Assignment three Colour


This assignment is about showing command of colour in photography, being able to find and use different colours in deliberate relationships.  It should be possible to identify at least two kinds of colour relationship.

  • Complementary (colours that face each other across the circle)
  • similar (those near each other, as in cool or warm range of colours)
  • Colours spaced about a third of the way around the circle: very different from each other, but not quite complementary.  Blue and red are an example, as are green and orange.  This kind of combination has a strong contrast and they might even be considered to clash with each other.  Using this kind of relationship is not particularly harmonious, but is certainly eye-catching
  • A fourth kind of relationship is when one small area of colour sits against a much larger background of another colour as a spot or accent

Four photographs are required (16 in total) that illustrate the following colour relationships:

  • Colour harmony through complementary colours
  • Colour harmony through similar colours
  • Colour contrast through contrasting colours
  • Colour accent using any of the above

The subject matter should be varied, including both arrangements (eg still-life) and found situations.  Make use of both lighting conditions and filters to help create the colours being sought in some of the photographs.  Make notes about the ways in which the colours work in each image and make a sketch for each to show the balance and movement.

Include a self-assessment of the work against the criteria given in the course manual.


My first concern was regarding the overall approach to this assignment; whether to decide at the outset what I would go out and look for in respect of the ‘as found’ scenes based on previous excursions or go walkabout and be inspired by what I might find; it was difficult enough finding natural scenes for the exercises in this section.  Considering the high probability that I would waste time searching for preconceived ideas I opted for the ‘walkabout’ option.  Clearly still-life scenes needed some prior consideration to enable something sensible to be put together.  Technically I felt pretty confident about the ‘as found’ shots, but not so much so for the still-life scenes which I still find a challenge both in composition (it doesn’t come naturally!) and lighting.  As such, I spent some time looking at examples of still-life images by both photographers and artists on the internet, both to find inspiration for subject matter and composition.  Having had extensive comment on Assignment two from my tutor regarding post processing and the need to get to grips with this aspect of making a photograph I also spent a good deal of time reviewing my workflow in Lightroom in the pursuit of images that ‘sing’; I have to admit that although I was able to define the process to follow the degree of alteration of the various parameters still remains a concern as there appear to be so many differing views in the articles and books I read.


All photographs were shot on a Nikon D600 and in most instances I set a custom white balance using a grey card, resetting when the light changed.  I have developed a number of custom camera profiles (not sure I have totally got my head around how many of these you should generate) using a ColorChecker Passport which I apply as the first stage of post-processing in Lightroom along with lens corrections.

Colour harmony through complementary colours

This is the stern of a particularly gaudy barge which provides a good example of complementary colours.  It was difficult to compose the shot to get the ideal ratios both due to the position of the barge and the extent of red in the railings and rudder gear. However, as indicated on the sketch, I think the proportions are about right.  I am unsure about depicting the movement in this shot but I think the railing moves the eye around the picture whilst the tiller handle implies direction.   Post-processing consisted of adjusting the exposure, black clipping and shadows, increasing clarity and vibrance to bring out the detail and texture and finally adjusting the tone curve to add contrast.

Spend enough time on Shanks’s pony and you can still find some of nature’s finest. Composition was the first challenge here, not least having to work my way into the bush to get the right viewing position.  Also, in trying to gauge the red and green proportions I found the berries very deceptive in terms of a bulk of colour, if that makes sense.  Once I got this shot up on-screen it was obvious that it was in need of some cropping, not a surprise to me.  I then decided to try a different white balance which I found delivered a better result. There are a good many shadow areas so some adjustment of the black and shadows was applied after having tried some exposure adjustment (reset to original).  Some increase in clarity and vibrance brought up the saturation and detail but I still found the colour of the berries to be wrong to my eye so I applied some saturation using the HSL panel slider.

I could not believe my luck when I turned the corner and saw this building; admittedly the orange facade was considerably larger than the blue shop front, which was the wrong way round for balance, so cropping was the order of the day.  I also felt that having the pastel coloured building alongside made the orange and blue more prominent, hence giving the blue more presence than it would have had otherwise.  It is notable that I discounted the colour in the windows of the blue-fronted building due to the difference in hue – I may be in error here but it would be a matter of adjusting the crop to get the ratios right.  In Lightroom I dropped a half stop in exposure before adjusting the highlights.  As usual I increased clarity and vibrance which, in particular, I found to bring out the endearing shabbiness of the building giving character, and added contrast in the tone curve panel.

