Find a subject that has a strong definite colour and choose a viewpoint in order to fill the frame.


Canon 450D / Tamron 18 – 270 mm lens


For this exercise I used an orange watering can in the garden.

The average exposure setting on my camera was f/8 at 1/200 sec and so my sequence either side of the metered setting was as follows:

f/5.6, f/6.3, f/8, f/9, f/10

The results are shown in the images below:

As requested the photos were uploaded without making any software adjustments. Although the images were varied due to under and over exposure, the purity of the colour remained the same. What actually changed was the brightness of the colour – the under exposed pictures produced a stronger colour whereas the over exposed images were less intense.

In the course notes there are examples of how to change the Hue at the time of shooting, by changing the white balance and increasing red and green in the camera menu. Although this wasn’t part of the exercise, I thought it would be useful to do for future reference and the results are shown below.



Assignment 2: Elements of design


I have really enjoyed doing this assignment even though it was harder than I thought to come up with an interesting and varied set of images that compliment each other.

As mentioned in my previous post I started out with the theme of abstract architecture. Although I captured some strong images, many of the shots were too similar, so I started to shoot street scenes that included people alongside buildings and their architecture.

All of my photographs were shot either in Oxford or Frankfurt (a quick trip to Germany at the end of March). I did think about whether to concentrate on either modern or historical architecture but decided that almost every city around the world is a combination, so decided to include both.

By using both old and  new buildings as well as people, I hope that I have introduced a feeling of change –  demonstrating how a city slowly evolves over a period of time. New buildings are erected in any available space and it is not until people look back that they realise how much their cityscapes have changed whilst they were too busy going about their everyday lives. These buildings stand for years or in some cases hundreds of years and the people who inhabit them or rush by them do so, with little or no regard to the architectural beauty or in some cases monstrosities that surround them.

The selection of the final set was really hard. I found it incredibly difficult to be objective with my own photos and had to remember that what might be my favourite image may not stand out for somebody else or indeed complement the set as a whole.

Post production was very minimal except for tweaking levels and contrast in Photoshop Elements along with a couple of minor crops.

The Photographs

1. Single point dominating the composition


This is a new college building in Oxford and initially I was using it to take shots face on of the vertical and horizontal window patterns. Dodging out of the way of a passing car, I noticed that by changing my viewpoint the side of the building had become diagonal. As I was looking through the viewfinder to get the best perspective this man walked into view. Remembering the positioning a point exercise (place the focal point away from the centre to avoid a static composition) I pressed the shutter quickly before he walked too far into the frame.

Capturing this passer-by in the right part of the frame is perfect. The converging diagonals draw the eye across the frame from right to left until you reach the man and focus on him as a single point of interest and the linear perspective of these converging lines adds depth toi the image. The man is also walking in the opposite direction to which the eye has just travelled which creates movement in both directions creating a certain amount of dynamic tension.

2. Two Points

2b. Two points

I was attracted to the corner of this building as the midday sun was casting a shadow from the No entry sign on one side which contrasted nicely with the shade on the other creating a vertical line down the centre of the image. I noticed some students leaving a college nearby and waited until one walked round the corner before pressing the shutter. I love the way the sign and girl balance both halves of the frame and the repetitive vertical lines from the sign, its shadow, the contrasting line of light, the pattern in the brickwork and even the girls legs all line up nicely with the vertical edges of the frame. I do find the small round plaque on the wall slightly distracting as are the shadows in the bottom right of the frame. I should also have stood further away which would have avoided cutting off the girls foot.


I was delighted to find this lone pair of shoes dangling on a telephone wire across a narrow street and thought it would make a quirky shot to demonstrate two points. My favourite image was of the shoes alone as they stand out against the sky with no background distraction. However, after a lot of deliberation I chose this image to be consistent with the architectural theme. The building itself provides very strong diagonals from the perspective of being low down and looking up. I hope that I have positioned the black shoes in the right place – against the sunlit bricks to make them stand out enough in the image. I like the fact that the shoes provide a human element to the picture even though there is the absence of a real person! It makes the viewer question who the owner is and where are they now? I have since been told that the meaning of lone shoes is gang related and they are used as a means of marking out territory or a sign that a gang member has recently died. Given this was taken in Oxford and the style of the shoe, I would like to think it was a student prank after celebrating finals in the pub!

