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Archive 2011 · Too tight?
  
 
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Too tight?


As always, thoughts & comments appreciated...

regards,

Bob




  NIKON D2X    50mm    f/2.0    1/640s    200 ISO    +0.3 EV  




Nov 23, 2011 at 02:31 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Too tight?


Portraits, regardless of crop, look better balanced when the eyes wind up around the upper 1/3 of the frame. Yeah it's the "rule" of thirds and there are no rules, but there is cause and effect and if you compare the two moving the eyes up out of dead center of the frame looks better, at least to my eye. There are hints about why that's the case in scientific papers on perception in the Journal of Vision I've read. The eye movement of subjects shown photos scanned to where they expected the faces to be the photos, towards the top rather than the middle or bottom of the frame. So if the initial perceptual reaction on first glance is "Hey there is a face in this photo" the brain will send the eyes up to the top to focus / fixated on it."

How I compose photos I take and edit is to look at it and decide what is most important and where I want the viewer to scan to, dwell, and keep coming back to if they wander off it, then crop in tight on it. Isolating the center of interest...

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/BabyIOC.jpg

... then expanding the crop outward, moving the center of interest around until near the four rule of thirds intersections until the overall balance "feels right" perceptually. It is a process not unless putting your wallet in all four pockets to decide which is the most comfortable. If the balance doesn't feel right on any of the four rule of thirds nodes more than likely it is a photo that will look better balanced in the center horizontally and in the upper or lower 1/3 vertically, or the physical dead center of the frame. Counting up all those spots — four ROT nodes, centered up, centered down, dead center — there are 7 potential "sweet spots" that might work well. Finding which only it is simply required moving the focal point around to each of them as you expand the crop until it "feels right".

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Baby.jpg

This is generalized background not specifically related to this photo which you may find useful.

The term "rule" implies to some a constraint that should be broken. People tend by temperament either to follow rules like speed limits or break them. The guy that rides your ass about there not being any rules in photography if the word "rule" (or "ratio) is mentioned is probably the same guy riding your bumper in the left lane of the highway when you are going 10 miles over the limit because he wants to go 30. When he comes on the forum and says "there are no rules" he becomes like the guy in the Volvo — they always seem to be driving Volvos — who thinks it his job to enforce the speed limit by driving 55 in the left lane.

Although I use the term "rule of thirds" because it is commonly used and understood, I think, always, in terms of case and effect. For every action you take there is an opposite one — a coin flip. It's not a matter of one being "right" and the other "wrong" they just produce different results: one team kicks, the other receives.

The way to look at the rule of third is that sometimes its the best solution, some times its half of solution and sometimes its not the solution. But if you systematically work your way through those composition options you will usually find the best solution — at least for your tastes. It's trial and error, organized efficiently.

http://super.nova.org/DPR/Cropping/RotHV.jpg

The rationale for the ROT is putting the focal point in the frame in a way the viewer will tend to scan towards it over the other context before seeing the focal point, or will be more likely to see the focal point first, then the context surrounding it. It is simply two ways to tell the same story: where/what vs. what/where.

In real life stuff is usually always moving. In situations where it isn't, such as field tall grass on a dead calm day, any movement that interrupts that pattern —contrasting motion— will attract the eye. It's an evolutionary thing. That movement in the grass was usually a predator and the fact you are reading this means your cave man ancestors reacted to it rather than being eaten. Unfortunately some peoples ancestors got eaten after having kids.

The eye moves in saccades and fixations — attention jumps from spot-to-spot — in real life and in photos between contrasting centers of interest. I real life it will be things that move seen out of the corner of our eye that make us divert our attention from where we are currently focused.

See see better out of the corners of our eyes because the cone cells that sense color (blue/yellow and magenta/green not RGB like the camera) are only in the center 2° of the field of view. The other 98% of the retina are covered with cone cells which detect only greenish parts of light and are 3000x more sensitive. That sounds like a huge difference but our eye response is logarithmic and the difference is similar to the difference between the highlights and shadows on a transparency (slide photograph) or negative strip. But it's enough to make things at the edges of our vision very distracting.

Why does the eye work that way? That's a question for a higher power, but the net effect when looking and a photo is that anything CONTRASTING in tone, color, sharpness, size, etc. with the overall "key" or tone of the background will attract attention. There's no rule in that, is just the way the brain and eyes are wired — in everyone — so it is a very predictable perceptual response.

