25 Dec 2010

Light: Project - The intensity of light, pt.2

Exercise: Higher and lower sensitivity
7 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

My notes for Assignment 3 showed that I deliberatly kept the ISO sensitivity low as I had the camera mounted on a tripod and camera shake was not an issue. I was able to use slower shutter speed and therefore did not have to speed up the exposure with a higher ISO. There was one exception and that was the exploding water balloon where I had to up the ISO in order to speed up the shutter to 1/2500 to freeze frame the resulting splash of the water. The problem this produced was the digital noise that can be seen on close examination of the photo.

I did a series of photos to test the acceptable limits of my D5000s ISO sensitivity so avoid the problem of noise. The camera seems to cope well up to ISO 400-800 with very little noise but beyond that it starts to show. The comparison below shows the problem between ISO 200 and 3200:

I recently utalised the higher sensity when taking some photos of a friend's newborn: she's only a month old and wouldn't stay still! ISO 800 and the fastest shutter speed the wide aperture would allow produced good results, but beyond that the noise was just too much. I also used it to good effect on the Paris Metro when a busker came onboard - ISO 1250 allowed me to get the shutter speed to 1/30 for a good exposure and it resulted in this gem of a photo!

Light: Project - The intensity of light, pt.1

Exercise: Measuring exposure

Click here to view flickr set.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.5

Exercise: Shiny surfaces
4 - 10 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

{content pending}

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.4

Exercise: Concentrating light
2 photographs

This exercise doesn't actually call for the reader to produce any results for concentrating light, but I have done so anyway because I thought it was quite interesting. Dont get me wrong, not much thought has been put into them but I wanted to quickly experiment at the end of an evening.

I attached a piece of rolled-up foam sheet to the end of my speedlight using self-adhesive velcro and proceeded to take a few photos around the flat. The first photo, below, shows the light being very heavily focused on the TV in the lounge. As you can see, it is very interesting just how focused the light has become with a long snoot.

Next, I went outside to see what would happen with some other artificial light in the scene. Here, the speedlight with the snoot fitted was angled to point at the car in the background and highlight it along with the street lights to the right of the frame. This shows that a scene can be composed and specific details can be brought into view using concentrated light. Granted, these two photographs aren't the most creative or refined, but they have given me another option to consider when planning for Assignment 4...

19 Dec 2010

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.3

Exercise: Contrast and shadow fill
7 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

The previous two exercises have shown how we can change the contrast of a photograph using hard or soft light and also how we alter the perceived depth of the subject by influencing where the shadows fall with the light direction. Now we look at how to reflect the light from the source in order to fill the shadows to alter the contrast even more.

The first and second photo follows the softening the light exercise by creating hard and soft shadows, respectively. The third shows how piece on white card, placed approximately one metre away, can reflect some of the light back onto the subject to fill in the shadows cast by the direction of the source. This is in effect reducing the tonal variation of the subject, removing the competition between the shadow and the form. For the fourth, the card was moved closer and the result reduces the tonal variation even more by reflecting more of the light. I have exercised this in the past for a colour accent submission for Assignment 3: a large light source was placed to the left of the subject to soften the shadows and a white card placed opposite to reduce the tonal variation caused by the position of the model’s head.

The fifth, sixth and seventh photographs for this exercise alter the amount of light reflected again by using the dull and shiny sides of kitchen foil and then crumbled foil, respectively. By comparing the results, we can see that the shiny surface of the foil reflects more light still when compared to the white card.

The choice of what sort of reflector card to use will be dependant on the amount of fill a subject may require. Furthermore, the colour of the seamless background would also influence the amount of fill required: a brilliant white may mean that no fill would be required at all whereas black may require a much stronger fill.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.2

Exercise: The lighting angle
11 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

This is an exercise in different lighting positions to create tonal variations in an object in order to provide depth clues. With the camera fixed on the tripod, a total of 11 photographs were taken using a small bust of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus.

The previous exercise in softening the light showed us that a small light source will produce hard shadows where as a large source (such as light fitted with a diffuser) will create soft shadows. Various factors can influence the descriptor of a source being large or small, such as the distance from the subject, however for the purposes of this exercise the source will be diffused at all times. The source will be moved around the subject with the direction determining the highlights and shadow falls.

1. Front Lighting

Here the light is coming from the direction of the camera: this shows the least possible depth in the planes of the subject because the visible part is entirely highlighted. The shadows fall behind the subject where the camera cannot see and for this reason this can also be described as flat lighting (this can be usful in portrait photography for minimizing and softening skin texture).

2. Side Lighting

Side lighting maximizes the perception of depth by producing shadows and highlights, unlike the little depth created by flat lighting and the silhouetting of backlighting. Of the series, I am most fond of this particular photograph for the atmosphere it creates, however the position of the shadow is competing with the subject: did you notice the statue or the shadows first?

