Assignment 1

Assignment 1 - Contrasts was an interesting challenge. One of my biggest struggles was with the amount of ideas that I had to come up with. The assignment asks a lot of the new learner and this task followed a number of mundane exercises that weren't very art based.

So I came up with some initial ideas:

Then created my set:

My personal favourite it the 'big' shot especially as this went on to be one of my L Panel successes at the Royal Photographic Society.

Simon's Interim  Feedback:

Hi David,
I've had a look at your images and make the following comments:

Generally I think that you have a good set of images - they are well exposed, and sharp - a good start.

This assignment is concerned with expressing the ESSENCE of each contrast in pictures. It isn't enough, as some student do, just to photograph something big or some thing small, or something high up and something low down. It is the ESSENCE we are after, the feeling of height or smallness conveyed in the picture. The assignment is intended to open your eyes to the main characteristic of a subject, whether it is shape, colour, pattern etc.

I think that some of them work better than others in interpreting the attribute they aim to... I know that the assignment talks about making up pairs of photos but I do think that each image should be capable of representing the attribute on its own. I think that some show a good imagination - I particularly like Hard/Soft - although I think that the soft image could do with less soft focus - the hard personifies the attribute.
It would be really useful to have more information about your thoughts in choosing the various attributes of the images - why this particular crop, the lighting, composition etc. I did look at your blog but this has little information about these choices. To illustrate my point I'm including other possibilities - Re Diagonal how do you feel about my alternative 
Re straight, how about:
I find that the abstract nature of Straight 2 allows the concentration on the straight lines whereas the inclusion of the trams etc distracts the attention.
I like the sharp image the harsh contrasty lighting but I think that blunt image could be re-interpreted perhaps by rotating the image, concentrating more on the "Safety Scissors" label and possibly replacing the actual scissors to take up more of the image -  ?
I don't want to go through all of the other images as that would amount to a more formal comment on the assignment - 
Let me have some information about what choices you have made about lighting, composition subject etc 
Don't be too literal in your images remember its the essence of the attribute that you are capturing.
Give me a call if you want to discuss more about the assignment or my comments.



Which led to these changes:

And my official feedback:

Tutor Report Form

Student name:
David Atkinson-Beaumont
Student number:
Course/Module title:
Assignment number:

Overall Comments

You have done well with this assignment David; Having had a look at your blog I can see that you have given it a lot of thought to your work and I’m looking forward to working with you on the course.

You present your pictures well and technically, they are well exposed, sharp and well balanced (although some of the compositions could be re-framed but more of this in my comments on your individual submissions).

This assignment is concerned with expressing the ESSENCE of each contrast in pictures. It isn't enough, as some student do, just to photograph something big or some thing small, or something high up and something low down. It is the ESSENCE we are after, the feeling of height or smallness conveyed in the picture. The assignment is intended to open your eyes to the main characteristic of a subject, whether it is shape, colour, pattern etc. I think that some of your images work better than other in this respect but that is just my opinion and there is no right or wrong answer in this respect.

Although the assignment centres around pairs of contrasting images you have quite rightly given consideration to seeing how each image can stand on its own as a representation of the topic.

One or two comments on your learning log

Having your log is very helpful and you have made a good start. You include a lot of information about what the conditions were (lighting, aperture shutter speed etc) and your thoughts – what you have learned, what worked well and what didn’t. Not all students do this it will prove to be invaluable when you come to review your work and will give the assessors plenty of information about how you have progressed through the course.

Comments on the actual images in the assignment

I like these images. They are well thought out, exposed, sharp and work well as a complimentary pair. In the “big” image you have made some sensible choices – the use of wide angle lens with its foreshortening effect emphasises the size of the tank and you have kept in the building and sky as you say to help convey the notion of bigness. I’m just not quite convinced that someone viewing this image would have the notion of “Big” pop into their head. AS I mentioned in my general comments there is no right or wrong in this respect it’s what resonates with you personally. I wonder if you had taken the image with a lower viewpoint - more looking up at the side of the tank – if this would have worked better with the foreshortenig effect of the wide angle lens really used to emphasise the large /BIG heavy wheels and tracks with the building and sky behind; more of a small child’s perspective (taken at about two feet off the ground rather than five feet) to whom everything tends to look big.

