Tag Archives: Frame

Exercise 12 – Cropping

Fig 1 - Druid Original Image 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

Fig 1 – Druid Original Image – 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

Exercise 12 requires the re-cropping of a selection of existing photographs.

I endeavoured to select a variety of different subject types and to to try one or two different crops on each one.

This is an interesting exercise as it  forced me to look again at a small selection of old images. I did not want to just look at recent photographs and as a result they range from 2000 to 2012.

I have mostly restricted myself to 3:2 or square proportions whether landscape or portrait. The exception are two faux panoramic crops. I am questioning whether using traditional proportions is a sign of a lack of creativity or force of habit. Rightly or wrongly I have always cropped to 3:2 or square. This might be a bit of OCD, or we used to have the cardboard cropping guides to mark up 35mm transparencies for printing and they only worked in these proportions.

At the end of the exercise I can see that there were better crops available for at least 2 of the 4 images so I am clearly looking at these photographs in a different way. More telling was that I found a different and previously un-edited original of the sardine chef that would have be a much better edited image back in 2000. I see this as as more fundamental shift in my ideas, I was always seeking perfections and would exclude things from the frame that spoilt the image I wanted to see. I now realise that the litter on the ground, or in the case of the sardine image, the chef having a cigarette in the background, are the imperfections that potentially make the image. Studying the work of Cartier-Bresson, Lewis Hine and Sebastiao Salgado has been a revelation in this regard and I am now looking at opportunities and my old images in a very different way that I hope, over time, will lift my work.

My first choice is a picture of a druid, not just any druid but Rollo Maughfling, Archdruid of Stonehenge & Britain. I photographed Mr. Maughfling at the Stonehenge winter solstice in 2012 and originally framed the image as seen in fig.1.

I wanted to include his hands which I found interesting, to hint that he was in a crowded place but to isolate him as he appeared to be deep in thought.

Fig 2 - Druid Crop 1 - 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

Fig 2 – Druid Crop 1 – 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

My first, alternative crop focusses attention on his face. I have positioned him to fill the frame from left to near the right hand edge.

Fig 3 - Druid Crop 2 - 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

Fig 3 – Druid Crop 2 – 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

In fig.3 I have stayed in close but cropped into a landscape frame. The intent is to have him looking into space.

Fig 4 - Druid Crop 3 - 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

Fig 4 – Druid Crop 3 – 1/200 at f/2.8 ISO 100

The final crop is halfway between the original and the tight frame of fig.2. to show a little of his costume.

On balance I would be happy to use the original, or fig. 2, crop 1. The choice is between an interesting bearded face or a druid with an interesting face. I took the original as part of a study of people at the solstice so showing that he was a druid was important to that set. If I met him on the street I would probably prefer fig. 2, crop 1.

Fig. 5 Wreck at Anegada Original - 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Fig. 5 – Wreck at Anegada Original – 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

The second image, Fig. 5, dates from 2000 and is of a wreck on the island of Anegada in the British Virgin Islands. My original image was probably framed to put the wreck into the context of the beach and to include the windswept tree to the right which gives a sense of how strong the winds can be and why wrecks happen in these beautiful islands.

Fig. 6 Wreck at Anegada Crop 1- 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Fig. 6 – Wreck at Anegada Crop 1- 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

The first and most obvious crop was to try a portrait frame as in fig. 6. This focusses the viewer totally onto the wreck under a darkening sky.

Fig. 7 - Wreck at Anegada Crop 2- 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Fig. 7 – Wreck at Anegada Crop 2- 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Fig. 7 is tending towards a panoramic shape. I wanted to retain the sweep of the beach and to include the boat and the tree within the frame.

Fig. 8 - Wreck at Anegada Crop 4 - 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Fig. 8 – Wreck at Anegada Crop 4 – 1/200 at f/7.1 ISO 200

Seeing fig. 7 on the screen whilst writing up my notes made me realise that the wide expanse of beach was, in fact, un-balancing the image so I tried a tighter crop as shown in fig. 8 and I think this works much better than fig. 7. The boat and tree balance each other well and the sunlit portion of the beach still links the two. I did also try a square crop but this was uninteresting. I like fig.8 crop 4 as it feels a better balanced image than the original.

Fig. 10 - Sardines Original - 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

Fig. 9 – Sardines Original – 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

Sardines, fig. 9, also dates from 2000 and was taken in Portugal. The original image I found in my “portfolio” was cropped as a square. At that time I was still using a Bronica medium format film camera and although this image is taken with a Nikon D1 it is not unusual for me to crop images, especially portraits into square frames. I suspect my logic was to include all the sardines along with the chef and, as will be seen in fig.11, there was a distraction to the left. This is all about the chef and the fish.

Fig. 10 - Sardines Crop 1 - 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

Fig. 10 – Sardines Crop 1 – 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

In the interests of this project I tried a portrait crop as shown in fig. 10. It is workable but, of the two, I prefer the original. A few years ago I could have sounded very “grumpy old man” and said 1:1 was a very underused format and that it had a lot to offer as an alternative to 3:2. I do not, by the way, hold myself up as an expert in composing in that or any other format. However, since the advent of Instagram, there are now thousands of people successfully using the square format  everyday and there are companies printing Instagrams in the style of the old polaroid instant photos and sending them back boxed.

Fig. 11 - Sardines Alternative Original - 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

Fig. 11 – Sardines Alternative Original – 1/250 at f/8 ISO 200

When I went back to my originals library to retrieve the exposure information for fig. 9 I noticed  this original image (fig. 11) that was never edited. I was obviously not interested in the chef’s assistant having a crafty smoke and took the next shot excluding him. Now I would choose fig.11 as the more interesting photo. I have used it here with no cropping and just the smallest tweak in photoshop. It might deserve a bit more effort to adjust the shadows and highlights.

Fig. 12 - Table Mountain Original - 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 12 – Table Mountain Original – 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

My final choice is a photograph of Table Mountain behind Cape Town taken in 2008. The composition is framed to include the cloud pattern that adds some interest to the sky and the transparent sea inside the reef. I have framed this to create a nearly symmetrical balance.

Fig. 13 - Table Mountain Crop 1 - 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 13 – Table Mountain Crop 1 – 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig.13 is a much better crop, less sea and more sky brings a better overall balance to the image  and the viewer is led in to the photograph more effectively.

