Thursday, 1 September 2011

Assignment 1: Contrasts

Assignment 1 calls for 8 pairs of images showing contrast. These can be literal or implied and I hope I have selected a number of interesting subjects with a range of techniques. I have selected images I have not used in any previous exercises which has proved very time consuming and I'm pretty sure I won't be using this method again!

This pair of images was taken on holiday in Greece. The first was taken at the end of the day after beach staff had put all the resort sailing boats up on to the beach. The photo may have been improved by taking it later in the day with more golden light, but I took advantage of the clear beach which was a rare occurrence. I cloned out some distractions in the sea behind the masts and I used Aperture to clone out some small distractions and improve colour saturation and levels (something common to most images in this assignment). I felt this image really suited a panoramic crop to keep the focus on the boats and also remove unnecessary sky and beach, which added nothing to the scene.

To keep the sailing theme going, I chose the image below to represent 'few'. I tried a similar panoramic crop of the single sailboat but the large amount of sky and sea add to the isolation the image is trying to convey. The mountains in the background add to the drama I think. Again, I used Aperture to clone some small distractions and improve colour saturation and levels.

The images I have chosen for this category are very different. The 'diagonal' image is one I took at Widemouth Bay in Cornwall, which has some really interesting cliffs at the edge of the beach. It wasn't the most photogenic day so I kept the sky out of the image as much as possible while trying to keep the cliffs in context to show the diagonal path of the rocks. The cliff itself and rocks in the foreground also run on a diagonal path from left to right. Colours, levels, highlights and shadows have been boosted quite strongly giving an 'HDR' type of feel to the image which I really like but some might find too artificial.

The image I chose for 'rounded' was one I took for an exercise but didn't use. I actually don't like the dull background but I do like the reflections of our kitchen, especially the window which has been distorted by the rounded shape of the spoon. If I had time, I'd recreate this image with a better background and more symmetry in the reflection.

The first image was taken at Snowshill Lavender Farm just before harvest in July. Unfortunately, when I got there it was a pretty dull day with no interest in the sky so I had to work hard to get some good pictures. The long rows of beautiful lavender make some really interesting lines, some straight, some curved but I've picked this image to represent 'straight'. I boosted colour to counteract the very dull light and boosted shadows and highlights to get detail back in the sky.

The image I have chosen to represent 'curved' is technically a pretty poor photograph! I was passing a local park when I saw some power kites in the sky and liked the shapes they were making. I took my camera out quickly and started shooting, making the cardinal mistake of not checking my settings first. When I got home I realised my camera was set up for some low light pictures I was taking the night before so they were taken at ISO 1000, hence the noise. However, I actually liked the content of the images so after some exposure rectification and colour boost I decided to use this one. The image was also cropped to remove unnecessary sky.

I raided my shed and turned to my 60mm macro lens for this pair of images representing Pointed and Blunt. Because I took these in natural diffused light in my conservatory against a makeshift background, lighting control was fairly limited. I converted to black and white to counter some colour cast and sharpened them both slightly.

Imagining and photographing 'Smooth' presented a real challenge to me. I tried many different scenarios but just didn't get the photo that I felt conveyed the subject well. By it's very nature, something very smooth should be featureless and therefore difficult to photograph! In the end, I selected this seaside landscape I took a while ago. I used a tripod to get a sharp image in low light and the long shutter speed smoothed out the lagoon water reflecting the sunset light.

The image I have chosen to represent 'rough' is a macro shot of Basil our beagle's nose. Their sense of smell is fifty times greater than ours and beagle owners will know the trouble it can get them into! I felt the image wasn't working in a standard crop so cropped it square and converted it to black and white. Square crops are notoriously difficult to get right but I felt it worked for this image. I love the textures this close-up shows and it's a very unusual dog portrait.

I have chosen this particular 'continuous' image because of it's content over any technical skill. It was a shot taken in Cirencester Park with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic App, which I am completely addicted to. The App simulates Lomography images which adds colour saturation, flare, vignetting, square crop, film scratches and just about every other effect we spend our entire lives trying to avoid in today's digital world! Although the sky was featureless (something I seem to bring on as soon as I strap on my camera), I really like the seemingly never ending path and the scratchy effect of the Lomo app. I tried to balance the image by centring the path and I like the way the trees in the distance almost mirror the perspective of the path.

I have represented intermittent using a close-up of my ukulele fret board. There's a lot going on when you really look at stringed instruments; curves, long lines, short lines, movement and stillness. I could have used similar images for quite a few of these contrasts! This was taken in natural light with my trusty 60mm macro lens. Again, I'm not that happy with the grey background but it's all I have at the moment.

The image for 'dark' was taken at Trebarwith Strand, a lovely beach in Cornwall that we often visit. It is one of the most photographed beaches in the country because of picturesque Gull Rock in the background, plus there is a river running dramatically through old slate mining channels as you walk to the sands. I took this in early March and really liked the contrast of the storm at sea with the shafts of light coming through the clouds. The eye is drawn to the surfers in the sea; impressive that they were there at all considering I was well wrapped up and still freezing! I did my best to get some foreground interest in the shot while still having the sky as the main feature and have placed the horizon along the bottom 'third' line.

The image used for 'light' was taken during the heavy snows we had in the Cotswolds earlier in the year. Our dogs, a constant source of inspiration, had the most fantastic time jumping through the 3 foot drifts and I took this as Rosie the Springer emerged with a stick that had been buried. The bright snow is a metering challenge for even the best digital cameras and I dialled in +1ev exposure compensation to emphasise the very bright conditions and stop the snow appearing grey.

I had a few choices for an image that represents 'high' given that I do a lot of walking along the South West Coastal Path but decided to choose this fairly obvious one. Nothing says 'high' like a warning sign showing a man falling off a cliff! I tries to keep this sign obvious but not the whole focal point of the image as the backdrop of Bedruthan Steps is just stunning. There are better view points of the stepped rocks on the beach themselves, but I wanted to get the sign in the frame. The image was processed in Aperture with some colour saturation adjustments but I have not corrected the fairly obvious lens distortion which has caused the horizon to bow.

Low is represented by another, more conventional portrait of Basil, our Beagle. A low viewpoint makes for an interesting study of pets because we normally look down on them and rarely see them from this angle. The diffused light looks nice on his fur and I liked the low perspective and catchlight in his eye in this image. I deliberately put the grass in the foreground but left it out of focus - I think it frames the image nicely and is a technique a lot of modern lifestyle photographers are using at the moment. I'm not overly happy with the busy background but that's the way our garden looks so other than use maximum aperture, there's not much more I could have done about it!

Single image showing contrast
I decided to return to a subject close to my heart for this image. I have quite a few guitars and love not only the sounds they make but find them aesthetically pleasing too. This image of my ukulele shows the curves of the body leading to straight lines of the strings contrasting with the intermittent frets too. This is not the last time you'll see pictures of stringed instruments in this blog! I'm not very happy with the grey background of this picture but I had no other lighting options with me at the time and I feel it does get the point across.

About this Assignment
During the course of this first module and assignment, I have been through some real highs and lows. I just couldn't find the time to get going on it and nearly quit the whole course several times in despair. Now it's finished, I have learned some really valuable lessons about planning and time management - probably more useful to me than the actual content of the module. I have renewed interest in the course and will continue with a new mindset. I will not give myself ridiculous deadlines that I can't hope to meet but will instead enjoy the journey as well as the destination. Exercises will get done when they're done and my new tutor has really helped me with planning advice and a new attitude. Bring on Assignment 2!