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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