Sunday, 31 January 2010

Excercise 7: Object in Different Positions in the Frame

The subject needs to be smaller for this excercise but I attempted it with these:

1 First shot, not attempting to compose.

2 Centre of frame


3 This should have been the 'little way off centre' but because the subject is so large, it actually goes to the edge of the frame!


4 Edge of frame

I prefer the two at the edge of the frame but I need to redo this exercise with a smaller subject and a larger more even background.  I think I actually prefer photo number 3  as I think the lines of the road are contributing to my liking of the picture.

Excercise 6: Fitting the frame to the subject

Whoo hoo!  I've reached Part 1 of the the course.  Part 1 is about "The Frame". 

This is the first photo taken from a distance.


The next is placing the subject within a landscape

The next is deatiled shot


the next is fitting the subject to the frame although this isn't quite right as it acutally shows the drive and they sky above it (need to redo with a different subject!) 

So what's the purpose of this excercise? The course materials say that it is to experiment with how much space the subject takes up in the viewfinder. My photos can then be compared to those in the folder and they should all be of the same/similar proportions. That brings me back to my original question - so what has this taught me? I guess for me, it displays how the focus/main interest of the photograph changes with the amount the subject is in the frame. For example, with the subject set in a landscape, it puts the subject in context and and show the relationship between it and the landscape it is set in. It is probably the most comfortable scene to view as there is more information available to the viewer. The one with the detailed shot, funnily enough, changes the focus to the details/smaller objects/textures within the frame. I find the subject shot exactly to fit the frame to be less appealing as there is no context or detail to directly focus on. But this tight framing could be used well for photos where the photographer wants to convey the sense of large proprotions. It could be used well for objects that look like they are looming towards the viewer.

Excercise 5: Panning with different shutter speeds

Staying with the same subject from Excercise 4, I tried panning.  I found this a bit difficult as I was in a failry narrow space so the opportunity to pan was limited.  However, I did like some of the shots that came out.

These were all taken at 1/40



The following at 1/60


I really like 2 and 4.  2 because it's quite funny to just get her foot, and 4 because part of it is in focus and part not so it still retains the feeling of movement.

My overall favourite from the sequence in Excercise 4 and 5, on reflection is from Excercise 4 - photo number 4 as it has a lovely smooth motion blur in the skirt and hair but also gives the impression of having parts in focus.  I prefer it cropped like this...

Excercise 4: Shutter Speeds

This is an exercise focusing on shutter speeds which should be good for me as I rarely think of using shutter speed in an artistic way.  I usually only ever worry about it to avoid camera shake or motion blur, which as the exercise has shown me, can actually be used to great effect.

So I choose the shutter speed from very slow, to fast.  I set the camera to TV priority which means I get to choose the speed and the camera chooses the aperture.  My camera doesn't change the iso automatically in changing lights and I forgot to adjust this as the light changed so there are a few blown white spots on the photos when the sunlight was particularly bright.

1. shutter speed 1/4

2. shutter speed 1/15

3. shutter speed 1/30

4. shutter speed 1/40

5. shutter speed 1/60

6. shutter speed 1/100

7. shutter speed 1/125

8. shutter speed 1/250

9. shutter speed  1/640

I think that photo 7 at speed 1/125 sec photo is the slowest shutter speed from this collection that froze the motion. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

more flares, more vintage retro feel

I just keep spotting the use of sunflares and the vintage/retro/grunge look everywhere.  I've noticed it on advertising both on television and in magazines, I mean, it was even in the Cbeebies bed time hour!  I guess it's in fashion right now.  I wonder how log it will last?  I love the look but by the time I'm able to replicate it, it'll probably be out of fashion.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Excercise 3: Focus at Different Apertures

The course materials said prints are needed for this exercise to show the distance or limits of the sharp focus.   I chose the same subject as in Exercise 2 to see if having more of the subject in focus would appeal to me better.