3. Behind/side

With the light placed behind the subject and slightly off to one side, the resultant photograph is that of a silhouette with a line of light picking out the edges of the offset side. The photograph fails to reveal much of the subject's depth but has produced a dramatic highlight. If the subject were a more recognisable shape, such as the contours of a model's side-profile, this could produce a very dramic piece. This works very well in this this film poster for Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino

4. Backlighting

Here the statue is completly silhouetted by placed the light to the rear of the subject as has completly failed to reveal any of its depth. The creates a certain 'drama' to the subject but without any further lighting or reflection there is no third dimension to the photograph.

Light: Project - Photographic lighting pt.1

Exercise: Softening the light
2 photographs

Due to the weather deciding that it was going to dump over Buckinghamshire and snow me in, I decided to skip ahead in the Light chapter of TAOP and do the photographic lighting exercises rather than sit on it and do nothing. Not sure if I'm meant to do this but being flexible is key when you can't go anywhere!!

I bought Light: Colour and Magic. off of Amazon as an extra resource for photographic lighting and I am really glad I did. It's in the recommended reading list for the course and it really does expand on the notes made in TAOP folder.

High Contrast/Hard Light

This first image shows an example of a high-contrast light source which is easily recognisable by the appearance of hard shadows; that is all of the rays are striking the object from nearly the same angle. With this Buddha head, a naked bulb is shining down from the top left of the frame to create shadows with sharply defined edges, cast from its features. For this reason, high contrast light sources are also said to be hard lights.

The diagram below shows an example of a hard shadow being created from high-contrast light source; the sun. The sun is considered to be a small light source owing to its relative distance from the Earth and, (when referring to single light sources), all small light sources are considered to be high-contrast sources.

Low Contrast/Soft Light

For the second photograph, the light source and the head have not been moved but a diffuser made from tracing paper has been positioned between the two. Its presence has produced a scattering of the light from the bulb and created a large light source, one of low-contrast. Now the shadows are far less defined and move of the Buddha’s face is illuminated from this scattering.

If we again consider the diagram of the sun the same effect is produced when a cloud passes between the rays and the casting object: the rays are scattered and the shadow is no longer clearly defined. Conversely, large light sources are considered to be that of low-contrast

The words hard and soft are used only to describe how sharply the edges of a shadow are defined; they are not descriptors of lightness or darkness.

12 Dec 2010

Looking at Artists...

I’ve started to look at a few artist’s work to try and get some early ideas for Assignment 4 on Light. I remembered an artist I looked at a number of years ago for a different project and remembered a ‘film noir’ series of photographs by Cindy Sherman. This was her landmark 69 photograph series called the Complete Untitled Film Stills, (1977–1980), where Sherman photographed herself in a range of costumes portraying B-movie, foreign film and film noir style actresses.

Sherman is an American photographer and film director, best known for her conceptual portraits and has raised challenging and important questions about the role and representation of women in society. Although Sherman does not consider her work feminist, many of her photo-series, like the 1981 "Centerfolds," call attention to the stereotyping of women in films, television and magazines.

In this Untitled photograph we can see the model under lighting conditions that have created a lot of heavy shadows and contrast. The strong lines across the models face and upper body seem to suggest that she is hiding under the towel in a dark room and the light is spilling in from a window to left, outside of the frame.

In the mid 1980s, Sherman produced the horrific and often repulsive elements of fairy tale stories. She combines prosthetic and artificial body parts along with elaborate make-up to completely transform herself into embodiments of horror and nightmare. Again, there is high contrast lighting used in the series to accentuate features and create mood, however this style of wonder and macabre is (in my view) better delivered by Joshua Hoffine.

11 Dec 2010

Moving onto Chapter 4: Light

I’ve started reading on with TAOP while on night shift and I have to admit that I’m a little confused to the importance of metering. I understand the theory but not the relevance. Reading the course materials it says that metering is the cameras way of getting the correct exposure, though it can sometimes be fooled. I know how to change the exposure using the shutter speed, aperture and/or ISO and my DSLR allows me to review the result instantly so I can make changes on-the-spot.

So… if I am able to completely control the exposure what do I need metering for?!

I decided to try researching this on the web and came across this tutorial:

A good example they give is of a portrait shot with the model underexposed while sitting in front of a brightly lit window. The tutorials solution was to use spot metering to take a reading from the models face; this exposed her correctly and burned out the background details. Why was spot metering needed for this? Surely a longer exposure time, wider aperture or higher ISO would have done the same thing? What am I missing?!

I emailed my tutor with this and he helped clear the situation up for me. The missing tooth in the cog was speed. Metering allows you to quickly set the optimum exposure so you can just keep on clicking. Here’s an example from my tutor:

“A classic example is the wedding, white dress, black suit. zoom in on the black suit, look at the reading, zoom in on the white dress look at the reading then set accordingly. All done in a second or two with no looking away from the camera or looking at dials.”

So, question answered. Now I can move on with my life and stop obsessing!

