The Art of Photography

Thursday, 30 December 2010

Exhibition - The Art Books of Henri Matisse

The Art Books of Henri Matisse at Bank of America Merrill Lynch Gallery.

Just discovered the gallery.  Struggled to understand the poems fully.  (literary French).

Love the simplicity of his drawings and use of colour.

This statement resonated with me: (particularly while working on my assignment on contrasts)

The eye must not be fatigued by contrast. These..should be imperceptible, following a melodious line.  It is a question of visiting the plates in the same range of colours in order to avoid surprises.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Exhibition - Shadow Catchers

Went with the girls to the V&A to see Shadow Catchers.

Really impressive exhibition.  Each of the 5 artists has used a different way of creating an image onto paper without a camera.  The video is fantastic. Listening to how they saw the images and then set about creating them. Was particulary impressed with the way Susan Derges used water and moonlight.  I was attrated to the simple images like the leaves on paper and the christening dress.
The drop of water light by a torchlight. Simple but very dramatic.

I've tried using liquid light.  Bought some sunography paper to play around with. (just need sun!)

Will go back to this exhibition after Xmas and absorb a bit more.  Seeing and understanding light is key to any image creationWe all intend to look for workshops to learn a bit more.

Thursday, 16 December 2010


Take a fresh look at photos previously taken and read through notes to date. Can I see a different picture within these images.  Use three different subjects.

This scene taken at sunset in Italy. Looking out over vast countryside with a stunning sunset.  I intended  the trees to be silhouetted. I think the narrow crop i have now chosen (below) improves the image by first removing some of the black at the bottom of the image which doesn't add anything. Similarly by taking out the top part of the sky which is not red the scene now focuses on the bright red and pink sky.  I think it also gives greater emphasis to the vast plain. For future reference i think this image would have benefited from being a narrow stitched photo.
 A street photo with a few faults. Firstly it is crooked. There is no major focus to the image.
 Cropping into a vertical frame concentrating on the second elderly woman and the flowers tells more of a story and now focuses the viewer to the woman.  The story becomes quite different.  Is she buying flowers for someone? Why? This change of story can also make the picture not truthful.  What do you want the image to say is the lesson here.
 The young girl is delighting in the snow. However placed in the centre of the frame it is not a strong image.
 A tight crop of the girl says more about the snow than the vast amount of it in the original. Now it is clear she is catching snow in her mouth. that the snow is falling all around her.  Her rosy cheeks emphasis the coldness.
Each of these pictures has been improved by cropping. If only I had seen the tighter image when taking it in the first place! Take more time to see the picture you want.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Galleries and More

I keep three journals.  This blog, a written version of it which acts as a kind of draft copy of the blog and a small notebook that I carry around with me.  The last one is mainly used for jotting down ideas as they occur to me.  maybe I see something out of the bus window, or something in a restaurant.  Sometimes just an idea that pops into my head.  It may be a scribbled diagram of how I visualise a picture.

Should I add those comments here?  It would be great if students commented on each others blogs. it doesn't seem to happen from what I've seen.  Yes there are the chat forums but it's not the same.

Then there are the exhibitions I go to.  Should I comment on what inspired me at the time?

I think I might try it for a few weeks and see if it adds to this blog journal.  I'll try and get feedback from somewhere.  Maybe that doesn't really matter either. It might just be very useful as a note to myself on what I felt at the time.

I'll start with lat Sunday, 12 December.

Saw the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London.

Incredible shots by very young photographers.  Loads of kids visiting obviously inspired by this.

I also noticed a recurring theme in the photographers comments about the amount of time spent on achieving their shot.  It sometimes was a place familiar to them that they studied for 2 or 3 years, sometimes a place they grew up in and knew so well. More often the picture was not spontaneous but the result of many hours , days weeks or years.

Photograph the familiar.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Vertical and Horizontal Frames

The brief for this exercise was to take 20 photographs as vertical, then to rephotograph the same place in a horizontal format.
To begin with I thought it would be easy if I just did one vertical one horizontal, but actually this didn't work.  My first couple of attempts made me realise I needed to think differently when shooting in this style.  I finally found that by taking an area an just walking around seeing the scene in the format I intended to shoot in gave much better result.  I didn't take the same picture in both formats as in my first attempts but viewed the area (a small park) looking for the pictures that would suit the format. 

