Assignment one – Contrasts

Assignment one – Contrasts

Contrast plays a very important role in our day-to-day lives and can often be overlooked or disregarded, it can be used in a literal sense or it can be portrayed conceptually.

My objective was to choose eight sets of two images from twenty-one pairs of contrasting words and convey each word in a photograph. After this was done, I needed to photograph a subject that depicted two contrasting words in one image. I have provided eight sets of images each consisting of two photographs that contrast each other in a conceptual, literal or photographic sense. The contrasting pairs of words that I chose are as follows:

  • Many / few
  • Transparent / opaque
  • Long / short
  • Liquid / solid
  • Smooth / rough
  • Strong / weak
  • Still / moving
  • Straight / curved
  • Continuous / intermittent (contrast ‘in one picture’)

As requested before continuing with this assignment, I had a flick through all of the previous images I have taken to look for literal or conceptual contrasts. The following three sets are what I found:

Far / near

York 9_1

York 8


Old / new

 Flats

 Tower block  

 Still / moving (all-in-one)

pool

I came across this shot of a pool break which was one of the first images I ever took with a DSLR a long time ago. This clearly shows ‘still’ and ‘moving’ in one image and is an extremely difficult shot to get also one that was a total accident!

Many / few

Many

Few

I stumbled across a derelict pub one afternoon and decided to try and get some shots for my first assignment. Places like this generally harbour some great opportunities due to their visual diversity. I saw a pile of rubbish on the floor and decided to use this shot for ‘many’, although, this could also be labelled ‘much’; it is not the most challenging or technical of shots but I think it possesses a certain charm. I started to look around for its contrasting partner and found some bottle caps on the floor which I then carefully arranged on the back of a leather chair to achieve ‘few’. I really like the simplicity of this shot and it could also have been used for the ‘curved / straight all-in-one’.

Transparent / opaque

Transparent

Opaque

To represent translucent I set a bulb on a black backdrop in my studio and photographed it using a soft box and translucent umbrella.  It is a very simple shot and the tight frame and black backdrop isolate the subject giving it a good, strong appearance. For the latter shot in this set, I chose to photograph a pair of legs wearing opaque tights and back-lit the subject to give it a silhouette type appearance; this has enhanced its opacity giving it a solid black form.

Long / short

 
Long

Short

I really struggled with this pair because I had difficulty deciphering where short ended and long began, I think that the way you shoot a subject can play a huge part in what the final photograph exposes, for example; if I had shot the railway track with a telephoto lens zooming in on the track in the distance itcould have depicted ‘short’ instead of ‘long’. The track could also have been used for a ‘long / short all-in-one’ as it portrays the length through the continuous train track and the shortness through the piece of track that lay on the side idle. ‘Short’ was taken with an 85mm achromatic lens to isolate the subject from the background; I really liked the childlike quality of the miniature subjects I found on the roadside by a school in North Nottinghamshire and the way that despite the fact they are foreground subjects and therefore bigger in perspective, they remain short conceptually.

Liquid / solid

 Liquid

Solid

‘Liquid and solid’ were taken using the same element in both images; one using water and the other using ice.The first shot, ‘liquid’, took around two or three hours in my studio to achieve. It was a laborious task but one that was worth the effort. At first I wanted to take an image of a fast-moving river or a waterfall but after some thought I decided to take this shot of a drop of liquid as it would be more concise. After I took ‘liquid’ I froze the same bowl of water to shoot the following day as solid. I laid the ice on a piece of black cloth to create a contrast within the cracks and different textures and to define its shapes; I applied a solid blue filter to lend a cold feel to the image.

Smooth / rough

 Smooth

Rough

For smooth I used a pile of pebbles from the sea taken in my studio. I must say, I found smooth more difficult than I first anticipated. Although smooth is a texture, it is very texture-less; I found this difficult to convey through the medium of photography as I didn’t want my image to lack any interest or composition. I started by photographing the smooth curves of a cream contemporary plastic chair but found that the image lacked detail of any kind, rough on the other hand was easy for opposite reasons.  We are surrounded by textures but presenting something with minimal texture was a real challenge.

