If you have an eye for this sort of thing, you may have noticed that many of the photographs featured here on limeduck are square, having a width to height ratio of 1:1. Not all of them, but lots of them, and more recently, nearly all of them. We all know that I either take digital photos or scan them, so the aspect ratio is definitely under my control.
I’ve owned and used a variety of cameras over the years, most of them 35mm or digital, with occasional use of other film formats and polaroids. I’ve never used a Lomo or a Hassleblad. Each format has its own particular aspect ratio: 35mm is approximately 3:2 (1.5:1) and most digital cameras (including cellphone cams) are around 4:3 (1.33:1) like televisions and computer monitors used to be before the current craze for various forms of widescreen, mostly around 16:9 (1.78:1), closer to the 2:1 and more seen in some classic movies via cinemascope and related processes.
I’m not quite sure when I started cropping both digital photos and scans to square, but the first one on this blog looks to be from February 24, 2007 with a rectangular pic just a few days earlier on the 19th . Both are scans from 35mm film (Tri-X) shot with my trusty Ricoh GR-1.
When I used to make actual photographic prints in the darkroom from negatives, I was very particular about using the full frame. It’s a photo-geek thing, all about authenticity, since you’re printing everything you shot. There are several reasons why this logic is crap and all photographs are lies, but I won’t go into that here. I will say here that cropping to square from a rectangular shot is sometimes tough, since when you compose through the viewfinder (or screen) you’re seeing what you’re seeing, and leaving out what you’re leaving out.
I got to like the square thing, and it became a bit of distinguishing mark for the blog. Eventually, I was happy to discover a flickr group called squareFormat – with over 10,000 members and 180,000 photos as of this writing. The group rules are wonderful:
Alain Astruc (a group admin) says:
09 Apr 08 - THE THREE LEVELS OF SQUARENESS: ONLY SQUARE PHOTOS!
Square photos taken with a square format camera.
• 6×6 square format rolleiflex, hasselblad etc.
Almost square photos or square photos taken with a non-square format camera
• 600 type polaroids, cropped 35mm or digital, etc.
3/ META SQUARE
Scans or compositions containing square photos.
• Polaroids scanned with the frame, dyptichs, mosaics of square photos etc…
On one of this group’s message boards, after lots of posts about $15k digital cameras and the merits of using different kinds of tape to mask a camera’s viewfinder, I read about a digital camera that had a square format shooting mode. Even better, the camera was the new digital version the Ricoh GR-1, appropriately named the Ricoh GR Digital II. This means I could compose square photos in the viewfinder and “print” them later without cropping and graduate from Squarish to Square in Alain’s hierarchy. I had to have one.
And a couple of months ago, I got one. It’s really really great, and not only because it shoots square. Sharp fast lens, good color, takes standard AAA batteries in a pinch, standard tripod mount, lots of manual control plus full auto, convenient size, RAW shooting, good no-nonsense mini-USB cable connection, interval shooting mode, level(!), unobtrusive size and color. I miss the lack of viewfinder and wish the lens were a little wider, but that’s about it. There’s no food mode or whiteboard mode, but I can work around that. At 10 megapixels, I find there’s plenty of information to work with when I do choose to crop or print. Of course, if you choose square shooting mode, you get only about 7 of those 10 megapixels. I can live with that.
If you want to own a piece of limeduck history, bid on my soon to be former digital camera, a Kodak V570 dual-lens. This is also a fantastic pocket digital camera, but a little dated with only 5 megapixels. It has two lenses, a very wide prime and a 5x zoom. Mention this blog and I’ll upgrade that 1GB SD card to 2. I don’t use it as much, but I’m not ready to give up my film Ricoh.