Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Part 2: Elements of Design: What have I gained from the exercises?

Taking each of the individual elements in turn for the exercises was a good way to learn about them. Sometimes it was difficult to concentrate on one element when, inevitably, other elements were present in the pictures I took for the exercises. I have summarised the main points as follows:

  • Although I considered converting my exercise images to grayscale, I left them as colour (with one exception) I think I have managed to complete the exercises fairly well.
  • Points: This really tied up with the previous section, placement and dividing the frame. It also demonstrated how to identify the relationship between points and extended to the way in which multiple points infer lines and the effect that this has on a composition.
  • Horizontal and vertical lines: It was very easy to find both in man made structures. I tried to use examples to show how they divide the frame, give a sense of direction and provide stability.
  • Diagonal lines: A whole exercise to themselves indicate their importance in composition. They are dynamic, they have movement and encourage the eye to move strongly in a particular direction. In conjuction with horizontal and vertical lines, they form triangles which help to group objects.
  • Curves: Like diagonals, curves encourage movement but can do it in a more subtle way. They can change the direction of your eye within a frame quite gently.
  • Using lines: Real lines (actual physical lines) and implied lines (those between points for example) can be used within a frame to encourage  the viewer's eye to rest on the main points of a picture.
  • Shapes: Circles and rectangles can contain (outline) and enclose a subject. Such regular shapes give stability. Light also plays a part in defining shape, strong contrast brings out shapes in a scene.
  • Triangles: The most frequently occuring shapes, they can be real or implied and help to group objects together and as mentioned earlier they are very dynamic.
  • Rhythm and Pattern: This exercise brought together a lot of these elements to provide patterns, both static and rhythmic, tying the elements of design together and providing an opportunity to put them into practice.
I now have about a month to complete the assignment. As before, I will record my progress through the assignment step by step using this blog.

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project: Rhythm and Pattern

Exercise: Rhythms and patterns
Objective: To produce two types of  images, one to show visual rhythm and a second to show a pattern.

4939: 1/200s f7.1 27mm

I took inspiration from the course book for this image showing rhythm. The regular repetition of the chimneys, gables, doors and windows provide the visual beat. The flow from right to left follows the path and the figure on the left with the topiary provides a final resting point for the eye. Click on the image to see a larger version.
 1188: 1/144s f5.9 19mm (compact camera)
I took this a couple of months ago while at the supermarket. At first glance I wasn't sure whether I should abstarct the pattern or use the whole image to show rhythm. I chose the latter. The horizontal block paving gives emphasis and the strong diagonals give movement left to right which is arrested by the tubular "Y" shape.
 4940: 1/160s f5 80mm
I was intrigued by the circular pattern on this manhole cover. I zoomed in on the central section to abstract the pattern. I placed the diagonal to give movement from corner to corner and I resisted the temptation to put the smallest circle in the centre. Think that helps to stabilise the image. I only took one shot so the composition was instinctive.
4955: 1/125s f18 90mm (studio flash - 60cm softbox 45° to right)
As rain had stopped play, I returned indoors to set up a pattern with these coloured pencils. I have alternated them top to tail to add interest and to make more of a pattern. Laying them out all the same way seemed predictable and encourages your attention into one area of  the frame.
4950: see above

Archive Photographs:
I searched through my collection  for rhythm and pattern images. I included a rhythm image in the "curves" exercise here and also found this spiral staircase. The steps give a different kind of visual beat.
I have included this as a pattern although the strong diagonals do give it a certain dynamism. These mirrored windows are angled against the sun and reflect the balconies of the older building opposite. Photographed from the opposite direction they have an enigmatic quality which makes them more of a pattern but still with movement along the diagonals.

What did I learn? This is the final project in the Elements of Design section. I have learned that the distinction between rhythm and pattern is fairly fine. A pattern with rhythmic elements will have a dynamism which will effect the way we look at it. Pattern is linked to an area. It will be static, homogenous and won't pull the eye in any particular direction. As a result, it should encourage the eye to roam over the frame.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project: Shapes

Exercise: Real and Implied Triangles

Objective: Produce two sets of triangular compositions in photographs, one using 'real' triangles the other making 'implied' triangles

Real Triangles
4883: 1/640s f5.6 200mm
This triangular finial is part of a window frame moulding on a nearby shop front.

4907: 1/250s f8 18mm
As mentioned in the course book, triangles are easy to find so I couldn't resist including this triangulation pillar............

4916: 1/500s f5.6 112mm
...............or the triangles in the unique "Rheinish Helm" tower of Hampshire's Hawkley church.

4909: 1/800s f5.6 135mm
The "tramlines" in this crop form a converging triangle by perspective. The triangular warning sign on the brow of the hill was a pure fluke. I didn't notice it until I viewed the image on the screen.

4917: 1/125s f5.6 18mm

Ceiling panels in the passenger lounge of the Isle of Wight Ferry provided the inverted triangle for this perspective shot.

Implied Triangles:

4924: 1/125s f29 36mm

4929: 1/160s f32 52mm
Simply rearranging these vegetables has provided interesting triangles within triangles. As illustrated in the section on multiple points, the vectors suggested by the shapes help determine the way the eye moves over the picture.