The dreaded still-life!  I think it works insomuch as depicting an activity, heading out of the front door for a run, although on reflection it is perhaps a bit stilted; probably in trying to get the proportion of the yellow correct.  I positioned the articles near the front door in the hope that the light falling on one side conveyed the impression that we were heading to the great outdoors, also indicated by the diagonals of the floorboards, but this caused me problems with the overall exposure, even though I tried using white card as a reflector.  Post processing started with some cropping, reducing the exposure by 2/3 of a stop, increasing clarity and vibrance and finally adding contrast in the tone curve.

Similar colours

A classic case of being ready for the unexpected!  Whilst considering a shot in a different direction I caught this out of the corner of my eye and had little time to capture the moment as they galloped off into the distance in the rain, hence not as sharp as I would have liked. However, for me, it contains all that is asked for, similar colours (notwithstanding the coloured pillars in the background) and movement, all within the mood of the day which was dank and overcast.  In post-processing I spent some time cropping the image trying to determine whether more of the background should be included to put it into context; I think this provides enough space for them to ‘run into’ whilst emphasising the colours of their kit.  I reduced the exposure slightly, adjusted the black and white to eliminate some clipping and added clarity and vibrance and adjusted the contrast; the processing challenge here centred around the pink shirt.

Amazing what you can find in the dry(!) dock of the SS Great Britain.  To my mind a prime example of nature’s colour variation.  The fact that there was a slow trickle of water flowing constantly provided the sheen which caught the eye and emphasised the textures and hues.  On reflection I should have gone for a smaller aperture to give a greater depth of field, the light was not too bad so a modest increase in ISO would have enabled this.  The image also portrays the movement of the water by way of the lighter areas and erosion of the stone.  In LR I spent some time adjusting the exposure and dealing with the consequent black and white clipping then applied some clarity and vibrance increase which, coupled with strong contrast adjustment, brought out the colour variations and textures.  A real indicator of what nature can produce if left to her own devices.

One of my favourite buildings in Bristol not for its architectural excellence per se but the glass finish which has infinite variations as the light and viewing angle changes.  I shot the whole building with view of cropping later as I could not make up my mind at the time how much was required to best illustrate the similar colours and in the knowledge that vertical correction crops the image.  Indeed, when you get the image on-screen you really see the colour variation.  There was also the issue of converging verticals given the viewing angle.  Once in LR I applied the vertical correction and then applied much cropping to achieve the desired result.  I was then faced with a pretty drab, flat image and instantly recalled my tutor’s comment about making an image ‘sing’ – how to achieve this, had I picked a bad one here given my less than honed LR skills?  This is the result of much ‘fiddling’ with exposure, clipping, vibrance, clarity and contrast.  I have to say that this is perhaps not what the building looked like on the day but more what it is capable of looking like.  This is perhaps one image I expect will attract significant comment in assessment but feel it is warranted including to get that feedback – have I gone too far?

This was one still-life that I had determined to do having seen something similar before, although a lot more striking – walk before you run.  Not only does this product seem to have an infinite variation in shades but I think it lends itself to still-life.  Nevertheless, it is amazing how long it can take to arrange 3 bottles to one’s satisfaction!  Early on in the proceedings I learnt how all manner of stuff shows up on a black background.  I experimented with both ambient light and flash and found ambient to deliver a better effect; having the camera tripod mounted eliminated any concerns about long exposure times. All shots were taken with mirror up and a remote shutter release.  I followed my post processing routine but found myself revisiting settings time and time again, this image has the longest history record in LR.  Much of my difficulty was around the blacks and shadows and I think this is still evident, particularly in the black cloth in the foreground.  I do not regret having a go at this but there is obviously much more to learn about shooting still-life and the backgrounds used.

