Friday, January 14, 2011
The rule of thirds and '82 Fleer
Yes, I'm still stuck on 1982 Fleer. Deal with it. You see something better in the card aisle now?
As you well know, probably from the yammering on my blog, 1982 Fleer has issues. Most of them have to do with errors on the back and blurry photos on the front.
My particular issue with '82 Fleer has always been with the tremendous amount of off-center photos. There are many, like this Tom Griffin card. It is glaring because most of the time the subject on a card photo is centered. It's just the way we collectors like them.
The '82 Fleer set looked plain dopey.
But then, out of the blue, almost 30 years after this card set was issued, I thought of something.
Do you know about "the rule of thirds"?
If you have any photography experience you do. It's a pretty basic concept. The rule of thirds states that with any photo, you should imagine it divided into nine equal squares by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines. Then the important aspects of the photo -- a building or a flower or, in this case, a baseball player -- should be placed along these horizontal or vertical lines. Most importantly, they should be placed at the intersections of these lines.
By doing this, the photographer creates "tension" and more interest in the photo. The photo has more "energy."
I have almost no knowledge of photography, but I have heard of the rule of thirds for a long time, and I can't believe it took me so long to associate it with 1982 Fleer.
Here is the Griffin card with the photo sectioned into 9 squares:
OK, they're not really "squares." They're more like rectangles, but that's the best I could do with my limited graphic capability and know-how. But I think you see the rule of thirds illustrated here. The one vertical line goes through Griffin's entire body, and intersects with one of the horizontal lines at the "t" in "Giants." (if I drew them as actual squares, the intersection would probably be at the top of the 43 on his uniform).
If Griffin was centered in the photo the vertical lines would graze Griffin, but not go through the center of him like it does with Griffin's image positioned off to the right.
Here is another one. Brian Kingman is massively off-center in this photo. Yet, the rule of thirds says it's cool because the left vertical line travels across Kingman's body. The intersections of each of the horizontal lines with the one vertical line are each at the center of Kingman's body. If his image was centered, that wouldn't be the case.
Now, does this create "tension" and "energy"? I don't know. I'm just a regular guy who likes tiny squares of cardboard. I suppose it's more interesting than a centered Kingman walking to the bullpen. But that's for the photography experts to figure out.
This image is also very off-center. It looks quite strange, both from left-to-right, and top-to-bottom. But according to the rule of thirds -- I think -- it's OK, because you've got the lines intersecting on Sutcliffe's image. Personally, I think he's practically falling off the photo. But, again, I'm no photographer.
The photo of Dickie Noles is so close-up that the lines would be going across his image even if it was centered. But I think the right vertical line is pretty much near the center of his head, which would be preferable to two vertical lines that kind of frame his head, which would be the case if the image was centered. Also, the one horizontal line goes straight through his eyes. That's got to count for something, right?
Here are a few others that may or may not prove the rule of thirds:
Listen, I'm no expert. I barely know if I am explaining this right, which is why I'd love someone with photography experience to weigh in on this.
But it's caused me to look at 1982 Fleer a little differently. Before I thought it was a huge disaster pulled off by rank amateurs.
But last month there was a fascinating post by Bo of Baseball Cards Come to Life! in which he talked to a professional photographer who took a number of photos for the '82 Fleer set. The photographer certainly was the real deal, and I thought, "how could an experienced photographer sign-off on photos THAT off-center?"
But maybe they were just trying something that photographers down through history already knew. How would "the rule of thirds" look on baseball cards?
I think we know now.
Or maybe I'm giving everyone too much credit and they botched the whole job royally.