Assignment 2: Elements of design

The aim of this assignment is to bring together all the elements of design covered in this chapter through a set of photos. I chose to select my own specific subject matter for this exercise, largely because of an unexpected opportunity to photograph the former US airbase at Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire. The site, semi-derelict for a number of years offered an interesting range of subjects and despite a chilling wind, we were blessed with a sunny afternoon in early January.

The first image illustrates curves, a suggested triangle and the size of the hanger in the frame means it completely dominates the image as a single point.

ISO 200, f9, 1/160, 15mm

The second image shows a single point. Whilst it is clearly the focal point of the image it doesn’t dominate the photo, the road running past the derelict building creates a strong diagonal line through the frame.

ISO 200, f9, 1/160, 21mm

In this image we have two points. Whilst the hanger and the rusty ‘box’ are of very different scale, the composition allows both to occupy key points in the frame and both to be focal points for the viewer.

ISO 200, f6.3, 1/50, 24mm

Another image of the hangers. This time the two hangers fill a significant portion of the frame and give two points to focus on. The use and positioning of the sunlight draws extra focus to the smaller of the hangers in the frame, the sunlight creating a diagonal line to this hanger too.

ISO 200, f9, 1/250, 31mm

This image taken earlier in the afternoon has more hangers in the frame, multiple points. The position of the hangers splits the image in three, despite them being orientated differently. The road/runways in front of the hangers give a strong diagonal line to the bottom right corner.

ISO 200, f11, 1/160, 20mm

Moving away from the hangers, a different kind of derelict building. I’m not altogether sure what this building was used for. Inside it had been stripped of all traces of previous use. The combination of pillar, balcony, ladders and railings gives a strong linear feel of rectangular lines.

ISO 200, f9, 1/20, 35mm

Looking from a control tower, a very different view to the desolate runways and hangars. This view shows part of the former airfield in use as a car store. The strong diagonal runs from the left hand bottom corner. The clusters of cars offer a multiplicity of points.

ISO 200, f9, 1/200, 15mm

Picking a more detailed view, a very obvious collection of lines were under our feet on the tarmac, curves and in this case diagonals.

ISO 200, f6.3, 1/80, 31mm

Back to the hangers, a well positioned puddle gave a chance to illustrate the curves. Combining the hanger and its reflection creates an oval, additionally the puddle perimeter itself features curves. A single hanger gives a single point of focus to the image.

ISO 200, f10, 1/250, 15mm

Another detailed view, here a collection of angular but distinct shapes have come to rest and settled in a unordered pattern.

ISO 200, f9, 1/50, 53mm

Another detailed view, one that in my eye implied two opposing triangles. I’ve illustrated these by red lines in the second image.

ISO 200, f9, 1/60, 15mm

A different view of the hangers as the sun began to set. Using the silhouette effect caused by the contrast between light and dark, the hangers seemed to connect together in a stretched implied triangle, an effect partly achieved by removing the details in the buildings.

ISO 200, f8, 1/3200, 28mm

Another detail shot, this time the top of the roof line of the hanger. Heavily cropped, the shapes suggested a rhythm along the line, almost like strange musical notation.

ISO 200, f8, 1/800, 70mm

The final image, picked out in the concrete wall of a building shows a repeating pattern formed from strong diagonals.

ISO 200, f5.6, 1/100, 46mm

Assignment 1: Contrasts

So to conclude part one this is Assignment 1, contrasts.

The objective of this exercise was to identify subjects expressing extremes of different qualities using pairs of photographs. The following eight pairs of photos were taken from a combination of my existing library and new photographs taken specifically in consideration of this exercise. In each case I’ve sought to use the learning from throughout part one, cropping, balance, etc. In some cases its meant some interesting reconsideration of photos taken in the past and in one case revisiting the scene of a photo to retake in light of my new knowledge. Against each pair I’ve noted my thoughts and intentions with the photo,.

Contrast – Thick/Thin

To me, when I think of ‘thick’, tree trunks always come to mind. Easy perhaps to feel the need to fill the frame I thought instead to try and emphasise the thickness of the trunk could be better served by showing it relative to the rest of the tree. This photo is actually a vertical panorama, then cropped to generate a frame similar to a regular shot. This allowed me to get in close with a wide angle lens, use the distortion it generated to move the trees behind away from the foreground.

In contrast, thin. Here I took advantage of a major tidy up exercise in the house which amongst other things involved shredding vast amounts of correspondence. I got lucky when I spotted we’d circulated various coloured sheets presenting a subject with perhaps a more obvious foreground by picking out one of the coloured shreds. I took the opportunity to bring out a almost ‘delicate’ nature of the subject plus the interest of trying to make out exactly what all the shreds were part of, emphasising the ‘thin’!


