Take a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject group, consisting of between 10 -15 images and all of a similar subject. Between them they should show various effects and design elements from a specified list.
I chose buildings/architecture as my subject group and following my planning and preparation (see my post here) I was ready to start shooting. Originally I had planned to shoot all the images in the City of London, however one photograph from the exercises that I was particularly pleased with was taken in Bury St. Edmunds and I was unable to find a subject in London that I preferred to demonstrate the required element of ‘Single point dominating the composition’ so the London project widened its scope. Another couple of trips to Bury St. Edmunds town centre, more walks around the City and a holiday in Jersey provided me with more images to choose from.
I then needed to finalise the title of the project. ‘London laid bare’ became ‘Architecture laid bare’ and then developed further via the rather long-winded ‘Take a moment to look, not just to see’ to finally become ‘Take a moment to look’.
I divided my research for the assignment into three areas:
The outcome of my research can be viewed by clicking on the links above.
Single point dominating the composition
82mm, f/9, 1/200, ISO 100
This picture was taken in Bury St Edmunds and shows the approach to the goods delivery entrance into the Debenhams store in the town centre. I originally took this photograph as part of the ‘Positioning a point’ exercise to show a point close to the edge of the frame. However when looking for potential images for the assignment I was unable to find a subject that I preferred. I then went back to Bury to retake the shot in order to try to improve it but I wasn’t happy with my retakes.
As the first picture in my assignment set it is not a ‘safe’ image by any means, but I like the visual provocation of the placement of the point. I am really pleased with this image. It is an unusual composition and I am aware from the coursework that there needs to be a justification if the subject is placed in the corner of an otherwise empty frame. Here the ‘stop’ sign acts as the single point. It first attracts the viewer’s attention and then, by both its position and the word ‘stop’, it pauses the eye and prevents it leaving the frame. There is a lot of empty space to the right hand side of the image, however I think this is mitigated by the interest created by the diagonal pattern of the exterior wall tiles. The viewer’s eye is also led back across the frame by the rhythm in the railings at the bottom of the image. I notice that there is also an implied triangle created by the stop sign and the two entrances. This was unintentional at the time as I had not yet reached the part of the coursework covering triangles, however it does add another aspect of interest to the image.
60mm, f/10, 1/60, ISO 100
Apart from ‘Vertical and horizontal lines’ (about more of which later), I found ‘Two points’ the most difficult element to find a subject for that both met the criteria of the brief and also fulfilled my own stringent requirements for this set. Walking past the Lloyds Building in London I immediately noticed the circles on the steel boxes positioned on the exterior of the building and composed my shot to include just two. I’m not quite sure what the two circles demonstrating ‘Two points’ are – air vents maybe? Anyway, I spent some time trying different angles and framing to find an interesting composition for the image.
This is another image that I am pleased with. I feel that it meets the brief and I have managed to find my own angle for what is a very well-photographed building. I also like the diagonal lines running through the image which I feel bring in movement and direction.
In post-production I applied a preset in Silver Efex Pro to slightly lift the silver in the steel of the two boxes. I also cropped the left hand side of the image slightly to remove some pipework and to improve the balance the image.
Several points in a deliberate shape
29mm, f/8, 1/25, ISO 320
This image was taken in the The Quayside restaurant in St. Helier in Jersey and was an ‘on the hoof’ shot; as we were about to leave the restaurant I looked up and saw these lights. The restaurant manager was kind enough to allow me to take this picture.
I had been looking without much success for a subject that fitted the criteria and am pleased with the picture; the simple points form a rectangle and I like the symmetry of the image. The lights themselves are interesting and I like the way the light shines through the bottom two shades. One minor criticism is that I would have liked to align the top of the upper right hand lampshade with the panelling on the ceiling so that it exactly matched its counterpart on the left.
In post-production I applied a preset in Silver Efex Pro to even out the background. I also cropped the image to remove some ugly fixtures at the top of the frame and to balance it better.
Vertical and horizontal lines
55mm, f/9, 1/400, ISO 100
This image was shot at an open garden afternoon in Jersey and is a view of the outside of the owner’s house, taken when we were sitting on the patio having a cup of tea. I took a number of similar pictures of the building, concentrating on the lines created by the building edges and the stonework but when I saw the shadow I knew that this would make a fairly simple image more special.
Of all the elements required by the brief I thought that vertical and horizontal lines would be one of the easiest to photograph; in London I am surrounded by new steel and glass buildings and I see vertical and horizontal lines everywhere in these, created by the window frames and the external building structures. However, surprisingly, I found it difficult to get a shot that was also interesting and creative and I became quite frustrated with my lack of success. On holiday in Jersey I kept an eye out for potential shots and found a couple of possibles, however this was my preferred image.
