Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Project - Dividing the frame

Exercise:  Balance - 6 photographs

The purpose of this exercise is to examine an image and identify the balance of the picture. Whether the main elements of the picture are architectural, colour, tone or graphic makes no difference - the important thing is to decide how the balance works within the composition.

Balance in an image is more pleasing to the human eye. It gives a sense of harmony. In these first two images the balance is symmetrical, the point of focus centered within the frame. One vertically and the other horizontally.

Both of these images have the main point of interest located centrally within the frame. In the first image the walkway leads your eye through the frame and is more graphical as it is also in black and white. The second image uses the blocks of colour to distinguish between the main elements. I would represent the balance as follows:

Image 1.

Image 2.
In this third image the balance is slightly different. The sail boat is further from the centre point of the image than the tankers. Our brain knows that in reality a sail boat is smaller than an oil tanker but because it takes up more space in the frame than the larger vessel a balance is achieved. 

Image 3.
Balance of image 3.

 In this image of a succulent plant, the leaves radiate out from central point and give symmetry on all axes.
Image 4.

Equal balance of image 4.

In the next image colours play an important part in the balance. The colour purple attracts attention immediately and is placed centrally. The balance is achieved by the smatterings of moss green and stone which surround the centre.
Image 5.

Balance of image 5.
  In the images above it isn't too difficult to see how the balance is achieved. In Michael Freeman's book "The Photographer's Eye" he states that " In many pictures, a variety of elements interact, and the question of balance can only be resolved intuitively, according to what feels right." 

I agree wholeheartedly with that and it isn't always easy to see why an image works or has balance but it just looks and feels right. In this final image the balance is difficult to explain.
Image 6.
I like this image and think it works. The main point of interest is clearly weighted towards the right of the picture and there is no other obvious focal point to balance the image. I think it is the "weight" of the empty space that provides the balance in this instance. The left side of the frame has no obvious blocks of colour, only slight texture and tones to interrupt the space. The figure in the image demands your full attention. I would represent this image on the "weighing scale" as follows:

Balance of image 6.

Thinking about upcoming assignment

This week I have spent a lot of time thinking about my images for the first assignment. I had hoped to have this finished by the end of September and this was the date given by my tutor, Geoff, but I have had to call him and ask for an extension to the submission date.

Now I feel like a real student!

I'm really enjoying the coursework and have been looking at the work and finding inspiration from other photographers work e.g. Arbus, Weston and Mapplethorpe. (that's his flower studies not his more riske portraits).

I 've also been looking at some other students work on-line and have decided, after a discussion with my tutor, to follow my instincts and submit the images as mounted prints. I had thought about a printed book e.g blurb photobooks but then I have no control over the finished print and in some cases prefer to use matt or textured photo paper.    

So, I have my first three images completed and printed. I hope to get the rest finalised and sent to my tutor within a couple of weeks.

In the meantime I still have 3 exercise to write up, clean the house, feed the hubby and kids. OMG! I'm never going to get this finished - the hubby and kids will have to starve!! 

Monday, 20 September 2010

Objects in different positions in the frame

Exercise - 4 photographs

The objective of this exercise is to take 4 photographs with the main subject in different positions within the frame and assess the relationship between the subject and the background.

This first image of the Larrick Beacon, Tayport was taken without thinking too much about the exercise. This is actually quite difficult as I find I already subconsciously apply my own ideas about composition when taking photographs and also like to think I put some thought into composing a picture before pressing the shutter. However this is how I would have taken the picture. The cloudy sky is quite interesting so I have include more sky than foreground in the image and decided on a vertical format.

Larrick Beacon, Tayport

Beacon in centre of frame

Beacon centre left of frame
Beacon upper right of frame

The image with the Larrick Beacon placed centrally within the frame is balanced but not very interesting to look at. The next image with the Beacon placed towards the left of centre is more pleasing probably because it conforms to the "rule of thirds" that is commonly referred to in photography. Although aren't rules meant to be broken?

The final image has the Beacon positioned high in the frame towards the upper corner. The frame is unbalanced and I don't think there is not enough free space between the subject and the edge of the frame. Also there is not enough interest in either the sky or the sea to justify the amount of space give to each area. There may be some subjects that would suit this framing but I don't feel it works in this instance.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Edward Weston Life Work

Exhibition at the City Art Centre - Edinburgh

Earlier this month I went to the Edinburgh City Art Centre to see the Edward Weston Photography exhibition. This is the first time I've gone to see an exhibition whilst studying in a related area so had to put my "student head" on and try to look at the work a bit more critically. Normally when I go to see something like this it's purely for enjoyment or out of interest.