For me this was very liberating and I started seeing more shapes and lines once I took this approach.

The first few vertical frames I looked for tall objects, the trees, the statues and buildings.  Then I saw lines and patterns, shapes that benefited from a vertical composition.

When I shot the horizontal images I was more aware of shapes, patterns and balance for this format as a result of concentrating solely on vertical images for the first part of this exercise.

This is a technique I will employ in the future when I'm looking to make my images more interesting.  It is a great way to see more than your initial view.  Different ways to balance an image and taking your time to see everything.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Positioning The Horizon

This image is my preferred choice out of the series taken for this exercise.  See my reasons below.

For this exercise our brief was to take a series of photos with the horizon in various positions within the frame. To consider the different elements in each arrangement.
My series is of Loch Fyne. Both the sky and the loch are interesting so choosing the sky over the loch is really a matter of taste as both have drama and focusing on either produces a good picture. The sky has dramatic clouds. The loch has beautiful reflections. 
I then considered the foreground. Lots of foreground with very little sky as in the 3rd image on the right. This is a dramatic image with lots of texture. The horizon is very high in the frame.
On the other hand placing the horizon in the lower part of the frame, as in the images 2nd on the left and bottom on the right, show the drama of the sky.  The clouds and the hills become the dominate factors. 

In the end I decided the image I would work on was the 3rd on the left.
Why?  I like this image placing the horizon in the top third of the frame and incorporating the sky in the reflection. I have moved slightly so that there is strong foreground interest.  I felt that the seaweed in the bottom left hand corner balanced against the hill on the top right hand side.
The exercise is about where to place the horizon but I think that you also have to think why you are placing it in one position over another. 

Wednesday, 17 November 2010


This exercise is looking at the visual balance of the frame.  Taking 6 previously shot photos and deciding how the balance works in each one.
                                                                  The small object is placed near the centre of the frame with the larger object on the right of the frame. The boy on the right is offset by the woman's hand in the centre of the frame.
                                                                  The balance in this image is very similar to the one above of a small object offset by a large object. However in this one the small object is nearer to the left while the large object is closer to the centre. The relationship here is between the man and the bunch of grapes n the bottom of the frame.
This time we have three equal parts placed in the centre of the frame giving symmetry to the image. The wind kite with the man in the middle of the kite gives a centre balanced image.

                                                                   A large and small object offset in this image. Here we are also adding vertical and horizontal lines to the balance. The woman descending the stairs on the very left balanced against the stairs filling the right of the frame.
                                                                  A large and small object in the centre offset by a large object on the right. The large statue with the woman appearing small besdie it are offset by each other and the windows on the right.
The image below was interesting, as after looking at the balance in this one I decided to crop out a lot of path in the bottom of the image as I felt it added nothing and really upset the balance.  Looking at it now I think it is better balance between the woman with the umbrella and the dark trees in the background.

Initially it was not obvious where the balance in the pictures was. The more I looked at them the more obvious it became.  I could also see how a slightly different composition would have improved some of  The last one especially. I cropped it to make some improvement but there is still too much empty space on the right hand side. Had I been further to the left with the woman walking into the picture rather than in the middle of it, it would be a better picture.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Focal Lengths and Different View Points

 Following on from the previous exercise, this time I have taken an image using a wide-angled lens at 20mm and another with a zoom at 105mm. 
 In each image I have attempted to fill as much of the frame as possible with the statue. Using the wide angled lens I am almost standing on top of the statue. (image left). This image gives a sense of depth to the image.  The foreground appears very close yet the background far away. The strong diagonals created by the fences and tree give a stronger sense of environment and pull you into the picture.
The image on the right taken at 105mm was taken from a distance from the statue. This reduces the depth of the image Giving the feeling that the bacground is very close. You now are forced to study the detail of the statue on its own.
Portrait work would benefit from the zoom lens but the curved edges of the wide angle are not necessarily going to be very flattering if glamour is what you are after.  However a sense of environment may give a stronger image.

