Friday, 30 October 2009

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 - Strong/Weak

For the strong/weak category I quickly thought of trees, the kind which have been around for a long time with large strong trunks, and roots deep in the earth. The contrasting image therefore was obviously a dying or dead tree, at the end of its days.

My idea was to try and add to the strength/weakness in the images by showing strong, bright and healthy colours in the 'strong' image and dull, washed out colours in the 'weak' image. I decided to try and capture a strong tree surrounded by saturated autumn colours, and conversly a dead tree in a much darker and duller environment.

When processing the raw files I added to these effects. I saturated the colours in the strong image to make it more vibrant, healthy and 'alive'. For the weak image I did the opposite and removed a lot of the colour. I didn't want a black and white image, but one in which the colours were very subdued and dark, leaving the image as the life had left the tree.


Image taken at f/11, 1/20 sec, ISO-100 and 47mm.


Image taken at f/3.5, 1/100 sec, ISO-800 and 21mm.

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 - Heavy/Light

I chose this category for my image which shows both contrasts in one picture. The idea was to photograph weighing scales with weights and a feather, with the feather being heaviest and weighing the scales down. So the image would show something which is usually known to be very light and expected to not weigh much, actually being heavier than the weights.

I knew when planning the photograph that I wanted it to be very obvious that the feather was heavier so that this fact was the main focus of the image. There were a couple of things I had planned which I hoped to be able to do in order to achieve this.
The first was to use depth of field to selectively focus on the feather and so draw the viewers eye to it. This I feel I achieved well. I had to experiment with the lighting, it's distance from the subject, and use the least amount of flash possible to be able to use the widest aperture to create a shallow depth of field. I also chose to angle the scales to provide that depth of field from the front of the object to the back, and to improve the composition of the photograph.
The second thing was that I hoped to be able to find the old style of balance scales, where the items to be weighed and the weighing plates hang on chains from horizontal balance bar. The reason I wanted this type of scale is that the difference in height from a heavy object on one side and a light object on the other is large, and it is therefor very easy to see immediately which object is heavier. Unfortunately I could not find these scales to use, except if I could afford to pay quite a large amount of money for them which I couldn't. This meant I had to use a different type of balance scales, which whilst they obviously do show the difference in weight of objects, it is not as immediately clear. Consequentially I tried my best to achieve what I wanted with these scales and I am still pleased with the final result, but I know it could have been better and more obvious if I had been able to use the correct scales for the photograph as I had imagined.

My original idea was also to use weights for the opposite side of the scales from the feather, and I had thought about painting the weights to experiment with different colours. This couldn't be done as the weights and scales were borrowed. When it came to setting up the picture I first tried with the weights but I wasn't happy with the look of the image and the fact that the weights, scales and feather were all black. Then I had an idea about using the measuring bowl filled with sugar! This would add more shape and colour to the image, add a contrast between the white sugar and black feather, and add more interest to the image. I tried this and was far more pleased with the result. It actually reversed the normal roles where weights are used to measure ingredients and replaced the weights with a feather.

All in all I still would have liked to use the type of balance scales I had hoped and I know it would have been more obvious which is heavier, but I am pleased with the final image and my idea.

Image taken at f/2.8, 1/200 sec, ISO-100 and 100mm.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 - Idea for Black/White

I have had an idea for another category, Black/White. I may try and include this so I have 11 to choose from for my final eight.

I would like to try and capture two face portraits, one of a black person and another white. However I would like them to have make-up of the opposite colour covering their face, but with an open neck included in the image showing their natural skin tone. Both would be captured with a confused or inquisitive facial expression.

Obviously this is a little controversial and I would like it to make people think. I want to try and show people of one skin tone trying to be another and wondering why. Why should there be any emotion or consequence of someone being a particular skin tone at all? Why should someone wish to be something other than how they were born to feel content, accepted, welcome, equal? I personally see all people as the same and 'one race' and feel upset and angry with how much of an issue this still is today. If I can make these images I would hope they might make some people ask themselves the same questions.

I was inspired with this idea by a program I watched with my fiance recently which looked at how many Asian people wish to lighten their skin tone, and how lighter skin is seen as 'more beautiful' to some. The program asked the same questions, why should they wish to lighten their skin? and why not be happy with how you were born? The program was called 'Make Me White' (from BBC site: Anita Rani looks into the world of skin-lightening cosmetics in the Asian community) and can currently be watched on BBC iPlayer for anyone who missed it.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 - Liquid/Solid

I completed my first category for the Art of Photography Assignment 1 today. For the Liquid/Solid category I had decided to photograph a flower, firstly with water hitting and bouncing off it for the Liquid image, and then in a block of ice for the Solid image.

