Personal learning log for BA (Hons) Photography Course

Archive for March, 2012

Placeing the object in different positions

Here is a casual shot of a cow in a field,  the shot was then re-composed to demonstrate how the relationship of subject and the background work together.  Although these images are not an ideal representation due to a broken background however they do demonstrate positioning within the frame.  I will add a second set as soon.  All the images are at camera aspect of 3×2.

Original image with the cow positioned on the intersection of the lower 1/3 of the frame.

My preferred image:

The object is positioned above the centre line on the right hand 1/3. This is my preferred position in the frame. The stance of the cow and the positioning give the object space to move into.

Second to this image, the original suits my eye.  However positioning the cow to the left of the image creates a totally different feel to the image without being awkward.

Positioned in the lower left 1/3 the character of the image is changed!


The following 2 positions do not work for my eye!

Bottom right away from any natural division line.

Just right of centre in the middle. This positioning just shouts Snap Shot to me!

Whilst it is perfectly possible with modern technology to position every subject central to a frame and crop later, the above images show that by positioning the suject at composition can have different effects on the character of the finished image.



Fitting the frame to the subject

This exercise asks for 4 photographs with the subject occupying different space in the frame.

Conventional Viewpoint

This first image from a conventional viewpoint shows an old Utility Vehicle in Australia parked by some trees.

Subject within its landscape

In this second image we can see that the vehicle is in a rural area and the grass clippings and log grass to the left of the image suggest it has been in that position a long time and the grass has been cut round it.

Detail Shot

The detail shot shows that it is a very old Holden Utility Vehicle, Holden was bought by Vauxhal GM some 30 years ago and the badge was changed.

Subject shot to fit Frame

In fitting to the frame I purposefully decided to leave off the flatbed of the vehicle to proportion the mass better.  This image portrays the age and decay of the vehicle.

Part One – The Frame

Unlike Painters and Sculptors, Photographers can only (without heavy manipulation by computer programs) work with what is in front of their camera, what they see and how they compose it.  Images can be cropped and manipulated but you can only work with what was there at the time the shutter was released, normally you cannot add to any photograph what was not there.

Many of us (photographers included) look without seeing, or see without understanding.

It is not just about what would make a good image but why a particular scene will make a good image.

Graham Clarke in his book ‘The Photograph’ (Oxford University Press 1997) states that “we need to insist that we read a photograph, not as an image but as a text” this statement suggests that every image should have a story to tell, Clarke further states “The photograph both mirrors and creates discourse with the world, and is never, despite its often passive way with things, a neutral representation.”

As such an image is a story and the photographer is the author, without a structure to the story it will be difficult for anyone to read; the photographer, like the author is responsible for the composition of the image, which starts with what is visualised in the eye and replicated on the viewfinder before it is captured as an image.

Thoughts while visiting Mt Tamborine

Trees, gardens and plants have never been a great fascination of mine and last time I was in a Rain Forest I had no need for a camera.  On Saturday 24 March I took the opportunity to venture into the rain forest around Mt Tamborine, QLD, with my camera.

Part of the reason was to visit some waterfalls for the movement exercise and the other reason was just to soak in the atmosphere whilst thinking about subjects for the course.

In preparation for the part 1 assignment I have been looking out for contrast in all environments when I came across this image, albeit in a managed part of the forest.

Contrast in the Rain Forest
f3.5 1/80th ISO 640

This image shouts of a juxtaposition of old and new in what is a very ancient place and thinking forward to assignment 1 displays the contrasts on  Long/Short, Light/Dark, Thick/Thin, Strong/Weak, High/Low, Old/New, Natural/UnNatural.  My thoughts in composition were to show this dead tree that was probably many 100’s of years old before it fell and reached to the forest canopy alongside the modern symbol of height ascending through the image to an indeterminable stop.


Today (31/03/12) on the way to Lake Wivenhoe, I passed this house built next to what was the former home of the owner.  Another Contrast, this time of old and new!

Old & New

Old & New
ISO 100, 125th f8 200mm



Photographing movement

Movement in an image can have a dramatic effect on an image.  Unwanted movement either caused by the subject or the camera can cause an image to be out of focus.  Intended movement can be used can be used effectively in creating effects in images.