Contrasting colours

Clearly I would not make it as a shop window dresser, or whatever the technical term is. However, I think this makes a very striking contrast, despite the hue of the gloves, and putting the ensemble on a white background really makes the subject stand out; I also think the ratios are about right given the Von Goethe scores.  Again, with this still-life I tried using both ambient and flash and, despite my usual dislike of flash, it seemed to deliver a better image; this makes me think that there is something in the choice of lighting for different colour and background combinations.  This flash set up was something new for me having been given an “Orbis” for use with my external flash; it seems to do what it says on the can.  In LR I carried out minimal cropping and some spot removal on the white background before addressing some white clipping and shadows ( I guess you still have to be selective with the Orbis to minimise shadows) before applying a strong contrast adjustment.

This appealed to my sense of humour as well as appearing to be a fairly simple set up to further address my still-life phobia.  I think the sum of all the triangles in the sketch gives about the right ratios of colour although I have not consulted Pythagoras.  Certainly the colour contrast is eye-catching.  I opted to take this shot under normal domestic lighting having first set a custom white balance.  In post-processing I followed my usual workflow but again I had some issues with the black background; a final application of strong contrast and adjustment for black clipping seemed to resolve the problem.

Somewhat unusual to see such neat scaffolding, but a perfect shot for contrasting colours and one of the few scenes which was easier to gauge in terms of the ratio of colours.  As I have found with taking shots of buildings, getting the viewing angle is a matter of trial and error as a small change in position seems to make quite a difference in the outcome; I guess a tilt/shift lens may make things easier, or access to alternative viewing points from buildings opposite.  I would have preferred to have been able to crop out the lamp post from the edge along with the majority of the sky in order to really home in on the main subject.  In LR I followed my normal workflow, reducing exposure a bit which then required some adjustment of shadows and highlights, increasing clarity and vibrance and finally applying some strong contrast.

I very nearly missed this scene whilst on walkabout in Bristol.  It was a view down a narrow alleyway behind an iron gate; it may not deliver the colours in the ideal ratio but I think the composition makes up for it – well it does it for me.  I took a good many shots in an attempt to get a pleasing composition and tried different metering options shooting down the dark alley; I was aware that post-processing could address some of the issues but I wanted to get it right, as far as possible, in-camera.  Reviewing my shots in LR identified one shot with potential.  I revisited virtually all the adjustments a number of times, mainly around how much detail in the alley should be revealed bearing in mind I was after taking the viewer to the cars; I think the path does that, coupled with the bright yellow car.

Colour accent

I found it difficult to find accent examples in the natural landscape at this time of year.  This shot necessitated a particular viewing angle to create the accent, hence its position close to the edge of the frame; I think the composition is aided by the confusion of the diagonals of the branches running across the frame.  In LR I reduced the exposure slightly, reset the blacks and whites, increased clarity and vibrance and finally added contrast to make the red leaves stand out.  To me the final image, whilst portraying accent, gives the impression that the branch that the red leaves are on is coming out of the photography.

I will own up to this arrangement being suggested by my wife.  Not only do I like the rich colour contrast but I get a real feeling of the texture of the chair and handbag.  The way the bag sits and conforms to the chair seat and the creases in the leather conveys the collapsing of the bag as it is put down and settles into its own shape within the confines of its envelope.  I did try a number of compositions including more of the chair but that somehow detracted from the two contrasting colours and the texture of the leather.  In post-processing the main area of effort was in achieving the right saturation of the colours.

I debated with myself the inclusion of this image; did it meet the criteria as the red panel could be considered to stand on its own rather than against another colour background. However, I concluded that overall the red panel formed part of the overall backdrop of blue. If the intention of the owner was to make the boat stand out without the overstatement so often used then this works, the eye is drawn to it even with the pastel colour of the building behind.  Once in LR I carried out some fairly drastic cropping due to the inclusion of a lot of dead space in the foreground due to the single lens I had with me.  It took me a good deal of tweaking to get to the final image, mainly in making the boat stand out, the original image being very washed out and lacking in detail.