I enjoyed creating both images, and both were a challenge and a learning experience.


For the liquid image I set up a home studio with flashguns (which I had only just purchased and never used before), a a simple black background. I placed a soft box to the left over the flower and an umbrella to the right and lower.

I used a 100mm macro lens, tripod and cable release. I pierced holes in a plastic bottle and attempted to photograph the flower whilst dripping water on it, with the intention to capture the 'splash' of the water drop.

After a little trial and error I realised I would not be able to capture the image exactly as I wanted it. To capture the water splash and freeze time would require a fast shutter speed, probally 1/500 sec or above, but as this was the first time I'd used studio lighting I had not realised I would be limited by my camera's flash sync speed. I was always used to using fast shutter speeds when outside and just assumed it would be the same.

The first images I took had shadows across the bottom of the image and I was confused! I tried changing the lighting to no effect. It took me a while to realise it was the camera shutter showing in the pictures! The flash sync speed on my camera is only 1/200 sec, and above that the shutter shows in the image! So now I realised I would be limited to 1/200 sec and not be able to capture the water drops as clearly as I wished. I have been more than happy with my Canon 450D since I purchased it and it wasn't cheap, but now I am starting to crave a more expensive camera :)

I tried getting enough light to be able to take the photograph without flash and so use faster shutter speeds but unfortunately I was unable to. I carried on anyway, taking images at 1/200 sec, and tried my best to get an image I was happy with. Consequentially the final photograph was not quite as good as I had hoped but I was still pleased.

Image taken at f/7.1, 1/200 sec, ISO-100, 100mm.


I was far happier with how the second photograph turned out. I took the same flower and submerged it in a carton of water then froze it. When it was ready I set it up in a home studio with a softbox behind the block of ice and an umbrella to the left side. This again took some trial and error but it worked well like this as the soft box would send light through the ice, and the umbrella lit the front of the ice, whilst not casting strong reflections as it was placed to the side.

Once I had found the right settings I took a number of images, all at f/11 but with different shutter speeds. I was attempting to capture as much detail in the ice as possible by underexposing the flower, and then capture detail in the flower (which overexposed the ice). When finished I combined the different exposures to create the final image.

Combined exposures ranging from 1/200 sec to 8 seconds. All taken at f/11, ISO-100, 100mm.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 Final Idea's

I chose one photograph idea to contain both sides of a contrast category, and ten pairs of photograph ideas to show ten categories. Only eight are needed but I decided this way I can do all ten and then pick the eight best ones to submit.

Heavy/light - Both in one photograph

Old style balance scales, one has stacked weights and the other has a feather. The feather is heaviest and weighs down scales. Weights could potentially be white or light colour and feather dark colour to try and alter perceptions of the objects mass, but this depends on if I am able to paint the weights (e.g. if I borrow the scales from someone I couldn't paint the weights).

The image will be taken using a home studio and macro lens. I may try with both a dark and light background to see which works best. I envisage the image as having the scales slightly angled with the feather side closer to the lens, looking slightly bigger, and maybe the weights slightly out of focus, but again I will see what works best when taking the image.

Strong/weak - 2 photographs

Strong - autumn setting in woods with vivid colours making use of time of year. Main focus is a strong healthy tree trunk (large), slightly to the right of image centre.

Weak - a duller, possibly wet, image of a dying, decaying or dead tree.

Many/few - 2 photographs

Few - still life, image of candles, dimly lit and atmospheric.

Many - candles with mirrors to look like many candles. I will try to find an interesting shape or composition for the image to improve the concept.

High/low - 2 photographs

High - a person (dressed in hiking gear?) stood atop a hill, looking out over a view. Try to compose the shot to appear high up. Person is located in left of frame. Idea is to try and give a sense that the person feels high up.

Low - another (same?) person but this time small in the frame, looking up at a very tall, large, imposing building or structure. Person either small in the frame next to building, possibly making building look like its leaning over them, or taken over their shoulder so it feels like viewer is looking up with them.

Long/short - 2 photographs

Long - a tall and interesting tree, no leaves (to make it look taller?), shot in a vertical frame from very low ground level to make it look tall. Possibly black and white.