Again I am really pleased with this picture. I like the simplicity and it reminds me a little of Hélène Binet’s work with her use of light and shadow on buildings. This influenced my choice when selecting my final image to demonstrate vertical and horizontal lines.
I straightened the perspective in Lightroom and removed a small unsightly blemish on the stonework.
260mm, f/9, 1/200, ISO 100
This picture was taken in the City of London and is of the windows of Nr. 5 Aldermanbury Square. I created the diagonals by shooting at an acute angle.
I am really pleased with this image. I like the abstractness and the striking appearance and also the way the diagonals create movement and direction through the frame. The subject was an obvious candidate for black and white conversion and it reminds me of some of Bruno Vanoudenhove’s images although at the time of taking the shot I hadn’t yet researched his work. Again this is an image I took for an exercise (diagonals) but I couldn’t find a subject that I preferred when looking for assignment candidates.
Mindful of the fact that the shutter speed was less than the focal length (although an increase in ISO would have corrected this ) I went back to reshoot only to find that the side of the building was covered in scaffolding. So that was that. However, I am happy with the sharpness of the image, maybe thanks to the image stabilisation on my lens and a steady hand.
80mm, f/8, 1/50, ISO 100
Another City of London picture, this time of the pavement and steps in St. Mary Axe.
I like the strong curves in this picture. I feel that the sweeping lines draw the eye through the frame and emphasise movement and direction in the image. I like the simplicity and I feel that the tiny hint of shadow under each steps adds an extra dimension. I also find it a very calm, graceful image. This is another exercise image and once again I went back to re-shoot to try and improve it, only to find I preferred my original shot. I think it has converted well into black and white (although the image was almost mono by nature) which has brought out the textures and detail.
In post-processing I removed some stray cigarette ends on the steps. I could have tidied it more but chose not to so that it reflected the reality of London. The shutter speed was really too slow for the shot to be handheld and I could have easily increased the ISO to remedy this if I had thought about it. However, the shot seems to have worked, probably due to the image stablisation on my lens and a steady hand.
At the time of shooting I wondered whether the shot could have been improved by, say, a person sitting on the steps or a larger shadow to add interest. However upon consideration I think that this would have interrupted the flow of the curves and broken the gracefulness and movement of the image. So I’m glad that I decided to keep it plain and simple.
Distinct, even if irregular shapes
200mm, f/10, 1/500, ISO 320
This photograph was taken in Milk Street, in the City of London, and is another spur of the moment shot. Walking back to my office one sunny lunchtime I saw the shadows on the pillars and thought they would fit this section of the brief perfectly. Being a fan of Hélène Binet I look for opportunities to shoot in her style and this image does remind me of her work, although I appreciate that I have a long way to go to reach the quality of her photographs.
I am really pleased with this image as the contrast really makes the shadows stand out as shapes. Whilst I am sure the shot can be improved, it reflects one of the directions in which I would like my photography to move forward and I am really enjoying working with light and shadow.
In post-processing I used a preset in Silver Efex Pro to emphasise the shadows and also bring out the decorative banding on the pillars. I did try cropping the left hand side of the image slightly in order to remove the tiny piece of shadow, but decided against this as it made the image look too posed and neat, almost manufactured.
Implied triangle (i)
32mm, f/9, 1/125, ISO 100
This is another image from Jersey, taken outside The Boat House restaurant in St. Aubyn. Having seen these lights I immediately saw the implied triangle formed by the three light bulbs but wanted to be a little creative with the shot. Much to the amusement of the restaurant diners I ended up crouching in the corner of the restaurant decking underneath the lamp post and shooting upwards.
Although it is my least favourite image of the set (I don’t feel it’s particularly inspiring), I am in the main happy with it. The more I look at it the more implied triangles I see. When I took the image I saw the implied triangle formed by the three lights themselves. However, when I processed the image I noticed that the three arms of the lights form another implied main triangle and then another three smaller ones. Finally, the two lower light arms each form an implied triangle with the main post. I’ve shown them here using Skitch.
In post-processing I removed a piece of cobweb between two of the lights and cropped the image at the bottom to remove some of the main light post. This gave a better balance to the image. I finished by applying a preset in Silver Efex Pro to bring out the metal tones in the circular shades.
Implied triangle (ii)
56mm, f/10, 1/250, ISO 100
This is a picture I took of the ‘Vents’ statue by Thomas Heatherwick which resides in Paternoster Square, City of London, and which is a disguise for two air vents. This was the first image I took as a possibility for the assignment, even though I had not finished my planning at the time, as I saw the shadows on the sculpture and could not pass up the opportunity for the shot. I originally took this image to show diagonals but realised that it was strong in implied triangles too. Although this was an ‘off the cuff’ shot, I have photographed ‘Vents’ before on a couple of occasions and keep it in the back of my mind as having the makings of an interesting image when needed.