3. Several points in a deliberate shape


My points in this image are the rectangular shapes of the brickwork and boarded up doorways of this derelict building. I had to react very quickly to capture the lady in the scene and feel that this does help to balance the picture nicely. If I had more time to compose the shot I would have stood face on to align the edges of the rectangular shapes precisely with the edge of the frame, as this would have made the image stronger.  Rectangles tend to enclose a subject and make the image very static.  Although my rectangles are not precisely aligned the woman standing still helps to make the image static.

4. A combination of vertical and horizontal lines.


Although the horizontal and vertical lines of these window frames are not 100% precise and in line with the edges of the frame, I still think they are strong enough to be the first thing the viewer focuses on photo. The mirrored glass of the windows reflected the image of The Radcliffe Observatory from the opposite side of the road and  I admit that I maybe compromised on the straightness of the horizontal lines to include the reflection as it creates a nice juxtaposition of the old and new buildings.

5. Diagonals


I found diagonals easy to find and shoot compared to some of the other effects, hence why I have included 3 diagonal images. The stair railings in the first image caught my attention because of the contrast they made standing out against the white-painted wall. The shadow of the tree lends a natural interest to the manmade structure and reminded me of some of Josef Koudelka’s images where he made good use of shadow in his composition.


The second picture is of the cascading stairs in the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. I have included three interior pictures of the museum in my final set because it is a large attraction for both locals and tourists and the interior architecture is quite spectacular. I had to include this image as stairs / steps are one of the only real life diagonals without having to use angles or perspective. Diagonals provide a great sense of movement within an image as they contrast with the horizontal and vertical edges of the frame. I had to wait a long time before there were enough people on the stairs to bring interest and activity to the composition and think the movement of the people walking down from the top encourages the eye to move down and along the diagonal lines.


The third photograph illustrates the use of diagonals by perspective. This is a very narrow street in Oxford and I wanted to make use of the repetitive shadows making a pattern on the wall. Again the man walking through the frame brings activity and a sense of movement to the image, implying that he is walking down and along the diagonal line.

6. Curves


The first picture was taken in Frankfurt of a group of youths up to no good under this bridge! The lighting really made the graceful arch stand out and draws the eye right across the frame. It contrasts nicely with the city beyond and highlights the shadowy silhouettes of the youths.

IMG_3653_edited-1     IMG_3653_edited-1a

The second picture is a curved walkway in Oxford. Again inspired by Koudelka I was experimenting with the contrast between light and dark and shadows and lines. When I got home and viewed the image it was the curves that stood out and I think the curves cutting through the frame at different angles  make the image more striking.

7. Distinct, even if irregular shapes



This photograph is of a stairwell in the Ashmolean Museum. On the wall are many busts displayed diagonally from the top floor all the way down. Standing on the edge of the top gallery I was trying to capture the diagonal rows of these busts to use as my pattern image. In this shot I was trying to line the edge of the floor diagonally with the busts by rotating my camera. Instead what I got was an interesting shape created by the floor and the glass wall. The shape at the centre of the image is completely irregular as highlighted below.

IMG_4008_edited-2 copy

I also managed to create 3 regular shapes – triangels by the implied lines of the glass, floor and frame edges.

IMG_4008_edited-1 copy

I have to confess that I nearly deleted this image on location because I didn’t achieve my “pattern” shot. I’m so glad I didn’t as it is a good example of how the contrast of floor, wall and glass have helped to make these shapes stand out in the picture.

8. Rhythm


This image is my favourite in the whole set. Taken from the top gallery of the Ashmolean Museum looking downwards at the cascading stairs. It is also perhaps the only image and location that I planned and thought about prior to shooting. I wanted the image to convey the passage of human traffic through the building incorporating some of the architecture. I used a shutter speed where I could hand hold my camera but that was still slow enough to create a motion blur of the people rhythmically moving  up and down the stairs.