Short - a very small (maybe Bonsai) tree in the bottom left of the frame, at ground level, with shoes and legs of a person in the right of the frame so tree looks tiny. Utilising Golden Section in composition.

Large/small - 2 photographs

Large - an extreme close-up macro of an insect or animal (probably insect) showing detail of an area of the subject, filling the frame.

Small - the same subject but zoomed out to show its environment and how small it is.

Hard/soft - 2 photographs

Two sides of a personality.

Hard - doorman, suit and headset, arms folded, mean looking, angry, big. Composed so people approaching the door look small.

Soft - same person, at home, relaxed clothes, holding a baby or child with a big smile on his face. On sofa, shot from raised angle to look smaller.

This may prove a difficult idea but I believe it would be good if I could do it. Both black and white, or colour in the second image to feel softer.

Still/moving - 2 photographs

Moving - Child on swing. Motion blur showing movement throughout arc of swing, possibly still of happy child at top of swing overlaid if allowed. Sunny day, bright colours, happy feel.

Still - swing at same angle, empty and still, dull and dark colours, possibly rain. Wants to be played on.

Smooth/rough - 2 photographs

Abstract face portraits, dimly lit except for side of face.

Smooth - woman's face, smooth skin texture.

Rough - mans face with stubble. Rough texture, opposite side to woman's.

Both pictures in black and white to focus on texture. Both same lighting and both macro to show lots of detail in the texture.

Diagonal/rounded - 2 photographs

Both themed on football.

Diagonal - The diagonal goalpost and netting filling most of the frame, to the left, and in focus. Slightly out of focus players and ball in background. Ball possibly hitting net.

Rounded - focus and composition based on the football, centre right and foreground. Heading towards or past camera. Blurred players in background looking at ball.

Both these shots in rain may add extra interest, i.e. wet ball, water droplets, wet netting. However, I would need extra lighting for fast shutter speeds.

I am also unsure of how well the diagonal idea fits with the category.

Liquid/solid - 2 photographs

Liquid - macro shot of a water droplet hitting and bouncing off a flower. Nice lighting and fast shutter speed to capture water splash.

Solid - same flower frozen in ice.

So I have all my idea's and now I can go and photograph them :D

Art of Photography: Assignment 1 Idea's

I have really enjoyed this first assignment and I haven't even taken a photograph yet! The assignment is to take images with contrasting subjects/idea's from selected categories. 8 pairs of photographs showing 8 different categories, and one final photograph showing both contrasts of a category in one image.

I usually go out and take photographs of what I see, so sitting down and planning photographs, thinking of idea's and compostions, has been totally different to what I have done before and a lotof fun.

Here I've listed the rough idea's exactly as I wrote them down in a notebook, good and bad.

Heavy/light - scales old style, one side weights stacked, other side a feather, but the feather weighs down scales...

High - someone stood on top of a hill looking over a view, 'feel tall'.
Low - big building 'looming over' small person.

Thick/thin - obese? skinny?

Much/little - poor person, rich person. Poor person has loving family, rich person is alone.

Hard/soft - two sides of a personality? Army, boxer, security, doorman etc, working then at home with child.

Liquid/solid - water droplets, ice. Wall reflected in water.

Sweet - person with sweets/bowl of sweets, bright colours, pink background, soft lighting.

Sweet - peppers or 'sour' things wrapped in sweet wrappers with pink background, bright colours etc.

Curved - a curved silhouette of something, body?

Smooth/rough - abstract face portrait. Smooth womans, rough - mens stubble. B&w, opposite angles.

Sweet/sour - sweet fruit, one peeled, something sour inside.

Long - tree looking up from ground level.
Short - tree from above perspective.

Still/moving - still - something stationary with other things moving & blurred behind it. Moving - same subject blurred moving with stationary background. Still - wessex way from bridge with no cars. Moving - night shot same angle blurred lights.

Diagonal/rounded - street sign macros, half frame, circle and triangle with something in background.

Sweet/sour - candy peppers, sweets that look like sour things, glaze reflecting light, still life macro.

Diagonal/round - twisty candle macro from above & side.

Large/small - small elephant, large mouse.

Many/few - candle mirror at angle = 2 or 3 candles, candle mirror head on = many.

Black/white or light/dark - black - silhouetted object, light background. White - white or light object, black background.

Black/white - interesting macro subject, one silhouette with white background, one white subject with black background - interesting lighting.