Strong / weak

 Strong

Weak

‘Strong’ is my favourite image in the whole set that I have produced for this assignment. I chose eggs because the design of the egg is one of the strongest natural structures in the world, the same structure that is the base for many of our man-madeconstructions throughout history. I used a psychotherapy book to add even more strength to the image as this is a strengthening practise within man-kind. This is a more conceptual image than literal and is very profound. ‘Weak’ is a photograph of two broken gates in the back of a derelict building, one of the gates looks as though it will fall at any moment conveying this word well. I de-saturated some of the colours in the image slightly to make them weaker.

Still / moving

Still

Moving

The first thing that went through my mind when trying to think of a good shot for ‘still’ was still life. I decided to set up a still life subject in my studio taking the old fashioned fruit bowl and flowers composition; I wanted to portray something a little more quirky. I arranged a full-sized fruit bowl with apples, bananas and satsumas and sat it next to an oversized glass with pink roses and red liquid inside; the scattering of blueberries and rose petals were the finishing touches. Using soft but powerful side lighting, I shot the subject on a table in the classic way using a mottled brown, orange and yellow backdrop; I thought these colours were most suitable for this subject. I wanted the subject to be quite dark but with a good quality of lighting insteadof abundant. For ‘moving’ I shot a record spinning on a turn table with a shutter speed of 1/3 sec and a tripod from quite high up to fill the frame as much as possible with the moving object. The yellow and red lights lend contrasting moods as the red is quite intense and excitable and the yellow is calming and soothing, this has also helped to pick out grooves and define the record as it spins.

Straight / curved

 Straight

Curved

I was almost uncontrollably excited when I walked up set of steps and stumbled across the first image in this set. I like this shot because, other than everything in it being totally straight, it has quite an erratic energy about it with good lead-in lines to the black granite wall at the top of the steps. The lamp-post in the foreground is what has made this image so well composed, cutting through all of the repetition. A simple image; one comprised of lines and blocks of colour yet very abstract. The second photograph is ‘curved’ and was taken of the ‘Round House’ in Nottingham. I was sure to incorporate the curved double yellow lines and pavement into the image for some foreground interest. Like ‘straight’, I like this image because of its repetitive nature, although, not quite on the same scale; even the straight white lines are slightly curved due to the 18mm focal length I used to shoot the subject.

Continuous / intermittent 

Continuous and Intermittent

This is my ‘two contrasts in one picture’ shot. I chose this contrasting pair of words because I thought it would be the most difficult and force me to ‘think outside the box’. I shot this image twice, the first time was a dry evening, the second time I took the more atmospheric approach and chose a drizzly evening so as the colours of the lights would shimmer off the puddles; the rain itself is a continuous cycle of water and is also intermittent but that was not the reason I took this photo. The lights and the car represent continuous as they trail through the picture and the stop sign intermittent grinding the car to a halt.

 

Conclusion

I have drawn a conclusion that contrast is everywhere and depending on each person’s subjective interpretation, each of the images that I have shot for this assignment could have been manipulated to suit that of another contrasting set of words. I found it quite difficult not to portray two contrasts in one image at a time, even though, initially, I anticipated this to be the most difficult part of the assignment. I can honestly say that I haven’t stopped looking at everything in a totally different light and I am now seeing contrasting things everywhere I look. I also found that what I thought in the beginning would be the easiest shots turned out to be amongst some of the most difficult. This assignment has helped me to look at things in a more conceptual way, taught me to curb my naivety and not to ignore the details.

Cropping

Cropping

This exercise required three already-taken images that I took from my portfolio to demonstrate the many ways you can crop a photograph. I have chosen the following images: a plastic garden chair, a chameleon and a derelict shed. All of the images were taken with a Nikon D300 with a variety of lenses.

Set 1 – Garden Chair

I have cropped this image in such a way that the chair was no longer placed centrally in the frame. I have taken away the left part of the image, some of the grass and the top and tried to frame the chair with the bush above. Regardless of the fact that I have only cropped it a little, it has totally changed the image resulting in a more concentrated photograph. I do still prefer the original because it seems to have a little more of a gritty energy and interest as well as a diversity in textures and colours from the parts that were cropped.

