Exercise: Control the strength of a colour

So onward into part three, colour.

I am really looking forward to this part of the course. Having given most art related study at school a pretty wide berth, my understanding of colour is non-existent (just ask my wide when it comes to choosing paint colours at home!). In photography terms, this is possibly best evidenced by my natural gravitation towards black and white or simpler compositions in colour terms.

This first exercise looks at the strength of colour, the five shots below were taken with 1/2 stop intervals, the images were JPEG format taken straight from the camera with no post processing. All the photos were take with the shutter speed of 1/10 and ISO 800 and a fixed focal length of 50mm (using a 50mm prime lens).

Aperture f4

Aperture f4.5

Aperture f5.6

Aperture f6.7

Aperture f8

The transition through the shots is interesting. On initial inspection there appears to be a number of aspects changing from one frame to the next. Having then looked at the images in a bit more isolation to my eye it is the brightness that it most obviously altered, the actual colour saturation seems quite constant. Initially the latter three (‘darker’) shots (f5.6, f6.3 and f8) appear more saturated but when all the shots are looked at as individual frames this was actually true.

One thing that really stuck out was the histogram view of each photo. I suspect it is very rare I’ve taken photos containing a single colour but to see the three peaks of red, green and blue in the combined view in Photoshop was fascinating.

Exercise: Rhythms and patterns

In this exercise (the final exercise within Elements of Design) the study was focused on repetition. The course notes suggested a contrast with the creation of a rhythm or repetitive beat in music. This was something that struck a chord (no pun intended) with me as a musician although looking at my photography prior to this piece of study, it has not been a particularly strong element of my composition skills. That said, I found it much easier to identify repeating patterns!

As suggested in the course text, the repeating pattern extending across the full frame helps the eye extend the idea of the pattern.

ISO 800, f4.5, 1/40, 35mm

I found cutting a rectangle frame out of an object (in this case a round ‘bowl’) changed the way I looked at the pattern.

ISO 800, f5.6, 1/25, 78mm

This image crossed the boundary for me, perhaps it’s my legacy of computer based music making but the patterns of circles immediately suggested a rhythm (straight 4/4 of course). I filled the frame using a diagonal to make the most of the available natural light that fell on the subject.

ISO 200, f32, 1.3″, 100mm

This image for me says rhythm, again my musical background is probably playing a part but the drying patterns on the concrete look like musical waves.

ISO 200, f9, 1/90, 53mm

This time a different kind of rhythm, perhaps syncopated.

ISO 800, f5.6, 1/1600, 200mm

This final image was all about a rhythm. A new set of coloured pencils at Christmas had already been put to work by my eldest daughter and picking carefully I was able to arrange similar lengths and sharpened/un-sharpened pencils to form a repeating pattern.

ISO 800, f5.6, 1/125, 85mm

The example photographs here although split into pattern and rhythms show there is definitely a crossover of rhythm and pattern (and also subjective views no doubt of what forms an optical beat).

Exercise: Real and implied triangles

An exercise as part of the chapter on shapes. Here we were looking at triangles, both of the actual variety and the implied.

The first two examples here are ‘real’ triangles. The first shot was taken on Coombe Hill near Wendover. Using partly perspective but also the shape of the construction, this forms a triangle.

ISO 400, f9, 1/60sec, 15mm

This second shot was taken looking up through a car park staircase, the centre cut-out being a triangle.

ISO 1600, f9, 1/40sec, 15mm

Next it was the turn of implied triangles, here three faces (thanks Annie, Immy and Rosie) make an implied triangle by connecting the focal points of the three faces.

ISO 400, f4.5, 1/100 sec, 35mm

The last two images show a ‘still life’ arrangement (of the contents of our fridge fruit/veg drawer) arranged first to imply a triangle with apex at the top…

ISO 1600, f4.5, 1/20 sec, 28mm

and then inverted.

ISO 1600, f4, 1/20, 26mm

After this section of the course, I realised just how many triangles are out there, especially of the implied type. They are actually seem more prevalent than circles or rectangles. Interesting.

Exercise: Implied Lines


This exercise, in three stages looked at implied lines in photography, lines that aren’t specifically captured in the photograph but are suggested.

The first two photos in this exercise were provided as good examples of implied lines.

Using the arrows in yellow I’ve indicated the line implied by the action in the photo.

In this example I’ve used the longer lines to indicate the overriding implied line (in this case the horses).

The next three photos I’ve taken from my existing photo library as examples of photos with implied lines. These were not taken with any specific intent but retrospectively demonstrate the idea.

Here the photographer is creating an implied line (indicated in red) pointing the camera very specifically at a view out of the frame.

In this frame the mother and child meerkats are focused on something again out of frame. Using two sources of the implied line increases the intensity of the implication.

In this example, there are several different lines going on, I’ve tried to show them using different coloured lines. In actual fact the two pairs of children are created implied lines between them.

The final two photographs were specifically taken after reading this part of the course with a deliberate intention of an implied line.

ISO 200, f20, 1/125sec, 18mm

The first example is of an eye line, the subject creates this through an implied line from the subject’s line of sight into the scene.