Fig. 13 - Table Mountain Crop 2 - 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 14 – Table Mountain Crop 2 – 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

The panoramic crop in fig. 14 is also quite effective and would work well as an internet or blog header or a banner in a printed article. I cropped to try and make the breaking waves the key component.

Fig. 15 - Table Mountain Crop 3 - 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 15 – Table Mountain Crop 3 – 1/100 at f/7.1 ISO 100

In fig. 15 I wanted to try a square format again. I have cropped to include the breaking waves to the left as this gives some life to the image. this has broken up the semi-symmetrical pattern of the clouds and moved the mountain slightly off centre. I don’t dislike it but feel more comfortable with fig. 13 which I think is the best balanced of the set.

Exercise 11 Vertical and Horizontal Frames Part 2

1/100 at f/20 ISO 400

1/100 at f/20 ISO 400

This is the second half of my log for this exercise and starts with pair 9.

Pairs 1 to 8 are discussed in Exercise 11 Vertical and Horizontal frames Part 1.

As found with the first 8 pairs I was seeking vertical subjects so in most cases the vertical version is better than the horizontal. With this set there are, at least, two failures where I did not do justice to the subject in either format.

I enjoyed this exercise even though it is the most work of any exercise so far with a large amount of sorting, editing and summarising to complete. It was also a challenge, which of course I didn’t achieve, to capture 40 interesting shots in an afternoon.

It reminded me of an Ansel Adams quote ” Twelve significant photographs in any year is a good crop.”

Pair 9 The Towers

Fig 01 - 1/800 at f/4 ISO 100

Fig 01 – 1/800 at f/4 ISO 100

Chichester Cathedral has a separate Bell Tower to the North West side so it is possible to capture this, the North West Tower and the Central Tower in one wide angled shot.

These three tall buildings seemed a perfect subject for a vertical frame and fig. 01 does work reasonably well. The line to the right balancing the single tower to the left.

Fig. 02, the horizontal version, works better. The framing has allowed me to capture the bulk at the bases of the towers and this creates a feeling of great size and weight that is lacking from fig 01.

Vehicles were parked between the towers that I didn’t want in the shot without them there might have been a stronger composition available.

Fig 02 - 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 100

Fig 02 – 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 100

Pair 10 The Doors

Fig. 03 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3200

Fig. 03 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3200

The glass doors of the cathedral made an interesting composition with the vergers standing to greet visitors.

In fig. 03 I have intentionally stayed just off a silhouette  as I think the faint tone of the inner wall adds a little to the composition. The idea seems to work but the silhouettes of the two people are lifeless.

In Fig. 04 there is a more interesting scene developing in front of the doors and as a result it is a better photograph but the wide, dark expanses to the sides are unnecessary and apart from the lit stand add nothing.

To test whether the failure of fig. 03 was the subject rather than the frame I cropped fig. 04 into fig. 05.

Fig. 04 - 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 1600

Fig. 04 – 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 1600

Fig. 05 - 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 1600

Fig. 05 – 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 1600

Fig.05 is the best composition of the three.

It is tighter on the doors than fig. 03 and has none of the dark distractions in fig. 04. The two vergers are distinct and separated from the visitor and I like the word “donations” that is lit up to the right.

The chandelier works well both symmetrically and as a balance to the bright backlight on the doors.

Vertical therefore wins the day because it better fits the shape of the subject.

Pair 11 Pondering

The cathedral grounds were being used for a sleep-over to draw attention to the homeless and people were building their shelters. This pair of shots of a man pondering how to make his temporary shelter hold together are not strong images but they do show that using a horizontal frame on this subject caused a number of compositional challenges.

The subject has faded into obscurity against a dull background. Fig. 06 is not a great shot but at least the subject is obvious.

Fig. 06 - 1/100 at f20 ISO 1000

Fig. 06 – 1/100 at f20 ISO 1000

Fig. 07 - 1/100 at f20 ISO 1000

Fig. 07 – 1/100 at f20 ISO 1000

Pair 12 Blue Tent

Fig. 08 - 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 560

Fig. 08 – 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 560

Fig 09 - 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 450

Fig 09 – 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 450

Fig 10 - 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 450

Fig 10 – 1/125 at f7.1 ISO 450

I liked the blue tent images far more when I took them than I did when I reviewed them. The horizontal version is cluttered with no clear subject, the man is looking away and the baby has climbed in front of the women. The subject appears suited to a horizontal frame but it has not worked as an image.

The original vertical version at fig.09 is equally weak. The man is in a better position but it was difficult to frame this well. The grass and the building add nothing.

Fig. 10, which is the strongest of a week set is a crop of fig.09. The vertical frame is now working better and the man becomes a more interesting subject but it is still an untidy photograph with uncomfortable dynamics. The man wold be better to the left but then we would have the legs of the women in shot so it is at best a compromise.

Pair 13 Fast Food

Fig 11 - 1/100 at f/20 ISO 400

Fig 11 – 1/100 at f/20 ISO 400

I am very pleased with fig.11. I had already taken the landscape shot of the fast food wagon while these two tourists were buying their hotdogs and realised that there might be a shot of them walking away. I got into position just in time to catch this image. I have thought long and hard whether crop it in post production but have eventually decided to leave it exactly as captured. The man is very tight to the left but I like the sequence of him and the women looking at their food then the wagon to the left and the street disappearing into the distance. I think the balance has worked with the subjects right at the front with a deep, in focus, background. The initial shot was a little over exposed so I have adjusted the exposure by 1/2 a stop in Camera Raw and then by using a mask put different curves on the sky and the street. I think this image has a 3D feel.

The horizontal shot, shown at fig.12 below, is obviously from a quite different angle. the cart and the queue of customers were the right subject for a landscape frame whilst the two tourists with their hotdogs worked best in portrait. I think that these are a strong pair.

Fig. 12 - 1/100 at f/20 ISO 1600

Fig. 12 – 1/100 at f/20 ISO 1600

Pair 14 PC 559

Fig 13 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 900

Fig 13 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 900

Cheerful policeman obviously get assigned to manning the police tent and PC 554 was a jovial loooking character.

