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