Thursday, 27 May 2010

Primary & Secondary Colours


All of these images were taken at Kew Gardens this morning. I had to do quite a bit of searching for this one as it's not as prevalent as the other colours. I found this plant growing on some rocks in one of the conservatories.
Again, I took three bracketed shots which, from top to bottom are as follows: underexposed (half a stop), correctly exposed and overexposed (half a stop). The underexposed image is the only which comes close to reality. The others look slightly greyer than they actually were. 


In this example, my preference is for the underexposed (top) image as it is more vibrant and closest to the actual colour of the flower.


These are dying plants, and I am torn between the correctly exposed and the overexposed images. Besides a distinct lack of contrast, the middle and bottom images show a lighter shade of yellow, that I prefer. I wonder if that is because I associate yellow with Summer and therefore the darker image seems somehow 'unnatural'?
I suppose this is an example of an emotional response to colour, as mentioned in the study material.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Primary & Secondary Colours

Find scenes or parts of scenes that are each dominated by a single one of the primary or secondary colours. Make one exposure as the meter reading indicates, a second exposure half a stop brighter and a third exposure half a stop darker.

I have chosen to focus on the additive primary (RGB) and secondary (CMY) colours rather than the subtractive colours (RYB - OGV) because this is more relevant to me as a photographer.


This was taken earlier today outside Angus Steak House in Leicester Square. I took three bracketed shots which, from top to bottom are as follows: underexposed (half a stop), correctly exposed and overexposed (half a stop). There is a subtle difference between the first two, but I definitely prefer the underexposed image due to the increased contrast. The overexposed image looks flat.


This was taken this morning in the London Aquarium. I had to push the ISO up to 800 and use my 50mm lens wide open at f/1.4, as I was virtually in the dark, . The exposures are as per the red images, and I think the differences are more obvious here. Again, I much prefer the underexposed (top) image as the colours are more vibrant and there is a greater separation between the fish and the background.


Another shot from the London Aquarium. In this example, the underexposed (top) image is not only the most vibrant, but it also has the least amount of noise. Detail in the highlights was retained in the first two images, but the highlights were completely blown in the overexposed shot and it was riddled with noise.

What have I learned?
I normally use a polarizing filter to enhance colour, but I have one filter which only fits one lens. I can see significant improvement in the above images just by underexposing by half a stop. This is a technique that I can (and will) use from now. However, when shooting in RAW (not JPEG), most magazines advise that it's better to expose to the right. This apparently retains more detail and reduces the level of noise. However, all of the above were shot in RAW but I can see more noise in the overexposed images, so I'm a little confused to say the least! I need to to take another look at the histograms to see the reason for this.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Control the Strength of a Colour

This is the start of part 3 of my photography course.

Find a strong definite colour and choose a viewpoint so that it fills the frame. Take a sequence of pictures to include the original metered setting, half a stop brighter, one stop brighter, half a stop darker and one stop darker.

In each of these images, the aperture has been increased by half a stop so they range from overexposed to underexposed via the correct exposure. The correct exposure was measured before the start of the exercise.
It is clear that changing the exposure alters the brightness of the colour, but not the saturation. The colour remains pure, but it changes in tint, tone and shade.

Assignment 2 - Response to Tutor Feedback

Several points in a deliberate shape

I went back to Clissold Park today and took this shot using my pop-up flash (in rear curtain sync mode) to freeze the movement of the delicate petals. This enabled me to keep the ISO down to 200 as I was not relying on shutter speed to reduce motion blur. I had several attempts at this to compose the flowers in the frame as they swung wildly in the wind! If I'd had a battery pack, I could have shot in burst mode and I would have got a decent shot in less time. I chose to make the background darker this time around by using a bleach bypass filter in Nik Efex Color. It helps the flowers to stand out and there's no detail in the background anyway. I've also cropped this to a square because I think this suits the shape of the plant better than a rectangular frame.
I can see what Russell meant about capturing 'both movement and static together'.  I like this effect and will use it again.


This image has been cropped to remove a shadow in the top-left corner, some of the negative space at the bottom of the image and part of a door on the right. I also took this opportunity to bump up the contrast a little by moving the white point in levels.


I've added 2 additional layers to this image to make the pelicans stand out more. On the first layer I have applied a Topaz Adjust spicify filter to show more of the pink/orange colour in the feathers. Then I added a Nik Tonal Contrast filter. Both of these were masked so that they only affected the birds.
I have increased the global contrast using curves to darken the lake because it is not as essential part of the image. The also results in a more solid background which focuses the eye on the birds.

Distinct Shape

I went back to the original Photoshop document and started again from scratch (saving it as a new file). This image is made up of 7 active layers. On the first layer, I cloned out the offending pelican in the background. Then applied a Topaz Adjust shadow recovery filter, followed by tonal contrast and noise reduction in Nik Color Efex. Levels and curves adjustments layers were used to even out the contrast, and then a further curves layer to lighten the image overall.

Implied triangle 2

I cropped this image to make the birds appear larger in the frame and added Topaz Adjust spicify and Nik Tonal Contrast filters to bring out more colour and detail in the feathers.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Assignment 2 - Tutor Feedback

One of the things I noticed straight away when I had a quick look through the set was the way you used depth of field to control the layers in the composition, and also the accuracy of your compositions, which I feel have been carefully chosen to balance the positive and negative space in the frame.

Single point dominating
With this composition, the focal point in the bottom right third, the eye is constantly travelling up and down the frame.  It’s interesting here how the colour accent is the key perhaps, rather than the shape or type of bird.  It works well especially in relation to the following shot….

Two points
 …. Where the eye is moving back and forth between the two flower heads, but searching for a third to create a circular movement (could just be my squiffy way of looking at things).  Although the accent is important here, with the purple/green contrast creating a distinct space and relationship, dropping the depth of field to throw the background out of focus is crucial to defining shape and form – and thus texture.  It could probably go even more….

Several points in a deliberate shape
…. As in this shot where the delicate flower heads can only really be defined against a softer background.  Be interesting to see you use ‘rear curtain flash’ in this shot to capture both movement and the static together – similar to the fashion shot on your blog where you zoom out from the subject.

Combination of vertical and horizontal
I think the longer focal length works well to capture the combination of horizontal and vertical in this shot.  Also, that foreshortening/layer compression makes the regularity of the short curves in the wire fence an interesting and contrasting feature.  I like the way it’s partially concealed by the reeds.

Quite surreal, this one, a trio of ‘headless’ giraffes.  Although I realise you had the assignment element in mind, I like the fact that we’re looking at the back of the creatures – we’d rarely be tempted to go for a shot like that, but it works so well.  Could this be tightened up a bit, cropping bottom and bottom right?

This is my favourite shot from the set.  It’s as though you’ve captured some complex mating ritual, or a moment form a choreographed performance.  It’s interesting to read about your observation of their activity.
A chance shot like this (although you had to wait for the moment) is hard to capture.  Could it be improved – not from a compositional point of view, but I wonder if you adjusted the contrast levels using ‘curves’ if you could make the birds stand out even more without losing any of the detail?

Distinct shape
They’re such odd creatures, pelicans – every which way they move is comical and ungainly.  The shape you’ve captured here works really well, but the light and thus the detail) could be enhanced – not part of the brief, I know, but just out of interest.  Did you shoot this in RAW? If so you could have a look at the possible variations and enhancements at the point of import, or maybe just play around with channels and curves in PS.  Maybe also dodge out the tail of the bird centre left – Photoshop, you either love it or hate it!

Implied triangle  1
The steep contrast and dramatic colour in the flower heads (did you tweak the contrast and saturation?) helps define shape and form against a more textured background and creates a much more energetic close shot than the earlier images.  The detail here is lovely, especially the curling yellow stamen, and there’s a nice balance of colour and contrast throughout.

Implied triangle 2
In comparison, this does the job, but feels a bit bland.  It might be worth cropping it even more to get a bigger image of the sleeping ducks, and that would make the odd shape with heads tucked under wings, more interesting perhaps?

Very nice close shot of this plant stem, and a very adept, controlled approach to lighting (you sure you’re on the right level of photography course, Ingrid?)  I really like macro photography, did you use a 105mm?.  The balance of light between daylight and soft flash allows for an excellent range of texture detail right across the dynamic range, including the tiny softly lit hairs against the background.  You can feel a pulse of movement travelling up the stem.

Nice detail of white flower, with random movement of petals.  There’s a good range of focus here, with the focal point in exactly the right place, which creates a circular pattern, travelling out and round and back.  Did you shoot a CU of the entire head, yellow centre and all?

A great set of images which demonstrate that taking quite a technical approach to composition can produce some interesting, unusual and engaging results – or at least help us to look at things in different ways.  Technically, the set is really very good with an intelligent and accomplished approach to a variety of subjects and conditions -  I expect I’ll be saying that again in future assignments.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Assignment 2 - Elements of Design

It's taken me longer than planned to get this done. I lost a few weekends due to bad weather and have been distracted by other photography assignments, but I'm back on track now!
My chosen subject is 'the natural world'. I didn't want to take any images of buildings and other man-made structures as I took quite a few of these during the exercises, and wanted to try something different.