In fig. 13 he is framed effectively by the white tent and is smiling out of the picture. An adequate shot but not especially interesting.

In fig. 14 he is placed in context and we can see that he is sharing a joke with two others.

The horizontal image tells the more interesting story.

There is an intriguing balance in fig. 14 with two frames within frames. It takes two glances to realise that it is one, not two, photographs, It would have been good to have something linking the two frames.

Fig. 14 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 500

Fig. 14 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 500

Pair 15 Fracking

Fig 15 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 1600

Fig 15 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 1600

Fig 16 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 900

Fig 16 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 900

Fig. 15 and fig 16 are two alternative vertical framings of a protester by the old market.  Fig. 15 was more spontaneous as he had just spotted me with the camera and raised his placard to ensure it was in the shot. By the time I shot fig 16 he was posing and staring right into the lens. Fig 15 is well balanced with the three other people in shot but I included fig. 16 as it is a better study of the placard man.

However, fig 17 works better than either with the lady to the left and the man with his back to us engaged with the placard man and balancing him and the sign. In this instance the more interesting frame was horizontal.

Fig. 18 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 450

Fig. 17 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 450

Pair 16 Bench and Child

Fig. 18 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 18 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 100

The man on the bench was watching the toddler make her way past. He is sitting in a patch of sunlight and this seems to emphasise his role in the image.

The problem here is that this is a horizontal photograph in a vertical frame and most of the information in the top half of the picture is irrelevant. More thoughtful use of DoF might have helped.

In fig. 19, even though the little girl has moved past the best spot, there is far less distracting detail and a good balance with the two subjects at either end of the bench.

Definitely a horizontal subject.

Fig. 19 - 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 19 – 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Pair 17 Two Men on Bench

Fig. 20 - 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 20 – 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

A new character appeared on the bench, seemingly loaded with shopping and ready for a rest.

Fig. 20 is balanced and well lit but it suffers from the same problems as the previous vertical composition.

The man on the left has now become aware of my presence and this makes the shot a little more interesting.

In fig. 21 there is better composition but I find that this shot works less well that the photo with the little girl. This might just be the subtle balances of the background or the fact that in fig. 19 there appeared to be a connection between the man and the girl whereas in fig. 21 there are two independent subjects.

Fig. 21 - 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Fig. 21 – 1/160 at f/7.1 ISO 100

Pair 18 The Old Market

Fig. 21 - 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 400

Fig. 22 – 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 400

The old market at the junction of the four main streets is one of Chichester’s landmarks. This seemed to work better in monochrome. I processed it to create strong contrasts on the clock face and the small bust. the two towers balance each other and are well linked by the roof of the market.

I endeavoured to process fig. 23 to have similar contrasts but I find the vertical frame the stronger image.

Fig. 22 - 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 400

Fig. 23 – 1/1000 at f/4 ISO 400

Pair 19 Two

Fig. 24 - 1/1250 f/2.2 ISO 100

Fig. 24 – 1/1250 f/2.2 ISO 100

For the last photograph in Chichester I have chosen this couple on a bench. I initially thought that the police car would dominate the shot but I now feel that it does no harm and potentially creates a line to the subjects. They are deep in conversation and oblivious to the camera.

They moved immediately after this shot so I have selected fig. 25 as the counterpoint.

A very different couple on the next bench along the street. He is totally focussed on his phone and I could have stayed and photographed him for 15 minutes and I don’t think he would have noticed me. The dog is staring into the distance and creates a satisfying composition.

The background is messy but I found that cropping detracted from the line of the two benches so my compromise was to settle for this composition. I find that combining interesting subjects with non intrusive backgrounds is a challenge with street photography and probably why so many street images are tightly cropped. This sort of image, fig 25, appeals to me most with either a very busy or an empty street. Two or three stray people standing still often make the worst backgrounds.

I keep thinking that there is a potential collection of street images to be made exclusively featuring people interacting with their smart phones as that seems to be more common that interacting face to face with other people.

Fig 26 - 1/1250 at f/4 ISO 100

Fig 26 – 1/1250 at f/4 ISO 100

Pair 20 The Avenue

Fig 26 - 1/100 at f/14 ISO 2500

Fig 27 – 1/100 at f/14 ISO 2500

The last image was taken in Farnham Park the next morning. This avenue of trees made an interesting final test of vertical and horizontal.

The vertical composition is not without merit but I found that I needed to be quite a distance from this particular group of trees to create good shapes leading in from the top.

It is obviously another very symmetrical composition but I like the way the single bench breaks up the balance.

For fig 28 I stayed in much the same place but moved the path left of centre.

I prefer the horizontal composition which makes more of the lone bench.

Fig 28 - 1/100 at f/14 ISO 1250

Fig 28 – 1/100 at f/14 ISO 1250

Exercise 11 Vertical and Horizontal Frames Part 1

The Cathedral Choir at Practice 1/30 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

The Cathedral Choir at Practice 1/30 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

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

1/1600 at f/1.8 ISO 100

Fig. 01 – 1/1600 at f/1.8 ISO 100

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.

Fig. 02 - 1/1250 at f/1.8 ISO 100

Fig. 02 – 1/1250 at f/1.8 ISO 100

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

Fig. 03 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 2800

Fig. 03 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 2800

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.

Fig. 05 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3600

Fig. 04 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3600

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.

Fig. 05 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3600

Fig. 05 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 3600

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

Fig. 06 - 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 3200

Fig. 06 – 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 3200

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.

Fig. 07 - 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 2800

Fig. 07 – 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 2800

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.

Fig. 08 - 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 3200

Fig. 08 – 1/100 at f/2.2 ISO 3200

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

Fig. 09 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 2200

Fig. 09 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 2200

Fig. 10 - 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 1600

Fig. 10 – 1/125 at f/7.1 ISO 1600

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

Fig. 11 - 1/100 at f/2.8 ISO 2000

Fig. 11 – 1/100 at f/2.8 ISO 2000

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 - 1/100 at 7.1 ISO 12.800

Fig. 12 – 1/100 at 7.1 ISO 12.800

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.

Fig. 13 - 1/80 at f/7.1 12800 ISO

Fig. 13 – 1/80 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

Pairs 6, 7 & 8 The Choir

Fig. 14 - 1/100 f/2.8 ISO 5000

Fig. 14 – 1/100 f/2.8 ISO 2800

Fig. 15 - 1/100 at f/2.8 ISO 5000

Fig. 15 – 1/100 at f/2.8 ISO 5000

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.

