Wednesday, 29 September 2010


Recently I have been watching the BBC Genius of Photography series and whilst a lot of the famous photographers mentioned have struck a chord with me, I first wanted to think about Henri Cartier-Bresson a bit more.
He's considered to be the father of photo journalism and he took to that form of photography during a time when there was a lot of debate about the direction that photography should take as an art form.
Its really interesting that he didn;t believe in post production and that he was one of the first photographers to embrace 35mm. These are important facts to me because I too strive to achieve the best composition when the image is being captured and I also think that had cameras not become handheld, the art form would never have progressed.

He stuck to 50mm lenses which is interesting, I often think Ib stress about changing lenses to much, for a future task, I might restrict myself to a 50mm just to see how it goes.

I'm going to see if I can get a copy of, The Decisive Moment and see what inspiration I can draw from it. I certainly need to start looking at his images more as I love the classic, behind saint-lazare station, it totally appeals to me that he stuck his head through some railings to take it.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Exercise 12 - Positioning The Horizon

I really wanted to approach this exercise using a wide, distant horizon that would emphasise the point the folder was making about the placement of the horizon and how it affected the composition.

The first two 'horizon placements' gives a great emphasis on the sky and makes the clouds and the sunlight feel very large and dramatic.

As the ground starts to pull equal emphasis in the framing of the scene and the horizon placement moves towards the middle, the impact of the sky is reduced and the impact of the whole scene is diminished.

As the placement of the horizon is moved towards the top of the frame, the foreground takes prominence and as we reach the final image the wall splits the scene into three rows of subject matter, the field, the distant landscape and the sky above the horizon.

The placement of the horizon moves the focus points of the image and the area within the frame that is given prominence can be changed depending on the intention of the photographer and the purpose of the image. Should the weather have been the main subject then the low horizon would be a useful tool, should the foreground be the important subject, then a high horizon removes distracting sky.

My personal preference? Of these shots I like the sky shots, but the middle horizon shots do a good job of showing Manchester from a distance as well.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Assignment 1 - Contrasts Prep Work

Starting to put together my first assignment. Ideas I am working on at the moment:

Large / Small - Joint, yellow car
Transparent / Opaque - something with coloured film
Diagonal / rounded - shot in alley in town
Pointed / Blunt - macro of a needle with thread, blunt?
Liquid / Solid - ?? jelly?
Hard / Soft - lensbaby?
Smooth / rough - macro shots
Still / Moving - water
Straight / curved - tram lines

I've got some clear ideas for some of the combinations, but for some of the others I want to think about it for a while before committing to an idea.

Looking for contrasts in existing portfolio

So looking through some of my existing portfolio, I have found these shots that show nice contrast of theme.

Soft Dog - Hard Cash

Straight Lines - Curved Leaf

Broad Park - Narrow street

Liquid and Solid

Exercise 11 - Balance

This exercise required me to choose 6 of my existing photos and analyse the balance between the subjects within the image. This was a really interesting exercise because its the first time I have looked back at my older photos with a new perspective and a particular analytical tool.

Each of the six photos have been duplicated with the main subjects identfied as a coloured shape. These shapes were then copied onto a scale above the image.

Image 1 - Family Portrait

There are some technical issues with this picture which I took about 18 months ago when practising with off camera flash. My sister on the back row is out of focus slightly and the composition isn't framed as symmetrically as it could be. That being said, it does have a nice balance as the three sitters are arranged in an equilateral triangle shape and are roughly the same size.

Image 2 - Fish Eyed Cat

I took this photo shortly after delivery of my fish eye lens and I must admit it is one of the few I have put on the wall at home. The photo is an interesting balance because the main subject's nose draws the eye and the fish-eye lens pulls the eye around the scene in a circular motion.
This creates and interesting sense of balance and the main subject is exaggerated to the point where the only thing that balances it out is the bed on which he lays. It could be argued that the image is unbalance and I think I've put the subjects on the scales wrong.

