Monday, 11 April 2011

Assignment 1

For my first Assignment I have to compose a set of photographs that illustrate the fundamental design principles of .. CONTRAST.

From a list provided I have decided to demonstrate the following contrasts;
For the final photograph I have to display the contrast in one image.

Below are samples of the final Photographs I have submitted for my Assignment.

Contrast - Large
Being a member of the National Trust gives me great opportunity to visit some of England’s stunning stately homes and gardens. On this particular occasion I was taking a walk around Nymans in West Sussex where numerous people walk their dogs in the woods. This particular shot was taken as I stood chatting to the owners.

While processing the photographs from this day, I noticed how big the dog’s eyes were, and it immediately took me back to my childhood and old saying “Big Puppy Dog Eyes”

The photograph was taken at f4.5-1/250-200-17mm

I had to crop the photograph from the original, so that the finished image was more focused on the dogs face and eyes by using the rule of thirds. No other image correction techniques were used. Out of all of the photos taken I thought this portrayed the dogs innocence and beauty.

On reflection I would have liked to have gotten closure to the dog so I didn’t have to crop so much, which in turn would have made the photograph sharper. I didn’t sharpen the image, as a byproduct of this made the photo look to grainy.

Contrast - Small    
In contrast to my something ‘Large’ I wanted to keep the subject matter to something that wasn’t an imamate object. During a visit to Uppark in Hampshire, while sitting having lunch I noticed that the surrounding flowers were attracting the a few bees. Using my 55-250mm lens I followed the bees and took photographs of them whilst they were pollinating.

The photograph was taken at f16.0-1/320-3200-250mm

I decided not to edit this photograph, as I am quite happy with the contrast of colours and composition of the photo. While shooting I made every effort to compose the shot and think about the frame saving me time after processing the RAW images. The photo of the bee was taken as one of the bees was resting on a nearby leaf. With the insect still enough I was able to get as close as my lens would allow, which enabled me to focus in on the bee.

If I could have shown this better, then I would have chosen one of my other photos with the bee in flight, however on this occasion, it proved difficult to get a sharp enough photo that I was happy with. 

Contrast - Many
Several months ago during my journey home I had noticed this field was being prepared for tree planting and every time I drove past the numbers would appear to increase. As I started this assignment this immediately came to mind to express the word ‘Many’.

The photograph was taken at f4.0-1/800-100-40mm

Several photos were taken from high level to low, with the view off centre to the final photo that I decided on. I liked the tunneling effect which enhances the view and makes you realise how vast and how many new trees have been planted.

Although I like the photo and feel it Illustrates the meaning well, perhaps a way to improve this would be to go back later in the year, so the trees are more developed and green, bringing more substance to the image. 

Contrast - Few
This was slightly more challenging as finding something suitable was proving to be difficult. However one morning on the way to work, I drove past a field where I know several horses graze. The light was bright and low and set back in the distance just rising above the field, a few horses were present in the field at the time, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity I was waiting for.

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/1250-100-250mm

With the sun low in the sky and the air quite hazy, getting the shot I wanted proved more difficult that I had imagined. I took several over a 30 minute period and as it turned out the one photo I have included was one of the last ones I took, where the sun was higher, the horses were grouped together more, and the light which defined the edge of one of the horses together with its the shadows seems all to fit and compose the image as I wanted. Once processed I enhanced the greens in the grass and the blacks throughout the image to improve the contrast of the photograph.

The photograph could be better with greater knowledge of light and how to use it in different situations and scenarios.  I struggled to get a good image here, but persevered with it and I feel I have ended up with a photograph that compliments the contrasts. 

Contrast - Diagonal
This photo was taken while out for a walk along Southsea Beach. The tide was out and sun was beginning to set in the distance. Enough light was being thrown under the pier to enhance the range of cast iron and rusty reds and browns and seaweed greens. The cross members of the upright beams make perfect diagonal lines as you stare into the photograph.

The photograph was taken at f18-1/100-1600-55mm

I decided not to enhance, crop and alter this image as I wanted it to remain in its raw condition as it was taken. Choosing to centre the image again I feel works better here as its focus is on the diagonal cross beams.

My choice not to enhance the photo perhaps is not the best one, as I could have improved the contrast to bring out the colours more. Leaving the sun to set a little more, so available light was less may have provided a more provoking image. 

