Saturday, 29 January 2011

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Dividing the Frame

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

Objective: To take a sequence of photographs of a landscape with the horizon in different positions to evaluate them and decide how many of them work.

I climbed Wheatham Hill, overlooking Oakshott and Hawkley and recorded the following  five images. Unfortunately the foreground was in the shadow of the hill so the contrast changes dramatically as the sky occupies less of the frame. Camera set on programme mode, wide angle zoom. Click on any image to see a larger version. Click the back button on your browser to return to this page.

Image 4169: 1/320s f9 18mm
This low position gives prominence to the sky but cuts off the detail at the bottom of the frame. I need to know what is below the trees.
Image 4170: 1/200s f7.1 18mm

This puts the horizon just below half way and reveals the details amongst the trees and the slope below the camera position. This appeared to be the natural  "eye level" from this position.
Image 4171: 1/160s f6.3 18mm
At the vertical mid point the composition is static, revealing more detail at the bottom of the frame and more of the path down the slope.

Image 4172: 1/160s f6.3 18mm
With a lot more of the foreground included, different textures from the frosted leaves are revealed. I think this is as much of the foreground as I would like to include.

Image 4174: 1/25s f 11 18mm
There is too much foreground here. The dynamic has shifted and my eye is drawn to the middle gound and without the sky the landscape lacks depth.

My preference is for image 4170. It has all of the detail, the sky graduated  at the horizon gives depth to the picture and the deep blue at the top of the frame seems to balance the foreground.

What did I learn?

The position of the horizon is important and is one more element which can effect the balance of the image. Placing it low can give an image stability. If there is a lot of detail or contrasting colour in the sky this can be effective. Placing it high will enable you to include more detail in the foreground but the camera position (i.e. high or low) governs how effective this will be. In this example, the ground falls away immediately below the camera position enabling a lot of the foreground to be included.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Dividing the Frame

Exercise: Balance
Objective: To be able to identify the dominant parts of some of my recent images and interpret how this may be used to establish whether the image is balanced or not. I have read a lot from "The Photographers Eye" to try to come to terms with the concepts of balance and dynamic tension. I have made some notes which I think are relevant, for each image I have analysed.
Image 1

I have identified the two dominant objects. Both are centrally located, grouped around the centre line of the image, they appear to balance. The diagonals of the tree line (right), the kerb side and road markings lead the eye to the right giving some dynamic tension to an otherwise statically balanced composition.

Image 2
There is only one dominant object here which is off centre and that results in tension. The horizontal banding, blur  and the drivers eyline reinforce the movement right giving dynamic balance. 

Image 3

This was more difficult, looking at a single object that virtually fills the frame. It seems to be placed with equal bulk either side of the centre line. However, the upward curve  and the strong diagonal point to  the top right hand corner introducing tension giving dynamic balance.

Image 4
This was the simplest to analyse being a single object which has dynamic balance with the empty space and  the shadow line to the right. See exercise notes: Here

Image 5
The dominant feature (the village) and the cultivated fields (contrasting colour) suggest static balance but the lines of the field boundaries and wooded slopes introduce tension, moving your eye from the dominant spire  diagonally to the top left.

Image 6

Static balance is achieved by the silver birch tree and the sunlit wall to the right. Although the building dominates the frame, it is not central. Horizontal shadows provide a base and strong verticals suggest rigity.

I have looked at he three examples given in the course notes and decided they are balanced as follows:

On Sussex Downs: The dominant features are the track and the beech hanger on the horizon, the one leads the eye to the other giving dynamic balance.
Farmyard: Symmetrical balance is achieved between the buildings on the left and the tree and silo on the right.
Quintin Hogg QC: There is dynamic balance here. The seated figure dominates and my eye is constantly drawn to the face. However, the hat below the paler wall to the right keeps attracting my eye but  it immediately returns to the figure.

What have I learned? This was not an easy exercise. There are many factors which can effect the balance of an image, the placement of objects, the flow of lines, the position of points, the shape and contrast of areas of colour, light and shade. All play their part. As indicated in the exercise notes, simple uncomplicated images are the easiest to analyse. It would have been easy to search my archive for simple images to analyse but I stuck with images I have taken for the previous exercises.

From “The Photographer’s Eye” I have read, learned and made rough notes about the following:

Balance: The resolution of tension – is at the heart of composition “opposing forces that are matched to provide equilibrium and harmony”. Balance is harmony. Resolution = a condition that seems intuitively pleasing. Balance can apply to any of the graphic elements of the picture (see chapter 3). Balance is resolved by looking for the visual centre of gravity of an image using the weighing scale analogy (see examples  above).

There are two kinds of balance; symmetrical or static where everything falls away equally from the centre. Placing objects in the centre creates this. Arranging equal sized objects around the centre has the same effect.  The second kind of balance is dynamic balance where opposing weights or forces that are unequal are arranged around a fulcrum so that they appear balanced. See example above:

Imbalance shifts the view to one area of the image. See examples 2 & 4 above.