Produce at least 10 photographs, all of a similar subject, which between them will show the following effects:

  • Single point dominating the composition
  • Two points
  • Several points in a deliberate shape
  • A combination of vertical and horizontal lines
  • Diagonals
  • Curves
  • Distinct, even irregular, shapes
  • At least two kinds of implied triangle
  • Rhythm
  • Pattern

Single point dominating the composition

My first attempt at this was a picture of a buttercup in a grassy field. For some reason, the image wasn't really working for me, and seemed a little static. I came across these birds at the boating lake of a local park and immediately liked what I saw. There were several pigeons, geese and brown ducks by the lake, but just a solitary white duck, which really stood out. I spent quite a while taking shots from different angles as the birds moved around each other, but I think I prefer this image. I like the way the pigeons have almost formed an orderly queue behind the duck.

Two points

I tried to line these plants up so at least one of them was on a third. I then experimented with depth of field. I opted for this image because I didn't want them both in focus, but then again, I didn't want the furthest plant to be completely blurred.

Several points in a deliberate shape

I spotted this plant and like the way the flowers grow from one central point. It was quite tricky to photograph. Firstly, because there were so many of them growing, I had to search for an isolated cluster to focus on in order to get a cleaner background. Then I had to push the ISO to 500 to get a shutter speed fast enough to freeze them because they were so delicate, the slightest breeze created alot of blur.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

I spotted these reeds surrounding a pond. I took this while sitting on a nearby bench so that the camera would  be level with them because this angle emphasizes the way the reeds criss-cross. I zoomed in to eliminate the sky, but kept the small fence and a bit of grass to give the image some context rather than make it into an abstract.


This was taken at London Zoo this morning. I was standing on an observation platform which is about the same height as the giraffes, and took some random shots before this opportunity came along. I waited for the smallest giraffe to just about enter the doorway so that they would not be in a straight line. The doors also form a diagonal line although I only noticed this afterwards because I was trying to ignore the building.


I always end up taking pictures of the pelicans at London Zoo and no two pictures are ever the same. It pays to be patient where they are concerned because, at some point each of them will get up in turn, stretch and walk around. Initially these birds were in a line, and I thought I had another 'diagonal line' shot. But then five of them settled in a circle and the sixth bird walked to the centre and that's when I got this shot.
Not only do the seated birds form a curve, but the one that is standing is displaying curves using the shape of its head and wings.

Distinct Shape

I initially saw this as a representing curves. But on closer examination, I noticed that this pelican had created an irregular shape with its bill - almost elliptical, but not quite. I cropped the image to remove a third bird from the top section.

Implied triangle 1

This was taken in Regent's Park this morning. I wanted to shoot these flowers from this angle because of the unusual patterns in the centre. I cropped to remove other flowers and I opted for a square crop because it seemed to work better than the standard rectangle.

Implied triangle 2

This was taken in Finsbury Park yesterday afternoon. It was taken quite quickly to avoid other ducks and pigeons that subsequently got in the way. I preferred a square crop for this image too. 


This was taken with a macro lens that I very rarely use. The camera was mounted on a tripod in diffused window light, in the late afternoon. There was a marked contrast between the two sides of this plant, so I used my flashgun off-camera, above and to the right, with a diffusion dome to balance the light.
I think the curves and semi-repetitive pattern lead the eye through the image and that's what creates rhythm.


Another shot with the macro lens. This was taken in diffused window light, about mid-morning. Although the curves create movement, there is no 'set path' for the eye to travel which disrupts any potential rhythm.
I wanted to focus on the petals of this lovely flower, rather than the centre which was bright yellow, so I zoomed in on this part of the flower (the image has not been cropped). There is a slight colour cast at the bottom edge caused by light reflected from the yellow centre, but I still like it.

What have I learned?
The basic elements of design now jump out at me from every image I see. I think that being able to recognise these components helps me to appreciate what makes a picture aesthetically pleasing. This is particularly true of minimalist art. In the absence of an obvious subject, there will always be combinations of lines, shapes, patterns and rhythms. Interesting stuff!

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Background Reading

This book covers alot more than many of the other books that I have read on composition. As expected, it has sections on the golden ratio, frames within frames, and perspective, etc. But it also discusses how to incorporate blur, bokeh, narration and abstraction into an image for creative effect.
I found the section on rhythm particularly useful since I wasn't totally clear on how to show this in an image as a separate entity from pattern - I have to do this for the OCA assignment that I'm currently working on.

This is what the author says:
"Rhythm generally refers to a composition with a pattern that gives the viewer a sense of motion."

This has been very helpful. My understanding is that, while it is possible to show pattern in isolation (perhaps as an abstract), it is not possible to show rhythm without some form of pattern.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Fashion Photoshoot: "1950s"

  This is the last in the series of six shoots taken a couple of weeks ago in Edmonton, for a very talented fashion student called Caroline.