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

Curves

Task

Take 4 photographs using curves to emphasise movement and direction.

Research

Again, my 2 main references for this exercise were Freeman (2007: 80-81) and Prakel (2012: 46-47).  I think it is commonly accepted that curves are dominant in the natural world, indeed we have only to look at the human form to see the predominance of this characteristic.  The double curve (S), or line of beauty, was postulated by the artist William Hogarth in 1753 in his book The Analysis of Beauty and, invariably where used in an image, portrays gentleness, gracefulness and elegance thus having different qualities to straight lines.  I found many examples on the internet through the usual Google search but it seemed to me that the challenge lay in the requirement to make it obvious that the image is about curves and to emphasise movement and direction.

Outcome

As I thought, finding images that convey movement and direction did test me.  A number of times I contemplated a scene asking myself the question “just how does this emphasise movement and direction?”.  It would seem to me that if there is obvious movement there will be direction, but can you have a curve which has direction but does not emphasise movement?  Again I chose to record my images in both colour and B+W.

I composed this shot so that the meandering path, whilst depicting curves (not quite “a line of beauty” methinks) also acts as a leading line and, as such, conveys movement from bottom left of the frame through the centre of the image in the direction of Derwent Water in the distance.  Had it been any other day the movement would have been emphasised by the water flowing down it!  I think the curve of the fells on either side of the path add to the image giving what otherwise is quite a harsh environment a much softer feel and creates the feeling of a place of tranquility.

Well I think it is a thing of beauty!  I was in two minds as to whether to take this shot with or without the water flowing.  In my mind the curve of the tap is graceful and with the inclusion of the handles in the shot, which suggest where the water enters the device, and the water gushing from the spout the image is complete emphasising both the movement and direction of flow of the water.  Actually capturing this image took me many attempts.  I used a black backing board to make the tap stand out and eliminate the existing background which has very high contrast.  The challenge was to get sufficient depth of field so that the whole tap was in focus in a suitable orientation and capture the flow of water using an appropriate shutter speed.  I did also experiment with flash but I found the result too harsh for my liking.

A somewhat unusual image I thought.  It is actually the inside of a marquee looking up towards the central support point/ventilation port.  The composition, I believe, draws the eye from left to right, the natural flow of the eye in my world.  This too proved an exposure challenge due to the lighting inside the marquee and I drew many looks from members of the audience as I prostrated myself on the ground, stood up, sat down and so forth!  I believe this unusual image does portray direction by way of the composition and movement by having the apex on the right and creating, in effect, a funnel; whether it empathises the two characteristics is a matter of opinion.

The swan’s neck, a fine example of the line of beauty!  Having sat in the rain for some time and taking many shots (who said don’t work with children and animals) I was just packing up as the light was fading fast and the next batch of black clouds rushing in from the Bristol Channel when this one started something akin to a torpedo run towards me.  A few rapid fire shots later, hence the technical flaws.  Reviewing it on the big screen, however, suggested to me that it had all the attributes called for in the brief; not only the body curves but the bow wave ahead of it.  OK it’s not perfect but it does it for me and better to have the picture than not, in my humble opinion, as it also has the juxtaposition of the beauty of the swan in something of an aggressive mood and posture.

Reflection

As I predicted, it was finding the images for curves that emphasised movement and direction that challenged me from a composition perspective.  I am still not completely comfortable with the interpretation of some images I have seen as examples and I would contend that one in the manual (the soldiers either side of the tree) is far too “deep” for this stage of the course.  Clearly I need to analyse a lot more images to get a better handle on this concept.  Overall I enjoyed the exercise as it did move me out of my comfort zone and some of the images I shot I found technically challenging. Comparing the images in terms of colour and B+W; I think for this exercise, in all cases, the B+W images provide a better result in emphasising the curves; particularly for me where the technical results for some of the colour shots were short of the mark.

Reference List:

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

Google. (2013) Images.  Available from: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=diagonal+lines+photography&rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB524GB525&espv=210&es_sm=91&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ITVdUsHSNYHI0wXEn4GQCQ&ved=0CEcQsAQ&biw=2560&bih=1235&dpr=1 [Accessed 20 September 2013]

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

Diagonals

Task

Adding to the set of photographs showing horizontal and vertical lines, take 4 photographs which use diagonals strongly.  Experiment with both wide angle and telephoto lenses to see how the strong perspective of a wide angle lens used close to an edge or surface creates strong diagonals.

