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