Contrast - Rounded
Here I was torn between a photo I had taken of the moon and the photo I ended up using; pool balls. I used to play a lot of pool when I was younger so the subject appealed to me, and I thought being able to move around the table would give me more opportunity to get the photo I wanted than the one of the moon.

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/200-400-200mm

I had taken several shots, using the viewfinder to move around the table, changing levels and using different focal ranges and apertures. For my final shot I focused on the 8 ball and took the photo close up so I could make full effect of the set aperture I wanted.

Again here I think the photo could be improved by incorporating the background more. I was able to take this shot at home, whereas if I were to go to pool/snooker hall I could have used the atmosphere to develop the shot further.

Contrast - Pointed
I’ve also been fairly good at technical drawing, and now my daughter is at the age where math’s homework is ever more increasing, I decided that with the use of a compass I could portray the word ‘Pointed’. I was thinking about using a spire, or pointed railings but I wanted something that is different and in some way taken for granted.

The photograph was taken at f2.2-1/200-400-50mm

To ensure I focused on the point of the compass I set the aperture wide enough so that the remaining image was blurred out enough. The composition is basic which I feel helps illustrate the fundamental principal behind math’s and learning.

If I had to improve on what I have, I think I would change the direction of the photo and introduce a person using the compass, to emphasize the connection we have when using it.

Contrast - Blunt
Months ago I saw a photo of a group of crayons, by no particular named photographer, but that image has stayed with me, which is my inspiration for this next photo. As I have used an implement we all used one time or another at school, I thought I would keep to the same theme and use pencils. However these all had to be ‘blunt’.

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/200-400-250mm using external flash

Using a range of colours I spent a bit of time rubbing each pencil down to ensure it was blunt, grouped them together and started shooting. I had to rearrange the group layout several times to get the optimum photograph I was happy with. I feel the colours work well and detail is great for this shot.

To improve on this photo, I think I could have tried taking a photo of the pencils as they were being used, to the point of them being blunt, showing the colours scrawled on the paper with tiny etchings left over from the pencils for added details and to enhance the reason/story of them becoming blunt.

Contrast - Hard
As with one of the earlier photographs, this was taken during a visit to Nymans. The gargoyle head is part of the main fountain situated within the garden. There were several concrete and iron statues which I could have chosen, however the detail within the gargoyles face appealed to me.

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/400-250-250mm

To illustrate the contrast ‘hard’ I decided to zoom in and focus on the head so that it took up the entire frame. The details within the cracks and the flaking concrete aids at giving the appearance of a solid/hard structure whereas the face adds interest.

Perhaps by adding something soft or different within the frame to compare the photograph would give the viewer something more to relate too.  

Contrast - Soft
I took this photo of Giant Redwood tree while we were out walking in Nymans. One of the first things I noticed when I got up close was the bark was fluffy and soft it was to the touch. From a distance the tree looks huge, towering above the others, and usually tree bark gives the appearance of rough.

The photograph was taken at f4.0-1/80-400-40mm

In order to ensure I captured the softness of the giant redwood bark I got up close and zoomed in on an area, so the frame was filled with the bark, then recomposed the image so that I let some more light from the background to the side to enhance the depth of field.

On reflection this is a difficult image to show the contrast ‘soft’ unless you have actually seen and touched a giant redwood tree; however I feel the photograph provides the viewer with a memory and powerful link for those who have experienced the sensation and know of this soft bark.

Contrast - Thick
At this time of year one the first thoughts that comes to mind is of mowing the grass because it’s grown tall and thick in the spring. Once I had decided on this approach I had to find the correct grass type and thickness to illustrate this meaning. While out walking I came across a patch of overgrown grass next to a field which I decided would express my photo the best.

The photograph was taken at f10.0-1/30-250-17mm

I took several photos of different areas from different angles and focal ranges, until I decided to lower my camera directly into the grass and take a blind photo. Luckily enough I ended up with the photo shown here which I feel illustrates this contrast in a very unique way.

I had to rely on natural light for this photograph, with the use of external flash, bounced off reflector could have provided a slightly different effect on the grass, experimenting with other options would definitely be one way I would like to expand on how I could improve this photograph.

Contrast - Thin
This photograph was also taking at Nymans of a sun dial outside the main house. While photographing the house and grounds I used the sun dial in a previous exercise for this assignment, while I was there I also took a few close up photos of the dial.

