Exercise 1.4 Frame

Exercise 1.4 Frame

The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital
camera. This function projects a grid onto the viewfinder screen to help align vertical
and horizontal lines, such as the horizon or the edge of a building, with the edge of
the frame. If your camera doesn’t have a grid display, imagine a simple division of the
viewfinder into four sections.

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the
viewfinder grid. Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of
grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.
When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve
composed. Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line
exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame. Composition is part of
form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as
you progress through the course.

‘Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content. Focus on composition
and the material nature of any specific medium’. (Wells, 2009, p.347)

Select six or eight images that you feel work individually as compositions and also
together as a set. If you have software for making contact sheets you might like
to present them as a single composite image. Add the images to your learning log
together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines
containing your thoughts and observations.

Reference

Wells, L. (ed.) (2009) Photography: A Critical Introduction (4th edition). Abingdon:
Routledge

 

Exercise 1.4 Frame

Rutland Water

Once again, the weather was overcast and the light very poor.  This doesn’t seem to have been too much of a problem though, as while the tones in these images may be flat and muted, I find this actually adds to the mood.

contactssheet

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/160 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 18mm

Commentary

In such an organic setting, there is a lack of any leading lines, or indeed much in the way of lines running parallel or perpendicular to the frame, besides the horizon.

Further, I don’t really think you could call the concrete block a ‘point’ but it does have the effect of drawing your eye.

While shooting, I composed the bottom left part of the grid, with the block sitting on the right of that section.

It’s effect on the whole image, though, is to exert some kind of gravitational pull, dragging your attention down and to the left.

I find image as a whole, like all of those in this set, dreamlike. This may be as much to do with the light as it is with the subject matter and the composition.

The trees seem alive, and by that I mean more alive that you would expect a tree to be. They seem to be waving, and laughing… almost threatening. And then what’s going on with that concrete block? It’s like some modern day standing stone. In a thousand years, will archeologists and historians ponder over its purpose, as they do with Stonehenge?

 

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/6.3   |  1/160 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm

Commentary

Again, I composed the bottom left corner, having a nice arrangement of roots and trunks.

The edge of the lake leads the eye to the middle ground, giving a sense of depth, while the horizon again runs parallel/perpendicular to the frame, adding a sense of structure.

I find the tree roots and their proximity to the frame draw the eye, almost like the tree sucks you in, then draws you up through the branches and out through the few remaining leaves. Is this photography or biology?

There is a point, a white object on the bank in the background. I don’t find it draws my eye too much, which is good, as I see it more as an imperfection than a point of interest.

 

 

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5   |  1/80 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 34mm

Commentary

I composed the post and tree trunk in the upper middle section of the grid.

The lake on the left forms a leading line, but the line I find stronger is more implied, than present. Running from the middle right, up and towards the centre, just left of the post, there is a line where the tree roots break free of the soil. This draws my eye, dragging me in, towards the tree.

There are a lot of lines running parallel/perpendicular to the frame, and somehow, they seem to create a sense of order or structure within the image, in all of the organic chaos.

How this image makes me feel, is somewhat unsettled. The roots remind me of The Evil Dead… and somehow, The Walking Dead. It’s that mindless clutching, grasping anything, trying to survive.

 

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/125 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm

Commentary

The trunk and roots were composed in the top left.

The lake edge creates a leading line, drawing you into the middle distance, maybe towards the roots and trunk in the shadows. But then those roots in the near ground seem not to pull you in, but to be reaching out of the frame, towards you.

There seems to be a theme here. It’s quite unsettling.

 

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/5.6   |  1/125 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 30mm

Commentary

I composed the chain, in the centre section of the grid.

No prizes for spotting the leading line.

It’s not so much leading your eye to the lake, as dragging you in against your will.  While the edge of the lake, running parallel to the top of the frame acts as a separator. You are here, but you’re going ‘there’.

I love the organic nature of this. There’s dried, rotting matter on everything, like the rocks and chain are alive… in an undead kind of way.

 

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Technical Info

Canon EOS 1300D  |  f/7.1   |  1/250 sec   |   ISO 100   |   Focal Length 21mm

Commentary

The lighter end of the fallen post seems to act as a point, standing out somewhat from the other objects. There’s another point, on the extreme right edge of the frame, almost falling out of the frame, in fact. I rather wish it wasn’t there, as it speaks of human activity, and breaks the ‘abandoned’ spell.