All movement has a speed and consequently a shutter speed that matches or is above the speed of movement will have the effect of freezing any motion.  If motion is frozen then the image cannot show that motion, the following 2 exercises aim to show the effects of firstly, using shutter speed to either freeze any motion or to display motion to the viewer by blurring the motion in relation to the background and secondly using panning, or moving the camera at the same speed as the subject to freeze the subject in relation to their background, this second method has the effect of showing speed by blurring the background .

The following images were taken at Cedar Creek Falls, My Tamborine to show the effect of adjusting shutter speed to show or freeze motion.


Cedar Creek 1/80th

Cedar Creek 1/125th

Cedar Creek 1/200

Cedar Creek 1/320th

Cedar Creek 1/500th

Cedar Creek 1/800th

Cedar Creek 1/1250th

At 1/80th of a second all of the water is blurred however by 1/125th and certainly by 1/200th some of the slower moving parts of the water course come into focus and by 1/500th of a second there is some definition in the water however it is not until 1/1250th that the structure of this fast moving water course is seen.

While in this location I captured these images very much by chance but they show an alternative way of displaying movement as a sequence of images. I also found it interesting after processing to view the articulations in the shadows cast of the boys during their descent.


My attempts at panning have been thwarted by location choices and I will revisit it later.



Focus at different apertures

This exercise asks for fixed focusing at different apertures and is designed to demonstrate the depth of field of any particular setting.

Depth of field refers to the range of distance that appears acceptably sharp. It varies depending on camera type, aperture and focusing distance.  The following images were shot in aperture priority with a 50mm (EFL 75mm) at F1.4, 5.6, 8, 11 & 16.  It is clear viewing between image 1, 3 and 5 that as the aperture decreases then the amount of image in focus also increases.


The depth of field does not abruptly change from sharp to unsharp, but instead occurs as a gradual transition which can be seen on the images.  As DoF changes everything immediately in front of or behind the focusing distance begins to lose sharpness.

Because there is no definite point at which part of an image becomes out of focus this has been described as the circle of confusion.  An acceptably sharp circle of confusion has been loosely defined as one which would not be noticed when enlarged to a 8×10 inch print, and observed from a standard viewing distance of about 1 foot.

I repeated this exercise in a different location to see if the visual changes of sharpness are similar with differing backgrounds.

These images were shot at a focus distance of 3m on the 3rd post, the images are taken with apertures ranging equally between f1.4 and f16.  Because of the distance to the focus point more of the image is in focus to start with but it can clearly be seen that as aperture decreases more of the image comes into focus or a sharp circle of confusion. This is witnessed most on the green dustbins and the sign board.

Focus with a set aperture

To show the effect of focus point I have chosen a row of cars with some posts in front and the following 2 images clearly show the the change in effect of focus position.

The focus point for image 1 was the near post, image 2 the second post.

f1.4 1/3000 50mm (Focul length 75mm)f1.4 1/2000 50mm (Effective focul length 75mm)


Focus is a means of drawing attention, in that the eye is drawn initially to that which it can make sense of.  From my own perspective I prefer image 1.  To my mind the picture is about the posts not the cars or their position.

I also attempted this exercise with an other subject but did not feel it represented the effect as well.  The rail posts did not give a good perspective and in retrospect a less acute angle displaying more space between the rails would have worked better. That said number 2 where the focus point is the middle of the near section stands out.


Getting to know your camera.

This project initially asked me to re-visit the instruction manuals of my camera bodies and asks the fundamental question of how well I know my camera.

In a contrary position to the accepted view that men never read the instruction manuals for anything I am the polar opposite for my cameras.

Routinely I use a Nikon D3 for studio and assignment work, a Nikon D200 when travelling and for events lit with studio lighting and I also have access to my wife’s Nikon D300.

