Category Archives: Learning Log

The Final Composition

I realize that it’s taken me a while to post this, but then it took me longer than expected to find the time to complete my final task.  A few weeks ago, I headed down to my local cemetery to take the final picture.  I was in a bit of a rush to get this finished and over with, hence the lack of outstanding quality in my final picture.

For this task I had to find a subject and take a series of pictures that describe the process of trying to find the ideal composition, using everything I have learned on the course so far.  I chose a war memorial, basically because it was the easiest subject I could find for this task.

This is what I started with:

The first shot had a distracting background and was not particularly interesting as a composition with the subject right in the centre of the image.

I moved backwards and increased the focal length to bring in more of the clouds overhead, with the intention of adding interest to the composition. Now the subject is dwarfed by the clouds above, and there is noise in picture.

Taken from a different perspective, the image is slightly more interesting, but the sun has put it in shadow. Also, there is still noise in the image.

Taken from a different angle, I thought the foreground elements might help lead the eye towards the subject, but instead it takes up too much space and is distracting. However, there is less noise and excessive shadow from this angle.

I moved in closer and took the show from a slightly different angle to get rid of undesirable foreground element. However, it does not correspond with the rule of thirds too well.

I shifted from portrait to landscape view, which has placed subject firmly within scene and corresponds with the rule of thirds better. The foreground element that I previously did not want in the picture is less dominant.

While I would not consider this to be the greatest picture I’ve ever taken, it does at least fulfill the brief I was given, and I have now finished with this course.  This means that I can take what I’ve learned and apply it to projects that genuinely interest me.  I’ve been looking forward to doing my own thing, as I have spent the past two to three years bogged down with courses.  I’ve been itching to get on with experimenting with techniques and subjects that catch my eye.  Hopefully this will mean I will be updating this blog more frequently from now on.

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Perspective

A couple of weeks ago, I spent a miserable Saturday morning taking pictures for the Perspective module of my course.  The weather conditions were not ideal – strong winds and dark rain clouds over Plymouth’s seafront.  My subject was Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe – an old, reconstructed lighthouse overlooking the coast.

I had to take three pictures of my chosen subject from different perspectives.  The subject had to fill the frame, meaning that I had to adjust the focal length of the lens as I moved towards or backwards away from the lighthouse.  This had it’s complications – the first time I tried this, I almost ended up walking backwards into a large group of German schoolchildren who were being given a tour of the monuments on the Hoe, some of whom were already staring at the guy walking backwards across the Hoe.

There was also the strong, coastal winds.  Keeping my hands still could be difficult, but I think I managed it well.

I think this subject is probably best shot in sunny weather conditions.  I have certainly taken better pictures of Smeaton’s Tower in the past.  If the clouds were darker and stormier, then this could have had potential for a more dramatic scene.  Unfortunately, they were mostly overcast, grey and dull, which did not help at all.

Image 1

This picture was taken at it’s longest focal length, which has compressed the perspective by bringing background and foreground elements closer together. This perspective seems to place the subject firmly within the context of it’s background.

Image 2

This picture was taken at the shortest focal length. At this wide-angle perspective, you get a better sense of it’s height, but the perspective is distorted so that the base is huge and you can hardly see the top. I would say this image is the most striking of the three because of the way the subject towers up into the dark clouds overhead.

Image 3

This picture depicts the subject at what I feel to be it’s most natural perspective. It is close enough to get a sense of it’s height without being too distorted or losing sight of the top of the lighthouse.

My next module is the final module, where I have to create an image and show all the steps I took in composing it.  It will be the final post in my learning log for now.  Hopefully I will be able to post about some more interesting personal projects from then on.

Viewpoint

Here is my second learning log post.  It’s a brief post, for a brief exercise I did in experimenting with viewpoint.  I had to take a picture of a subject from a conventional viewpoint, then from at least twelve other viewpoints.  I had to submit two pictures – the conventional viewpoint, and select one of the unconventional pictures.

