Sunday, 21 November 2010

The Frame: Project - Cropping and extending

Exercise: Cropping

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to revisit 3 earlier photos and investigating a different crop of each.


The following crop was to accentuate the line of cars on the big wheel.  The unexpected outcome was that I noticed the remembrance day poppies on all the carriages, changing the emphasis of the image from the lines, shapes and patterns of a big wheel to an image depicting remembrance day.

This next crop focuses on the symmetry of the building, removing any other distractions.  The cloud pattern fanning out over the building becomes more important as does the large spike on the roof.

For the final image I chose to focus on the diamond pattern created by shadows of the pillars.  I did this by cropping the distractions on the left and top of the frame (these were as a result of using a 95% viewfinder).  I then cropped the large bright pillar on the right as it was drawing my eye.  This has the effect of tightening and emphasizing the pattern on the floor

Learning points:

It is important not to settle for the image frame and composition that you originally took without exploring different crops of the image.  You may find something you missed in the image or a more pleasing or balanced image.

One continual problem I have is that the 95% viewfinder on my camera means I am always cropping images and never capture what I see first off.  This may have it's good side as I am always forced to revisit images.

The Frame: Project - Dividing the frame

Exercise: Balance

Aim:  The aim of his exercise is to take a number of existing pictures from previous exercises and decide how the balance works in each one.


The main focus in this picture is the folly.  The other point of interest is the people.  Having positioned the folly left of centre, this picture would have been more balanced if the people had been on the right side.  However, the folly is well balanced against the background in this image.

This picture suffers from the same imbalance as the first.  The larger group of people would be better placed on the right of the picture, or the shot could have been framed with the folly to the right of centre.

 I have used this image as I think it is rather unbalanced.  The rock is too dominant and the folly too central.  Changing position slightly to make the rock more central and moving the folly to the left would work better, separating the rock and the folly.  

 The two images above are more complicated, with more elements to consider.  That said, I think they are both evenly balanced with a number of points of interest.  A'busier' picture tends to look more balanced as any imbalance is harder to identify.

The balance in this image is more to do with colour than subject.  The yellow blue and green compliment each other as do the red and orange.  I think the dominant red bottle would be better placed at the front of the line although there is symmetry with the yellow at both extremes.  I would try and keep the yellow bottles symmetrical no matter what position they were in.

Learning points:

I think that a picture does not have to have an even balance or symmetry.  A deliberately unbalanced picture can be used to highlight a particular subject, creating a bold or dramatic image.

The balance is more obvious in simpler images with fewer points of interest.  This does not necessarily make the image any easier to balance.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Frame: Project - Frame shapes and sizes

Exercise: vertical and horizontal frames

Aim: The aim of this exercise is to challenge the automatic reaction to take horizontal pictures and to demonstrate the virtues of shooting vertically by taking 20 vertical shots and repeating these horizontally.  

Plan:  I spent the day in Manchester city centre which has a wealth of subjects in a fairly compact area.  Where the subject was not static, I took the vertical and horizontal images at the same time so I did not lose the comparison.

Results:  First off, I've always liked taking images in portrait and don't naturally settle for the landscape format.  I did tend to search for vertical subjects as this was the first set of pictures, but was surprised by the resulting horizontal comparison.  Many of the images that I assumed would be good vertically looked just as good horizontally despite the fact I had chosen them as good vertical subjects.  The following contact sheet gives 20 examples of horizontal and vertical pairs of images.

Learning points:

A tall subject such as the yellow building above may seem tall in you mind but when you are close to it the perspective means that the scene is in fact wider than it is tall.  My immediate reaction was to shoot this vertically but the horizontal is more dramatic as it allows the sides of the building to lead in from the corners.  It is a much stronger image, defining the blocks of colour on the side of the building.

Trying to fit a subject into a format that does not work only leaves you with an image with unwanted distractions or a poorly framed shot.  It is best not to prejudge but to automatically view a subject in any number of ways (not just vertical or horizontal) before deciding on the final shot.

The Frame: Project - Dividing the frame

Exercise: Positioning the horizon

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to explore the impact of dividing an image using the horizon, placing it in different parts of the frame.

Plan: I needed a viewpoint that gave a continuous horizon so I chose a place I've been to many times but never with my camera.

Results:  I picked a sunny day but the scene I had chosen had a band of cloud so I had 4 distinct bands in the image; blue sky, cloud, urbanisation and a field in the foreground.  I Started by placing the horizon towards the bottom of the frame.  This makes the sky more dominant which would be fine if the sky was more interesting in this picture.  As there is a wide expanse of blue sky this is not ideal.  However, an interesting effect is created by splitting the lower half equally between field, urban and cloud with the blue sky occupying the entire top half.  

F13, 1/200 sec
Putting the horizon in the middle of the frame would normally be flat but the band of cloud adds a dimension creating an artificial horizon further up the frame.  If this were all blue sky then the image would be very flat.  This asks the question 'is the cloud line more or, at least, equally as important as the horizon?'.  I think this demonstrates that any distinct line in an image has some influence or importance (good or bad).