Ratios, Harmony and Balance

Natural harmony can be extended to music and visual proportions as well as colours. Successful expression does not always mean harmony, expression can also require tension. The extremes are symmetry and eccentricity. Symmetry must be precise or it appears sloppy.

Bilateral symmetry: boats, buildings.
Balance and gravity. Strong verticals express up /down movement, horizontals provide a firm base. c.f. standing upright on level ground.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Focal Lengths

Exercise: Focal lengths with different viewpoints.

Objective: This exercise will demonstrate the effects on perspective of changing both your viewpoint and your lens (or focal length of your zoom lens).

Camera Settings: I used programme mode for this exercise. The camera settings are attached to each photograph. The two images were taken at zoom settings of 82mm at a distance and at 18mm close to the building. I chose to photograph the Chichester Festival Theatre. It is a hexagonal building and I thought it would enable the effect of perspective changes to be seen clearly.

4160: 1/320s - f5, 82mm Perspective: The short telephoto image was taken about 250m from the building. You can clearly see three of the hexagonal sides and the roof lantern. The trees and the flagpole in front on the building seem fairly close to it. The roof line where the centre and left sides of the building meet has a very shallow angle. The viewer would feel quite a distance away from the building. The horizontal shadows in the foreground reinforce distance

 4163: 1/160s - f6.3, 18mm Perspective: The wide angle view was taken between 20 and 30m from the building. From this angle of view, only two of the walls can be seen, the third is hidden behind the right corner. The roofline is also curved and the other side walls appear to be at a more acute angle. The flagpole is not in shot and only three of the smaller trees appear in front of the building. Lines and surfaces that we know should be vertical and horizontal appear to be pushed out of shape. As the building's shape has been pushed up (the roof latern is no longer visible) the viewer's impression of proximity will be confirmed. Curiously, the area of the frame dedicated to the foreground is the same, although the distance represented is much less.

What did I learn? Wide angle lenses can be used very creatively especially at the extreme end. Telephoto lenses can flatten perspective. Both have advantages and can be used creatively with line and form.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Focal Lengths

Exercise: Focal Lengths, the angle of view.

Objective: This will demonstrate the simplest effect of changing between lenses of different focal lengths or in this case, the effect of a range of focal length settings on a zoom lens.

Camera settings: An open scene with distant views was chosen and a 18-200mm lens was attached to the camera set on a tripod. I chose seven settings as marked on the barrel of the lens. The camera was set to programme mode and ISO 200. The settings are listed with each photograph. I recomposed the photograph where appropriate as the focal length changed.

4146: 1/125s - f8, 18mm

4147: 1/250s - f8, 24mm

4148: 1/250s - f8, 35mm

4149: 1/250s - f8, 52mm

4150: 1/500 - f5.6, 75mm

4151: 1/400s - f5.6, 135mm

4152: 1/400s - f5.6, 200mm

What have I learned? Using a loupe as suggested, I can see that there is no change in the relationship between elements of the picture, i.e.. the church spire's relationship with the surrounding trees is constant. the angle of view of the scene has changed from about about a mile and a half (in the middle ground) at 18mm to approximately half a mile at 200mm. As I was so high up and I wanted to keep the church spire in the right third of the frame, the horizon has risen out of the picture. The hillside in front of the camera and the copse below it as also dropped out of the frame as I re-composed the image to keep the church as the centre of interest.

Gods and Monsters Exhibition

As a starting point in gaining a broader understanding of the different genres within photography, I went to this exhibition at the Pallant House Gallery in Chichester. (These are brief notes as background information, regardless of the direct relevance to the current course work)

Deakin died at the age of 60 in 1972. In WW2 he was a war photographer and subsequently spent two periods working for Vogue in the 40s and 50s. He was sacked twice. His  "blistering personality, bad behaviour and total disregard for others" has contributed to his notorious reputation.

An aspiring painter, Deakin did not seem to care about what happened to his photographs, many of which are lost and those that remain are in poor condition. The larger prints in the exhibition are creased and torn and many of  the portraits are frames of contact prints of the sessions. My overall impression of the portraits was how contempory they looked bearing in mind they were taken nearly sixty years ago. I always think of the 50s as a time of formality in portraiture but there was realistic "warts and all" quality about them. This is what Deakin wanted when he took photographs, he is quoted as saying "........what I want to do when I take a photograph is make a revelation about it. So my sitters turn into my victims."
Quotes and biography: WikipediaMy main interest was obviously the photographs, I had only ever heard of three of the painters, Freud, Sutherland and Bacon and at present, know little about them.

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Looking through the viewfinder (continued)

Exercise: A sequence of composition.

Objective: To help in and record, the practical process of composing an image.

Location: Alton Farmers Market, Saturday 08/01/11. The market was extremely quiet and the light was not ideal. I waited around a lot for the forecast sunny spells but only one arrived. I have shown below the sequence of images that I took and a larger version of the final image.

