Connect with me on Google+

Friday, 26 March 2010

Focal Lengths

Some of the areas in this section have been covered in an earlier exercise on the course – Focal length and angle of view. It was interesting to read that course text linking into what I had discovered during the original exercise. In that exercise I found (to me) that the standard focal length is the angle of view similar to the way we see. The course text states

“The focal length of the lens determines the angle of view: a lens with a focal length that is similar to the diagonal of the sensor or film gives a normal-looking perspective and is considered to be the standard lens”.

Again confirming my theories from the earlier exercise (relief!). The next two exercises continue to explore the effects of focal lengths.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

A Sequence of composition

This exercise was about the practical process of composing an image. The idea was to keep looking through the camera viewfinder while checking out possible pictures. However rather than wait for the ‘best shot’ the idea was to take pictures as I went  along, recording how and why I moved from one shot to the next and create a sort of sequence.


I went down to Borough Market in London and wandered around the stalls with camera in hand enjoying the atmosphere and looking for inspiration to start. The problem was I had forgotten the brief and was 'looking with my eyes and not taking any photos!

Also this type of candid ‘shoot’ is something I’m not used to; I tend to focus on still life or using willing models (family) so probably a little out of my comfort zone. That said after a short while wandering around I got my act together and remembering the brief I got on with it! 

The weather was very cold but sunny  a lot of intermittent cloud, so the light conditions were ever changing (no flash was used); the sequence of shots were taken from under a large glass cover. Rather than switching between lenses I decided to keep a 55-250mm lens on throughout the shoot for convenience. I kept the camera in aperture priority and kept it at the widest aperture where possible and left the camera to set the shutter speed exposure. I left the ISO sensitivity to auto throughout the exercise; I wanted to concentrate on the sequence rather worry about the ever changing light conditions (bright sunny day with intermittent cloud, constant changing angle of view, the concentration of people).


116mm f/4.5 1/350 sec ISO 200

Although I call this Image1 there were a number of ‘failed’ attempts to get started before this sequence. Most of them I didn’t get past the second photo! Anyway I thought by setting the scene for the sequence placing the viewers mind to where I was and some context of being in a market; it also felt like a logical place to start. 


55mm f/4 1/1000 sec ISO 200

After setting the scene in Image1 I widened the angle of view to take more of the scene in and decided where I was going next, as I did I noticed the lights suspended from the glass roof above the first shot.


146mm f/4.5 1/500 sec ISO 200

Following on from Image2 I extended the focal length to bring the subject closer (and reducing the angle of view) to bring more attention to it.


55mm f/4 1/250 sec ISO 200

Not seeing much else through the viewfinder from the glass roof from image3 (and starting to think I’m about to lose the sequence again) I pulled the focal length back to 55mm and brought the camera down and to the right as I did so the bright yellow sign and the words ‘cool Chile co’ caught my eye. It was after the shot that I noticed the man collecting his change from a  stall (albeit with an ‘O’ out the top of his head) .


55mm f/4 1/500 sec ISO 200

Continuing a slow scan downwards from where the man collecting his change was standing, the bread stall caught my eye; with the 3 busy girls serving customers and the fantastic array of gold and brown colours of the breads.


96mm f/4.5 1/350 sec ISO 200

Closing in with the focal length the movement of the girls hand towards the bread caught my eye


163mm f/5.6 1/350 sec IS0 200

I increased the focal length further, reducing the angle of view to concentrate on what she was doing.


124mm f/4.5 1/350 sec IS0 200

She was quick! as I was ‘zoomed’ in and the angle was a lot smaller she had picked the bread up and pulled her arm out of the shot. I pulled back on the focal length and took a shot without thinking too much about it.


116mm f/4.5 1/350 sec ISO 200

As I continued to shorten the focal length the same girl placed down a paper bag with the bread in; I continued and started to focus in on the bag.


200mm f/5.6 1/250 sec ISO 200

I continued to concentrate on the bag closing in (increasing the focal length) on the lettering of their logo


250mm f/5.6 1/250 sec IS0 320

Still staying with the bag I maxed out the focal length on my lens filling the frame with the bag and lettering.


116mm f/4.5 1/250 sec ISO 200

At this point I was feeling pretty happy with the opportunities from the bread stall and was thinking that would do nicely! However I started to pull back the focal length and carried on to see what happened..


70mm f/4 1/125 sec IS0 200

The sequence continued; the customer had paid form the bread and the transaction continued, I tried to keep my attention on the activity between the hands. (I also noticed another person taking photo’s in the background..I wander if it was another OCA student doing the same thing as me. Now that would be funny!