The first shot (representing high) is a shot from altitude. The scale is strengthened by the meandering road ways and the massive mass of the mountains. This is further emphasised by the tops of the mountains sitting in cloud. The shot was from my library, taken during a pan Europe car rally last September (2011). I think this is Italy! I cropped the original to remove the sky as this took something away from the scale.

For the low shot I lay down at ground level and used wide angle to capture the furrows of the field at a height where they had a profile. I used a depth of field through control of aperture to ensure the first set of furrows were in focus. The monotone nature of the field was reduced and the photo took on more texture through a black and white conversion.


A view of Florence, Italy from above. A shot previously languishing in my holiday archive from 2011 but with a fresh pair of eyes cropped this removing the obvious focal points to instead concentrate on the huge number and variety of rooftops. To emphasise the many, I did try to avoid any notable landmark buildings but there is till enough variety to make the shot interesting.

Possibly stretching the concept of few, I chose this shot as having a single point of focus. I felt citing the single glove on a repeating pattern of the wall emphasised the solitary nature of the ‘lost’ glove, the glove being kept as the point of foreground interest by use of a shallow depth of field around the glove.


‘Continuous’ competed with ‘curved’ for the first shot of this pair but ultimately won out as the white line, central to splitting the bridge between pedestrian and cycle way, was the strong focal point. Given its purpose, the continuous nature of the line is important. Even at night (with deployment of a black and white conversion), even with the lighting competing for attention it is still the foreground drawing me to the shot.

In contrast, intermittent is represented by this arrangement of steps in Hampstead Heath. This shot needed a careful crop (and patience due to the vast number of walkers in the park), depth of field was kept relatively shallow to draw sharp attention to the texture in the leaves in the foreground.


An unexpected offer of a test drive (without the sales pressure) in a Lotus Evora sports car and opportunity to photograph afterwards gave me free reign to examine the cars many interesting curves and angles. This shot I chose as to me eye every line in the car bodywork and detailing here is a curve. A grey day generally and a silver car meant a black and white photo was an obvious choice but the detailing in the light cluster made a good opportunity to bring the one complete circle to life in the shot with a colour ‘pop’. Shallow depth of field prevents surrounding distractions drawing the viewers attention.

The straight lines in the second shot come courtesy of my local multi-storey car park. With my favourite wide-angle lens deployed once again, I was able to use a wide shot to emphasise the straight lines, distorted by the lens. I chose a side of the car park catching the sun to offer a different colouring (and at the extremes a different texture) to the repeating uprights. The car park is a monochrome of concrete and white so a black and white conversion has simply made it easier to emphasise the contrast and textures on offer.


Gorgeous under tree textures and colours are ripe sites for photography when the light breaks through into the frame. I chose a fallen silver birch, a tree with great bark texture anyway, to emphasise rough.

The brave angles of the former Equitable Life Assurance Society buildings in Aylesbury gave me the second shot, ‘smooth’ steel and glass emphasised by a less than clear but bright day. A depth of field keeping the building in focus through its height was important for the effect as the smoothness is emphasised by the crisp angles of the building.


The first image (Aylesbury’s Waterside theatre) makes maximum use of a really clear but windless day. It was so still I was able to capture a near perfect reflection of the scene in the canal waters.

In contrast, a dull grey day at Donington circuit. I spent an age at the chicane waiting for someone to properly clip the curb and give me this shot. I tried to get a shutter speed that retained the blur (less in the wheels in the air than those on the track). A crop enabled me to really focus on the car, achieve a better balance in position and remove the distraction of the bright (and over exposed sky).


My final pair. The butterfly was so delicately balanced between the flowers (in themselves delicate) giving a real sense of ‘light’. Some experimentation with shutter speed was required to freeze the butterfly which never stayed still for more than a few fractions of a second. I decided the square crop was the way to frame this, especially given the butterfly was the ‘balance’ with his/her balancing act on the flower.

In marked contrast comes the austere and heavy concrete structure that is Aylesbury’s County Hall. It is a substantial and weighty structure in almost brutalist style, raw concrete and glass quite typical of the mid 1960 through to 1970s. It is a heavy structure, concrete overwhelms glass to increase that feeling. like the butterfly I framed this centrally as there was nothing else to offer a balance.

The final shot brings the contrasts together in a single frame, for me the photo below brings light and dark together in this way. Shot at Westminster Bridge using the footpath under the bridge I used the darkness to silhouette the figures but the light to show the bridge and Big Ben giving instant recognition to the scene.

Full size versions of these images can be viewed here -