Think of the area outside the box as a buffer zone and mat inside the photo. Keeping it free of potential distractions — by cropping them out or toning/cloning in PP — will help keep the viewer focused in the middle. They will wander away at some point but the brain seeing nothing more interesting will tell the eyes to go back. That's how vignettes of tone and sharpness work. The brain seeing that part of the frame has less contrast and is less sharp goes back to the contrasting / sharper part of the photo in the middle.

With vignettes and mats the tone/color of the focal point should dictate the strategy. White borders on photo became a convention due to the way the photo paper was held in place. You'd put the paper in the easel and crop by enlarging the image to fit the paper with the print winding up with a uniform white border. Light borders / mat work well on this image because the tone of the background is light, but around a dark photo a white border is a huge distraction until it is placed on a similar white page or wall. On a dark photo you'd want to vignette light > dark from center > edge but on a light background darker > lighter works better to keep attention in the middle. Dark vignettes on light photos create fodder for the rods to scream to the brain HEY COME LOOK AT THE EDGES.

How does it apply to the Rule of Thirds? The four intersecting lines create a box within the frame where in most photos you want the attention of the viewer focused. When the viewer is focusing on the center 2° of the FOV — that's twice the width of your thumb at arms length — the area outside that box is being seen entirely by rods of the eyes which because they are more sensitive make any CONTRASTING distraction on the edge VERY DISTRACTING. That's why the brain mentally tunes out the stuff in the periphery until it is too strong to ignore.

In real life that can be dangerous. One night I was driving on the interstate at night when out of the corner of my eye I caught the reflection of a pair of eyes. My attention was diverted to the side where saw a deer. When my attention returned the road I saw a huge buck standing 30' directly in front of my windshield. I jerked the wheel left then back right and narrowly missed it.

There isn't anything quite so hazardous in a photo, but if you put contrasting content outside of the ROT corral it will, predictably, pull attention of the focal point sooner or later. The timing is a function of the relative contrast between the focal points.

That dynamic is why if you want to create a sensation of extreme movement or conflict in a photo you would want to but the two conflicting focal points on opposite edges and for a more harmonious vibe put the two centers of interest closer together...

Conflict...
http://super.nova.org/TP/Comp_Conflict.jpg
Harmony...
http://super.nova.org/TP/Comp_Harmony.jpg
Harmony and Balance...
http://super.nova.org/TP/Comp_Balance.jpg

So the cause and effect of focal point placement is a feeling of dynamic motion do to the movement of the eyes across the photo to fixate on and process the content in the center 2° of the FOV when it is off center and the opposite tendency not to go anywhere if there is only one strong center of interest (like the strongly contrasting black puplis) which create an impression of stasis: static / stable / "rock solid"

These factors are not in play in real life because there is no frame defining the limit of our vision. The FOV is 360° not 140° because we can turn our heads. So just the act of raising the viewfinder to eye edits the story. Compositions work well what the placement of the focal point matches the subliminal perceptual reaction to its placement in the frame.

If you get in the habit of "inside-out" cropping you will likely notice, as I have, that there a a lot of different crops that work for a photo. It's the same story just edited differently to control when the viewer sees the various elements and connects the mental journalistic dots of: who, what, where, when, and why.

Just like in the movies the tighter the crop the close the viewer feels to the action. In movies that dynamic is heighten by starting wide and pulling tighter and the same thing works in a series of still photos. I've got tutorials on this stuff on my site if find these approaches helpful: http://photo.nova.org/


Edited on Nov 23, 2011 at 02:20 PM · View previous versions



Nov 23, 2011 at 02:03 PM
dmacmillan
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Too tight?


I just love that impish smile!

Too tight? I don't know, what do you think? It's your photo. Photos like this can be a compromise. I'd rather have it tight than have a distracting background.



Nov 23, 2011 at 02:08 PM
sbeme
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Too tight?


I dont think its too tight.
I do prefer it with the eyes less centered and less forehead, so the ROT cropping I think works here.
Scott



Nov 23, 2011 at 02:42 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Too tight?


The collar makes a very strong "V" shape that does a nice job of mimicking/framing the lower portion of the eyes/mouth triangle ... pushing the viewer to the good stuff. There's a little wiggle room for the viewer so your not 'stuck' in one place, but it keeps bringing you back to where you're suposed to be. Too tight ... nope.

The grain with the baby's skin seemed a bit much for my taste, and I tried to open up the eyes a bit as they seemed too dark for me. A bit more high key for me. As always, S&P to taste.







Nov 23, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Too tight?


First - the OOC version.

Initially I was drawn to the tilt of her head in conjunction with the orthogonal lines of the eyes and lips; two balancing negative spaces at lower right and upper left. Cropped down to remove directly lighted area on top of head and obviously undesirable background..

