Friday, 28 January 2011

Assignment 1 - Tutor Feedback

Just received by e-mail the report from my tutor on Assignment 1 images and coursework.

I haven't had much contact so far with my tutor and did wonder if I should be keeping in touch with him more, but his feedback has been positive with some very encouraging comments and also some suggestions on areas of improvement. I can't take issue with any of his comments.

I now have a deadline of April for Assignment 2 which I have said I should have no trouble achieving and I mean to keep to that deadline this time. I have a few images to re-print for Assignment 1 and I think I may change one of the images, "continuous" completely.

I'm feeling much more positive about my submissions and how to present them now that I've got this first report back and looking at comments left by fellow students it's a fairly common experience. I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into Assignment 2.

Monday, 17 January 2011

The Relationship Between Points

Exercise - 3 photographs

Having established that the point is the most basic design element, with more than one point in the frame the relationship between points must be taken into account. The object of this exercise is to find normally occurring situations where there are two points and take 3 images noting which point is stronger and why.

According to Michael Freeman in "The Photographer's Eye" the relationship between two points depends on several factors. Which point, if any, is dominant in the image, where they are placed within the frame and the effect the background has on the image.

When you look at an image with two distinct points your eye tends to move from one point to the other usually from the stronger point to the weaker in a straight line. This is why when you view an image with two points placed at equal distances within the frame you look back and forth without settling on any one point, as in the image of the eyes below.

After looking back and forth a few times you start to look for something in the image that will tell the points apart.

Image 2

Add caption
In this image the points are positioned centrally and equidistant from the edge of the frame. As in the image of the eyes this means that neither point is stronger in the composition than the other. You could argue that there is still an active sense of movement within the frame however as your brain recognises that the subjects are walking out of frame.

Image 3

Sometimes in an image the point that is nearer to the centre of the frame is the strongest element but in this instance I think the strongest element is the windsurfer with the green kite. This is the larger of the two points and nearer the camera therefore my eye is drawn to it first. There is an implied line between the two surfers from left to right. The empty space at the top of the frame and the fact that the windsurfers have their backs to camera suggests a direction of movement into the frame and away from the camera.

Part 2 - Elements of Design. Points

Exercise - Positioning a point - 3 photographs

The purpose of this exercise is to experiment with positioning a single point in an image and examine its relationship with the frame. How this then effects the division of an image and also the sense of movement it creates should be considered.

As instructed in preparation for these exercises I jotted down a few situations that spring to mind that would qualify as a photograph of a  point.
  • single tree/animal in a field or prairie or bird in the sky
  • single person a wide open beach
  • small architectural detail on a building
  • coke can rusting on a shingle beach  - or shell amongst smooth pebbles
  • single car or supermarket trolley in a large otherwise empty car park
  • single windsurfer/boat at sea or bird in the sky
  • night street scene empty except for a single pool of light
  • small centre point of a flower
  • close up pupil/iris of an eye
The next few images show the positioning of a point in the frame and discusses them in more detail.

Image 1

 In this image of a seagull there is no doubt that the bird is the main point of interest and it is placed on the upper outer third of the frame. As the bird is looking into the frame your eye is drawn away from the edge of the picture and there is a sense of movement towards the centre of the image.

Is the bird too large in the frame to qualify as a point? According to the course notes "for a subject to qualify as a point it has to be small in the frame, and contrast, in some way, with its surroundings."  The bird certainly contrasts with its surroundings and is isolated enough, however it is not particularly small.

When does something relatively small in an image become too large to be classed as a point? Surely that's not something that can be defined as a percentage or area covered, it has to be assessed on an individual basis by how strongly the subject grabs your attention.

Image 2

 This might be another controversial image in representing a point. "Point" to me suggest a single subject creating the focal point and in this image there are clearly two people standing on the sea wall. Again their position complies to the "rule of thirds" vertically and I think the fact they have their backs to the camera adds interest to the image. Are you wondering what is over there?

I think in this case that because the people in the image are so small in the frame and there is no discernible space between them they qualify as a point.

Image 3 & 4

Both of these images have a single point entering the frame from left to right bringing a sense of movement to the image. Although the "point " in each image is placed in the upper third of the image horizontally and the left hand third of the image vertically, they appear quite different due to the scale. 

