Filling Frames on theoutershores

Drift bull kelp is one of my favorite subjects on sandy shores. The distant shot here is fine with me, but moving closer and lower allowed me to bring out details, and arguably, increase impact. Getting down on my belly to frame the more intimate shot was a pleasure. I like the feel of clean wet sand giving way beneath me. But I remember frustration creeping in too, over trouble I was having with framing and focus. I gave up before I got what I wanted.


Here I was trying to showcase wave-caused erosion along the seaward edge of the backshore. There is perfect point that balances the risks of being too close or too far from the shelf. Where is it?


This upside down root crown poses a framing challenge. My solution, though I wasn’t thinking about it at the time, was to let the long root run left, right out of the frame. 


Over in the rocky intertidal, I was able to bring out the beauty and drama of Pisaster by filling the frame.


How about this? The black turban, Tegula, doesn’t fill the frame, but there’s some kind of frame filling going on. It’s pretty close to how I would like it.

In this exercise in self examination it became clear, whether I’m thinking about it or not, framing has its presence, either on the surface or hidden below. It is surely influenced by worldview, which in my case seems biased toward contexualizing. The emphasis here on filling the frame got me thinking about how we handle tradeoffs between framing for impact versus context. The way I framed the black turban is an example of my native framing. By contrast, I knowingly framed the starfish for impact. Can I complement my natural context-motivated framing with conscious frame filling? Tradeoffs.

Filling the Frame


    1. Thank you Lisa for letting me know. We have the same taste there. Drifted kelp is a big part of my beach experience from fall through winter. The big kelps are intriguing even in their decay. And they add nutrition to the beach.

  1. I’m always astounded by the light and textures in your shots, Steve. Beautifully captured. I especially love the close up of the kelp and the light and perspective of your third and fourth shots. Have you ever tried getting even closer to the Piaster? I found myself wanting a closer look at the red surface and the white raised “design.” (Sorry–I don’t know the technical names!)

  2. Love this post. As an amateur photographer whose father was professional, I understand what you are attempting to do and I like! Your explanations of framing are beautiful and I found myself dreamily drifting off on the driftine as you explained your own technical story. I was fortunate to visit that area in 2006, and later in 2010 or 2011.My photography here in Australia, both from my apartment balcony and down on the beach, is large scale framing of my surroundings. Keep up the beautiful poetic work.

    1. I meant to let you know how much I enjoyed your story, especially your natural connect with my post and framing overall. Sorry it took me so long to reply. Most of all, I appreciate your encouraging words. Those are special. Thanks.

  3. This is a lovely post, and I enjoyed sharing in your thought processes. You’ve also helped me to find interest in this kelp which I always somewhat disregarded as being a bit of an Ugly Sister on the beach. I’ll look at it with new respect now.

    1. Thanks Margaret. And yay kelp! One other thing about it, it’s food for lots of tiny creatures on the beach, like beach hoppers. Did you know the whole beach food chain depends upon washes up kelp? ha! Probably more than you wanted to know.

  4. Goodness! Isn’t everything we do in life tinted by tradeoffs? Sometimes you catch it just right, other times… not so much. Fun pictures showing or explaining how you see things.

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