Edinburgh Art Centre is the only UK showing of this exhibition and is the largest display of the photographers work ever  to be seen in Britain. There are 117 vintage prints from all phases of his career. Some of the prints are his signature prints e.g. Pepper No.30 which features heavily in all the advertising material and other prints are of his previously unpublished images.

Pepper No.30  1930
Edward Weston was born in 1886 and started photography when he was sixteen. His career in photography lasted over 5 decades and its tragic that he had to give it up after developing Parkinson's disease. He is well known for the detailed "day books" that he kept of his daily activities, thoughts and ideas. It is interesting to see some excerpts from these journals alongside his prints and get some insight into his own thoughts on the prints.  E.g. He comments on taking 10 negatives of 5 unusually shaped bananas which had "endless possibilities" and goes on to say how one of the negatives taken had been "under timed" when exposed and had to be retaken. He then went on to say how he felt he had worked well that day, gone for a walk and stopped at the post office. So these journals were very much like an everyday diary to him.

The images in the exhibition are split into categories to illustrate how his photographic style developed over the years. They commence with his early works which include portraits of his wife and sons. Many of these images have a blurry, foggy look about them, softly lit and focused and took me by surprise. At the time they were taken, around 1911, I'm sure there was a great deal of craftsmanship involved but to me they were a bit ordinary. They lack the wow factor of his later images. Further categories of his work displayed include images of Mexico, Nudes, Early and some superb Late Landscapes but it was the Still Life category that I mused over for longest. (Like most people I suspect).

Flora Chandler 1910

Dunes, Oceano 1936

Most of these images were taken from the 1920's onwards and show how he was a master of studying form. The images are all beautifully composed and printed. Many of the items photographed are everyday items found in many homes at the time e.g. hard boiled eggs and an egg slicer or of organic structures such as vegetables and shells. Weston took all the images with a large format camera with only the available light and each image is the original size and print. Every photograph is sharp throughout, there is no blurring around the edges or shallow depth of field shots. You might think this would make them like "record" shots but you can see every tone and texture of the object. The images of peppers almost looked muscular like a human form and could have easily been an image of a sculpture. 

Nautilus Shell 1927

There is a certain style about each image that is consistent. Predominately the still life images were framed centrally with a black or dark background. The images are framed quite tightly with little space around the object so you are totally drawn to the subject. Every minute detail of the object is visible and in focus, each image is the study of the form of the subject.

Nude 1936

It's not surprising that Weston is regarded as a master of 20th century photography and a pioneer in creative photography. The exhibition runs until 24th October and if I get a chance I'll be going back to take another look. You can view his work on  http://www.edward-weston.com/ and find at more about the exhibition from http://www.edinburghmuseums.org.uk/Venues/City-Art-Centre.aspx.

Images reproduced courtesy of Bridgeman Education.

Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject (4 Photographs)

The following images were taken in St Andrews University grounds and are of a rather quirky wooden sculpture which caught my eye.

The first image (Fig.1) is what I would call a "record shot" of the sculpture. It shows the full sculpture in its setting with no special thought given to composition. Its a bit ordinary.

Fig.1 Sculpture in Full
The second image Fig.2 places the sculpture more tightly within the frame and you can see a bit more of the detail. Fig. 3 is a closer crop and shows more of the texture and form of the sculpture.  

Fig. 3 Tighter crop.

Fig. 2 Sculpture within frame.


Fig.4 below shows a further variation on the crop and is taken at an angle to make the image more interesting. Fig.5 is an extremely tight crop.

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

 I like the vertical format of the framing as it suits the tall, lean dimensions of the sculpture. In this instance there is little in the surroundings of interest and so the only reason to include any background detail would be to include a sense of scale of the sculpture.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Thinking about assignment 1 - contrasts

Weathers been pants again this week. Beginning to feel it's really holding me up - so I've spent a lot of time this week thinking up some ideas for the first assignment. Went to a local gallery and had a look at the exhibits which gave me some ideas, also the building was beautiful.

Think I have my first image for the assignment sorted - curved - and it seems to be popular on my flickr site. Had a thought that I might have a theme running throughout the images and although I think the end result would be better, the images I have in mind would take far too long to complete. I need to get some ideas together about presentation of the assignment  - so will e-mail Geoff (tutor) later to see if there are any specifics I should be aware of.