Overall from this exercise I can see that thinking about what you want the image to say will determine what lens and focal length you should choose.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Focal Length

The brief for this exercise was to see the effect of changing from one focal length to another.  Either by using different points on a zoom lens or by changing lens.
I used a 24-105 lens and have taken 3 images, 105mm 67mm 24mm. The camera was set on a tripod and each shot taken from the same position.
The result shows that although the statue in the three images appears closer in the image at 105mm and far away when taken at 24mm, the relationship between the saute and the surrounding environment is exactly the same.  If you zoom in on the 24mm shot it looks the same as the image shot at 105mm. 

Changing focal length while remaining in the same position is about magnification.  How much of the scene and how close I want it to appear.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

A Sequence of Composition

The image above is my final choice.  Why? Because it sums up the group and the event.  The elaborate hats worn by both men and women, but also this image shows the lineage.  A pearly princess as the focus of the image. The queen out of focus.  The elaborate hats. The younger's hat introducing a newer interpretation of the a pearly grand hat.

                                                                               Working backwards, what was I trying to say? How did I go about it.  I went to a couple of Pearly events to complete this exercise. The costumes are wonderful and I began by taking pictures showing a lot more of the costumes and with more people in the images.  I looked at parts of the costumes including the image focusing on one woman's bag.  However it was the hats that attracted me the most and that I felt I wanted to say something about.   I moved to these two women on the left and took a series with a different focal point.                                                                   Then when the princess walked into the scene I knew that this would say more. I have the glamour of the hats and the new generation. I chose to make the princess the main focus of the image.                                                                     
Below are the series of images I took as I was attempting to find the right composition.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Object in different positions in the frame

Of all the pictures in this exercise the one above is my favourite. The girl framed on the left hand side balances with the rays of the sun.  I also like the image below, placing the main object on the left hand side. The main problem with the image below is the sky has lost drama.  The sun went behind a cloud.

Finding a background with out too many distractions wasn't terribly easy.  The sun and light has changed in this series.  However for the purposes of this exercise the subject remained in the same place, thus enabling me to place her in various parts of the frame. This is another exercise I have done a couple of times, each time taking more time to think about where I want the subject to be and why. 

What I do need to pay more attention to is the edges of my frame. I'm getting messy corners.

The picture above has the girl in in the centre of the frame.  Your eye is drawn to this part of the image leaving dead space on the left hand side.
When I moved to place the girl in the right hand side of the frame it did not resolve the problem of empty space.  Although the bollard (is that what they are called?) just sneaking in on the bottom left hand corner is a distraction that needs to be cloned out.  (I left it in to remind myself to take more care when framing this type of scene. )

The same scene in portrait is not so interesting. My least favourite is the one on the far right. The girl is in the centre of the frame with roughly equal amounts of sky, water and foreground. Although this is the supposed thirds rule it really doesn't do anything for this image.  The first portrait picture I think benefits from tight cropping (2nd from left), although the image is now just a dark blob. (I had chosen to make the person a silhouette and now as it is so dominant it really needs more detail. The third image would have been better if the sky had more interest and drama in it. The sun has become a burnt out corner of the image with little to offer the picture.  This looks better when cropped just above the mast of the boat.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Fitting the Frame to the Subject

I had lots of ideas for this exercise and did it several times. Each time I became increasingly aware of how I look at a subject.  The first shot above was taken without any thought.  Just rock up at the station and take a picture of a statue. Result: a snapshot.

 The second step in this exercise was to fit the subject into the frame as tightly as possible.  Bit tricky not chopping off his feet.

What do I think of this shot? Fine for a manual on statues. you can see what/who it is. But does it spin my wheels?

The next part of the exercise was to get in close and not show any edges.  I took several pictures here.  The obvious ones, Head, feet (I'm always taking pictures of shoes and feet).  Then chose just the hand and part of the satchel. (see below)

I liked this image the most.  It is relevant to both the man and the environment. I like the colours and textures.