I guess the first comment on this image will be around the closeness of the accent to the frame.  I tried a variety of compositions using the rule of thirds but none really seemed to provide anything that cut the mustard.  I selected this image due to the fact the trail through the grass leading to the bridge is fairly well defined and provides a leading line to the accent; then across the bridge and through the hedge you can see yet another patch of green implying another wide open area and the question “I wonder where that goes to, what’s on the other side?”.  In LR I cropped the image and decreased the exposure by half a stop then lifted the shadows to reveal some detail.  Clarity and vibrance were increased before adding some contrast to lift the image.


I found this to be a challenging but satisfying assignment; it was indeed difficult to find naturally occurring colour combinations to meet the requirements of the assignment and my still-life phobia did not help.  Turning now to my self-assessment against the given criteria.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills.  At the highest level the main challenge was applying all the previous learning whilst addressing the specific requirements of the assignment.  As more knowledge is gained it becomes more and more important to stop and think before pressing that shutter release; using a tripod encourages such a way of working but it is not always practical eg photographing in a city, so one has to build the self discipline and confidence to take your time, even when in public – I was only questioned once on this assignment, when taking a shot of moss on a tree; was I some sort of private eye!  I have learnt a lot about the use of colour but as yet am undecided on the use of specific ratios based on the Von Goethe principle.  I think we have much concept of the use of colour hard wired into us already, we react to complementary, contrasting, warm and cool colours without really thinking.  Nevertheless, this is about how to compose a colour image so as to convey your message, emotion, whatever, to the viewer and I don’t think a one size fits all as we humans are all slightly different in our colour perception, at least we are in this house when discussing various hues.  I found it a challenge to eyeball a scene and instantly see a composition that would work best if the colours were in proportion thereby either inducing harmony or tension; I’m relieved that there is no single ‘correctness’. Notwithstanding this I now find myself looking at colours and their use with a more critical eye, as well as appreciating more what nature has to offer.  I think that, visually, I have demonstrated an ability to identify photographs that meet the criteria for the assignment although I have struggled with the concept of identifying ‘movement’ in some of the images and I would appreciate feedback on this area as I may be missing the point.  Technically I have put into use functionality in my camera that I have previously only touched upon, specifically, the use of Live View, manual settings and  also more use of a hand-held light meter.  Following feedback on my last assignment I have spent a lot of time gaining a more in-depth understanding of using Lightroom for post-processing and I believe my photographs now have more punch.  However, I still feel I am a long way off mastering this tool, particularly in terms of understanding what particular or subtle tweak will render an image a cut above the rest or make it ‘sing’.  There are areas where I am very wary of treading as a little knowledge can be dangerous.  It is all very well looking at the works of notable photographers but how to deliver that through post-processing is another matter – I trust it will come with experience and my tutor has started me on the road of understanding through his feedback on Assignment two.  What this assignment has really punched home is that even with all the technology in today’s cameras they cannot replicate the image imprinted on our brain and there is a need to apply further technology in the form of post-processing to make a photograph more akin to what the eye saw or would see; many of my friends and family wonder what all the fuss is about, “look what I took on my phone”.

Quality of Outcome.   I think I have delivered an assignment that contains better images than previously presented, although this time it is colour rather than B+W so there will no doubt be areas where there are opportunities to improve, be they minor or major.  I consider my Learning Log to be clear and comprehensive and reflects my thinking and learning and is easy to follow in its structure.

Demonstration of Creativity.   I think I am beginning to come to terms with the meaning of this criteria after some sound advice from my tutor, however it still bugs me.  Insomuch as this assignment required images that demonstrated certain relationships between colours I believe I have identified a suitable range of subjects in the ‘as found’ category as well as still-life shots.  On reflection I wonder whether it may be better to try to take a lead from the images produced by notable photographers rather than seek to be ‘original’ and over time this will help me to define my own direction and style.  At the moment I feel I am in grasshopper mode.

Context.   The wider reading and comment on work I have been looking at remains a major weakness in my learning log and, I am sure, is linked to my concerns around creativity.  I have set myself a goal of producing one blog entry per week making comment on work I have been looking at.  There is no shortage of photographers to study as my tutor very kindly produces suggested reading/viewing lists.  JDI!

Overall this has been an enjoyable assignment and I feel that I have learned a lot.  I look forward to my tutor’s report.