9. Pattern


I did contemplate using this image as a single point but then decided it suited pattern more. The building in Frankfurt is called MyZeil and has a doughnut shaped hole right through the middle of the building. The curved pattern in the glass reminds me of a swirling vortex, drawing the eye around the pattern at the frame edges and then out through the centre and continuing beyond.

Self Assessment

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have learnt an enormous amount about the graphic elements of a photograph whilst working my way through the various exercises in Part 2.

Prior to this work, I usually only concentrated on the subject i was shooting and if my images looked dynamic and well constructed that was probably more down to luck than judgement!

Going back to basics and thinking about all the elements of design and how to apply these to successfully construct an image has been such an inspiration. I feel my visual awareness has significantly developed and I now look at photographs critically as opposed to whether the subject appeals to me. Subsequently I now find myself thinking about how I want the design of my image to impact on the viewer. I have been taking the time to compose my pictures trying out different positions and perspectives before taking the final shot. I also feel that the organisiation and structuring of my photos is now becoming automatic rather than purposeful.

Quality of outcome

I’m finding it much easier to present my work via my blog and although I still find it really time-consuming trying to get to grips with the technical side, I still have not found the need to keep an additional handwritten journal. I think the way I have presented my coursework, research and assignments on the blog is user-friendly for other people to view my work as well as being well organised as a source of reference for myself.

I try really hard when writing up notes, research and assignments to apply the knowledge I have gained to the work I have been doing and trying to achieve. I do however feel that I struggle to write with an academic style, but hope that this will improve with experience over time.

Demonstration of Creativity

So starting the assignment with the intention of capturing abstract architecture, I quickly identified that this theme had its limitations when trying to demonstrate the elements of design. By including people and street scenes I feel I have achieved the brief as well as identifying a genre that I enjoy and whic fascinates me enough to continue and develop with future projects.

Interestingly I found that most of my images for this assignment were candid ones where I was “shooting from the hip” rather than the ones I had pre-planned. I feel that my observational skills and ability to react quickly have improved to the extent where they are becoming my sixth sense and I am looking forward to developing this throughout the rest of the course.


Although I didn’t research my subject of street scenes, people and architecture as such, I spent a lot of time researching the work of Josef Koudelka, recommend by my tutor for this particular assignment. His masterful use of design elements along with choice of subjects has been a great influence on my learning and photographic style. His work has taught me to look at the way an image has been constructed rather than the subject alone. I now search for dark and light tones, shadows, contrasts, lines, shapes, rhythm and pattern not just in the composition of my own pictures but those of others that I view every day.




Preparation for Assignment Two: Elements of Design the shortlist

When I started Part 2 I had in mind the theme of abstract architecture as a basis for my assignment, However when I went out and about and started shooting pictures, I felt the images were too bland and would not be interesting enough as a set. As nice as the abstract verticals and diagonals were , I felt the images were too repetitive and only seemed to convey the idea of pattern.

I like documentary and street photography and my favourite pastime is snapping candid shots of people rushing about in their every day norm. So – not completely abandoning the idea of architecture I decided to incorporate more people and street scenes to add interest to this theme.

I have lost count of all the images I shot for this assignment. Over a period of 4 months I’m guessing approximately 500+. Some of the images were intended, for example on 1 day I may have set out in search of diagonals or triangles and others I shot because I liked what I saw in the viewfinder as I was passing!

I have shortlisted my favourite images within the given categories and they are shown below.

1. Single point dominating the composition

2. Two Points

3. Several points in a deliberate shape

4. A combination of vertical and horizontal lines

5. Diagonals

6. Curves

7. Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

8. At least two types of implied triangle

9. Rhythm

10. Pattern

David Lynch – The Factory Photographs

I had seen this Exhibition advertised at The Photographer’s Gallery and thought it worth a visit as the subject and style appeared to lend relevance to Part 2, Elements of Design.

