Thursday, 30 September 2010

Assignment 2 – The Elements of Design

What: The brief of this assignment was to incorporate the insights learned so far on the course and produce a set of at least 10 images directed towards one type of subject.

Where: In the house using various tabletops and counters as shooting locations.

When: The photographs were taken over multiple days using differing locations and light sources.

How: First of all I had to read the text a couple of times to fully understand the brief of the Assignment. As I progressed through the assignment I made notes in my daybook in the style of a diary. I also included in the daybook some drawings and diagrams on some of the concepts that came to mind after reading the text. I will include these notes and concepts in this assignment paper.

I looked through the choice of subjects available and decided on elements of food as the subject that I would use for my brief, food is something which is close to my heart as I enjoy cooking as it helps relax me at the end of a day.

One of the first ideas I thought about was the triangle and pyramid shapes made by a bunch of bananas; I thought about a white background and then stacking up the bananas so that the dark ends of the bananas formed a triangle, this along with a long depth of field showing the bananas bending off into the distance.

I started to think about citrus fruit and the shapes that can be made from them by cutting up the fruit in different directions to the segments of the fruit. Stacking apples into a triangle shape also quickly came to mind but I decided to reject the idea on the basis that it may be a little clichéd.

While working in the kitchen I could examine each ingredient as I used it with the brief in mind.

Looking down at the ends of a handful of dried spaghetti, I hit on the idea of using a macro end on shot of the spaghetti ends which would produce the concept for Pattern.

I also considered black or coloured peppercorns, lines in flour or rice, stacking tins to produce a triangle or a cup very closely at a wide angle. I also considered a knife edge for lines. Some of these Ideas I tried out and some I never carried forward from the initial idea, not because they were poor ideas and concepts rather that I went in a different direction with another idea.

The first Image Single point dominating the composition; One of the first ideas I had for this composition was that I wanted a single egg yolk on a plain black background. I was considering using a black square plate for the background of the composition but found that it was too glossy and that the plate had a deep curve which stood out when any light hit the plate.

In the final composition I wanted the background to be very much a pattern going in all directions and that the single point should be on one of the intersections of one of the lines in the rule of thirds. With this in mind I used a single yellow corn on a background of green peas. I carefully placed the corn on the peas and then looking through the camera viewfinder I adjusted the position of the corn until I was happy with the final composition. The main source of light was two halogen lights above the composition.

I slightly cropped the image in Photoshop to remove some of the extraneous background which was unnecessary.

01. Single point dominating the composition; Nikon D80, focal length 70.0mm (35mm equivalent 105mm), aperture f29.0, speed 1 second, ISO 200, -1 step on the exposure, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

01.Simple Point dominating the composition

I am quite happy with the final composition as it does quite clearly show that the corn is the single point dominating the rest of the composition; it does draw the eye to point.

The second image Two points; At first I went with two eggs in eggcups positioned away from each other diagonally across the frame, however the composition when viewed and thought about did not really work out as the eggs were too close a colour to the wooden board which was acting as the background. The other problem was that the eggcups themselves were dominating the composition due to their colour. As this was not within the brief I quickly dropped that idea. After thinking about the composition for an hour or two, I changed my mind and quickly rehashed my idea of an egg yolk being a point within a composition, however this time I would include either another yolk, possibly cooked or, as in the final composition, a piece of egg shell. After breaking a couple of eggs I chose a piece of shell and gave it a rinse in cold water to remove the gloss from the shell and to basically clean the shell of any remaining egg white. I then placed the piece of shell in a position and photographed a couple of different shots where the shell was either in a different position or in a different orientation. In the end I liked the position and orientation of the shell, but it would not sit in position, and I had to use a small piece of corn behind the shell to support it and allow the orientation and position that I wanted. I then spent some time gently cleaning the yolk to remove bubbles of egg white which were in the way.

Again I cropped the final shot slightly as there was a small space at the corner of the glass sheet in the far right corner which was drawing the eye away. This crop also allowed me to tighter up the composition and makes it appear as if the shell and yolk were closer together. The light source for this photograph was from two halogen bulbs in a cooker hood above the board and surface.

02. Two Points; Nikon D80, focal length 62.0mm (35mm equivalent 93mm), aperture f29.0, speed 1.5 second, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

02.Two Points

I’m much happier with this final composition as the two points relate in balance making for a very strong composition and there is a narrative and relationship between the yolk and the shell. I wanted a long depth of field for this photo to allow all the parts of the two points to be seen and be clear.

