The Art of Photography Part 1

The Frame


EXERCISE – Cropping

This exercise requires me to take three pictures of different subjects from my back catalogue and crop them to make completely new images.

So for my first image I took the thistle picture with a Bee that I took at Waverley Abby the other week and cropped that:

This image is one of my favourites I think because my mum fell in love with it when she saw it and said she would love to have it on her wall as a large picture, that was rather inspiring, I took this to demonstrate the use of a telephoto to get close to a subject and to reduce the depth of field to a point where the background does not distract from the subject, I think this worked well I like the clarity of the thistle and the whimsy of the dandelion seeds caught in it, the Bee is nice and clear and adds an extra dimension to the subject. I thought that the Bee would make a great crop so to focus on the thistle head and Bee this would make the image very different and emphasise the Bee more.

I love the way the Bee remained clear and the image has retained its clarity even after such a radical crop, you have to love the 18MP sensor in the canon 7D, which suggests to me that producing a huge print from this camera should be a breeze.

In this Crop the Bee is so much more prominent and draws the viewer into the centre of the flower, note I did not crop the sides hard or crop this as a portrait which would have worked, the reason I chose this format is that it puts the Bee off centre and facing into the picture and for me that works as composition.

The next Crop was of a toad we found while taking the thistle picture my daughter put him on my shooting stick for the portrait then we let him hop off into the undergrowth.

This picture shows the frog and rather a lot of shooting stick so the crop was quite simple it was to isolate the toad and make him more of a feature.

The next crop was more bold and involved switching the primary subject in the image. I took a series of images of this plant in my Mum’s garden from an ultra wide closeup to a super close macro shot, this one was somewhere in between and it had a hidden surprise as you will see

To my surprise I found I had captured a spider hanging under the plant posing for his picture, so I decided to crop this one so he became the feature

I had to increase the exposure in camera raw then mask and darken the plant to make him show up but thanks to my use of raw capture this was not a problem and as you can see my little spider friend has centre stage, you can just see the end of his web he looks to be hiding there waiting for a hapless fly to hit his web

EXERCISE – Balance

I have to admit this exercise had me thinking a lot, I started out thinking “yes that seems logical composition requires balance” but wait when I read the course material and started to look at some of my images I felt that some seemed to break the rules and had no balance at all. Then I read Michael Freeman’s book which i guess a lot of this course is taken from and it started to make more sense.

Firstly I do like images graphic patterns art work etc that demonstrates symmetry I always have done I guess it’s the engineer in me I like lumps of metal that look well-engineered its in my genes apart from being a bloke and I guess that’s quite a blokeish thing (sorry if that’s not PC was not ment to offend anyone) however I love cars and planes and stuff like that. I am therefore always fascinated by symmetry in nature and like to take graphic images of flowers and plant life especially in close up. I took this grass hopper the other day and can’t get over how mechanical he looks:

If you look at his leg he has a perfect pattern of chitin the body plates look fabricated he is amazing, this is where I find out it’s a CIA or MI5 spy bug  I’m sure it’s not.

From Michael’s book, which I recommend anyone reading this who has not read it do so its really rather good, I read the following:

George Seurat, the neo-Impressionist painter, claimed that “Art is harmony” but as Itten pointed out, he was mistaking a means of art for its end. If we accepted a definition of good photography as the creation of images that produce a calm, satisfying sensation, the results would be very dull indeed. An expressive picture is by no means always harmonious

Freeman, Michael (2007) The photographer’s eye. 2007 ed. London: Ilex

This rings with me as I feel that there are rules and guidelines that help to create a good composition but sometimes you have to throw those out of the window in order to create something different. One thing I have struggled with that this covers too is the Idea of a symmetrical photo where the symmetry runs along the centre line of the image either vertical or horizontal, this would appear to break the rule of thirds, does this matter? I say hell no, rules were ment to be broken and a symmetrical image would look terrible lined up on a third line. so much food for thought.

Now lets take a look at the images I took from my back catalogue and see how symmetry applies to them. I do have to admit that subconsciously I probably picked the images that were easier to work out balance for.

My first image was taken recently at Waverly Abby I took it while playing with using a wide-angle lens for close up work where I am trying to get a large depth of field. I took a lot of shots of this and only this one was taken while there was a really nice sky, there is a bit of noise from the high ISO as it was taken for an experiment but I like it grain and all takes me back to my black and white film days. I looked at this image and decided the balance was a triangle of dark wood in the bottom corner vs a triangle of sky in the top corner as shown in the smaller image.

