The Next Level

I have always acknowledged that my technical know how is at a lower level than my artistic ability.  This has been brought home this week with the feed back from my tutor on my work for assignment 2 and my old windows laptop finally giving up the ghost.  So armed with a new MacBook Pro I aim to take my work to the next level.  Firstly I am really pleased with the comments made on my assignment and I am still on track for the final assessment, these I will discuss in another post.  However I do need to start shooting in raw format and using lightroom for post production.  I originally set the camera to jpeg. when I upgraded to SLR on advice from the camera manual ‘if you are new to SLR photography and don’t know about shooting raw and using sophisticated editing software it is recommended that you stick with jpeg’.  Getting involved with the course and all it has to offer I never went back and revisited this area which I will rectify now.  I also hadn’t been doing very much post production work other than occasional cropping and some brightness control, having grown up with pre digital cameras this never came into play as you ‘took the shot and that was what you got’.  I appreciate that if I want to progress and develop I need to pay more attention to this area. Another suggestion is the use of reflectors to control light and contrasts which is another avenue for me to explore.  I am confident that these are just minor setbacks and feel uplifted by the following comment from my tutor ‘you have a good eye and it won’t take long to get up to speed’.

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Assignment Two – Elements of Design

Assignment Two Elements of Design

Recommendations that came from the last assignment included working out of my comfort zone so that I am able to make ‘mistakes’ and come across ‘happy accidents’ and to become more experimental with my work.  Bearing this in mind I have looked at different angles and approaches to my images.

The purpose of this assignment is to think of a photograph not in the terms of its subject but as an arrangement of dark and light tones and to be able to identify the graphic elements within it.  Colour can be a distraction in this context as it functions in a different way from points, lines and shapes sometimes overwhelming the other components, therefore I have chosen to present my work as black and white images.

Freeman talks about graphic and photographic elements in his book The Photographer’s Eye, he states (2007:65)

            What we choose to identify in a photograph as a point, line or shape

            often depends on how we ourselves choose to consider an image,

            and this can be influenced by the content and our understanding of

            and interest in it.


The idea is to produce 10 – 15 photographs of a similar subject that 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 triangles
  • Rhythm
  • Pattern


The suggested list of subjects are:

  • Flowers and plants
  • Landscapes
  • Street details
  • The raw materials of food
  • Or own subject


As I normally take photographs of landscapes I decided to work with flowers and plants.

A single point dominating the composition

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Single point (F/7.1 1/200secs ISO200 60mm)

I had originally decided on using a dandelion seed head as the subject for the single point image but then on exploring the garden I found this flower hidden under a shrub.  I like the way the stamens of the flower are in contrast to the petals, in fact on closer inspection there is a point within a point. 

Two points

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Two points (f/2.8 1/2500sec ISO100 60mm)

I had a choice of open flowers for the points but liked the image of a larger and smaller point for this composition, they stand out against the blurred background. 

Several points in a deliberate shape

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Several points in a deliberate shape (f/6.3 1/125sec ISO200 60mm)

I did not want to use set up situations for any of the images I chose for this assignment and was struck by the way the daisies were naturally group into a deliberate triangular shape.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

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A combination of vertical and horizontal lines (f/7.1 1/800sec ISO200 60mm)

I took many photographs looking for a combination of vertical and horizontal lines, I closely examined branches of trees and shrubs but they often looked messy.  In the end I decided to work with a group of grasses that had been allowed to flourish in front of the garage wall.  Focusing on the stems gave clear vertical lines and I deliberately kept the lines on the garage blurred.  The image benefitted from being in black and white.


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Diagonals (f/2.8 1/80secs ISO100 60mm)

I have chosen 3 images to demonstrate diagonals, the first being a small branch on the apple tree.

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Diagonals (f/2.8 1/250secs ISO200 60mm)

The second image is of a trailing plant against the weave of the basket it is planted in. To emphasise the diagonal I took the photograph at an angle.  I like the effect of the slightly blurred basket diagonals which make the plant stand out.

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Diagonals (f/6.3 1/40secs ISO200 60mm)

The final diagonal photograph is of a broom tree branch, I feel the spikiness of the plant comes across in the image.


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Curves (f/3.5 1/100secs ISO250 60mm)

This is one of my favourite images, the grass leaf is weighted down by the rain curving towards the viewer, the softness of the photograph is enhanced by the curves of the water droplets and the blurred background.

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Curves (f/2.8 1/250secs ISO200 60mm)

Without colour it is difficult to see this image as that of a plant leaf, it could be a fossil or carved from stone.  It is interesting how thick the hosta leaf is and I like the way the leaf indentations radiate out from a centre point.

