Kerri's Post-Processing Tips: Down the Golden Spiral

Photograph courtesy of Jake Garn Photography, www.jakegarn.com

The Golden Spiral is routinely manifested in nature in the spiraling bracts of a pinecone, the development of a nautilus (the sea creature as well as the exercise equipment), the path a fly follows as it approaches an object, or most anything!  In man’s attempt to replicate this beauty of nature, we see the Golden Spiral in the fact that the Sphinx and Pyramids of Giza all lie on a Golden Spiral.  Even the Yellow Brick Road (the symbol of transformation from the Land of Munchkins to the Land of Oz -- in the Wizard of Oz), begins as a Golden Spiral!  (And surely the Wizard of Emerald City knows best!)

Because the digits utterly go on forever without reoccurring, there is no mathematical solution to Phi. The unique thing about this number is that it can be found incorporated in all known organic structures. The universal design of the golden mean seems to be a geometrical blueprint for life itself. Phi can be seen in all biological configurations such as the seed pattern of a sunflower, the spiral pattern of a sea shell, the proportions of human and animal skeletons, and in the patterns of certain types of cactus plants. This value was known by Plato as being “the key to the physics of the cosmos.” Phi is approximately 1.6180339+…, yet its entire sequence cannot be worked out arithmetically, Phi can be easily obtained with a compass and straightedge.

The golden ratio has even been used by companies like Apple to design products, it’s said to have been used by Twitter to create their new profile page, and has been used by major companies all over the world to design logos. It’s not talked about in most photography circles because it’s a somewhat advanced method of composition and can be confusing to a lot of people. It’s so much easier to just talk about the “rule of thirds” because it’s exact, precise and easy to follow. Even if you’re not a math whiz, the basics of the golden ratio are easy to understand: a perfectly symmetrical composition is less satisfying and aesthetically pleasing than one in which the proportions are slightly asymmetrical.

The golden ratio is about as close as many artists and designers get to appreciating hardcore mathematics – roughly 1:1.6180339887, if you’re curious – that is widely regarded to give balanced, harmonious proportions. Also known as the Divine Proportion, this law was made famous by Leonardo Fibonacci around 1200 A.D. He noticed that there was an absolute ratio that appears often throughout nature, a sort of design that is universally efficient in living things and pleasing to the human eye. Hence, the “divine proportion” nickname.

With this in mind, I decided to try out the Golden Proportion Cropping Tool for Photoshop, http://goldencrop.sourceforge.net/. The Golden Crop script designed as an aid for cropping images according to the division rules. The script generates visual guidelines for the Rule of Thirds, Golden Rule and both Diagonal Golden Rules. Anyone who has Adobe Photoshop CS3 or Adobe Photoshop CS4 installed can use it. This script should work both on Windows and Mac version of the software. Best of all, it’s free!

Once you download it, load the script and you’re good to go! I tried it out on a picture I took from my patio one evening, let’s see just how good this works….

Choose your dividing rules…

Choose your crop style…

And ta-da! I think that the cropped picture looks better.

Now, let’s try it with the spiral.

Obviously, I don’t want the viewer's eye to go to the atrocious weight bench with a tarp over it, so I’ll drag the center of the spiral over where I want the viewer to focus…

Now, while you can still see the incredibly ugly tarp in the background, your eye is not to immediately drawn to it. Instead, you see my adorable dog soaking in the sun first.

Overall, I really like Golden Crop. I know that the Golden Ratio and Rule of Thirds is nothing new to composition, but this tool makes it easy to implement and allows you to try out different dividing rules to see what would look best for your photograph. I highly recommend giving it a shot.