 

 

Set 2 – Chameleon

There is a lot of empty space in this image which I think accentuates the depth of field. I have tried to crop the picture so that the chameleon is still in the right-hand side of the frame, I know technically this is unbalanced but it works very well in the original but not so well in the cropped version. Again, cropping this image has put more of an emphasis on the subject which is a natural when zooming in – this is the nature of filling the frame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Set 3 – Derelict Shed in Winter

 

I think that a square, tighter crop suits this image better than the original, although, I should have retained the whole tree on the left-hand side. With a tighter crop, the image seems to have a more intense feel to it and the original portrays desolation,

accentuating the harsh climate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Conclusion

This exercise has made me consider revising all of the photographs in my portfolio to see if I can improve them

with a different crop. It has also taught me to try a few different crops in my future images to ensure that I choose the best one, normally the first crop I do is the one I stick with but I think that this habit has now been abolished.

Vertical and horizontal frames

Vertical and horizontal frames

I have used a wide variety of subjects for this exercise to demonstrate that with a little thought and time you could frame most subjects in vertical and horizontal format. The exercise required forty photographs of twenty subjects shot twice; one vertically framed and one horizontally framed. Each set of two images starts with the horizontal orientation and finishes with the vertical. I tried to show some diversity in subject matter to flexibly illustrate the objective.

Set 1 – Forest

Both images in this set work well with a horizontal and a vertical frame. The horizontal frame puts an emphasis on the depth of the forest while the second on the height of the trees.

Set 2 – Obelisk

The horizontal frame works best in this set; however, the sky has gained some prominence in the vertical frame adding drama and scale to the image.

 

Set 3 – Door

I can’t decide which image works the best in this set; I’m swinging more towards the horizontal frame because the tree adds a little more interest than the vertical frame. There is more emphasis on the subject in the vertical frame because it is isolated.


Set 4 – Vintage Cameras

The horizontal frame in this image looks a little generic for me but is technically framed better. There is a lot of empty space in the vertically framed image but I can’t decide if this works better or not. I suppose it can depend on what the image is used for.

Set 5 – City Park

The vertical frame in this set works the best because it enhances the lead-in lines and adds foreground interest and a sense of scale to the image.


 Set 6 – Blossom Tree

The isolation of the tree by shooting it in a vertical frame has worked very well; I think that the empty space in the horizontal image is unnecessary and unattractive.

Set 7 – Golf Green

The background on this set is very simple so the subject looks better shot with a vertical frame due to the nature of its shape. The flag is quite small so needs a little weight to stand out.

 

Set 8 – Cactus and Lentils

I like both of these images for the same reasons as ‘Vintage Cameras’, I think it is the plain white background. Technically the vertical frame is totally unbalanced but for some reason, I think it works well.

Set 9 – Japanese AshI deliberately chose a subject that would be difficult to analyse because of its simplicity. The vertical frame has more depth so in my opinion is the better of the two.

Set 10 – Elegance

Technically, the horizontal version of this set should work better because it complies with the ‘rule-of-thirds’, however, despite the fact that in the vertical frame the subject is placed dead centre, I think it works a lot better and the smoke trails perfectly to the top right corner of the image.

Set 11 – BridgeProminence is added to the bridge in the vertical frame due to the character of its shape, there is too much dead space in the horizontal version.

Set 12 – War Monument

There is a better sense of scale in the horizontal version of this set, though, I think this is down to the focal length and not the framing as much, generally, I think that the horizontal frame works better.

Set 13 – Pond

This one is difficult purely because I think that it is a terrible photograph due to poor subject choice, however, I would probably choose the vertical frame.

 

Set 14 – Herbs and Flowers growing from Tennis Ball and Seashell

Conversely to the other studio shots, I think that the horizontal frame works better, perhaps because of the details and the colours. I think an interesting subject like this, benefits from a tighter frame.

