Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.7

Exercise 2.7
Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs
exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with
slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable
surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences,
together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your
learning log.

Achieving deep depth of field might appear easy compared to the difficulties of
managing shallow depth of field. We’re surrounded by images made with devices
rather than cameras whose short focal lengths and small sensors make it hard
to achieve anything other than deep depth of field. The trick is to include close
foreground elements in focus for an effective deep depth of field image. Foreground
detail also helps to balance the frame, which can easily appear empty in wide shots,
especially in the lower half. When successful, a close viewpoint together with the
dynamic perspective of a wide-angle lens gives the viewer the feeling that they’re
almost inside the scene.


The following images using the above settings all taken using a tripod. The deep depth of field creates an acceptable level of focus from the front of the image to the back of the image.

The foreground elements coupled with the receding elements provide layers giving a sense of depth and 3D quality.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.6

Exercise 2.6
Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to
take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. (Remember that smaller f
numbers mean wider apertures.) Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture
together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with
relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

Wide apertures create shallow depth of field, especially when combined with a long
focal length and a close viewpoint. In human vision the eye registers out-of-focus
areas as vague or indistinct – we can’t look directly at the blur. But in a photograph,
areas of soft focus can form a large part of the image surface so they need to be
handled with just as much care as the main subject.

Don’t forget that the camera’s viewfinder image is obtained at maximum aperture for
maximum brightness and therefore at the shallowest depth of field. Use the depth of
field preview button to see the actual depth of field at any particular aperture. (This
is especially useful in film cameras where you don’t have the benefit of reviewing a
shot immediately after you’ve taken it). It’s surprising to see the effect that a single f
stop can have on the appearance of an image.


This combination of settings provides a very pleasant image with soft dreamy blurred background that really makes the focused object stand out as can be seen from the images below caused by a relatively narrow depth of field.

As can be seen this ‘bokeh’ effect is particularly pleasing with portraits, but it is just as effective with making all objects stand out from their backgrounds.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.4

Exercise 2.4
Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in
front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately
long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a
cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your
subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus
on the eyes and take the shot.

Longer focal lengths appear to compress space, giving a shallower depth of
acceptable sharpness, which is known as depth of field. This makes a short or medium
telephoto lens perfect for portraiture: the slight compression of the features appears
attractive while the shallow depth of field adds intensity to the eyes and ‘lifts’ the
subject from the background.


These settings provide a much more flattering look to portraits especially taken at the same level. The 3 images below show this to quite good effect I feel.

The look is defiantly more aesthetically appealing.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.3

Exercise 2.3
Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Select your shortest focal
length and take a close low viewpoint, below your subject. Find a natural point of
focus and take the shot.
You’ll see that a very wide lens together with a close viewpoint creates extreme
perspective distortion. Gently receding lines become extreme diagonals and rounded
forms bulge towards the camera. Space appears to expand. The low viewpoint adds
a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting
the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge. Not the ideal
combination for a portrait shot!


The shots below were taken with my Fuji X30 at its shortest focal length of 28mm. This is wide but not extremely, so the shots while not ideal show some distortion. Unfortunately there were not any high buildings or objects so there is not much in the high background to demonstrate the distortion effect. But the low-lying object do show distortion and parallel lines demonstrate convergence. This does give an impression of grandeur and largesse. But not (as mentioned in the brief) very flatering for portraiture. Though this effect could be used to great effect to make someone look powerful or important if used with care, judgement and good lighting.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.2

Exercise 2.2
Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the
frame in front of a background with depth. Take one photograph. Then walk towards
your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length. Take care to frame the
subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot. Compare
the two images and make notes in your learning log.

As you page between the two shots it can be shocking to see completely new
elements crash into the background of the second shot while the subject appears
to remain the same. This exercise clearly shows how focal length combined with
viewpoint affects perspective distortion. Perspective distortion is actually a normal
effect of viewing an object, for example where parallel train tracks appear to meet
at the horizon. A ‘standard lens’ – traditionally a 50mm fixed focal length lens for
a full-frame camera (about 33mm in a cropped-frame camera) – approximates the
perspective distortion of human vision (not the angle of view, which is much wider).
A standard lens is therefore the lens of choice for ‘straight’ photography, which aims
to make an accurate record of the visual world.


Below are 2 shots I took near the South Bank Friday lunchtime with my Fujifilm X30 compact camera. The pair of images are framed on the sign. They were all taken with:

  • Aperture priority
  • ISO 100
  • f/5.0
  • Fujifilm X30 equivalent 35mm focal lengths of:
    • 112mm
    • 28mm
focal-length-112mm

Tenison Way – Focal length 112mm

focal-length-28mm

Tenison Way – Focal length 28mm

The difference in the view between these two images is striking considering the fact that the subject occupies the same space in the frame.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.1

Exercise 2.1
Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six
shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to
use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.)

As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re
moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use:
rather than physically moving towards or away from your subject, the lens can do
it for you. The other immediate difference between the shots is the ‘angle of view’,
which also depends on the sensor size of your camera. Use the sequence to try to
get a feeling for how the angle of view corresponds to the different focal lengths
for your particular camera and lens combination. Which shot in the sequence feels
closest to the angle of view of your normal vision?

Does zooming in from a fixed viewpoint change the appearance of things? If you enlarge and compare individual elements within the first and last shots, you can see that their ‘perspective geometry’ is exactly the same. To change the way things actually look, a change in focal length needs to be combined with a change in viewpoint.


Below is a sequence of 5 shots I took on the South Bank Friday lunchtime with my Fujifilm X30 compact camera. The sequence does give the appearance of travelling through the image. They were all taken with:

  • Aperture priority
  • ISO 100
  • f/5.0
  • Fujifilm X30 equivalent 35mm focal lengths of:
    • 28mm
    • 35mm
    • 50mm
    • 85mm
    • 112mm

Of all the images taken, the image taken at a focal length of 50mm appear to me the closest to normal vision.

focal-length-28mm

South Bank – Focal length 28mm

focal-length-35mm

South Bank – Focal length 35mm

focal-length-50mm

South Bank – Focal length 50mm

focal-length-85mm

South Bank – Focal length 85mm

focal-length-112mm

South Bank – Focal length 112mm

 

 

Project 3: Surface and Depth – Research Point

Research point
Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them
to begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made
by each writer. Write about 300 words.

If you wish, you could add a screengrab of an image from Ruff’s jpeg series, and one or
two of your own compressed jpegs (taken on auto mode of course!). You can achieve
the effect quite easily by re-sizing a photograph to say, 180 x 270 pixels, and saving at
‘zero quality’ compression. If you use Photoshop’s ‘save for web’ you can see the effect
immediately without having to save, close and reopen the file.


Campany and Colberg both appraise Thomas Ruff’s work ‘jpegs’ in different ways and come to differing conclusions.

Colberg’s article starts with the public perception of Ruffs work as creative and inventive. However, he comments that Ruffs work could be considered by some not to be photography in the orthodox sense. Though he quickly avoids this potentially dry debate. He speaks of Ruff’s experiments with internet images of the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attack, and how he saw a great deal of beauty and visual aesthetic in these pixilated images. The way Ruff’s images were presented also made a difference, as Colberg clearly preferred to view them in book form and commented that the oversized exhibition images at the Zwimer gallery were overly showy. Colberg appreciate the beauty of the images in the book, but felt that the narrative wasn’t clear even with the associated text.

Campany’s view of Ruff’s work was that although beautiful and clever it could appear cold and dispassionate. He comments that this fails to elicit a universal concord, and Ruff’s images appeal to no one and everyone at the same time. Campany remarks that Ruff’s found image photographic art have its roots in Dada, Cubism and Surrealism. Campany poses a lot of questions, but no real answers and attempts I think to provoke the reader to think deeper.  The flow of the presentation is important to Ruff, and though his images represent unpredictability they are designed to be presented in series. Camapny believes that the power of Ruff’s jpeg images is rooted in multiple layers of archived material. Ruff is trying to use pixels like film photographers used grain to elicit a sense of urgency, realism and authenticity to his jpeg images. But Campany rightly comments that pixels produce a mechanical repetitiveness compared to the unpredictable analogue properties of producing grain in film.

Both articles helped me understand Ruff’s work a bit better. Viewing multiple sources is defiantly helpful in gaining a more balanced view.


Below is Thomas Ruff’s image ‘jpeg ny02‘ followed by two of my attempts at Ruff like images.

jpeg-ny02

Thomas Ruff: jpeg ny02

reykjavik

Reykjavik

crowd-texture-5

Crowd Texture

 

Reference

Thomas Ruff | jpeg ny02 | the met (2000) Available at: http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/287237 (Accessed: 29 January 2017).

Project 2: Visual Skills – Exercise 1.4

Exercise 1.4 Frame
The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital
camera. This function projects a grid onto the viewfinder screen to help align vertical
and horizontal lines, such as the horizon or the edge of a building, with the edge of
the frame. If your camera doesn’t have a grid display, imagine a simple division of the
viewfinder into four sections.

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the
viewfinder grid. Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of
grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.
When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve
composed. Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line
exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame. Composition is part of
form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as
you progress through the course.

Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content. Focus on composition
and the material nature of any specific medium. (Wells, 2009, p.347)
Select six or eight images that you feel work individually as compositions and also
together as a set. If you have software for making contact sheets you might like
to present them as a single composite image. Add the images to your learning log
together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines
containing your thoughts and observations.


Looking at my cameras manuals I found that both were different.

My Nikon D7200 utilises a 4 x 4 viewfinder grid as shown below:

d7200-viewfinder-grid

While my Fujifilm X30 offer two options: a 3 x 3 or a 6 x 4 viewfinder grid as shown below:

x30-viewfinder-grid-9

x30-viewfinder-grid-24

For this exercise I used my Fuji X30 and the 3 x 3 viewfinder grid. I took two series of images, one within Waterloo Station and the other outside the station area. With each series I focused on composing each image in turn in each sector of the viewfinder grid. Each series shows the full image and highlights the frame concentrated on, then the frame image on its own. I finished each series by composing a picture using each selected image in the position they were originally taken.


Series 1:

station-composite

Station Composite


Series 2:

waterloo-composite

Waterloo Composite


My conclusions to this exercise are to consider the whole field of view within the viewfinder when composing your image. It is easy to be suckered into just concentrating on what is at the centre of the frame and not considering what is happening in the foreground, background or edges of the image.

Project 2: Visual Skills – Exercise 1.3(1) & 1.3(2)

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line
Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wideangle
lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within
the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to
the line.


The images I have taken below demonstrate converging diagonal lines both physical and virtual which give the appearance of depth.

down-to-lynmouth

Image 1: Down To Lynmouth

footbridge-1

Image 2: Footbridge

minehead-station

Image 3: Minehead Train Station

track-down-f22

Image 4: Blackwater Line

west-brompton-cemetery-1

Image 5: Brompton Cemetery 1

west-brompton-cemetery-6

Image 6: Brompton Cemetery 2


Exercise 1.3 (2) Line
Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects
of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may
like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong
lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more
abstract compositions.


The images I have taken below demonstrate parallel lines both physical and virtual which leave the frame, promoting a sense of mystery and dynamism.

equator

Image 7: Equator

no-loitering

Image 8: No Loitering

position-closed

Image 9: Position Closed

sea-posts-phone-wires

Image 10: Sea Posts & Telegraph Lines

snail-shell

Image 11: Snails Pace

tower-bridge-1

Image 12: Tourist Rush


Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate
to the frame? There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can
leave the frame. For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition
too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and
straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no
way back into the picture except the point that it started from. So for photographs
containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead
somewhere within the frame.


The use of perpendicular lines provide a sense of depth by drawing the viewer; into the distance and out of the picture in the case of images 3 – 6. Where as image 1 draws the viewer down and image 2 leads the viewer up.

While the perspective lines in images 7 – 12, rush the viewer out of the frame, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The eye seeks a way back in trying to make an unconscious connection external to the image back into the frame. Diagonal lines add a sense of action to the image.

2016 hmmm…

What can I say about 2016…. there were highs and lows… generally a good year, very busy work wise (as always)…. I started my degree studies with EYV…  attended my 3rd London Photo 24, and I was lucky to have won one of the main theme categories which was amazing… we had a smashing summer holiday in Minehead with our caravan…soon after holiday I was hospitalised and nearly died after contracting Sepsis from a urinary tract infection…. I attended the Brighton Photo Biennial and was privileged to meet many other OCA students. Had an interesting weekend, but the weather was foul… after this I kinda lost my MoJo in a big way, and have been trying to reignite my creative spirit since but with no luck. I had become very uninspired by my own images and overwhelmed by everyone else’s work (artists and fellow students alike)…. however I am determined to recover my confidence in 2017 🙂