Assignment two Elements of design

Task

This assignment is to incorporate the insights learned so far on the course into a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject.  10-15 photographs are required, all of a similar subject, which between them are to show the following effects:

  • single point dominating the composition
  • two points
  • several points in a deliberate shape
  • a combination of vertical and horizontal lines
  • diagonals
  • curves
  • distinct, even if irregular, shapes
  • at least two kinds of implied triangle
  • rhythm
  • pattern

Research

The first consideration was the choice of subject.  I have always favoured landscapes and that has been the focus of my photography for a considerable period of time.  However, I was concerned that within the subjects listed ‘street details’ was also an option; I have always considered such a subject to be included within landscapes.  I therefore decided to look into the definition of landscape; this revealed that there are as many definitions as sites you research.  This was made all the more daunting by the proliferation of academic definitions, beyond dictionary definitions, but the research was enlightening in that I had previously been inclined to just the scenic vistas of the countryside or urban areas.  In the end I settled on two sites from which to draw my own conclusion as to what I could include in my portfolio of images for this assignment, namely; Dave Wyatt’s Landscape into Photo and The Royal Photographic Society where a piece by Paul Foley FRPS addresses the question.  I concluded that I could include anything which defines my environment and, as such, settled on ‘landscapes’ as my chosen subject.   Beyond this my research for this assignment consisted of a review of the exercises carried out for Part two elements of design and revision of earlier course work, being mindful of the need to incorporate all learnings.  Having reviewed my images in the exercises regarding presentation in colour or black and white I decided to go with the latter; I am now convinced that absence of colour does help to emphasise and portray the elements of design.  As recommended by my tutor, I elected to carry out the assignment using a single focal length of 50mm which would definitely take me out of my comfort zone.

Outcome

Single point dominating the composition

I have probably strayed into dangerous territory with this image.  Not only is it an iconic, much photographed subject but I chose to tackle it at the height of a storm, at dusk, at high tide in an estimated 70 mph wind.  I have for some time been seeking an ‘alternative view’ of this lighthouse and this assignment provided the challenge for me.  There was little choice in viewpoint given the conditions.  I learnt a good many lessons from this shoot, most notably the fickleness of mother nature and being prepared for any eventuality;  I should have been in position a lot earlier.  Anyway, I look forward to the feedback on this image.

Two points

I selected this image due mainly to the fact that the two people were alone in a vast expanse of sand and water and, as such, really dominated the scene; I used the rule of thirds and presented them walking into the space ahead.  I elected to position the horizon near the top of the frame in order to emphasise the sea and sand rather than what was a rather dull sky. Their purposeful stride is indicative of what was approaching up the Bristol Channel.

Several points in a deliberate shape

I was attracted to this subject due to the rather shabby appearance and the impression of a rather hasty construction, all of which makes for a number of textures, shapes and tones.  I hope my interpretation of several points, being the four points of the cross, fit the criteria.  I am a little unhappy with the sharpness but in order to get the shot I had to adopt a rather precarious position, hence the use of a high shutter speed.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

I took several shots of this building from different viewpoints but selected this one due to the fact that the structure upon which the clock sits provides a very strong, bold vertical line which compliments the solid horizontal lines of the floor levels.  The vertical lines in other views, which although being obvious, are much weaker.  My selection is also a trade off with depicting the full height of the building.  The picture was corrected for vertical lines in Lightroom.

Diagonals

I have stood atop Crook Peak many times and gazed at the scar of the M5 motorway as it carves its way through Somerset and Devon disgorging its load onto the feeder routes for Cornwall.  Obviously it was not the best of days and on this occasion I did not have a tripod with me so the image is not as sharp as I would have liked.  Nevertheless, I think it is a good illustration of a diagonal benefitting from having an elevated view-point.

Curves

I chose this unusual urban landscape as the curves are very obvious and there is a good flow from the horns down to the curvature of the bridge itself.  I waited quite a while to get the pedestrian walking in what I considered the right direction thereby complimenting the direction of the curves.  Again there was a lot of moving around on my part to find a suitable view-point given the use of the 50mm lens.

Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

One benefit of taking photographs in urban areas is the proliferation of multi-storey car parks which offer very good viewing points providing, of course, you are prepared to stick your neck, and arms, out.  I took this photograph due to the multitude of shapes on view, it just seemed the obvious shot.  There was a good choice of compositions but this seemed to offer the best in terms of the variety of shapes in view.  It was a hand-held shot due to the position of the view-point.