Fig. 16 - 1/40 at f/7/1 ISO 12800

Fig. 16 – 1/40 at f/7/1 ISO 12800

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.

Fig. 17 - 1/40 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

Fig. 17 – 1/40 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

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.

Fig 18 - 1/30 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

Fig 18 – 1/30 at f/7.1 ISO 12800

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.

Fig. 19 - 1/50 at f7.1 ISO 12800

Fig. 19 – 1/50 at f7.1 ISO 12800

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.

Exercise 10 Positioning the Horizon

1/200 at f/4 ISO 100

1/200 at f/4 ISO 100

My efforts for this exercise had a few false starts as weather and poor choice of locations prevented me capturing useful images on two occasions. I arrived home earlier than normal yesterday evening and was welcomed by a beautiful evening and so was able to take an appropriate set of images locally.

The exercise asks for a clear and unbroken horizon which is hard to find so I have selected a horizon which is clear and only broken by the undulation of the hills and a few trees, a typical scene on the Surrey and Hampshire borders.

Within the constraints of the exercise I endeavoured to capture four images that were as interesting as possible. Simply moving the horizon and the declaring the result to be poor seemed unhelpful. I always work in RAW to allow the greatest scope for post production work and, with these four images, that was important. In each case I created an inverted “S” curve on the foreground and then, with the exception of fig. 4 I used a mask to set a curve on the sky to darken the blues and to minimise burnt out highlights. There was also a bit of dodge and burn. I spent enough time on this to create images for display on a monitor or the web but it would take a little longer to do this really well and I do not believe the images are good enough to warrant that much effort.

1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 1 – 1/1000 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig.1. In this shot I have retained enough foreground to give some depth to the photograph. The sky is the best feature but I failed to get a good colour into the blues and overall it is a poor composition. This sky does not justify this amount of the frame.

Fig 2 1/1000 at f/3.3 ISO 100

Fig 2 – 1/1000 at f/3.3 ISO 100

Fig. 2. This is a better balance, although the immediate foreground is plain there is a nice light on the grass and the hedge to the left. The sky has some tonal variation and the pylon is starkly graphic against the clouds.

Fig. 3 - 1/400 at f3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 3 – 1/400 at f3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 3. The first point to get out the way is that this is a careless exposure. I had been using a wide aperture to take unrelated photos in the other direction whilst waiting for the light to fall in the way I wanted across the foreground. I should have significantly increased the depth of field to ensure that the foreground was sharply in focus. I find the blur distracting.

In terms of the horizon I find this a well balanced shot. It is probably just about 1/3 v 2/3 and the pylon neatly fits the sky. something more interesting in the foreground would have helped the composition and I had been hopeful that the sun would reach some part of the oast houses.

As mentioned previously, Thomas Smith (1797), the person credited with coining the phrase “the rule of thirds”  said that, in the paintings of the old masters, the sky often occupied a third and the land two thirds, and he found this ratio of two thirds to one third more pleasing that the precise formal half or any other proportion. In this case I agree.

Fig. 4 - 1/160 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 4 – 1/160 at f/3.5 ISO 100

Fig. 4. The sky is irrecoverably burnt out and an interesting foreground and light on the oast houses would have made this image work better. The position of the horizon would work for the right shot as there is real depth to the image. I like the way the shapes of the hills which are topped with sunlight, the strips of sun and shade and the converging lines all emphasise that the buildings have been tucked into a fold of the hills. The texture in the foreground is helpful as a counter point to the smooth textures of the more distant hills.

Each of the framing exercises have underlined good principles about selection. It is clearly vital to instinctively select the right framing especially when the light is changing quickly and the best shot might only be available for a few seconds.

I like to think that, in the past, I have regularly used the position of the horizon creatively and the sky is an exciting subject if there is just enough foreground to provide a sense of place or an appropriate balance. I also like low angled shots using a deep foreground to lead into the subject and have found this especially useful when photographing hills and mountains.

Exercise 09 Balance

Symmetrical Roman Balconies

Symmetrical Roman Balconies

This exercise involves selecting 6 of my own photographs and deciding how the balance works in each one. For each photograph it was necessary to identify the main points of balance, which could be shape, colour, tone, lines or any other elements. Then to draw a sketch of these parts and show how they relate to each other with a balance scale.

Having studied the course text and Michael Freeman’s (2007) ideas in The Photographer’s Eye and having spent a considerable time just looking at other photographers’ images I still found this a challenging task.

At one level I understand the concept of balance whereby a dominant large feature to the left can be balanced by a smaller feature to the right regardless of whether this is achieved by shape, colour, texture or tone but I feel I still need to better understand how this works when there is also depth to the image.  Here I have selected some images where the answer is simple and some where it appears harder to determine.

Fig. 1 Tractor

Fig. 1 Tractor


To start with Fig. 1 and a simple image of three men with a vintage tractor and harvester. I see a clear balance between the group of men on the left and the two large machines on the right which can be seen as one object or two. In addition the machinery forms a dominant triangle from bottom left to top right and the men and hazy background are in a balancing triangle on the left.

There is also a curve formed by the feet of the men, the tractor and the harvester which runs from front to back in the image.

Fig. 2 Dog in Rome

Fig. 2 Dog in Rome

dog-in-Rome-with-shapes-&-fulcrum_D2X8214The dog in Rome photograph in fig.2 appears relatively straight forward. There are 4 shapes left to right, the dog, the couple and the two flower salesman. This gives a balance across the image. There is a strong line, the wall, running front to back and connecting the groups. This may be an over-complication as I can also see the image as just two groups, the couple with their dog as one group and the two salesman as the other.

I see the white shirt of the salesman as a balance to the nearly white dog and because all the other tones are much darker my eye moves back and forth from left to right between these two areas of brightness.

Fig. 3 Doorway

Fig. 3 Doorway

doorway-with-shapes-&-fulcrum_D2X6644In fig. 3 I specifically wanted to explore balance in a portrait frame. I sense that with many vertical compositions there are balances working both horizontally and vertically. In this example it is mostly horizontal with three strong groups left, centre and right but I also see the green window at the top as a counter balance to all the shapes in the bottom of the frame.