9 Dec 2010

Feedback on Assignment 3

My tutor sent me his feedback on Assignment 3 last week and all I can say is:


Joe gave me some massively positive notes on the series and I'm really glad that I took the time producing them, given the results. Joe liked them so much that he passed them onto Gareth Dent at the OCA and I'm now a featured artist!!! I've been on cloud-9!!!

Click here to see my work at the main OCA website and here for the OCA blog to read the accompanying article!

On a further note, it is interesting that the colour settings on my monitor were brought up in the feedback because I have been pondering about this recently. I received an email from the OCA about Peak Imaging as a photo developer and the importance of monitor calibration with colour cards. I also noticed that the colours of my submission for Assignment 3 were a little different on my friend’s monitor when I was showing him my work. Joe noticed some purple areas on the photograph '09 - Complimentary harmony' and I too saw this on my friend’s screen. The excess purple areas are of the light reflecting off the white material in the background because the sheet I used had a slight sheen to it. On my screen they are not visible and I thought my settings were quite good. Looks like I’ll have to get some colours cards and do some tinkering!!

27 Nov 2010

Assignment 3: Colour

16 photographs

Click here to view flickr set

This assignment is a long time coming! Work commitments have gotten in the way of completing my submission photographs but I am glad I took the time to really get into the assignment and not add images just for the sake of it. That being said, I found myself getting quite frustrated at times; given my tutors feedback on Assignment 2 I was really working hard to avoid ‘record shots’. I wanted all of the submissions to be my own work and not simply capture someone else’s colours. Painted surfaces have been deliberately avoided and I spent a long time searching out colours occurring naturally and deliberately using colour to achieve quality submissions. I created a table of the colour relationships available to me to help with my planning and I have annotated it with the number of times I used each combination:

The photographs have been divided into x4 series in order to vary the subject matter and also provide separate themes to work to; staged scenes; autumn hues; still life; found scenes. All photographs have been taken with low ISO settings so that I was in control of the colour and, at my tutor’s suggested, RAWs edited in Adobe Lightroom. Also, given my love of experimenting, I have played with using light to affect colour in the way I please. I will discuss Von Goethe’s colour theory and you will see that I have both used it and deliberately ignored it.

Click here to view the photo album and read my notes.

1 Nov 2010

Still overdue.....

Here's a sneak-peek at what's to come!

I'm getting extreamly frustrated that I've still not finished off Assignment 3. I've got maybe 2 more photographs to take but every time I get chance to do it the weather is shit or I've got extra work to take home with me. GRR!

I've got some time off booked next week and I'm visiting a friend in Paris, so I really want to crack on with the next chapter so I can take advantage of some photography in France.

Also, It strikes me that I'm not paying enough attention to anaylsising other artists' work. I'm looking at photography and visiting exhibitions but I'm not writing about it. This was a weak area for me when I studied art at college so I really need to force myself into it.

Working on Assignment 3 - pt 2

I'm nearly two weeks overdue submitting Assignment 3, but I managed to get out over the weekend and take some photos in Didcot with a friend, so I'm getting closer! Maybe just one more week!

Its autumn time and probably the most colourful season of the year! How fortunate that my colour assignment is due in with this opportunity! I have been obsessingly avoiding record shots after my feedback from Assignment 2 and my planning has inspired me to use nature and light rather than painted surfaces. I really hope my tutor likes my next submission because I’m very happy so far! I should be visiting home in the Forest of Dean next week so it’ll be a good time to get out to Puzzle Wood or Speech House to finish my photography for this assignment.

On a technical front I have been using a polarizing filter and slightly underexposing my shots by adjusting the aperture and/or shutter speed to bring out the shadows and make the colours stand out. However, I’ll go into more detail with the assignment notes.

I am also obsessed with Adobe Lightroom now that my tutor recommended RAW manipulation. Great bit of kit.

On the subject of capturing colour in landscape photography, Peter Lik is truly a master. I first encountered his work in a gallery at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. He is an Australian photographer famed for his panoramic images. True, the places he travels to are truly beautiful in their own right but the way he captures the colours is astounding. His planning and patience for the right light conditions is inspiring. Well, let’s see what I can do!

23 Oct 2010

Working on Assignment 3

Well, Assignment 3 is now three days overdue and I only have 7 photographs so far. Work is really getting in the way of this submission!

When I first started planning for this assignment, I emailed my tutor and asked him the relevance of Von Goethe’s colour theory when composing the photographs for submission. The short answer was that there are arguments for and against the suggested colour rations and that it is, at the end of day, just a theory. I will experiment with the composition and bare the colour ratios in mind but I am not going to obsess about them.

My tutor has also recommended that I use RAW files and an editing program to really make the colours pop for this assignment; I will be downloading a few trial versions of RAW editing software and see what I can do with them – more to come!

8 Oct 2010

Happy Halloween!

I was browsing the web to get some more inspiration for Assignment 3 and I came across this Horror Photographer; Joshua Hoffine.

