Vertical Claremont: our community, turned around
Story and photography by Peter Weinberger
Ever turn your head when looking at something for a different view? Have you seen movies on a vertical format? Hollywood filmmakers have strictly kept to horizontal formats since the very beginning of silent movies. But because of social media, that is changing.
Make no mistake, form imitates life. It influences how we see, observe, and communicate. It impacts the devices produced to capture pictures and video, how we watch them, and of course, how we use them. Most of us will agree, a photo is worth a thousand words.
But this is all changing. Motion pictures are shot on widescreen, using a super-wide horizontal shape on what’s called a 2:40 screen. It was not long ago that televisions had a 4:3 format that looks almost square. We can’t forget 35mm film that is 3:2, and the most common high definition (HD) option in a 16:9 format. But there’s a new player that is shaking the way we capture our lives. The vertical image.
Why? Because social media is changing the way we photograph. Instagram started out square, but now offers vertical and horizonal options. But what has caught the world by storm is TikTok, a short form video sharing app that’s gone vertical. TikTok takes the HD shape of 16:9 and turns it on its side to 9:16.
In fact, if you have not heard of TikTok, you will soon. In 2021, it became the most popular website in the world. Yes, even more than Google, Facebook and even Apple. Some people say it’s changing the attention spans of our youth with its emphasis on short, vertical video clips. You can shoot up to three minutes — considered light years on social media — but be careful, TikTok doesn’t like long videos that don’t hold viewers from beginning to end. To alleviate this problem, most TikTok users produce videos closer to 20 to 30 seconds.
Imagine telling a story strictly using a 20 second, vertical video clip. That’s exactly what’s happening.
Smartphones are largely used vertically; even high-end cameras are being turned on their sides for vertical. As a photojournalist, I’m never afraid to tilt the camera, but only when the picture would benefit from a vertical format. Content determines shape.
The COURIER website can only publish horizontals on most pages, mainly because we use a very popular website management system called WordPress. But all this is changing, too.
To embrace vertical visuals, I created a photo essay showing Claremont and other local sites near us, in various vertical formats. This was an enormous challenge both visually and technically. And since drones are new to this game, I used two specific drones that can handle different formats.
These vertical images (and the corresponding video) were photographed using three different methods: the TikTok approach of a 9:16 format; the multiple image approach that stitches three images together for strong verticals; and of course, the old-fashioned way of simply cropping to a vertical image.
What ends up happening is each image shows a unique point of view and style. If there was a subject that could not be photographed vertically, I moved on. In some cases, the drone would be in the same position for hundreds of shots, either to fill the frame or capture peak action.
After taking the images, the next challenge was to design a page that would show off the unique shapes and angles. For the print edition, the page is an open canvas. No problem. But the website, with its horizontal restrictions, creates more challenges. So, I went with a vertical video in addition to shooting stills.
In the end, I believe we met our goal. Our readers see our community from a different point of view. And that’s always a good thing.