The third image Several Points in a deliberate shape; I went back to the workbook notes and looked over them as I wanted this composition to be clear in my mind. After thinking about using grapes, dried fruit I decided on using some vegetables. I laid out a white paper background on a table and experimented with different layouts making different shapes. I really wanted a clear shape, so I went with an elliptical circle as this draws the eye around it. I had chosen a wide range of items and I knew that I just had to look at the setup and keep swapping items in and out of the composition until I had the shape that I wanted.

As I sat looking at the composition I noted that there was too much light coming in the window and this was casting long shadows on the subjects. I closed the curtains. While this pushed the exposure speed down to 2 seconds it did not fully reduce the shadows and I then switched off all the surrounding lights, this pushed the exposure speed down to 10 seconds but it also stopped the long shadows being cast which pulled the eye away from the composition.

03. Several Points in a deliberate shape; Nikon D80, focal length 29.0mm (35mm equivalent 43mm), aperture f25.0, speed 10 seconds, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

03.Serveral points in a deliberate shape

While this is a very simple composition, the shape is deliberately simple, I am not fully happy with this image as I found that it was a little clichéd. However it fitted the brief and I am particularly pleased that I managed to use a bend carrot as this moves the eye through the composition. It almost looks like a guiding pointing arrow.

The fourth image A combination of Vertical and Horizontal lines; when I started to think about this composition I started to think about a grid of intersecting lines and I had the notion about using spaghetti, corn on the cob, spring onions, leeks, ends of bread or toast soldiers. My first basic idea for the composition was to make a grid of spring onions and looking straight down shoot the image from directly above the subject.

It was while I was working on another composition that I noticed that I had a few left over carrots, I then decided to use them as the subject for the image. I noted that the surface of the carrots themselves had horizontal lines running across them I then experimented with a few layouts of the carrots shooting each composition and combination and then looking at the image on the back of the camera. I decided on the final layout and with a little tinkering with the carrots themselves I shot two exposures of the image, one with the curtains open letting in some sunlight in combination with overhead light and the second exposure I closed the curtains and switched off the lights, this made for a very long exposure of 15 seconds which was a great difference to the first which was shot at 1/200th of a second. When I looked at the images on the screen I liked the longer exposure as it had a bit more character to the image and the carrots were not overbalanced by their shadows. Once I viewed the image on my PC screen I changed the image from colour to monochrome and I could see that the carrots had further definition on them and that they themselves had horizontal lines when view vertically and vice versa, this was what lead me to use this as the fourth image.

04. A combination of Horizontal and Vertical lines; Nikon D80, focal length 52.0mm (35mm equivalent 78mm), aperture f29.0, speed 15 seconds, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash. Converted into B&W in Photoshop

04.A combination of Horizontal and Vertical Lines

I am pleased with this final composition as the carrots are presented using the rule of thirds and the unusual shape of the carrots is further defined by the use of black and white rather than colour.

The fifth image Diagonals; at first I could not think of a definitive image that I could produce for Diagonals and for a few days it was one of the shots that eluded me. At first I was going to use a large watermelon and photograph the end of it, where all the lines come together, however I could not find a watermelon which was not either battle scarred or had a dark circle at the end of it. Again I went back to the idea of citrus fruits and I considered the diagonal lines created when a fruit is sliced in half and the segments all meet together in the middle, in a kind of faux perspective. I was not too happy with this idea in the end and I finally went with the split apple. I found that if I split the apple and arranged it that I could have diagonal lines at the centre of each section of apple, the diagonal lines as each segment lined up with its opposite part, a square and a circle all within the same composition. I used the blue background to allow the apples to stand out. The background paper was very shiny so I could not use a flash otherwise the middle section of the composition was just a mass of blown out white.

05. Diagonals; Nikon D80, focal length 70.0mm (35mm equivalent 105mm), aperture f7.1, speed 1/50th second, ISO 3200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.


To achieve the overhead shot, I had to dismantle the tripod and use the central section as a boom arm; this made taking the shot difficult as any movement caused the camera to bounce. I got round this by using an IR remote to trigger a countdown on the camera before it fired the shutter, this allowed me to position and adjust the camera, check the framing and then allow the camera to stop moving before I took the shot , I was not sure at first about the definition of the apples, but I was not too concerned as it was more important that the definition of diagonal lines were present. I think that I lucked out with the final composition as the apples still look nice and I have the lines and shapes in the final composition.