I was pleased with this image when I took it, however having now carried out research into a number of architectural photographers I have grown to like it even more as it represents in many ways the direction I am currently looking to head in; striking, simple abstract architecture with the use of light and shadow and also high contrast processing.
In post-processing I adjusted blacks, whites and shadows in Lightroom in order to get the effect I was looking for. I did consider cropping the top of the image slightly to remove the small black triangle at the top left of the frame as I wondered whether it distracted the eye, but decided to leave it in as it alludes to the continuation of the image; a continuation of the rhythm if you like.
200mm, f/13, 1/200, ISO 400
I walk past Deutsche Bank in London most mornings on my way to work and have always been struck by the windows from a photographic point of view. I have be a little bit careful of security guards with this building so I planned my image over a couple of mornings before actually shooting.
I am pleased with this picture as I think it shows a different take on ‘rhythm’; a very slightly curved diagonal rather than from left to right across the frame. The tops of the windows and the balconies provide a visual beat through the image and the reflections in the windows themselves add some interest. I really like the uniformity of the windows and the differences in contrast between the glass and the windows.
In post-processing I corrected the vertical perspective in Lightroom. One criticism I have of the image is that there is no interruption; an interrupter of some kind to the right hand side of the image would have improved it as it would have caused the viewer’s eye to momentarily pause so that the rhythm was broken and the composition less predictable.
50mm, f/4.8, 1/500, ISO 100
This image was taken in Bury St Edmunds and is part of the stairwell leading to the first floor of the Apex, a music and arts venue in the town centre. I had seen the stair rails earlier as a potential image for ‘rhythm’ and had taken some test shots using different angles and camera settings. I then went back early one Sunday morning, when the area was quiet, to try and improve the image and was lucky enough to be able to benefit from the sun forming shadows on the wooden balustrade.
This is one of my favourite images of the set. I had looked in London for a ‘rhythm’ image with an interruption without success (security cameras on walls being really quite boring in my view). I wanted to find something a little different from the obvious pillars and windows for the shot so I had a wander around the modern shopping area in Bury St Edmunds. When I first saw the potential shot I was reminded of images by Bruno Vanoudenhove and tried to incorporate his style into the composition, envisaging a high contrast, very graphic final image. I shot using a wide aperture of f/4.8 to blur the paving stones in the background; I wanted the balustrades and the hand rail, not the background, to be the focus of the image.
I corrected the vertical perspective in post-processing and played around with the blacks, whites and shadows to get the high contrast effect I was after. I then used a preset in Silver Efex Pro to lift the shadows slightly. When viewing this image I realised that I have created an ambiguous figure/ground relationship (and am therefore not following the Gestalt Law of Segregation) – sometimes I see dark balustrades against a white background and other times I see a row of white pillars against a dark background. I must admit that this was completely unintentional but I am pleased with the visual interest and tension that this ambiguity has added to the image.
90mm, f/10, 1/100, ISO 320
This image is of the windows of the Willis Building in Lime Street, City of London, which are reflecting the Lloyds Building which stands opposite. I wanted to find an unusual pattern for this final image, something that was different, so I was really pleased when I spotted these reflections and the pattern they made.
Although I am not so keen on patterns in photography, I was pleased with this image. I like the fact that it is different and that it may take the viewer some time to work out that it is a reflection. At the time of the ‘Rhythms and patterns’ exercise I did some brief research as to whether a pattern in an image could benefit from an interruption to add interest and found that the view seemed to be that the breaking of repetition in a pattern could be of some benefit. Here, the very thin window frames provide brief interruptions to the pattern which itself carries on outside the frame, giving the impression of a larger patterned area.
I increased the blacks and whites in post-processing to heighten the contrast and give the image some punch.
The images can also be seen on my Flickr photostream
In the main I am very happy with this set of images. I thoroughly enjoyed researching, planning and shooting this assignment and I found it helpful to set up a project that I wanted to do and which fulfilled the brief at the same time.
I am pleased with these assignment photographs at this early stage of the course although I am aware that there is room for improvement, both on the technical and creative fronts. In a couple of images I’ve moved away from being ‘safe’, which I hope is a good thing although I don’t have the courage yet to push the boundaries of my work too far.
I am also happy that I seem to have found a direction that I want to follow and that I’ve found the beginnings of a personal style. I’m still looking for that elusive ‘wow’ factor though, so I guess more learning and practice is required.
The ones that got away …
Images that I rejected for this assignment, together with my reasons why, can be seen on my learning log: