Project What makes a colour

Exercise: Control the strength of a colour

To find a strong definite colour and select a viewpoint so that the colour fills the frame.

As it was harvesting time a large yellow combine harvester was selected as the subject for this exercise. The average exposure setting was found – f5.6 then a sequence of pictures were taken all composed exactly the same but exposed differently from bright, f5.0 & f4.5 to dark, f6.3 & f7.1. All photos were taken at shutter speed 1/320 sec at 38mm on a Nikon D90.






As the series of colours progresses from overexposed to underexposed (as the exposure is reduced), the brightness of the yellow colour changes from bright to slightly dark. The more overexposed photo produces a stronger yellow in contrast to the most underexposed photo producing a duller yellow.

Exercise: Primary and secondary colours

For this exercise it was necessary to find scenes or part of scenes that are each dominated by a single one of the primary ( red, yellow and blue) and secondary colours (green, violet and orange). See the standard colour circle below:

With each colour found the exposure was varied slightly, that is one at the meter reading (correct) exposure then one half a stop brighter and one half a stop darker.



f8.0 (over)

f10.0 (under)

The closest ‘true’ red matching the colour circle is the under exposed photo


f6.3 (correct)f5.6 (over)f8.0 (under)

The closest ‘true’ yellow matching the colour circle is the over exposed photo



_DSC1510f11.0 (over)


The closest ‘true’ blue sky matching the colour circle is the under exposed photo


f9.0 (correct)f7.1(over)

f8.0 (under)

The closest ‘true’ green matching the colour circle is the over exposed photo


f7.1 (correct)

f6.3 (over)

f8.0 (under)

The closest ‘true’ violet matching the colour circle is the under exposed photo


f6.3 (correct)f7.0 (under)f5.6 (over)

The closest ‘true’ orange matching the colour circle is the correct exposed photo.

I found it hard to identify which was the true colours that matched the colour circle. The exercise certainly made me look at colours in a different way by noticing the various shades particularly green which in this part of the world in exhibited in multiple shades.

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


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


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


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 


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


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.


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


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.


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.


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


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.

Project Shapes

Real and implied triangles

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


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.


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.



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.










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.

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.