ISO 200, f9.0, 1/40 sec, 50mm

In this final example, the line is created by lighting in the scene, an arrow shape being created under the bridge and drawing an implied line from left to right across the frame.

Exercise: Curves

So given I’ve looked at lines, horizontal, vertical and diagonal, I guess curves was the only area left to look at before piecing stuff together.

The photos below look to illustrate how curves can be used to indicate or emphasise movement and direction.

This first shot was a piece of field picked out because the usually straight tractor lines had been distorted through the need to navigate around the fact the field wasn’t rectangular. I thought it kind of emphasised that despite the ‘go anywhere’ nature of farm machinery, once the tracks have been set down and a field planted, they need to stick to the tracks else the crop is going to be damaged with each pass!

ISO 1600, f/11, 1/200 sec, 300mm

In this shot I liked the fact I had double curvature! The spherical ‘bollards’ following a course of curvature in the road. The circles helped emphasise the curve.

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, 44mm

This view was taken looking upwards through the banisters in my office building. Whilst various curves are on show, the aim of the shot was to emphasise the cycling back and forth so the viewer gets the sense of the journey as you navigate the stairs with a turn at each end, indicated by the curvature in the banister.

ISO 1600, f/13, 1/10 sec,13 mm

The well known view of Royal Crescent in Bath (on a chilly Saturday in late March!). The curvature of the crescent is well known but taken from this angle gives the crescent a bit more depth and dimension I hope leading the viewer on a journey around the first third of the crescent. Pity it was a bit overcast!

ISO 800, f/13, 1/60 sec, 14mm

Exercise: Diagonals

This simple exercise looks at the use of diagonals in photographic composition. The photos below illustrate the fact that most of the time, diagonals are created from viewpoint (angle and perspective rather than genuinely existing!).

In this first shot taken in the London Underground it is the viewpoint creating the diagonal although arguably the movement of the train has emphasised it.

ISO 800, f/11, 1/3 sec, 10mm

The next photo using the compression effect of a telephoto lens.

ISO 200, f/11, 1/50 sec, 225mm

In this shot of Pitstone windmill again I’ve used my viewpoint to arrange the sails to create a diagonal.

ISO 200, f/11, 1/250 sec, 14mm

Finally, slightly less pronounced but again utilising viewpoint is Worthing Pier, the diagonal of the pier and its reflection converging due to the perspective.

ISO 200, f/14, 1/5 sec, 14mm

Here I will add references to great examples of diagonals I’ve spotted elsewhere in other photographic resources:

Exercise: Horizontal and vertical lines

The first exercise in this project simply requested four photographs of horizontal and four of vertical lines. The photos below were chosen as examples where the intention is that the first thing the viewer sees is the line and the rest of the image is subordinate to it.


In amongst the trees of the Ashridge estate, I was actually on the hunt for bluebells but the strong verticals of so many straight trees seem to dominate this view.

ISO 200, f/9, 1/200 sec, 35mm

On a slightly cloudy day, I was drawn to this street (in St Mawes, Cornwall) by the strong pull of the double yellow line. This was further enhanced by taking the shot at very low angle to the ground.

ISO 200, f/10, 1/200 sec, 10mm

This is the perimeter of a car park in Aylesbury, it is a set of simple lines but with plenty of photographic opportunity and something different to the usual view simply up a tall building.

ISO 200, f/9, 1/400 sec, 35mm

Here my daughters and cousins set off (like a scene from an Enid Blyton book) along the canal side. The flat plane and the symmetrical positioning (not staged) made this an ideal case for verticals. This is further enhanced by the reflections.

ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/400 sec, 55mm


A classic example of the horizontal horizon dominating the shot (Dartmoor).

ISO 200, f/16, 1/320 sec, 10mm

Something a bit different, strong horizontal lines of corrugated iron. The initial interest in this shot was lighting and texture but the lines are actually more of a draw.

ISO 1600, f/5.6, 1/64 sec, 18mm

From the amazing selection of foliage on display at the Eden Project in Cornwall, I deliberately shot this leaf this way around to emphasise the dominate ‘band’ of the central stem in the leaf.

ISO 800, f/5.6, 1/50 sec, 46mm

The final horizontal view is this sunset from Ivinghoe Beacon, the multiple bands of light caught just as the sun was setting. An alternative to the horizontal horizon.

ISO 200, f/13, 1/100 sec, 210mm

Exercise: Multiple Points

The exercise for multiple points used the construction of a single ‘scene’ to develop understanding of how multiple points can imply shapes and lines. This was about building an effective still life. The photos below document the building of such a photo using a series of objects (in my case, tools from my tool box) using the camera in a fixed position (tripod mounted). By using a prime lens (35mm) I was unable to adjust the framing as the scene developed, instead I had to experiment with the position and location of objects to create a final grouping that hung together visually.

The photos represent each major change or addition to the composition.

All shots ISO 200, f/13, 1/30 sec, 35mm (prime lens)

Using a combination of my garden and trusty toolbox as a backdrop, I began by placing a chisel in the frame.

Next I added a small spirit level and mallet, I chose to place the mallet this way up in contrast to the chisel for the sake of interest.

