When out shooting in the field I usually find that the subject and composition will dictate the orientation of the frame – either horizontal or vertical in the 35mm format. Almost always I will go with my first instinct when making framing, composing and orientation decisions and usually my first instinct results in the best overall frame. Once I have taken that photograph I will then experiment with different compositions and usually a different camera orientation. Often, an alternate orientation produces an equally good photograph and occasionally a superior one. It almost always results in a photograph that ‘reads’ differently and the experience can be quite different for the end viewer.

Speaking extemporaneously it is no skin off my nose to experiment with an alternate camera orientation in the field. It takes little to know time to re-orientate the camera after shooting a horizontal or vertical composition; especially with the Really Right Stuff L bracket that I use on my primary Canon 1DS MKIII. This is something I find myself doing a lot as the alternate orientation gives me a choice of options during the editing process back in my studio – and choice is always a good thing. Even if the different orientation ends up a banal photograph destined to reside in my Lightroom catalogue without ever seeing ‘print’  I do at least have the photograph for comparative purposes.

Every now and again I end up processing both the horizontal and vertical frames as I cant decide which I prefer; or I like both equally as in the case of ‘Selfoss Before Storm’. Both the horizontal and vertical compositions work to my eye for this photograph and both for quite different reasons. Each orientation places the emphasis on different elements in the frame and each; although similar, is visually quite a different experience. The vertical composition more successfully coveys a sense of height to the waterfalls that cascade down this martian like canyon. On the other hand the horizontal orientation conveys a greater sense of grandeur; giving a sense of scale to the width of the falls. In both instances the racing storm clouds are positioned to emphasise the orientation of the frame. I like both – Which do you prefer?


  1. I prefer the vertical view because it focuses on the falls themselves. The landscape view tells “the whole story”, but the vertical aspect has more drama and is more selective in its viewpoint. It is less about scenery and more about power. Both shots have their strengths.


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