Art of Photography

Rob Townsend


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Assignment 1: Contrasts

Brief:

Create eight pairs of photographs that each demonstrate a contrasting pair of words from a given list, and one final image that demonstrates a pair of contrasting words in a single image. The images should clearly express the extremes of the differing qualities being depicted. Review the assignment against the assessment criteria and evaluate how you believe you have done against the criteria, and what you have learned.

Submissions:

Small versions below for online viewing. Larger versions and contact sheet in a downloadable zip file.

UPDATE: tutor report uploaded.

1. Sweet & Sour

2. Continuous & Intermittent

3. Many & Few

4. Pointed & Blunt

5. Diagonal & Rounded

6. Still & Moving

7. Straight & Curved

8. Light & Heavy

9. Rough & Smooth

Self-evaluation:

I initially found this assignment harder than I expected, and certainly harder than the exercises that preceded it. Once I got a reasonable amount of preparation out of the way, the images themselves came fairly quickly.

I tried as far as possible to have some visual or thematic connection within each pair. Sometimes this was easy and obvious, other times maybe more subtle (e.g. the continuous/intermittent pair were taken at the same underground station; diagonal/rounded were both aspects of neighbouring houses) and in some cases I didn’t really achieve the desired connection at all (still/moving might have worked better with two vehicles or two animals rather than one of each). However, as this was more of a self-imposed rule than part of the brief, I’ll go easy on myself on this point.

I also kept in mind when preparing, shooting and selecting images the basic concepts covered throughout Part One: The Frame. I saw this assignment not simply as illustrating the contrast concepts but as a construct for demonstrating the elements of composition covered in the preceding exercises. So, I tried to pay attention to positioning elements within the frame, what format (frame shape) suited each image, whether I had selected the optimal crop in-camera or in post-processing, and the balance of elements within the frame.

Evaluating my submission against the Assessment Criteria:

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
    • I used a few different techniques (e.g. slowing down shutter speed to emphasise movement, using focal length and angle to accentuate perspective etc) to achieve the images that I had pre-envisaged
    • I experimented with lighting in pairs 1 and 4 but I don’t think I’ve been wholly successful; I am looking forward to the Light portion of this course to help me here
    • I do feel that my visual awareness skills have developed as part of this assignment, as I find that ‘my photographic eyes’ are open more of the time – I am seeing photo opportunities where I might otherwise have not
    • In terms of composition, I have realised that I have a preference for compositions with a diagonal aspect to them (most of the submissions here demonstrate this to some degree) – I will keep an eye on this in case it becomes a crutch, or a cliché
  • Quality of Outcome:
    • I am reasonably pleased with the quality of the images and their demonstration of the required concepts
    • I believe that I could have maybe taken better versions of some of the images; I do recognise though that I need to get through the assignments in a reasonable time-frame rather than being a perfectionist
    • I feel that the presentation of the submission above is clean, and serves the images rather than detracting from them
  • Demonstration of Creativity:
    • To be self-critical, in hindsight I think that in some of these pairs I have chosen quite uncreative subjects; if I could go back and do it all over again, I’d try to find more inventive takes on the themes in two or three instances
    • I don’t believe I’m yet developing a distinctive personal style or ‘photographic voice’; in fact, the range of styles on offer here reflect the fact that I’m still ‘trying on’ different photographic styles and have yet to settle on one that is really reflective of me as an individual
  • Context:

In summary, I believe I’ve acquitted myself to the best of my current ability in this assignment – and am very much looking forward to getting comments back from my tutor to point me in the right direction on my development areas.


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Assignment 1: Contrasts – inspiration from my old photos

As suggested in the brief for Assignment 1, I’ve had a look back through my existing photos with a view to assembling some contrasting pairs. This was harder than I expected! But I came up with some examples that could serve as inspiration for the real thing. As far as possible I tried to have a thematic link within each pair.

1. Dark & Light

The same view on a very dark winter’s night and an earlier evening / longer exposure version.

Dark

Dark

Light

Light

2. Many & Few

An overhead shot of lots of pansies and a simple crop of a few forget-me-nots.

Many

Many

Few

Few

3. Continuous & Intermittent

A long winding path versus a series of posts at the seaside.

Continuous

Continuous

Intermittent

Intermittent

4. Large & Small

A giant poppy and a normal-sized daisy.

Large

Large

Small

Small

5. Solid & Liquid

Solidity represented by a huge old steam train, liquid represented by a still lake.

Solid

Solid

Liquid

Liquid

6. Opaque & Transparent

A chinese lantern before and after drying out.

Opaque

Opaque

Transparent

Transparent

7. Still & Moving

Bikes before and during a mountain bike jump track day.

Still

Still

Moving

Moving

8. Straight & Curved

Two contrasting monuments in the same city.

Straight

Straight

Curved

Curved

9. Black & White

A dark train station clock at night, and a set of white vases on a white background.

Black

Black

White

White

10. Solid & Liquid – same shot

An unfortunate parking accident.

Liquid & Solid

Liquid & Solid


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Assignment 1: Contrasts – initial thoughts

Having completed the exercises in Part 1: The Frame, my attention now turns to the Part 1 Assignment: Contrasts. I’ve been thinking (but only thinking) about it on and off, and have scribbled down thoughts as they occurred to me. I’ve read over the assignment brief, looked at how a few other people have tackled the assignment and surfed the OCA forums looking for nuggets of advice.

The purpose of this post is to structure some of these initial thoughts in a way that helps me to plan the assignment in earnest. I’ll refer back to these notes as I progress through the assignment, to make sure I don’t lose sight of my initial thoughts on the brief (even if I completely change tack before the end!)

What I need to keep in mind:

  • The assessment criteria, obviously
  • The images need to have intrinsic visual interest, not just fulfil the brief of contrasting pairs – I need photos that you’d want to look at twice
  • How does my tutor interpret the assignment objective? Can he give me any pointers?
  • I need to get out of my comfort zone!
  • The images need to take on board everything I’ve covered in Part 1 (framing, composition, balance, format, cropping etc); in a sense I need to see this assignment as a framework to demonstrate the learning to date, not as an unrelated standalone exercise

Content thoughts:

  • I’m working on the contrasting pairs to be matching in terms of theme and look/feel (colouring, tone, lighting, format etc) – as I want them to work together visually when put side-by-side
  • I also want the images to very clearly depict the contrasting pair words – to the point that they would work without captions – as long as they are seen side-by-side
  • And yet… need to avoid cliché – don’t be too obvious – be creative but not overly obscure
  • I’m considering trying for all of the 17 pictures to have a (loose) theme that connects them, such as location, subject matter? if I can…
  • Further to this thought: I’ve been working in Vienna for the last several months, but only for a few more weeks… and idly wondering whether I could do a series of shots based on the architecture and public spaces in the city? Not sure yet, but it’s worth investigating

Random other thoughts:

  • I need to plan ahead! I can’t rely on wandering around and spotting the right subjects
  • I need to get better at making notes when I’m out scouting and shooting; so far I’ve relied on remembering what was going through my mind at the time of shooting and writing it all up after the event… not sure I can carry on like that
  • I should shoot more than I think I need, have some spares so I can select the best ones at the end

That’s it for now.

Next up: go through some old shots to identify some contrasting pairs in my existing portfolio…