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Monday, 27 June 2011

Project 17


In this exercise, i was asked to take a close up of my eyes, this was to show that 2 points of equal proportion and central to the image, leave the image with a feeling of tension and that can often damage the composition, but that it sometimes can also be used to activate an image, making for a striking and powerful image.

The relationship between points

Project 16

Positioning a point

This exercise is about positioning a single point within a frame, i have to take three photographs with a single point, but place each one in a different section, and to then give a brief description as to why i placed it there.

In this image, i placed the single point (the runner) just right of center, as i felt that this gave the impression that there was movement in the image, also as the vertical pathway narrowed it draws the eye  into the image adding to the further effect of movement. 

With this image, i placed the single point (family of ducks) in the top right, as in the previous image, it gives a sense of movement, i think this time though, the ducks may be borderline on being a single point due to their size in the frame, perhaps if i had allowed more space around them, it would have been better.

In the third image, i placed the single point (the duck) in the center, this gave the image a static feel, but i found that the ripples helped to give a slight sense of movement and balanced the image out so it was less static.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Assignment 1 Feedback 'contrast'

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Tutor Report Form

Student name:
Darren Powell
Student number:
Course/Module title:
The Art of Photography
Assignment number:
1 - Contrasts

Overall Comments
Darren you have submitted a very well presented and organised portfolio of work with accompanying reflective annotations. Good decision to post in the A4 wallet as your work arrived well protected. I really like your presentation using black card, don't feel you are restricted to the aspect ratio of A4 so think about cropping images to suit the content where appropriate.
A great start to the course with some well seen and crafted images, just watch out for mixing monochrome with colour images in a matching pair. If you feel strongly that you need too, as it may convey the emotion or quality that you wish to express, then that is fine but tell us why. You do this anyway to a certain extent but I mention it for clarification.