The photograph was taken at f4.0-1/320-100-40mm

While taking photos of this from above I noticed the effect of the sun dial and thought this was a good illustration of the contrast ‘thin’ making sure I focused in on the sun dial to fill the frame and to help exaggerate the length, size and shape of the sun dial hand.

Because of the close proximity of the lens to the subject it was difficult to get everything in pin sharp focus, however if I could improve on this I would use a smaller aperture from a slightly different distance to enable more of the photo to be in focus. 

Contrast - Smooth
Whilst trying to find something to illustrate ‘smooth’ I was around my fiancés parent’s house, which have recently had a conservatory built, the marble flooring was extremely polished, reflective and smooth to the touch.

The photograph was taken at f9.0-1/500-100-60mm

I wanted to get some other form of material in the photograph to help illustrate the smoothness of the floor. Several photographs were taken of the floor, using different apertures and moving around the room using the viewfinder to find the shot I needed.

The light within this photograph is very strong, almost to the point of appearing to wash the image out. Altering the cameras internal exposure setting, using an ND Filter or taking the same photo under different lighting conditions could provide a better/different alternative photograph. 

Contrast - Rough
What can be rougher than a cats tongue? If you’ve ever been licked by a cat, then the first thing you notice is how rough their tongue appears. I thought would make a great photo not only in its own right but to demonstrate ‘rough’. Once I had decided to take this image I had to think how?

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/200-400-250mm using an external flash

Using a salted crisp I held it out for our cat to taste, then sat and waited to see what would happen. This took several attempts and several images were captured. Focal points and aperture were important here as was composing the image so that I obtained the correct detail within the image to illustrate my contrast.

Working with animals is never easy, although if I could have tempted the cat to lick a hand or some kind of other object then the image could have been composed better and would have appeared less constructed.

Contrast - Straight
While on site in Exeter one of my jobs was coming to a close, part of the scheme was the design and build of a new pedestrian bridge over the A379. The thin wire cables that stretch the span of the bridge gives a good example of straight when they are under tension.

The photograph was taken at f8.0-1/640-100-19mm

As part of my job I have to record and document stages through our work as it progresses on site. While there I decided to take several photos from several angles with the view that at some point I might be able to use these for my assignments or exercises through my photography course. Most were taken to show the bridge, this one however is one of a few I wanted to get closer to the detail experiment with composition and set apertures.

This photo was taken from my library of images and as such, preplanning before I shot the photo could have produced a better outcome.

Contrast - Curved
This photograph was taken as a spur of moment while out walking. I had thoughts of what I wanted to take to illustrate this contrast, however when I noticed the rings on the tree stump that had been cut back I immediately thought this makes a good thought provoking image which captures the essence of tree and its age and how they change over time.

The photograph was taken at f5.0-1/250-125-146mm

To ensure I captured the curved pattern of the stump I filled the frame with the subject and shot at a slight angle so I could take full effect of the depth of field, as opposed to shooting straight on and having the entire image in focus.

Now thinking about the photograph, I would have taken the shot straight on to view the effects rather than rule them out so I could make a better decision on which was better.

Contrast - Black/White
For this last photograph I wanted to display both black and white in its literal term, so I choose a news paper article.  I wanted to bring attention to the head line and draw it away from the main body of the text in the photograph so the bold headline would attract the eye more.

The photograph was taken at f5.6-1/200-400-100mm using external flash.

I took several attempts to lay the papers out, move around, changing the focal length and composing the image until I was happy with the final outcome. The slight ripple in the paper from the finished photo I feel helps give depth to the photo.

Changing the headline or having a person reading the paper could provide further avenues to explore to recompose the image and improve it.

By using this as my final media to display both contrasts “Black and White” I feel it will offer more to people in many different forms of interpolation as often media stories are seldom black and white! 

Sunday, 10 April 2011

A Sequence of Composition

This exercise is help to me think about the practical process of composition. Rather than using landscapes or objects, the idea is challenge the photographer by choosing a situation that involves people.

I had struggled to find a suitable situation here, as time is very limited at the moment and there aren't many public events going on. It wasn't until I drove past a car boot this morning and thought this would make an ideal opportunity to photograph people which may have the potential for an interesting photo and where situations change every second, giving me the opportunity to walk, view and wait.