There are many textures in play here with a decaying stucco wall, the hard, dull, metal lamp post and the trunks and leaves on the trees. Complimentary colours also have a role with three shades of green left, right and top centre but overall I think it is the nearly symmetrical layout that is the most powerful feature.

Fig. 4 Chillies

Fig. 4 Chillies

chillies-with-shapes-&-fulcrum_D2X6628Fig. 4 is another vertical frame but seemingly simpler. There are two large blocks of colour and contrasting texture with the chillies at the top and the stone seat at the bottom. The man-made seat is nearly positioned in the horizontal centre but the chillies are off centre and a less regular shape so there is some tension between the solid/regular and the irregular pattern that is natural and less solid.

Fig 5. Sheep Dog

Fig 5. Sheep Dog

sheep-dog-with-shapes-&-fulcrum_D2X6264With Fig. 5 I have moved to an image that I found harder to analyse. To my eye there are two clear shapes – the dog and the sheep to the left as one and the sheep to the right as the other but because dog is distinctly  whiter I think he stands alone as an element and thereby making three elements in total. The dog is looking out of the frame whilst the sheep are intent on quenching their thirst and this strengthens his role as the dominant feature.

Fig. 6 The Shepherd

Fig. 6 The Shepherd

Shephard-&-Flock-with-shapes-&-fulcrum_D2X5761Fig. 6 is harder still. There is one long shape formed by the shepherd and his flock and a second, smaller shape made by the left hand dog. This seems to be the main shape balance even though the long shape fills 70% of the horizontal plane.

However, I am more drawn to the direction the dog on the right is moving and the perception of direction that is formed by the receding flock. The dog to the left and the flock form a curve that flows away from the bottom right. This movement might be strengthened by the triangular mountain top right. I think this is an image that is balanced mostly by lines.


Fig. 7 Roccacalacsio

roccacalascio-with-shapes_D2X7552I found fig 7. the hardest to analyse. There are 4 strong shapes. The sky, the triangular rock and sheep to the left, the mountain ahead with its ruined castle and the white road complete with yet another shepherd. (If you photograph in the Abruzzi mountains you tend to have sheep and shepherds in many of your shots whether you wish to or not). I found it difficult to draw a balance scale and think that the balance comes from the two blocks of mountain and rocks divided by the white road which leads into the image and perhaps to the castle.

This was an excellent exercise that made me think long and hard about shape balance. I looked through a number of books and found that Freeman (2007) was the only author to hand who had anything to say on the subject. Internet research added little to my sources.

However, looking at photographs was far more useful and it is interesting to see how accomplished photographers instinctively seek and find shape balance. It is obviously clearer in black and white prints where shape and tone are dominant and the distraction of colour is removed. Cecil Beaton’s photograph of Quintin Hogg has a very clear and simple balance of the subject in a left hand frame and his smaller hat in a, more narrow, right hand frame.

Frederick Evans, On Sussex Downs, has divided the frame horizontally with the white road making a small dark area to the left and a large dark area to the right. His sky line is placed higher than the centre so we have three differing sized blocks divided by the road and the horizon. the trees break this skyline and stop the photograph being purely geometrical.

Robert Adams’ The Farmyard, has many elements spaced across the frame with a large building partly included to the left, then a telegraph pole, a tree and a silo. The last three are quite evenly spaced and the pole is linked into the tree with a white cylinder. Behind all of this the horizon is placed 2/3 down into the frame and everything is knitted together with the telephone lines. There are a lot of elements but the overall effect is very simple and restful, it is a tranquil scene.

Exercise 07 Focal lengths

Fishmonger Littlehampton 1/100 at f/4 ISO 560

Fishmonger Littlehampton 1/100 at f/4 ISO 560

On a very wet morning I visted Littlehampton, a small port on the South coast near Chichester to take a series of photographs using lens of different focal lengths. The mission was compromised by driving rain that made changing lenses hazardous so I restricted myself to only using 2 lenses, a 16mm – 35mm wide angle and a 70mm to 300mm telephoto, all taken from the same viewpoint. A selection of the images are included below and show that, whilst the subject (the union flag) becomes closer the relationship between the flag and other items in the frame remains constant.

Fig. 1 16mm lens 1/400 at f/4 - ISO 100

Fig. 1 16mm lens 1/400 at f/4 – ISO 100

Fig. 2 70mm lens 1/250 at f/4 - ISO 100

Fig. 2 70mm lens 1/250 at f/4 – ISO 100

Fig. 3 125mm lens 1/250 at f/4.5 - ISO 100

Fig. 3 125mm lens 1/250 at f/4.5 – ISO 100

Fig. 4 135mm lens 1/250 at f/4.5 - ISO 100

Fig. 4 135mm lens 1/250 at f/4.5 – ISO 100

Fig. 5 300mm lens 1/160 at f/4.5 - ISO 100

Fig. 5 300mm lens 1/160 at f/4.5 – ISO 100

Fig. 6 16mm lens 1/400 at f/4 - ISO 100

Fig. 6 16mm lens 1/400 at f/4 – ISO 100

Fig. 6 is a crop from the initial 16mm photograph (Fig. 1) showing that the captured image is identical to to the 300mm photograph in terms of the relationship between objects in the frame.

Exercise 05 – Object in Different Positions in the Frame

Fig. 01 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 1 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100

The exercise “Object in Different Positions in the Frame” requires us to take a series of photographs placing the subject in different positions within the frame.

At this stage I declare that I have taken a short-cut with this exercise. I had decided that an ideal subject for this exercise would be to find a farmer working a large, single coloured field. I had this picture in my mind’s eye and as I travelled about over last weekend I surveyed each field I passed. We live in a rural location so there are plenty of fields.

However, it was obviously not a weekend for undertaking any kind of field work as not a single tractor did I find.

I suspect that the mistake was to head out with a specific subject in mind but I want to keep moving forward quickly with these initial exercises and have decided to openly cheat for the time being but to continue to look for an appropriate subject over the coming weekends and to replace or expand this report at a later date.

I have selected a photograph taken in the early summer of 2013 on my grandson exploring the paths made by a tractor in a field of rape seed flowers. I have conducted the exercise in Photoshop as I only captured one image.