Image 3 - Wedding Album Stock

This image is from a wedding I did in June and I decided to choose it for this exercise as it was shot purely for an album background. The wedding dress and hanger become one subject within the frame despite being separate objects in reality. The wardrobe balances out the dress and hanger by being cropped and almost part of the background.

Image 4 - Circuit Board City

This photo was taken when I was dismantling an old PC and I decided to take a macro shot of the motherboard components. The balance in this photo is interesting as despite the circuitry being of different sizes, because of the way they are positioned, they balance quite well.

Image 5 - Laycock Abbey

This picture was taken when I was on an RPS Wedding Photography course in Laycock and is the abbey where Wiliam Fox Talbot perfected his negative film processing system. I took the picture from an adjoining field with a telephoto lens and it balances nicely with the abbey forming a counter weight between the close bushes and the lawn. it could be argued that the lawn are overbalances the other subjects but I think the sky can be counted in with the tree branches and it balances out.

Image 6 - Crosby Beach Buddies

This image was taken at the Anthony Gormley installation at Crosby Beach called Another Place.
The balance here is interesting as the man on the right is leaning back further away from the statue, his larger size balances out the closer proximity that the woman has to the statue. If the man was stood closer, he would have unbalance the whole shot but it works well as it is.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Exercise 10 - Focal Lengths and different viewpoints

I used the cathedral again for this exercise as the side entrance was in a quiet area of town where I could walk forward without having to look up from the view finder.

I used my trusty 17-40mm at 17mm, it's widest focal length and then I used my 70-200mm at 111mm purely because I couldn't reverse any further do to there being a building behind me.

The depth of the subject is present in it's flowers and the different stages of stone in the entrance arch. 

Here is the first image taken with the telephoto lens.

and here is the second image taken with the wide angle:

The perspective of the image when taken from a distance produces are very stable, almost flat image. The structure of the floral display appears to be very linear and as architectural as the building behind it. The wooden doors appear to be just behind the stone arch and the image appears to be very rigid in form. The image projects easy admittance to a carefully looked after building and doors that are within easy reach.

The second image is quite startling different despite being of the same scene. I should have maintained the exact same edges of the frame but the lens distortion on the floral displays gave such a dramatic edge to the picture that it seemed a shame to crop them.
Everything about this image is more three dimensional yet also unrealistic. The picture feels dynamic because the wide angle perspective emphasises the diagonal lines in the flag stones and projects a sense of movement towards the door way. It is also clearer to see the distance between the wooden doors and the arch making the entrance seem a bit more foreboding due to the shadowy vestibule that visitors would need to cross to gain entrance having gotten past the almost triffid-like floral displays.

Exercise 9 - Focal Lengths

This exercise required that I chose a view that was open but with details in the distance. I decided to follow the example in the folder and take an image that was portrait in aspect as I tend to stick to landscape in most situations, possibly merely because of the camera's ergonomics.

Anyway, whilst I was taking pictures in Manchester, this was one of the exercises I had planned to execute and I had noted (in my notebook) to head towards the Cathedral. I'm not a big fan of churches and try to avoid shooting them, but in this scenario it was an easy view to choose as it offered a lot of detail from a wide angle and a telephoto range. 

I didn't use a tripod as I was planning on taking some street photography, but I did maintain the exact position in regards to distance from subject at all times.

This was the image taken at the widest focal length if 17mm. I like the view as the lines on the road lead the eye towards the cathedral tower as do the diagonal lines of the building on the right. The image doesn't seem to have much balance at first, but the solidity of the tower and it's smoggy stones create a strong centre of gravity.

Here is the image cropped to show the clock tower which is the detail that I started to aim towards as I changed lenses.

here is the clock tower taken at 200mm from the same spot as the original photo. The detail and aspect of the images are the same. The relationship between the clock face and the scene is the same in both images.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Exercise 8 - A sequence of composition

This exercise was a real challenge, I misunderstood it at first and thought that I should be following a sequence of events and spent a few days trying to think of what to shoot. 

