Squint Your Eyes and Look Closer

Most of the time when composing a photograph, we want to open our eyes and look carefully, being sensitive to all of the details in a potential composition. Sometimes, however, it helps to squint our eyes to look at things in a different way. Squinting plays down the details while emphasizing contrast, form and color.

Thuya Gardens, Maine. Photo ©Lee Anne White

Thuya Gardens, Maine. Photo ©Lee Anne White

That's how I discovered this shot. It was a beautiful pot, but it was sitting in harsh midday light, which made it difficult to capture in its surrounding garden--at least at that particular time of day. But by squinting, I could better see what captured my interest anyway: The shape and surface of the pot, along with the dramatic shadow, reminded me of the moon. So rather than thinking of this as a container in a garden, I tried to capture this "moon" against the dark shadows of what might be interpreted as the night sky.

Film cannot capture detail in the full range of highlights and shadow that the human eye can see. If I had shot this at a "normal" exposure, I likely would have lost detail on both ends of the spectrum. But by adjusting my exposure so that the highlights were captured in more of a middle-tone, it ensured that the shadows went black, and a little burning around the edges helped give this a finished look.