Feedback on assignment
1. Liquid and Solid
Liquid is a very moody image that has captured the essence of ' liquid' well. The shimmering light on the water surface helps to convey this quality. I also like the bird flying over the bridge, although small it lends a 'decisive moment' to the image. The light streaming through the clouds is another bonus and this type of streaming sunlight is often referred to as 'Cathedral Light'. Watch out for lens flare when shooting into the sun, although it can be used deliberately for effect. A lens hood will help but when the sun is low down it is good practice to shield the sun from the lens by using a small piece of black card held just out of shot or using your hand, it helps if the camera is on a tripod which in this case it was.
Good to use Raw files and hopefully you will see the benefit from this, If anything the silhouette has just gone slightly too far and a bit more detail and separation with the background would have helped. Good positioning of the main content using rule of thirds.
Solid is certainly 'solid'! I like the monochrome treatment which is a good decision. I am not a big fan of using flash on camera but I actually think in this instance it works really well. The flat light has made the subject actually appear as a solid mass which effectively describes the essence of 'solid'. Well done with this.
Well seen and composed in terms of rule of thirds again, I personally would have made the bottom girder parallel with the edge of the frame or tilted the camera slightly more to increase the angle. I also like the trailing off into darkness of the back girder as this lends weight to the image and helps the viewer imagine this solid mass continuing. Good reflective comments on both these images and your issues with your flash exposure have been successfully resolved as it looks just right to me.
2. Diagonal and Rounded
Diagonal is a strong image both with colour and composition. The strong diagonal lines have produced a dynamic quality. Overall this is a very successful image and your use of the blanket and lighting technique have worked very well. Choice of a neutral dark background is good and the shallow depth of field is appropriate to make the texture out of focus. A slight criticism is the green rod bottom right is in the cast shadow of the rod above so you lose the shape of the rod. It may help to put the flash on a cheap light stand (eBay £9 - £12.00) which would allow fine tuning rather than hand holding.
Rounded is an excellent sharp and well printed image and uses the shape of the building to literally covey roundness. Reading your reflection on the shot is interesting and I find the thumbnail image conveys 'rounded' more than your chosen print! Although rounded I find the store name distracting yet I find the curvature of the building in the thumbnail image saying 'rounded' louder than the more straight on view. Looking up is also more mysterious for the viewer and allows some more thought over the image rather than the more descriptive straight on view. They both work though! Appropriate camera settings on these images.
3. Straight and Curved
Excellent well seen pair of images here Darren, well done! Straight really does convey this quality and a good choice to use the portrait crop. Your reflection is spot on with this and all the other lines in the image have a vanishing perspective which really does help to convey 'straight'. I also like the high contrast of the print which helps with the simplicity of the image and would agree that perhaps some sky detail would have helped as the overcast bland sky is not that interesting, although its simplicity does help by not distracting. Perhaps cropping into this more or even completely cropping it out would help. Not sure about the shallow depth of field, f/8 is probably the lens 'sweet spot' so a good choice but possibly having the foreground sharp as well would have emphasised 'straight' as we tend to associate sharp and crisp with straight (well I do!). As a rule of thumb depth of field occurs 1/3 in front of the point of focus and 2/3 behind although at macro level this evens out more towards 50/50.
I love the roof in curved and the majestic sweep and crop on this image works really hard at conveying this quality, even though the roof is made of hundreds of straight lines the whole structure curves beautifully, really well seen. I have photographed this roof myself on several occasions and actually find the space quite spiritual and calming. Technically good with appropriate camera setting but the print on this is a bit dark, the sky would have helped to be a bit of a fresher blue which would also help lighten the building and the green cast caused by the glass.
4. Opaque and Transparent
A good bit of risk taking here Darren as you do not always associate opaque with glass, in this case you have 'pulled it off' really well and it certainly does convey 'opaque' which is somewhat contradictory. This image has a few more plus points for me, the diagonals in the construction help with a dynamic and the one open window is well placed within the composition. The abstract broken quality of the reflection is interesting and causes the viewer to question the scene to work out what is happening. The print is a bit on the dark side and I wonder if I prefer the crop on your thumbnail as I find the additional sky reflection allows the image to relax slightly more.
I have to agree with your reflective comments concerning 'transparent', although the glass (in this case) is transparent along with the liquid the quality of transparency does not leap out at me. Having a black background means nothing will show through the glass and this hinders the essence that you are trying to record. Interesting experimentation with the laser pointer and you score some brownie points for this! It is not easy to find a point of focus on this images as it all appears a bit soft. Possibly by going in much closer and seeing a pool of light on the background through the glass and drink etc. may have helped here. Also be wary of having things out of context unless you are deliberately trying to cause a reaction - do you usually have grapes in a drink?
5. Pointed and Blunt
Two well seen images that both convey their respective qualities. Pointed is very well seen and thoughtfully composed, well done. A simple yet effective image that immediately says 'pointed'. A slight criticism is the actual point does not look sharp and with 'pointed' being the quality this would have been improved by having the point pin sharp. Your choice of f/20 may be the culprit here. As mentioned previously most lenses have a 'sweet spot' approximately at f/8 or f/11 (depending on the lens). At this setting the lens works its hardest at rendering subjects sharp at the point of focus, the trade off being a shallower depth of field. At f/20 - f/32 you only use a tiny part of the glass and the tiny aperture causes diffraction of the light which in turn causes aberrations and an overall softening of the image.
Blunt is well staged and has a nice soft natural quality to the light which helps 'blunt'. A good rationale in your comments concerning your set up, I do find the image a bit busy and feel if you had gone in considerably closer on to the blunt pencil and used the shallow depth of field to throw out of focus the shavings more the image would have less distracting content. By shooting over the sharpener and having it partly out of shot and more out of focus would help to lose its dominance in the image as the shiny blade says 'sharp' which tends to go against 'blunt'. Also as some of the shavings are sharp and crisp this diminishes slightly the overall quality of 'blunt'. Overall though a good image that does say 'blunt'.