Douma, M. (2006) Goeth’s color theory. Institute for Dynamic Educational Advancement, Washington, DC. Available from: [Accessed 22 January 2014]

Freeman, M. (2012) Michael Freeman’s photo school digital editing. Lewes: The Ilex Press Limited

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

Google. (2014) Images for contemporary still life photographers.  Available from: [Accessed 12 January 2014]

Google. (2014) Images for still life photographers.  Available from: [Accessed 12 January 2014]

Haas, E. (2013) Color.  Available from: [Accessed 3 January 2014]

Kelby, S. (2012) the Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 book for digital photographers. San Francisco: New Riders


Assignment two Elements of design


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?


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: [Accessed 13 September 2013]

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

Wyatt, D. (2013) What is a landscape photograph? Available from: [Accessed 1 September 2013]


Assignment One Revisited (Again)

If at first you don’t succeed………My Transparent/Opaque pair did not pass muster, the contrast is again too obscure:

“In my view, the item demonstrated by each image or group of images should by the first thing which comes to the mind of your viewer when confronted by your work.   At final assessment, if the meaning of your images is too obscure the assessor may well misunderstand and a loss of marks could be the result.”


In view of the feedback it seemed sensible to stick with a family of subjects as this would seem to be the best way of making the contrast more obvious.  As such I have chosen a pair from the “Trash to Treasure” exhibition photographs which, I believe, demonstrate the contrast very well.  Again, the technical challenge of the “white environment” is evident and I wonder whether the composition makes for an interesting image; overall, though, I think the subject holds it together in both shots.

Clearly a second knock back was not good for morale but the point is well made regarding the challenge to gain all the marks you can where formal assessments are concerned – I’ve just pencilled in “KISS” below the assignment assessment criteria!  Keeping things simple often makes them more effective (not just applicable to government and BBC IT projects!).

Assignment One Revisited

My tutor feedback on Assignment One indicated that a number of my paired images required revisiting against the background of:

The images created should interpret the pairs of descriptive words in a manner that would be obvious to an unitiated viewer.   In other words, the picture should tell the story without the assistance of any prior detailed knowledge or helpful legend.    I understand your logic for the images you have submitted but I am afraid that in a number of them the interpretation is too obscure and would not be the first impression that your viewer would understand.”

Having reflected on this comment I decided to use the same subject for one pair (Long/Short), but with an adjusted viewing position for one image as, in my opinion, the comparison story is told; in my experience people tend to comment on the length of piers.  For the remainder of the comparisons I selected new subjects.


By changing the viewing point for the second shot I believe there is more of a direct contrast between the two piers and, for me anyway, the one thing that stands out is the difference in length; vive la difference!


Staying with my idea of subjects from the same family, a rummage in the trusty toolbox revealed a couple of items that I think make a fair contrast of pointed and blunt.  Setting up the shots provided an opportunity to explore some new skills, namely reverting to manual on the camera, taking light readings with a hand-held meter and setting a custom white balance.  I explored a number of different angles for both shots looking for the ones that best emphasised the contrast between the two.  I also tried different aperture settings to see whether the depth of field added anything; for the hammer shot I settled on a value that lost sharpness along the handle in order to give weight to the head whereas I found a greater depth of field better suited the shot of the cold chisels.


My theme for this pair is glass and these two shots came about by chance.  The first image was the result of contemplating the meaning of life one evening, as you do.  Looking into the fire I was taken by the unusual burning in that rather than the wood being on fire the heat was generating gas which was accumulating at the top of the combustion chamber and then igniting; this produced a rather striking image through the glass panel in the door of the burner.  I hastily gathered together camera, tripod and a couple of lenses in the hope of capturing the scene.  There was a good deal of trial and error to achieve the image I thought best captured what I was seeing, working against a diminishing occurrence.  It was achieving a depth of field that captured what was going on inside the burner as well as showing the context of the event coupled with the ISO setting and shutter speed to show the swirling flame.  The second shot, which I found equally demanding, was the result of visiting an art exhibition by Melanie Paice titled “Trash to Treasure”.  She has used old lightbulbs to create bugs using the filament wires and amongst these were some opaque bulbs and I saw an opportunity.  Having obtained her permission to take photographs I set about capturing a suitable image.  On my camera I had a 50mm f/1.4 lens so was limited in minimum focus distance but benefited from having a fast lens.  Of course the gallery was painted brilliant white with plenty of overhead illumination and the displays were arranged on white tables; having never taken photographs in this sort of environment before I found the lighting something of a challenge an experimented with various camera settings.