After I realised that I should be finding people in a situation where they were busy doing something interesting, I decided that the best bet would be a charity function I am photographing tomorrow, but when I was in town today trying to practice street photography (by asking people if they minded me taking their photos, asked 4 people, 100% success) I walked through a small food market and started taking photos.

As per the brief I started taking pictures as soon as I decided it was an interesting subject and kept my eye to the viewfinder, this did mean I tripped over two people.
Here are the images I took:

As an exercise, this was great. I knew there was a great shot in the area and I kept on moving around and talking to people as I did. This doesn't come naturally and I really had to push through my comfort zones.

I asked the women in the churros stall if I could take their picture and decided to take a wide angle straight on as they worked.

This should have been the final shot of the sequence but people kept on getting in the way, the shot above doesn't even show how I wanted to frame it as people walking behind me kept on jostling me forward.

I decided that a single stall shot wasn't going to work so I decided on a wide angle shot showing both sides of the market.

I'm happy with this shot, I did take two after it but that was more to do with not trusting my own judgement. I haven't done any post processing on any of these shots. The final shot could use a bit of exposure tweaking in the foreground.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Busy, busy

Am struggling to post this week as work is so busy but I am watching the new channel 5 'How to take stunning photos' series on replay. Its a bit simple but interesting.

I have been reading my Photographers Eye, really enjoying it so far.

I have also watched a documentary on Annie Lebowitz, need to type up my notes for that. On Saturday am off to do some street photography in Manchester and on Sunday I am volunteer photographing a charity event so I should be able to complete the next two exercises then.

Monday, 13 September 2010

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Exercise - Object in different positions in the frame part 2

My next step was to take one of the photos where the man was walking to the left edge of the image and try cropping it in different ways.

The image in the top left is an uncomfortable balance between subject and setting as the man is too close to the top of the frame. This feels unnatural and gives him an unrealistic height. The image in the top right wires better as he is close to the bottom of the frame and more of the background is revealed. This feels more natural as this is the background that he is actually experiencing.

The third crop is more centred and whilst the man is prominent in the image, and there is still a sense of movement. The final crop is a more even balance of the subject and background. The river bank can be seen but it is even with the bushes and trees.

Exercise - Object in Different Positions in the frame

Here are my favourite six images taken of a man walking alongside the river.
As an experiment, I have imported the Raw files onto my iPad and edited them using Adobe Photoshop express.

Using the iPad was reasonably successful as a workflow. I was not planning on doing much post production to these images as their purpose is more about analysing the position of the subject.

I converted each image to black and white, added a green tint, turned down the saturation, sharpened and increased the contrast. I wanted the main subject, the walking man, to draw the eye and the composition has achieved this. The main reason for the editing was to see the features of Photoshop express. The biggest issue is that the saturation is different between the different images as I could not swap between the images or view two at once within Photoshop Express.

I then put the images in an app that allows collages to be made and ordered them in order of my preference from left to right with the image at the bottom right being my least favourite.

When the man is centred in the frame there is a loss of motion whereas when he is at the edge of the frame there seems to be more animation to the picture.

The more successful images also place the path towards the bottom of the frame. This shows more context regarding his surroundings and as the grass bank beneath the path has little of interest, it doesn't really improve the image.

Really, I like the first five with only the centred image being dissatisfying.
When the subject is surrounded by the background, it's relationship with it is ambiguous, you can't really get an idea of where the man is going and where he has been.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Exhibition - Everyday People

Spencer Tunick's Everyday People

Spencer Tunick is a New York artist who uses the naked body to 'punctuate urban environments and natural landscapes'.
This exhibition was commissioned by the Lowry gallery and was shot in Manchester and Salford locations as part of Tunick's first multi-location project.

The car wash

The image showed rows of naked men queuing outside a dilapadated car wash. It's interesting that the shock factor of the nudity diminishes after a while. The queue seems to exaggerate the posture of the men to the point where theory seem to be leaning forward almost. They seem like a queue of infirm patients in some kind of abusive institution waiting to be hosed down.