So last weekend I headed out into the city centre and took various pictures of an interesting building near Plymouth University.  The Roland Levinsky building hosts art galleries and film screenings and is part of the University.  It’s an interesting building because it can look completely different from a variety of viewpoints.  It has a strange, angular structure that makes it stand out from the surrounding buildings.

Image 1

This is the subject taken from a conventional viewpoint.

This shot, taken from a conventional angle, shows the building within it’s environment beside a busy main road.

Image 2

This is the image taken from an unconventional viewpoint.  I moved closer to the building and shot upwards, giving an impression of the height of the building, towering into the sky.  Also, taking the picture from a slightly skewed angle emphasizes the angular nature of the building.

The Frame

Hello, I realize that it has been a while since I last updated this blog.  The main reason for this has been some difficulties I’ve been having with my PC and card reader.  I had enough material for a further three posts, only for the pictures to be completely erased.  This was incredibly frustrating, but I have finally sorted out my technical issues and I think I am back on course to update this blog more regularly.

As soon as I got my act together, I realize that I have between 1-2 months to submit all my modules to my photography course.  I haven’t even submitted my first one!  So any posts on this blog for the next couple of weeks will be part of my learning log, as I frantically rush through the remaining modules.

Module 1 – The Frame

The objective of this module was to explore the impact and possibilities that the frame has on the composition of an image.  I had to submit three images – a square image, a vertical panorama and a horizontal panorama.

Image 1 – The Square Image

I felt that the square frame did a good job of cutting out excess space that a frame with a more conventional 2:3 aspect ratio would have left this image with.  I also think that it focused in on the subject, helping the composition.

Image 2 – The Vertical Panorama

Vertical Panorama

You might recall this image from my last post.  This course inspired me to try creating panorama’s, and I intend to do some more in the future.

I realize this image is far from perfect – it’s wonky for a start.  But I liked the way that creating a panorama instead of trying to capture the whole thing with a wide-angle lens meant that I could include detail at all three parts of the image – the people around the base, the clouds and the top of the monument.  If I had to use a wide-angle lens, this would have meant a loss of detail at some point, or a distortion of perspective.

Image 3 – The Horizontal Panorama

Horizontal Panorama

Another image from my last post.  Again, using a wide-angle lens to capture the whole scene would have caused a loss of detail at some point in this scene.  Creating a panorama meant that I could capture the street scene without losing the sea view, or pushing the street scene to one side in favour of a sea scape.

Creating a Panorama

For my first assignment, I had to create two panoramas. One had to be horizontal, while the other had to be vertical. Creating the panorama in Photoshop Elements 10, was actually very simple. The tricky bit is capturing the image on camera.

Here are a few examples of mine that I took a few weeks ago:

Vertical Panorama
Horizontal Panorama

Here are some tips for taking pictures to stitch together into a panorama:

Use a tripod if possible, and pay attention to the spirit level. Keep it level at all times.

Keep the focus consistent in each picture. Start with automatic focus for the first picture, then switch to manual focus for the rest of the shots.

Allow for some overlap between each image – try to overlap the next picture with about one third of the scene in the preceding picture. This should encourage consistency when the image is stitched together.

Now for the easy part – stitching it together in Photoshop. I use Photoshop Elements 10, but the same features should be available in the last few versions.

First, you need to open your images in Photoshop, and save them as jpg. Files.  Keep them all open.

Then you need to use a feature called Photomerge. Go to File>New>Photomerge Panorama

In the interface that comes up, click “Add Open Files”.  Your images should open within the interface.

When the images are up, you can click the Layout option you want to use for Photomerge to stitch together the images. I usually use Reposition as this tends to be more forgiving with inconsistencies in the image, but your particular preferences may require you to choose another option. Go ahead and experiment.

After your image has been stitched together, you may find that there are irregularities in the frame of the picture. In order to get the image perfectly aligned, Photomerge has had to shift the positions of a few of the images, making the frame look irregular. In this case, you will have to select the Crop tool and crop the bits that are out of positin.

There are other software tools available for free online dedicated to creating panorama’s, and I might cover these in a future post.

Personally, I actually had a lot of fun with panorama’s, and I might try and create some better ones in the future.