Saturday, 4 June 2011

Assignment 2: Elements of Design

The whole process leading up to this assignment was challenging, but thoroughly enjoyable.  Certainly I feel that I am now viewing potential "subjects" with these design elements in mind.

The purpose of this visual design is to support the subject matter.  An interesting book on this subject is that by Freeman Patterson - "Photography and the art of seeing".  This was a little gem found by searching through the catalogue of books available in Essex libraries.  Quoting from the book, "If we look at something that might seem mundane, such as a gravel pit, we are first aware of what it expresses in only the most general sense: destruction, desolation, loneliness, timelessness.  The message or theme is expressed in the sum of the features of our subject matter.  It is only later that we observe the details - their shapes, textures and colours that form their inherent design."  The challenge, however is not to codify the subject matter into specific design elements, but to use these elements intuitively in order to express the qualities inherent in the subject.

The brief for this assignment called for me to incorporate the insights learned so far on this course into a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject.  I am to 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 if irregular, shapes;
  • at least two kinds of implied triangle;
  • rhythm;
  • pattern.
I chose for my subject, the buildings and gardens comprising the "Cressing Temple", This is a historic monument established by the Knight's Templar in the 13th Century.  A truly fascinating place which I visit regularly.  A link to a leaflet which gives a bit more detail is here.

A single point dominating the composition

Window:  ISO200  93mm  f11  1/160
The single point here is the window in the side of the granary house.  Its size and white colour causes it to dominate the image, even though the old brickwork is in itself interesting.  I used ISO 200 to give me flexibility as in my camera there is little loss of quality but it gives me greater flexibility.  An aperture of f11 was selected to provide good sharpness throughout without any loss of quality due to lens design.

Two points

Eyes:  ISO200  105mm  f11  1/50
Decorative heads around a water feature provided the two points for me.  The mouth contained a water spout, but the eyes are so "piercing", they just had to be done.  To enhance the image, I cropped tightly, giving a symmetrical image either side of the nose.  My concern here was to make sure that I had sufficient depth of field throughout, as I was shooting quite closely at the maximum focal length for the lens.  I also chose a "head" which was in shade so that I had even lighting throughout.  I felt that harsh shadows would detract from this image.

Several points in a deliberate shape

Lily pond:  ISO200  80mm  f16  1/40
I found that the lily leaves in the pond formed the number four, giving me this shape, which based around a triangle.  As I was shooting at an angle to the surface of the pond, I wanted to maximise my depth of field so I selected f16 as the most suitable aperture.  To me, the brickwork reflecting in the pond added texture and further interest, so I did not attempt to remove these reflections using a polarising filter.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

Wheat Barn detail:  ISO200  105mm  f14  1/125
For this, I was seduced by the plethora of actual horizontal and vertical lines formed by the brickwork and the wooden structure of the barn.  I felt that a "head on" shot of this wall was too static, so I moved slightly to the side giving gentle diagonals leading the eye through the photograph.  By using the modest telephoto of 105mm, I managed some compression as well which has made the wall less static.  I selected f14 as the aperture which would provide me with sufficient depth of field, from side to side and this also gave me a comfortable shutter speed for the focal length.


Walled garden:  ISO200  24mm  f16  1/80
The path alongside the wall in the Medieval garden has provided strong diagonals which lead the eye to the tree positioned at the end and then the small figure underneath the tree.  I enhanced the effect using a wide angle of 24mm and then used a small aperture of f16 to provide me with good sharpness throughout.


Temple grounds:  ISO200  32mm  f14  1/80
One of the paths in the grounds, leading to the walled garden in the distance, provided me with an elegant curve for this photograph.  I enhanced this by using a medium wide angle of 32mm and an aperture of f14 has provided me with good sharpness throughout.

Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

Stairway to heaven:  ISO200  32mm  f14  1/250
This fire escape caught my eye as soon as I walked in into the Cressing Temple grounds.  This led from the top floor at one end of the Granary building.  I shot this as a semi-silhouette as I wanted to retain some detail in the metal work.  To me this had a large number of shapes, ranging from curves, through vertical lines, diagonals and triangles.  What appealed to me was just the graphic nature of this structure.  I took quite a number of different shots from different angles, but this, I feel, came closest to what I wanted.  I wanted the structure to be sharp, so used an aperture of f14 and exaggerated some of the lines by using a mid-wide angle.

Two kinds of implied triangle

Corner of wheat barn:  ISO200  16mm  f16  1/30
 Shooting close to one corner of this barn, using a very wide angle has created a triangle by convergence.  This is very much a standard form of an implied triangle.

Planters:  ISO200  73mm  f18  1/30
The two planters standing on top of the wall pillars and the rounded form of the bay tree against the wall has created a natural triangle.  The viewer's eye is drawn to this triangle formed by the 3 shapes.  Standing back and using a small amount of telephoto has strengthened this effect by making the three object appear as though they were in the same plane.  I ensured good depth of field by using an aperture of f18.


Waves 1:  ISO200  f4  1/1250
The curved roof tiles on top of the 16th Century farmhouse in the grounds gave me plenty of opportunity to explore the use of rhythm.  I have, here selected three photographs which illustrate rhythm, using the same subject, but taken from different angles.  The tiles suggested waves to me, flowing in a strong motion from left to right.  In "waves 1", I angled the shot so as to look over the top of the waves and, additionally, I used an aperture of f4 to provide a shallower depth of field, focusing a third of the way into the frame.  This, to me adds to the sense of movement.

Waves 2:  ISO200  105mm  f13
In "waves 2", I shot this much more "square on" onto the roof, using a small aperture of f13 to provide good depth of field.  This now gives the look of repeating "U"s moving from left to right across the image.  The valley of the "U" is now much more pronounced and the tiles give the impression of crests of waves going vertically up the photograph.  Again, a definite sense of movement from left to right.  The imperfections and irregularities of the tiles seem to add to this sense of movement.

Waves 3:  ISO200  98mm  f18  1/80
In "waves 3" I wanted to give a starting point to the rhythm or movement and the small black "chimney" provided this.  Shooting lower down the roof, provided a shot of the edges of the lowest tiles and this now gives a much different impression.  Firstly, the rhythm is anchored at one end, and now the waves move from there, though they appear to have much greater peaks, giving a "choppier" movement.  I felt that for this to work, I needed to shoot at a small aperture to maximise DOF.


Barn roof:  ISO200  105mm  f14  1/200
I found, again, I had many choices of subject, the first of which was this barn roof.  It could have been usd as a "single point" with the diamond shape in the top left.  I stared at this roof for some time and the different colours and shades of tile seemed to create patterns across the frame.  I then played around with different ways of expressing this and, by increasing blacks, brightness and contrast in Lightroom, as well as rendering the photograph in Black and White, I arrived at the image below.

Barn roof 2
In B&W this starts showing the various patterns I could see in the roof tiles - irregular, but significant.

Path:  ISO200  24mm  f16  1/80
The path, I feel is a much more natural / traditional representation of "pattern", her the bricks being laid out in what is a herringbone pattern.  The crop of the photograph enables the mind to expand the pattern, in this case, in all directions.

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