View Full Version : The square & the landscape!

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André E.C.
04-19-2005, 08:52 AM
What`s your view on this?
In my case, I need to relearn composition and perspective with the 6x6, wasn`t easy to see square.
Isn`t a balanced composition harder to achieve than with the familiar rectangle?



04-19-2005, 09:12 AM
Since I'm not that long into 6x6 I'm still searching for a good mis-en-scene for landscapes. Street shots and people seem to benefit more from the format.

One thing I already discovered is that I won't be using 6x6 that much for landscapes because of composition reasons.
When prominent trees are involved, things quickly become easier.

I'd rather swith to 9x6 for landscapes. It tends to be more natural. Did you ever see a perfect square in nature? Nor did I.
9x6 lies so close to the golden cut (errrrrrrrr... is this the correct name for the almost 2/3?, I translated it rather litterally) which tends to support landscapes.

It might be a challenge to capture landscapes in a square, free from all said rules.


04-19-2005, 10:27 AM
I think the best advice I've received so far was Les McLean telling me to not be constrained by my viewfinder. I do shoot square in the landscape (although not for true vista type landscapes) and generally print square too, but since paying heed to Les' advice, I have opened up a new world of opportunities from my 6x6 negs - crop, crop, crop!

04-19-2005, 10:31 AM
I think my square compositions got better when I stopped thinking about it. I let my instinct tell me if something looks good.

I have talked with others who said they shoot with the intention of cropping in the darkroom. I'm a full frame square print kind of guy.

As for landscape shooting, I have never really been a grand sweeping landscape guy. I like to pick out pieces of the landscape that fit into the format I am shooting at the time. Maybe the square is not natural but it can be used to the photographer's advantage if they let it.

04-19-2005, 10:34 AM

I also had to relearn, but it turns out that for me, it is easier to see a rectangle in the square than to see the square in the rectangle. That means, if you come from a smaller format, there is still much gain even if you crop to a landscape format.

OTOH, I think there are subjects which beg for a square format and others that just do not fit well into it. I think using the whole format is good but being a slave of it is bad.

BTW, a good example that it is possible to do very good square landscapes is the book "Japan" from Michael Kenna. Maybe not everyones cup of tea, but I like it.

-- Ruediger

Tom Hoskinson
04-19-2005, 10:37 AM

It might be a challenge to capture landscapes in a square, free from all said rules.


It is a bit of a challenge - but well worth the effort, IMO.

Lee L
04-19-2005, 10:49 AM
9x6 lies so close to the golden cut (errrrrrrrr... is this the correct name for the almost 2/3?, I translated it rather litterally) which tends to support landscapes.



Typical English names are golden mean, golden ratio, and golden section, and it's also represented mathematically with the greek character phi. It's also the ratio between sequential numbers in the Fibonacci series.


04-19-2005, 10:52 AM
It's also the ratio between sequential numbers in the Fibonacci series.
The further you count, the better the match. :-)

When I was mastering in music, we used to compute them into the zillions, just to pass that boring analysis class :-D


david b
04-19-2005, 11:29 AM
It's funny that this should come up.

I am going on an extended trip (for me) and have been debating whether or not to take the Hasselblad or the Mamiya 7II.

I will be in a place that has pyramids and ruins and can mentally see it in the 6x7 viewfinder, so framing it in a square will be interesting and different.

I'm not one for cropping as I tend to print full frame so this will be interesting.

David Henderson
04-19-2005, 11:43 AM
I have to say that for me the desire to make square or close to square photographs came before, and drove, the acquisition of a 6x6 camera. I've always felt uncomfortable with the angular shape of 35mm and if I hadn't then I'd have bought a 645 camera, because cropping aside its easier when your viewfinder is about the same shape as the images you want to end up with.

So whilst I'm sure that it is possible to "get used to it", does the fact that you have to work at it, or might crop a majority of your photographs as some do, mean that you have the wrong format? Whilst one's judgement of what works and doesn't work will surely improve with thought and practise, I wonder whether it will get to be as good as using a format in which tends to be most natural.