6. Still and Moving
I like still, well seen. I quite like the light as it gives good shape to the steps and good form to the statue. I feel you have cropped this too tight and would liked to have seen the foot (as on thumbnail) and slightly more above the head as it fights to be seen at the edge of the frame. I am fine about cropping the coat as this helps lead the eye into the shot. Good use of line but wonder if a slightly different camera angle to make the steps more of a diagonal would produce a more dynamic image, or a precise squaring up to make all the lines parallel with the paper edge. This does convey 'still' very well but just as you took a risk with 'opaque' did you think about shooting this on a tripod with a longish exposure and having blurred people walking up / down the steps and pulling back slightly? Just a thought!
Moving works well and conveys this quality. Your panning technique has worked and although the front of the train is not pin sharp it is sharp enough for the spirit of 'moving'. I like the post production and contrast in the print and the train entering the image from the left does also help to convey this quality. This type of shot can sometimes benefit from tilting the camera to produce more of a diagonal which creates a dynamic and enhances any movement, it does become tricky panning though so sometimes can be more effective to crop in post production. Not sure if you have used any Photoshop motion blur in this image as well as panning, if you have then it is well done and effective. Shutter speed is an appropriate choice as well.
7. High and Low
I really like 'high' and it conveys 'high' on two levels for me, one is the physical and the other is emotionally as I find myself thinking I would not like to go to the top of that building. Your comments are spot on here, I would agree that the flag pole is an important part of this image both in the composition, it breaks the symmetry, and also for scale and emphasises the height quality. The use of clouds is just right with a great pattern occurring in the sky and reflection that balances the image really well. Criticism time now - was landscape the correct choice of format? would portrait help emphasise height? Ideally I would have liked the lines at the base of the building to be parallel with the picture edge but realise that this may not always be possible especially to include the flag pole. Lovely sharp image (good use of 'sweet spot') and good print quality.
My immediate concern with 'low' is that it is shot from a high viewpoint and although the barge is low the image does not really leap out to me as conveying the essence of 'low'. It is a literal image of a boat low in the lock but it does not necessarily shout out 'low'. Choice of a lower viewpoint to show the boat low down against the height of the lock may have been more appropriate. Good subject to convert to monochrome, during the conversion do you use the sliders in Photoshop - Image / Adjustments / Black and White? As these allow you to subjectively change the tones of grey according to the colours within the image, this is similar in result to using coloured filters during shooting with black and white film. Be wary of extremes with the sliders as it can result in lots of noise or artefacts - view at 100% at some stage to check this.

8. Many and Few
Many works well and your reflective comment about filling the frame is very valid here as by doing this the viewer has the impression that the marbles extend well beyond the edge of the frame and are indeed many! Interesting subject that has produced an abstract quality that I like. Just a thought but did you experiment with them on glass or diffused plastic and try light from underneath? Tracing paper (A3 pad) from an art shop can be an effective diffuser both for putting in front of a flash gun and using on top of a piece of glass to create a diffuse background for small 'table top' subjects.
Few is, for me, your weakest image in this assignment. It does tick the box but it lacks the elegance and technical skills you have shown in many other images. No real focal point as the eye tends to drift around the image trying to find out what it is about. The concept of few is weakened by 'many' white tipped stalks appearing. Good to see in your reflection that this has improved your knowledge of Photoshop and Raw processing.
9. Black and White
This is an effective constructed and literal translation of the brief, your use of art materials and composition are very strong, the image has a certain optical illusion quality that makes it quite striking. Not sure if the inclusion of the card texture is relevant as it is so subtle that it becomes lost. Did you try a really precise lining up of all the tips? as I am not sure if this would make a more pleasing result? I quite like the 'fall off' of light as this helps to direct the eye to the vortex. This is certainly a different approach to the more usual image of a close up of a white baby's hand being held by a black person!

Learning logs/critical essays
Your learning blog is excellent with detailed constructive and reflective comments / annotations. Your exercise images are appropriate and show good judgement and skill producing some effective results so well done with these. Put the technical details with the images and briefly explain / justify why you used those settings. I am pleased to see you are visiting exhibitions and galleries as at degree level it is vital that you look at as much photography as possible (historical and contemporary). This will help to 'inform' your own work and will enable your own style and direction to develop. One problem with the internet is the huge amount of material available and therefore not wasting too much time in sifting through the average to find the good stuff. So exhibitions are great as you know that someone else has filtered the content for you!, keep the brochures, flyers and postcards etc. as these can be included into your learning log / workbook / scrapbook to build into a valuable resource.