Being the fan of horror movies that I am, I really like this artist’s work; it’s amazingly atmospheric and has such elaborate setups that you can’t help but love the elegant macabre of each photograph. Can I use this as inspiration? Inspiration maybe, but I do not have the skill, experience or resources for amazing photographs like these. Maybe when I'm better?

29 Sep 2010

Colour: Project - Colour relationships

Exercise: Colours into tones in black-and-white
4 photographs

Click here to view album

I set about this exercise using some brightly coloured action figures I own and taking one exposure; the RAW was later used to create the B&W images using Adobe Lightroom. This will prove useful practise later on when using Lightroom for processing images for Assignment 3.

I’m not really too sure what I can say about this assignment as my results are the same as the example given in the course material. Furthermore, I will not be using anything learnt here for Assignment 3 as there is no requirement for submitted black-and-white work. Hopefully this will be something for later on in TAOP.

Click here to view the photo album and read my notes.

Research visit to London

I have been so busy at work and the weather has been so poor recently that I haven't really done much on TAOP course. So, to get myself back into the material I decided to take a day trip into London to looks around some gallery and exhibitions to get myself back into a photography mood.I looked at a lot of artist's work during my trip that took me all over London, including Brixton - yikes.

In this blog entry I will write down some thoughts I had about x2 artist's work (I looked at much more, but that's for another time).

One of my first stops was the photography gallery at the Victoria and Albert museum that boasts its collection to be "one of the largest and most important in the world". Despite their claim they have dedicated only a small room in the museum to display its acquired pieces (around 40) and I was somewhat disappointed. Despite this, a number of pieces really caught my attention and may have an influence on my work for Assignment 3.

An epically scaled and untitled piece from Gregory Crewdson's series "Beneath the Roses" had me staring at it for a very long time. The piece was a staged scene in an American town; taken in the twilight, the frame had a cold blue tint that made it feel very surrealistic. There was was snow on the ground and rooftops of wooden homes, no leaves on the trees and an abandoned playground. Also, bizarrely, there is an open fence and garage door that clearly showed a female figure - she is not letting a vehicle in (even though the garage is too littered to accommodate one), she is merely staring straight at the camera with a most disturbing grin. The piece was very nearly a movie still in its staging, however it is a from a series of photographs that have their own story to tell in an individual frame. It very much interested me as I am quite the fan of the surreal and (morbidly) take an interest in things that lean toward horror. Here is an interesting quote from the artist about the Beneath the Roses series:

'I wasn’t interested in that whole tradition of making a kind of objective portrait of a place through pictures. What I was more interested in was trying to create a language that hovered somewhere between reality and fiction. So I was interested in using this place, this setting, the inhabitants of this town as characters in my own narrative. I should also be clear that I was less interested in literal narrative than I was in trying to explore psychological dynamics through the use of light and colour.'

For TAOP, this work has inspired me to start thinking about possibly setting up (albeit in a somewhat down-scaled version) my own outdoor scenes and using the twilight and/or white-balance for Assignment 3.

Later in my day I went to see x2 series of Kurt Tong's work at the Photofusion gallery in Brixton. The first series of photographs, "In Case it Rains in Heaven", was of Chinese joss paper offerings that are burned for the dead. This held little interest for me as stock photography but I found the second series most intriguing.

"Memories, Dreams; Interrupted" is a series of works which explores the concept of memories. Tong used wet-film techniques that deliberately degrade the roll and digitally reconstructs the image. The result is a series of pictures that certainly aren't perfect but give flashes of colour of broken memories. It very much reminded me of J. M. W. Turner's work using colour to create mood in a painting rather than detail. I have been further inspired for Assignment 3 to not necessarily look for the perfectly focused photograph and perhaps use slower shutter speeds and movement to focus more on colours rather than the subject matter.

*No copyright infringement intended - photographs will be removed immediately upon request

Colour: Project - Colour relationships

Exercise: Colour relationships
7 photographs

Click here to view flickr set

When I can began thinking about this assignment, my tutor’s feedback from Assignment 2 just kept on ringing in my head – specifically the warnings against record shots. I deliberately set about finding colour relationships that we’re manmade, or, more specifically, colours that have been put together deliberately by someone that I’m merely making a record of (that being said, x2 of the photographs could probably be regarded as record shots, but I like them anyway!). The first x3 photographs were taken using J.W. Von Goethe's suggested colour ratios:

1:1 Red: green
1:2 Orange: blue
1:3 Yellow: violet

Finding an example of yellow and violet together proved the most difficult to track down and in the end I settled for a flower arrangement. My favourite of the set is the orange-blue photograph below taken at Gloucester docks; I had to use a long focal length to get Von Goethe's proportions right!

Click here to view the photo album and read my notes.

