earth)

Lake Baikal, Irkutsk and Surrounding Area (image credit: Google Earth)


Lake Baikal is the largest fresh water lake (by volume) in the world.  It contains 20% of the unfrozen, fresh water in the world thanks to its size, 390 miles in length, 50 miles in width, and depth, an average of 2500 feet and 5400 feet at its maximum (Wikipedia:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lake_Baikal).

Due to the cold winters in Siberia, Lake Baikal's usually freezes at a depth sufficient for vehicles to traverse its frozen surface.  This creates one of the draws for photographers since we can travel onto the lake and find interesting ice patterns.

Lake Baikal (photo credit: http://iliketowastemytime.com)

Lake Baikal (photo credit: http://iliketowastemytime.com)

In addition to the fissures in the ice, I believe there are also ice caves and interesting rock formations around the shores. There is also the local culture and surrounding geography.  Should be an interesting, and for sure, different photographic experience.

Getting to Irkutsk/Lake Baikal is a bit of a challenge in the winter since the limited connections from Asia seem to not fly during the winter months.  From the San Francisco area where I live, it is shorter to fly west through Asia to Irkutsk (about 5600 miles) than it is to fly east (~8400 miles).  Without the winter service, however, the only route is through Europe and then Moscow.  The good thing about traveling the longer distance via Moscow is that the work shop organizer, Tim Vollmer Photography (http://www.timvollmer.de), has added a three-day front end extension in Moscow. 

So, double win if you don't mind the cold!


Enjoying the Crowd - Horsetail Fall Shoot

Horsetail Fall - Yosemite National Park

Horsetail Fall is a famous phenomenon that can occur on the massive face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park.  IF there has been sufficient snow over the winter, and IF it is warm enough in mid-February for water to flow over the eastern edge of El Capitan, and IF the cloud cover cooperates (either no cloud cover or cloud cover that lets the setting sun shine on the face of El Capitan) then you may be able to see the orange to red glow of the actual water cascading down the face as the sun reflects light off the water and off the El Capitan face. (cont'd below)

MAYBE, because you then have to align yourself, and your camera equipment, in one of the limited proper spots to view this galactical and geological phenomenon.  Being my first time to visit during the two week period when the phenomenon can occur, I was surprised at the large crowd of photographers and gazers that had already gathered at the Southside Road location by 1.45pm.  Since the glow begins after 5pm I thought I would have no problem finding a perfect spot and staking my claim with my sturdy tripod.  What I found was probably 200 photographers already set up (some had been there since 6am to assure themselves of the perfect spot).  After surveying the various positioning options, I did manage to interleave my tripod with others in an acceptable location.

I wasn't looking forward to waiting for 3.5 hours but what surprised me was the camaraderie among this growing group and the diversity of it's members.  A woman from Italy on an around the world tour who happened to be in the right place at the right time.  A couple from Silicon Valley who took the day off to photograph the phenomenon, a photo group leader from Venice Beach who shared his experience and knowledge with everyone and, as always in Yosemite, tourists from around the world.  Good discussions about almost everything, good-natured ribbing of each other, equipment discussions and more made the 3.5 hours pass quickly.  What could have been another long afternoon of fighting crowds turned out to be a fun afternoon waiting to capture something amazing.