There are no really obvious ‘solid’ leading lines, though there is a line in the clouds, a blown out section where the sky shone through the gaps. It speaks of depth and distance.

The line of the horizon, running parallel with the top of the frame, is interesting. The lake and the sky being similar shades and colours, the thin line of the horizon seems almost abstract, as if we don’t really reach earth until we get to the shore.

And what a shore it is. Desolate. Abandoned. A lonely place. Things happened here, but maybe a long time ago.

 

Conclusion

This exercise has surprised me greatly.

I used to think I knew how to compose an interesting photograph. I now believe I was wrong.

When doing this exercise, it seemed an alien and completely wrong way to go about things. It went against everything I thought I knew about composing an image. And then I came to look at the shots I’d taken, on my computer.

They looked like photos taken by someone else. Definitely not me.

I liked them.

I still like them.

Something about confining the photograph I had in mind into a small section of the frame, and leaving everything else to chance… with lots of random ‘stuff’, or empty space. It adds gravity and weight to the areas that have been composed. It draws the eye. It seems, somehow, powerful.

 

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Exercise 1.3 Line

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line

Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wideangle
lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within
the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to
the line.

Part 1

Before starting, just a quick mention of the fact that I’m using a different camera from my previous shots. These were taken with a Canon EOS 1300D.

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Not an entirely straightforward shot. There are lines diverging and converging all over the place.   Sometimes this is down to architectural design, and sometimes down to perspective. I wouldn’t like to predict which way the viewer’s eye might be drawn around the image, but I think it’s safe to say it doesn’t begin in the conventional ‘top-left’.

I’m not actually sure I buy into the idea that ‘In the same way that we read a book from the top-left, we read most photographs from the top-left corner…'(Diprose & Robbins, 2012:33). Maybe it’s my slightly miswired brain, but I never look at images that way, and this image doesn’t strike me as one that would lend itself well to viewing in such a way. Speaking entirely for myself, with this image, I start on the bottom-right, get swept upwards, to either the left or the right of the fountain, stop at the building in the background, and then move back down on the opposite side.

On a technical level, I found myself frustrated here, as with most of the other shots in this series, with having to keep the camera in fully automatic mode. It produced some surprising shots, but some of its choices, I would not have made. Here, I would have gone for a narrower aperture and longer exposure. While the closer streams of water being frozen in time are nice, I’d gladly exchange them for a little more clarity in the background. (or maybe less… and blur the background out dramatically).

Image 2

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A more conventional shot. The lines may be curvy, but the path is easy to follow, and clearly leads the eye into the background.

I’m happy with the settings the camera used here, particularly with how it responded to the light, and to be honest, this new Canon 1300D is producing results that I could only dream of while using my Panasonic FZ50.

Image 3

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This is the most fancy gutter I’ve ever seen, and it seems fitting that it’s the only part of the image to be in focus. The lines drawn by the gutter get hidden by the lay of the land, but their continued convergence is implied, if not actually seen, into the distance.

Image 4

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Light glowing on the pavings in the centre of the foreground draws the eye, and then the leading lines redirect the viewer towards the middle ground, where the closer proximity to the plane of focus makes the people and cars stand out. The two youths on the right, almost unnoticed due to being in shadow, were having quite a laugh, as I crouched down, trying to get an interesting shot.

Image 5

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Where the eye is drawn to and ends may vary, depending on your starting point. If you start with the water at the bottom of the steps, you may be drawn up to the point it is flowing from, and go no further. If you start at the bottom left, you are drawn up by the converging lines of the stone blocks, and then swept away into the unseen distance by the lines on the buildings behind.

Image 6

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This is another shot where I probably wouldn’t have done things the way the camera chose to, though in retrospect, I think the camera has done a better job than I would have.

The first thing I see is the writing (making a liar of myself by starting at the top-left)… I’m not sure if this is graffiti or art… given the area, it could be either. My eye is then drawn along the wall and pavement until I see the car and shop in the distance, but then… hold on…. back again to the near-ground…. what’s that wine glass doing there?

Image 7

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The row of white painted girders, and the roof line, draw the eye into the distance, only to be drawn back by the yellow line, and then… wow, the blue of the sky matches the blue on the train. And the white on the train matches the white on the girders and roof.

The train seems to add to the suggestion of forward motion into the distance, partly because of the lines of perspective (helped by the sweeping painted lines on its flanks), but also by the very nature of its existence. Trains go forwards… quickly. The fact that it wasn’t actually moving doesn’t really matter. It’s all about implied motion.