55mm f/4 1/180 sec ISO 200

I kept with the transaction, changing focal lengths (for no particular reason) as the sequence evolved as the girl was handing back the customers change.


55mm f/4 1/180 sec ISO 200

I stayed with the subject and continued to take photo’s of the transaction.


250mm f/5.6 1/250 sec ISO 200

Transaction over!


79mm f/4.5 1/90 sec ISO 200

After Image16 I pulled the focal length back to 55mm and surveyed the bread stall, then without thinking too much I closed in on the some of the bread, thinking it as being my ‘final’ shots.


109mm f/4.5 1/125 sec ISO 320

I was going to leave it here, but I was on a roll (if you will excuse the pun…) and decided to keep going.


55mm f/4 1/500 sec ISO 200

Admittedly I took the camera away from my eye for a few moments, after image 18 then took this shot without thinking about it too much again.


74mm f/4.5 1/90 sec ISO 200

I noticed that the girl in the light coloured top was dealing with another customer, so I decided to follow the action to see where it lead.


84mm f/4.5 1/90 sec ISO 320

I continued to take shots as the ‘action’ continued tightening the frame to concentrate the interest to the seller.


96mm f/4.5 1/90 sec ISO 400

As above, continued to increase the focal length and capture the interaction between the customer and seller, you can now see the customer’s hand enter the frame from the left, and interaction with a smaller bag and larger bag.


116mm f/4.5 1/125 sec ISO 640

As I brought the angle down, I cut out the customers arm from the shot as my interest started to concentrate on the small bag the seller was putting into the larger bag. I continued to follow the scene with the small bag in mind.


135mm f/4.5 1/125 sec ISO 800

As I was closing in on her, she was putting the smaller bag inside the larger, but she suddenly stopped and looked back at the customer. My guess is the customer out of shot decided that they didn’t need the larger bag too; the seller reacted and started to hand  the smaller bag back, so I followed the movement and…


194mm f/5.6 1/500 sec ISO 800

…The final shot. The scene was constantly moving but I followed the bag getting the tightest frame I could; making this the subject of interest for the final part of the sequence.

This exercise was great for me as it pushed me out of my comfort zone. I’m not used to taking this type of photograph, normally relying on still life and people I know; however after a few failed starts I started to enjoy it.

In terms of the sequence I’m pretty happy with the results, arguably there is more than one sequence within the set of images; I think of them as chapters within a narrative. i.e. images 1-3 are aimed high and have a ‘green/blue’ tone to them. images 4-18 follow a sequence of one transaction finishing on the bread itself, and images 19-25 are of another interaction and ending up bringing attention to the small bag and the final shot.

It has been a good lesson in using the viewfinder to ‘search’ and frame for interesting shots, rather than searching out the shots first then framing in the viewfinder. I found the technique useful to ‘get me going’ too. For once I started scanning and taking photos I got into a kind of rhythm, finding images that I found interesting, more readily than I otherwise would normally. I will definitely like to try this again.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Object in different positions in the frame

For this exercise the idea was to find a clear subject (in my case a bench) within an even background (Not as even as I would have hoped but I think it still demonstrates the exercise principles). The idea then was to take a series of shots where I place the subject (within the viewfinder) into a different position of the frame.


The Weather was overcast and cold, but little wind. The location was a wooded park area, where I chose a bench as my subject within the frame. You will notice that the camera data was the same in all images, however I shot in Aperture priority with a middle of the road f-stop of 8, leaving the camera to set the rest, but as the light was fairly constant and I made no other changes all shots appeared to be the same exposure.


18mm f/8 1/30 sec ISO 100 first shot was to be taken without thinking too much about composition or the position in the frame. Naturally I centred on the subject and took this shot. This was to be my baseline for the rest of the exercise. However the next shot to be take after was suggested as being with the subject right in the middle. As my quick baseline shot was already this, I just continued with the exercise without taking the same shot again. I think it is clear what the subject is and the image feels balanced, but there is no tension to it and not very interesting (well as interesting as a bench can be!)

Note: The rest of the images are in order of my personal preference and not the order in which I took them.


18mm f/8 1/30 sec ISO 100 to the baseline image1 this (image2) and next (image3) to me are the most comfortable to look at. With this image the bench sort of follows the rule of thirds (covered later in the course). There is room for the subject and it’s easy to relate to the background, the dark trees in the background (and the large tree to the right third of the image)  creates more interest in the image but at the same time because the bench is placed more towards the foreground there is still no doubt to what the subject is, keeping a degree of dominance albeit tensed with the tree on the right . I found my eye moving back and forward to the bench and this tree, further adding interest


18mm f/8 1/30 sec ISO 100

It may seem odd that I like this image still as the bench is central, albeit closer to the bottom edge. I still find it comfortable though, as the is a sort of symmetrical balance along the landscape perspective. The background has  become more prominent, taking up more of the image, but again the bench holds its own with my eye moving to the bench first then back and forward between the detailed trees and the bench again.


