Elements of Design (6)

Here I tried to emphasise vertical lines:

I find the gap between the columns a bit distracting, so I stepped closer to them:

Next I tried to cropping tighter:

And lastly, stepping back again but including a glimpse of Queen Victoria's statue and some figures in the background:


Elements of Design (5)

I wanted to create a really clean, simple, design with theses spheres in Victoria Square, Birmingham, but found it difficult to avoid distracting details:

Spheres 1

Next I tried to isolate and emphasise one of the spheres but still show it in context of the others:

Spheres 2
Again though fussy details at the top of the image I find distracting, this next example with a shallow depth of field perhaps works better:

Spheres 3
I think what also works better in this third shot is that by cropping less tightly on the nearest sphere, it actually seems to isolate it more.

Elements of Design (4)

Another trip to Birmingham this morning:
Curves 1
Trying to capture some 'curves', the above shot seems 'ok', but not quite right. I had included the drain cover in the top right to add a little interest, but I'm not sure that works. On the next one I missed the shadow of the passing pedestrian at the top left which is a bit distracting:

Curves 2

The next one works better, I think because the two lighter curves are more tightly anchored into the lower corners and lead the eye in:

Curves 3

By changing position so that the camera was pointing down, the same curved block work becomes more diagonal:


Depth of Field

An exercise from the course, all these pictures of a sign on a curved wall were shot at f/1.4 on a crop sensor (APS-C) digital camera:

Focus on 'T'
Focus on the 'R' in Windsor

Focus on 'W'
 I prefer the first one - it seems to stand out more than the others.

Elements of Design (2)

Another shot from my first attempts of street details, here trying to shoot a combination of vertical and horizontal lines:

Perhaps a little too literal or 'deadpan'? Still, I like it, I think because the slightly bluish hue of the white-washed glass goes well with the packing tape. Also the random-ness of swirls of white-wash contrasts with the regularity of the window frame.

May be this blacked-out window is a better example:

Elements of Design (1)

I decided to take 'street details' as the subject for my second assignment, 'Elements of Design'. Here's some shots from my first attempts:

I was trying to create an implied triangle here, but I think my earlier shot was more successful:

I think this works better as the 3 darker blocks create a second triangle shape, as does the group in the upper right corner:

Contemporary Photographers

I visited The Photography Show at Birmingham NEC today, where I heard two interesting talks by contemporary travel/documentary photographers of National Geographic fame. First, Steve McCurry and then Joe McNally.

McCurry is perhaps most famous for his 'Afghan girl' image, which appeared on the front cover of National Geographic in 1985, see here. He related the many challenges he had faced in travelling to some of the most dangerous places in the world, and how most of his street portraits were made by selecting a suitable back-drop and natural lighting, and then simply waiting for an interesting subject to come along.

But he also showed himself to be a master of subtle artificial light effects in his shots for the Pirelli calendar, in which he also broke away from tradition and avoided nudity. He preferred the use of constant lighting rather than flash as he like's to 'see the light'.

He also gave some good examples of how his imagery had helped to communicate the plight of people in crisis-ridden countries and had directly led to some of them receiving help.

Joe McNally is well known as an exponent of on-location artificial lighting (see in particular his book The Hot Shoe Diaries), but over the course of the hour also revealed himself to be modest, self-deprecating and very funny. His tales of crazy schemes dreamed-up and then bought into by editors were at times hysterical, as was his wickedly ruthless humour at the vagaries of the world of journalism.

His more serious side came out when discussing his photographs of survivors of 9/11 World Trade Centre attacks. What he made clear is that he feels portraiture is all about being sensitive and building relationships, some of which he has sustained over decades.

During the question and answer session, McNally came out with a quote, which if I recall it correctly, goes something like this:

'As photographers.....or aim is to communicate with thousands of people who we shall never meet.....'


Newman, C. 2014. A Life Revealed - National Geographic Magazine. [online] Available at: http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2002/04/afghan-girl/index-text [Accessed: 3 Mar 2014].

Mcnally, J. 2009. The hot shoe diaries. Berkeley, CA: New Riders.

Joemcnally.com. 2014. Joe McNally’s Blog. [online] Available at: http://www.joemcnally.com/blog/ [Accessed: 3 Mar 2014].

Tutor Feedback & Key Learnings

I recieved feedback from my tutor on Assignment 1, and it was broadly in line with my own self-assessment, which is a good start. The summary of the key learnings, placed in my order of importance, are:
  1. Make sure I stick strictly to the assignment. Assignment 1 is all about visual differences between images, but I included some pairs of images where the differences were not visual but were more ambiguous. Partly I think this was because I had been reading The Photograph by Graham Clarke and had tried to impart some deeper meaning to some of the images.(see here). Anyway, I have Assignment 2 printed out and pinned above my desk now as a constant reminder!
  2. Try not to mix different styles (i.e. black and white and colour) in one piece, try to keep a theme/narrative going throughout the piece.
  3. Be careful before using a form of manipulation - especially HDR as this can look 'contrived', and was not really suitable for this assignment.
  4. Bring in more references to research and particularly other photographers' work into this blog.
  5. I presented the images and notes in a photobook, and whilst this is good method of presentation it makes re-shooting and re-editing, following your tutors feedback, costly and time-consuming. Better perhaps to use a more flexible format, but possibly then consider a photobook for formal assessment.
  6. Pre-visualising often helps to foster other ideas when shooting.
  7. Be careful to not to have images that are too similar - I included two images of logs where one is simply a closer crop of the other - in hindsight this was perhaps a little lazy.
  8. Don't worry too much about equipment - smartphone images can work well.
  9. Be realistic about deadlines and allow time for editing.

Clarke, G. 1997. The photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press.