There’s another detail which seems to suggest speed and motion, despite it’s complete absence. The fluorescent lights. Their spacing suggests the white lines as seen by a driver on a road or motorway.

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line

Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects
of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may
like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong
lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more
abstract compositions.
Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate
to the frame? There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can
leave the frame. For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition
too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and
straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no
way back into the picture except the point that it started from. So for photographs
containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead
somewhere within the frame.

Part 2

Image 1

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This is new for me. The photo with grain silos and poplar trees in Assignment 1 was probably the first time I’d ever deliberately removed all signs of perspective, so this is only the second time.

So, not only are there no leading lines, but most of the perpendicular and parallel lines leave the frame. There are very few whole objects in the shot. The lamps. A small notice. A couple of panes of glass, and the street name. Everything else gets cut off by the frame.

But you still know what you are looking at. I find this interesting.

Image 2

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Connected to the previously shown ‘fanciest gutter I have ever seen’, is the fanciest drain I have ever seen.  It’s a big thing, to the point that I couldn’t fit the whole object into the frame, but as per the previous image, cutting off parts of the subject with the edges of the frame doesn’t seem to matter.

I like how the design of the mosaic creates a sense of flowing movement, suggesting the movement of water into the drain, even when there is none.  The whole gutter/drain construction outside of Sheffield Hallam University came as quite a surprise to me. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Truth be told… I’ve always lived in towns and villages, where aesthetics have generally been secondary to practicalities, so Sheffield (where all of these shots were taken) is something of a wondrous place to me.

Image 3

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You can see more of what this place is. It might be quite a dull image, were it not for the detail of the brickwork. The normal lay of the bricks is disrupted by sections with diagonal brick patterns. It’s the kind of thing sometimes seen in Tudor architecture, though this is by no means a Tudor building.

I like how the gold colours in the paintwork and signs are almost matched by the gold in the leaves of the tree. This, contrasted with the darker paint, creates quite a happy feel, despite the almost total lack of sunshine. (It was sunny and bright when I got on the train in Worksop, but by the time I reached Sheffield, it was dull as dishwater).

Image 4

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Functional doesn’t have to mean ugly or dull. Overall, the building has a symmetrical shape, but this is broken up by the materials used for the different sections, making for a much more interesting looking construction.

The vertical lines of the trees and lamps, stretching up through the image and matching the lines of the building, while also casting out branches in other directions, add an element of organic chaos, and keep things interesting.

The camera chose to put the plane of focus just on the nearside of the trunk of the tree on the right, making some of the branches the sharpest objects in the image. I don’t know that I would have done this myself (I could have overridden its choice, but I’m new to this camera, so I just let it do its thing)… but it does make for an interesting feel, where the object of our interest is the background of the image.

 

Image 5

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I *love* this. Of the shots in part 2 of this exercise, this is my favourite.

The light is poor and the colours somewhat muted, but it doesn’t matter (to me). There is so much going on here, and so much detail.

The architecture, words, signs and flags, depict a vibrant culture wilfully, even joyfully, adapting itself to suit another culture. It maintains its own identity, while fitting in, with the host culture.

This whole street was a breath of fresh air to me, and unlike anything anywhere I’ve lived. I could have stood outside every shop and taken photos (I certainly stood outside several), but I was losing the light, and it was very crowded.

While the photographic style is entirely different, and the areas lacked that transitional space between the interior of the shops and the exterior of the street, walking along this street taking photographs reminded me of a passage I read about Eugene Atget.

‘Much of his Parisian material deals with the limited future: food shops where meals will be planned and brasseries where they might be eaten, plus cabarets where time of a different sort will be spent. Hence his interest in ragpicking and junk shops where, in terms of the major metaphor, it will all come to an end in mere material.’ (Jeffrey, 2012)

Image 6

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I really needed a tripod for this…. or to be using a manual mode. There’s a lack of sharpness (due to camera shake?) With an 18mm focal length, the 1/80 second exposure shouldn’t have caused a problem. I may have been shivering.

Anyway….  I love this scene.

I really enjoy photos of dilapidated, abandoned, derelict buildings, and while this place is none of those, it’s certainly seen better days. “It’s grim up north” as the KLF once said… and this location is a reminder of that fact.

The thing that most interests me about this scene…. what on earth is going on with that door?!!