Although finding examples of a single point for an image isn't difficult, I have found that I am naturally placing the point as per the "rule of thirds". Although this is acceptable as part of these exercises sticking to these rules consistently will lead to some very predictable images. In order to improve as a photographer I need to know these rules but remember it's ok to challenge them occasionally.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Liz Wells- Photography a Critical Introduction - Book review

Photography: A Critical Introduction

This book is described as an introduction to the theory of photography and is a recommended read for anyone studying photography at a higher level of education or entry level college course. For me this was a much easier read than Graham Clarke's "The Photograph".  Each chapter in the book introduces and debates a specific field of photography and points you in the direction of further reading and resources.

The first chapter, for example, is subdivided into:
  • Aesthetics and technologies
  • Contemporary debates
  • Histories of photography
  • Photography and social history
These could all be pretty heavy going debates but the text is engaging, clearly written and concise even for a student new to photography theory. This isn't a book that is full of photographs. There are a few images from some very familiar names such as Bill Brandt, Lee Friedlander and Dorothea Lange and also a few from photographers who's work I will need to research further as they are totally unfamiliar.

A few images in the book are individually analysed in detail as case studies. E.g. Dorothea Lange - Migrant Mother from 1936 shown below. It is discussed in terms of the politics of the time, in relation to the intention of the photographer, considered in terms of race, gender, class amongst other things and why this image, when compared to the other 4 images of the same subject, acquired such an  iconic status.

Migrant Mother
  I particularly enjoyed this aspect of the book. Further chapters discuss the genres of documentary and photojournalism, photography and the human body, advertising, photography as art and a final chapter on electronic imaging which all go into just as much analyses and detail.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone studying photography and I am sure I will be returning to my copy again and again. The book is full of resource material including websites, a list of public archives, suggested further reading and a very useful glossary of terms to help new students like me, who are unfamiliar with the academic jargon, understand the modern from the postmodern or the structuralist from the post structuralist.

Image reproduced courtesy of - Library of Congress- Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection rep no. LC-USF34-9058C see http://www.loc/gov/rr/print/res/071_fsab.html

Liz Wells book cover image reproduced courtesy of Bridgeman Education.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Posted - Hooray.........

It's gone. Posted. Finally....Assignment 1 off to my tutor.

Have to say that has taken so much longer than I anticipated mainly due to my indecision about which images to use. I'm hoping that once I get the feedback from my tutor I'll have a better idea of what is expected and thanks to fellow student "Fatherpie" who seems to confirm this.

There is a difference between how I visualised the images for this assignment and either my technical or creative ability to recreate these due to lack of experience or knowledge. At some stage I had to decide that the images produced met the brief and am satisfied with them at this stage.

Now. Let's get cracking on Part 2 of the course..........

Assignment 1 - completed at last.

Continuing on from the last few posts - her are the final 3 images for Assignment 1.


For this image I used a Canon 18-55mm lens at 55mm. Taken on Aperture Priority - Aperture f/11, ISO 200 and shutter speed 1/80 sec. With this image I was aiming to show the intermittent spacing of the trees.

Post Processing
The image was cropped slightly to ensure the trees filled the frame from left to right.


In contrast to Intermittent is Continuous. This image of a spider’s web was taken with a Canon 70-250mm lens at 240mm with the camera on a tripod.

Aperture Priority - Aperture f/5.6, ISO 100 and a shutter speed of 1/6 sec used. I found this the hardest image to represent. When thinking of something continuous, a circle, spiral or wheel spring to mind, but these can also represent curved or perhaps moving depending on the image. A spider’s web has threads spun in circles or wheels within wheels so appears never ending or continuous.

The final image of the assignment shows a contrast in one image.

I have chosen to call this image Discord. The image was taken with a Canon 18-55mm lens at 30mm. Aperture f/6.3, ISO 400 and shutter speed 1/80 sec.
There is a tradition at St Andrews University whereby each year students have a massive foam fight in the university quad. If you would like to know more about this tradition have a look on

This image shows two of the students after the foam fight standing in front of a shop window display. You can see that there is a visual contrast in the appearance of the students when compared to the shop mannequins but there is also a contrast in meaning.

Shop window displays are intended to show perfection, a look that you to can achieve, aspire to, if you buy these items. These things will make you happy. In contrast the girls are covered head to toe in foam and so their appearance is far from perfect at this moment. They are still smiling and obviously happy however so there is discord or conflict in the image.