Critique of myself - tendency to be too tight so opted for the crop in original. But I do prefer more natural, candid if you will, images than those obviously posed and/or orchestrated.

Upon further review, I think ROT serves well in this case - too much forehead, and eye placement two pluses. I'm not pleased with the light blanket at the base (in my crop) maybe I can do more there or move to the tighter crop.

Subject: AbbyJo, age 5 months, most recent addition to our eldest daughter's family.

regards,

Bob





Unaltered



Edited on Nov 23, 2011 at 09:19 PM · View previous versions



Nov 23, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Too tight?


Chuck,

Thanks for the rework and rationale!

Bob

cgardner wrote:
Portraits, regardless of crop, look better balanced when the eyes wind up around the upper 1/3 of the frame. Yeah

<snip>




Nov 23, 2011 at 09:08 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Too tight?


Doug,

Thanks,

Glad you like the spontaneity.

A strong tendency of mine - rush to ~"print". A later look leads me to the ROT crop for reasons explained by others and in my comments above. Patience is not one of my strong points

When I took the capture - the beginning of her expression was all I saw - figured I'd sort out the rest later.

Thanks again,

Bob

dmacmillan wrote:
I just love that impish smile!

Too tight? I don't know, what do you think? It's your photo. Photos like this can be a compromise. I'd rather have it tight than have a distracting background.




Nov 23, 2011 at 09:13 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Too tight?


Scott,

Thanks for your comments - wish I had more room to work with at the right but it is what it is.

Regards,

Bob


sbeme wrote:
I dont think its too tight.
I do prefer it with the eyes less centered and less forehead, so the ROT cropping I think works here.
Scott




Nov 23, 2011 at 09:15 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Too tight?


Kent,

I like the re-work.

Need to go back and start with a clean NEF to explore the color possibilities - two different light sources scared me off initially.

Bob


RustyBug wrote:
The collar makes a very strong "V" shape that does a nice job of mimicking/framing the lower portion of the eyes/mouth triangle ... pushing the viewer to the good stuff. There's a little wiggle room for the viewer so your not 'stuck' in one place, but it keeps bringing you back to where you're suposed to be. Too tight ... nope.

The grain with the baby's skin seemed a bit much for my taste, and I tried to open up the eyes a bit as they seemed too dark for me. A bit more high key for me. As always, S&P
...Show more



Nov 23, 2011 at 09:18 PM
 

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cgardner
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Too tight?


From the OOC I came up with this...

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Baby_B.jpg

Crop: When cropping a shot where there are distractions I look for ways to eliminate them and at the same time frame the focal point, hence the crop on the left. The rest was based on balance. Had it not been for the hand of the right I would have cropped in a bit more on that side.

Lighting: I like the front faces to contrast with the background, but the the lighting was doing the opposite. But while in shadow of the stroller and dark, the face is aligned well with the brightest part of the sky creating a nice butterfly pattern on it. But as is usually the case with skylight the difference between the brighter "key" direction of the sky and the wrap around "fill" component doesn't create much of a contrast gradient.

The solution I use when shooting I always having flash on bracket w. diffuser on the camera outdoors. The bracket matches the angle of the flash to the angle if the "key" component of the sky — they mesh seamlessly making the flash look more natural. The flash, by virtue of being closer and inverse-square falls off faster and when exposure is adjusted for addition of the flash, the highlights on the face get brighter — more normal looking — and the shadows, and the background darker.

Knowing how to do it with the lighting, I was also able to create the same look with multiply and screen layers, using the soft light layer to add a bit of contrast to eyes and mouth...
http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Baby_SS.jpg

The last step was duping and applying lens blur to the dupe layer then blending it in with a mask. I did that mostly to hide the blown highlight in the hand. When things aren't sharp they are not noticed, so I blurred everything except the face.

The baseline I use for nearly everything in a photo is "How would it look in person?" As such rarely shoot wider than f/4 or so, whatever I'm seeing by eye, so that's what I tried to do here.

As mentioned before crops are just different POV on the same story. A different wide shot showing more of background seen before this crop, and different closer one like I did before would make an effective three shot story sequence. What I do in that situation is grab which ever one presents itself first, then shoot the other wider / closer POV to construct the rest of the storyline.



Nov 23, 2011 at 10:00 PM
AuntiPode
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Too tight?


Given the starting image, I quite like your original crop. The subsequent suggestions may have placed the eyes more advantageously, but lopping off the framing of the baby's forehead was an unfortunate loss that weakens the image to my eyes by allowing the eye to wander to the top and left. As a consequence, my mind's eye tends to re-imagine the missing forehead and scalp line more like Megamind.