The learning log can become a rich source of information and really work for you. Collect magazine pages, photographer postcards, exhibition ephemera etc. and briefly annotate why you like the image (or don't like!).

You can, and should, incorporate this reference material and other photographers images on your blog but be aware of copyright issues. Generally if it is published fairly small and is for educational research this would be considered 'fair use', but always credit the author and have a link to the source of the material. If in doubt just have a link to the image. As a precaution never publish a Getty Library Image without permission as they can be somewhat overzealous on copyright issues!!

Suggested reading/viewing
From you book list I can see you are reading well, I include some web links below:
You may be familiar with these websites as they are a great source for research both historical and contemporary:

Good quality prints supplied that have a well corrected colour balance, some are a touch dark. Have you calibrated your monitor? Most people have a monitor that is too bright the result being dark prints! You can buy a device that will do this for you (spyder) ranging from £75.00 (Pantone Huey) up to several hundred pounds (X-Rite). The Pantone one is good value and does the job well.

A monitor uses transmitted light and will display approximately 12 -14 f/stops of information from shadow to highlight detail (dynamic range), your camera will capture (in Raw) around 9-10 f/stops of dynamic range. A print (traditional silver based, inkjet or digital photographic) will only display around 5-6 f/stops due to us viewing the print by reflected light. So we have to adjust the image file in Photoshop / Lightroom to compensate. The first step is to calibrate the monitor this initially can be manually achieved: But ideally by using a measuring device. The main error is usually having the brightness too high. Once the monitor is adjusted then working on the contrast range of the file by using curves and or levels in Photoshop or the sliders in Lightroom to keep the tonal range within the capabilities of the print process. The great thing about working with Raw is you never throw away useful image information as the changes you make are just recorded as a set of instructions and never alter the actual data - 'Non-destructive editing'.

Tutor name:
John Todd
19th June 2011
Next assignment due
22nd August 2011

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Project 12

Positioning the Horizon

I think the idea of this exercise, was for me to get a better understanding of how the placement of the Horizon in a photograph, divides the image into sections and too learn what works and what does not.
So for this exercise i have just  taken 1 photograph and placed the horizon in 3 different sections.

Image 1,
Horizon in the center
In this image, i kept the horizon almost in the center, this i felt gave the overall image a more balanced feel to it, the downside is, i find my eyes wandering as there is no real focal point in the image.

Image 2,
Horizon near the top.
With the horizon placed higher up in the frame, there is more emphasis on the foreground, and the hiker in the image is slightly more noticeable,  i feel though, that a lack of sky in this photograph takes away some of the feel of open space and results in a fairly bland image.

Image 3,
Horizon placed low in the frame.
In this photograph, the horizon was placed in the lower section of the image, this i feel gives a greater sense of open space and adds to the overall image, out of the 3 images, this is the one i prefer best, the reason being is, i feel it gives a better representation of the view, without losing too much detail, i find that having slightly more sky with large clouds gives the image a more balanced feel than actually having the horizon in the center.


In this exercise, i found that by placing the horizon, in different sections of the frame can dramatically alter how the picture works.
I also found that the image worked quite well with the horizon in different areas of the image, so i guess it all really comes down to which i personally prefer, or what part i want to make more predominant.
This was yet another good exercise for me to get a better understanding of how balance and composition in a photograph works.

More thought will now go into my photographs.

Saturday, 5 March 2011


This is just a list of books that i am currently reading/using for reference.