 

Conclusion

In perspective shots, there are two different sets of lines. Those that are parallel or perpendicular to the frame, and the ‘leading lines’, which draw the eye into the shot, to create depth.

The perpendicular/parallel  lines may leave the frame, while the leading lines should not.

There do appear to be circumstances where leading lines do leave the shot and seem to get away with it. In Image 3 of part 1, the lines created by the gutter become hidden by the lay of the land, and this doesn’t seem to cause a problem. Maybe this is because they don’t leave the frame, but are obscured within it. The same seems true of Image 5 of part 1. The lines of the buildings in the background end, though again, not via the edge of the frame.

Something I have found very striking about this exercise is the difficulty in creating an interesting image without using perspective, but also something else.

When using perspective, you can take a subject which, in and of itself, is unspectacular, and you can make an interesting, or eye catching image. When avoiding perspective, to capture an interesting image, the subject itself has to be interesting, and this can make taking such photographs difficult.

This also brings up the old question of ‘does the photograph take itself’? When avoiding perspective, and having the need to find a subject that is interesting in its own right, how much is the aesthetic quality of a good looking photograph down to the photographer?

I believe it comes down to the ability of the photographer to recognise something beautiful, or of interest, and to be able to frame it well. It also comes down to taste. You could say that anyone can see a pretty thing and point a camera at it… but could just anyone frame it well and make the shot work? And could just anyone point a camera at something that is aesthetically quite ugly, and make a photograph that is worth looking at?  My opinion is that no, ‘just anyone’ could not.  (Having said that, giving a disposable camera to a young child can produce very interesting results).

Here we may come up against the question of framing versus cropping.

Framing is where the photographer carefully positions him/herself, possibly making use of a zoom lense, if one is attached to the camera, to get the best possible composition in the frame. The final composition is achieved in the camera.

Cropping is where an image that has already been taken, is manipulated, either in software, or using an enlarger when developing film, and the area of interest is effectively zoomed in on.

The appeal of cropping is that you can take a pre-existing image, and produce something entirely different from it, with different emphasis, or telling a completely different story.

The negative aspect of this is loss of detail and overall image quality. The more you crop, the more grainy the resulting image will be.

For the best quality image, it is always better to try and get as close as possible to your desired composition while framing, and then use cropping only for fine tuning. That being said, and art being what it is, sometimes grain can be seen as a positive.

 

Reference

Diprose, G &  Robins, J (2012) Photography: The New Basics. London: Thames & Hudson.

Jeffrey, R (2012) How to Read a Photograph. London: Thames & Hudson.

Part 1 Project 2 Visual Skills

Exercise 1.2 Point

There are essentially three classes of position [to place a single
point]: in the middle, a little off-centre, and close to the edge.
(Photography 1: The Art of Photography, p.72)

1. Take two or three photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts
of the frame. (A ‘point’ should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large
it becomes a shape.)
How can you evaluate the pictures? How do you know whether you’ve got it
right or not? Is there a right place and a wrong place for the point? For the sake
of argument, let’s say that the right place shouldn’t be too obvious and that
the point should be clear and easy to see. As there’s now a ‘logic’ to it, you can
evaluate your composition according to the logic of the point.
As you look at the pictures you might find that you’re also evaluating the
position of the point by its relationship to the frame.

2. Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.
Can you find any place where the point is not in relationship to the frame? If it’s
in relationship to the frame you can place a point in any part of the picture and
the picture is balanced.

You could think about the two parts of this exercise in a different way, as ‘test
pictures’ versus ‘real pictures’. The only purpose for the test pictures is the
exercise: you can analyse them according to the criteria and get the expected
answer. But ‘real’ pictures are not so easy to analyse. What are the criteria for
‘relationship’? (We’re hoping that you’ll shoot the rest of the exercises in this
course as real pictures, not test pictures!)

As you review your photographs, observe the way your eye ‘scans’ the surface of the
image. Note how:
• a point attracts attention out of proportion to its size
• the eye looks for connections between two points
• placing a point close to the edge seems to animate both the point and the frame.
Print out two or three of your point photographs and trace the route your eye takes
over the surface with a pencil. Then try the same with a selection of photographs
from newspapers or magazines (or the example above). You should notice that each
photograph seems to have its own tempo. Add the traced photographs to your
learning log together with brief observations.

Part 1

point1

While this image is balanced in terms of the point’s relationship to the frame, according to the rule of thirds, the image itself is not good. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the point, and the point alone. There is no suggestion of movement, or life.

