Assignment One: Contrasts

The basis of this assignment is one of the most fundamental principles in design: contrast.

I have identified subjects that express the extremes of different qualities and selected pairs of photographs. They are grouped into eight pairs marked with the contrasts they aim to demonstrate.

 The first pair is based on an aircraft theme taken at a training exercise at RAF Kinloss. The large bulk of the C-17A Globemaster coming into land just above the runway is contrasted with the 2 RAF Hawkes of the Red Arrows team just having completed a fly past across Lossiemouth beach. The small size of the Red Arrows jets is reinforced with the size of the spectators on the beach plus the seagull in the foreground of the image.



At the recent Curtis Cup opening ceremony at Nairn Golf Club the many participants and dignitaries were captured outside the clubhouse whilst moments before the contrasting few reenactment soldiers presented the three national flags to be hoisted to mark the opening of the competition.

Nikon D90 at 38mm, ISO 200, 1/1250sec at f5.6


Nikon D90 at 200mm, ISO 200, 1/1200sec at f5.6


At the Caledonian Canal I chose the broad scene of the lock with the canal walkway on either side contrasting with the narrow walkway seen from above in the Culbin Forrest.



The multiple peaks of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh demonstrates pointed in contrast to the blunt structure of this former lighthouse at Cullen Bay.



Two landscape scenes represent the contrast between light and dark. The first a long white beach against a bright clear sky contrasted with the dark brooding thunderous sky of the sun setting against the backdrop of the Summer Isles on the West coast of Scotland. I converted the latter to black and white to emphasise the dark tones.



Although not entirely themed this second attempt at light / heavy is hopefully conveyed in the weights and feathers images.




The reflection of this mountain view at Glencoe exemplifies the still nature of the scene contrasting with the fast moving scene of the canoeist down the rapids of a nearby river.



The long straight moat at Fort George built in 1745 is contrasted with the curve of the span of the old packhorse bridge at Carrbridge built in 1717.



In addition I have selected one photograph that demonstrates contrast ‘in one picture’: Black / White

It took me a while to get started with this assignment. The whole process of exercises leading up to this first assessment in the course has made me think a lot about the photographs I take particularly with the composition and balance. I am making an effort to think outside of my comfort zone which till now has been mainly landscape and hopefully future exercises and assignments will lead me down many different paths. An exciting future lies ahead. Onwards to part two.

Tutor Report on Assignment 1:

Elements to consider with your assignments: This assignment asks you to produce pairs of images that work together to illustrate a theme of contrast. You are asked to identify subjects which bring out the essential differences between the two. Ideally, by placing the images side by side the visual message should become clear.

Your assignment in connection with the above points: Producing a pair of contrasting images is particularly challenging as a first assignment, since it requires you to think on so many more layers than just the lessons given. It is however, a very good opportunity to really think about the content of a picture, and its visual strength. Having been given a title to work with, it becomes the subject, and the task then becomes one of making an interesting picture while still communicating the adjective. In addition you are asked to produce pairs of images that contrast with each other. You have produced a good variety of images here, thinking about the subject theme in each case. Most of your pairings are very clear too which is lovely to see. By placing the two images side by side we begin to get an idea as to the meaning of the images. If there are too many differences between the two shots the contrasts become more overwhelming and the intended message therefore becomes less clear.

Large and Small: You have worked with scale on each of these pictures to illustrate your point. On the first this works exceptionally well. The large plane fills the frame and makes the background hangars look small. On the second image the presence of people perhaps diminishes the effect a little. If the people were closer to the foreground and looked bigger, the planes might look even smaller. The bird, on the other hand, looks of a similar size to the plane and so gives the impression that they are small.

Many and Few: I can see what you were aiming for in these shots. The message is there to a degree and the wide angle has certainly helped to give the impression of many people. With the building offset in the frame this doesn’t sit quite so comfortably in terms of composition. Although your images are nice and sharp across the whole unit, it might be nice to give an indication of the camera settings used for each of your images. By doing this I may be able to offer some suggestions.

Broad and Narrow: This pair of shots really works on many levels. The use of picture format and appropriate lenses has really helped to give your point some substance and the pictures look great.

Blunt and Pointed:  You can see my earlier point in this pairing. Because there are a number of differences between a plant and a column we could be left playing guessing games as to the intention behind the shots.

Light and Dark: In contrast, these two work well together to give an illustration of light and dark.

Light and Heavy: I’m struggling with these two images. Neither of them gives me the impression of weight – either light or heavy. Have a think about this point. How could you give a visual impression that something is really heavy and something else really light?

Still and Moving: The water looks so beautifully still in the first shot and contrasts extremely well with the second. You couldn’t fail but to understand what is being suggested here. Well done.

Straight and Curved: The stone edgings featured in each of these pictures help to add a level of similarity between the two pictures and in so doing give us a nice strong idea of the visual message.

Black and white in one shot: The zebra picture illustrates this point very well. Converting to black and white also helps here, reducing the picture to a series of contrasting shapes.

Summary/ Pointers for future work: With this assignment you have started to explore visual language. Contrast, as a subject, has proved to be very interesting in this respect. It has given you the opportunity to appreciate the subtle differences in communicating a word in a picture. For future projects you will need to carry this information forward and take time to consider how well the photograph will communicate to its audience without the aid of text. You will also need to pay attention to the way that images work together as a unit.

Learning Logs: Alongside work on the exercises, the purpose of a learning log is to help you to reflect on your own work and also give you the opportunity to explore, investigate and reflect on the work of other photographers. I look forward to seeing this progressing.

 My thoughts and reflections: Happy with the comments and I totally agree with the use of themes which I should have adhered to throughout the assignment. Many and few: I have included the camera settings and await further feedback. I agree that the building distracts from the subject of many and should have tried to get an angle that excluded this.
Pointed and blunt: I will retake the pointed photo to comply more with the theme.
Light and heavy: I completely agree that this does not convey the correct impression.  I have now taken 2 other images to convey a stronger contrast.
I will also make a conscious effort to reflect and comment on my own work as well as that of other photographers in my learning log. All in all I am underway with this course and generally satisfied with the constructive feedback.