 

Set 15 – Wood, Stone and Iron

I think that the vertical frame looks the best in this set because it is virtually split up into three equal parts which, as we know already, makes an interesting photograph. Everything in the horizontal frame seems to be fighting for attention.

 

Set 16 – Gardens

The vertical representation of this image adds more depth and puts more stress on the flowers which are the focal point of the image while the horizontal version adds a broader sense of scale.


Set 17 – Mixer

The horizontal frame in this simple set looks to have a little too much empty space, although, this does work quite well. After tightening the frame and switching to a vertical orientation we can see that it looks clearer and more balanced.

 

Set 18 – Iron Wheelbarrow

The horizontal picture in this set looks a little generic, a bit like a snap-shot, whereas changing to vertical orientation has forced me to place something in the foreground to add some interest thus resulting in a better image.

 

Set 19 – Tower Block

The horizontal version of this tower block puts more focus on the trees, whereas, the vertical version shifts that focus onto the tower block. The building looks further away in the vertical frame because all of the ground is included in the foreground of the shot adding a sense of distance.


Set 20 – ‘Drive Safely’

I think shooting this scene in vertical orientation has elevated the road from the image and has given the photograph more of a sense of direction with good lead-in lines. The horizontal version seems to lay flat in comparison.

 

Conclusion

This exercise has taught me to exhaust all possible scenarios when framing an image, I feel that if you take a photograph in vertical orientation, even if you think it won’t work, it forces you to be a little more creative by adding foreground interest or incorporating something else into the frame; this has added depth to some of my images that, otherwise, would be flat.

Positioning the horizon

Positioning the horizon

 

For this exercise I was asked to take six photographs to exhibit how important the positioning of the horizon is when composing an image. I chose a cityscape which I shot from Nottingham castle overlooking the city. This was my subject of choice because of the relatively interesting foreground and the clear horizon. All of the following images were taken with a shutter speed of 1/125s, an aperture of f/10, an ISO of 100 and an 18mm focal length; I also used a graduated neutral density filter to keep the sky and the land as evenly exposed as possible. I have numbered the images 1 – 6 starting with the lowest horizon first.

 

Image 1

With the horizon positioned at the very lower part of the frame, this image lacks any distinction, this is also aided by the deficiency of interest in the sky

 

Image 2

This image is better than the previous; however, the subject matter in the foreground is cut off and there is still too much emphasis on the sky.

 

Image 3

Perhaps if the horizon was placed slightly lower in this image it would work better as it would adhere to the ‘rule-of-thirds’. I think that the horizon is too central and thus stagnant.

 

Image 4

I like this image and the next image the best, although for different reasons. I can’t really decide which one prevails in terms of technique and aesthetics. This photograph works well because, again, it closely follows the ‘rule-of-thirds’. There is enough foreground interest to provide a satisfactory image.

 

Image 5

I think the reason that I like this image is because of the fact that it has three planes: the foreground, the mid-ground and the sky; this adds depth. The horizons in the previous images were placed in such a way that the foreground was not in the frame, I think this is one of the reasons that the previous images lacked interest.

 

Image 6

This image also includes the three planes but the positioning of the horizon has made this image less appealing, it is not totally uninteresting but I think that some more sky would have added some drama.

 

Conclusion

I think that because this exercise required a simple and only relatively interesting scene, this method can be practised in its purist form. If the scene would have had more compositional elements from which to compose the photograph, perhaps it would have told a different story. This exercise has definitely helped me to consider my options when shooting simple landscapes.

Focal lengths and different viewpoints

Focal lengths and different viewpoints

 

There are two sets of two images for this exercise to demonstrate the difference in perspectives when shooting a variety of focal lengths filling the frame with the subject. The first set of images are of the Male Satyr statue in the gardens of Newstead Abbey, Nottingham; the second of a weathered, crumbled pillar. I chose these subjects as they have straight sides and exhibit the character of converging lines used at different focal lengths from a different viewpoint.

