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Archive 2012 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice

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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice


We were out today flying our gadget for a professional to film, but I wanted to take some shots of my own, to get more practice and try to improve at photography.

It isn't as stable and rock-solid in wind as a real hummingbird, so it moves around quite a bit. I found it hard to get the focus just right, but these were two of the better shots I got. The movement also made it more difficult to try and compose a nice shot.

I would love some advice on how these might be cropped to make a nicer composition.

Thanks for any thoughts you might have!



Feb 10, 2012 at 03:35 AM
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice

Impressive critter...

The composition would be improved by rotating it 30 CW and moving off center giving it space to fly into....
... which matches the way the real ones fly:

But that creates a bit of an ethical issue if you want to accurately depict it in flight.

FWIW the design would look more real in flight if you angled the wings to the body at 30, adjusting the CG and landing gear so it made a 3-point landing on tail and front skids attached higher on the body where the leg are. If you wanted to get even more realistic use a linkage between the tail and "feet" that retract the legs in close to the body on take off and extend then with a tail first landing


Feb 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM

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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice

Thanks, cgardner!

Your version looks much better. One of my first instincts was to want to rotate it as well, but I kept telling myself I shouldn't do that, to stay more true to what I was really seeing. However, in this case, since the shot was close enough to directly from the side and it is so hard to tell what is going on in the background, I don't think most people would be able to tell that it wasn't actually flying like that. Flight in that attitude is entirely possible. It would just have some forward velocity. We happened to be trying to avoid that for this shoot, though.

I notice that you chose to place it in the lower left of the frame. Was that a function of the directions of the lines on the shape of the bird, or the implied motion of the bird? Is it generally considered to be more pleasing for it to appear as though it is flying into the open space, rather than flying out of it?

You're absolutely right about the realism of its attitude in hovering flight. The angle of the body with respect to the wing flapping plane was an intentional compromise in our design. Unfortunately, it was not able to be driven by aesthetics alone. Real hummingbirds can have an even more complicated wing stroke. They sure are amazing creatures.

Feb 10, 2012 at 02:09 PM
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice

The position of the bird in the frame relative to the negative space can be used to implies where it will be going next...


The four nodes creating by dividing a frame in thirds are compositionally dynamic "sweet spots". If you put the focal point on or near the nodes the viewer will tend to process more of the background context. Which node you place the focal point on will influence whether they see and understand the context before or after the focal point. The eye movement across the frame towards or away from the focal point translates into a sensation of movement/ direction. Placing the focal point outside the thirds line exaggerates the sense of movement, conveying that its moving so fast it will, or has, crossed the frame in a short period of time.

Conversely you keep all the important content within the inner bounding box the viewer will be pulled and held in the center of the frame. The closer to "dead" center the focal point is placed the more static it will appear.

If there are multiple focal points the number spacing is is a factor. If for example you were flying two at the same time if close they would seem unified in formation. But if on opposite sides facing opposite directions they would seem in conflict. The further they are to the edges, causing the viewer to whipsaw between them, the more heighten the impression of conflict. Put them together in the center and they will instead look like a mated pair.

Put three focal points in the frame and the viewer will move between them in a triangular connect the dots pattern winding back at the one that is most dominant due to tone/color/size/sharpness contrasts.

Feb 10, 2012 at 02:44 PM
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Robotic Hummingbird - Cropping Advice

Chuck did a nice job explaining and illustrating the advantage of angling the image for a more dynamic and, at least sometimes, more realistic presentation. But the hovering ability is amazing!

Feb 10, 2012 at 11:31 PM

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