Fundamentally in both layout of controls and functions the D200 and D300 are very similar, and both have a Nikon cropped sensor with a CF of 1.5.  As a result on both these cameras irrespective of the lens choice the resulting image is magnified by 1.5 in comparison to the same image at the same stated length on a full frame sensor (35mm Film equivalent).  Therefore a 50mm on a Nikon cropped sensor would be the equivalent of 75mm on a 35mm film camera and a 24 – 70 would be 36 – 105.  Fast zoom lens’s designed for CF cameras have different ranges to match 35mm lens’s.

The Nikon 18 -55mm f2.8 for cropped sensor is the equivalent of the 24-27 f2.8 for full frame or 35mm.

The D3 is a full frame sensor or 35mm and has a different layout of controls and more menu options.

It is difficult to be a master of all which is why I have always spent time reading the manuals and also the Magic Lantern Guides for all 3 bodies.  I have found in the past that these guides are written from the perspective of the camera user whereas the manufacturers guides seem to be written by the designer or technical department.

For the early part of this course I will be using a Nikon D200 with an 18-200 zoom lens and a 50mm f2.8

Whilst the 50mm on a D3 (full frame) is  45-50mm on the D200 it will act as a medium telephoto with a standard focal length of 67 – 75mm.

To achieve the affect of a standard focal length that is similar to the normal view of the eye I would need to set the 18-200 at a length of @ 34mm

Reading Material

It is exactly 7 days since I received all my materials for AoP and what have I done in that time.  This Blog is created and ready to be updated with my reflections, some projects and my assignments.

I have read all the paperwork and guides sent by the OCA and have pre-viewed the coursework.  I have also read the first 2 chapters of The Photograph by Graham Clarke; this has been a revelation.  I suppose that every other book I have read relating to photography has been about someone, about a style or about technique – rather than about the result of photography.

Tomorrow I will step on-board a flight to Australia where I will be for the next 8 weeks and will also commence work on the projects and assignments.  Assignment 1 has already set my mind thinking about contrast and how & where I can represent that without just picking obvious subjects.  The best part of 20 hrs locked in an areoplane will give me plenty more thinking and reading time.

As a result of discussions on a facebook group I have discovered that 2 other members have this week signed up for AoP, I am looking forward to discussing progress and ideas with Stew David and Jen Wall.

BA (Hons) Photography

For this learning log to be meaningful it should start with a reflection on why this 50 year old guy, with many rich life experiences, is embarking on a BA (Hons) degree course in photography.  I am not new to photography nor do I think I am a bad photographer and neither do my customers to date.  Many naysayers have suggested that I should just do this course or that workshop with any list of social photographers you might care to name but that in itself is part of the problem and not a solution.

I have been involved in the provision of training, education & development for many years in different roles and skills and I have also received training & development (including in Training & Development). I have also studied both Management and Leadership at Post Graduate levels with the OU and the University of Exeter.

From this experience there are 2 certainties:

Training is given in a certain skill to do that skill in a certain way:  to that end the majority of courses and workshops provided (sold) in photography provide exactly that.

Education & Development comes from acquired knowledge that is reflected upon both internally and externally to allow the development of independent thought.

In life it is natural to look for the short cut; I have attended many workshops and in all but a few I have learned very little, they have not satisfied my internal need for development. Yes I have picked up the odd nugget of craft skill, the odd business idea and as much knowledge as that instructor (and that in some cases is a dubious title) wanted to impart.  In photography training has become an industry in it self and thus becomes more self limiting by the business goals of the instructors.

Clearly I am not looking for training, that can easily be achieved piecemeal and if I followed the advice of ‘do it my way’ I could no doubt progress within many of the Photographic Societies.

There is some irony and also synergy that the first course and starting point for this degree is ‘Art of Photography’, in that as I have tried to explain to others in the past,  this is exactly what is missing for me.  My wife is an artist! she draws, paints, crafts and photographs and most importantly thinks differently about these things, she has an understanding of the ART; at the present time I am a Photographer!

My goals cannot be written as a list; my personal drive is to develop an independent thought process on the art form of photography that is based on a sound knowledge base.

I could also describe them as:

If Photography is writing with light then my goal is to fully understand the Grammar and Grammatical nuances of the language of light, so that my novels can become best sellers and not penny paperbacks.