Implied triangles

I thought this would be one of the easier sections but I did not find it so; perhaps there is something here about training the eye.  My aim here was to produce a varied (in terms of the environment) selection of implied triangles; quite what the instruction means “at least two kinds of implied triangle” I’m not sure as I understand there to be triangles achieved by perspective or implication – I’m sure my tutor will enlighten me.  Of the above shots the one of the blackberries proved the most challenging due, in the main, to the wind; I was reluctant to increase the ISO to enable a faster speed for fear of losing detail in this particular composition which has resulted in some loss of focus in areas but as it represented the detail of the landscape I have, nonetheless included it.  Within the remaining selection I have identified that I should have used a faster shutter speed for the slipway image as I took this hand-held and there is evidence of some camera shake.

Rhythm

Lesson here, timing is everything and use of a tripod in cities is difficult.  However, I was attracted to this scene due to the rhythm induced by the columns which effectively marched you through the image from foreground down to the harbour.  This was also complimented by the regularity of the benches and the fountains.  Clearly the use of a tripod would have delivered a better technical result.

Pattern

I decided to include two images here to cover both ends of the spectrum, at one end a man-made pattern on a sculpture and at the other end one of nature’s patterns in the form of a seed pod I noticed when out and about.  In the case of the seed pod image I reverted to my macro lens rather than stick with the 50mm; taking this shot was a challenge in terms of selecting a depth of field since the pod itself is curved – I wonder what Fox Talbot would have made of my ‘accurate’ recording?

Reflection

I found this assignment to be more testing than I had anticipated.  Two main factors influenced this.  First, having to deliver all the images depicting the elements of design from within a single subject area which, in the case of my selected subject, was open to a broad interpretation which may not accord with the assessor’s view; this was nagging me all the way through but I felt I should stick to my guns.  Secondly, using a single prime lens (50mm) took me out of my comfort zone of “the zoom”, making me move around to study the subject from many angles; good discipline yes but it added considerable time to the field work and I then found I was doing a good deal of cropping in post processing.  Clearly the fact that this is my first marked assignment also added to the pressure.  Nevertheless I have enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction of completion and look forward to the feedback. Turning now to my thoughts of achievement against the assessment criteria points.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills.  Wherever possible I should have used a tripod and in the cases where I could have, but elected not to do so, it is evident with the associated loss of sharpness.  Allied to this, where I shot handheld, on occasion, I failed to take into account camera shake and dial in enough shutter speed to compensate.  In these respects I need to take more time making sure my camera settings are the most appropriate which use of the tripod will help with.  I look forward to my tutor’s comments on the technical aspects of my images as I am now using Lightroom in anger, so to speak, and delving into new areas of the functionality with the help of YouTube and some literature; I suspect there are areas that I have entered where my skill level will be evident.  I do have some concern that when I am taking shots for a particular exercise I may not be giving sufficient consideration to all of my previous learning and incorporating that into the image.  I think my visual skills are improving, I certainly feel that I am looking at my surroundings in a different way and have become much more mindful of what makes a good image.  However, I have not given enough attention to learning from others and need to seek out the work of notable photographers which will help me determine a direction to move in.

Quality of Outcome.  I believe I have presented my work in a coherent manner and communicated effectively my ideas and thoughts both through the written word and the content of my photographs.  Whether the underlying theme of my interest and concern for our environment is evident will no doubt be revealed in the feedback after assessment.

Demonstration of Creativity.  In the words of my tutor “Creativity is a highly subjective term”.  Thus far in the course I have commented on my own creativity but following feedback on assignment one I have tried to avoid this nagging noun.  I hope it is evident that I am developing a personal voice through my selection of subject matter and the comments I make.  Within all of this I still find it challenging to imagine or, preferably, visualise the impact of a photograph I am considering which makes for a time-consuming dilemma on occasions – probably a matter of just getting on with it rather than using that all-encompassing technique of procrastination.  I think there is evidence of my readiness to experiment at the expense of perfection eg the lighthouse image although it might have been a step too far at this juncture.

Context.  I am aware that whilst I research the topics and exercises as they arise I am still not reading wider and studying the work of others to help me find a real direction in which to take my photography, a point already raised by my tutor.  I think a big stumbling block is the language used in some of the recommended reading which makes reading a chore rather than informative and inspirational; I am currently still struggling with Susan Sontag’s On Photography, Sontag (1979), try reading it without a dictionary in the other hand!  In terms of my learning blog I believe I have developed a style and layout that enables the reader to understand my thoughts and navigate their way around.  As mentioned above, what is missing is comment on wider study.

Reference List:

Foley, P. (2009) Landscape photography. Available from: http://www.rps.org/learningzone/landscape/landscape-photography-paul-foley-frps/ [Accessed 13 September 2013]

Sontag, S. (1979) On photography. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books

Wyatt, D. (2013) What is a landscape photograph? Available from: http://www.landscapeintophoto.com/what-is-a-landscape-photograph-part-1/ [Accessed 1 September 2013]

 

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Rhythms and patterns

Task

The requirement is for two pictures, one depicting rhythm and the other pattern.

