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.

Project Cropping and extending

Three photographs were selected that were taken previously, each of a different subject. They were then cropped to show how you can consider how to explore new ways of organising an image. Both the original and cropped as shown for each photograph.

This was taken at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. I wanted to remove some of the clutter surrounding the drum players and focus on one in particular. The crop highlights the colourful body paintwork and the magnificent drums of the nearest drummer that were somewhat lost in the original photo.

Taken on safari in the Kruger National Park this leopard is one of my favourite photos. When I originally viewed this image I decided to crop it to focus on the facial features of this female leopard. She was looking directly at the camera as she was crossing the road in front of our vehicle to recover her cubs.

This view of a small boat at the Kyle of Lochalsh, isle of Skye is compromised I believe by the grey sky and the indistinct mountains in the background. By cropping the top layer of this image and creating a panorama effect the coastline and vivid boat are highlighted and shown to maximum effect.

Project Frame shapes and sizes

Vertical and horizontal frames

The same scene was photographed twice. Each scene was photographed in the vertical and then again in the horizontal format.  Most scenes have worked in both formats although some are restricted in the second horizontal choice. Certainly I felt during the process that format is a matter of habit but it was an interesting exercise exploring the options.

I visited Brodie castle and its grounds for this ‘shoot’. There has been a castle on this site since 1567 but was destroyed by fire in 1645. It was expanded in 1824 to a large mansion house and is designed in the Scots Baronial style. It is now owned by the National Trust of Scotland.

Both formats of this entrance display are acceptable although the latter horizontal is the preference due to the depth of the wall.

This 9th century Pictish stone was found in a local churchyard in 1782. The horizontal format works better due to the width of the display fence surrounding the stone.

Both formats of Brodie Castle are acceptable, each offering different perspectives. The vertical image allows the eye to be drawn up the long driveway whereas the horizontal emphasises its imposing structure.
In this view of the castle the vertical is the only one that works. I tried to capture the baronial tower with the flag but the horizontal perspective does not capture the image correctly.
Here both formats are acceptable with the large tree masking the castle being a prominent feature in both.
My preference here is for the horizontal which best captures the depth of the building.
The long avenue of trees is accentuated well in the latter format and is not really seen to its best in the former.
With this unusual tree trunk I feel both offer advantages although in most eyes this is no doubt a personal impression what works best.
This exercise has emphasised that with a little experimentation prior to shooting the vertical format will work just as well in a number of cases.

Project Dividing the Frame

Positioning the horizon

For this exercise I chose an outdoor location looking across from Nairn west beach towards the Black Isle – fortunately it was a clear and sunny day so a distinct horizon could be seen. Different positions were selected to have the horizon at the top of the picture to right at the bottom. For each photo the same settings were used: 90mm focal length at f9.0 and 1/400 sec.

With the horizon at the top this emphasises the foreground with the contrasting beach. Although not the position I would normally have chosen this actually works well.

This shot balances the image into thirds and is possibly the classic division of horizon to foreground although the previous shot is preferred because of the texture of the seaweed on the beach.

With this photo the horizon is more than 50% of the image and tends to overly dominate the scene.

Again in this photo the foreground is practically lost although the ‘big sky’ effect is surprisingly effective (more so than the previous photo).

In this final photo the foreground is lost and the eyes are drawn towards the tanker which is the centre of focus. Again the ‘big sky’ is a dominant feature.

I was surprised by the effect with the positioning of the horizon. With this particular scene you could probably get away with all the images as they portray different effects which is helped by having the tanker present. My preference would be for the first image with the horizon at the top of the photo.

Project Focal lengths

The angle of view:

Focal lengths and different viewpoints I photographed this statue using a telephoto lens at its longest zoom, then changed focal length to the wide angle setting and walked in a straight line up to the subject and framed it the same way as before.

Focal length: 200mm

Focal length: 18mm

There is clearly a difference between the 2 images. In the first the statue takes a more dominant position in the frame and is the focal point of the image. In the second wide angle shot the statue is less dominant with a wider perspective of the whole view being seen.

Focal lengths with a zoom lens:

This exercise helps to appreciate the simplest effect of changing from one length to another, which is the amount of view you can take in.

Focal length: 34mm 

Focal length: 65mm 

Focal length: 135mm 

Focal length: 200mm

As expected, shooting at a smaller focal length shows a much wider scene and objects appear smaller. Perspective is also affected, with objects further away seeming smaller in relation to objects in the foreground. Conversely, shooting at longer focal lengths shows a narrower field of view with objects appearing much larger. The perspective is also affected with distant objects appearing closer to those in the foreground than is the case.

Project Looking through the viewfinder

Fitting the frame to the subject:

A standard shot of a Porsche Boxster S with the backdrop of Brodie Castle in Morayshire.

This time the car is framed as tightly as possible to fill as much of the image.

This time a small part of the car is photographed showing the rear air vents and the lines of the door / handle.

A wider image with the car in the forefront to the castle.

An original followed by crops:

The above 3 photos are cropped from the original at the top of the series showing different emphasis to the car and the castle.

Objects in different positions in the frame:

A pheasant was chosen as the subject of this exercise as it was sitting in a very large even background. A series of photos were taken in which the pheasant was placed in a different position within the frame. The first was taken on impulse positioning the bird near the centre of the frame. However my preference is the second or third where the subject is off-centre and is more isolated against the background. (Perhaps for this exercise the pheasant was too small compared to the large background)

A sequence of composition:

When I attended the Opening Ceremony of the Curtis Cup Golf Tournament at the Nairn Golf Club I decided to use this event to provide a ‘sequence of composition’. Whilst the ceremony was going on with speeches etc in the background were a group from an ancient re-enactment society performing a mock battle. I started to follow the scenes as they happened. I also included a couple of images of the audience as they watched and also photographed the ongoing spectacle. The final images of the actual ‘Curtis Cup’ and the ‘Union Flag’ with the ‘Saltire’ for me depict the ‘best’ images as 3 days later the GB and I team successfully beat the USA (on Scottish soil) and won the cup for the first time since 1996 and only the 9th time since 1932!
This was an interesting exercise in that it made me explore images and scenes that I would not normally considered shooting. I guess I was more in a ‘journalistic’ mood trying to capture all the different moments that were unfolding around me.