4918: 1/200s f7.1 18mm
I have used the faces in this image to form the triangle. It is also noticeable that the musician's right arm and shoulder strap form another triangle with the seated figures, reinforcing the importance of the diagonals in a composition in creating a stable image.

What have I learned? The triangle, real or implied is the most common shape to be found in composition. As it will always contain at least one diagonal or maybe three, an implied triangle can add movement to an image. In addition, a flat based pyramid shape can also provide stability (as above). In still life photography it is used to bring order to an image by producing a simple graphic shape. Wide angle lenses can exaggurate the effective size and angles of triangular shapes. In this way they can add a useful emphasis to a composition.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project: Using Lines in Composition

Exercise: Implied Lines

Objective: To find implied lines in selected photographs, analyse three of my own images for implied lines then take two photographs using implied lines from an eye line and extensions of a line or lines that point.

I have indicated what I think are the most important lines here. The forward movement of the bull and the swing of the cape over its back as the matador turns. The red line shows the dominant movement

Again, I have marked  the obvious lines implying movement, the man's eye line, his forward motion and the implied circular motion of the horses. The blue line shows the dominant movement .

My own photographs:

I've concentrated on the dominant lines again. The diagonals of the Carrom board place it at the centre of attention, the eye lines of the brother and sister force the attention to the corner pocket. The third player looks nervously at the girl. He is anticipating his counter being knocked away from the pocket.

The shape of the boat, its diagonal position across the frame and the forward inclination of the fishermen all contribute to the implied movement. The eyeline of the rower in the prow of the boat indicate that there is a lot of instruction and encouragement being given.

At first glance, this image of fish market workers relaxing at the end of their shift, appears static. From a single point, follow the eye line  to the next boat, a series of points follow the  line of the prow up and down again, past two more points. A horizontal line then draws your attention to the row of sandals on the dock. (obviously this works better at original size)

The final part of the exercise is to demonstrate with my own photographs an eye line and an extension of a line or one that points.

4893: 1/250s f8 18mm
Eye Line - a simple image with the subect looking towards a distant farm below the horizon.

4891: 1/250s f8 50mm

Lines that point - the plank bridge indicates the direction the walker takes diagonally across the frame to the right hand edge.

What have I learned? The brain and the eye try to resolve a scene where things are incomplete. Lines present in images from one of a number of sources; rows of points, the extension of an existing line, movement or implied movement of objects and the eye line of a person or animal within the scene, can all be used to move the viewers eye around the composition in an attempt to introduce or resolve tension. These are only suggestions of movement and can help to encourage such movement. There are no rules and they may not always work. Curves and diagonal lines have more movement that vertical and horizontal lines.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project:Lines, Curves

Exercise: Curves

Objective: To find and take four photographs using curves to emphasise movement and direction.

4837: 1/250s f8 18mm
This is not a great image, the lighting is wrong and wasn't planned the way it turned out. This is a 180° curved window on the corner of a street. My original intention was to see the effect of the curve on the reflections of passing cars hoping it would provide interesting subject matter. There was too much in the display and the cars appeared smaller than I hoped. Looking at it later I noticed the horses head and the flared pillars. Then it struck me. The movement was just like a merry go round. I had tried to straighten it but that definitely reduced the impact. A good example of a curve enhancing movement.

4859: 1/200s f7.1 22mm
The curved edge of the village pond moves your eye from bottom left and across the centre back to the left. Although not an inspired choice of subject it does show movement through the frame.

4863: 1/80s f4.5 31mm 
The curved archway is enclosing the space and moving the eye to the second arch. The open gate adds to the movement into the churchyard.

4874: 1/200s f7.1 32mm

The fence in this picture divides the frame, echoes the tracks in crop and moves the attention across the whole of the image, helped by the downward diagonal of the slope left to right.

What have I learned? It is very easy to see curves in everyday scenes and curved or rounded objects. What is more difficult is to interpret these curves into movements (real or implied) that help you to understand the composition and why it works (or not). I have looked at the examples in the course book and the more detailed explanations in the Photographers Eye and concluded that it is easier to see the elements of design in successful images than it is to go out and use these elements to compose successful images. I am hoping these exercises will enable me to do this more intuitively in future. At the moment though, I am finding it very hard work. To help make this point I have included more of my archived images which illustrate the movement of curves.

 Here the dry stone wall is indicating the path to be followed by the walkers in this group.

The obvious curve of the path into the gate is extended to the massive bulk of the bastion in the moat. Here the curve is indicating strength as well as movement.

Obvious again but no less valid, the scimitar like prow on this fishing boat shows fast, clean movement.

Finally, the repeated curves in these fishing nets show movement in rhythm (I thinks that's the next section).

Friday, 11 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project:Lines, Diagonals

Exercise: Diagonals

Objective: To produce four photographs which use diagonals as a dominant part of the composition.

4841: 1/320s f5.3 112mm
The roofline gables and first floor box windows give a strong diagonal from a low viewpoint and acute angle. A focal length of just 112mm was sufficient to compress the perspective enough to produce the desired effect.