This shot works for me because it has balance (Assuming I am right) and it follows the rule of thirds as the stump is an l shape that runs along the left third and across the bottom third. I agonised when composing this and took several different angles to try it out but my initial worry was the horizon line running across the centre, but on reflection it’s not the main subject and it’s not really a bisected image the horizon provides some of the symmetry that I think causes the balance in the image.

The next image was taken at Gilbert Whites house near Andover a while ago I have liked this shot for some time as it is a pleasant image, the balance in this image is an odd one it appears to me that the square dark area at the top right provides the counter weight to the bench as shown in the small image. I did wonder if this balances at all at first then I realised it is basically the same as the person sitting next to the chinese writing in the course book so maybe its a classic balance. For me it works well as an image and its one I like a lot, and the bench is obeying the rule of thirds here, It seems as though the key is to keep the main subject out of the centre of the image, Micheal Freeman’s picture of a chinese dinner seems to expertly break this rule though.

Scratch that looking at it again the center is not really the subject the food is and it runs along all of the third lines hmm nice shot Micheal.

This image is an interesting one when i composed it I was thinking about putting the horizon directly at the top to eliminate any sky as it was too white and bright and was messing up the exposure, so from that point it conforms to the rule of thirds, it is also nearly symmetrical down the vertical and yet I would not claim that the subject was in the middle. So this has a lot going on the symmetry of the three rows of lavender and the high horizon.

The banks of colour balance each other across the image and I think this all results in a well-balanced picture that pushes the rules a little.

This image haunts me, it took so much effort to get this and I think I may have to do it agin yet. The first time I saw this shot I was driving my god son back from his games club late on a friday night and as we turned down the road where this was taken my breath was taken away at the beauty of the scene, now I had driven this way lots of times and probably seen this before, but this was shortly after taking a course on the pursuit of light, and I had begun looking at scenes differently. I came back the next night with my camera gear and a tripod to find the Cathedral in darkness I was too late it was several days later that I got there just as the sun was going down and the lights were still on and set up for the shoot. I stood there for over an hour taking shots as the light changed, trying different compositions. the local residents looked like they were getting scared of me as I was a stranger in a big black truck with a tripod standing outside their houses, I am sure I was close to a police visit just before I finally left.

Th problem I now see is that it does not really balance, I knew there was something wrong and that it was to do with the big black void on the left of the building, I needed to compose this tighter so that the black was no more. at the time it felt like good rule of thirds stuff but in honesty when I draw the red boxes on it as in the small image it highlights the fact it does not balance and I guess I am going to have to go freak out the locals again.

The next image was taken in Chicago, and seems to demonstrate my affinity for getting in trouble with my camera, this was the building across the street from my hotel, it was a very interesting building with some quite lovely marble cladding it. I parked in the car park at around 7am on Sunday morning to take some shots, I shot of some of the building walked to the far side of the car park to get shots from different angles took a whole series of shots of a big water tower. Finlay I walked back to the car to take a couple of close shots at the front of the building. I was shooting some shots of the amazing cloud formation and just catching the building when a stern female voice said “CAN I HELP YOU” in one of those chicago accents, I looked down to find a large female security guard staring at me with her hands on her hips. I was promptly thrown off the premises she did not seem at all interested in the fact I was studying for a degree?

In this shot the balance is a little like the chinese meal in that the sky brackets the building and the building forms a smaller but more dense clump on the bottom right corner. This probably should not balance this way but I think it does because the building is darker and more dense than the sky so it would be like having a huge light object balance against a small lead weight of the same mass, the thing would balance and in that way so does this. I will be interested to discover if my Tutor / assessors agree with me as I am intrigued by the possibility of a small object balancing a much larger one because visually it appears to be heavier.

The Last image I chose because it is symmetrical and seems to fly in the face of the rule of thirds. I have to say that I now know its ok to break this rule but at the time I was taking a course that was banging on about getting the subject out of the middle. Now clearly the balance in this image is one bank of trees on the right balancing the one on the left. It is similar to the field of lavender, I think it works for two reasons, firstly it balances and secondly the horizon is right on the top third.

Now if you knew how I got this shot you may wonder how there is anything like composition here, I saw the scene in North Carolina late last month while I was out teaching, I spent a lot of free time roaming around failing to find subjects to photograph. the trouble with that area was that all the buildings have to keep below the tree line so the whole place looked like a pine forest with no buildings event tough it was densely populated. So I hopped out of my rental car and laid belly down on the railway line I set up most of the camera before trying to frame a shot and found I could not see through the viewfinder so I rested the camera on the rail and let the canon sensors do the focusing this was the result. I should say that at the time one of my friends from Texas was doing the same online course as me and had taken several shots of a railway line and I kept saying you need to get low and put you camera right down on the rail to get that right, so I put my money where my mouth is and took this shot. If I am honest it’s not completely sharp unsurprisingly but I accept that since I got an image that would have me spending at least the night in prison in the UK and with our electrified rails might have even killed me.