1. point of focus is top part of neck 125mm, f/2.5, 1/500, 125mm

2.  125mm, f/11, 1/20

3. 125mm, f/22, 1/8

I chose the highest ISO setting on my camera which was 1600 as it was late afternoon and the light was fading fast.  I also did not have a cable release to try and avoid camera shake. On hindsight I could have released the shutter button via the self timer method. F/2.5 is the widest opening of this lens, and f/22 it's smallest.  I also tried to maintain the correct exposure for these shots but they all seem to have slightly different white balance.  It could be from the changing light (setting sun) although I'm not very sure.  I think there is a colour section in the course materials so maybe it'll all become clear to be at that point.

I think I do need to print these out.  On viewing on the web/computer, I think I prefer number 2 as most of the zebra is in focus but the light and backgound is still pleasing.  no3 appears darker and too harsh to me. But again viewing these two magnified, they both do not appear tack sharp at the tip of the tail.  I am wondering if this is due to camera shake particularly with no 3's very slow shutter speed.

Edited to add:
Ok, I just had a thought,  if I just increased the brightness levels on the third picture, it might match the others better?  I need to give that a try later!

Excercise 2: Focus with a set Aperture

I needed to find a scene with depth, process the photographs, and state which I prefer and why.  I had to shoot indoors and chose this stripey character as my subject.

1. Focus just behind nose F2.5

2. Focus on neck

3. Focus on body (stripe nearest hind leg)

4. Focus on tail

I prefer photo no.1 which has most of the face in focus although not all of it sharp.  The face for me is the most interesting/important part of the picture.  The second has it's eyes and front legs in focus, but the out of focus nose is distracting.  The photograph may also look better if the subject had been placed in a different part of the frame, perhaps the towards the top right third so that it was looking more into the frame rather than out of it altogether.  I might try using this subject again for the exercise on frames.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Excercise 1 Focal Length and Angle of View

This is the first excercise to find the 'standard' focal length of my camera and my comfortable viewing distance.  I found it really difficult to do!  Doesn't bode well for the rest of the course does it?

My difficulties really were mainly to do with the circumstances:  inclement weather, dark dark days so not much natural light indoors, severe weather which meant the kids were off school so less time with my camera...  I also wanted to take photos of something interesting and in natural light but I thought I needed to crack on with this really and get started so apologies for the subject of my first excercise not being exciting.  

Anyway, so the problems really started.  This excercise necessitates me viewing the scene through the viewfinder with one eye but with the other eye also open.  Could I do it? Ha.  Nope.  Then I tried shutting my viewfinder eye and then my unaided eye to try to work out when the scenes matched.  Wasn't that succesful with that either! Anyway, this is the best I could do.  For the photographs, I used fixed focal length lenses; 35, 50, 90 and 125.   Because I was finding it difficult to match what I saw in my unaided eye to what I saw in the viewfinder, I also later practiced looking at other objects in the same way, and used another lens which went up to 70.   I have come to the conclusion that the standard for me is between 70 and 90 (unfortunately I do not have a lens which covers the focal length between these two).   This is unexpected as usually, the standard is between 40-50mm.  On the other hand, this may explain why my favourite focal length is the 90.  I find it very natural shooting with it.  I think I will revisit this exercise later when I've practised viewing scenes with both eyes open but with one looking through the viewfinder.

Iso 400, aperture f/4.0, and shutter speed 1/160 on all.  (nb, for those with an EXIF viewer, some of my lenses are old third party manual lenses which means that they do not have electronic contacts with the camera which record the right f stop, and indeed my 35mm says it's a 90mm but really it's not!)





The scene isn't particularly exciting, but if I had to choose the best in my view, it would be the first, shot with the 125mm as it has the least distracting elements in it.  I also have another 90mm photo which I actually preferred but I jogged the tripod and shutter speed setting at the time and completely overexposed the snow on the ground.  This is the photo, shutter speed 1/60

I preferred the composition on this one as the bird bath was less central, and I feel it's better balanced with the tree on its left.

Oh, and I chose the 90 as my standard, which was approximately 36 inches - a comfortable viewing distance for me.

The 35 was about 5inches from my face which was not comfortable!  And the 125mm was 45ish inches.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Guess what arrived today?