Research

There are many examples of diagonal lines in photographs of all genres and a quick google search “diagonal lines photography” revealed a host of images that exemplify the use of diagonals.  Of course the text of the supplied manual is also amplified in Michael Freeman’s book The Photographer’s Eye (2007: 76-79) and Prakel (2006: 44-45).  Clearly the diagonal line is seen as a powerful element in the composition of a photograph and even the orientation of the lines can influence what is being stated by the image.  I found that you do not have to stray far from home to find some quite striking examples and even the simplest of things produce powerful images that leave the viewer in no doubt as to what the photograph is about.

Outcome

Whilst I did experiment with both wide angle and telephoto lenses as suggested in the manual, I did not find the images I captured to be the best at depicting diagonal lines from a viewer’s perspective as required by the brief and reinforced by my tutor’s previous comments.  Again I have produced images in both colour and black and white to see how they compare as regards what the photograph is trying to illustrate.

Reflection

I have to say I did have some internal wrangling with this set of images; was I being too literal with the exercise at the expense of producing something more interesting.  In the end I decided to stick with these images as they seemed to meet the requirements of the brief and the opportunity for “creativity” lies with the assignment.  As I have already said, you do not have to look far for examples and even the simplest of images can be quite striking.  This exercise has, for me, provided a very good opportunity to compare the impact of the colour and B+W images; I feel that the shots of the vapour trails and the bricks are best viewed in colour given the contrast that the colours provide whilst the other two suit B+W.  I am still undecided as to the impact of the orientation of the lines but will look for this in the future, perhaps other subjects will make this clearer.  Overall, I think, subconsciously, I have used diagonals in my photographs in the past, probably influenced by seeing others in books, magazines etc so this use of lines does strike a chord with me.

Reference List:

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

Google. (2013) diagonal lines. Available from :https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=diagonal+lines+photography&rlz=1C5CHFA_enGB524GB525&espv=210&es_sm=91&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=ITVdUsHSNYHI0wXEn4GQCQ&ved=0CEcQsAQ&biw=2560&bih=1235&dpr=1. [Accessed 1 October 2013]

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

Horizontal and vertical lines

Task

The aim of this exercise is to find some of the different ways in which horizontal and vertical lines appear to the eye and camera.  Through the process of searching it is expected that some conclusions will be reached about how certain design elements come about and how common they are.  Four examples of vertical and four of horizontal are required, avoiding repetition of how they appear.  In each photograph the content is to be subordinate to the lines and, as such, the first thing the viewer should notice is the line(s).

Research

As usual, I turned to Freeman (2007) for initial inspiration.  I also trawled a number of internet sites searching for horizontal and vertical lines examples.  However, I then remembered seeing some books by the artist/photographer Andy Goldsworthy and recalled being bowled over by his work; a visit to the websites thrown up in the search soon revealed many uses of lines in landscapes, inspirational, especially as I favour the genre of landscape and was shortly to visit the Lake District.  I had also recently met Edward Parker, the photographer and writer who specialises in photographing trees, he has done a lot with Kew Gardens, and set in my mind an obvious subject for vertical lines, although unlikely to come close to the images in his book, Photographing Trees, Parker (2012).  Some images were already in the bank from other excursions having done a bit of pre-planning.  I also decided to continue to produce the images in both colour and black and white for comparison purposes.

Outcome

With a preference for landscapes I took the opportunity of a visit to the Lake District to look for suitable subjects.  Since much of the time was to be spent walking on the fells there was the issue of what camera equipment to carry.  Consequently some of the shots have been taken with nothing more sophisticated than a Canon SX110 IS compact camera as I came across scenes that captured my imagination; where I went out to specifically take photographs there was the usual SLR and associated baggage.  I found it quite uplifting to be walking in this beautiful landscape and really looking at what was around me as I sought out images for the exercise, no more head down, thumbs tucked in rucksack straps, well apart from the really steep bits or in the horizontal rain (couldn’t work out how to capture that image!).

Horizontal

This is a shot of some decking around a building as the sun began to dip towards the horizon.  Although it was quite narrow I was able to get a position such that the angle of the shot provided enough definition of the board spacing to give well defined horizontal lines, helped by the angle of the sun and the shadows cast.  This was taken hand-held and some straightening was carried out in Lightroom.

Whilst out walking around Derwent Water late in the afternoon the angle of the sun caught the trees on the edge of a clearing casting long shadows.  It took a good deal of head scratching, not just due to the midges, trial and error to get the camera settings right (questionable even now) given the high contrast of the environment; there was also the question of the angle of the shot and depth of field to create the best illustration of the lines.  I also fell into the trap of trying to improve things post shot processing without really knowing where I was going – thank heavens for the reset button!

Returning from a walk on the fells above the Borrowdale Valley I came across what was obviously some outdoor leadership tasks being carried out by a group.  Ropes had been stretched across the river and the resulting lines seemed to slice through the otherwise idyllic scene, confronting the natural curves of nature.