F13, 1/200 sec
Putting the horizon in the top third of the frame gives a  more interesting image but highlights the lack of foreground interest.  Comparing the next two images, adding foreground interest using the tractor tracks leading into the frame creates a further dimension to the image.

F13, 1/200 sec

F13, 1/100 sec
For this final image I moved the horizon to the top of the frame.  This has the effect of making the foreground the main focal point whilst the horizon loses all importance.  Also lost is the element created by the blue sky which has been removed, leaving the viewer to assume a more generally overcast sky.

F10, 1/125 sec
Learning points:
All elements of the image have some influence depending on their positioning (either naturally or by the photographer).  This exercise was about positioning the horizon but this depends on what the eye considers to be the natural division in the image.

One of the issues I have is with my cameras viewfinder.  It is 95% and I therefore don't necessarily get the frame I want.  This usually involves some minor cropping but was more noticable and a continual issue in this exercise because of the precise placement of the horizon.  There is also some barrelling at the wide angle shown by the curve of the horizon which changes from top to bottom.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

The Frame: Project - Focal lengths

Exercise: Focal Lengths
Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to explore the change in perspective of wide angle and telephoto on the same subject and the impact this has on the image.

Plan:  My first plan was to use a very tall building but this proved difficult as I would need to be some considerable distance away and could not find the straight path I had visualised.  I chose a smaller older building on the corner of a square that had a curved front and some interesting detail.


I took a number of images in succession and have chosen the following two;

F11, 1/320, 160mm
The image above shows the compressed perspective of a telephoto shot.  The buildings appear to be right next to each other when there is, in fact, a road on either side of the white building.  The straight sides suggest that you are looking from a distance and not looking straight up from the foot of the building.  You get an idea of the size and shape of the building in it's surroundings and the detail is visible, including the writing around the top.  It remains the focal point but has far greater competition from other elements in the frame.

F13, 1/250 sec, 18mm
 This second image is far more dramatic and isolates the subject from the buildings around it.  The curved shape is more pronounced but detail towards the top, including the writing is now lost.  There is greater symmetry created in this image as the edges of the lit area of the building lead in from the corners and converge towards the top.

Learning points:

Both images have their own appeal.  The first image orders the building in it's surroundings and due to the writing gives it a purpose or a place in history.  The second image creates more drama, isolating the building.  That said, converging verticals are not always wanted in architectural photography hence the use of shift lenses but that is not the point of this particular image.

The Frame: Project - Focal lengths

Exercise: Focal Lengths

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to understand and appreciate the effect of changing focal length.

Plan:  I planned to spend the day in Manchester for a series of exercises.  There are a number of large squares that I could use for this exercise that would give me a clear view across from one side to the other.


The following shots were taken in succession across the square from a wide angle covering the whole of the square to a a tighter zoomed view covering the statue on the with a far side.  The camera was mounted on a tripod.

F16, 1/13 sec, 18mm 
The interest in this shot is the line of bollards curving round to the right leading the eye into the picture.  The cobbles lead in from the other direction but are not as strong as the bollards at this point.  The statue that will later become the focal point is barely visible.

F16, 1/13 sec, 30mm
Zooming further in looses the scaffolding on the right and the boarding on the left and brings the further, smaller tree into the picture.  The statue becomes a visible part of the image.  The bollards still lead the eye into the picture.  The church becomes more central to the image. The slight barrelling of the previous image is also lost.  This is a far more pleasing image.

F16, 1/13 sec, 75mm
 Zooming further brings the statue and the detail in the church into play.  The corner of the tree suggest that the square is not just 'bricks and mortar'.  The bollard provides some forground interest and the cobbles take over the role of leading the eye into the frame.  Detail in the people becomes visible and gives them more of a role in the image rather than people who were in the way.

F/9, 1/20 sec, 250mm
Finally the statue becomes the focal point of the frame with the lines of the church dividing the frame into 4.  The leaves in the top right corner now only serve as a distraction.  The statue is deliberately placed on the left, stepping into the frame.

Learning points:

Changing focal lengths over even a small amount can have a great effect on the focus of the image.
Different objects in the frame became focal points with changing importance as I zoomed through the lens range.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise: A sequence of composition

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to examine the way we approach a subject and create the final image.

Plan:  I planned to use the Didsbury beer festival to complete this exercise.  It is a popular event with lots going on and is held in a big marquee.  The extra challenges this raised were the shear number of people and the low lighting.  I wanted a shot that captured the essence of the festival and the frenetic and continuous work of the volunteers behind the bar.


I started by scouting round the venue and taking shots from different angles and with and without flash.  I then started zooming in from a prefered angle to get the shot I wanted.

F5, 1/60 sec with flash

F3.5, 1/6 sec
I zoomed in further on the bar but could not get the shot I was looking for so I headed for a shot behind the bar....

F6.3, 0.8 sec
  I got some interesting shots level with the bar as I could capture the interactions between staff and customers.....

F5.6, 1/60 sec with flash

F4.5 1/60 sec with flash

F5.6, 1/60 sec with flash

Looking down behind the bar wasn't what I was after until I moved further in....

