28 Apr 2010

Assignment 2 tutor feedback

My tutor must have been champing at the bit to get his hands on my work as it was assessed and back in less than 24 hours, thanks.  So what can I say... my hopes were realised and my fears came true!

Firstly I asked a few questions and they were kindly answered, in that YES it is better to stick to the required number of shots and not put in additional images as it is important to show that one can stick to the brief.  The choice of subject is also important so that there is both variety and a visual link to tie the shots together.

Good comments were made on the assignment as a whole collection and the Mail Boxes in particular.  I was complemented on an ability to look beyond the surface of a location and find interesting details in a place.  There was certainly no criticism of any particular shot so I take that as a positive point.

This is a learning experience and I was glad to receive a number of points on ways I can improve my skills.  It was mentioned that the assignment is about conveying a sense of a particular place and most of my images were too generic to fulfil that need.  I should have tried to convey more of the cities individuality.  I don't feel that the brief made this quite clear enough and I was approaching the task from a more practical direction, whilst still trying to produce pictures of technical and aesthetic quality however, I see now that hadn't quite gone the extra mile.

My blog included some of my editing rejects and, as I feared, my tutor thought that some of my assignment choices weren't the best on offer.  This is an area that I find difficult.  To give an example: I chose a chain and padlock as an example of an implied triangle...
     ... whereas it was thought that a couple shots that I rejected (the Grace building and the girls being sketched) had better qualities. 
The reasons I rejected these are in my blog but I must now reconsider my thoughts.  Although I really liked the Grace building I felt that it was too much like a real triangle and not an implied triangle. I must work through my notes to see why I made this error or perhaps the quality of the shot overrides the doubts I had on the graphic design feature I was trying to illustrate.  The picture of the girls was one that I was excited about as I was shooting it and I always felt it was going to be an interesting image... I just didn't like the expressions that I captured.  This obviously wasn't a strong enough objection.

Finally, it was mentioned again how important it was to reference my work against other photographers and to see as many exhibitions and shows as possible to widen my knowledge base as it is a really important aspect of the formal assessment.

So how do I feel about this one.  I guess I feel that I should trust my instincts and try to pick the shots that I really like and not the ones I think will please someone else or better match a brief.  I do have a tendency to come back to a portfolio again and again to re-examine my choices and perhaps I should just go with my first gut feelings?  

Still, I am now reading up on the next module and although I am going to start shooting the exercises soon I am going to ponder on this work and try to think through my concerns.  Wish me luck!

27 Apr 2010

Assignment 2 - Elements of Design

After an unwelcome delay overseas waiting for the Icelandic volcano to quieten down I am now able to publish Assignment 2, Elements of Design.

The photographs can be viewed on my Assignments web site here:


Assembling the Photographs

Although I had an unfortunately extended period to shoot this assignment I only had a short time to edit and publish it and with a fairly large volume of shots to assess I ended up having to do some fairly radical editing.  I thought it might be useful to post some of the discards and review my thoughts on why I didn't use them.

This view of an office block was one I considered for diagonals.  I liked the patterns within the shot and the details inside each box.  The face of the building showed nice and light against the shadowed interiors.  So nothing wrong with it but I felt that it was yet another very symmetrical box pattern and too similar to the shot I used for verticals & horizontals so left it out.

This shot was going to be one of my implied triangles but even having worked on it to the extent that you see above I wasn't able to get the results I wanted.  I was pleased enough with the framing but I just hadn't managed to capture enough expression on the faces of the ladies being sketched and I felt that the whole image lacked punch and contrast.  Every time I tried to improve one aspect of the shot another was lost, particularly the eyes of the lady to the right.

This shot appealed to me enormously when I was taking it and I worked hard to get the focus point and exposure on the reflected building just right.  I was going to use it as an example of horizontals & verticals but in retrospect it had a few problems I couldn't resolve.  I felt the image was just too confusing for someone seeing it for the first time, the lines weren't truly vertical or horizontal and the litter covered a bit too much of the image.  However, it is still one of my favourite images.

This shot of the Grace building was also one of my favourites and I was going to use it as an implied triangle.  The image has one of those 'frozen in time' effects on me with the stark tree and walking man against the white of the building.  I also liked the twist that the building has to perform to show the front as well as the side.  The reason that this fell to the cutting floor was that I realised it was a real triangle and not an implied one as the brief called for.

This was a hard decision and I am hoping from some feedback on my choice from my tutor HINT HINT.  This I felt was a good contender for an implied triangle, a person reading a book under the Walgreens sign.  Firstly I wasn't sure that the relationship between the dominant parts of the shot, the person and the sign, was strong enough to properly suggest a triangle.  Secondly, it would have been the 11th photograph of my set and I wasn't sure if it would have been pushing my luck to include it.  By including extra photographs can we be awarded more marks or do we just take the risk of bringing our grading down?  I would love to know.