18mm f/8 1/30 sec ISO 100 I put these images in order of preference it doesn’t mean I dislike like this image! Because I do. However With the large tree in the background now central to the image the bench has lost a certain amount of the dominance that in the previous 2 images. My eye still moves from the tree to the bench but it’s more of an image of a tree with a bench close by. Where as the others are here is a ‘bench’ with trees in the background…I hope that makes sense.


18mm f/8 1/30 sec ISO 100 bench is dominant in the image, and is sort of within the rule of third range, however the relationship between the bench and surrounding doesn’t work for me. The tree in the background feels more of a distraction rather adding tension plus the foreground lacks any detail with no mass and no interest.




1/30 sec

ISO 100  to image5, the foregrounds lack of interest doesn’t balance well with the bench. The image holds no interest for me and I find the bush and white ‘thing’ to the left all very distracting.

A useful exercise to get me thinking more about the placement of subjects in the frame, especially where the setting is important to what I’m trying to capture.

I learnt to consider the placement of a subject and relationship of that placement within the foreground and background should be what is best for what I’m trying to show i.e where I place the subject can effect the dominance of the subject and thereby effect the perception and balance of the overall image.

Also that following ‘rules’ of photography may not necessarily result in an ideal image or create the perception we want the image to have. This of course is all subjective.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009

I visited to the Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 Exhibition at the Natural History Museum the other day, which runs only until 11th of April 2010. What a great experience; although the exhibition was small, the size and quality of the images on display more than made up for this, the photos were simply stunning. They were displayed in large format prints and there was a video wall with a slideshow and accompanying music for the top images.

I was very impressed, with the junior awards, they could put a lot of adults to shame I can tell you, I’ve already given my daughter (4 years old) an old compact digital camera so that when we are out she can join in with dad! Who knows maybe 2011’s junior winner!

There were so many great images but Tom Schandy’s “The look of a jaguar” was stunning, the expression on the face of the jaguar was amazing; so emotive. It has to be one of my favourites and rightly the winner of the ‘Gerald Durrell Award for Endangered Wildlife

The 2 bird images that stuck in my mind were Paul Sansone’s “Terns in a dive queue” (Highly Commended) and Rob Palmer’s stunning picture “Opportunist snatch” which was the winner of the ‘Animal Behaviour: Birds’ category.

Lee Slabber’s “Eyes in the oasis” leopard shot is also up there with my favourites the eyes just grab and hold you  – I wish I could have taken it!

I could go on.

One sad note though was the disqualification of the winning image by Jose Luis Rodriguez “Storybook wolf”. It stated by the organizers that Mr Rodriguez had not followed the rules of the competition and used a trained animal. Agree or disagree from whatever your point of view is about the rules, the decision or the truth of what actually happened; for me no matter what happened it’s a shame whatever way you look at it. The photograph has been removed from the exhibition, however is still in the book as this was published prior to the disqualification.

Not sure how long this will last but this links to the online gallery of the exhibition well worth a look if you can’t make the real thing (however justice is not done to them online!)

As I said the exhibition wasn’t that big, but I felt still worth it. To be honest wildlife has not really been my thing, however after seeing the quality and the lengths that photographers will got to get the shot; it’s inspiring!

I enjoyed looking at the images for impact and emotion but I also looked at composition, balance and was able to identify many techniques; for example use of depth of field, speed of shutter, panning and so on to create a specific effect for the image (to aid this each image is displayed with camera settings and equipment used). In summary and worth while experience and it has really encouraged me to get out to more exhibitions and make more effort to research other photographers work.

Added to that the Natural history Museum is free (exhibition has a fee though) and you can take photo’s in most areas, very refreshing and I will definitely be going back.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Fitting the frame to the subject

For some reason this exercise was bugging me. Not entirely sure why, but I think I was probably trying too hard to find something more interesting to take photographs of, and because of that I kept putting it off. Anyway I have posted the images below, but I may revisit this exercise again at some point. I could be just being too hard on myself but I almost feel like a chef who has served a meal even though not satisfied it’s right enough, but just ok. Maybe just having a bad week…


I stuck to just one lens throughout the exercise (18-55mm). The weather was cloudy, cold and very windy. The location was in an area of open ground with wooded area around. I shot in Aperture priority (controlling the size of aperture manually and letting the camera do the rest of the work) with no flash.


