#5 What you take out is as important as what you keep in

Batu Caves’s Thaipusam 2010 was an eye-opening (ear- & nose-opening too) experience for me. It was my first time there. Even though I’d expected there’d be swarms of photographers about, I was quite unprepared for all the lens barrels, camera straps, camera bags & other photography-related paraphenilia filling up my background. So, I did the best I could by shifting my angles and getting out of the way of the devotees, their families and other people with cameras.

Watching the background & along the edges was a priority when I looked through my pictures after the event.  Here’ s one that I felt captured the spirit of the celebration. I liked how the devotee’s body fills the frame, and the strong lines of his arm and fingers help the eye to travel inside the picture. The betel leaves juice staining his lips and fingers provide impact. There was something nagging me though – see the bloke in the dark shirt on the left side of the picture? He’s actually holding on to leather harnesses attached to hooks that are digging into our devotee’s back.  I knew that, but you probably don’t, right? I felt that the bloke on the left is part of the story and I wanted to include him, but I also know that he’s a distraction there. So my question was, if I cropped him out of the picture, would it still be impactful?

I was to close to the forest to see the trees, so I asked a good friend for feedback. His response: The devotee’s torso, head, armline and fingers form a good triangle shape. Look again at the bloke on the left. See the point where his arm and the arm of our devotee appear to meet? That’s an example of accidental or unintended merging.  Eyes would focus on the edge of the picture instead of our main story, ie the devotee in trance and ready to walk up to the 272 steps.

I think his advice made sense so I adjusted the crop to minimize the accidental merging and kept the focus on the main subject of my picture.

Here’s what it looks like now. I do feel better about this one.

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