4844: 1/500s f5.6 56mm
This image clearly shows diagonals from normal perspective. Despite being cluttered with traffic, you can see converging lines towards the horizon, not only of  the road but of  the rows of  lamp posts as well.

4850 1/250s f8 18mm
This well trodden path across a field takes your eye from the gate to the second large tree in the distance and the wood beyond. By changing the viewpoint, you can increase or decrease the angle of the diagonal line. This line appears as a distinct change of colour along it's length.

4866: 1/60s f4.8 62mm
The rows of  coppiced chestnut provide a diagonal line across the  frame indicating a path through the trees.

Diagonals in images in the course book
I have looked through the photographs in the course book and almost without exception they all contain a diagonal line or lines within them. The lines are either implied by the relationships between objects, true diagonals (structures etc) or diagonals created from vertical and/or horizontal lines resulting from changes in focal length or changes in viewpoint. All add something to the composition of the image.

What have I learned?
Diagonals provide movement and direction in an image. They can be derived by the methods  indicated in the previous paragraph. I am learning to look at all lines in the viewfinder and to think about how they can be used to enhance the composition and whether such lines can be the sole basis and dominant part of an image.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project:Lines, Horizontal and Vertical Lines

Exercise: Horizontal and Vertical Lines

Objective: To find some of the different ways in which horizontal and vertical lines appear to the eye and  to the camera. Produce four examples for each.

4659: 1/1000s f8 75mm
The lamp post was the vertical man made structure in this image but the strong vertical line of the different  tones of the two faces of the building added another vertical. It also divides the frame in a similar proportion to the lamp post.

4696: 1/640s f6.3 105mm
There are several verticals here, the obvious obelisk but at the base, the bronze commemoration panels and the corners of the lion's plinths There is strong upward movement too and implied movement  from the low viewpoint and the strolling couple at the base of  the picture.
4683: 1/250s f5.6 200mm
I have zoomed in at maximum focal length for this block of flats with the vertical window panels. There are horizontal elements here too, the row of posts on the green in front of the building and the course of contrasting red bricks at the top of  the block.

4670: 1/200s f7.1 32mm
From an acute angle, the many railings on one half of this gate merge into one, the sunlight on one face differentiating individual sections. On the closer gate, the colourful scene beyond is broken up into tantalising glimpses.


4675: 1/500 f6.3 90mm
Obvious horizontals here. I liked the layer effect with the road surface, seat, pavement, three sections of wall divided vertically and the supporting frame for the clear polycarbonate wall of  this bus shelter. The sharp focus of the seat and frame lend an enigmatic quality to the out of focus bicycle.

4669: 1/640s f6.3 60mm
More layers, this time all in focus, all man made structures and  movement with our traveller walking purposefully across the frame.

4724: 1/320s f4.8 60mm
The risers and treads of these steps are lit and in shadow giving strong horizontal contrast across the frame.

4694: 1/500s f11 36mm
I wanted to use the horizon as one of my lines for this exercise but it was hazy and indistinct out to sea so I created a false horizon with the roof line of this beach side cafe´.

What did I learn? Looking at all of  the images I have taken for the exercise, they are dominated by man made structures. I started thinking about finding some naturally occurring lines and looked through my archive and found these:
Vertical: Nature's uprights are seldom exactly that. It is said that nature abhors a straight line. These two illustrate the point but the sense of upward movement is there and also the sense that the breeze will rearrange these flower heads in an instant. Not so with the trees, more stability and permanence

Horizontal: A device for diving the frame, below and above the halfway point in these two beach shots of Northam Sands in Devon and Pilsea Island in Sussex.


Monday, 7 March 2011

Part 2 Elements of Design; Project: Points, Multiple Points

Exercise: Multiple Points

Objective: To set up a still life and arrange 6-10 similar sized objects in a controlled manner, one at a time to produce a visually pleasing natural arrangement.

This exercise was done in the studio using a 60cm soft box at 45° to the right and reflector 90° to the left to provide soft even lighting. My camera was set on manual at 1/125s, f32, 200mm for this first series. I took inspiration from the course book using a background of rough broken stone, marble and basalt, to frame and contrast the sea worn glass fragments that I picked up from the beach.







4786 Final Photograph:

Final Photograph - Sketch of lines and shapes:

I was quite pleased with this arrangement. Reading from the textbook I appear to have a loose arrangement here. I have added the vectors and the shapes that are obvious although there are more there but identifying them wouldn't add much. I also read in the book about Frederick Sommer's take on arranged and found compositions. I picked up a handful of fragments and dropped them to make random patterns. Here are a couple of the better compositions I generated:


This is a bit like John Baldessari's proposal to use ordinary time to enact miracles, no matter how small, illustrated by Throwing Four Balls in the Air to Get a Square (Best of Thirty Six Tries) 1974 click

What have I learned?
Making a satisfying composition from small similar objects thats looks sufficiently natural takes time and patience. Vectors play an important role in creating disorder by appearing to pull the objects in different directions. The secret is not to arrange objects in geometric shapes and to get a balance between order and disorder so that your objects appear naturally placed. Practice will make perfect!