I’m hopeful that I have not strayed into the realms of deep obscurity once again by choosing this metaphor!  The first shot was relatively straightforward, although I did try a range of different backgrounds but found the contrast with the black to be the most striking.  The second shot was a bit more of a challenge both in finding the view that most clearly conveyed the meaning and the lighting.  It was shot positioned next to a window and I used a piece of white card to reflect the light; I tried a number of settings to obtain the best contrast between the cream tablecloth, the white dish and the butter.

I am hopeful that these photographs have moved me out of the obscurity zone; if not I look forward to some meaningful debate since I am of the opinion that many pictures have a degree of obscurity in order to generate thought and debate.  However, I do accept that there are degrees and at this early stage in the course it is perhaps best to err on the side of obvious.

Reference List:

Paice, M. (2013) Lightbulb, 2013. ‘Trash to Treasure’ exhibition. Walton-on-Thames: The Robert Phillips Gallery. 15-26 May 2013

Assignment One Contrasts

This assignment is about exploring the theory of composition developed by Johannes Itten at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany in the 1920s which led to the most fundamental overhaul of the theory of design in the 20th century.  The idea moves us beyond the traditional concept of photographic contrast, the range of brightness, to many other qualities including graphic, material and the less tangible, such as sweet and sour.  My starting point, as for most tasks so far in this course, was to construct a mind map and turn to what I judge to be the bible for this course, The Photographer’s Eye (Freeman, 2007) and also (Prakel, 2006).  Reflecting on what I read prompted me to consider the list of qualities beyond the obvious meaning and for that I delved into the Concise Oxford English Dictionary.  From this I was able to begin distilling my thoughts on possible subjects, bearing in mind I still have little confidence in my ability to be truly creative; suffice to say there were some subjects that emerged from my meagre list of possibles that I have been compiling; perhaps there are some creative juices lurking after all!

My thoughts also turned to other challenges associated with the task.  Logic says this is the conclusion of a phase therefore all that has gone before needs to be considered in composing the images; this is against the background of there still being much that is not second nature to me; solution for this would appear to be to construct a pocket check list but this may be counter-productive in terms of being a distraction. Another consideration is the ability to influence how things appear by the use of lighting, colour or tone; I did not feel ready for this approach although I did try to keep it in mind when out and about.

I also considered how to approach the selection of possible images.  Whilst the assigment instruction calls for the depiction of ‘extremes’ the context is left open.  I saw a couple of options; firstly, pick a theme and gather images that reflect said theme; secondly, select pairs in the same subject family.  I decided to go for the second approach.  After reviewing numerous previously taken photos and taking just shy of 300 new shots, thank goodness for digital, my selected 8 pairs and one depicting contrasts in a single shot are shown below with my associated thoughts.


My theme for this contrast is, obviously, buildings; both of these are located in Bristol in the harbour area.  The block of flats is just that, a block. The other is the Lloyds Bank building and often forms the backdrop for local festivals and events.  Whether they represent extremes is possibly open to debate, certainly to my mind the block of flats seems pretty extreme.  Turning first to the shot of the flats.  The scene screams straight lines, encompassing not just the structure of the building but the railings, railway lines, the road and its markings.  I did approach it from different angles but felt this one gave the best representation despite being challenged by the position of the sun which I sought to use to create a highlight.  From this angle I feel the linear format draws you into the scene and gives it depth.  I was also taken by the colours which added interest; without those colours, which also serve to highlight the lines, I feel the building itself would be quite bland despite the extensive use of glass.  In contrast the Bank’s lines have been complemented by the curved landscaping such that it all flows together in one large, graceful arc.  In composing this shot I thought of leading the eye from the foreground round to the building and hence the need to get a good camera position and appropriate depth of field.