Research

Whilst pattern was obvious to me the principle of rhythm was less so.  I referred to both Freeman (2007: 48-51) and Prakel (2012: 68-69).  I also found some additional material in Freeman (2013: 76-79) as well as numerous examples from a Google search.  As I have inferred, I considered the rhythm shot to be the more challenging of the two.  Whilst the principle became clear using the musical analogy, I was concerned about finding a subject that was not boring eg cable pylons that dominate the countryside in my area and form a rhythmical march across the fields of our green and pleasant land.  For the pattern shot it became clear that there were a number of options ranging from numerous man-made examples in the urban landscape, which would be more obvious and easier to find, through to nature’s patterns which would be considerably more challenging both in terms of finding and achieving a composition that would meet the criteria.  I noted the importance of framing the pattern such that there is the assumption, when viewed, that it continues beyond the edges.  In common with other exercises in this section I elected to present the images in both colour and B+W for comparison in the build up to the assignment.

Outcome

Rhythm

I debated this image as, to my mind, it portrays both rhythm and pattern but I decided that the framing gave the rhythm dominance whilst the pattern in the structure introduced interest.  I think the rhythm is introduced by the columns in the top arches and then the arches themselves move the eye along. Looking at the two images I think the B+W best portrays this design element.

Pattern

When I first considered this I questioned how big, or small, the pattern has to be to ensure effectiveness; this is the side of a relatively large building that has been given over to street art.  Looking at the overall structure I saw a pattern in the structure of the building itself, one of those concrete monstrosities, overlaid by the street art.  Although in this shot there is no obvious repetition in the pattern of the artwork I think it leaves you asking the question as to whether it repeats itself outside the frame, which adds a bit of tension.  For me the B+W image, with the contrasting tones is the more interesting although the colour image is certainly striking and really shouts at you from the screen.

Reflection

My initial thoughts on this exercise were realised in that I wonder whether my rhythm image is sufficiently strong to satisfy the requirement.  I am also beginning to question whether my pattern image is covering too big an area to properly convey the design element.  However, this has given me further ideas for the assignment images so perhaps it has achieved its aim as an exercise.  In particular I would like to find one of nature’s patterns to photograph.

Reference List:

Freeman, M. (2007) The photographer’s eye: composition and design for better digital photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Freeman, M. (2013) The photographer’s eye: a graphic guide. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Prakel, D. (2012) Basics photography 01: composition. Second edition. Lausanne. AVA Publishing SA

Real and implied triangles

Task

The task is to produce two sets of triangular compositions, one using ‘real’ triangles and the other making ‘implied’ triangles.  In the ‘real’ category there are to be: a triangular subject; two triangles created by perspective, one with the apex converging to the top of the frame and the other with the apex converging to the bottom of the frame.  For the ‘implied’ category two still life arrangements are required, one with apex at the top and the other with the apex at the bottom and image with three people arranged such that their faces or the lines of their bodies form a triangle.

Research

As usual I turned to Freeman (2007: 84-87) and Prakel (2012: 50-51).  Whilst it appears that the triangle is the both the most common shape due to the requirement for just 3 points, it has the advantage of providing both dynamism and stability depending on the configuration.  Thus it is a ready source of structure.  My reading also threw some light on what had previously for me been a source of irritation when photographing buildings and having to tilt the camera either up or down with the resulting perspective – little did I know the value of this technique!  I found numerous examples of images depicting triangles through a google search, far too numerous to list.

Outcome

Real

An obvious real triangle forms the basis of the structure of this somewhat unusual footbridge in the Bristol harbour side.  As well as the real triangle I was drawn by the implied triangles.  I was somewhat constrained by the surrounding access as to the viewpoint but, on reflection, it would have been interesting to have explored some slightly different angles and the perspectives generated, especially as I was using a prime lens.

This presented something of a challenge since the tower itself is listing to starboard, so aligning the shot required a degree of care.  When composing the shot I spent a good deal of time trying various degrees of camera tilt to achieve the optimum degree of convergence – not sure if I have achieved it.

I did not find it easy coming up with an image that depicted the inverted triangle.  I looked at a number of subjects and when banging my head on the countertop in frustration just happened to look down at the cupboard handles – my eureka moment!  As with the previous image, it took some time to achieve what I considered the optimum composition to illustrate the principle.

Implied

Still-life forming a triangle with apex at the top.  I spent a good deal of time trying to get the lighting right for this one both with and without flash and still managed to get shadow; I wonder whether I should have tried to make use of shadow rather than eliminate it.  I have to admit that I am no fan of still-life photography as I find the arranging of the objects very testing and lighting is always a challenge.  Hence, my preference is for simplicity of both objects and arrangement.

