“Tape Measure” by Sue Thompson

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"Tape Measure" by Sue Thompson

Sue Thompson is no stranger to our pages.  Her photo, Star Drops, was featured here in August 2009.  Her work was also among the Top 10 Most Interesting Photos of the Flickr Pool in 2009.  And anyone who is a member of the Shutter Photo @ Flickr Group can attest that she is one of our most frequent contributors.  I’m sure I can speak for many of the group’s members when I say that her work and her bottomless pit of photo ideas and concepts is an inspiration to us all.  But Sue keeps topping herself with her ideas and with her finished products.  One of her more recent photos, Tape Measure, is a perfect example of just how brilliant and simple her concepts are.  I kicked myself when I first saw this shot and asked myself, “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

Many times we see shots of rules and tape measures – often showing a narrow depth of field.  In fact, I expect that many of us created such shots ourselves as we were young students in this world of photography.  I would expect that many of us used it as a learning too, but it’s been done so many times before that we didn’t share it with the public.  And even if we did, it certainly wasn’t considered for our portfolio.  Tape Measure, on the other hand, is an escape from the norm.  It’s a reinterpretation of the classic ruler shot.  And to think that all she did differently was to coil it up and shoot through it like a tunnel.

Compositionally, there are a few subtle details that I’d like to point out.  First is the angle of the coil.  It is diagonal across the shot.  The direction probably doesn’t matter as much, though since the coil turns clockwise, it makes sense to angle it to the left.  This is certainly a preference, however, and you may have equal results no matter what the angle.  But the important thing is that there is an angle, and the tape measure doesn’t just disappear vertically away from the viewer.  That would be a boring shot.  I would also like to point out the placement of the brass tip.  Note that it sits just below the cross-hair of the right third and the bottom third of the image (rule of thirds).  This is an appealing anchor for the eye to latch on to.  It keeps the eye in the frame.

Ideally, I’d like to see a tiny bit more space at the bottom of the frame and around the back end of the tape measure.  White space is a defining element, and sometimes negative space is just as important as the subject.  I would also like to see a slightly narrower depth of field.  I would like the 14 on the inside and the 21 on the outside of the coil to start getting a little fuzzy.  But these are merely preferences which may not be shared by all.  And it’s fair to point out that we are well beyond the point of diminishing returns – the point at which artists might fight over what’s right and wrong while the public is content to stare in awe.

Sue, thank you for continuing to contribute to the group.  You really do serve as an inspiration to us all.

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About Author

D. Travis North is a professional Landscape Architect, a Freelance Photographer and founder of Shutter Photo. Ever since he picked up his first SLR, his father's Nikon N2000, he's been hooked on photography. Travis likes to photograph urban environments, architectural details and has a new-found interest in close-up photography. His work can be found at D. Travis North Photography. Follow Travis on twitter: @dtnorth.

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