Monday, 4 October 2010

Assignment 1 - Contrasts - Initial Set

When I started approaching this assignment, I wanted to plan each image and have an idea in mind for each of the contrasts. I didn't want to go out and accidentally capture an assignment image, instead I decided to plan each image (bar one) and think through how I wanted to light it and frame it.

Here are the initial 17 images for the assignment, they are not going to be the final set and I have already had some pointers from my tutor about cropping some of them to focus more on the essence than a literal translation of the contrast.

All of the images were taken using my Canon 5D Mark II.

This is the image portraying 'Big'. The image was taken using my 17-40mm Lens at it's widest setting. The exposure was 1/80 sec and the aperture was F10. These settings were chosen as I wanted to capture the most detail possible but still hand holding the camera.
The tank was lit by two off camera flashes set to 1/4 power and stood on the floor at opposite ends of the tank side shown. The lighting added some drama to the scene and allowed for proper exposure of the sky.
I intended to show the 'bigness' of the tank itself, the building to it's right and the sky. I feel that is quite a successful image which does portray a sense of scale both of the tank and it's environment. I like to think this image may be interpreted as a scene of urban warfare but changes are people will realise that its a tank on display outside the Imperial War Museum! Post production included increasing the clarity of the sky and tweaking the exposure.

The contrasting image for this pair, is Small. I was originally intending to show big and small in the same image using a toy yellow smart car and find a full size version and capture them together. After a while I decided that this was a bit contrived and the novelty value would reduce the impact of the image. Having purchased the toy car I did go ahead and use it, but in a less conventional manner. The image was taken with the 50mm lens in order to have a shallow depth of field, I wanted the small car to maintain the focus and have the line of the kerb draw the eye upwards to notice the large, real car. The aperture is F7 and the shutter speed 1/100 with natural light. I do like this image and I think it portrays smallness quite well, but it could be viewed as being a bit tacky. This image is on my 'review' list. Post production included increasing the contrast and the saturation.

The next set is hard and soft and I had a clear idea of what I wanted to do here. As these contrasts could be interpreted in so many different ways, I decided to use on of my preferred photographic styles, portraits, to express them.
The first image, hard, was taken using the 50mm lens (chosen for its sharpness) at 1/100 and F8. I wanted detail but not too much background so that the model was the focus and I was shooting hand held with an off camera flashes. The Flash was on manual and placed level with the models face but without any kind of diffusion so that the light was hard. I wanted the image to be sharp and the the hardness to come out of the lighting and the model's expression. A few different lighting set ups and expressions were tried but this is the most successful in my view. Post production included increasing the clarity in order to make the model seem harsher and a small increase to blacks and contrast.

The second image needed to portray softness and for this I decided to use the Lensbaby Muse, a novelty lens which allows a selective focus by pushing the lens in the direction of the chosen focal point. The Lensbaby uses aperture disks and I selected the widest of F2.8 in order to achieve the most shallow depth of field. I wanted the model to seem to fade into her own background so I opened up the blinds, used natural light as well as a flash behind a 40" softbox and another flash with a diffuser to either side of the models face.
I'm happy with the images that were produced, this one to the right is my favourite, but the focus on her face falls away a bit too quickly, I have got some alternatives that I may put in place instead of this one. Post production included some exposure tweaking.

The next set is sharp and blunt. Both of these images were taken using my 100mm Macro lens as I wanted to get close to the subjects and I was using quite a restricted space. The first image portrays sharpness and as soon as I read the brief and chose this pair, I thought about pins and needles.
I tried a few different approaches to the scene from close-ups of the point, to having pins tied up in the air with thread, but this image is the most successful. It works well because the image itself is sharp, thanks to a shutter speed of 1/120 and aperture of F7, but also because the safety pins are all open which adds a threatening element to the scene. I also used off camera flash to add some shadow which makes it seem like there are more sharp points and the viewer is at an increased risk of injury. I converted the image to black and white in Lightroom to add impact and I also increased the blacks and contrast.

I was losing daylight when I took this image so I used a tripod with a shutter speed of 1/20 and an aperture of F8 to keep detail. As the scissors and the case were quite reflective I couldn't use flash for this image.
The image works well as a visual joke, the viewer may take a second to connect the text naming the item to the idea of bluntness. Simon my tutor, has suggested rotating the image to place the focus on the text of the packaging and I do agree that this is the strength of the image. I have a few different versions and angles of this set up so I am going to review them and see which is the best for re-cropping. Post production included an increase of the saturation.

The next set of contrasts is curved and straight. Curved was quite a difficult subject to consider and I decided to use some traditional iron railings and try and get a silhouette effect which would emphasise the curve of the metal.
I used the 100mm macro lens at 1/125 and F3.5 as I wanted the background to be reduced to bokeh. Natural light was used for the image and whilst it does achieve what I set out to, I don't think it really captures the essence of curved.

I am going to revisit this image and see if I can find something more natural or environmental to express curves.

The straight image was another idea that came to me quite quickly. There is a street in central Manchester that has long tram lines running down it which I thought would be perfect to show the idea of straightness. I used a 50mm lens to achieve a sharp image and took the shot at a shutter speed of 1/80 and a aperture of F7.1 as I wanted to get some distance detail. As a result I did lose some of the detail in the sky but is quite an overcast day. Simon has seen this photo and suggested a crop to emphasise the tram lines and take off the distracting elements such as the buses and trams. I had in mind that the feeling of the tram coming 'straight' at you would increase the expression of straightness, but I can see how the urban elements are a distraction to the concept rather than an addition.
This image will be recropped to achieve a better focus.