Fig. 2 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 2 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Original Photograph

Fig. 2 above is the original photograph, it meets the requirement of the exercise in the sense that it was a snap shot, taken without any thought as the subject was running bent over and jumping up to surprise me with his new position. He is very slightly off centre but this was not a composed shot.

Fig. 3 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 3 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Off Centre Front

Out of the four crops I completed this is my favourite. I was using a 300mm lens so even at f/8.0 there is a satisfying blur to the front and back of the subject. His position in the frame with less flowers to his right and front and more behind and to his left creates a good balance to the photograph. His arms create some extra shape and generally point towards the corners of the frame. I find that the difference between sizes of the front and back and the two sides helps create a greater sense of depth to the field and creates a balanced end product.

Fig. 4 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 4 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Off Centre

Fig. 4, where the subject is just off centre, would be my second choice but the nearly equal foreground and background make this a less interesting, more static and more predictable crop. The field still has scale and I like the relationship of the size of the subject and the size of the background.

Fig. 5 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig. 5 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Centre

Fig. 5 is acceptable, uninteresting and predictable but it is at least a pleasant photograph of the boy. His Grandmothers would probably be quite happy with a print of this one. As suggested in the course notes by placing the subject dead centre the scale of the background is somehow reduced. It seems a small field with a large boy which is the opposite of both my original intent and the crop in fig. 2.

Fig.5 - 1/320 at f/8.0 - ISO 100

Fig.6 – 1/320 at f/8.0 – ISO 100 – Edge

Fig. 6 is last in terms of my preferences. It is not a successful image. It might have worked if the subject had been much smaller within the overall frame but I do not respond to this crop in any way.

Exercise 6 A Sequence of Composition – The Street Band

Fig. 2 - 1/100 at f/5 - ISO 110

1/100 at f/5 – ISO 110

The Sequence of composition exercise is designed to help the practical process of composing an image. It suggests a street scene as the best location.

My chosen location was Winchester market which, on the first  Sunday of the month, has two markets close to each other in the centre of the city.

The challenge in this exercise is to develop an idea of the “final” image whilst moving around seeking the best vantage point and an ideal subject. By its very nature a market is a fluid place with people moving between stalls and the many streets that this market stretches across.

Over the course of 2 hours I captured sequences in each of the distinctly different areas of the market.

The Street Band


This sequence took about 2 minutes and 20 seconds to shoot. The band were comparatively static and the challenge was to avoid passersby walking into shot and moving to new vantage points in the small crowd that had gathered.

Fig. 1 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 500

Fig. 1 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 500

My initial shot was taken as I found the band, the whole band is in shot but it is an uninteresting composition. My instinct was to try and get closer to individual musicians so I moved slightly further up the street.

Fig. 2 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 280

Fig. 2 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 280

I framed the two wind musicians in fig.2 to see whether the relationship between the two would make a good composition. There is too much empty space adding no value to the image so I zoomed in on the pair and focused on the nearest woman.

Fig. 3 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 280

Fig. 3 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 280

This shot, fig. 3,  cuts out the distractions around the musicians and is a much more satisfying composition but it is not, in any way, dynamic, nor is there any sense of them being part of a lively street band.

I moved further in front of the band to isolate the women in the red coat.

Fig. 4 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 560

Fig. 4 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 560

Fig. 4 was taken from this new position but did not feel interesting.

Fig. 5 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 640

Fig. 5 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 640

I moved again to the right and began to photograph the clarinet  player , fig.5, whose bright scarf made the image potentially more vibrant.

This made for a better image with the shop window providing a sense of place and her shape and the scarf making a pleasing composition.

I moved further in front of the band to look at the other players.

Fig. 6 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 800

Fig. 6 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 800

The guitarist was next in line. I was fairly certain the the final image was going to be a close up so I stayed zoomed in when I took the shots of him. His hair and expression of concentration held some promise.

Fig. 7 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 360

Fig. 7 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 360

However, his grey shirt and the off-white background make this a dull photo. The band was on the shady side of the street so it scene was fairly subdued already.

I zoomed out and caught him facing in a more interesting direction. The passerby leaving the shot to the left seems to add rather than detract from the image and I think that the dark coat and the blue music stand frame the subject quite effectively.

My natural progression was to continue to the right and I felt that the last two musicians were more animated and that all the energy in the band was coming from these two characters.

Fig. 8 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 140

Fig. 8 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 140

Although I had been getting generally closer I zoomed back out to 70mm to capture these two men together. This felt a better shot as there seemd to be movement and the backdrop gave a real street musician setting. I stayed with this position in the hope of capturing an image with more energy.

Fig. 9 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 140

Fig. 9 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 140

Fig. 9 has captured the man to the right in a better pose but it seemed seemed flat and I felt that I was too front on and needed to focus on these two but from a more dynamic angle. I stepped right and inwards to look back down the line of the band.

Fig. 10 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 140

Fig. 10 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 140

This gave me a better angle on the two nearest musicians without losing the feel of the street.

Unfortunately I was now in the middle of a busy pedestrian route so it was becoming harder to get the shot. I moved left again to avoid the traffic.

Fig. 11 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 220

Fig. 11 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 220

This shot, fig.11, might have been the end of the sequence but I haven’t captured everyone’s energy at the same time but the flautist knocked over his coffee and looked down to deal with that just as I took the shot. I think that there is a much more interesting crop here of just the three men.

I stayed just about where I was but turned the camera back to landscape.

Fig. 12 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 180

Fig. 12 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 180

Fig 12 captures the band and the street but two musicians have stopped playing and the picture is without any interest again. A backward step in terms of progression towards the final image.

Fig. 13 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 180

Fig. 13 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 180

Then the flautist and the guitarist looked up, the violinist turned my way and a passerby moved into shot. This is probably my favourite image but I had been progressing towards a close up.

So, I zoomed right in as the flautist started playing again.

Fig. 14 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 180

Fig. 14 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 180

I focussed on the flute and at f/5.6 achieved a satisfying blur on the violin player. This image works reasonably well but the alternative ending is a crop from fig 13 which I think has much more life.