Male Satyr

The image on the left was taken at a very short distance from the subject, perhaps two feet; the one on the right was taken from a distance that took perhaps a minute or so to walk. You can clearly see the difference in perspective. The pillar on which the satyr is standing appears to be larger in the first than that of the second and in complete contrast, the satyr himself appears to be smaller. Subjects appear closer than they seem the closer they are to the lens. Objects that appear further away are a result of ‘dwindling size perspective’. There appears to be much more distance between the satyr and the tree in the image on the left and the same tree in the right image looks as though it is right next to the satyr attaining  a two dimensional plane. The latter image is a more accurate rendition of the subjects form and size whereas the former is more suggestive of size, along with power and dominance. The light is also very different in these images; the satyr in the first image looks a little dark compared to the one on the right and the shadows fall in different places despite the fact that they were shot within a couple of minutes of each other.

Weathered Pillar

The same things apply to this image, although, there is much more of an obvious difference between the backgrounds on this image; it looks almost as if this image has been subject to ‘high dynamic range’ (an editing process of extracting a subject from a photograph and placing it on a different background to achieve a high contrast scene).  This set best demonstrates the objective of this exercise because the difference is much greater in comparison than that of the first set.

Focal lengths

Focal lengths – for cameras with variable focal lengths

(with a zoom or interchangeable lens)

 

For this exercise I was asked to take a series of images to demonstrate the effects of changing focal lengths and framing different parts of a scene successfully. I chose a landscape of rape-seed and freshly ploughed fields with a farmhouse in the distance. I shot six images with focal lengths ranging from 29mm – 300mm using Nikkor lenses and a Nikon D300.

I chose this scene because of the bright colours, the contrast and the variety of textures that could be used in framing the following images.

Image 1

I started with a vertically framed image shot at 29mm using the farmhouse as the subject and good strong lead-in lines from the edges of the field and the plough lines. The texture from the ploughed field adds some foreground interest and helps to balance the picture.

Image 2

The next image was shot at horizontal orientation with a focal length of 60mm and has included some of the far right of the landscape. I tried to include this part of the scene in the image as I thought the telephone wires would provide good lead-in lines to the subject in the absence of the rape-seed field on the left. Everything appears slightly closer in this image resulting in a flatter form. Over-all, the image is not composed as well as ‘Image 1’.

Image 3

I chose an 82mm focal length, decided to go back to the left a little and bring the rape-seed back in to include some colour and a better composition – the tree to the left has also helped to do this. The subject in each image appears much closer with every shot.

Image 4

Another horizontally orientated image shot at 116mm. You can really start to see some detail in the brickwork and the roof on the farmhouse and the building in the background has become clearer. Less of the sky is included in this image to create more visible plains, therefore, more depth.

Image 5

At 200mm, I decided to change the orientation to vertical to make the composition healthier. The dominant subject has been the farmhouse throughout but now the steel building in the background is starting to play an important role as it slowly starts creeping towards the farmhouse – this is a neat little trick performed by the lens when using larger focal lengths. The horizon is starting to look a little hazy and everything is starting to look very flat and compressed.

 

Image 6

This final image was shot at 300mm using the rule-of-thirds as a guideline to achieve a better composition. With this in mind, I eradicated the farmhouse which I believe was a critical error. The exercise objective would have been better demonstrated with the use of the farmhouse as the compression would have been slightly more apparent. You can clearly see the difference between ‘Image 1’ and this image in that it is much more compressed – every plain appears to be quite close and the depth-of-field seems to have become much broader although the aperture has remained the same.

 

Conclusion

The more you zoom in, the closer an object appears. That’s the obvious dealt with! More importantly, things that are further away appear closer, not only to the camera, but also to the subject as larger focal lengths compress plains. The term wide-angle applies to a focal length that is wider than the human eye (approximately 50mm) which means something has to give in order to get the entire scene in. If you look at a fish-eye lens as the other extreme, everything looks convex, dragging the edges of the image in to the centre. This makes everything look further away except the subject which looks like it is right in front of the camera when it is not.

This aside, I found myself really trying to think about the composition of the scene as I did not have much in the way of subject matter or important compositional elements, this has forced me to make important compositional elements from what is provided. I have learned that often you can achieve many photographs from the same scene and to take my time and take everything that I can from the subject matter.