Cropping the Photo

You never frame a photo properly when taken. This is a lesson I learned long ago… In the sometimes frantic process of shooting the photo, you rarely have a chance to frame the subject correctly. That moment when the whale surfaces, or the bear looks right at you, there is little time to adjust the photo for best impact, you just shoot.

The moon setting over the NASA Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF), note how the imposing feeling is created by placing the telescope high in the image
The lesson that you take from this, and hopefully apply when shooting, is to shoot a bit wide in order to allow yourself flexibility in the processing. Zoom out a little, knowing that you will crop away some of the image in processing. A wise photographer understands this, the hard lessons one learns along the way. It is much later when you sit at the computer and can truly look at the photo that you can evaluate how best to arrange the subject.

Rotation is also an issue, many photos are taken handheld, often hastily in the moment. These will have small errors in rotation. Do not even mention shots taken from a pitching boat! A modest crop of the photo will also allow correction on the image rotation.

The choice of crop is critical, it is the first step in my processing of the photo. Either the crop works, or move on to the next photo in the folder. Almost all photos can be improved by cropping in a little, to cut away the extraneous areas and to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the primary subject. Much of the time I will throw away 10-25% of the photo, not cropping a lot, just tightening up the composition.

Adobe LightRoom acknowledges this fact of photography, the crop and rotate tool is on top, first on the left of the processing tools. Crop it in, perhaps straighten the rotation, then you know if the photo is worth any further effort.

The art is in choosing the crop… How much to crop. How to position the major elements. This decision is an aesthetic choice of the photographer, and as with many such choices, there is no single best answer. There are some rules that can help. These are rules that can help, but are not ironclad, they can be broken if the composition calls for it.

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Telescopes Large and Small Team Up to Study Triple Asteroid

W. M. Keck Observatory press release

Combining observations from the world’s largest telescopes with small telescopes used by amateur astronomers, a team of scientists discovered that the large main-belt asteroid (87) Sylvia has a complex interior, thanks to the presence of two moons orbiting the main asteroid, and probably linked to the way the multiple system was formed. The findings are being revealed today, October 7, at the 45th annual Division of Planetary Sciences meeting in Denver, Colorado.

Sylvia Artist Impression
Artistic representation of the triple asteroid system showing the large 270-km asteroid Sylvia surrounded by its two moons, Romulus and Remus. Credit: Danielle Futselaar/SETI Institute
This work illustrates a new trend in astronomy in which backyard amateur astronomers team up with professional astronomers to expand our knowledge of our solar system. The study of multiple asteroids such as (87) Sylvia gives astronomers an opportunity to peek through the past history of our solar system and constrain the internal composition of asteroids. The two moons of (87) Sylvia were discovered in 2005.

The team, led by Franck Marchis, senior research scientist at the Carl Sagan Center of the SETI Institute, has continued to observe this triple asteroid system by gathering 66 adaptive optics observations from 8-10m class telescopes including those at the W. M. Keck Observatory, the European Southern Observatory, and Gemini North.

“Because (87) Sylvia is a large, bright asteroid located in the main belt, it is a great target for the first generation of adaptive optics systems available on these large telescopes. We have combined data from our team with archival data to get a good understanding of the orbits of these moons,” Marchis said.

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