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Friday, 16 April 2010



The idea was to identify subjects that best express the extremes of different qualities and take pairs of photographs to bring out those differences.

It took me a long time to get started with this assignment. I had some ideas in my minds eye on what I wanted to create but kept putting it at the back of my priorities. Eventually I got myself into gear and the results of which are below.


(Contrast in one image)

50mm f/22 1/125 sec ISO 100 struggled to be original with the contrasts in one ‘picture, so I kept the idea basic; even so I still struggled to find something that fit the bill for one of the contrasts. Maybe I should have left this or chose another contrast pair, but I still like the picture so went with it in the end. I put my bike next to some reflective white card and using a strong light above the front wheel took this image. I chose this due to the thick curved red and black wheel against the think straight lines of the spokes in the wheel. There is also the contrast with the hard bright light background with the dark tyre and straight lines of the spokes. I did show the picture to a few people prior to submission and it was suggested that this could have fit diagonal and rounded too; I can see where they were coming from however for me the straight/curved was more instinctive; maybe if the whole wheel was in the shot and the ‘round’ of the wheel was seen fully it would be different. I still like it though!



55mm f/5.60 1/180 sec ISO 800‘Rough’ was taken in some woods close to where I live. Maybe not the most original of shots but I think it covered the contrast title quite well. The light was fairly flat onto the tree trunk and in hindsight maybe it would have looked better with a direction of light from the side to create a more 3 dimensional feel, however the deep lines/cracks in the tree back have given it a rough texture and I liked the colours.


50mm f/22 6 sec ISO 100‘Smooth’ is another sort of high key shot. I wanted something artificial to contrast the rough natural wood from ‘Rough’ and after a few failed attempts of items around the house I found some CD’s and decided to use the smooth surface as the subject. I set up close to a large window to capture the sunlight reflecting off the surface which created this great prism effect on the CD. The images was composed in the viewfinder, with only a minor crop post production to reduce the amount of white space showing, making it a more comfortable balance.


The idea of the artificial CD Vs natural world really helps exaggerate the contrast; The rough texture of the natural red/brown bark with the lines and cracks creating a pleasing pattern, contrasted with that cold, featureless, manmade and clean surface of the CD really separates the  extreme differences of the pair.

Getting that old natural feeling you get from the rough image against the machined artificial feeling from the CD. If it wasn’t for the light patterns, I think the CD picture would not hold much interest at all.



55mm f/5.60 1/60 sec ISO 800

‘Continuous’ was taken on a trip to Portsmouth Historical Dockyards, in an attempt to find some inspiration for the assignment; carrying the list of contrasts scribbled on a piece of paper, but with no specific idea or contrast in mind. This rope caught my eye in the way that he had been neatly coiled on the deck of HMS Warrior. By narrowing the angle of view to create a close crop (Image was composed in viewfinder with only a minor crop post production to remove the outside edge of rope); so that you can’t see past where the coil goes, added to the sense of continuity onward and outside the frame. 


60mm f/22 2 sec ISO 400 ‘Intermittent’ was taken on a bridge over a dual carriageway at night using slow shutter speeds to create light trails. Normally I think of light trails being considered as continuous, however in this image I considered the gaps between each trail laterally across the road lanes and the  ‘gaps’ created by the vehicles in the ‘space’ between the trails in the direction of movement.

This is created due to the low light and speed of the vehicles as they didn’t reflect enough light to the camera, giving the impression they are not there; creating an intermittent ‘stop-start’ pattern of light along and across the road.


The relationship of the pair’s differences compliments the contrast in a few ways. The regular pattern of a continuously increasing circle of old grey rope coiled neatly and still on the deck of an old slow warship with relatively flat light; with the rope continuing past and out of the frame giving the impression that it goes on and on.

Contrasted against the intermittent ‘stop-start’ pattern of bright artificial lights and gaps in the direction of movement, as well as laterally across the lanes; created by modern vehicles moving at speed.



50mm f/1.80 1/320 sec ISO 100 eyes closed and peaceful expression the subject fits with the title of ‘still’. The original image was in colour and the hard light reflecting from the white blanket was distracting and uncomfortable to look at; I converted the image to mono, adding a minor red colour cast in Photoshop Elements as well darkening the corners. I felt this softened the feeling suiting the subject more appropriately. The image was composed in camera/viewfinder and not cropped in post production


28mm f/27 1/6 sec ISO 100 ‘Moving’ was taken as part of the Panning with different shutter speeds exercise. In fact this image was what I like to call a ‘happy mistake’. The image wasn’t a mistake as such, as it was part of the exercise; however the image was greatly overexposed (a light coloured car in bright sunshine, low ISO with slow shutter speed). Although composed in the centre, I really liked the shape, sense of speed and movement it gave me and thereby countering any feelings of a static nature. To make the ‘overexposed’ version more interesting, all I did was to adjust the light/shadow and hue settings in Photoshop Elements creating this almost ‘animation’ effect.

