This is a quick snapshot from a fairly recent site visit I conducted for my other job. The site is pretty rural, I had to drive a number of back-roads to get there. And then I had to hike up this hill filled with brambles and Multiflora Rose. My pants were torn, I had hitch-hiker fruits stuck all over me and here I am at my site: An old farm field, a portion of which has been let to go as a naturally successional field. Aside from a few irrigation towers and the electrical lines, you really do feel like you’re in some rural farm land.
But wait…I’m telling story here. Without context, you might believe my story. You might truly believe that this is a rural area and that the electric lines run for hundreds of miles before reaching civilization. But alas, that’s only the story I shared with you. Even if I didn’t describe the context, you might be so inclined to weave this story for yourself at least in some regard. After all, with the above photo alone, you don’t really know what’s going on. You don’t know where the photo was taken.
So let me share a secret with you. This is a quick panoramic shot I did to show you the context. For reference, the telephone pole is the exact same pole as in the shot above.
In actuality, the top photo was taken standing at the fence line on the left side of the panoramic photo. This is an emergency pull off at the side of the Pennsylvania Turnpike – a major toll road host to some 80,000 cars per day. All along the turnpike is a corridor of dozens of cities. And while some of them might be fairly rural, they are connected by this superhighway. Yet from the top photo, you would never have known that the highway was at my back.
The point is that a photo taken with your camera is going to omit some details such as context. But you can use this to your advantage to tell a story much like the one I told above. Who cares if the most beautiful flower you ever saw was outside of an oil refinery. It matters little that a self portrait was taken in a parking lot. The trick is in the framing. You can easily frame the shot to completely eliminate – or include at will – all of the context around you. Eliminate details of the context, and you can pretty much weave any story that you want – not with words, with your photo.
So frame up the shot to tell a story by framing out the things that hurt your story.