The “small” works well. I agree with you that to use this image as an illustration of big and little together would have been a bit obvious. The low angle viewpoint works well as does the differential focus. I just wonder if there is too much opportunity for the attention to drfit to the big mini when it should be mainly directed to wards the toy car. With this in mind I have suggested a different crop – more of a square format to cut out the extraneous stuff at the sides as well as chopping off the top of the mini. Ideally I think that you should have a bit more of the image below the toy. See what you think

As I mentioned in my earlier initial comments I like this pair and think they work well both as a contrasting pair and individual images. The Hard is an interesting, and to my mind successful, interpretation of the topic and gets away from a picture of a hard object which, is a more literal interpretation. You have chosen harsh point source lighting to give the contrasty light that helps convey the topic – you say that the light was level with the face – did you try it below the face pointing upwards to give a more macabre style? It’s just a thought. The expression on the model’s face is great and the fact the she is making eye contact helps. Another thought is the clothes that the model is wearing – I like the black and the v neckline they all add to the image but I did wonder (and this is the counsel of perfection perhaps not practicality) if a military style might work with a high stiff collar cutting into the neck - almost Gestapo SS style - might also be good.

As to the soft image, this is a good counterfoil to the hard. You have two slightly different version one where the model is looking up to the left hand side of the frame, and the other where she is making direct eye contact through the camera. While I like the idea of using soft focus I do think it is a little overdone – again I stress that this is my view and there are no right answers – I think you are on the right lines where you say that you want the model to fade into the background but I think that the positioning of the lighting in relation to her face is casting too much of a shadow; a more traditional High key lighting set up with the light directed straight on to her face might be better. Also, perhaps a tighter crop. I have picked off the web an example to show what I mean. This sort of lighting with a moderate soft focus would I think work better.

This pair work - the images are sharp, well composed and exposed and get the topics across well. As I mentioned in my initial comments, the original blunt image you showed me could be re-interpreted perhaps by rotating the image, concentrating more on the "Safety Scissors" label and possibly replacing the actual scissors. Your second image of blunt works much better. I like that way you have kept the label “Safety Scissors” out of focus and yet it is readable while the blades of the scissors are nice and crisp. you have a lot of space on the left hand side - was this deliberate? Do you think that a tighter crop is better or worse? This gets the blunt message across well.

One issue with the Sharp/pointed image: you refer to the topic as sharp and this is well illustrated by the safety pin image. But the pair of terms in the course manual refers to pointed not sharp and as I say, the safety pin image conveys “sharp” or “dangerous” – I’m less convinced that it conveys pointed quite so well. To get this across you may have been better to concentrate on the points of the pins in some way. On a technical point you used an aperture of f7, if you had wanted to get all of the pins sharp you would have needed to use a much smaller aperture day f22 or f32 if your macro lens stops down that far.

In your first version of straight you had an image of tram lines with the tram and other buildings in the distance. I felt that the tram and buildings tended to get in the way and distract from the notion of straightness. Your second image where you have cropped the image differently works much better. Now the whole image is about straight lines – the tram lines the lettering and the lines of the rectangles in the road work really well. Great!

The curved image doesn’t work for me – I know that you have curves in the image but the straight vertical bar placed vertically in the frame is such a strong element that it detracts enormously from the curve notion. Technically the image is fine I like the background being so out of focus that it isolates the shape of the railing. I think that you would do better to concentrate more on the curves of the railing and you can do this by re-cropping and rotating the image – see what you think:

I still think that it’s a little obvious in contrast to the straight image. Other ideas that represent curvaceous could include the graceful curves of the rear wing of a sports car, a close up high key image of the soft skin of a baby’s bum or the cheek bone of a girl.

This is another pair that work well together – they are well exposed and sharp but as I mentioned in my initial comments, the diagonal image could perhaps be improved by some cropping. I think that your reworked example is much better and I like the way that you have rotated the image so that the walls are not vertical. One point that I would make is that while it’s ok to crop the image in post production, it’s much better to capture the image in the camera - so when out shooting take time to think about the different possibilities in a scene.

I liked your original image for rounded but your second image is much better- its bright, vibrant and really works as an illustration of roundness. I like your low viewpoint to concentrate on the spheres while keeping a part of the window in the frame so it’s not completely abstract. If I have one criticism its that not all of the spheres are sharp. Ideally I would have stopped down – I realize that this would have needed a tripod but I think it would have been worth it getting everything really crisp.