I did consider using a more conventional image for the assignment, (similar panning shot of car but correctly exposed) as the assignment is not about post shutter production or Photoshop skills; however I just loved it from an aesthetic point of view and although it could be a risk to use for the assignment I think still represents the title and contrasts well in the pair.


A natural and peaceful baby; still with eyes closed in mono, short depth of field on a wide aperture and soft lighting effect with a closer crop and implied circle/curve (round face framed by the blanket) drawing the viewer to the subject and creating a smooth feeling to the image

Contrasted against the sense of speed of a car (being mechanical) outside on a road, bright hard light, bright artificial colours (regardless: with or without post production adjustments) and the straight and angular lines of the road, creating animation and direction car; The natural and mechanical add weight to the differences in the contrast.



50mm f/1.80 1/10 sec ISO 100 wife had a Bread-maker for Christmas and we have probably only bought bread once since. I have been for some time thinking about taking some photo’s of the bread, so when the contrast assignment came along it was the first thing that came to mind. I used natural light only with a really shallow depth of field. I wanted the viewer to be drawn to the thickness of the slices. The image was composed in camera with no other crops or adjustments. In hindsight I think a wider angle would have exaggerated the feeling further.


50mm f/22 30 sec ISO 100 was going to go for a natural Vs artificial contrast with the ‘thick’ (being naturally made organic bread) however I had already used that to exaggerate the contrasts in some of the other pairs, so for this I met the idea halfway. I used my (getting a lot of use) white card and used the analogy of thin peel. As it happened my daughter wanted an apple and the idea came to me. I used an off camera flash for this, which you can tell from the hard shadow under the peel, but again all composed in the viewfinder. However I think in this case to help the contrast it would have been better to leave more space against the close composition of the bread image.


I feel that the thick cut loaf of bread in the ‘warm’ colours, with the wood grain in the background and on the bread board creating that ‘rustic’ homely feeling, contrasts well against that high key artificial arrangement with artificial light. The thinness of the peel can be seen against the thickness of the bread. The soft depth of view in the ‘thick’ image also increases the contrast against the sharp hard focus in the ‘thin’ picture.



18mm f/22 1 sec ISO 100 had seen a few ‘sweet’ shots around the internet, and I have tried this before myself, however most of the one’s I had seen where from a higher viewpoint looking down on ‘them’ filling the frame. I decided to modify the idea by taking the shot form a low angle with a wide angle lens. I also made a mound as if to create a ‘hill’ with the sweets going off into the horizon. The idea of using the wide angle lens was to create perspective; the sweets closest to us are large but getting smaller further into the frame to create that sense of depth.


18mm f/22 1/60 sec ISO 100 was a lot of fun to create this shot. I had a rough idea in my head what I wanted to do, I wanted to create an almost ‘negative’ of the ‘many’ shot (but with fewer sweets!), however the shots didn’t really contrast as well as I hoped. I remembered I had a casino set for my birthday and thought that the chips could work well, but in the end it was the dice that came out best. I liked the idea of having a spotlight over a ‘few’ of the dice to isolate the ‘few’; I tried a torch and an off camera flash but they created a too wide spread of light, so I improvised with a toilet paper tube over the flash and was able to create a spotlight effect! In hindsight I think that I should have had moved back and left more space around the dice to emphasis the emptiness of the frame; thereby more emphasis on less items.


The multiple colours of many sweets in a bright hard light, a mass of sweets liken to a hill going off into the horizon giving the impression there is more over the hill, contrasted against the few items in a much darker space to create a feeling of isolation, strengthened by the light focussing our view to the few dice.



20mm f/22 15 sec ISO 200 wanted to avoid obviously ‘large’ subjects, wanting instead to make something feel larger than expected as well as contrast well in the pair. I dug out a pair of work boots and set the camera on a wide angle lens and got the camera as close as I could to them. The wide angle gave the image that exaggerated distortion to the front of the boots, giving the impression they were almost swelling in size. Filling of the frame with the boots added weight to the feeling of size. This was also composed in the viewfinder with no cropping post production.


18mm f/22 1/30 sec ISO 100 used a ‘prop’ from my daughters dolls house and used her as a model hand to give some scale to the image and used a flash instead of natural light as I did in ‘large’. In hindsight I think I could have exaggerated the feeling of ‘small’ further by having more empty space and using a higher focal length instead of the wide angle. This was composed in the viewfinder no post production cropping.