Went to Edinburgh last week to see the Edward Weston Photography exhibition which was very interesting - more about that later.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Frame

Exercise: A sequence of composition

In this sequence of images the practical aspects of composing an image are studied. Keeping a potential image within the viewfinder at all times is quite difficult. I chose to take a trip to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh for this exercise as there are always guaranteed crowds of spectators and street artists to photograph.

Like most, I would normally only take a photograph once I had decided on the subject, maybe taking a variety of different views and angles until I was happy with the image. It felt a little awkward taking continuous shots of the street scene moving around crowds until the final image.

During the day I think I took about 300 photographs in total, some of which can be viewed on my flickr site, http://www.flickr.com/people/nicola-shepherd/ and I have whittled a series down to the following sequence for this exercise.

Arriving at the Edinburgh Fringe.

 Traffic control at the Royal Mile.

 Getting nearer to the crowds.

Spot a little boy having some fun.

Searching for a scene...........

Closing in on the performer.

Getting closer.

Trying to get an uninterrupted view.

Should it be a full view shot?

Or maybe a portrait?

Or work on getting an image from the details?

Tighter framing with a telephoto lens.

 Shutter speed not quite right.

 Almost there..................

 Try again.

 Not enough interest and the background too distracting.

 A tighter frame required to exaggerate reflection.

The final image.
I'm pleased with this image. The reflections of the street through the crystal ball worked out well. I have cropped the image to a square format as it makes the shape of the hands and the circular crystal ball more pronounced although a more experienced photographer may have taken this image in camera rather than cropped later in photoshop as I have.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Shutter speeds - Panning

Exercise: Panning with different shutter speeds (10-12 photographs)

This exercise entails reviewing a series of shots taken at different shutter speeds whilst panning with the camera aiming to keep the subject sharp but show different degrees of movement.

As this is a completely new technique to me, I have to say I was a bit apprehensive about how these images would turn out. Before I'd even taken a shot I had convinced myself I would fail miserably. In the end I had to force myself to get on with it - how difficult can it be after all, it's only the first chapter of the course.

Well, as I had expected, it turn out it can be quite difficult to get a great shot and I have a new admiration for professional sports photographers who make action shots look easy. In the end I'm very pleased with these images (for a first attempt).

I took the images for this exercise at the East of Scotland Cart Club in Crail, Fife with shutter speeds varying from 1/1600 of a sec to 1/60 of a sec. The camera was set to shutter priority with adjustments to aperture and exposure being made automatically.

These first 4 images were taken at the fastest shutter speeds and show no visible movement in either the carts or background.
 Fig.1 - shutter speed 1/1600
Fig.2 - shutter speed 1/1250

Fig. 3 - shutter speed 1/1000

Fig. 4 - shutter speed 1/800

In the next 4 images as the shutter speeds get slower you begin to see movement in the tyres of the carts and some blurring in the background. It is more difficult to maintain a point of focus through the panning and this results in a lot of  "missed" shots, almost there but just not quite right. The 4 images below were the best on the day, shot between 1/500 sec and 1/100 sec shutter speed.
Fig. 5 - shutter speed 1/500

Fig. 6 - shutter speed 1/200 

Fig.7 - shutter speed 1/125

Fig.8. shutter speed 1/100

As you can see from the images above its not until the shutter speed is 1/125 sec or slower that the movement in the image becomes clearly visible and the marked blurring of the background gives the impression of speed. With a slower shutter speed it is increasingly difficult to maintain a precise focus point even when using the Al Servo focus mode in camera. The next 2 images were taken at 1/80 sec and 1/60 sec shutter speed.

Fig.9 - shutter speed 1/80 sec

Fig. 10 - shutter speed 1/60 sec
These were by far the most difficult images to get right. Maintaining focus on the driver was especially challenging. Technically all the images taken at a shutter speed slower than 1/60 sec showed both subject and background completely blurred. I'm sure that this in part was due to my poor technique at panning and with enough practise it would have been possible to capture an image that was acceptable.

Out of all the images taken for both of the shutter speed exercises, my favourite photograph has to be the image in this exercise (Fig.8) above. Knowing how difficult it was to achieve is part of the reason but, for me it is more dynamic and clearly expresses a sense of speed and movement. Due to the close crop and some blurring of both the foreground and background of the image the sense of movement feels more pronounced.