I had many ideas for this category but with these two structures in my local area they seemed an obvious choice; Burnham pier is claimed to be the shortest in Britain and the Weston-super-Mare pier has been rebuilt following the disastrous fire in July 2008.  At first I was hesitant in shooting these two as they are both well photographed but decided to give it a go and not look at any of the standard stock shots beforehand lest I be influenced.  For both scenes I found it a real challenge to get an angle that did justice to the structure and portrayed the length of each pier; I took many shots from a multitude of angles trying to gauge the effectiveness of each.  There was also the issue of tide in/tide out and the constraints this placed on camera position.  For the Burnham pier I decided on this angle as I think it depicts just how short it is, literally jutting out a short way from the seafront; on reflection I am not sure that a more panoramic view may create a better impression but I am sticking with this.  For the Weston pier I thought my chosen composition portrayed the structure reaching out into the sea, almost straining to reach the island in the distance and thereby giving an impression of its length.  Both shots were taken in contrasting weather conditions; shooting into the sun at Weston exercised my grey cells and I have to admit to some application of graduated filter in Lightroom (my first use of this tool so a bit undecided on its success).


As a regular visitor to, and admirer of, this iconic vessel I quickly decided on these two shots depicting pointed and blunt; nothing to do with the fact that, as a former regular passenger on HM Royal Navy ships it was custom, as a member of the embarked forces, to refer to the front and back of the of the vessel as ‘the pointed end’ or ‘the blunt end’.  I did not see much option for composing the stern shot given the space available to manoeuvre the camera position so opted for symmetry, mindful of the need to get it dead centre.  Being a very bright day I found myself playing with the camera settings to overcome the high contrast between the deep black of the ship and the bright sky.  I took several shots of the bow in isolation, both below and above the waterline, in order to get away from the standard picture postcard view, including one looking up through the glass that surrounds the ship, but it was just too cluttered.  This view, including the entry to the dry dock, not only captures the majestic prow which you can imagine slicing through the water but the ship seems to be set to return once again to the open sea, sitting there waiting for the gates to open.


My chosen theme for these two shots is glass.  When looking down into the top deck skylight on the SS Great Britain there was a myriad of reflections which I thought created a real sense of confusion as to what was real and what was reflected.  The geometrical shapes added to the interest along with the richness of the varnished timber.  In contrast to this was the opaque glass in the windows of the shed on the wharf along with the rusting corrugated iron cladding, not very shipshape; again very geometrical but also providing a contrast in the materials’ form and texture.  I tried several ways of framing this shot to get away from the flat, vertical wall effect, seeking to get the in-camera cropping correct.


Again, inspiration from the SS Great Britain, this time from the structure below the waterline.  Time and circumstance has not been kind to the hull and rudder of the ship. However, the restoration work being carried out provides a stark contrast between before and after.  The rudder, having been restored, shows a smooth, contoured surface, highlighted by the rows of rivet heads, all cloaked in a rich coating of red paint. It took me some time to decide upon how to shoot this, whether to put it in context of the ship or go solely for the theme of smooth.  In the end I felt that, despite it being a large expanse of smooth red metal, the lines of rivet heads gave an area of interest that makes this composition work.   Contrast this with the severe rust on the hull providing a landscape of deeply pitted iron, giving colour and texture, and flaking paint all of which combine to provide an interesting array of shapes, textures and colour; I have it in mind to go back and try this shot with a macro lens.


The link between these next two subjects is metal.  Whilst some may argue that my diagonal, the spoke, does not fit the bill as it does not span the corners of the standard geometric shapes I would contest otherwise as this falls into the category of ‘other figure’ as per the definition of diagonal.  For me there is something about such objects, the size, how they were manufactured and how the surface rusts generating patterns and colours; I think this shot also conveys something of the weight of this component and the rigidity that the spokes give it.  My concern in taking this shot was how to add interest given its position almost flat up against the wall so I spent much time framing it in different ways.  The contrast with this is the collection of metal fuel containers, lights and the bucket waiting to be filled with oil.  There was a real sense of how the light was generated; oil from the barrel into the bucket, then tipped into the containers which, in turn, are used to fuel the lights. Again, I was concerned that this shot would be too flat but I think a degree of depth is given by the bucket and oil barrel.