The air hangar

This photo showed lines if men leaning toward each other standing up, with two rows of kneeling women, all are facing the same direction which is opposite to the plane that is in the background. There is a feeling of discomfort between the men leaning toward each other as they are avoiding any actual contact. The women kneeling seem to embrace their closeness and are touching in some places. The message here seems to be a comment on the closeness of women and the discomfort of men. I'm unsure. Why the location was chosen, perhaps because Manchester has an airport or perhaps because the planes is facing the opposite direction to the people it is some sort of comments on the different intention of people and technology. I didn't get a lot from this image I must say.

Peel Park

The frame of the image is almost square and is probably a ration of 5:4. This works as the centre of the image is a circular flower bed surrounded by circular pavement on which a circle of women walk, in a circle. these circular elements cause a pleasing motion and allows for the square crop. The set up of the shot is quite formal and the women are clearly arranged and the park is landscaped but the nudity and some branches at the top of the image give a feeling of nature. The artist has placed one black woman amongst around 100 white women at the front and she becomes the focal point and starting from her you follow her line of sight, and that of all the women around the circle. This adds to the feeling of movement.

Two Buses

The next exhibit was large landscape prints of old fashioned buses filled with naked ladies. The focus of the piece is boobs and bellies which are pressed against the glass windows of the bus. I didn't see the purpose of having two prints as ther was little variation between them and the bus was the same in both. The slogan on the side of the bus was Travel With Courtesy and this made the piece a visual pun commenting on busy commuter lives.


This exhibit was a portrait showing a small crowd of naked men shaking hands in front of a railway arch and next to a bridge with Beetham tower in the background. There was a focus on grey hair as it stood out and the men who were closer to the front of the piece had striking sliver grey hair. This was mirrored in the grey of the tower and the bridge to the right of the piece. The flesh tone of the men seemed to blend with the red brick of the railway arch making the men seem like part of their environment which seems to go against the grain of what the artist intends. The composition seems to be based on the long edges of the tower and the bridge legs.

Under the bridge

This exhibit was interesting from an exposure perspective as the scene is heavily and naturally vignettes by the shadow of the bridge from under which it was shot. The bridge also creates a frame within a am and it houses the shadowy nudes moving around in e foreground. The crowd of nudes gets busier further into the distance and as it does, the exposure is lighter until it becomes over exposed in the distance which almost creates a vanishing point.
The strong diagonal line of the bridge helps the eye cope with the figurers in the shadow as you are reminded yo look at the darkest corner of the frame where more figures can be found.


This exhibit had ten grounds of 30 people leaning forward in different directions. This almost makes the nudes look like prehistoric man but in a starkly urban environment. The portrait aspect of the frame makes the eye run up the image starting with the nearest group who are sharpest and ending at the top of the water tower. There has clearly been thoughtful composition to this shot but I don't fully appreciate the meaning of it.

Angel Meadow

This shot is framed by two dominant horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the picture, one a grass verge and the other tree branches. The eye is drawn to the mass of figures moving around and youvare then drawn, albeit erratically around the frame as you follow the directions that the different people are moving in. It may have been tempting to crop this tighter but it works well that it wasn't.

Overall Impressions

I started off trying to appraise these exhibits from an artistic viewpoint and then from a technical photographic viewpoint but after a while I started looking to see how techniques of framing, exposure and division have been used to artistic purpose. This is a new way of looking at photographic art for me as before now I have always looked at things from a purely technical standpoint.
I will admit that some of the meaning and concepts were lost on me, but after googling the aist on my return home, it is suggested that there isn't a lot of meaning to what he does. It's also interesting how this was called an installation rather than a photographic exhibition, which confuses me as the artist placed the models, took a photo and then packed up.

Exercise 6 - Fitting the Frame to the Subject

I chose a carousel for this exercise as it was housed within a relatively small area within the Trafford Centre which I knew would force me to think more creatively within the frame.
The first picture I took, without considering the composition too much has been photoshopped to improve the colours of the carousel but I think I may have brightened it too much, it was overcast and rainy.