The next set of contrasts is diagonal and rounded. The diagonal image was taken down a side street in Manchester city centre and at first I was just going to get a shot of the yellow lines running down the side of the building. I liked the idea of a narrow street still expressing a diagonal. As I was framing the image the pedestrian approached and I think it really improves the photo as the eye follows the yellow line and then the man walking maintains this motion and stops the viewer from looking upwards too soon, and spoiling the affect of the intention.
The image was taken at 1/60 F5 using the wide angle lens at 19mm. As the alley was quite narrow, there wasn't much light hence using this shutter speed hand held. Simon has suggested cropping this image further to enhance the diagonal effect and I think that this is defiantly an option.
Rounded provided a bit more difficulty and I will say straight off that I don't really like this image and if anything, it's a placeholder until I can get something better. I had the idea of using bubbles but was constrained to blowing them indoors in poor lighting conditions. This image was taken at 1/100 F3.2 using the 50mm lens and a flash with a pink gel attached.
I cropped the image to make the bubble just of centre which gives it more impact as it draws attention to the absence of anything else. But I do think this image fails to capture the essence of roundness because there just isn't enough to it, I increased the saturation to boost the pinkness and this has just led to the photo looking like a graphic abstract which doesn't convey much emotion or meaning.
Many and Few formed the next pair that I approached and I had the idea of capturing a few lonely, left over sweets at the bottom of a bag of pic'n'mix. Lighting the bag was difficult and I set up two off camera flashes and attempted a variety of lighting set ups. This one worked the best but I do still feel like the image is lacking something.
I used the 50mm at 1/20 and F8 with the camera on a tripod and the flashes quite low, rather than light the scene in terms of exposure, the flashes were being used to try and create more depth.
I had higher expectations of this image and I think it may lack some context within the scene.

The matching image for this set, portraying 'many', was always going to be a focus on some kind of rice or grain. The image was taken with the 100mm macro lens at 1/100 and F3.5 as I was shooting hand held and I wanted a sense of peeking into the jar.
The mix of black turtle beans and adjuki beans gives and interesting texture and the sense of many beans is repeated in the pattern on the carpet. I also tried a square crop tightly around the mouth of the jar following Freeman's advice that a square crop will only work with a circular subject, but the mouth of the jar being out of focus made the edges of the images appear too soft.
The image set of liquid and solid provided quite difficult decisions in terms of subject. I didn't want to take a picture of a river or fountain for liquid, instead I decided to go for an image of water being poured to try and capture a dynamic feeling of liquid. I used a glass and jug and lit the image with a flash to the side using 1/125 and F1.8 on my 50mm lens.
This froze the action in the image and showed the water in detail. In order to emphasise the flow, I added some glitter to the liquid, intentionally picking blue and green as they are the colours that are often associated with water and liquid.
I think this is a successful image, it is quite contrived but it captures the essence of liquidity and the movement of water.

Solid, again created a lot of choices and one of the early choices I made was not to directly contrast the solid image with the liquid image. I wanted the solid image to stand on it's own as a representation of that characteristic. This was the only image that I didn't plan in advance and I spent a lot of time walking around waiting to see something that portrayed solidity. I took images of padlocks, police stations and large vehicles but nothing really spoke to me till I saw this millstone. The stone sits in a flower bed in a park and has it's original location engraved in it. The stone is aged and weathered and it makes a lovely feature in the park, but also feels very solid and unmoving. The image was taken with a wide angle lens at F4 and 1/125 to capture the best exposure. In photoshop I edited the image to create a feeling of impact and age, but also to make the text on the stone easier to read as it is important to the success of the image.
The last set is rough and smooth. For rough I decided to use a different part of the same railings that were used for curved. Taking the macro lens I framed the image around a rusted section of the metal and shot the photo at 1/160 and F4.5 in order to throw out the background and keep the focus on the rough, corroded metal.
This image is a bit uncertain, I think it demonstrates the essence of roughness, but there isn't much more to it, aesthetically it doesn't provide much due to the absence of anything to the right of the image. The size of the railing prevented a full shot, but I could crop this down further to create more of an abstract.
It's difficult really as I didn't want to take too many abstracts especially as that's what I used for the smooth photo.
This is another image taken using the macro lens. I was stood directly over a round glass with water in and some droplets of oil. The oil patterns are all completely smooth and the image is quite tranquil and gives the essence of smoothness as the moves around the oil on the water. I used a square crop as I wanted to take advantage of the circular glass and also to remove any distractions from the subject. I did try a few closer crops where the glass is taken out and the oil fills the frame but these didn't really work. The photo was taken in strong sunlight and I wanted to have a reasonably amount of detail so I used a shutter speed of 1/250 and an aperture of F8.

The last image captures both transparent and opaque in one scene. The main inspiration for this picture comes purely from the fact that for me, when thinking about opaque a pair of tights was the first thing that popped into my head. The image shows a (pretend) burglar attempting to get through some transparent patio doors and I hope that the sense of transparency comes from both the obvious transparency of the window and the intentions of the figure are quite transparent despite little information. The opacity comes in the form of the figure and also to another extent from the lack of visibility of the rest of the room. The image was taken using the 50mm lens for sharpness at 1/160 and F4.5 to throw the back row of houses out of focus. I used an off camera flash outside the doors to light the figure better. In Lightroom, I added a film grain effect to make the image seem like it's been captured by CCTV or is a newspaper clipping.

I am really happy with some of these images, but others seem a bit forced, and a tad literal. What threw me was the assignment brief saying that we had to show extremes of contrast, but I don't want to just create a series of macro abstracts or meaningless photos, so I am going to approach some of the contrasts again.

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