The close view of the old walking boots and the exaggerated distortion of them under natural light, contrasts against the cold white background of empty space around the miniature dolls chair, with the girl’s hand giving it scale in our mind. (Giving that impression of small contrasted to the large boots).



50mm f/8 1/500 sec ISO 200 tool ‘Diagonal’ on the same trip to Portsmouth Historical Dockyards, that I took in the ‘Continuous’ shot. I liked the way the ships rigging and sail lines created diagonal patterns against the bright sky. I was lucky to capture this as the flag itself creates a diagonal within the frame.


50mm f/22 10 sec ISO 100 was stuck for a while to find a good contrast to the diagonal lines. However it happens that I have an open fireplace at home and I had previously stacked some wood in the grate while not in use; The rounded ends of wood were just looking back at me! I decided to crop this image into a square to add emphasis to the symmetry of the image.


The cold bright sky, with the dark diagonal lines contrasting against it, contained in its rectangular frame. Contrasted against the darker and close cropped (square frame) of the round ends of the wood in a warm colour tone. The straightness of the lines against the rounded edges of the wood and implied circle of the smaller logs around the central larger log, giving a more symmetrical balance to the more dynamic balance of ‘diagonal’



48mm f/22 1/125 sec ISO 100‘Liquid’ was a fun setup. I kind of had it in my mind’s eye the idea of movement and liquid for this contrast against ‘solid’ and decided that I would create the image from scratch. I used a very large glass vase filled with water, adding a few drops of natural food colouring, blue as the colour mostly associated with water. The camera was on a tripod below the surface of the water, (Outside the vase of course!)  Then created a whirlpool in the water with a chop-stick (of all things!) and took the shot! The photograph was framed in the viewfinder with no post production cropping or adjustments to the colour.


50mm f/1.80 0.70 sec ISO 100 ‘solid’ I was determined to stay away from the obvious and push myself. It just so happened that my wife was making lunch for my daughter and asked if I wanted a boiled egg too; Shortly after that, my ‘lunch’ became the subject of a small photo shoot! I used some large pieces of white card to create my high-key look with bright sunshine through window. I like the idea that most people think of a raw egg as being liquid which I think reinforces the ‘solid’ of the image in this cooked state.


The cool blue water filling the frame with the shiny surfaces reflecting the light into soft wave patterns (reminded me of light reflecting through water tanks in an aquarium or when drinking through a clear plastic bottle).  Contrasted against the ‘hardboiled egg’ with the warm bright yellow/orange yolk (although yellow and blue work well together, it’s the contrast between those colours that actually creates the compliment). The air bubbles that give the the impression that the liquid has been disturbed and has fluid movement throughout the frame against the hard, static and brittle shell with rough jagged edges.

Some may say that there are other images that would suit ‘solid’ more, after all a hardboiled egg is still soft, but contrasted against that cool liquid I think it fits really well.

Thoughts on the set.

As well as keeping in with the assignment and hopefully demonstrating some of what I have learnt (and learnt from the assignment); and from the exercises and projects to this point, I’ve made a few observations that I want to keep check on as the course continues.

I have a tendency towards staged/still life photographs. it could be considered Mise en scène as one possible way to describe it (but that phrase is quite subjective). I tend to stage a lot of my photographs in my mind’s eye and create them as I want them, placing the subject exactly in the setting of my choosing; I think I like the control and I find this a most enjoyable way to work. Even though I find this style gives me the most pleasure to shoot I should explore other areas and styles more.

Another tendency I’ve noticed in my photography is close cropping and filing the frame; both in the viewfinder & post production. Maybe this suits this style of staged and still life that I seem to enjoy, however as a note to self I should really explore wider framing occasionally and work out of the comfort zone a bit more.

Anyway I had a think about this and have set some themes to consider going forward.

  • Get out and explore suitable subjects and scenes more than ‘creating them’ (perhaps the weather this year has been a contributing factor to this!). However that’s not to say I still wont continue to ‘create’ my scenes as I really do enjoy it, it’s more the case of at least trying different styles more often
  • Explore pulling back more and not cropping so tightly in the viewfinder and give my images a bit more space. Not to rely on post production cropping so much, but keep it in mind as a design option
  • Have a look at more styles of photography and photographers to give me inspiration in trying more varied styles. Maybe try to replicate some images in their style

I can’t promise that I will explore these ‘themes’ fully or all the time, but at least it will be at the back of my mind and hopefully extend my range/skills so far.

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