Colour: Project - Building a library of colours

Exercise: Primary and secondary colours
18 photographs

Click here to view flickr set

I decided to tackle this exercise by first considering objects that are dominant in each of the particular colours and set about tracking them down. When I started doing this, I realised that you could break things down in categories and that you could find pretty much any colour you wanted in each. For example;

Plants and flowers;
Red roses, orange tulips, yellow daffodils, green leaves, blue iris, violet phlox (not to mention autumn leaves).

Fruit and veg;
Red tomato, orange carrots, yellow bananas, green apples, blueberries, violet eggplant.

Painted objects;
Red phonebox, orange motorcycle, yellow house, green tractor, blue car, violet wall.

I don’t need to go on (besides, it’s starting to sound like a primary school lesson). With this in mind, I started hunting out colours, seeing if I could get several different hues of each to show colour diversity and (hopefully) capture a ‘pure’ colour.

Click here to view the photo album and read my notes.

3 Sep 2010

Colour: Project - What makes a colour

Exercise: Control the strength of colour
6 photographs

Click here to view flickr set

For this exercise I found a bright orange Kawasaki that was propped up against a fantastic blue sky so I set up the Nikon on my tripod to get a shot that had x2 very strong colours. Below you can see the two extremes of the different apertures from a set of x6 photographs; one over exposed, one underexposed.

You can see that the hue is unaffected across the series as is the saturation; however as less and less light reaches the sensors with the decreasing aperture size the brightness becomes effected. You can see this most clearly with the darkened sky and motorcycle. There is also greater contrast between the colours as the shadows are highlighted in the darker shots.

Click here to view the photos and read my notes.

Assigment 2 - Tutor Feedback

The mixed assessment...

My tutor’s feedback for Assignment 2 gave me a lot to think about for my preparations for Assignment 3: though I had spent a lot of time thinking about and preparing for my Elements of design submission, I was not happy with a number of the photographs and the feedback reflected a number of lessons that are ‘nothing unusual for this stage of the course’.
I had a lot of correspondence and advice following the assessment and a number of questions answered that will hopefully help me produce much better photographs for the colour chapter of TAOP.
Unfortunately, picking my own subject of motor vehicles didn’t really help me much. Though I enjoyed myself going to motor shows with my DSLR a lot of things did not work in my favour.

One of the main things I need to avoid in the next assignment in the use of ‘record shots’, or, more descriptively, capturing someone else’s work in a photograph to satisfy a ‘tick-in-the-box’. For example, a photograph of a Morgan’s bonnet ticks the box for the curves effect; however it is merely capturing the work of the car’s designer. Also, I am guilty of using my Nikon’s auto mode for a couple of the shots so that I could concentrate on the design elements – this results in the camera doing to work and I am only responsible for the framing.

When I am in control of the camera settings, I am not explaining why I am using the aperture and/or shutter speed I have selected. I will need to make more notes in my field notebook at the time of shooting and explain my reasoning in my later work. Also, I will need to include the reason for the choice of white balance for the next chapter of ‘colour’.

On the plus side, I am still experimenting and fully intend to keep doing so – I’m getting better with a few techniques and already have some plans for Assignment 2. Also, a few of the photographs from this assignment are usable for the final assessment - but, before I submit my work, I will be discarding a number of shots and replacing them with better work (with the advice and approval of my tutor).

22 Aug 2010

Assignment 2: Elements of design

Subject: Motor vehicles

Flickr Set *NEW!*
Photobucket album

The main thing I enjoy about being out with my camera is experimenting with the shutter speed and the framing to try and capture something unusual. I’ve tried to do this again with Assignment 2 and not only apply the lessons learned in this section but also techniques from Part 1, from panning to cropping.

One of the main things I took away from my tutor’s feedback on Assignment 1 is that I need to remember that this course is about my photography. Further, Assignment 2 gives me the option to choose my own subject for the series of photographs. I have always been interested in cars and motorbikes so I chose ‘motor vehicles’ as my subject for the elements of design.

One of my observations from this assignment is that there can be a lot of interpretation on what constitutes a particular effect. For example, interpretation may dictate the difference between, say, diagonals and implied triangles in a given frame. To that end, I have tried to take at least x2 photographs of each effect, though some can be interpreted as several effects. A lot of ideas I had planned in my head did not come to fruition given the subject and, more influentially, lack of enough cash to pull them off!
Some effects were a lot easier to capture than others. Implied triangles, distinct shapes, rhythms and patterns proved more challenging than single points or line combinations.

All of this assingment's photographs and notes are hosted on my OCA Portfolio and my Photobucket account

Elements of Design: Project - Rhythm & pattern

Exercise: Rhythms & patterns
2 photographs

Click here to view album

I initially had a little difficultly getting my head around the difference between rhythm and pattern so I re-read the course material several times and shared some ideas with some other OCA students using the forums. My interpretation leading up to Assignment 2 is that rhythm need not have objects of exacting shape and proportions but instead lead the eye through or around the photograph to the ‘optical beat’. Pattern may have irregular shapes and tight framing is required to achieve the desired effect.

Click here for the Photobucket album and notes.