 

Passing by this multi-storey car park I was struck by the unusual attempt to make it acceptable to the eye.  I considered whether to include this shot for quite a while mainly due to the trees in front of the building; whilst there are many “lines” I think the bold horizontals  of the main floors stand out and then there are a host of others which reinforce the theme and overcome the trees.  I have to say I particularly like this image for the juxtaposition of the hard straight lines of the structures and the natural lines of the trees.

Vertical

Whilst contemplating a shot of a long metal fence I came across this ornate gate which, whilst portraying vertical lines, also represents a stark boundary with the wide open spaces beyond.  The challenge was to get the angle right and remember to focus on the gate itself so that it was the main subject.  I took a number of shots with the gate in isolation as well as with the fence running on beyond it.  In the final analysis I thought this composition best met the brief.  For me, though, as an image it represents a physical barrier to the freedom of the wide open space beyond, imagine how a caged animal feels.

This is one of the many landing stages for the ferries that ply Derwent Water.  It was tempting to encompass more of the surrounding landscape but, given the brief, I spent a good deal of time shooting from various positions in order to emphasise the lines of the vertical supports and achieve an optimum depth of field.

The Lake District is awash with drystone walls, many of which are a tribute to human endeavour.  Whilst descending a particularly steep incline I looked across the valley and saw this image; I was determined to get a drystone wall in this exercise!  I was immediately reminded of some of Andy Goldsworthy’s work. I was not sure whether to take the shot in landscape or portrait orientation in consideration of what I was trying to capture, the vertical line in isolation or the fact that it divided a vast area of the mountainside.  However, I felt that whatever the orientation the wall, as a vertical line, would stand out.

Approaching this building in Bath, the Holburne Museum of Art, I was struck by the vertical lines of the building and the columns, an obvious candidate for this exercise.  I took several shots conscious of the need to make the lines of the building the focus and decided the full frontal provided the most dramatic view.  Not being able to get a higher vantage point due to the location I was also mindful of the effect on the verticals (comment from my tutor on a previous image ringing loud in my ears), Lightroom to the rescue.

Reflection

Apart from finding suitable subjects, the biggest challenge for me was to make the content subservient to the lines such that the lines are the first thing the viewer notices; I discarded many shots having reviewed them against this criteria.  Once again it all comes down to who is viewing the image; a photographer might immediately associate the image with lines whereas Joe Public might not without prompting or being confronted with the obvious eg power lines, railway lines, a pencil line on a piece of paper.  Whether I have met the brief is, ultimately, for the viewers of this blog to decide; for my part I believe I have produced images that deliver the brief.  Probably more important is whether I have reached any conclusion about how certain design elements come about and how common they are. Certainly this exercise has made me look at the world around me and, in so doing, recognise the existence of the elements and notice that they are very prevalent, almost everywhere you look you can quickly recognise them, although sometimes it does take a bit of mental debate.  The most striking thing, though, is the image captured by the camera versus that by the human eye with all its associated processing power.  The frame of the camera constrains the image such that when viewing the two-dimensional result it is considerably different from that you would have registered with the eye, for example the wall running up the side of the mountain becomes a vertical line in the camera, not so to the naked eye.  Turning to the comparison of colour and B&W images; I think this exercise has proved to me that the B&W does help to focus on the elements, particularly where there is high contrast conditions which, in my case, leads to over processing with some quite appalling results.  This has been an enjoyable exercise which has opened my eyes, quite literally, and given me a new insight into composition of an image; it has also made me a lot more mindful and appreciative of our surroundings, there is something worth looking at everywhere.  It has also reinforced my preference for landscape photography and the importance of conserving our wide open spaces.

Reference List:

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

The Crichton Foundation. (2013) Andy Goldsworthy Digital Catalogue: Volume 1 1976 – 1986. The Crichton Foundation.  Available from: http://www.goldsworthy.cc.gla.ac.uk/browse/ [Accessed 17 August 2013]

Bibliography:

Digital Photography School. (2013) Latest assignment – photographing lines.  Available from: http://digital-photography-school.com/latest-assignment-photographing-lines [Accessed 25 August 2013]

Parker, E. (2012) Photographing trees. Richmond: Royal Botanic Gardens Kew

Multiple points

Task

This exercise builds upon the single point, grouping objects together such that they are linked attractively, in a relationship that is active rather than obvious and static.  The group of objects implies a network of lines and, by implication, create a shape.  The exercise requires the build up of a still-life arrangement using 6-10 similar sized objects against an unfussy, but not plain, background resulting in a final grouping, which is not so obvious as to be boring (avoiding regular shapes), but which hangs together visually.  As each single object is added a photograph is taken.  The camera is to be fixed in one position aimed down at the background; this calls for the use of a tripod or similar.  The composition should be controlled by rearrangement of the objects, not by changing the framing within the camera. The final photograph calls for a sketch to be drawn indicating the ‘lines’ that relate the objects and any basic shape(s) that they form.