Distinct even if irregular shapes

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Distinct even if irregular shapes (f/2.8 1/125secs ISO100 60mm)

Even though this image is of different plants it is interesting how similar the shapes are.  The bigger bramble leaf pushing its way through the smaller plants that cover the soil.

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Distinct even if irregular shapes (f5.6 1/80secs ISO200 85mm)

I added this image as I wanted to show the beauty of the shape that the nettle plant has, the way each layer of two leaves are at right angles to each other. On reflection if I could have isolated it from the nearby plants the image would have more of an impact.

Implied Triangle

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Implied triangles (f/3.5 1/200secs ISO250 60mm)

The three leaves of this plant imply a triangle if you join the points of their leaves together, pehaps another image which may benefit from isolation from it’s background.

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Implied triangle (f/7.1 1/30secs ISO200 60mm)

This elder tree has grown from branches where the trunk has divided at ground level.  It suggests a triangle with the apex at the bottom of the picture.


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Rhythm (f/6.5 1/80secs ISO200 60mm)

This plant is known as Soloman’s tears, it grows in shady places and the tear like flowers hang below the leaves.  To get this image I used a tripod on its lowest height so I could get the perspective of being at flower level.  There is a rhythm to the way the clusters of 3 flowers hang at regular intervals almost like notes on a musical score. The way the stem bends slightly also suggest the viewers eyes move from left to right.


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Pattern (f/2.8 1/200secs ISO100 60mm)

I hadn’t intended on using the dandelion seed head for this image but it was a ‘happy accident’ and I became excited when the image began to form in the view finder.  I was experimenting on how close I could get with the macro lens before it became impossible to focus the image.  I used a tripod and had to very carefully place it so as not to knock the seed head and dissipate the seeds. I took a number of images but none were as good as the first one.


The final part of the assignment is reflecting against the assessment criteria for the course.  This can be found on page 10 of the course notes.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

This includes materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

From completing this assignment I can say that my observational skills when it comes to looking out for the graphic elements in images and subject matter has definitely improved, however I must make sure that it doesn’t take over.  I am becoming more aware of the technical elements of the camera although I have improved I still have a long way to go until it becomes natural and I don’t have to keep referring to my written help sheet.

Quality of outcomes

This includes, content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

As I become more confident with this style of learning I feel I have used the knowledge gained in completing the exercises in part two to a better affect.  I took many more photographs than I needed and became quite critical, discarding images and reshooting.  I experimented with various presentations and settled on using black and white images.

Demonstration of Creativity

The criteria for this section is imagination, experimentation, invention and development of a personal voice.

I feel that I am beginning to develop a style even if I have not found my ‘voice’ yet, this assignment has enabled me to experiment in different ways.  To complete the exercises for part 2 I found myself taking photographs of images outside my comfort zone, standing in the middle of a busy town, looking at images of buildings, using different angles and perspectives.


Reflection, research, critical thinking.

With each exercise I am finding myself becoming more familiar with the technology of the DSLR camera and contributing to the online learning log.  On recommendation from my tutor under suggested reading/viewing I have applied to become a student member of the Association of Photographers, I have also looked at some of the work of Penn-Weston and have looked at new work.  I was particularly fascinated by the recent cloud photographs of Berndnaut Smilde.


Cotton, Charlotte (2009). The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2nd revised ed), Thames and Hudson

Freeman, Michael, (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press.

Hunter, Fil et al, (2009). Light: Science and Magic. An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Focal Press.

Wells, Liz, (2009). Photography: A Critical Introduction (2nd edition), Routledge.






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Part 2 – Elements of Design

Project – Rhythm and Pattern

The elements of design have been looked at individually or in pairs or small groups.  However when there are large numbers of design elements together there is an order to the grouping as a form of repetition.

It has a strong appeal especially when it is unfamiliar to the viewer.  It can be likened to the beat in music, there is a visual beat to the picture.  There are two forms of repetition rhythm and pattern.  The difference is that rhythm is to do with movement across a picture and pattern is usually static and is to do with area.

Exercise – Rhythm and patterns

Two photographs, one that conveys rhythm and the other pattern.

Living in a rural area I found it reasonably difficult to find anything large enough to show a rhythm.  In the end I decided on two photographs.

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This is a sculpture of a dragon at a junction in my local town, normally two lines of standing traffic block it from view.  I took advantage of a gap in the traffic to take a photo.  Comparing it to the rhythm in music I feel it starts very loud, then has a regular beat before trailing off quietly.


If this building was wider I feel it would show rhythm due to the architecture around the dorma type windows.