17 Jul 2010

Elements of Design: Project - Shapes

Exercise: Real and implied Triangles
6 photographs

Click here to view album


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Elements of Design: Project - Using lines

Exercise: Implied lines
5 photographs

Click here to view album

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12 Jul 2010

Elements of Design: Project - Lines, pt3

Exercise: Curves
4 photographs

Click here to view album

When I went out looking for curves it struck me that they mostly occur in things that have been deliberately created. In fact, all x4 of my examples, though different, have all been manmade.

Click here to view the Photobucket album and read my notes.

Elements of Design: Project - Lines, pt2

Exercise: Diagonals
4 photographs

Click here to view album

As the course material suggests, it is a simple case of creating strong verticals in a photograph dependant on the viewing angle. I have included x2 examples of actual diagonals that I have found and x2 where the diagonal has been created by the viewing angle.

Click here to view the images in their Photobucket album.

Elements of Design: Project - Lines, pt1

Exercise: Horizontal and vertical lines
8 photographs

Click here to view album

I found it much easier to find examples of vertical lines that horizontal: maybe it’s the way my mind works? After living in both cities and country areas I have seen a lot of natural and manmade verticals; trees, buildings, poles, etc.

After completing the exercise and reading on I found that I had encountered a lot of what was suggested by the course material. In fact, I only really had two verticals that weren’t suggested; a vertical fountain and a guitar neck.

As always, click here for the photobucket album where I have also included some notes.

Elements of Design: Project - Points, pt3

Exercise: Multiple points
3 photographs

Click here to view album

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Elements of Design: Project - Points, pt2

Exercise: The relationship between points
4 photographs

Click here to view album

When I first read the brief for this exercise I thought that natural examples of two points might be a little challenging; turns out they’re everywhere!

As stated in the brief, I noticed that one point is normally a lot more dominant than the other in my example. Cases when points have equal presence (such as the eyes example) tend to have a very static composition.

Click here to view my photobucket album, including my exercise notes.

Elements of Design: Project - Points, pt1

Exercise: Positioning a point
3 photographs

Click here to view album

I’ve had a bit of a break from the course owing to work commitments, holidays and other points of admin I’ve had to do so it’s about time I got back into it. I managed to get the first assignment in on time so now I’m working toward Assignment 2: Elements of design.

The positioning a point exercise is similar to one that was done in the first part of the course. Here I photographed a pigeon as a single point as there were few details surrounding it and made for an easy composition.

Notes on each photo are on my photobucket account.

18 Jun 2010

Assignment 1: Contrasts

x8 contrasting pairs of photographs
x1 photo of contrast summed up in one picture.

OCA Portfolio

The course material states that contrast is “one of the most fundamental principles in design” and covers a whole spectrum of concepts which is only limited to imagination and/or interpretation. When I looked back over my work leading up to this first assignment I began to consider the possibilities open to me with a reasonably large selection of contrasts to work with. The first thing I decided on when planning this series of photographs was that I was going to try and include as many of the techniques I have learned from the course up to this point to help produce a set of photographs that are extremely eye-catching.

All photographs and notes are hosted on my OCA Portfolio

The Frame: Project - Cropping and extending

Exercise: Cropping
3 photographs

Click here to view album

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4 May 2010

The Frame: Project - Frame shapes and sizes, pt1

Exercise: Vertical and horizontal frames
20 photographs twice

Click here to view album

This exercise may take awhile; I’m starting to run out of things to photograph! However, I think I’ve made a good start and I should get out this weekend to take some more snaps for the exercise.

The Frame: Project - Dividing the frame, pt2

Exercise: Positioning the horizon
6 photographs

Click here to view album

Alnmouth beach back home in Northumberland would be perfect for this exercise, DAMN! I will have to try and get out this weekend and find somewhere suitable that is interesting at the same time.

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The Frame: Project - Dividing the frame, pt1

Exercise: Balance
6 photographs

Click here to view album

Now, this exercise is something I’ve always been interested about when it comes to photography. I’ve always noticed that when you look at photographs taken by different friends and family that some of them are amazing and others are decidedly average. Some people seem to have a natural eye for positioning the frame where as others don’t seem to spend any time reviewing the scene; they just point and click. So, this project should be really fun.

This exercise requires me to pick out half a dozen of my photographs and try and figure out the balance that I have achieved. I have depicted the balance for each picture with a weighing scale to illustrate where the balance is and there’s also a link to each original. I’ve picked out some obvious ones and a couple that were a little more difficult:

Tower Building - view original

My photo of these tower buildings has only x2 main elements so this was an easy one to figure out. The taller of the x2 towers is dominant over the smaller one in the foreground so I have placed it central to the frame. The smaller tower counter-balances the frame by being placed to the bottom left.

Water Feature - view original

This photograph has a water feature shaped like a clamshell in the foreground with the city buildings making up the background. To me, this picture again has only two main elements that pull your attention; the pearl to the left and the flowing water to the right of the frame. The water takes up a greater proportion of the frame than the pearl and, as with the tower buildings, is positioned closer to the centre creating an equal balance.