On a quick visit to London in March, I made the time to pop in and view the Exhibition along with 2 others:

Taking Shots: the Photography of William S. Burroughs

Andy Warhol: Photographs 1976 -1987

I hadn’t connected the name David Lynch with the film director (Dune, Erasorhead and The Elephant Man) until I got to the exhibition and started reading the notes. Lynch took the images between 1980 and 2000 in various locations, including  Germany, Poland, New York and England whilst researching film locations. The 90 black and white images are of derelict industrial structures. The images include scenes of the interiors and exteriors of long abandoned factories and warehouses. The dark and brooding images were accompanied by an eerie and haunting sound track written by Lynch and this seemed to make the uninhabited shells now being taken over by nature, come alive once more giving the viewer a glimpse of a bygone era.

My favourite shots were of the window series – all taken from inside looking out through windows. Some were broken and cracked with peeling paint and wires, others were opaque, rain spattered or frosted glass hinting at the shadows of plant life beyond  reclaiming their space.

By shooting in black and white Lynch made use of patterns created by light and dark contrasts. He fills the frame with abstract silhouettes taken from low down and looking up or from high up and looking down or at different angles all of which help create drama and tension within the shots.

Compositionally, I was able to identify lines, diagonals, triangles, shape, rhythm and pattern in all of the pictures which helped inspire me for my work on Assignment 2.

As mentioned above, the work of William S. Burroughs and Andy Warhol was also on show.  I wondered what the link was between these  groups of work and realised that photography is not usually what these 3 people are recognised for. Lynch is a film director, Burroughs an author and Warhol famous for his screen printing. However, all have produced some quite outstanding bodies of work within the photography medium. The images of William S. Burroughs are so different from the work of other photographers and indeed in genres. I was fascinated by his “Cut-ups” and collages where he uses cut out photographs displayed in a frame to make a collage. He assembles family and friends and juxtaposes them with magazine articles and text. This is an idea that I would like to explore for a possible future project.

Viewing Warhol’s work – I was interested to find that most of his famous artwork stemmed from a photograph. Apparently he took his camera everywhere and was obsessive about recording the everyday norm at that point in time. He shot people and crowds, street scenes, buildings, signage interiors and events. Warhol referred these images to his “Visual Diary”. When I think of Warhol, I see repetitive screen prints of a soup can or icon and it was interesting to see how he used this idea of repeated imagery within photography in a series called “Stitched”. He used identical images that were literally stitched together with a sewing machine to form a grid. Although this is a process I wouldn’t want to explore, the impact was stunning and has given me some ideas to present future work using pattern and repetition.



Exercise: Rhythms and patterns


Produce 2 photographs , one to convey rhythm and the other pattern.


Lyme Regis, Dorset


Canon 450D, Tamron 18 – 270 mm lens


I always assumed that rhythm and pattern were much of the same thing but looking at the images in the course notes and other examples there is actually quite a difference.

Rhythm involves movement or a sequence that draws the eye across the frame and pattern is something that is static but covers a large area.

1. Rhythm


I felt that these beach huts lent, as the course notes say “an optical beat” to the image. The way the huts are staggered encourages the eye to move up and down the diagonal roofs and across the frame.

2. Pattern


These were floats used as pathways in between the boats in the harbour.  I wasn’t able to stand  on them to take a shot from above so instead got down to ground level and filled the frame so the viewer can imagine them extending beyond the edges of the image.


Exercise: Real and Implied Triangles


  • To produce two sets of triangular compositions in photographs.
  • 3 photos should show real triangles
  • 3 photos should show implied triangles


Real Triangles

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

IMG_3441     IMG_3441 copy

This boat was parked up on the shingle of Lyme Regis Beach the bow was pointing upwards, so I cropped in close to capture the triangular shape within the frame.

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

IMG_3669_edited-1     IMG_3669_edited-1 copy

This is a street scene from a trip to Frankfurt, Germany. The pathway and lines of trees either side provide a natural linear perspective  with the lines converging into a vanishing point in the distance. In this case the apex is pointing upwards and the base level at the bottom.

