Assignment two: Elements of design

This assignment is based on the insights learned so far on this course to create a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject. The subject matter I chose initially was landscape but struggled to come up with enough photographs I was satisfied with. I thought long and hard about this assignment (possibly too long) but in the end decided on ‘street details’ as my main subject but did include a couple of landscape photos. The series of photographs will show the following effects:

  • single point dominating the composition
  • two points
  • several points in a deliberate shape
  • a combination of vertical and horizontal lines
  • diagonals
  • curves
  • distinct, even if irregular, shapes
  • at least two kinds of implied triangles
  • rhythm

What I have learned is that good photographs rely on order, and the main elements that contribute and emphasise order in a composition are: line, shape, form, texture and pattern. Every photograph, on purpose or not, contains one or more of these elements, which are known as the “elements of design”.

Single point dominating the composition: 

I had to deviate from my original subject selection for the first 2 photographs as I felt these were better candidates. I have therefore chosen a landscape which has people as the chosen points. I like this single point photo as it includes other lines and shapes seen in the sand and waters edge which introduces other key design elements.

Nikon D90 at 200mm, ISO 200, 1/250 sec at f5.6

Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Two points:

This image with the two girls looking out at the windswept sea stands out clearly as two points which the eye is drawn to. Again as in the first single point there are lines and diagonals expressed by the horizon and coastline that I had not noticed on taking the photo but are clearly contributing to the final design elements of the image.

Nikon D90 at 160mm, ISO 200, 1/120 sec at f11.0

Luskentyre beach, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Several points in a deliberate shape:

I selected the front stone facade of the Scotsman building on Holyrood Road in Edinburgh as my subject matter – the large bronze thistle sculptural emblem, Scotsman newspaper masthead which incidentally is not overly liked by many. I like the symmetrical facade and chose to crop the image to just include the words ‘scots’ and show the points of the thistles creating an implied triangle. I had a lot of difficulty selecting the image for this subject and am still not certain it conveys the ‘deliberate shape’ message.

Nikon D90 at 95mm, ISO 200, 1/125 sec at f5.3

Scotsman Newspaper Office, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines:

This was taken at the Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh.  The building and its construction have been widely controversial. The choices of location, architect, design, use of non-indigenous materials e.g. granite from China instead of Scotland were all criticised. I actually like the building and when I was looking for subjects for this assignment I thought the building would offer many opportunities. This photo was taken of the bamboo roof structure above the main entrance to the building which is constructed from this perspective of vertical and horizontal poles.

Nikon D90 at 20mm, ISO 200, 1/500 sec at f5.6

Scottish Parliament  Building, Holyrood, Edinburgh

Diagonals:

The Dynamic Earth building is adjacent to the Scottish Parliament and is one of the Millennium Commission’s largest projects in Scotland. It’s sited on a former brewery with  a concrete base and a framed roof structure topped with eight 24m-long steel masts covered in a tensioned fabric membrane. This image is taken of the masts creating diagonals reaching an apex at the top of the structure. The blue sky background (a rare sight in Edinburgh) accentuates the white diagonal structure (and the numerous implied triangles).

Nikon D90 at 24mm, ISO 200, 1/1250 sec at f5.0

Dynamic Earth Building, Edinburgh

Curves: 

I originally chose the Dynamic Earth Building again for this subject as it exemplifies the topic on a multitude of elements. The curve of the roof structure, the canopy above the entrance, the stone sculpture and the curved stairway seen at the left are all combined in this image.

Nikon D90 at 36mm, ISO 200, 1/800 sec at f4.2

Dynamic Earth Building, Edinburgh

However on reflection after reading my tutors feedback i realised that the whole image was too cluttered and it was not clear that curves were the main focus of the viewer. I will therefore replace the photograph with the following:

Distinct, even if irregular, shapes:

The symbol of the Paralympic Games was displayed on the Mound, in Edinburgh during the Paralympic games in London. These irregular but distinct shapes are composed of three agitos, coloured red, blue, and green, encircling a single point. The agito meaning ‘I move’ in Latin is a symbol of movement in the shape of an asymmetrical crescent. The background distracts somewhat from the shapes but it was very difficult to find an uncluttered angle for this image.