I can't believe this arrived today!  There have been warnings of severe weather and I was expecting the post to be delayed but wow - Oca and their courier are certainly dedicated.  I'm just savouring the moment before opening the package.  Here's to new beginnings.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Just enrolled and Film Musings

I've done it, I'm signed on. I can't wait to get my course materials. I've been doing lots of reading on the OCA forums and the OCA flickr group. Feel a bit apprehensive now having looked at some student portfolios and reading about assignment and assessment preparations. I am still looking forward to it though!

I've just read a thread on the oca flickr group discussing how the art of photography course has influenced how some students watch a film. Thought I'd make a quick list of my recent observations:

1 flare – was watching Star Trek the other day and was struck how much flare there was in the shots on the bridge of the enterprise. It added to the sense of newness, everything shiny and reflective. It was also a little unsettling particulary when combined with off centre/ off kilter horizons – adding to the scenes of danger.

2 haze/cross processed ?/ desaturated look - Just saw the beginning of District 9 and was struck by the use of colour. I love hazy desaturated looks. I usually associate them with vintage/retro photographs, the romantic sort which appears to be in vogue at the moment. But in this particular case, the haze and desaturated colours contributed to the feeling of grit, grime, decay. I think it suited the hand held/ documentary style scenes very well.

I want to watch The Third Man again and also Sunshine and see if I can watch them with a 'photographer's eye'.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

3rd Jan 2010

It's the day before I enrol on The Art of Photography Course run by the Open College of Arts and I am excited. As part of the course, students are required to complete learning logs and/or journals to submit for appraisal at the end of each module. I thought it would be a useful exercise to start mine today so that I can crystallise my reasoning for embarking on yet another course ( I just finished a post qualifying graduate diploma as part of my job in 2009), but also to write down my goals to see if I can achieve them by the end.

Where do I start? Well, in the last few years, I have been a frequent visitor to a fair few photography forums, and in some of them pro photographers have used the acronym “MWAC” as a pejorative term. It made a particular impression on me for I am one – a mother with a camera. And I am proud to be one. I want to capture images of my children at play, at rest, when they interact and explore their own worlds. I want to capture those moments of pure joy, and those fleeting moments of quiet contemplation. I want to record their growth. That is my primary reason for learning all I can about my camera. Why I have spent so much time and effort in reading and researching the web, learning what I can, practising what I can. But that is not all I want to do. I want to be able to see more creatively. I want to be able to assess my own work. I want to be able to say why a particular photograph, or a particular painting or piece of art appeals to me. I want to learn the rules and to understand why breaking some can be so much more effective. I want to learn and be challenged out of my own comfort zone.

I think there is a lot to be said about photography being intuitive. And I have worked hard on becoming familiar with my tools and with the style I am most comfortable with and like. I was most gratified when my husband told me back in Oct 2009 that I had a definite style. He was looking at a picture I had taken of our little girl for a thank you card. (below is the photograph in question).

He said it reminded him of a painting (we then spent the next hour or so trying to find said painting on the web!). I will probably explore this at a later date, but for the purposes of this journal entry, I was really very happy that he could tell I had a particular 'style'. But then the closer I looked at my photographs, I realised that I almost always shoot wide open whether or not the scene required it and often to the point where very few of the portraits of my children actually had their whole head in focus. I am obsessed with bokeh and smooth transitions. My favourite portraits are those with no eye contact. So although in the last year, I have purposefully switched to using manual exposures and manual focus lenses in the effort to slow down, think of what I'm doing and what I want to achieve, I have fallen into a way of shooting which precludes other possibilities (of focal length and aperture). I hope that a course like this would challenge me to look at things a little differently and push me to explore outside that comfort zone.

Finally, I will also admit to being guilty of the nefarious implications of being a MWAC. Because I have my digital slr, I do not want to go to a professional photographer or studio to take portraits of my children so it could be argued that I am taking someone's livelihood away. I have also, shock horror, contemplated going into business myself, but only very briefly. My husband keeps me grounded. I know that I am not ready and really do not want the responsibility of running a business. I also want to enjoy this, and enjoy the process of learning more about the art of photography.