Personally I crop less than 5% of my photographs. That isn't because I resist cropping - its because I'm working in a format I've felt comfortable with.

David Henderson

david b
04-19-2005, 11:51 AM
I've been using the the hasselblad about 5 years and never had an issue.

Then I got the mamiya and it made things slightly easier as far as landscapes go.

But, I think the square is much easier to work with.

Wally H
04-19-2005, 12:12 PM
I prefer square images or just slightly longer on the verticle... I'm not sure one can say composition is more difficult within a square images area but since most experiences of a traditional nature are with the more rectangle picture spaces (35mm, 4x5, 8x10, 8.4 x 11, etc., etc.) it makes composition within a square 'different' than what one might be used to. To help with the adjustment one might seek out other visual artist's (photographers, painters, etc.) work that tend to work in square formats. One photographer that comes to mind is Michael Kenna.

04-19-2005, 12:40 PM
. . . Isn`t a balanced composition harder to achieve than with the familiar rectangle?

I don't know, André. Balance may be more obvious with a rectangular format, but it's not clear that it's easier, as such. The square seems to give both vertical and horizontal balance equal attention.

To me, the square 6x6 format is perhaps more neutral. One can compose to the square, or see an alternative composition within the square. In print, the square may also be more neutral, avoiding both the imposing feel of portrait orientation and the relaxing quality of landscape orientation.

Ultimately, one might posit that if the final image depends on the format to achieve its visual objective, more time might have been spent on subject and composition selection. ;)

04-19-2005, 01:00 PM
This will sound a little crazy, but I don't really like square for color landscapes...however I love it for b&w (especially at night). I like my color stuff to be in wider rectangles for some reason...

That said, I've recently taken several color landscapes with my Rollieflex...

04-19-2005, 02:42 PM
..."suck it and see"!
See if you can compose in square format(I'm the proud owner of a beautiful Mamiya TLR :) ),and if you think the image would look better rectangular just raise your enlarger head until the bits you don't like "fall off" the edges of the paper-ultimately,if you do that the grain you end up with will still be comparable to a 645 image.

Dave Miller
04-19-2005, 02:54 PM
I'm with Eagleowl and Leon on this one. I use a Mamiya 330, and I tend to shoot first and sort it out in the darkroom later. If it suits square that's fine, otherwise I chop it up. I don't like being constrained by film format.

André E.C.
04-19-2005, 03:01 PM
Well, if I have to crop it, I do it, but I like to make it happen (or try) within the square on the field.
The 6x6 is a great visual/compositional challenge, IMO!
Gave me a lot of discipline.



04-19-2005, 03:02 PM
I've just purchased a Mamiya C220 to experiment with 6x6. Haven't shot a frame yet! But, if you want to see some truly inspired 6x6 format landscapes then I suggest that you take a look at Charlie Waite at www.charliewaite.com


Charles Webb
04-19-2005, 05:27 PM
For myself, the format is often chosen to fit the subject. I have long used the 6x6, 6x7. 6x9 format, but to say I preferred one of them the over another
I couldn't do.

When packing a 6x6 I compose full frame, as I do with all formats. If there is a question in my mind that perhaps some one else (photo editor etc) might prefer a horizontal or vertical image I manage the image in such a way it can be cropped. Actually unless shooting to a script, I allow myself to make the image any way I feel it or see fit. I do a lot of square images, but in no way feel that it is a favorite. I do not set out with a Haselblad in hand looking or searching for subject matter to fit into a square.

Uhmmm, upon thinking more about it perhaps I do lean a bit toward 6x7. I don't however lean enough towards it to call it a favorite.

04-19-2005, 05:28 PM
I almost always crop my negatives so shooting with my Blad gives me negatives that I can play with under the enlarger. Often I find that I can print both a vertical AND a horizontal picture from the same negative.
I NEVER crop too tight when taking my pictures, ( You can never print something that is not on the negative ). I limit my Images to 11" x 14" prints .