My log for this exercise is split across two posts – Part 1 and Part 2 as, after the 8th pair, it became too combersome to scroll up and down the blog editor.
For this exercise I visited Chichester, a beautiful small city near to the south coast in Sussex. Many of the images are taken in and around the medieval cathedral and the streets that lead off from it. I would like to express my thanks to the verger for giving me permission to photograph inside.
We were asked to take 20 vertically framed photographs and then to take the same scenes with a horizontal frame. I did not follow this exact sequence as I found that I wanted to capture the images vertically then horizontally or, on a few occasions the other way round. This worked better for me as I wanted to include some street photographs in my set.
To avoid changing lenses too often inside the cathedral I used two camera bodies. I kept a telephoto 55 – 200mm lens on a DX body and swapped between a 24 to 70mm mid-range zoom and a 50mm prime lens on a FX body. The DX images all tend to have far more grain partly because of the slower lens and partly because of the lower grade sensor.
I subsequently supplemented the collection with some images captured in Farnham Park the next morning and at a crossroads near my home. The variety of these locations, from cathedral interiors, to street scenes to a quiet park allowed me to explore the exercise in varied surroundings and with varied subjects. I was seeking subjects for a vertical composition so on balance it is the vertical frame that works better in nearly every case although a number of the horizontals are on a par.
Pair 1 – The Sign
I will start with the last image I captured.
Whilst out watching the evening sky change colour and capturing some potential images for exercise 10, I looked the other way to see how the light was changing on the landscape. This very ordinary, old fashioned, road sign caught my eye and is an interesting study in a vertical frame, the light is perfect and I like the balance between the white, crossed sign and the dark foliage.
Overall I like the tight horizontal crop on the subject which allows the eye to see the little points of detail such as the rust but the sigh should have been a little lower in the frame.
I think the sign is less successful in a horizontal frame but there are positives. Less foliage beneath the sign than in fig. 01 is an improvement, probably because the featureless dark area is significantly reduced, and I am comfortable with the spacial balance between the light sign and the dark foliage and sky. The subject still seems to be the focal point but I am more drawn to its overall shape rather than the detail.
Pair 2 – High Street
Images of apparent loneliness in a busy place are always interesting. This man appeared to be deep in thought sitting in a quiet corner. The image is strengthened because the pavement was momentarily empty. I chose to process this in black and white as the colour in the original was playing no role, his jacket was black, the front of the shop was black and his face was better defined in monochrome. The vertical framing works well and is balanced and proportional to the subject. It also enabled me to isolate the subject which fitted the idea of loneliness. I see a balance between the man, the bollard to the left and the shop window. On the negative side the image is flat toned, I would have liked his face to be more prominent.
Moments later the pavement became busy again but he remains isolated. The horizontal frame adds nothing to the image and the overall balance has been lost.
I saw the seat as a lead to the subject but, as a result, I have positioned him too centrally. Poor framing and overall a disappointing image.
To see whether the image could be improved I cropped Fig. 04 into a square frame. It works better as it gives a balance between the man and the legs to the right but his face is too high in the frame. Although I prefer his expression in fig. 04 and fig. 05 the vertical frame works best.
Pair 3 – The Saint
Working inside buildings is always challenging but the potential to use very high ISO and to still get pleasing results is a real benefit of modern DSLR cameras. Initially the tomb appeared to be more suited to a horizontal frame but the stonework canopy is well linked to the reclining saint by the little upright statue above his head and overall the composition works well.
I wanted to use the gold strip and the body as a line through the composition with the hands, backlit by reflected light, as the focal point. It was not successful and the space above the saint has become a void. Stepping back might have included the stone canopy but the subject would have been lost in the frame.
This is an interesting pair and a good example of the need to consider vertical framing even when the subject is predominantly horizontal. I much prefer the vertical frame.
My first post production edit had slightly dull and flat tones which always seem worse when the image has been reduced for the web so I returned to look at increasing the vibrance and in the end just increased the brightness and contrast a little for fig. 06.
Fig. 08 is an alternative processing using the PS6 HDR Tonal adjustment. This has enhanced the shades and tones of the marble and added a glisten to the gold. It has, however, reduced the prominence of the saint’s hands and face.
Pair 4 Flags
The frayed old flags of Hampshire regiments hang in one of the side chapels of the cathedral and offered an contrast to the stained glass windows.
Neither framing is wholly convincing but the vertical option with the tighter crop on the flags creates less dark spaces.
Pair 5 Sculpture
An artist, Randy Klein, was exhibiting his sculptures in the North Transept and I caught this moment of conversation between the artist, standing right, and the owner of a sculpture park. It was a quickly taken shot to capture the two men without any other visitors in the background. A little more space to the left and below the large sculpture might have created a better frame as I find the left of the image too tight but overall this works reasonably well and I like the subjects’ body language which seems to show a buyer/seller relationship, or in a different setting it could be a teacher/pupil.
Fig. 12 is an alternative verticaly framed image taken with a different camera as I first entered the transept. I liked the display of small works leading to the two men but the statue to the left feels pushed into them and I would have liked some space at the centre of the frame.
At ISO 12,800 this is a very grainy image without the grain adding anything significant to the atmosphere of the photograph.
Fig 13 below is taken with the same camera and lens as fig 12 and again there is significant grain because of the high ISO but I like the effect it has on the image.
The composition is far better balanced and there is much more of a sense of an exhibition than was captured in either of the vertical frames. There is a good balance across the composition from cathedral sculptural detail to metal sculpture to the conversation with the visitor. Fig 11 and 13 both work.
Pairs 6, 7 & 8 The Choir
The choir was rehearsing and I took three pairs of photographs from various positions in the nave. In the first pair, fig. 14 and fig.15 I wanted to frame the choir and the brightly lit screen behind the altar with the stone work of the building. the vertical frame gives far greater prominence to the choir and the symmetrical framing is obvious but not unpleasant. I should have been brave enough to move the chair and the music stand but I already felt a little bit conspicuous photographing the choir.
The horizontal frame is much more a photograph of the building with the choir and the screen adding a little shape and colour. I wanted to retain the symmetrical design of the vertical image and the effect is passable but it risks being a photograph of nothing in particular. Some post production processing to bring out the shapes of the stonework might help.
For fig. 16 I moved much closer and used a slower, telephoto lens on my second camera, hence the dramatic increase in ISO.
This was a difficult image to process as the bright lights threatened to burn out but I persevered and balanced out this result just because of the face of the boy to the left and the two mothers in the background.
It is probably still too dark to the lower right and the choir mistress’ dress might still benefit from a bit of dodging but I really like the line of light on the the faces along her left hand side.
Fig 17. is the partner to fig. 16 and to create this composition I moved slightly to my left and focussed on the group of boys and the adult to the right.
This shot is still about the various expressions of the boys and the watching adult. I like the balance and left the image intentionally dark as it seemed to be an appropriate atmosphere for the subject.
In Fig. 18 I wanted to capture as much of the brightly lit screen as possible to put the choir firmly in their setting. This is my favourite composition of the choir shots, the singing boys to the right looking into the frame, the choir mistress on her stool and the strong colours of the screen all work well. I reduced the highlights in PS6 to bring strong colour to the screen but keep the lighting subdued and catherdral-like on the overall image.
For Fig.19 I wanted to include the row of lights on the left going right back to the screen and to do this I had to include the ugly back of the unit to the bottom left, this is a distraction and spoils the composition. It might have worked better to crop tighter on the mistress and the choir.