(Oh, my profane-tendencied siblings !)

We want to talk about photography, specifically, the Bullseye. The bane of careless shooting, the symptom of an unimaginative eye, the result of mis-directed attention, oblivious observation, and the slayer of photographic beauty .

The bullseye can also be a headshot to the senses, rooting anchor of ones’s vision, or the stroller’s stop-sign in the museum corridor.

From a compositional perspective, the bullseye ( referred to as “B”) is a clearly defined tool. It is the centering of visual impact in the center of the frame. Most classically born in the family Kodak, carefully framing Mom and Dad dead center with the Grand Canyon providing the symetrical vista behind, the B is usually a result of the using a camera to record information as opposed to creating an image that engages the viewer: “Here are my genetic donors, posing in front of grandeur”.

Babies at birthday parties are also usually given a B,(“Star of the show! Candles and cupcakes smeared over a smile or scream, take your pic !”) Hapless children immortalized in ennui-inducing montage because Dad is thinking legacy instead of framing. It can even infect uncles, freshly amazed by a car ride with a surprisingly sagacious niece. As poorly framed and cropped as it is treasured, scant salvation offered by extraneous asymetrical details. We also see here that B is often accompained by tilted horizons, distracting details in background, and mis-directed lighting. Were this a stranger, it would have been trashed long ago.

However, leaving Canadians, canyons, and rivers behind, the B can create its own space. It’s primary influence is to stop time. To not only halt the tendency eyes have to follow a path around, but to anchor the attention. Enrapture is not too strong of a word for a perfect B’s effect. To lock the gaze so firmly that Dr. Mesmer would envy. This is B’s calling card, to put ALL the energy into one moment, here and now! Were we to have every note in Beethoven’s Eroica played at one instant, wouldn’t it sound like a bomb going off? This is what the B is all about, forcing the viewer to become one with the moment.

B likes the abstract. Taking the learned processing out of the equation allows a millisecond or two of silence as the brain slides from the intellectual to the sensual. Crossing a visually bewildered gap gives a synaptic pass so that before “sense” is grasped, one may cop a “feel”, (there are them tendencies again, boys). But wait, there’s more….

Since this is a family of pixel-snared Ansels, let’s see what B can do.

Found worked into a Ventian floor hundreds of years ago, B was used in micro fashion to create create a tempo on the macro scale. Moments of rest in a larger, seemingly active mosaic. A soft spot.

leaving Venice for the Athens of the South:

B is also able to be conjured, appearing by convergence of energy. “Two for One at Tootsies” screaming in neon, helped along by Ernest Tubb, cannot keep you from visually plunging in the Cumberland River.

You may come back and squint the honky-tonks, but didn’t you really go down to the green lights and stop first ?

In the big city, the B’s tend to be less organic, more like mechanical bulls. This would have been a rote B if it were not for the couple strolling off-center. However, they weren’t interesting enough people to save the shot from meh..

seemed like a good idea

B can help the cause,inferring the message that love is at the center of it all. Gather from all directions to the heart. Everything around Assissi is on a slant, but we need our icons to be upright.

There may be some discretion allowed to put a saint in a B. Gravitas, however slight, is bestowed by placing the foundation of the shot in the exact heart of the matter. A less hurried recording (there wuz dogs in that yard!), would have cropped close enough to the eaves to solidify the top left corner, and some tilt correction would have lined ol’ Francis straight up. However, since he was off the track from a young age, and the most bent twig of his prominent family, we could also make a case for his slight lean to the left being more natural.

Saints aside we are left with Cheap shots:

B can manifest itself in an image, though there is really nothing missing or there. It just seems like a natural place to rest. Take a world famous image, residing in trillions of pixels on millions of tourists cameras, and find a B of one’s own. Not your normal view of the icon, might even make a traveler arch a brow trying to remember it.

a pair of posts…

A wooden B. Impassive, inert. Even obeying one third of the laws, and with some Weston-like nod to texture, it lacks the energy to do anything but lay there and the eye will sit and wait for something that will never happen.

Every photographer gets cornered, sometime.


second view: A slight nudge to the right and the B wanders off enough to leave some tempo. There is a bit of hard braking needed when the eye hits the top left corner,(diagonals will do that for you), but if the momentum is there, we are chuted back to center by the lesser diagonal. And there we stop, allowing the linear lower right to Caulder-like balance the weight of the left. Not great images, but a comparitive offering.

Try to remember a Day in September:

B’s can be context enhancing. There is a lot of competition for attention here, but Cody has the bomb. Centered top and bottom, side to side, with angelic light flowing from above and a green sward skirting. White circle and an explanation of what we are here for, (A B with a skit!) After the program is read, we tour the crosses among gardens and angel wings. Most of us go back by the B and read it again before we leave.

Tight shoe theory in the eye… Bull ?

Now, after all the eye-time with the B’s , perhaps it will bestow a sense of calm to let the eye mosey around among soft walls. This is a mix of the thirds fighting with B for the vision. It would have been stronger, but Fred wouldn’t let me bend any more of his cane down for the picture.

We can all bend the rules, of course. B’s can be powerful or stultifying, it depends on the intention or lack thereof. However, if we don’t recognize our tendency for it, we will find our portfolios infested with them. Cropping helps, but the better path is found in examining ones image and the first press of the shutter.

Piano technician, career in Nashville with 38 years as technican at Vanderbilt University, 36 years in recording studios . Specialist in temperaments

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
ed Foote

Piano technician, career in Nashville with 38 years as technican at Vanderbilt University, 36 years in recording studios . Specialist in temperaments