Slice of Life: Two Bugs Meet on a Bridge (Anatomy of a Shot)

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge for March, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We are writing each day about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

sol16This is a different kind of Slice. I wanted to step back from a photo that I took in the woods and analyze the shot from an analytical viewpoint. I am no photographer (but I play one on my blog). However, I am interested in composition, and composing with images is always an intriguing topic. With so many camera lens available these days to so many of us on phones and mobile devices, we can do some interesting photography.

First, look at what I ended up with:

I saw these bugs (not ants, I don’t think) almost by accident. I was in the woods with my son and his friends, who were playing as I was walking our dog. I kept close because of the river and I was “the adult in charge.” (I recently wrote a slice about another day of them playing for another post. They like these woods. I like that they like those woods.)

I had my Android phone out because I was keeping track of a college basketball game (UConn!) as I was keeping an eye on the kids and watching the dog watching me. I was stopped at a new fence over a rebuilt foot bridge on the bike path when I looked down and saw these ant-like bugs scurrying over the handrail. They’d stop, run, stop, run, stop, run. Sometimes, they would run at each other and stop right before collision, like some strange teenagers on bicycles playing Chicken.

I wondered if I could get close enough to get a good shot of the bugs but the closer I got, the further they scurried. Finally, after many random shots that I hoped might yield something useful, I got a picture that did the trick: two bugs, mostly in focus, on the wood, seeming to meet. Actually, the closer bug is a little out of focus but it works as a compositional strategy. Our eyes move from that bug to the farther one, which has more detail.

The problem was that the bugs were too small on the shot itself, and the wood handrail took up most of the frame. I went into my photo folder, called up the shot and used “edit” to tinker. I cropped the shot down to focus the eye on the bugs (and the shadows of the bugs, which is something I did not notice when I was taking the shot).

I decided something more was needed, to keep the eye moving towards the two bugs, and the focused bug, in particular. I used a framing tool that provided some darkening edge — a light touch, not too obvious — that helps guide the eye inward, at the bugs. It also helped crop out more of the surroundings.

There’s something about the grain of the wood (you can tell is it rather fresh and not yet weathered by New England’s shifting seasons) and the bugs meeting, and the shadows, that just makes this a rather intriguing picture. Or, at least, I think so.

Peace (and process notes),


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  1. Great picture! I can’t believe you took it with your phone. I especially love the shadows of the bugs. It makes them look larger than life.

  2. I’ve watched bugs do exactly that. Makes you wonder what they are thinking.
    I like the image as well, especially the shadowing, which I saw before I noticed the insects. I can see how not cropping the image would have left too much wood exposed, and therefore, the insects would have been lost. Nice slice today. Thanks.

  3. You might have started in on the photograph without giving any background notes, and it would still have been an interesting analysis of photographic composition, but knowing that your son and friends were playing nearby provided movement that paralleled the bugs, and when you described the bugs’ movements, there was this backdrop of kids running around, and even an analogy with teenagers playing Chicken. I liked the movement that came out of a static photo, both through your writing and your manipulation of the picture. Cool.

  4. I so enjoyed viewing your picture and your explanation of it. Even the smallest of details can be inspiring- Thank you.

  5. I like how absorbed you got in taking the picture, and then editing it. The creative process can make time stand still, as in your photo, while the rest of the world speeds by.

  6. Your description brought it things in the photo I wouldn’t have noticed. My favorite line, though is “like some strange teenagers on bicycles playing Chicken.” It adds action to the picture and gives your subject personality.

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