These images work ok and fulfill the brief but I don’t think that they show as much imagination in interpreting the brief as some of your others – particularly the few image. I think that you recognize this yourself when you say in your learning log that the image lacks something. Technically, the image is fine – its sharp, you have used good lighting and placed the few sweets well in the bottom right hand third of the frame. It’s the idea behind the image as an illustration of few that is a bit flat and that improvement would need a re-think and a different image all together.

The many image works better as an illustration of many than the few image. I like that way that the motif of the beans is replicated in the carpet (or is it vica versa) and I think it is this element that lifts the image out of a too literal interpretation that is the failing of the few. If you had concentrated on filling a square crop with the circular mouth of the jar, I think that you might have lost this echo in the carpet to a great extent. One other idea would have been to do away with the lid of the jar … this could be done by transferring the beans to an ordinary jam jar I’ve had a very crude go at tweaking your image in photoshop to remove the lid see what you think

I like these images – I think that they work as a pair and as individual images.

With the moving image you have gone for a high shutter speed to freeze the motion of the water. However, to get the right exposure you have used a wide aperture and this has given you a very narrow depth of field and the result is that the water entering the glass and the glass itself is out of focus and this spoils the “frozen effect” you are aiming for. You don’t say what iso you used but I would have been tempted to use natural light, a higher shutter speed to definitely freeze the motion (1/125th is a bit slow, I would have gone fro 1/250th or 1/500th) and stop down the lens to give greater depth of field. I like the idea of adding the glitter as this enhances the liquidity idea. I might also have included more of the water in the glass to show how it swirls about when it is poured in.

The solid image is an interesting take on the topic – the obvious counter point to liquid water is ice and unless you can find a novel way of depicting it (ice cubes and icicles have been over done) best avoided. The notion of solidity, permanent long-lasting is what I get from your image of the mill stone and this works well. However it works more as the pair to the liquid rather than on its own. By itself, I’m not so sure that solid would be the thing that spring’s to mind. It would be interesting to see what others think. Technically the image is fine – I might have had a fraction more space top the left of the stone and placed the stone slightly off centre to create a better balance – to me it’s slightly light on the right hand side, the stone is central but you have the larger patch of foliage on the left with makes the right side light..

These are good images! The rough is really rough – you have got the technical issues sown up - lighting – side lighting to enhance the feeling of texture closeup to concentrate on the detail re placement and the space off to the right of the picture – this doesn’t disturb me too much. Any more of a close up and I think that it would start to become too abstract and loose the notion of roughness.

The smooth works for me. I like the square crop; I would have been tempted to stop down more – some of the oil is drifting out of focus in the centre of the frame. Again you don’t include the iso setting - if you needed to keep to 1/250th increase the iso and stop down alternatively you could look at using the hyperfocal distance as a way of checking what is going to be kept in focus at particular aperture settings and focusing accordingly.

The combined view - Transparent/Opaque
I think this image combines the two attributes well. You have the transparent nature of the glass and the opaqueness of the tights over the “burglar’s” head. I’m less convinced with the arguments that the intentions are “transparent” and the “lack of visibility of the rest of the room” is an illustration of opaqueness. I am a bit disturbed by the large black object in the bottom righthand corner, You could have used a tighter crop around the burglar to remove this from the scene.

Suggested reading/viewing
In your profile you mention that you are more interested in the artistic nature of photography than the technical – have you had a look at some of Donovan Wylie’s work or Walker Evans?

Tutor name:
Simon Barber
12 Oct 2010
Next assignment due
Mid / Early November

Simon Barber

Reflection and New Images

Having made some interim changes, the main change that I have done post-assignment is a new curved image:
I think this demonstrates the essence of a curve a lot more than my previous image. I have also re-cropped the combined image as the television did not need to be in shot.

One of the areas I struggled with at this stage in the course was the idea that Simon liked me to crop things into aspect ratios that would not print easily. As the bulk of my photography has been focused around wedding photography, I've always been concious of keeping good images to standard paper sizes, 10x8 etc so where I have needed to crop, which I know should be considered during capture, I have always kept to this format, but I have learnt to break this habit where necessary.