Sunset - view original

This sunset is balanced by x2 even blocks of colour; the red sky and the silhouetted ground. It is very easy to figure this one out, but you could argue that there is a third element through the centre of the frame where the ground and sky gets divided. If we were to look at this as a third element, it would be placed in the centre of the scale and not affect the balance at all.

Sushi - view original

This sushi platter was a little bit more difficult than the others to figure out and it is for that reason I included it in this exercise (for the record, I don’t even like this picture). After looking at it for a while I have decided that there are x2 main blocks of colour that achieve the balance; the ‘brighter’ groups of sushi in the fore and backgrounds, as illustrated. Again, the larger mass is placed closer to the pivot on the scale and is offset by the smaller mass placed further away from the centre.

Canopy - view original

This photograph is of a large pillar that holds of a canopy; the central opening is the main element which is centered in the frame with the canopy lines drawing away to the edges. This is a very simple composition but very balanced – I’m really found of weird photos like this one!

Man with Birds - view original

Here is my favourite photo from the ‘sequence of composition’ exercise; the man with birds. Again, there are two main elements but it could be argued that there are in fact three. For ease, I have grouped the man’s head and the parrot together as one element and the smaller bird on his hand as another. However, if I were to treat the man’s head and the parrot as x2 separate elements, it would not change the conclusion on the balance; the larger proportion of the photograph is closer to the pivot.

Now that I have completed this exercised I have a feeling that I’m going to start critiquing all my photos using the idea of the balanced scale! Please click here to view album.

The Frame: Project - Focal lengths, pt 2

Exercise: Focal lengths and different viewpoints
2 photographs

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There’s not a great difference in the focal lengths for this exercise; the first photo was taken at 55mm and the second at 18mm, each taken at different distances. Despite this, there is still an obvious difference between the two.

This first photograph taken at a short focal length (or wide-angle) has a greater sense of depth compared to the one taken at 55mm owing to a different perspective. At 18mm, the bottle of Crown Royal appears to stand taller that the Jim Beam toward the left of the frame. It is almost as if the scene is sweeping away from the viewer and pulling off into the distance.

In reality, a Jim Beam bottle stands taller than Crown Royal, as captured in the photo taken at 55mm. Scenes such as this may not lend themselves to a wide-angle; the situtation may dictate an accurate representation over a impression of depth.


I was out over the weekend taking some photographs and came across this wonderful scene of three archways that had the city-line in the background. I took the first picture close up at a wide-angle and, on reviewing the photo, thought that there was too much ‘empty space’ in each arch. Then I remembered doing this exercise and recalled that I could change the perspective by switching to a telephoto. So I stood back, zoomed in, and achieved a completely different picture! I am amazed at the sheer difference between the two photographs below – I am really going to have to think hard and experiment with focal lengths when I am out-and-about from now on!

Click here to view the whole album.

Also, I found a couple of great articles on the Cambridge in Colour website through the OCA course resources that gives great tips on utilising wide-angle and telephoto lenses.

The Frame: Project - Focal lengths, pt1

Exercise: Focal lengths
10 photographs

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This exercise calls for me to take a series of photographs at different focal-lengths from a static position. I managed to find an open scene with a few details, as the exercise specified; I chose this scene of the sea with a small jetty and the city-line in the background. I use a combination of my 18-55mm lens and my new 55-200mm to get x10 photographs over the greatest range of focal lengths as I could.

As I was in a static position, the perspective of the scene did not change with the different focal lengths; I will demonstrate this using the photos taken at my widest-angle (18mm) and my longest telephoto (200mm). If I zoom in on a few of the buildings in the background on the wide-angle shot (above) you can see that it is identical to the photograph of the same section taken at 200mm; the ratios are the same.
The next exercise shows how the perspective of a scene can be manipulated using different focal-lengths.

Click here to view the whole series.

27 Apr 2010

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt3

Exercise: A sequence of composition
30 photographs

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I took advantage of an outdoor market to complete this exercise, though I cannot say it was easy to begin with. I was required to take a sequence of photographs and show how I came to frame an interesting scene. However, as a matter of politeness, I was unable to take a few of the photos I wanted to but this got a lot easier toward the end of the sequence when I wondered into the part of the market with live animals (it was very difficult to offend a parrot…). Also, there was a photo of opportunity as a group of camel riders made their way through the street!

Another reason I found this exercise difficult was keeping the camera to my eye – a practise I have never used. I realise the intent was to demonstrate how I came to frame a photograph but I am more comfortable with ‘just looking’. However, as I relaxed into it, I believe I met the intent toward the end of the sequence by better framing interesting scenes. It also quite successfully demonstrated that as events happen in real time, as with the camels, they can focus your attention in addition to just something you find interesting.

Click here to link to the album for this exercise; notes on each frame are shown under each photograph.