If I were to imagine this as a picture or scene… I see little more than a bullseye.

 

point2

In this image, the positioning of the point conforms to the rule of thirds. The feel of the image is vastly different.

Speaking entirely for myself, I can imagine many scenes or stories, projected as backdrops to this image. The point is a sheep in a field, and up just a little way is a fence, and a horizon with a warm sunset. Trees on the horizon start just right of the centre, and run upwards and further right, where they are cut off by the frame.

Alternatively, I see a child alongside a river (possibly fishing), the course of the river running from the upper left to the lower right of the frame.

The possibilities are endless.

 

point3

This image does not conform to the rule of thirds. It is unbalanced. If I could describe the mental sensation it creates within me, the nearest thing would be an uncomfortable lurch, or feeling of tripping over.

Compositionally, as a balanced image, it could be said that the positioning of this point is wrong.

However….

Wrong in terms of what? Is your intention to take a pretty photo to sell on a postcard, or are you trying to make art? Art is challenging. It has a message. It makes you feel something more than just “oh… that’s pretty”.

Let me put it to you like this….

isolation

… or like this…

afreespirit

The rule of thirds has a purpose. It is a tool, for making balanced images that are easy on the eye.

An image does not have to be easy on the eye to be good, so there are occasions when the correct way to use the toolkit is to toss it out of the window.

 

Part 2

First, I have to say the wording of this question strikes me (and others, if the forums are anything to go by) as utter gibberish.

It seems to me that if a point appears within the frame, then it has a relationship with that frame. It’s only if it falls outside of the frame that it ceases to have a relationship, but then it also ceases to be in the image, and the question becomes moot.

It may be that I’m taking the question too literally, and am missing the point. On the other hand, if the questioner means to ask about whether the point conforms to the rule of thirds, or some other rule, they really should be asking that, and not this vague jumble of words.

Anyway…  to show willing, and while having no clue if this is what was being asked for, I took these images.

 

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I can see this image appealing to a young child, but to me… not so much.

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My eye is drawn directly to the centre, and hovers around there before grudgingly looking around for other points of interest. The central point dominates, and in doing so, lessens the impact or interest of everything else in the image.

Frankly, I want to flick the teddy out of the photo, because it annoys me. (Sorry, the wording of the question has left me feeling grumpy).

 

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This is much more pleasing, though unfortunately, it does look like the lamp is growing out of the teddy’s head. There being other minor points of interest in the image, this shot feels slightly over weighted to the right.

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The weighting is demonstrated by how much more time my eyes look over the items on that side of the image.

 

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This.

really like this.

The sofa invites the eye to enjoy it’s comfortable warmth, and then you see this little chap, chirpy and happy, suggesting you to sit, so he can whisper in your ear. Your eyes then cast around, seeking more details, letting them tell the story of the room, or the people who live there.

p1330007a

 

Conclusion

It seems to me that the position of the point in relation to the frame matters far less than its position in relation to whatever else is in the image.

Having said that, placing the point in the centre seems always to be wrong. I spent quite some time experimenting, trying to find a composition, with the teddy in the centre, that didn’t look wrong. I failed.

Ultimately, I think I may often continue to do what I have always done… ignore any set of rules, and go with what looks right to my eye.

However…

This being my own personal, and to be honest, somewhat emotional first reaction to this exercise, I feel the need for further reading on the matter. Several books from the essential reading list are on order and may enlighten me on the subject.

Part 1 Project 1 The Instrument

Exercise 1.1

Three images taken in sequence with no alterations made to camera settings or image framing.

This demonstrates the changes that occur to details and lighting within an image, from moment to moment, which are captured and measured by the camera.

The differences between these images are most apparent when viewed in a ‘preview’ window, and cycled through in sequence.

#1

exercise1-1-1

#2

exercise1-1-2

#3

exercise1-1-3

While these differences may be imperceptible, without comparing the measurements in detail, or flipping between each image, it does lead me to question the idea suggested by William Henry Fox Talbot (1900 – 77) that the photographer didn’t actually take the photograph.

If each of these images were identical, I would think that he had a point, but given that they are not, the images that are recorded by the camera are then the result of a choice made by the photographer. That choice being the precise moment to press the shutter release on the camera. That choice being based upon when the photographer thinks the scene looks ‘just right’.

Could it be that it is this very precision that makes the difference between merely capturing images, and creating art?