The sixth image Curves; I had a bit of fun with, as I just ran mad with ideas for differing compositions for the image. I considered amongst other things, a stack of dried apricots, onion slices, cob lettuce, Chinese leaf lettuce (both sliced across the way) and a pile of apple skin. I also considered biscuits but decided that they may be out of the scope of the brief!

I set my mind on using the apricot skins, until I saw the film Hard Boiled. During one scene an actor was talking and while he did this he peeled an apple. The coils of skin just drew my eye and I decided on the use apple skin which had been removed in one long spiral; I planned to hang it up on a piece of cotton thread and photographed it against a pale background. In the long term I was not happy with the way that the apple skin hung, so I went with orange skin but in a coiled pile on a tabletop. I placed the orange skin on a white background to help define the skin and used a very straight on perspective to the orange skin. This produced quite a weak composition so I moved the camera up a bit and recomposed from a slightly higher angle. This helped to define the curves in the skin and I was much happier with the image.

06. Curves; Nikon D80, focal length 70.0mm (35mm equivalent 105mm), aperture f4.5, speed 1/200th second, ISO 200, flash white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, Flash was fired but auto controlled by the camera


The final composition easily demonstrated the curves created in the orange skin and the white background did not wash out the orange pith. I’m not 100 percent happy with the background as the top left hand corner was a little darker than the rest of the image. I considered lightening it using Photoshop but I thought that this would be artificial enhancement of the image and cheating, so I left it as is.

The seventh image Distinct if Irregular shape; for this I threw a large handful of dried fruit and nut mix down onto a tabletop. I did this a couple of times until I achieved a truly random shape and not a clump of fruit. This produced quite a number of irregular shapes, but it was not until I was checking the images off the printer that I began to feel that this was not what was wanted and that it was a particularly weak image.

I sat back from it and looked at it pinned on the wall and I was not happy with the image. I then decided that I would have to reshoot it another day.

I thought of a mushroom as it was an irregular shape but it was also distinct, I then sliced a mushroom in half and had a good look at it, I noted that the shape itself was spoiled by the top skin of the mushroom and I then peeled the skin from it. This helped to further define the shape I then placed it onto the blue shiny paper background as this was an excellent contrast to the colour of the mushroom and set up the camera and tripod for a macro shot.

As I composed the macro shot I pulled the camera and tripod back a little so that I could get both the mushroom and it’s irregular reflection within the frame.

07. Distinct if Irregular Shape; Nikon D80, focal length 105mm (35mm equivalent 157mm) using a Macro Lens, aperture f13, speed 1/4th second, ISO 3200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

07.Distinct if Irregular shapes

After viewing the image on screen I decided to remote a little of the gain of the high ISO by using Neat Image as this did not change the colour, shape or definition of the final image, it just removed some of the grain caused by the Nikon cameras high ISO.

I am very pleased with this as the final image as both the colour and the reflection work for the composition. The shape of the mushroom is clear and well defined against the blue background and it almost looks like it is reflected in water.

The eight, ninth tenth and eleventh images Implied Triangles; I had a number of ideas that I experimented with for this brief. I had to produce at least two types of implied triangle for the brief and I chose to do one which would be a triangle produced by perspective and the other would be an implied triangle through positioning of items.

The first of these is the implied triangle by perspective. I started by placing three bottles together in two lines with the first in front of the other two, but this made up a real triangle when viewed from a high point of view using a wide angled lens. I then swapped to just two bottles and recomposed again with a high point of view for position, this made for a very centre heavy compostion, so I added the third bottle back in again but this time inline with the other two and I then recomposed on a tighter view of the bottles and using a wide angle lens this produced an implied triangle in shape.

08. Implied Triangle; Nikon D80, focal length 31mm (35mm equivalent 46mm), aperture f25, speed 1/60th second, ISO 3200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

08.Implied triangle01

It was after I had printed a proof of the image that I noted that the implied triangle was not too clearly defined and that it may not be the strongest image to portray an implied triangle. I have not discarded it all together but submitted it along with a third implied triangle image.