28mm f/10 1/125 sec ISO 100 first image was to take a conventional viewpoint image i.e. to take the shot without too much thinking or time to consider the composition in the viewfinder.


18mm f/10 1/90 ISO 100 For the second image the exercise was to move in and around the subject and make the subject fit the frame as tightly as possible. As you can see the subject at this distance did not suit the landscape perspective and it was difficult to get all of the tree into the frame in this orientation. Because of that I took a second image from a different position and orientation in the next image.


33mm f/10 1/90 sec ISO 100 not a perfect shot, however the portrait orientation fit the subject much better in getting a closer crop. Although the image still tells us about the subjects surroundings, the tree has more presence in the image and it also draws attention to the subject much more than image1 and image 2a.


55mm f/5.6 1/20 sec ISO 100 The idea with this image was to close in on the subject; in this case the trunk of the tree, so that you could see none of the edges of the subject. This created an abstract image of the trunk, closing in on the rough texture of the tree itself. The image still gives us the context that it is a tree that we are looking at, but the subject of where the tree is in relation to the surroundings has gone.


21mm f/10 1/90 sec ISO 100 this image the idea was to move back until the subject occupies only a small part of the frame and make a composition that stresses the surroundings. This is where I think I went wrong with the exercise. My idea was demonstrate the isolation of the subject tree to the rest of the wooded area around and the open space.  However I don’t think the composition stresses the surroundings very well at all. The horizon cuts through the middle of the image and lacks interest; it feels dull and the perspective is flat and the depth does not represent the true surroundings.

The tree line in the background is actually quite some distance from the subject tree, however there is hardly any sense of depth, you wouldn’t believe me from this that there is around about 300 meters from the subject to the tree line!

Now I know I probably should have spent more time on this image and adjusted my viewpoint/composition to be ‘correct’ to what the exercise suggested, however I have decided to leave the image in the blog. After all it is a learning log and one of the best ways to learn is to learn from mistakes. Maybe the cropping part of the exercise (next) can improve the composition.

Probably not one of my better exercises. maybe I picked the wrong kind of subject and should have chosen something more simple and compact, then again I need to stretch myself and learn. In hindsight I may not have achieved the ‘best’ images for the exercise, however I still think I have learnt a lot about how different  composition & viewpoints changes the perception and presence of a subject.

Playing with crops

As part of the same exercise there was a small section about looking at alternative possibilities of an image by cropping. To do this I took Image1 as my baseline then experimented with various crops.

Crop1 actually quite liked this one. I thought that the panoramic feel to the image suited quite well to the landscape, It also feels balanced. I think it would be improved more if the sky had more detail though and maybe a higher viewpoint to see more of the open space behind the subject tree, giving it more depth and possibly with the tree more off centre.

Crop2 Offset the subject a bit more in this one so it was not centred. Possible a bit out of balance.

Crop3 I don’t mind this version so much. More balanced that Crop2. Still room for improvement though the slight slope in the horizon is a little distracting to me.

Crop4 and  with crop3 with the emphasis on the foreground as apposed to the sky / background.

All of the crops have positive and negative points. personally I prefer Crop1 from the set the panoramic suits the landscape. Interesting experiment and I know that cropping as an exercise will be revisited later in the course.

Looking through the viewfinder

This section and area and series of exercises would appear to focus on frame composition on the viewfinder. I liked the analogy in the course text that the frame of the camera is the same as the canvas of a painting. There was also another good point in the course text and it’s something I’m very guilt of; photography as an activity that only begins when you say “Now I’m going to go and use the camera”. I really hope that I can develop my eye to be more evaluative of images everywhere.

Anyway onto the exercises.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Focus on Imaging

Not had an update of the learning log for a few weeks; other priorities took over. However that’s not to say that I haven’t been making progress with the coursework; I just haven’t had time to add anything to the blog. Project updates coming soon!

I did however managed to visit the Focus on Imaging at the NEC in Birmingham yesterday. I had a great day, although my will power was severely tested to the maximum not to come home with a huge credit card bill.

I visited the OCA stand which gave me the opportunity to look at  materials for other courses, which has given me some ideas of where I want to go after this course.

There were lots of opportunities to look and lots of ‘gadgets’ and have a play with equipment that I will never be able to afford and I collected a tonne of magazine’s and leaflets about all sorts of services and equipment, that I haven’t read through yet. In terms of learning log, I would say that everyone out there wants my money and It’s very easy to get wrapped up in the hype of some of the ‘shiny’ equipment on display but not a lot about the ‘art’. 

Although I didn’t particularly learn anything that would be helpful for the course, I had a great day and would definitely go again.