I came across this paving in a pedestrian area, I was able to fill the frame with the pattern and the eye can imagine it carrying on in all directions.

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Part 2 – The Elements of Design

Project – Shapes

A shape is both an enclosure and an outline, it ultimately defines an object but can be implied just like a line can.  Shapes can be irregular or regular, some can be easily identified as they have a simple geometric outline for example a triangle or rectangle, others are uneven and cannot be categorised.  In a photograph the more regular a shape appears the stonger the part it plays in the image.

There are three basic types of regular shape, triangles, rectangles and circles.  The triangle is the most valuable in composition and also the simplest because it has the smallest number of sides and corners.  As it appears to be pointing and the diagonals make it active the triangle can induce a feeling of movement whereas a rectangle is more static and usually is seen as man made objects.


Triangles appear more frequently than any other shape and are very usable in design.  They have at least two diagonals which tend to create a sensation of dynamism and activity.  Triangles are made up of three sides and three points but in images it only needs two sides to imply a triangle.

Another reason that triangles are easy to find is the effect of perspective.  In linear perspective the lines converge on a vanishing point in the distance and form two sides of a triangle.  So if the camera is level the apex of the trianle will be pointing horizontally.  If the camera is pointing upwards for example at a building, trees or any vertical lines the apex is at the top of the picture and the base level at the bottom.  If the camera is pointing downwards the apex is at the bottom of the picture.

Exercise – Real and implied triangles

Two sets of triangular compositions in photographs, one using real triangles and the other making implied triangles.


Find a subject which is itself triangular (it can be a detail of something larger)


The bracket holding the lamp on the wall of our village church is a triangle.

Make a triangle by perspective, converging towards the top of the frame


The shape of the roof when viewed from this angle is a triangle with the apex at the top, the eye is drawn to the small figure of a dragon at the top of the frame.

Make an inverted triangle, also by perspective, converging towards the bottom of the frame

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Taken from this perspective the fence alongside the riverbank and the handrail of the bridge meet together to form two sides of a triangle.  On reflection it may have been better if the shot had been taken looking down on to the rail and fence.


I haven’t really gone into much still life and it took quite a while to decide on the subject matter.  In the end I went with an assortment of jewellery.

Make a still life arrangement of five or six objects to produce a triangle with the apex at the top


I experimented with a number of different backgrounds but settled with the black material, using the larger pieces as the points added to the illusion of a triangle.

Make a still life arrangement as above but so the triangle is inverted with the apex at the bottom


I didn’t want to use an exact opposite of the previous image so I chose to use some of the camera necklace chain as one of the sides, adding the earring backs into the centre also reinforced the idea of a triangle.

Arrange three people in a group picture in such a way that either their faces or the lines of their bodies make a triangle

Unfortunately due to the remote location where I live I found it difficult to rustle up 3 people to arrange.  Looking back through my photographs I remembered taking a photo of a group of 4 people.  The person standing and the two people on the outside of the centre person make a triangle, the three are all looking towards the same point, the person in the centre just adds to the baseline of the triangle, not exactly as the exercise requests but I like the implied triangle that is suggested.


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Part 2 Elements of Design

Project – Using lines in Composition

The previous posts have looked at the basic lines and this section considers ways that they can be used to strengthen and organise a composition.  There are two important things to take note of, the first being that the eye follows a line and it also tries to make lines from appropriate suggestions because a clear line provides a natural path for the eye to move along it.

We only need a few sugestions in a picture to imagine a line due to the complicated way the eye and brain work together to resolve incomplete things.  The course notes explain the most coomon clues that we need to imagine a line.

  • a row of points
  • the extension of a line, or lines, that seem to point in a certain direction
  • the extension of visible movement a person walking or a car being driven as the eye moves ahead
  • the direction in which someone in the picture is looking, the viewer’s eye tends to go to the same place this is known as the eye line

The imagined lines are known as implied lines and if used subtlety can direct the viewer’s direction.  Design in photography is used to present a picture in a way that another person will be encouraged to look at it in the way you want.  As implied lines are partly hidden they are a valuable tool to give small nudges to the attention.

Exercise – Implied lines

Images to follow

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Part Two – Elements of Design

Project – Lines

Usually the edges of things are lines in photography and it is contrast that makes them stand out.  To our eyes a line appears as the edge of something bright against a dark background or something dark against a bright background.  The simplest types of lines are straight ones, horizontal, vertical and diagonal.  Stability in an image is implied with vertical and horizontal lines while movement and tension are created by diagonals.

Exercise – Horizontal and vertical lines

For this exercise 8 photographs are needed, 4 showing horizontal lines and 4 showing vertical lines.  The aim being to find some different ways in which horizontal and vertical lines appear to the camera and to the eye.