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt2

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame
4 photographs

{content pending}

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder, pt1

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject
4 photographs

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This exercise required me to photograph an object in four different ways; first was capturing the subject without much consideration for the composition; second tightly framed with edges taking up the whole photograph; third close in with no edges; and lastly from a distance to emphasise the setting. I chose a rather large crane that was parked up as something nice and heavy to contrast against the open setting.

Next, I took a copy of the images and did some digital cropping to come up with some whole new photos. It really emphasised to me that new and interesting pictures can be produced post shoot. I particularly like the panoramic view of the whole scene (the 5th image in the album) as it draws out the vibrant colours and weights the photograph in opposing corners. Click here to see all the images in a photobucket album.

Cropped to a panaramic view

Ok, I'll admit that these photos are a little boring. The crane is not the most exciting subject I could have picked but I'm a little limited on options right now. I would love to re-shoot this exercise using my Mum's Karman Ghia parked up against the bluebells back home in Gloucestershire, but I doubt I will be back in time for the season.

26 Apr 2010

Project: Photographing movement, pt2

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds
12 photographs

I cannot believe that I ended up missing the Motor GP - what a perfect subject for this exercise! Damn!

Right, I've got x4 ideas for this exercise; my mate "General" Patton is a big runner and is doing sprint training this weekend; there's a basketball match on Sunday if I can get to it; there's camel racing on in town, again, if I can get to it; if all else fails I can get one of the lads to drive the car back and forth for a bit.


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Many thanks to General for coming through and helping out with this exercise, we got some pretty fun snaps together. Now, I have to admit that a little bit of doctoring took place on these; I've cropped them to a 16:9 frame to cut out some of the open background and to frame General's movement better (I've also blurred out some number-plates, just in case). Also, it was a really hazy day so I reduced the noise using an editing program to improve the image quality a little. Have to say, for my first attempt at panning I'm really happy with the results! I'd love have another go at this at a motor race.

I asked General to do some sprints against the parked cars and the rocky mound in the background. Originally we were planning to do this exercise down at the track but the scenery is pretty bare so we opted for this so that there were more details in the background to review the results. I used the same S mode as the last exercise to allow the camera to decide the aperture for the selected shutter speed.

#01 1/4000 sec

In this first image with the shutter speed set at maximum, General’s movements have been frozen and the background details are crisp. It’s a good action shot but doesn’t really have much presence to it.

#02 1/2500 sec

Slower the shutter speed down to 1/2500 sec, there’s little difference in results for the second pic compared to the first.

#03 1/1600 sec

Still little difference from the first x2 photographs.

#04 1/800 sec

Onto the forth photo and the shutter down to 1/800 sec, the background is starting to un-focus just a little. This is a nice action shot of General and he’s starting to stand out against the car in the background.

#05 1/400 sec

As with the previous photo, General’s movements have been frozen and the background is slightly out-of-focus.

#06 1/160 sec

Again, General is standing out against the background as the shutter speed gets slower. I really prefer this photo over the first few as it’s beginning to give a sense of speed rather than a freeze-frame of the action.

#07 1/60 sec

This is my favourite picture of the series. Down to 1/60 sec, the motion blur on the background really shows how much pace General has picked up. Also, at his extremities, where the motion is greatest, the detail is starting to show motion blur giving the scene a lot more character; it gives a greater sense of movement than a simple freeze-frame of the sprint.

#08 1/30 sec

There’s much more motion blur in this frame and it seems to radiate around General; there’s no mistaking that he’s the subject focus in this photograph. At 1/30 sec, the motion of his arms and legs gives a greater impression of speed as he powers down the road (x8 rapid sprints down and General is showing no signs of fatigue!)

#09 1/13 sec

The degree of motion blur at 1/13 sec has completely distorted General’s arms and legs and the streaking in the background seems to have widened the cars. I like this photograph as it is quite abstract but I have my doubts as to how successful it would have been without that orange shirt!

#10 1/8 sec

Lots of motion blur in this frame and General’s arms a legs remind me a little of how a cartoonist might portray movement in a given frame. Also, the background detail is starting to blend into itself.

#11 1/3 sec

Here the background has streaked into one continuous feature as the car stretches from one end to the other. I really like the effect this has produced as it makes the frame look a lot ‘faster’. Also, there is enough detail on General’s extremities to make out his basic shape and gives an abstract sense of speed even though he’s completely out-of-focus.

#12 1/1.3 sec

Oh dear, it would seem General has just broken the sound barrier…

In conclusion, I really enjoyed this exercise as there were some really striking results. Despite the fact that the atmospherics didn’t not allow for high quality photographs, I feel that the intent of this exercise was met. I prefer the results from the ‘middle-ground’ of the shutter speeds, 1/60 sec, as there was just enough motion blur to give a sense of movement without losing detail and giving the scene greater feeling than a simple freeze-frame. Looks like I’ll be using panning a lot more often! Please click here to view the whole album.