Camera settings: As I wanted to work quickly, I set the camera to Programme mode and the ISO setting to automatic (to cope with the low light and the sudden change that occured when the sun shone). That way, I could concentrate on framing the shots. Below are two contact sheets of  the sequence of shots that I took. Clicking on each one will open a larger version:

 As alluded to in the course material for this exercise, I did find it difficult to concentrate on framing a shot. There were a lot of false starts and distractions on the way but I have extracted a sequence and annotated it:

4124  1/250s f8, 40mm As the sun came out, I was by the bakers stall and framed this shot:

4125 1/500s f5.6, 150mm I zoomed in on the loaves to his left:

4126 1/200s f7.1, 32mm Deciding I wanted to include the bread  the baker and a customer, I moved around the stall:

4127 1/160s f6.3, 34mm The baker has bagged the customers purchase, I zoom in a bit closer:

4128 1/160s f6.3, 34mm The customer is handing over her money - sale complete:

4128 Final Image: After making a few adjustments to the levels and curves and a final crop, this is the result. I have recorded the bread, the stallholder and a customer.

What did I learn? The lady in the background with the red anorak is a bit of a distraction but otherwise I'm quite pleased with this outcome. When I get another opportunity, I will repeat this exercise, putting in to practice the the lessons I have learned about deciding on a subject and concentrating on working towards one final shot.

I also learned how to print contact sheets "to file" in my photo editing software, which makes producing thumbnails for this blog much quicker.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Part 1 The Frame; Project: Looking through the viewfinder (continued)

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame.

I struggled to find an outdoor subject for this exercise during daylight so I made a simple set in the studio to produce these photographs.

Objective: To produce a series of images of a single object in different positions against a large even background and compare them to determine which works best.

Lighting: Manual studio flash (large softbox to left of the image,  two wide angle slave units to light the background and a white reflector to the right).
Camera settings: Manual, 1/125s, f13, ISO 200, 35mm standard lens. The camera was tripod mounted and I chose a fixed focal length lens for ease. I moved the camera for each shot, rather than the apple so that it always appeared the same size in the frame.

1. This is the position I chose instintively, vertically central and horizonally to the left of centre on the intersecting thirds.

2. Centred, vertically and horizontally in the frame.

3. Centred vertically, to the right horizontally.

4. Bottom left corner.

5.Bottom right corner.

From my reading, I learned that the direction of the light can have an influence on the perception of the direction in which an object 'faces' and that this may influence the placement of that object, i.e. offset slightly in the opposite direction. However, because there is only white space to the left of the apple it is not 'facing' anything. The only other feature in the frame is the shadow which leads the eye immediately right, making the ideal placement for the object to the left of the frame. Of the two pictures with the apple on the left, I prefer number 4, the bottom left corner. This is because the picture is of a single apple on a white background. The low position in the frame, coupled with the shadow, exaggerates the isolation in the empty space.

What did I learn?
I have learned that applying a little thought to the placement of a single object within the frame in, relation to the background can result in a more satisfying picture. Each of the elements of the picture and their relationship to the lighting and the frame must be considered for each composition. What works here may not work in another situation.

Reference Photographs

Over the past weeks I have been carrying a compact camera to record potential subjects and ideas. Below is a selection of the images, their locations and the thoughts I had which made me record them. Click on the images to dispaly a slightly larger version.

Downing Street Farnham

Staggered verticals give depth, nice red brick textures

Church Lane Farnham
As last shot with added interest of tower

WaggonYard Farnham
Isolated object in a homogenous setting?

Cafe Rouge Farnham
Intrigued by possiblities, bricked up window or oven? Liked the lighting from the window

Cafe Rouge Farnham
Nice graphic design - used as draught excluder! 
Cafe Rouge Farnham
I liked the framing of the balcony and the inverted lettering

Good sturdy old door, strong

Record photo of the coat of arms - needs research

 Winchester Cathedral Gate

Tudor  gables as they should be i.e. not black and white

Liked the even verticals of the tree trunks, the white pattern in the brickwork, the diagonal ramp and the strong shadows on the wall

BLT sandwich - lunch, seeing how close my compact focused.

Tesco Bordon
Repeating diagonal patterns

Tesco Bordon
Repeated patterns compressed with perspective
Walderton W Sussex. Liked the backlight highlighting the grass and the subtle tones of the remaining leaves on the trees.

 Priory Park Chichester
Liked the horizontal shadows, winter sun and family group out for a stroll

 Chichester Cathedral
Horizontal shadows on the Cricket pitch, bare winter trees, cathedral majestically dominates the sea of red tiled roofs.
Return to the same spot in summer, hopefully with a cricket match in progress?

West Beach Bognor Regis
Vertical candy stripes on beach huts

Aldwick Bay
Pure nostalgia. This is the beach where I spent much of my childhood, winter and summer