Digital Outback Photo
- Photography using Digital SLRs

Open your eyes, express your vision #002


Reality & Vision: Framing is the Key

by Bettina & Uwe Steinmueller


There exists the myth that photography is a tool to capture reality. Without getting too deeply into the philosophy of what “reality” should mean, we think that photography is generally incapable of capturing reality even assuming a naive understanding of the word.

One of the main reasons is that photography isolates the picture from the full context. Framing is one major aspect of cutting out a small portion from the whole context that exists at a certain point in time. To really understand “reality,” then, we would not only need to see the full context at that moment in time but also the history before and after the picture was taken.

Framing is the key operation while taking pictures. Framing allows you to determine the story you want to tell. This is what we call capturing a photograph to express your vision.

Here are some examples of how framing can change the story/vision you want to tell. When we left the lower end exit of the Lower Antelope Canyon (in Page, AZ) we saw once again the huge smokestacks of the commercial electric power plant in Navajo country. These smoke stacks always disturbed our view on the otherwise beautiful landscape but this time the smokestacks were hidden by some nice red rocks.

This composition does not really show how large the slots are but by the amount of smoke you may get the picture.

By extending the frame and losing some sky, we also lose a bit the sense of size of the smokestacks and the picture is starting to make some fun about the power plant (reality?)

The third and final composition fully hides the smokestacks.

Smoke Signals

It is now hard to know where are the smoke is coming from. It looks most likely as being man-made but the smoke could also result from some piles of wood on a fire. (as in Indian smoke signals?)

All three shots are taken from about the same vantage point but still reflect quite a bit different part of reality and, accordingly, a very different vision. As you can see, framing is your main tool to tell the story.

So what was our vision in that moment? Actually we wanted to make some fun of these monstrous and disturbing smokestacks and I hope we succeeded a bit!

This article was written for the summer issue of


Annotation by Steven Snyder

"I would like to make a minor correction. The "Smoke stacks" of the Palo Verde nuclear plant are not emitting "smoke". That is pure clean steam from de-ionized cooling water. Notice how it dissipates into the air leaving no trace. Depending on the weather it may cause a cloud of pure water vapor. Too bad it ruins the view of the landscape though. Kindest Regards,"

Reply by Uwe Steinmueller

"We had no idea that this is a nuclear plant (reality). Now we feel much safer :-)!"

More news by Peter in our news group

"The smoke stacks shown in the sample photographs are notthe cooling towers of the Palo Verde Nuclear Plant. That plant is near Phoenix, not near Page and Antelope Canyon. What you're seeing are the smoke stacks of the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station near Page. Since the plant is coal-fired, the "smoke" probably is really smoke, not condensing steam as in nuclear power plant."




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