I did however try to crop the image to meet the Golden Section rule.

The image was taken at 400 ISO, due to being overcast and I used an aperture of F7 and a shutter speed of 1/125.

Whilst the composition didn't have much thought put into it, the final photo does show the context of the carousel and it's surrounding area.

For the next image, I moved around the periphery of the carousel a lot changing lenses until I took this picture which I was quite happy with.

This image was taken at F7 and 1/125 with a focal length of 32mm. 

This has created a nice representation of the carousel which fills the frame with detail and colour.

One of the issues with this image is that the over exposed sky which surrounds the carousel takes away some of the impact of the subject.

With the carousel framed like this, it shows a sense of movement, due to the arc of the top and bottom of the carousel which makes the eye move around the image almost simulating movement.

The close up section was a much easier choice. I wanted all of the colours and decoration of the carousel to be the main focus and detail of the photo.

I like this photo as there is a nice sense of motion even though the carousel wasn't moving at the time!

For the final image, I took a number of images from a distance using the wide angle lens. Tow of these images stood out so I decided to crop both of them.

This is the first image which is a traditional wide shot where the carousel is at the centre of a landscape image.

This is a reasonable shot that shows the full context of the carousel. It can be clearly seen housed within the confines of the shopping centre. One of the things that lets this image down is the flat, over exposed sky and the lens distortion at the edges of the image which is highlighted by the palm trees.

The other shot that I took was more carefully framed, and I think was more successful.

This image also shows the context of the carousel but makes it more of a destination for the eye with the lines on the floor and the roof running down towards the carousel.

Whilst this is a more successful image, it is also harder to crop. 

One option for cropping is to remove some of the floor and sky detail. This leaves the crop ratio to be more square which isn't particularly successful as it doesn't leave many areas for the eye to go.

This is a really awkward crop which I didn't really feel would work, and it didn't! This was just experimentation and the image loses any impact or drama when the symmetry is taken away.

One image crop that was quite successful was a square crop of the initial wide angle image.

As the Freedman book had been discussing square crops working with circular subjects, I wondered if it would work with a rounded subject and I think it does to an extent. The trees at the edge of the crop spoil it slightly, I could have cropped the square tighter but then there was too much floor and not enough building to pull the eye to the centre.

Friday, 10 September 2010

The Photographers Eye

My copy arrived yesterday and it seems like a great book so far, the cropping and placement topics have been thought provoking, I will definitely think more carefully about the way the viewer's eye will read my pictures.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Exercise 5 - Panning

To capture some panning shots at different shutter speeds, I decided to go to the motorway and capture some cars that where moving really fast.

The first three images are shot at much higher shutter speeds and I like the last one of the blue car. Using 1/60 shutter speed with a successful pan has had a nice result where the details of the car are clear but the blurred background shows movement.
The same is true of the this image at 1/25 but with more motion shown.

These last four images start to lose their quality, and even though they do display a lot more motion, the lost detail of the cars diminishes some of the impact.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Exercise 4 - Shutter Speeds

For this exercise I had a number of subjects in mind,  was determined not to stand out on the street and do cars, so after a bit of deliberation, I decided to use one of the fast moving objects that nearly trips me over a few times a day.

I did promise myself at the start of this course that I would avoid too much cat photography, but hey, you have to indulge yourself on occasion.

I used my 50mm lens as the pictures were taken in my poorly lit living room quite late at night so I needed as large an aperture as possible.
I could have used flash but then I would not have got a true range of shutter speed movement as flash can freeze a moving object at a slower shutter speed.
Here are the images I took:

This exercise was interesting as I needed to hold the cat toy that I was using at arms length and focus on it, I then left the lens on manual focus and started taking the pictures.
This creates an interest effect where sometimes the cat is in focus and other times the toy is. Either way it nicely demonstrates the effects of different shutter speeds as the frantic movement is initially frozen in place and then eventually becomes a blur.