F5, 1/60 sec with flash

F3.5, 1/5 sec

 Moving futher in gave me a closer view of the staff at work....

F11, 1/80 sec with Flash

F11, 1/125 sec with flash
Zooming further still gave me the position I wanted but the action was fast and furious and there was plenty of opportunity to get it wrong as this shot shows

F5.6, 1/125 sec with flash
 Finally I got a couple of shots I wanted giving a close up of the beer being poured.  The first shot is more isolated but I like the fact that the second shot shows how busy it was.  I also made sure I was at the left end of the bar as all the glasses have a measure on them with the logo to the left.  This is why it is central on the images....not just luck.

F6.3, 1/125 sec with flash
F6.3, 1/125 sec with flash

Learning points:

I discarded a lot of pictures due to the fact that there was a lot going on with a lot of movement not just in my subject but in front and behind my subject making a lot of the images unusable even when I thought they were ok in the first instance.  Even when you think you have the shot, take it again several times as close inspection may reveal otherwise.

If you can, scout the situation before deciding on the prefered angle or image and don't be afraid to keep shooting as this may reveal an image or angle you had not thought of.



Friday, 22 October 2010

The Frame: Project - Looking through the view finder

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to explore the effect of putting the subject in different areas of the frame.

Plan:  Whilst doing the previous exercise I decided that I would find an object in Lyme Park that I could isolate against the background.  I had no strict idea of the subject but I wanted a series of shots that did not include an horizon.  I spotted a plant growing out of a wall and took a couple of test shots to make sure it was suitable.


The following shots are show examples in order of preference from best to worst.  All shots were tripod mounted and an aperture stopped down slightly to 7.1 to ensure focus across the frame.

The most pleasing image is with the subject in the upper left of the frame.  Because, in this case, the plant is growing down and slightly to the right, it leads into the image from this position.  Also, not being central brings the background into play as part of the image rather than something that happened to be behind the plant.  The other off centre images work to lesser degrees.

The central subject, despite capturing the subject clearly, looks like attention was paid to the subject alone without any interest in the background.  This image would have worked better if the background were thrown out of focus (not possible with this subject).  The background has to play a part.

The last image with the subject on the far right does not work.  The subject is too far to the edge of the frame suggesting that the subject was almost missed.   

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

The Frame: Project - Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject.

Aim: The aim of this exercise is to explore the size of a subject within the frame.

Plan:  I planned to use the 'Cage' in Lyme Park (originally built as a hunting lodge) as my subject.  I chose this subject as I could get close up and also view it from a distance from a number of directions.  The weather was mixed and got progressively worse. 


F9.0, 1/250sec, 130mm
Shot 1 - This first shot has been taken with no attention to the position or size of the subject in the frame (deliberately).  The result is a bland uninteresting shot.  The sunlight on the foreground only aids in making the main subject less significant.The centrally placed folly and central horizon do not provide any lead into the shot or any sense of drama for what is actually a dramatic scene.  The people by the folly help give a sense of scale but the people nearer the camera only add as a distraction.

F9.0, 1/80sec, 28mm
Shot 2 - This shot is a tight crop on the folly and has also had some lens correction applied using Photoshop to correct the converging verticals.  I did this to get a tighter crop at the top of the frame due to the size of the subject.  The resulting image provides no context for the environment.  The close cropping does not provide a suitable frame for the shot and would be better cropped that bit further so that the edge of the folly is not visible.  This is not always the case when cropping tightly but in this instance the cropping does not add anything.

Shots 3,4,5 - The following 3 shots are all parts of the subject.  At this point the interest becomes the detail of the subject, the brickwork lines and shadows.  They become the subject rather than the building.  There are hints to the age and scale of the subject but not the location or context.  The viewer has the opportunity to use their own imagination for the overall scale and setting.  All three shots would benefit from stronger lighting to accentuate the lines in the brickwork.

F8.0, 1/80sec, 75mm

F9.0, 1/60sec, 26mm

F9.0, 1/60sec, 50mm

 Shot 6 - This shot was taken to stress the surroundings.  It shows the isolation of the subject in it's environment.  Like image (1) the people help to give a sense of scale.  Interestingly, if taken from another angle I could have shown Manchester in the background showing the folly's proximity to the urban environment and changing the context of the picture entirely.

The image would benefit from some foreground interest leading the eye into the picture.  The lighting is better in this shot, with the brightly lit hills in the background rather than the bright foreground of image 1.  However, light falling on the subject would have improved the shot, especially against the dark sky.

F13.0, 1/80sec, 100mm
The following 3 images are different crops of the first image.  All of these images offer a different viewpoint.  My preference is for the 'landscape' or 'widescreen' shot as this accentuates how isolated the folly is. 

Learning points:

I was surprised that the tight crop did not work in the way I thought.  I expected a greater sense of drama having used this technique before to good effect.
Close cropping on part of a subject changes the subject completely.  In this case from looking at an isolated folly to looking at patterns and shapes within it.
Placing the subject within it's surroundings changes the view again.  Not just the fixed physical landscape but also the changing aspects (people in this instance).
All of this is in the control of the photographer and needs to be considered in creating the image.