Implied triangle number two; using the course notes for inspiration I setup this shot , I used some items behind the background to create a two step layer so that the back level was higher. I then laid out the two peppers on the higher step and the third on the lower step. I changed the orientation of the peppers until I was happy with the composition and photographed it.

09. Implied Triangle; Nikon D80, focal length 65mm (35mm equivalent 97mm), aperture f29, speed 28 seconds, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash. Converted into B&W in Photoshop

09.Implied triangle02

10. Implied Triangle; Nikon D80, focal length 65mm (35mm equivalent 97mm), aperture f29, speed 28 seconds, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

10.Implied triangle02-colour

Once the image was on the computer I post processed the image to see how it would look in monochrome, I could not choose which version was the better version so I decided that I would submit them both but as one shot rather than two separate items.

Implied triangle number three; After proofing the image with the bottles, I decided that it may not portray the concept of an implied triangle, so I setup this third implied triangle shot. Like a few of my other shots for this brief I have gone back to an original idea and adapted it for another concept. In this case I liked the idea and colour of the bananas and I thought that they would work well as an implied triangle. As previously stated I was looking at ends of the bananas but I kept thinking that they produce a real triangle rather than an implied triangle. I then moved the board around examine the framing and composition until I hit on this shot.

11. Implied Triangle; Nikon D80, focal length 70mm (35mm equivalent 105mm), aperture f11, speed 0.8 seconds, ISO 400, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.

11.Implied Triangle

I liked that fact that the bananas sweep into the frame from the left and end in the implied triangle due to the different lengths of banana. The shape formed is not quite so much of a real triangle, more of an implied triangle. There is also a little rhythm in the green and back ends of the bananas. I like the colour and the shape that the stack of bananas makes and the movement through the frame.

In the twelfth image Rhythm; again I went back to the course notes and looked at various different foods that i had in the kitchen. I liked the idea of using dried noodles because just like the dried spaghetti, they look different when dried as to when they are cooked. I liked the way that the noodles were stranded together and that the noodles repeated both across and down the tray of noodles. I balanced them on the long end of the noodles and photographed them trying to get as close as I could to the entire tray without either leaving too much outside the frame.

12. Rhythm; Nikon D80, focal length 70mm (35mm equivalent 105mm) aperture f13, speed 1/3rd second, ISO 200, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.


I liked this image as it has a relationship between the tension and the looseness of the dried noodles. I also like it as my eye flows around the image following the repetitive shape and flow.

In the thirteenth image Pattern; I had quickly hit on this idea after looking at some spaghetti, after looking down at the ends of a handful of dried spaghetti, I liked the idea of a macro shot end on shot of the spaghetti ends as this would show the strange shape of the spaghetti strands. This was quite a simple setup and image to photograph. I just held enough dried spaghetti together with an elastic band and using a macro lens on the camera just moved the tripod closer to the ends so that the spaghetti was the only this visible in all directions. Also by using the macro lens I got a bit of perspective looking along the length of the spaghetti strands.

13. Pattern; Nikon D80, focal length 105mm (35mm equivalent 157mm) using a Macro Lens, aperture f57, speed 10 seconds, ISO 800, auto white balance, matrix metering, tripod mounted camera, No flash.


I am really happy with this image as it just came together really easily. I liked the original concept and it was quite an easy photograph to take as it just all sat together nicely.

I have found this assignment a bit of a challenge as it forced me to concentrate on one subject. This allowed me to experiment with different angles and composition techniques to obtain an image that I was happy with. There are some things I have learned quite quickly and I used them throughout the assignment.

Don't Panic - keep looking and thinking. If an idea does not work, ask yourself if the idea or composition can be reworked to make it better suit another part of the brief.

Don't be satisfied with the first shot. I have started to examine the composition before and after taking the image, as there may be a better way to present the subject or there may be a small item which pulls the eye away

Prepare and adapt - keep working the idea, work slowly, confidently and (again) do not be satisfied until the image is captured in the camera.

Tripods and other equipment are just tools, not a sign of weakness in composition.

Document and log everything because you might just need that idea again.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Leonard,
    I'm just about to submit my first assignment on TAOP and spotted your "high" picture for assignment 1. I'm gutted...was about to go to Edinburgh to take this shot...a well great mind and all that.
    By the way, did your tutor pass any comment on your assignmnet being submitted digitally?

    Hope you don't mind if I pop in from time to time to catch up and maybe get some advise?