Not actually Tracey Emin but……. Again it was the lighting that proved to be the issue.  I tend to avoid flash whenever I can as I have yet to master this technique so as to avoid making it obvious that I have used it.

A 70 mph wind off the Bristol Channel and three willing(!) volunteers provided the opportunity for an image that represents triangles both through the positioning of faces and bodies.

Reflection

For me this was quite a frustrating exercise in terms of finding appropriate subjects and determining the optimum viewpoint to best illustrate convergence.  This was somewhat contrary to my initial assessment of this task.  I feel I probably got too wrapped up in trying to find an image that I found pleasing rather than being satisfied with something that met the requirement of the exercise; this is an important observation for me as it has a very real impact on the time to complete the exercises.  I am also still unsure as to what depth of field is best suited to convergence images.  The time of day is also important for taking some of these shots otherwise there is a large dynamic range to content with if shooting tall buildings against the skyline.  Still-life still does nothing for me!  Comparing the colour and B+W images, I think, on balance, the B+W images best illustrate what the exercise is about.

Reference List:

Freeman, M. (2007) The photographer’s eye: composition and design for better digital photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Prakel, D. (2012) Basics photography 01: composition. Second edition. Lausanne. AVA Publishing SA

Implied lines

Task

This task is about identifying implied lines and requires the analysis of: two given photographs and three in my own library for the implied lines; plan and take two photographs that use an eye-line and the extension of a line, or lines that point.

Research

The use of implied lines is not new to me so I felt comfortable progressing with the exercise after reading the course manual and the relevant part of Freeman (2007: 82-83) and Prakel (2012: 42-43).  There are numerous examples on the internet and I analysed many images to consolidate the concept; An article I found by Ann Davlin at photodoto.com addressing the issue of who are the world’s most famous photographers has a number of quite stunning images which made for useful examples to analyse.  I also found that looking through my own photo library and doing some analysis was a useful exercise.  Again I have elected to produce the images in both colour and B+W for comparison.

Outcome

Part 1

In the first image some lines were immediately obvious; the line down the back of the matador is to indicate his line of sight, difficult to gauge given the quality of the image.  In the second photo it began to get somewhat confused with all the lines and I had to sort the wheat from the chaff (apologies!) which suggests one has to be very selective in deciding what really contributes to the composition.

Part 2

In all three photos above I was conscious of using the implied lines.  What I did not appreciate at the time was that in the middle image I was using an eye-line as well.

Part 3

Following my visit to the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize exhibition in Bristol I came across this sign at the end of the building.  Having seen some quite haunting portraits in the exhibition to look up and see these two gazing down at me just screamed eye-line.  They also summed up what I had just seen in the exhibition, an eclectic mix ranging from beauty through sadness, hardship, fear and joy to, quite frankly, disturbing.  The two images here, for me, depict two extremes, on the one hand a beautiful young woman doing what she enjoys with all the associated trappings and on the other a man who, in the pursuit of truth for all to see, suffered terribly and then had the courage to take and publish this self-portrait.  Just look into the eyes of each and consider for a moment.  I think this works in both colour and B+W with the latter being more impactful for me as the two portraits stand out from the geometrical shapes surrounding them.

This was an opportunist shot while out walking on the Mendip Hills, looks like the local Ramblers in crocodile formation heading off into the distance, a line that points in the direction of travel!  Certainly in the colour image they stand out instantly due to the walkers attire but I think they also do so in the B+W image due to the tonal range and the distinct line they form which is less regular than the delineation of the fields in the distance.

Reflection

I enjoyed this exercise as it caused me to really look at the images and think about the composition.  Whilst some lines are obvious there are others which are more subtle yet really contribute to the impact of the image.  Whilst out doing the shoot I found that I had to look hard to see if there were lines, other than the obvious, which helped the image. However, I did find that this was taking too long and that I was getting bogged down and had to remind myself to stick to the brief – lines obvious to the viewer.  On reflection I am less happy than I was with my second image, the Ramblers, as the line they formed is not distinct enough, I needed to be closer to achieve better definition – this is a learning point as I am trying to restrict myself to using fixed focal lengths, carrying out each exercise with a single focal length which follows advice from my tutor.  Clearly experience and practice will, hopefully, make the use of lines second nature when composing a shot.

Reference List:

Davlin, A. (2013) Who are the world’s most famous photographers.  Available from: http://photodoto.com/25-famous-photographers-share-favorite-shots-stories-behind-them [Accessed 8 October 2012]

Freeman, M. (2007) The photographer’s eye: composition and design for better digital photos. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

Prakel, D. (2012) Basics photography 01: composition. Second edition. Lausanne. AVA Publishing SA