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David Hay • Scale or Detail

Should you photograph a whole forest, a clump of trees, a lone tree or just a single leaf? As David Hay says, make the correct choice and your images will start to stand out from the crowd

As I stood on the edge of the water, a small leaf slowly drifted past, far out from the shore. I quickly switched to a 70-300mm lens at full zoom, which on my camera gives the equivalent field of view of 480mm in 35mm format terms. Although most birch leaves dry out before they fall off, this one had been blown off early, during a storm, while still green. This meant that it was quite heavy and didn’t float lightly on the surface of the water. Instead, it depressed the surface tension of the water, making an interesting pattern.

When composing a simple picture like this, it is common to place the subject one third of the way across the frame. If your subject is moving, a swimming duck for example, you would generally leave more room in front of it to move into. However, this small leaf was drifting slowly from right to left across the frame, pushed by a slight breeze catching the red stalk. Should I have given it more space on the left of the frame? It seemed to me to be moving backwards as the leaf had an obvious front end, the pointed part. So, should I have left more room in front of it? In the end ...

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About Author

David Hay

I took up photography at the age of eleven and have been passionate about it ever since. As a retired biologist I still marvel at the beauty of the natural world and try and capture the colours and forms of natural things around me.

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