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

IMG_9760     IMG_9760 copy

As implied by the course notes, this inverted triangle was certainly trickier to find! The image is of the interior of the Malmaison Hotel in Oxford which was formerly a prison with the cells being converted into rooms. Despite the bars, the glass roof and large windows are really quite stunning providing naturally converging lines to the bottom of the frame. Because the apex in this picture is pointing downwards it makes the triangular structure appear less stable than the picture above.

Implied Triangles

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

IMG_5454     IMG_5454a


2. Make a still life as above with the triangle inverted so that the apex is at the bottom.

IMG_5456     IMG_5456a copy


3. Arrange 3 people in a group picture in such a way that either their faces or lines of their bodies make a triangle.

IMG_4171_edited-1     IMG_4171_edited-1 copy


I am now clearer on the difference between real and implied triangles. Real triangles can be of a subject that is triangular or made up of converging lines and they have 3 very distinct lines within the frame. Implied triangles are made up of points or objects which encourage the eye to imagine lines between them in order to construct a triangular shape. Using these triangular shapes within a composition helps the brain to arrange the objects and bring order to the image. This is particularly useful if there are lots of other distracting events in view.

although I was familiar with the use of converging lines to provide triangular shapes, I hadn’t really given much thought to composing my pictures with a triangular structure until doing this exercise. I’ve always been told to plant things in groups of 3 or 5 when gardening and now I know why – to make a triangle, because shape is a fundamental part of design! Shapes such as triangles are used to enclose groups of things in order that they sit with other groups in harmony. This has probably been the most useful exercise in part 2.

Research for Assignment 2 – Josef Koudelka

All of Josef Koudelka’s images used in this post are copyrighted to Josef Koudelka & Magnum Photos and are only being used for educational purposes.

Following on from my earlier post about Josef Koudelka, I want to write more about his work in general and how it has helped me develop my work for Assignment 2.

Rather than write a biography about Koudelka (which anybody can google), I am just going to concentrate on my own personal thoughts about specific images in various bodies of Koudelka’s work but predominantly from his books: Gypsies and Exiles.

Koudelka, J (1988) Exiles, London, Thames & Hudson

Koudelka, J (2011) Gypsies, 2nd Edition, London, Thames & Hudson

From what I have read about Koudelka – he is a man of very few words. In an article from American Suburb X “Modern Sublime: The world of Josef Koudelka at the Recontres d’Arles” (2003) See link below. Robert Delpire quoted Koudelka’s words:

“I try to be a photographer. I cannot talk. I am not interested in talking. If I have anything to say, it may be found in my images.”


This is a very strong statement but the more I looked at Koudelka’s images the more I realised that not only is he a “Compositional Master” (quoted by my Tutor!) he has the gift of story telling through the medium of photography. In fact, in his book Exiles, Czeslaw Milosz who wrote the foreword of the book, opened his essay with the following statement:

“While writing this essay I had before my eyes Josef Koudelka’s photographs. Let my words serve as a tribute to his art of telling stories without words.”

I really identified with this statement and it reinforced what I personally aspire to when taking photos – “Make every picture tell a story”. All of Koudelka’s black and white images are strong and packed with such visual energy that you cannot help being drawn into the picture and imagine the scene playing out before your eyes. It’s rather like watching a mesmerizing silent movie with no captions on the screen!

I found many of his images quite haunting, they have the ability to affect the viewer in such a way that you can almost physically feel the emotions of his subjects reaching out to you – loneliness, bitterness, anguish, fear, pain, joy, love …… and so on. An Exile himself, it seems Koudelka often reflects  his own personal feelings and experiences into his images. An example of this reflection is the image below, used in my previous post. You can feel his quiet lonely, brooding acceptance of life.


PAR65574  France 1976.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


Koudelka obviously has great empathy with his subjects, immersing himself into the lives of the people he photographs. Many of the subjects appear proud to be photographed by Koudelka and the fact that they stare directly into the camera and stand with strong postures show just how at ease they are with Koudelka and his camera. See example below.