Fig. 15- 1/100 at f7.1 - ISO 180

Fig. 15- 1/100 at f7.1 – ISO 180

Research Towards a Sequence of Composition

1/640 at f/5.6 - ISO 100

1/640 at f/5.6 – ISO 100

We were blessed with beautiful weather last weekend and although I had not completed writing up “Fitting the Frame” it was a golden opportunity to visit Winchester which has a bric-a-brac and a farmers’ market on the first Sunday of the month. This would be a good location to work on “A Sequence of Composition”.

I captured plenty of sequences and will work on editing those photos and writing up the exercise in the early part of next week. Good markets bustle with people and Winchester is no exception so I inevitably took plenty of people photos over the course of the morning. As I began to sort through the raw images I began to think about how best to crop and edit the people pictures that might not fit not the current exercise but were images that I would like for myself.

This started me thinking more deeply about street photography and street portraits in particular and whether there were patterns in the way experienced and skilful street photographers presented their work.

I have researched the internet for striking street portraits that will help me answer this question. The internet is a powerful research tool but a lot of time can be wasted sorting the wheat from the chaff so I tried to quickly home in on a small number of photographers. Firstly, I selected an iconic name from the history of street photography – Henri Cartier Bresson, one modern American, professional photographer, Clay Enos, whose “Spontaneously-made portraits of random passersby” appealed to me www.clayenos.com/streetstudio and a Greek photographer, Markos George Hionos whose images caught my eye but who appears to be neither a professional nor well known www.facebook.com/MarkosGeorgeHionosPhotography.

(Important amendment, posted 23rd October 2013. I owe an apology to Markos George Hionos. I have done him a disservice and should have said that he was not previously known to me. Mr. Hionos has kindly written to me and provided me with links to his work. He is indeed a professional photographer born in Greece but now working as a freelance photographer and living in London, his work has been published in several magazines and he has written two books. His website can be found at  www.mindstormphotos.com. and his blog at markosgeorgehionos.wordpress.com)

I also spent some time looking at Lee Jeffries’ work. His powerful images of street people in London and Los Angeles are strong enough to be disturbing which I presume is exactly the effect he is aiming for and whilst I am very taken by his work I will save them as input for another day. www.paranoias.org/2011/07/lee-jeffries-photography/.

My method was to look through images from the above photographers and screen shot those that fitted into a theme of street portraits and that had an instant visual impact on me. I pulled these together into simple collections and printed them for my sketchbook. I have obviously not looked at all the work of these three men and am therefore not going to comment on their wider work but by printing out all the images that I had selected and looking at them together there was a clear pattern.

In the photos I had selected by Henri Cartier Bresson he had the subject or subjects in the context of their setting whilst both Enos and Hionos tightly framed their subjects. The second obvious observation is that Cartier Bresson and Hionos’ images were all black and white whilst Enos used both mediums. My review of current street photography suggests that a high proportion is monochrome. I am unsure whether this is because the subject works better this way or whether it has become a trend and photographers are associating street subjects with black and white. For Lee Jeffries’ work Black and white is the obvious choice, it focusses all the attention on the subjects’ complexions, underlines the dirt and the wear and tear most of them have suffered. His are dark subjects and perfect for monochrome. In contrast Clay Enos uses both colour and black and white, his work is generally much lighter but I like the fact that he is choosing which works best based on the subject.

I selected a small number of the street portraits that I had taken last Sunday and followed a process of preparing a copy with a fairly wide framing and then trying tighter crops that were closer to Enos and Hionos’ work.

1/100 at f/5 - ISO 110

Fig. 1 – 1/100 at f/5 – ISO 110

I took a series of photos of this market trader. Fig. 1 is the first photo taken after he noticed me and I liked the way he is responding to the camera. He obviously knows I am there but he is not posing in any way. I like the movement in his hand as he raises his cigarette. A satisfactory image but there is a lot of dead space around the subject.

Fig. 2 - 1/100 at f/5 - ISO 110

Fig. 2 – 1/100 at f/5 – ISO 110

I have cropped much more closely in fig.2 but have kept enough of his wonderful plaited beard and the glimpse of his tattoo. This is a much more effective crop dispute losing so much of the beard and his hand. I could have potentially cropped even tighter to focus on his face but I think the subject believes his beard is an important statement about himself and it had to be in the photo.

Fig. 3 - 1/100 at f/5 - ISO 110

Fig. 3 – 1/100 at f/5 – ISO 110

I converted the same image to black and white in fig.3. For me, this changes the feel of the image quite significantly. Both Fig.1 and Fig. 2 are bright, cheerful images, I find this a little more moody, nearly sinister, in black and white. The colour images work better for me in this instance.

1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 640

Fig.4 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 640

The second image I have chosen, fig.4 , is of an older man who first attracted my attention because his tee shirt appeared quite out of keeping with both his age and the rest of his clothing. This crop was the photo I first saw, with the mannequin’s head holding the left and my main subject holding the right.

Fig.4 - 1/100 at f/5.6 - ISO 640

Fig.5 – 1/100 at f/5.6 – ISO 640

In fig. 5 I have cropped to a portrait and the way he is looking straight at the camera has become the dominant feature of the image. I left his hands and the tee shirt in and I like the way they relate to each other. On balance the landscape with the market around him is a more interesting photograph. I tested black and white on this image but it did not add anything.

1/100 at f/9 - ISO 1000

Fig.6 – 1/100 at f/9 – ISO 1000

By this stage I was beginning to develop a theme for my sequence of composition exercise and was positioning myself behind market traders and their stalls and focusing in on their customers. I have picked fig. 6 out as a street portrait because the trader’s back, the shop window and her colourful scarf create a strong frame for women’s face and she has become the dominant subject.

Fig.7 - 1/100 at f/9 - ISO 1000

Fig.7 – 1/100 at f/9 – ISO 1000

In Fig.7 I have cropped in more tightly on the women. She does not fill the frame so is still a long way from either Enos or Hionos and I have left in the back of the trader which explains the photograph. It is a shame that someone walked behind her as it would have been a more striking photograph if the shops had been the only background. There is a lesson here and I should review the captured image more often as there probably was the opportunity to take another shot once the passerby had gone. Black and white added nothing.