Research

I contemplated this exercise for a lengthy period as I did not find it the easiest of tasks to get my head round; probably something to do with self belief in being creative.  As usual the first port of call was Freeman (2007) followed closely by Prakel (2012).  Whilst both these publications covered the ground in varying degrees I did not find the explanations and examples sufficient to provide the clarity I was seeking in order to carry out the exercise. The technical aspects were straightforward, it was producing a final grouping “not so obvious as to be boring” and “hangs together visually” that presented the greatest challenge to me and I craved more explanation and examples.  There did not appear to be any pertinent information in any of the other course books so once again it was the internet.  Of course there were many examples from other students on the course and it was heartening to know that others have found this exercise a challenge.  Most of the sites I visited were concerned with selecting multiple points from an existing scene rather than building a still life.  Even looking at sites which were from the artist’s perspective did not prove much help as they seemed to be more concerned with the arrangement in side elevation rather than plan view.  I considered a range of objects such as buttons, confectionary, nuts, coins, earrings and pebbles; as well as shape I considered texture and tone with the conversion to B+W in mind as I intended to produce both colour and B+W images.  In the end I selected pebbles for their shape, texture and varying tones.  For the background I selected a wood, in keeping with a natural theme, and the potential for the grain to provide some interest.

Outcome

The set up was done in a conservatory so as to provide plenty of natural light but I did wait until it was overcast to avoid harshness.  I mounted the camera on a tripod with the column at 90 degrees (beware the balance of forces!) to effect a plan view of the composition.  All the shots were taken using a 105mm f/2.8 lens with camera settings of 1/60 sec at f/5.6, ISO100 with a custom white balance derived from using a grey card and I used a cable shutter release; the camera settings were taken from a hand-held light meter.  I also found it best to use the Live View mode which made it much easier to make composition changes and see the effect in the frame.

When I began the build I had no idea where I was going with the composition and had many attempts, looking for inspiration, always nagged by the directive to not be boring, avoid regular shapes and find something that would hang together visually.  Finally as I was laying the pebbles down in a diagonal line my mind went back to my shots of the moon in the previous exercise and the thought of stars in the night sky – after all had man not looked up and deduced shapes from the objects in the sky; this led to my final arrangement and the end to a good deal of frustration.  Whilst some may challenge the fact that it does not conform to the remit to avoid regular shapes I would invite viewers of that opinion to consider the definition of ‘regular’ – if, perchance, there are two or more spaces of the exact same dimensions then that is pure coincidence and says much for my calibrated eyeball!

Reflection

This exercise has been a challenge and not one I can say I enjoyed in all respects; the technical elements I found enjoyable but building the still-life not so.  Why is that?  I think it stems from entering into a completely new arena of arranging a still-life with strict rules applied; I felt as if I was completing a process rather than composing a photograph that I found pleasing to view as, after all, the final shot is to illustrate the lines and shapes therein and thus prove a grasp of the concept (my interpretation).  Perhaps I should have used different objects to try to bring it to life.  I have to say that I did not find the notes in the manual particularly helpful and there seemed to be a paucity of information to support this exercise elsewhere which led to a good deal of frustration on my part.  Also I cannot say that still-life photography is something that I have ever had an interest in so perhaps there was degree of negativity at the outset which I should have recognised and addressed.

In terms of the end product, I believe it illustrates the complexity of composing a still-life and I have been able to identify lines and shapes that confirm the theory.  By producing both colour and B+W images I have been able to further my understanding of the subtleties of grayscale; in this instance I feel that there is not a great enough tonal difference to make the image stand out and work in B+W albeit that may be due, in part, to my knowledge of the software I used.  I have tried to make sense of the “vectors” in the arrangement and have found it difficult to make a reasoned conclusion apart from there appear to be four lines of direction pulling outward according to the placement of the four pebbles near the edge of the frame; given that they are all of a similar size I can only deduce that the lines with an object nearest the edge are the stronger; this is certainly an area I think needs face to face tuition to fully understand the subject area. Whether the composition meets the criteria set is, in my view, open to debate; on the one hand it should be “not so obvious as to be boring” whilst on the other I have been exulted by my tutor to compose my images such that the intent is immediately obvious to the viewer.  I hope that the arrangement of the objects gives the viewer the impression that there is meaning to the composition, even though they may not be into astronomy, perhaps in the same way as those who constructed Stonehenge did so with reason, or so we think!  It is all in the eye of the beholder, is it not?

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