Nikon D90 at 70mm, ISO 200, 1/500 sec at f5.0

Paralympic Symbols, The  Mound, Edinburgh

At least two kinds of implied triangles:

I selected this viewpoint of the Scottish Parliament Building with Arthurs Seat in the background. This contains a number of implied triangles. The first can be seen using the horizon of Arthurs Seat and the framework of the roof structure on the left. Also there are a couple of triangles within the structure itself. Finally using the stone bollards themselves you can create a number of implied triangles.

Nikon D90 at 18mm, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec at f5.0

Scottish Parliament / Arthurs Seat Backdrop

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After receiving feedback from my tutor I took this image of the pillars at the Hassan Tower, Rabat when in 1199, Sultan Yacoub al-Mansour died and construction on his mosque stopped. What remains are the beginnings of several walls and 200 columns being constructed. I selected my viewpoint to show the implied triangle in the three columns shown.

Nikon D90 at 34mm, ISO 200, 1/1600 sec at f4.2

Mausoleum of Mohammed V, Rabat, Morocco 

Rhythm:

The window structures of the Scottish Parliament Building give a rhythmic appearance with the eye being drawn to the tree at the bottom right of the image. The bay windows of the offices as used by Members of the Scottish Parliament are designed as “contemplation spaces”. 

Nikon D90 at 32mm, ISO 200, 1/160 sec at f4.0

Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood, Edinburgh

Pattern:

I chose the Royal Tattoo Seating at Edinburgh Castle as a strong example of a pattern, as the seating fills the frame with no boundaries showing. The eye is drawn to the outer edges in a mainly vertical direction.

Nikon D90 at 70mm, ISO 200, 1/1000 sec at f5.0

Royal Tattoo Seating at Edinburgh Castle

This was a very interesting assignment which introduced me to new elements of photography. I certainly now look through the viewfinder with a different perspective and have started to consider and introduce the many design elements in my photographs.

I have always considered myself more of a landscape photographer but this assignment has peaked my interest in architecture and cityscapes. I look forward to my tutors comments on my chosen photographs. I took longer over this assignment than I would have liked but plan to move on to the ‘Colour” project as soon as possible.

Tutor Report on Assignment 2:

Overall Comments: Thank you for submitting another assignment for feedback, Graeme. You are working well. 

Assessment potential: I understand your aim is to go for the Photography Degree and that you plan to submit your work for assessment at the end of this course. From the work you have shown in this assignment, providing you commit yourself to the course, I believe you have the potential to succeed at assessment.  In order to meet all the assessment criteria, there are certain areas you will need to focus on, which I will outline in my feedback.

Elements to consider with your assignments:

For this I was looking for an interesting selection of items, or found subject matter with strong compositional emphasis, that would be considered suitable in connection with the appropriate subtitle. (eg single point dominating) Consideration should also be given to other key points from the exercises such as shapes, points and lines.

Your assignment in connection with the above points:

‘Street details’ as a topic was an interesting choice for this assignment. However, the title of this assignment is ‘design’ and working on location puts greater pressure on you to compose well and take background and environmental details into consideration. Whilst you may have a very definite idea of your subject within the frame you also need to find ways of conveying this to your audience.

Single point domination:

The choice of subject matter works well here. Your lone character is very small but the bright red clothing helps to draw the eye where you want it.

Two points:

The diagonal line of the water running through the frame helps the eye move naturally from one point to the next, clearly identifying your subject’s significance.

Several points in a deliberate shape:

The deliberate shape is clearly evident here with the three thistles dominating the frame and blending together against the backdrop.

A combination of vertical and horizontal lines:

The contrasting blue sky really helps to isolate your subject matter and show the definition of vertical and horizontal lines.

Diagonals:

The offset vertical pole is dominating the frame here and diluting the impression of diagonal lines.

Curves:

The message is not very clear here. I didn’t notice the stone steps until reading your notes. The eye is drawn to the statue situated more centrally in the frame and this has taken over as your point of interest.

Distinct even if irregular shapes:

This is a much stronger picture with the bright colours helping to isolate your subject from the background.