For this contrast I wanted to get away from the obvious subjects and looked for images that implied the contrast.  Whilst I think these images speak for themselves as regards the hard and soft contrast I believe they also convey a message.  For me it starts with the Help for Heroes poster displayed on the door and the knowledge that so many of our servicemen fall on hards times when they leave the armed forces due to a number of factors; most of us take for granted a warm bed and roof over our head each night.  When composing the doorway shot I considered a number of options from including the whole frontage of the doorway to concentrating on the sleeping bag on the floor; my final choice reflects my desire to give some prominence to the poster and thus the wider meaning of the photographs.  When it came to the shot of the bed my initial concern was it was going to be just that, a bed; using different viewpoints and judicious use of the zoom lens I was able to bring in the interest of the window blind and colour of the painting on the wall, all of which puts the bed in context and adds to the message.


These two images should, I hope, stimulate the senses in order to bring to life the contrast!  Taking the photographs moved me out of my comfort zone in a number of respects; composing the shot, depth of field, lighting and capturing the moment through selection of shutter speed.  Thanks be to Continuous Low shutter release, a plentiful supply of lemons and a very patient wife!  This was the first time I have ventured into this area of photography and at first, in my enthusiasm, rushed headlong into getting the shot; not until I stepped back and thought things through did I make headway.  I am particularly pleased with capturing the lemon juice spray as it was squeezed.

Contrast ‘in one picture’ – rounded/diagonal

This has always been one of my favorite shots, taken at the Eden Project.  It is part of an intricate fence of various geometrical shapes and here we have the contrast of rounded and diagonal provided by the clever weaving of the rope on the frame.  When I took this picture it was more about framing the scene through the fence but I think it works equally well for this exercise.

As I stated at the beginning, I saw this assignment as the drawing together of all the lessons thus far as well as exploring the theory of contrasts.  In that respect I found it quite a challenge as it was too easy to get wrapped up in the task of identifying the contrasts and how to get the message across and this was sometimes at the expense of some of the learnings from the exercises.  This has brought home, once again, the need to stop and think about all the elements of constructing that ‘killer’ photograph.  Also, taking so many shots of various contrasts resulted in a lengthy down selection process with much back and forth before taking the decision to reject a set of images.  For some of the landscape shots the light was not at its best and I should have planned when to take them (golden hour springs to mind); it is now very evident why you often read that top landscape photographers visit a place many times before committing.  I am happy with my decision to seek contrasting images from the same family of subjects; that said, I think using a theme would also be interesting in that it would be telling a story.

Reference List

Concise Oxford English Dictionary. 2004. 11th ed. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

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

Prakel, D. 2012. 2nd ed. Basics photography 01: composition. Lausanne. AVAPublishing SA.


Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills.  I believe my technical skills are improving although there is still much that has yet to become second nature.  As such, some of the photographs are perhaps lacking in quality as I concentrate on one or two particular aspects at the expense of others.  In some areas this may be explained by a developing knowledge of the functionality of my camera and my overall workflow, including the use of Adobe Lightroom.  In terms of demonstration of visual skills, I think the majority of photographs show an ability to compose a scene, building on the exercises leading up to the assignment.

Quality of Outcome.  I think both the photographs and the narratives demonstrate an application of knowledge gained thus far and I have presented it in a coherent manner allowing the reader to easily navigate to the various sections. On reflection, in one or two cases perhaps the photographs do not conveying my thoughts as clearly as I had wished, specifically, rounded/diagonal and I should have been more self critical at the time of selecting the shot.  In the majority, though, I believe I have put my message across clearly.

Demonstration of Creativity.  Creativity has been an issue on my mind throughout.  I think it is evident that there are degrees of creativity in this assignment, in some areas I have gone for the obvious (Long/short) but I hope I have shown an ability to explore the boundaries elsewhere (Hard\soft, sweet/sour) both in terms of the subject matter and new techniques.  In putting this together I have told it as I see it, it is for others to decide if I am developing a personal voice.

Context.  An area for improvement is research.  There is perhaps a lack of evidence of wide research reflected by my reference list and I need to read more widely and get myself to some exhibitions/galleries.  However, I believe my learning log indicates critical thinking and the application of the discipline of reflection.  I look forward to my tutor feedback which I feel very much in need of at this juncture.