 I had points in a deliberate shape in mind here.  I liked the whole look of the image taken down from a high building into a hotel swimming pool area.  I would have liked at least one person in the shot but that wasn't a real necessity.  My main problem with the image was the shape that the points were trying to make (what was it) and did it really qualify under the subject I chose of 'Street Detail'?  I wasn't convinced.

The bright colours of this street sign attracted me and I felt that this might be a good distinct shape.  It has many of the attributes of the image that I finally used and even now I'm not certain which I prefer... dreadful indecision!

This grid around a tree trunk was one I thought of for a pattern but it could equally have been used for curves.  Because I felt it didn't truly fall into one category or another I wasn't sure if it was a good idea to use it or the 'element of design' I was trying to represent then becomes defined by the title and not the photograph.

I used exactly the same view of these lamps as my points in a shape but took the image at night.  Although I liked this view and the reflections of the rising sun and the streets in the glass when I took the image up in size I started seeing jpeg artefacts in the clear blue which spoilt the image for me.  I felt it was also nice to include a night shot in the assessment batch for some variety.

This shot through a glazed roof was on my list for diagonals but I already had a couple of strong contenders and thought the predominance of vertical lines in the building behind detracted from the diagonals created by the roof in the foreground (which wasn't quite as sharp as I would have liked anyway).  Had I focussed on the foreground and shortened my depth of field to throw the background into a slight blur it would have worked a little better.

Guess what... another triangle that was real instead of implied.  I must READ the brief better!  Still I liked the image, taken in Grand Central Station, particularly as the overhead lights and the yellow strip help to delineate the perspective triangle that the train creates.

This old bike on the streets of New York was one of the images I wanted to use for curves.  Getting in close to the steel pipe of the bike stand helped bring it into dominance as did controlling my depth of field to give the bike a little blur.  I like the shot a lot but definitely preferred my chosen image of the mail boxes. 


I always have doubts about my choices of photographs and find it much easier picking holes in other peoples work.  I also find that there are as many opinions about the merits of an image as there are people to ask but we do the best we can and hope  ;-) 

18 Apr 2010

Stuck in Boston

I came out here for a one-night stop flight and am still here after 4 nights with more to come... running out of clean clothes fast.  The volcano that has shut UK and much of the European airspace has grounded me here but at least it is better than being the crew in Lagos!  I have shot the last couple of images for Assignment 2 and was going to pick and publish my final choice on my return but everything is on hold at the moment.  This is very frustrating.

I haven't wasted my time having filled 12 Gigs of cards and worn out almost all of my batteries but the weather is now wet and very cold so not much motivation to do more photography at the moment.  All I can do is save something to shoot the Boston Marathon tomorrow as it might be a great subject.

So Assignment 2 is going to be late... sigh. 

Back home after a 9 day trip and I think I have enough for Assignment 2 now.  I have to buckle down and assemble my shots but there are a few forest fires to put out at home first.

6 Apr 2010

Exercise: Pattern and Rhythm

For this final exercise in Elements of Design we were asked to shoot 2 photographs, one demonstrating Rhythm and the other Pattern.  The difference between the two is an interesting process of understanding that took me a while to get my head around.  A pattern is a repeating element that allows the eye to move around the image at random whereas with rhythm the image asks the eye to follow a particular path.

Walking the streets of New York I was looking for these elements in my surrounds whilst also thinking ahead to the second assignment that will be needed very soon.  I thought back to an exhibition I mentioned in a previous post at the Met and an example of the work of Miles Coolidge who had photographed a slab of concrete in LA.  I had been fascinated by the patterns present in this very ordinary object and wondered if I could see an opportunity to do a similar image for this exercise.

  1/400, f11.0, 50mm, ISO400

Chewing gum is a national pastime in the USA and the remnants litter every street in the country.  The old black spots contrast a couple of newly masticated globs which break the pattern with a little colour, as does the discarded sweet packet.  The pavement line also breaks the image up into two sections but the pattern is repeated in both.

A retrospective look at my chewing gum had given me second thoughts.  When viewed at a suitably large scale the image has considerably more interest than can be seen here so I have decided to include a second, alternative pattern image below.

 1/160, f6.3, 60mm, ISO1250

The chandelier is in the Vanderbilt room of Grand Central Station, NY.  An unusually flamboyant addition to a railway station it provided a nice example of a pattern.  Although the lights do lie in a less than random way a tight crop has removed the regularity and added a feeling of curiosity that the pavement image lacked.

  1/200, f9.0, 47mm, ISO400 

Here the repeating lines of red chairs initially caught my attention but standing back a bit I could see that there was more to the shot than just the chairs as the colour became the rhythm that took my eye rather than just the shapes.  I found myself looking along the chair backs across the pile of chairs above to the line of folded umbrellas in the rhythm that I was looking for.  In addition, the shapes were mirrored by the buildings of Time Square in the back ground and the addition of the red bus helped take my eye from the foreground to that background.  I trust it does the same for other viewers? 

This exercise completes my work for Design Elements and I must now concentrate on assembling the images I need for Assignment 2, due in a week or so.