Friday, 28 January 2011

Elements of design: Project - Points

Exercise: Multiple points

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to create a still life starting with one object building up to many objects and to examine the changing relationships created by adding further objects.

Approach and results:

Still lifes are always deliberate and controlled rather than a random set of objects that look like the photo was taken by chance.  They are deliberately arranged but also deliberately lit.  I wanted to ensure I paid attention to both.  In order to capture a number of objects I had to use a reasonably high angle which can make the image look flat.  Trying a low angle, whilst more interesting, did not allow me to isolate the objects because of the clutter in the rest of the room.  For the background I used a drop leaf table that had a rich colour and grain but was not obtrusive, having a uniform and consistent surface.  For the objects I chose a cocktail theme as I have a large collection of interesting cocktail accessories.

For the lighting I set the table near some patio doors so it was naturally lit.  The sun was gradually moving round so I was able to control the lighting using the curtains and various other objects.  Without the direct sunlight the still life was flat with no depth to the objects.

I set the camera on a tripod using manually set focus, aperture (f22), ISO (400) and white balance.  Using the fold out screen not only made this easier but also meant that I could view and capture in black and white if necessary.

For the first image I used a glass on its own.  I took a number of shots but finally settled on the following image:

I used a red ball (used to identify your glass) as I wanted to use more of these later and thought this may reinforce any relationship.  I blocked out the direct sunlight but used a silver tray to bounce a patch of light onto the table.  The glass only has a relationship with the frame at this point.

Adding the top of a cocktail shaker made me reposition the objects (below).  The main relationship is now between the objects.  However, the lighting is flat and uninteresting.

Adding a third object creates more relationships.  I did not alter the position of the original objects in this image.  However, again the lighting was flat and I wasn't entirely happy with the positioning.

I decided to combine the three objects into two by putting the balls inside the shaker lid.  I repositioned them closer together and used the tray to bounce a patch of sunlight.  I prefer this result but am not sure whether they are now acting independently or as a single object.  There could be a relationship between the glass and shaker and between the balls. 

Moving the two apart identifies the objects as a single relationship especially if viewed in B&W.

Moving on to four objects, things got much more complicated.  Having been OK with this image on the small screen on the camera I'm not happy with it now.  There is no pattern and no focal or central object.  The measure could have been further back creating a diamond pattern or relationship or one object could be centrally placed with the others radiating from it.

Using five objects I created a more ordered pattern.  Viewing in B&W there is a clearer radial pattern arranged around the central glass fruit.  There is, however a size issue with this; the glass fruit appear too small to be a central object.

For six objects I rearranged things again.  I decided the menu cards were too dominant and the glass stirrers too small.  I also moved the cork screw from the glass to a point of its own.  I also wanted the lighting to be more deliberate so I used a shaft of sunlight through the image.  The glass stirrers effectively act as two objects joined by glass poles.  This creates a central object with points radiating from it.  The overall result is a more interesting and even composition with the lighting helping to create a hierarchical order to the objects.

Viewing in B&W the stirrers become less obviously separate but they, along with the glass, still remain the central theme in the image because they are positioned along the shaft of light.

Highlighting the relationships shows the radial composition.

Learning points:

As the number of objects increased there was a greater need for an order or pattern.  What seemed to work as the scene got busier was an almost radial positioning of the objects around a central object.  This could have radiated from the side but the important point is that there is some kind of order.

If I had used more similar objects, patterns would be more obvious and easier to create.  Still lifes are best kept simple!

This has been an interesting exercise as I have never tried a still life before.  I feel I have learnt a lot from doing this and would have much more idea if I was to repeat the exercise.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Elements of design: Project - points

Exercise: The relationship between points

Aim: The aim of this exercise is to examine the relationship between two points in a frame.

Approach and results:

For this exercise I wanted to find two isolated objects if possible.  As the exercise description states, this is not as easy as it sounds.  Trying to find examples in the city centre made me realise how very little space is left unused.  I eventually found the examples detailed below.  One point to note is that there was rarely more than one angle that would allow me to isolate the two points in any of the images.

This first image is part of a sculpture, not exactly an everyday occurrence but one of the few isolated images I could find.  The two points are both metal silhouettes of people but the foreground point is larger and is the first point my eye picked up.  Then my eye moved to the second point at which point I started to establish a relationship between the two points. 

F2.8  1/200sec  ISO200

This second image was taken in a local park.  Again it is the larger of the two points that grabs your initial attention followed by the bench.  This example is more natural and the points are entirely different objects.  However, it provokes the same reaction as the previous image despite the fact that in real life the bench is larger than the bin.  This suggests that the photographer can emphasise a hierarchical relationship between subjects through placement. 

F9  1/20sec  ISO800

The third image was taken in an alleyway in the city centre.  It was lit with a pattern of Art Deco lights.  In this example I defocused the 'smaller' light to see if it still remained as a relevant point in the image and I think it does. 

F2.8  1/60sec  ISO200

A special case where points attract equal attention can be demonstrated by the following close up of someones face.  The eyes play equal roles in this image creating tension and giving an almost eery feeling.  

Learning points:

The objects size in the frame appears to be a dominant factor in the relationship between the two points an not the objects actual size.
The frame plays a far less important role in these examples, almost acting purely as a means of isolating the two points.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Elements of design: Project - Points

Exercise: Positioning a point

Aim:  The aim of this exercise is to position a single point in different parts of the frame to understand the graphic relationship the points have with the frame.

Approach and results:  I had a place in mind for this exercise that I had noted from previous outings.  This is a sign on the wall of an old building in Manchester.  The wall is large and relatively plain and uniform allowing me to place the sign anywhere in the frame whilst keeping it small enough to be a point.

F8  1/40sec  ISO200

For the first image I placed the sign in the centre.  This produced a somewhat flat and uninteresting image.  I also think that the sign is too large in this image and I should have zoomed out a bit further.  I also find that my eye wanders from the sign more readily than than in the other two images.

F8  1/40sec  ISO200

For the second image I placed the sign down to the right but not on the edge of the frame.  I was able to zoom out a bit further in this instance.  This shot shows a much greater scale to the wall.  The image is no longer divided equally as with the centrally placed sign.  The eye gravitates towards the sign more so than when it is placed in the middle.

F8  1/20sec  ISO200

Placing the sign nearer the edge of the frame  makes the sign feel more a part of that frame and not a subject within it.  The relationship has changed.  The sense of isolation in the previous image has been lost.  The following three images show the implied division of the frame created by the positioning of the sign.  As you can see the frame divides quite differently when the sign is central.


One of the issues of using a sign is that it has no direction and points neither into or out off the frame.  Using the example below, the kite has direction and as such is better placed leading into the picture.

The next two images show how colour can create the impression of a point where black and white suggests that this is not the case.  The harvester is far more conspicuous when bright red but competes with the trees and lines of hay in the black and white image.  

Learning points:

On posting the results I noticed that in moving the sign around the frame I automatically kept it the same distance from the vertical and horizontal edge.  It would be worthwhile changing this to explore the change in relationship of the subject to the frame.  I automatically placed it on the diagonal.
When identifying the points in an image it is useful to think in black and white to eliminate the influence of colour.