One of my best tricks when I’m photographing a scene that needs a little help is to put a frame on it. It’s amazing how positioning something at the edge of a scene — or better, all around it — can give it a lot more drama. It’s as if you’re looking through a window, or gazing at an oil painting. When you use this technique, almost any scene is suitable for framing.
The trick came in handy on my visit to Switzerland this spring. I had taken several shots of the buildings along the Reuss River, which runs through the lovely city of Lucerne. But somehow, they seemed a little formless, without a real centre of attention. What to do?
The answer presented itself as I walked through the Chapel Bridge, a 700-year-old covered bridge that crosses the river in the middle of Lucerne’s old town. I looked out, and suddenly there it was: the river scene framed between the low wall of the bridge and the roof. There was even a little saw-toothed edge to add a fancy touch.
The improvised frame worked wonders. With a top and a bottom added, suddenly the scene in front of me hit the eye with a lot more impact. With the subtle lighting and the ancient buildings, you could even squint your eyes a bit and think you were seeing a Renaissance painting.
If you want to see what a difference adding the frame made, here’s the same view, photographed without the bridge structure helping to define it. Is this a scene suitable for framing? Take a look and tell me what you think.