1/100 at f7.1 - ISO 180

Fig.8 – 1/100 at f7.1 – ISO 180

Fig.8 - 1/100 at f7.1 - ISO 180

Fig.8 – 1/100 at f7.1 – ISO 180

In this close up of part of a street band I caught one of the musicians obviously enjoying his colleague’s performance. This is tight on the two subjects but because of the depth of field the focus is all on the expression of the man at the back. Cropping down to the one man would be pointless as the subject of his pleasure would have gone. In fig.8 I have converted the image to  black and white to see whether this would impart a more “street feel”.  I prefer the colour version but either seem to work.

1/125 at f/2.8 - ISO 100

Fig. 9 – 1/125 at f/2.8 – ISO 100

Fig. 9 was the first photograph that I edited after uploading the raw files. I felt that this was a strong composition with the trumpeter’s white shirt helping to make him stand out from the dull and out of focus background. In a perfect world the doorway would have been empty but I do not believe that the two figures detract too much. Another example where, if I had reviewed the image on location, I would have had a second chance.

This is the photograph that started me thinking about how other photographers frame their street portraits. Should I stay with this composition which seemed strong or frame much tighter?

1/125 at f/2.8 - ISO 100

Fig. 10 – 1/125 at f/2.8 – ISO 100

The tight crop in fig. 10 works better. The diagonal of the trumpet and the direction his eyes are looking become the two most dominant features. I much prefer this image.

Based on reviewing internet images street portraits are more often then not tightly framed. The subject is often the whole subject and the photograph is mostly printed in black and white.

On the other hand Henri Cartier Bresson focuses all our attention onto an individual or a group but leaves them in context, even when the background is fairly plain. I picked out 10 of his images. The selection was solely on the basis of the image being primarily about an individual, i.e. a portrait and that it instantly appealed to me. In 8 out the 10 the subject is placed left or right of centre (rule of thirds) and the rest of the image provides context. Sometimes the context is another person observing the subject. The other two images possibly fail my own criteria anyway. One is is of a group of three probably attempting to find their way from a map and the other is of a group in a park.

Returning to the small selection above, my favourites are the trumpet player (fig. 10) where a tight frame has helped the composition and the older man with the mannequin (fig. 4) where showing him in context creates the most interesting image. Black and white added nothing to any of the images I tested. For me, tight or wide is dependant on what makes the most visual impact, or what makes the more interesting composition. I feel that there is a risk of following a modern trend without asking what makes the best composition and I would like to avoid this trap.

Exercise 4 Fitting The Frame to the Subject

1/320 f/2.8 ISO 100

1/320 f/2.8 ISO 100

In exercise 4, Fitting the Frame to the subject, it is necessary to identify a subject that is “clear in appearance and compact in shape”. As discussed in my research and reflections post, Research for the Frame, I decided upon electricity pylons.

Having taken several series of photographs I have selected a sequence that best meets the objectives of the exercise. During the sorting and editing process I decided that the subject lent itself better to monochrome than colour. For comparative purposes I have included some colour versions towards the end of this post.

I made this decision because the, mostly green, background landscape was more about tone than colour, the subject by nature was made up of lines and shapes which contrasted better with the background in black and white and I felt the overall composition was better highlighted in this medium. I rarely use black and white and I am not satisfied with the results (especially with Fig. 4.4) and need to carryout more research on editing for black and white.

Fig 4.1 - 1/250 at f/8.0 ISO 100

Fig 4.1 – 1/250 at f/8.0 ISO 100

The first image, Fig. 4.1, was captured when I first approached this particular pylon. As suggested I took vey little time to think about the framing. This hopefully qualifies as a conventional viewpoint. It was obviously an option to turn the camera to take a portrait image but my first instinct was to include the power lines coming to and leaving the pylon.

Fig. 4.2 - 1/320 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.2 – 1/320 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.2 is the tight framing version where the subject fills the frame. I did try framing the subject even more tightly but something about the shape of the pylons made an uncomfortable image when right up tight to the frame and unless I cropped the image to be out of proportion it is the wrong shape to fill the frame in both directions. I concluded that this framing best represented “tight” for this subject.

Fig 4.3 - 1/1000 at f/4.5 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig 4.3 – 1/1000 at f/4.5 ISO 100 with polarising filter

There were an overwhelming number of options for the image that excluded all of the subject’s edges. I selected Fig 4.3 simply because I like the strong lines from outside to inside that seem to be amplified the parallel patterns made by the clouds.

Fig. 4.4 - 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.4 – 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

The final image of the sequence, F4.4, shows the pylon in its surroundings. This is the least effective image in monochrome as the pylon does not contrast strongly enough with the sky and as a result the patterns in the sky have become the dominant feature and the lines formed by the clouds draw the eye to the small group of trees to the left.

I then  looked at some alternative crops of Fig 4.4.

Fig. 4.5 - 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.5 – 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig 4.5 is the first alternative. I have kept the power lines in the frame and the pylon once again stands out from the background and regains its role as the subject.

Fig. 4.6 - 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.6 – 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.6 returns to a landscape format but by cropping more tightly the pylon becomes more dominant within the frame.

Fig. 4.7 - 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.7 – 1/100 at f 8.0 ISO 140 with polarising filter

In Fig. 4.7 I have chosen a more panoramic crop which works quite well but the farm buildings and trees to the left have again become the focus of the image. To my mind this is partly because I believe we tend to look at photographs from left to right, partly because the buildings are a much stronger contrast against the medium and dark tones of the rest of the photograph and partly because the power lines and the clouds take me there.

Fig. 4.8 1/302 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.8 – 1/320 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

The alternative crop that appeals to me most is Fig. 4.8 which is actually a crop of Fig 4.2. By cropping into the subject and changing the angle I believe it gives a sense of the height of the pylon as well as creating strong patterns that seem to lead upwards.

To conclude the report on this exercise I have included some samples of the colour versions of the above set of images.

Fig 4.12 - 1/250 at f/8 ISO 100

Fig 4.9 – 1/250 at f/8 ISO 100

Fig. 4.11 - 1/320 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.10 – 1/320 at f/2.8 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.10 - 1/1000 at f/4.5 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.11 – 1/1000 at f/4.5 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.9 - 1/100 at f/8.0 ISO 100 with polarising filter

Fig. 4.12- 1/100 at f/8.0 ISO 100 with polarising filter