First the four vertical photographs, I did find that I had a number of trees in this section, I also took a photo of tractor tracks through the crops but when I looked closely the lines had a diagonal feel converging to a point in the distance.  I finally settled on the following images.

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There are a number of different lines in this photo but for this exercise it is the vertical signpost line shown.


Vertical line implied by the pylon.


Vertical tree line.


Water tower

Next the four photographs showing horizontal lines.

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The tops of the trees form an imaginary horizontal line.


The horizon in this photograph forms the horizontal line.


There are a number of horizontal lines in this photograph, the contrast between ploughed field and grass verge, the tops of the trees just below the horizon, the horizon itself, the windmills on the windfarm in the distance and finally the horizontal line between the dark and light cloud.


Horizontal line formed by the fence.

I found that I included most of the examples listed in the course notes with the exception of the horizontal cloud layers.  The course notes also explain how horizontal lines are seen as static, stable and having weight whereas verticals give more of a sense of movement and of confronting the viewer.

Exercise – Diagonals

Diagonal lines can be created in a photograph as they depend mainly on the viewpoint. 


This photo shows a number of diagonals, the roof of the building close to the camera, the diagonals on the church spire and the tree on the right hints at a diagonal.

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The diagonals in this photograph are formed by the scaffolding holding the flaming balls and by the way the balls are swinging.


Apart from the structural diagonals in this photograph, the way the light is slanting throught the windows also form diagonals.


This photo was taken from the base of a column inside the Church looking upwards to the ceiling where the rafters can just be seen forming diagonals in the opposite direction.

The diagonals have a feeling of movement because they contrast with the frame edges and have a feeling of instability.

Exercise – Curves

The final exercise within the project of lines is that of curves.  They also create a sense of movement and direction within a photograph.  They are also associated with grace, elegance and smoothness.

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I feel the curved structure in this image gives a feeling of a graceful arc upwards.

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I chose this image because the reflection of the curve of the bridge implies a circle, the eye is drawn down into the river.

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The next image I found while out walking, my eye was drawn to the curve implied by the dandelion heads, I had to crop the image so that the illusion wasn’t lost.

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My final image in the curve exercise is the narrow road I am fortunate to drive along everyday, I also like the way the hedge mimics the curve and leads the eye out of the image in the distance.

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Part Two – Elements of Design

This part of the course will help you to understand and use the basic principles of graphic design in photography.

During the exercises in this section we need to think of a photograph as an arrangement of dark and light tones and colours not in terms of its subject.  This is quite difficult to do to start with and then there is the danger to get carried away with this kind of abstraction.

The elements of design that are going to be covered during the next few exercises are the points, lines and shapes that enclose the 2 dimensional image.  These act on the eye and brain in complex ways that can be quite subtle.

Project – Points

For a subject to be classed as a point in a photograph it has to be small in the frame and contrast in some way with it’s surroundings.  The most obvious scene is where the setting or background is plain and even and the object occupies a fraction of the space.  Examples that would make a clear photograph of a point could be a single building at a distance, an animal in a field, a hot air balloon in the sky, a bird in the sky, a person in a field, a lone car in a car park or a boat/ship on the sea.

Exercise – Positioning a point

This exercise is a simple positioning of point within a frame and experimenting with the placement of it.  I originally intended to use photographs of a hot air balloon but it was too big and took over the frame somewhat. 


Point in the middle.


A little off centre.


Closer to the edge.

I think the third photo gives the most sense of movement, whereas photo one seems the most static.

I then redid the exercise using a single daisy growing in grass.


 This photo is very static in composition.


This is much better with the daisy just being off centre.


This is too close to the edge of the photograph leaving too much green.

After seeing both sets of images on here, I actually feel that the balloon photos show more movement.

Exercise – Multiple Points.

The idea for this exercise is to set up a still life with an unfussy background that isn’t completely plain.  The camera is fixed into position and aimed at the background, then objects are introduced into the frame.  There should be implied lines and shape to the final image and it is one of the basic skills for still life to group objects together in such a way that they are linked but not in an obvious and static way.

I decided to use the seashells that I’d previously used in the Contrasts assignment and began by taking the photographs using the grass as the background.  It didn’t look right so I set up again using brick paving as the background, it still wasn’t quite right so I introduced a large shell as part of the background.  I’m not sure if this followed the exercise completely but it did make the final images more pleasing.


Background with the large shell.







Personally I found the 4th photo with 3 added shells the most pleasing, I can see that as I added further shells the images became predictable and to uniform.  I prefer an odd number of points too.


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