Implied triangle:

I struggled to find the triangles here. What is your subject matter? Where does the eye fall in the frame? They eye needs to fall more naturally to the points of interest and these should be where the implied triangle appears.

Rhythm:

The area of rhythm works particularly well and creates a nice strong picture. The green grass bottom left presents something of a distraction leading the eye out of the frame.

Pattern:

This picture works very well. There are no distractions across the frame and the rows of seating therefore become the dominant feature.

Summary:

You’ve worked well with the various elements of design across the set. One or two of the images could be a little stronger with less distracting points across the frame and you may want to give a little more thought to these before submission.

Learning logs/critical essays:

You have now started building on your research but the work is still very sparse. You need to build on this further and to start being reflective about the work that you look at. You should include information now on ‘street detail’ photography and similar relevant points that help your own development. Have a look at individual images and point out how this information can help you. You don’t have any information on projects completed, so I assume you are recording this information separately.

My thoughts and reflections: 

I understand now more about how the design element should have been clearer in some of my images. These have been replaced where possible. I agree that I need to build on my research more. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of opportunity to visit exhibitions and galleries here in the Highlands. I will make every effort to expand on this research as soon as possible.

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Project Shapes

Real and implied triangles

Two sets of triangular compositions were created one using ‘real’ triangles, the other making ‘implied triangles.

Real:

A real triangle as part of an old water mill

A triangle by perspective – the top of a large building in Edinburgh

Creating an inverted triangle, also by perspective, converging towards the bottom of the frame – stone framework in the entrance to the Scottish Parliament Building.

Implied:

A still-life arrangement to produce a triangle with the apex at the top

A still-life arrangement to produce a triangle that is inverted, with the apex at the bottom

Three people in a group in such a way that their faces or lines of their bodies makes a triangle – two couples plus one plant creating an implied inverted triangle.

Project Using lines in composition

Implied lines

The eye line of the golfing partner and the direction of the golfer herself leads towards the red flag on the green in the distance.

Harris Golf Club, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

In this image the fence post is mimicking the structure of the St Clements Church tower in the distance and the eye is lead towards it.

St Clements View, Isle of Harris, Outer Hebrides

Project Lines

Lines are the edge of things and the quality that makes them stand out is contrast. For example, the edge of something bright against a dark background. There are three kinds of straight lines, horizontal, vertical and diagonal.

Horizontal and vertical lines

The object of this exercise was to find examples of horizontal and vertical lines and photograph them, so that the picture was subordinate to the lines.

Diagonals

Curves

Project Points

Multiple points

I was looking forward to this exercise as still life was not something I had ever attempted in my photography development. It was required to set up a still life with a unfussy background using between 6-10 similar sized objects to imply . My camera was fixed in one position on a tripod aiming down at the background. The framing remained constant throughout the shoot. This exercise certainly put my skills to the test to group the objects so that they are linked attractively in a relationship that is active rather than obvious and static.

I decided to use a selection of stones on a background of decking giving the impression of the seaside. A series of 8 photos were taken with the addition of one stone in each. Some final rearrangements were made in the next 2 photos and the final showing implied lines of design.

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Final

Positioning a point

It was not immediately clear to me the difference between this exercise and the one on ‘object in different positions in the frame’. I then decided to research the elements of design some more and discovered this definition from ‘Graphic Design the New Basics’ by Ellen Lupton & Jennifer Cole:

A point marks a position in space. In pure geometric terms, a point is a pair of x, y coordinates. It has no mass at all. Graphically, however, a point takes form as a dot, a visible mark. A point can be an insignificant fleck of matter or a concentrated locus of power. It can penetrate like a bullet, pierce like a nail, or pucker like a kiss. A mass of points becomes texture, shape, or plane. Tiny points of varying size create shades of gray.”

There are essentially three classes of position: in the middle, a little off-centre and close to the edge.

Three photos selected from my photo library demonstrate these classes:

Placing the point in the centre rarely works well, in this case the bird is too isolated and static.

This off-centre photo is an improvement as somehow you get a sense of the movement of the bird as it crosses the frame into the ‘space’ in front it.

This close to the edge image dose not work well as expected. In this case there is far too much sky and hence little interest in the majority of the frame.