For minor tweak suggestions, consider smoothing the grain/noise and sharpening the eyes. Perhaps a bit of liquify filter to do some minor reshaping and perhaps some minor retouching:







Nov 23, 2011 at 10:45 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Too tight?


Good job Chuck, very nice rendition!

Should not have thrown my hat into the BW area so quickly, but now don't we have a ROT paradox or is that diminished by the negative space in upper right quarter?

Regards,

Bob




Nov 23, 2011 at 10:57 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Too tight?


AuntiPode,

Love your TLC touch

Bob

AuntiPode wrote:
Given the starting image, I quite like your original crop. The subsequent suggestions may have placed the eyes more advantageously, but lopping off the framing of the baby's forehead was an unfortunate loss that weakens the image to my eyes by allowing the eye to wander to the top and left. As a consequence, my mind's eye tends to re-imagine the missing forehead and scalp line more like Megamind.

For minor tweak suggestions, consider smoothing the grain/noise and sharpening the eyes. Perhaps a bit of liquify filter to do some minor reshaping and perhaps some minor retouching:




Nov 23, 2011 at 10:58 PM
RustyBug
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Too tight?


Thanks Bob,

I tried one from the ooc, the mixed lighting was a bit of a challenge on this one.






Edited on Nov 24, 2011 at 08:01 AM · View previous versions



Nov 23, 2011 at 11:46 PM
Bob Jarman
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Too tight?


So a square crop?

Bob







Nov 24, 2011 at 12:58 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Too tight?


Bob Jarman wrote:
Good job Chuck, very nice rendition!

Should not have thrown my hat into the BW area so quickly, but now don't we have a ROT paradox or is that diminished by the negative space in upper right quarter?


I don't think so, at least posted on a web page. If there is a compelling subject's face in the foreground on the left side of the photo I think most viewers will fixate on it for a long time before wandering off it to see what else is in the photo.

It's a trick I sometimes use in scenic shots. Knowing a the camera range is challenged by an outdoor scene range and detail will be lost at one or both ends...
http://super.nova.org/TP/NiagaraFalls_0067.jpg
I put my wife in the foreground lit with flash as a distraction....
http://super.nova.org/TP/NiagaraFalls_0140.jpg
http://super.nova.org/TP/NiagaraFalls_0198.jpg

On a perceptual level a photo is like a magic trick. Seeing 3D in a 2D image is nothing less. In magic tricks work because the magician knows what the audience expects to see. The wave of the left hand in the white glove distracts while the right hand switches the empty hat for one with a white rabbit. As he pulls the rabbit out all eyes are focused on it and the set-up for the next gag isn't noticed.

If your baby shot were a bigger print on the wall seen from a distance what contrasts most would catch the eye. A good way to evaluate "primitive" level perception is to look at an image with unfocused eyes or blur it in Photoshop w. Gaussian Blur (20px used below)..

http://super.nova.org/EDITS/Baby_Blur.jpg

What contrasts most? The face. Not so much tonally but in terms of warm / cool color. I didn't mention the matting since I've covered that previously, but note how it helps to make the face contrast? That's because I sampled the color from the outfit surrounding the face. The rule color was sampled from the pink lower lip.

The brain knows faces are warm tone. So if it sees a warm spot on a cooler field the first guess will be — "Hmm that must be a face in the photo... " Then were does the brain tell the eye to go, out to the top of the frame because it expects faces to be above the body in the upper 1/3 of the frame in a photo. Why? Because they usually are in photos because photographers usually follow the ROT, not because its a rule, but because photos "feel right" when composed that way.

What happens when photographers take photos is they are so fixated on that center circle and knowledge the center AF is the most sensitive on some cameras that without thinking they aim the center of the frame between the eye. Just moving the AF point off center up to the top in whatever orientation you are using will improve the composition of portraits because the eye will be where the brain of the viewer is conditioned to expect them.

As noted previously, with my edit anticipating the eye would wander off the face and explore at some point I blurred everything except the face more which send a subliminal message "This is less important, go back and look at the face."

The psychological / perception dynamics which underly why one composition/ lighting pattern / crop is more effective than another is currently my main interest with photography nowadays, which is why I spend more time here analyzing and editing that taking photos.



Nov 24, 2011 at 01:29 AM
RustyBug
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Too tight?


cgardner wrote:
The psychological / perception dynamics which underly why one composition/ lighting pattern / crop is more effective than another


To me, this is a PART of what distinguishes masters apart from the masses ... thinking back to the likes of Renoir, Van Gogh, Rembrant, MA, etc. While some of the masters likely did so on an intuitive basis, others probably did so on an intellectual basis as well ... but they all incorporated such elements (et al). I can envision their mentors spending years extolling such things to them as developing apprentices ... very old school.