Closing in like this can make a very strong image which I think it does in this case.

The requirements of the fourth image was to stress the environment .  Obviously I am in a railway station, but how to stress this.  Stairs, escalators, barriers, restaurants all presented a challenge as to where the best position to take this would be.  I took several pictures from different angles. Lighting was also a bit of a challenge.  I decided on this shot making the statue a silhouette, bringing in the train and a traveller passing by.

I think it works. It is clearly a railway station to the viewer.

Next we are asked to crop this last image in various ways. Each crop below makes the story different. Is the man saying good-bye. Is he looking for his train? Is he just another commuter.  How you decide to frame the same subject can make a big difference to the story you are trying to convey.

I've learnt a lot from this exercise. Stop, look, look again, but most of all think about what you want to say.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Took me awhile to get the hang of this. I found it easier to hold the camera rather than have it set up on a tripod. I also found that if you place your feet where you want to end up then twist your body to the start it makes following through easier and keeps the picture straight.
The collage above have shutter speeds 1/30 - 1/20 - 1/15 (reading left to right).

Below is another image taken at 1/50th.

Comparing images from the shutter speed exercise and this one I like the images at the slower shutter speeds.  They give a greater sense of speed. The blurriness seems less important in telling the story of my cyclist speeding up and down the street.

Of the two techiniques I think panning gives a greater sense of speed. The blurred background really gives the sense of whizzing by.

If I was photographing the Tour de France I might like to show it with two photos. One blurred to stress the speed they ride at and another to identify the rider.  However this second one could  be a portrait.

Shutter Speeds

 Shooting info:
TV: 1/160
AV: 4.0
ISO: 1000
Focal Length: 24.0mm
 Shooting Info:
TV: 1/50
AV: 4.5
ISO: 500
Focal Length: 24.00mm
Shooting info:
TV: 1/10
AV: 5.6
ISO: 160
Focal Length; 24.0mm

Camera set up on tripod at fixed focal length.  Early evening on a grey day against dark building was limited light.  I've changed the ISO to try and keep the AV reasonable similar through the series of approx 24 shots at a range of shutter speeds from very fast to very slow.
I've selected three out of the series to highlight the difference.
At 1/160th the action of the cyclist is frozen. At 1/50th there is a sense of movement but the cyclist is still identifiable.  However at 1/10th the cyclist is now like a ghost passing by.  However this does give a greater sense of speed.
Timing is tricky for each of these. I was aiming to catch the cyclist in front of the wooden doors each time.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Various Apertures

Image 1: AV 16
Image 2: AV 4.5
Image 3: AV 1.4

Focus point = tail light on third bike.

The first image is sharp from close up all the way to the distance.
The second image is not as sharp in the distance.
The third image at such a wide aperture the area in focus is limited to the area around the focus point ie the tail light on the third bike.
 Note the difference in this image to the previous post. At a wide open aperture it is very important to know exactly where you want your focus point to be.

Focus with a set aperture

AV: 1.4

In each of these images the I have focused on a different bike.  The first image I have selected the furtherest away bike. The second image the middle bike and the third image the closest bike.
For this subject the third image focused on the closest bike is my preference.  In the other two images it is harder to know what the image is trying to portray.  When focusing on the first bike (image 3) it is clear that it is a Barclay's bike even showing the ID of the particular bike. Having the rest of the line of bikes out of focus tells the viewer that the are many bikes without confusing the image.  It also puts the car at the back of the image so out of focus it doesnt' detract from the picture.  In the first image the car is clear to the point of detracting from the image.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Project: Getting to know your camera

Shooting Data:
AE priority
TV: 1/160
AV: 8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 200mm

At this focal distance I am almost in the apartments.
(Edges are cropped as I am using a full frame lens on a 50D)

Shooting Data:
AE priority
TV: 1/160
AV: 8
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 50mm

This image is closest to what the eye sees naturally.

Shooting Data:
AE priority
TV: 1/200
AV: 8
exposure compensation: +2/3
ISO: 100
Focal Length: 20mm

At this wide angle I can see a lot more. At the edges of the frame the buildings are distorted.