Still/moving - child on swings, movement blur, sharp at top - bright sunny happy. Still - empty swing? wanting to be played on - dark wet? dull colours.

Diagonal/rounded - diagonal - abstract shot football goal, ball flying in net, players behind, viewed from back of goal. Rounded - action shot, football main focus.

Still/moving - still - football & boots/player, ground level, lots of detail from ball boots & grass. Moving - action shot when playing.

Strong/weak - strong tree trunk, autumn colours. Weak - decaying tree.

Hard/soft - something with hard shell, soft inside like eggs, but how to make it interesting?

Smooth/rough - rough outer, smooth inner, like fruit.

Diagonal/rounded - unusual flower macros.

Still/moving - still - misty autumn morning. Moving - windy, leaves flying.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Art of Photography: Project 15

This project was about cropping, and looking at images already taken in a new way, to be able to see potential images within an image or improvements to an image. Of course it is always better to get a picture right 'in camera' if possible, but sometimes unwanted things can creep into a shot which weren't noticed, or with hindsight better compositions can be seen.

I am already used to cropping to remove unwanted elements etc, but to look at images in new ways is interesting. I also find I sometimes like to crop pictures into shapes other than the standard 3:2 frame such as square crops or longer rectangles. However whilst many like or don't mind this, some people seem to frown on it :( , it's also harder to buy frames that fit at the shops of course :) .

Here I chose to crop the image to focus more on the Cormorant than on the river. Of course with a larger crop like this the cropped image quality is significantly reduced, especially on my camera which is only 12 Megapixels.

Here I've cropped out all of the detail from the left and part of the top of the original image, to focus purely on the road and traffic.

Here I cropped for an even tighter frame of the Swan. It felt to me like it made an intriguing image which provides strong eye contact with the Swan. It also removed much of the background from the picture.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Art of Photography: Project 14

This was quite a simple project, to gain more experience with using a vertical frame (holding the camera vertically) as opposed to a horizontal frame which is generally used more often. The task was to take two versions of each photograph, one horizontal and one vertical, and learn about the differences to composition this would make. Hopefully this would lead to being more aware and willing to use a vertical frame more often when it can aid photography.

For me this was the case. I more often used a horizontal frame and might not have considered a vertical one except in obvious situations. From doing the project I have learnt that on many more occasions than I might have thought, the vertical frame can produce good images and compositions, where previously I wouldn't have considered it.

I believe I have learnt the main goal of this project, which is to be more mindful of the vertical frame and consider both orientations and how they affect composition when planning an image, and which will work best for the image, instead of mainly using a horizontal frame.

In these two images I first tried a horizontal frame, but found that the composition wasn't very good, as the Cormorant was facing left but the main rocks were on the right. Switching to a vertical frame produced much better results. The composition was better, and the Cormorant posed too!

Here again I used a horizontal frame first without even considering a vertical one. There was too much uninteresting space on either side of the Heron, but it wasn't until changing to a vertical frame that I realised I could also include some of the river in the image!

Here the horizontal frame worked better than vertical, as using a vertical frame introduced unwanted elements (parts of bushes) at the top and bottom of the image.

There wasn't too much difference between these two, except that it was a little harder to include the whole of the bush in the horizontal frame.

Here the horizontal frame produced a far better composition. I wanted to include as much of the waterfalls and rocks as possible and the horizontal frame allowed that. Conversly, the vertical frame cut too much out and also introduced more unwanted subjects in the top of the frame.

In these two images I much prefered the vertical frame again. I wanted to show the structure sweeping round and forming an arc which the vertical frame made possible, whilst the horizontal frame cut out too much of the arc or if I moved further away included too much sky in the right of the image.

For this picture I just wanted to try and capture the nice colours in the leaves, as a branch. I first tried with the camera horizontal and couldn't find a composition I was happy with. I then tried vertically and a better composition presented itself!

Another image which I first tried to capture horizontally but found that it didn't work very well, then changed to a vertical frame and achieved a much better composition!

Something I found quite suprising doing this project and its write up is just how often I found the vertical frame to be better! In fact previously with some of these pictures I would have just tried a horizontal frame and then moved on, without considering a vertical frame, and it was only because I was doing this project that I used a vertical frame.

I hope that from now on I will bear the vertical frame in mind more, or ideally think of it as just as important as the horizontal frame, and make use of it when it aids my photography.