I tried the hacksaw behind the mallet and chisel but it was lost, even at this stage. Attempts to balance it worked better with the mallet reversed in position so that was the first change. I quite liked the ‘N’ created by the chisel, mallet and hacksaw at this stage.

Adding the plane, I decided the chisel and the ‘N’ it created looked great but only whilst there were few objects in frame so I reconstructed the arrangement putting the ‘business end’ of the chisel and mallet together with the aim of keeping the view looking towards the middle of the frame.

I began to add some smaller tools, pliers and a screwdriver. Initially I stood these against the toolbox but that didn’t look great as the composition started to look like a row of tools in a catalogue, not a photo!

Tape measure and spanner were next to join, the smaller tools were starting to feel a bit lost as they lacked the black background of the toolbox, at this stage I decided to complete the initial placing of the tools in the frame before trying to correct.

With the final tools added, I tried to ‘tighten’ the arrangement up by moving the tools a little closer together. This helped but I started to feel things were a bit too linear again and a bit untidy. The red of the plane was also distracting. I could see a triangle in the arrangement but it wasn’t clearly coming through.

So the final image, I’ve moved a couple of objects, first I changed the position of the black multi-tool to break the linear feel in the centre of the frame, I also turned over the plane taking away the red. In the process I realised just how many of my tools are black and yellow (no, its not an advert for Stanley!!).

The final composition has two triangles implied (annotated above), the first to the outside of the arrangement, the second within it. Although all the tools are quite angular, the combination of vertical, diagonal and horizontal lines breaks the image from just looking like a row of tools.

As the exercise suggested, this took a while to put together and to be honest, I had two completely false starts before achieving a result I was happy with. The complexity generated by multiple points, particularly when the objects are all different shapes and colours presents an interesting challenge but quite enjoyable to final resolve.



Exercise: The relationship between points

In this exercise the objective was to look at what happens when two isolated objects were present in the frame and the impact that has. The two images below were taken specifically with this in mind (recognising that this isn’t a typical way to compose a shot).

ISO 800, f/11, 1/500 sec, 275mm

In this image, although one swan is nearer (and slightly larger in the frame), I find myself more drawn to the furthest bird by virtue of the fact I can see the head. For me however there is an implied relationship between the swans, the further bird appears to be watching the feeding swan, perhaps wondering what tasty treats have been discovered! This creates a line, an implied relationship connecting the two. The fact the two swans are both close to the edge of the frame makes more of a feature of the space of water between them two. I find this quite hard to determine the stronger point but I think it is the more distant bird due to seeing all of it and the fact it is looking back at me, the viewer.

ISO 800, f/7.1 , 1/5000 sec, 300mm

Taken when the scene was slightly less serene (hence the vastly higher shutter speed!), this shot taken from St Anthony Head lighthouse, has a dominant gull larger (and sharper) but with a second bird to distract from that focal point. To me, I start to imagine the two birds having entered the frame together before the closer bird peeled off to his right whilst the second bird simply carried straight on. There is definitely a connection, emphasised by the fact they are both gulls but also by the closer bird sitting at an angle that suggests a turn is in progress whilst the background bird is on a flatter trajectory. In this case the closer bird is definitely the dominant in drawing your attention but does not have exclusivity in that respect.

This final image illustrates the special case of two eyes where both points attract equally and how you as a viewer can not resolve the composition.


Exercise: Positioning a point

So begins The Art of Photography part two, ‘The Elements of Design’.

This first exercise is all about looking at position of a single point in the frame. The three photos below look to illustrate my thinking in placing a single point in the frame in the three potential classes of position.

ISO 200, f/22, 1/60 sec, 24mm

This shot places the point centre frame. Other than simply illustrating the concept of placing the point centrally, my thinking here was to show how the windmill is quite detached from the surrounding environment being simply central in a field. I chose to take the photo from this position as not even the footpath leading up to it are visible showing how apparently cut off the windmill is. My me, it isn’t a great photograph, the subject looks very static and uninteresting, almost lost in the frame. You could argue a tighter framed image with the point arranged as it is here would improve the composition but unless you really tighten the composition and fill the frame, for me the windmill loses impact in this position.

ISO 200, f/10, 1/500 sec, 18mm

This time I placed the windmill, my point, slightly off centre. Although the path helps position it, this feels a little more interesting than the centre framed version, the balance is held by the different undulation of the horizon behind the windmill, the peaks being higher to the right where there is more space in the frame.

ISO 200, f/13, 1/160sec, 14mm

The third shot pushes the point to the position where it is close to the edge of the frame. My thinking here was to position the windmill such that it opens up the environment standing almost as a sign to direct the viewer onto the village beyond which sits just below the horizon line. This has slightly unbalanced the image but I like it although perhaps the vast amount of clear sky from the left across 2/3rds of the frame is actually asking to be used for a title, ‘Welcome to Pitstone’ or similar!

I was quite surprised myself liking the third image of the three on this occasion, I’d never normally knowingly place a single point quite so close to the frames edge but in this exercise, having considered the composition opportunity of a single point being the windmill, this worked best for me.

All three frames were shot at Pitstone Windmill, Pitstone, Bucks. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/pitstone-windmill/