PAR65667[1] CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Zehra. 1967. Gypsies.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


As mentioned above, Koudelka is a “Compositional Master” as well as a maverick at storytelling. As I worked through the criteria for Assignment 2, I looked at many of Koudelkas images and compared them to what I was being asked to do.

The first thing I noticed about Koudelka’s work is the fantastic way he uses natural light to create very strong black and white contrasts in the form of shadows. The use of these shadows in his compositions provide all sorts of implied lines, shapes and points adding depth, tension pattern and movement to his images. An example of this is shown below.

PAR65562     PAR65562 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


There are various things going on in this picture. firstly the old man is looking at something out of view but his gaze provides a diagonal line to the point on the opposite wall which runs diagonally in the same direction as the shadow lines on the wall. These lines immediately draw the eye across the picture from right to left . Even the shadow of the mans head appears to be flattened and diagonally pointing in the same direction with his elongated nose leading the way. The little girl also provides a very strong implied eye line towards the old woman, mirroring the diagonal shadow lines on the opposite wall. Because the movement of these diagonals are in opposite directions across the frame they create a lot of dynamic tension with in the image, creating a very strong visual impact. Finally I like the way the image has been balanced by including the hook on the left hand side.

As well as using shadows to create contrasting lines, Koudelka often uses black and white contrasts to balance his images as seen below. He has cleverly used the sunlight and shadows to make a pattern of light and dark within the frame. The shadows on the left contrast nicely with the sunlight on the table. The eye is immediately drawn to the four plates on the table before moving right across the frame to the doors in the middle highlighted by the sun and over to the far corner where the back of the chair in the shadows picks up some of the light. The subject is very plain and simple but with clever composition and good use of light Koudelka has created a very striking picture.

PAR65598     PAR65598 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


Koudelka favours triangular composition and many of his pictures have three points or subjects providing a triangle shape within the image. As well as the 3 gypsy boys in his photograph above, I have included a couple more images which highlight these triangular shapes below:

PAR65774     PAR65774 copy

CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Rakusy.1966.Gypsy.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos



PAR65725     PAR65725 copy

CZECHOSLOVAKIA. Slovakia. Zehra. 1967. Gypsies.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos



PAR65943     PAR65943 copy


Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos



The easy relationship Koudelka has with his subjects naturally provides a sense of ‘human’ rhythm and combined with his clever composition, the end product invites the viewer into the scene to experience the life-like sequences being played out. His images make me very curious and I cant help but wonder what scenery / activity is going on outside the frame edges and for me that is what makes Koudelka’s images come alive.

Along with Cartier-Bresson, Koudelka is a practitioner that I will definitely return to as a source of inspiration. I have learnt a lot from his composition and realise that I may need to be braver and make more of an effort to strike a relationship with the people I want to use in any documentary projects.

The following photographs are some that I have taken over the past few months whilst shooting for Assignment 2 and which I have been influenced by the work of Koudelka.

1. Shoes


I was walking around Oxford and just happened to look up and spotted this pair of shoes – it immediately reminded me of Koudelka’s picture below.

PAR65580 IRELAND. 1978.

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


2. Repetitive Shadows


I was attracted by the repetitive shadows cast on this wall and remembered how Koudelka used the diagonal lines of the street to create a sense of movement  in the photo below. I waited for a person to walk along the road and pressed the shutter so that the person contrasted nicely against the sunlight wall. I composed the image to suggest the man is walking down hill.

PAR65521 SPAIN. Grenada. 1971

Copyright Josef Koudelka / Magnum Photos


3. Triangular Composition

In the following picture I made use of 3 separate points to create a triangle.


4. The use of natural light

The last two pictures I purposely made use of the sunlight to capture shadows which would add interest, balance, contrast and implied lines to my pictures.

IMG_3634     IMG_4812


Koudelka, J (1988) Exiles, London, Thames & Hudson

Koudelka, J (2011) Gypsies, 2nd Edition, London, Thames & Hudson