The Filp & The Flop

Posted: 05/23/2019

Every photographer has a bag of tricks to employ to help improve the viewing experience of their images. Some are accomplished in the field as a shot is taken, some are done in the 'darkroom'...be it a true analog era film based darkroom or that common to the digital era in a software 'darkroom' such as Photoshop, Lightroom, or a variety of other available packages.

Many times, a 'straight out of the camera'  (SOOC 'in the biz'), but sometimes the flow of the eye through the image can be enhanced with one of the wrenches in our tool bag.

One of the tools I picked up a long time ago involves a simple horizontal flip of the image. The suggestion is....if an image just doesn't seem to 'work' as shot, try flipping it on the horizontal axis and occasionally it may 'flow' better than it did as captured. The theory of why it works involves a bit of psychology. While there are languages (Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, and Urdu...for example) that are written right to left, much of the remainder of the world  typically writes (and reads) text left to right. So, it is believed this left->right orientation for text spills over into other areas as well....with images being one such spillover point. I have no idea if all this is actually true, but intuitively it would seem to make some sense.

I've toyed with the idea on occasion and think I may have one other image where I employed the idea and it seemed to be of benefit. But for the most part, if my original didn't 'work' for me, the flip didn't help...the image was simply a flop. But as I was processing this shot from the Tremont area of Great Smoky Mountain National Park while the dogwoods were in bloom last spring, I reached a point where I felt the processing was complete, but something still didn't feel quite right. The original is the one on the right above. In this case, I was looking back upstream of the Little River and there is some right-> left directionality in the way the river runs through the scene.

So, I tried the flip trick and darned if it doesn't seem to enhance the image. In the original, my eye seems to run right up the 'light' alley on the left of the image and takes its good ole sweet time finding it's way over to the right bank and the blooming dogwoods to be found there. The 'flow' just seems a bit awkward.

But the flipped version (on the left above) seems (to me) to have a more graceful flow to it. While the main part of the river is light and attracts the eye first, I don't seem to get as stuck in that line as in the original. This version seems more like a casual sightseeing tour on a Venetian gondola and taking in the sights all around us while the gondolier gently paddles us upstream. By contrast, the original is more like driving in a NASCAR race. :)

It would seem the flip didn't flop this time! Then again, maybe I'm just daft and all this is just mumbo jumbo. What say you?


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