Below is a record of the photographs that document life as it happens during a busy car boot in Portsmouth.

Entry in the car boot

Iconic ice cream vans make an appearance on sunny days

Capering the moment of handing over ice cream for payment

Women views what's on offer

View of one stall and their set up to sell many smaller objects

Further exchanges

Seller waits patiently for a sale ... or almost falls asleep in the sun!

Buyers browse what's on offer

A seller goes through what she left and begins to organise

Browsing the books

A man sits perched looking through the items

Another opportunity to witness a potential purchase, while the man looks over the radio

Some of the items for sale where a little on the unique side

More captured expression from buyers

A busy stream of buyers

Another exchange

A man examines a fishing rod before purchase. Capturing both buyer and seller deeply engaged in conversation and technical checking
(He didn't buy in the end ... it was bent)

A stall seller checks his items

An unexpected find, a couple of Vespa mopeds (not for sale)

Another potential buyer

Sitting and examining as life goes on all around

A stall seller prepares her baby clothes for sale

On reflection this was a great exercise. At first I was putting this off as the interaction with other people and taking photos without permission is some what daunting. However, once I got started, moving around, viewing, watching and waiting for that right moment was very addictive and enjoyable.
A few people asked what I was doing, and once I explained they were all very happy and welcoming.
Capturing peoples expressions unaware of the camera has helped create a series of photographs that accurately recreate the 'Car Boot' life.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Gathering my thoughts

Time is slowly ticking by, so in the past week I've decided to look ahead and have started thinking and planning for my first assignment ... Contrasts.

The assignment suggests a list of contrasting words, such as Black/White or Light/Heavy which should be illustrated via the photographic medium.

Since I've had my DSLR I've been fascinated and inspired by the images portrayed in the generic photographic magazines and photographer of the year publications; so much so that my fiancée calls me a little twitcher as I'll spend hours at a time, waiting for the opportunity to photograph native birds or local wildlife, grabbing every opportunity to photograph passers by and their dogs.

Of all the areas, I enjoy wildlife the most; last time I went to Marwell Zoo I used up both memory cards I had with me, and brought back over 700 photos in RAW to look through and process! I could sit, watch and wait all day to get that perfect picture.

However I digress ... my assignment will hopefully reflect my passion for wildlife and nature.

Looking through all the options I have decided on which pairs of Contrasts to illustrate. Some ideas of how to show these came quickly, others, not so! Some are obvious but as with all photography, finding that single approach that is different and expressive, I feel, turns a good photo into a great or memorable photo with depth and meaning, that engulfs the viewer and provokes a reaction.

I have one more exercise to complete and I'm half way through compiling my first assignment. I'm also looking forward to another photo filled weekend where I'll hopefully be ready to print everything and submit later next week. As I want this unit to be formally assessed, my tutor has advised I print large format (A4 minimum). Mounting the photos together with technical details and thoughts will be a challenge in itself... double sided or larger than A4 .. A3?

.... Need a bigger work station!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Vertical and Horizontal Frames

When taking photographs many people forget that you can and should look for opportunities to shoot in both landscape and portrait. There are certain situations where portrait photography could alter the structure of the photograph and as such many photo opportunities may be over looked.
This next exercise illustrates this process.

Shooting here the scene tends to work best in landscape mode, which is usually more appeals to the human eye.

The horizon here plays a big part and illustrates that again shooting in landscape is more appealing.

With the addition of detail below the horizon in the mud flaps and re-positioning the horizon line to the top of the frame the portrait photograph has surpassed the original in this instance.

Landscape photo is more appealing, as the main focus of the photo is the reeds on the edge of the lake.

The expanses of the flowers and position of the horizon line makes the landscape photograph more appealing.

The landscape photo here is fairly compact, gives nice details towards the edge of the photo, whereas the portrait photo allows more details on the foreground and the tree in back is now completely visible. In this instance I prefer the portrait photo.

The additional detail of the tree in the portrait photo makes this more appealing. On reflection the photo could have been taken higher so that the flowers appear at the base of the tree and photo.

Where the landscape photo shows more of the fountain the portrait allows us to see that the mouth of the gargoyle statue is part of the complete fountain.

Here the portrait photo allows us to see the entire statue where as the landscape does not blend itself well to the frame.

The nature of this subject being vertical automatically blends itself to the portrait frame.