I probably put as much (if not more) emphasis on studying painters (et al) as I do photographers. Photographers don't always have the liberties of nearly inifinite control that painters do ... but the painters who mastered the 2D medium long before photography (painting for those of us who can't draw a 'stick man' with a ruler ) existed offer us much to learn from.

It's one thing to produce images that people go "ooh-ahh" over, but it's another matter to have mastery & control of your craft. I used to yearn for the approval of "ooh-ahh" or to emulate other's who receive such "ooh-ahh". Even though I'm nowhere near a master and likely never will be ... it's that understanding and approach that I aspire to incorporate more so than I have done in the past. I see it kinda like Tiger Woods re-inventing his swing ... taking a step backwards, knowing that it'll propel one forward in future endeavors.



Nov 24, 2011 at 07:41 AM
cgardner
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Too tight?


RustyBug wrote:
I see it kinda like Tiger Woods re-inventing his swing ... taking a step backwards, knowing that it'll propel one forward in future endeavors.


Doing both competently I find a lot of similarities between photography and golf. Both have many inter-related variables which need to be understood and controlled to get good results, and both require technique and feel to achieve the best results consistently.

Like photography golfers at usually think they know what a good shot "feels" like despite there being room for improvement in the results. For example people posting a photo for C&C would have taken it a different way, if they knew a better way but at their current level of understanding ether they think what they are doing "feels OK" (i.e. can't see how to improve it).

Like critiquing photos working at golf course marshal and see hundreds of different golfers has helped my game making by allowing me to see the cause and effect of actions I can see standing over the ball. Like photography golf isn't rocket science you just need to make a few simple moves in the right order; the few the moving parts the better the result usually is.

The #1 cause of golf problems is how the club is gripped, and that's also the most difficult thing to change because that's where most of the "feel" of the swing comes from. In similar fashion if you don't understand the value of process control and use a gray card, custom WB, and expose detail everywhere at capture things are more difficult and less consistent in the remain steps of the process.

Getting a golfer to understand what a good golf swing is supposed to "feel" like is similar to making a photographer understand how a 2:1 lighting ratio creates a different feeling and emotion reaction than a 5:1. A beginner seeing the photos will react and feel the difference the same as professional photographer with 40 years experience, but will not have a clue how to duplicate the results until they eventually try lots of different key / fill ratios by eye or meter and connect cause (technique) with effect (feel).

We've all seen Tiger swing and if was that easy we'd all be on the PGA tour. But if read Tiger's book his description how his swing feels to him during its various phases you'll understand better what you are seeing and how it works and be able to duplicate it and learn what a good shot is supposed to feel like.

When helping someone who is self-taught not very competent I'll put a stake in the ground backwards at a 45° angle where the club head should be on descent and tell then to try to pound it into the ground. Usually they'd been trying to do the opposite, lift up, thinking incorrectly that's how it is supposed to work. At the point the shaft is 45° past impact I have them stop there, grab the club and yank them off balance because that's what it feels like if you do the first part correctly. Putting the two together they understand the goal of the exercise is to let the club swing through the ball while they lean slightly backwards braced on their front leg to counter the momentum and finish in balance. It takes about five minutes of instruction and the reaction is always the same....

"So that's what a good golf swing feels like! I had no idea."

Like photography everyone feels each shot is "good", they just don't realize what "better" is supposed feel like. The fact Tiger can pull off shots that look like miracles is partly natural talent, but each shot miracle shot on the course he probably hit 10,000 just like it in practice. Hitting a shot backwards with the opposite hand because the ball is behind a tree isn't a new problem for him but one he's practiced. At his level of competence you don't need to practice the easy shots much, just how to get out of the rough and hazards.

Why does Tiger, one of the best, need a swing coach? As a kid his swing felt "right" and worked because he could twist like a pretzel. 10 years and many knee operation later he still knows when a 20 yr. old's swing feels "right" but he's got a 30 year-old banged up body and can learn from someone who is 40 what how the mechanics of a more viable consistent swing work. The feel thing? It will not feel right initially, and to avoid reverting to the old comfortable feel requires coaching and practice until swing becomes ingrained and feels "right"...

If you ain't got the swing, the gear don't mean a thing..




Nov 24, 2011 at 07:08 PM
eric77
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Too tight?


Thorough discussion, this one.



Nov 25, 2011 at 08:36 AM





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