The Photographer; Graham Clarke
The Photographers Eye; Michael Freeman
Black & White Photography Workshop; John Blakemore
An Illustrated A to Z of Digital Photography 'People & Places; Nigel Atherton & Steve Crabb
Photoshop Elements 9; Scott Kellby & Matt Kloskowski
Layers; Matt Kloskowski
The Digital Photography book vol 1 & 2; Scott Kellby
Digital Diary's; Natacha Merritt

Project 11


The object of this exercise is for me to take at least six of my own images, and then decide on how the balance works in each one.
The course says it does not matter if whether the main elements are masses of tone, colour or arrangements of points of lines, i just need to find what seems to be the dominant part (or parts) of the image.
I then need to high light them in the image and also produce a 'weighing scale' sketch alongside it.
Also, i need to then compare the different images and see whether some were easier to identify the balance then others.
I am not sure though if the images i use must have been taken for the course or whether the can be images taken from before. To be on the safe side i will just use the images i have taken since starting the course.

Trying to find the balance in some of my images, was very difficult. but after a while i started to notice how some of the balance patterns worked, and this made me realize that, of all the images that i have taken over the last few months, the one's that are more pleasing to look at, are the ones that have some form of balance in them. This is something that i have never really thought about before when taking photographs, but is something i will definitely be thinking about from now on. 
Even when the image seems to have objects of unequal size, as long as there placed with the larger of the objects more central and the smaller one's near the outside, even that makes the image appear balanced, i was surprised though at how having a object directly in the center of the frame created maximum symmetry, this exerise was a real eye opener for me and i think my images from now on will improve significantly.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Random Thoughts

From JPeg to Raw
After having a quick chat with John Todd (My Tutor) the other week, and another chat with my very supportive Partner, I have taken the plunge and have now started shooting in RAW.
To be honest, i have been a little reluctant to do this, And the reason ???  I was a little scared of how it all works and was worried i would ruin my photographs, but, after having a little play around with some images i took in SouthPort and Liverpool, I have now found that it is not too hard to make some minor adjustments with curves, and using RGB to alter tones and colours. I have even worked out how to save them and convert them back into JPegs for altering in Photoshop :)
Now all i need to do is work out how on earth to use Layers !!!
So if anyone who reads this, knows how to explain how to use Layers in very simple terms, i will be most grateful.

Running Late
O'Dear, I am starting to fall a little behind with my course work, My Deadline for Assignment 1 is the first of March, but i have a horrible feeling i will not have it ready by then.
I am really annoyed at myself now for allowing myself to fall behind, but i think it has something to do with not doing any studying since i left school and not setting myself any real study time.
I have now worked out myself a kind of weekly rota, So i will now have time to study/take photographs and hopefully catch up and not fall behind again.
I have now just got to bite the bullet and let my Tutor know i need to extend my deadline a little bit.

Focus on Imaging 5/3/11
Well tomorrow morning, i will be heading off to Birmingham for the Focusing on Imaging Show at the NEC  or whatever the call it these days :)
I am really looking forward to going to this and i have my lovely partner to thank for pointing it out to me, only regret is she wont be able to come with me, but i intend to get loads of free stuff for her while i'm there, that way when i splash out on something expensive she wont shout at me too much (i hope)
On a more serious note though, while i'm there, i hope to be able to sit in on a few of the free seminars and learn a few more things to help me on my way, plus i will be on the look out for Photographic weekend courses and any other material and advise thats on offer.
This is the first time that i have been to one of these shows, so am not too sure about what to expect. hopefully it will be a positive experience and that i learn a few new things.
Afterwards i intend to go into Birmingham itself and grab a few photo's, hopefully i can get the last few images i need for Assignment 1, plus i want to have a little try at street photography, who knows i might even be good at it :)
I will post an update when i get back tomorrow, maybe have a few images to go with it too.

Ooops 14/06/11
I have just noticed that i have missed exercise 8 out, i will try and get this one done at the weekend along with exercise 13.

Assignment 1
Ok, i have now finally completed assignment 1 'Contrast' and have just posted it off to my course tutor.
I will now spend the next few weeks worrying about if my work is good enough or if i did not put enough or even too much effort into this first assignment.
I am glad that it is completed though, as this was a massive challenge for me and a huge learning hurdle to get over, but now it's done, i feel i can focus a little harder and get on with the rest of the course at a more reasonable pace (i hope) I am looking forward to the feed back, whether good or bad, i am sure it will help out with my future photographs.