I should point out if any impressionable people are reading this that it would be stupid beyond belief to take a shot like this in the UK for one its illegal to trespass also there are way too many trains too frequently, in the USA they are quite rare as there is little or no train transport outside of big city’s and lastly they are diesel and ours are electric and will kill you fast so don’t do it!

At the end of this assignment I find myself with many conflicting Ideas on composition and I will have to do a lot of experimentation to sort through it all. It seems to me there are a couple of useful techniques such as balance and the rule of thirds which sometimes act harmoniously and sometimes clash and just because they clash does not mean the image is bad because sometimes its good to break the rules and get a really startling image though most of the time breaking the rules results in rubbish. Oh what a tangled web, that’s the problem with something that is eventually judged by people and their tastes.

EXERCISE – Positioning the Horizon

Often in photography there is a need to compose an image containing a horizon and there is always a debate as to where to place this line, in fact this applies to any line within your image be it horizontal or vertical it may be the side of a building or a line of windows, many lines bisect our compositions and their placement is one of the corner stones of composition. There exists a mystic rule that is used by photographers and artists alike called the rule of thirds. This is a start for getting your subject out of the center of the frame. What it says is that if you divide your photograph into thirds horizontally, then into thirds vertically, you will have some guidelines as to how to compose your picture. You can then compose a picture where the horizon is at the bottom or top third line for two different effects, where strong verticals are at the left or right third line, and where the subject can be placed at the intersection of these lines.

The rule-of-thirds can be helpful if it helps you get your subject and your horizons out of the center of the image. But,  If you arbitrarily put that idea onto every photograph, you will be putting your compositions into straightjacket and most subjects don’t deserve it! You will look like a timid camera club attendee afraid to challenge the old-liners who don’t know anything but the rule-of-thirds because it is safe. So while the rule of thirds works graphically it is always worth challenging it to find a better or less conventional composition, What the rule of thirds does do for us is prevent what I call the lone duck syndrome:

This picture represents everything I feel is bad about photography, it’s the lone duck, give someone who knows nothing of photography a camera and ask them to photograph a duck and this will be the result, there are hundreds if not thousands of pictures exactly like this in drawers around the world. My wife bless her who I love dearly looks at photography as a way of documenting everything she sees, she has hundreds of lone duck photos around the house.

Why do I hate the Duck so much, well firstly its really a picture of some water with a spot in the middle compositionally its really boring there is no implied motion and its a very static picture. it’s also out of focus by the way, I had something of a laugh with one of my work colleagues when creating this photo, I took a load of random snaps of ducks trying to get the perfect lone duck, which goes to show when you try to compose a lone duck it really wont happen, this shot is cropped from one edge of an image of a water-mill  in Whitechurch, but it works well now cropped to demonstrate the principle and it is classically out of focus as so many snaps are.

Now on to the Exercise and what came out of that, you can see from the slide show above the different images that I took to complete this exercise. I will now post each one and try to show my thinking on each.

First we start with the horizon at its lowest point near to the bottom of the photograph:

This highlights the first consideration, when taking an image with a strong horizon the perfect position of the horizon would depend on several things, firstly how dramatic is the sky, if it’s really stormy or lovely blue with puffy white clouds then sky is good. If its white and diffuse then sky is normally bad, diffuse white clouds are excellent for colour and light but should be left out of the image, what I mean is that lovely soft lighting tends to bring out the colour in the surroundings but the sky causes the ground to be under exposed and will look boring. Whereas a dramatic sky can really enhance a picture, the rule is to decide if the picture is about the sky or the ground and include more of the intended subject. The other factor would be where the foreground contains the main subject of the image, take this image taken at the lavender Fields the sky was very bland at the time and I took the decision to focus down to remove the sky from the equation as the camera could not cope with the change in exposure from the ground to the sky:

In our first image the sky is the dominant feature and it is not really very interesting as it stands, It is possible to add some post processing to make the sky dramatic but Photoshop skills are not the point of this exercise.

My second image raises the horizon a little it really has the same characteristics, it has not changed enough to alter the impression it leaves with the viewer

My third image, Is the first to obey the rule of thirds placing the horizon along the line of the bottom third

as you can see from this insert the horizon is nearly on the bottom third line

You can also see from this that the tree to the left of the image creates a visual line vertically up the edge of the screen the only thing this image really lacks is something of interest in the foreground that creates a focus for the viewer, I think that most people would agree that the picture is ok in terms of composition but it actually rather boring, I did not by the way set out to create a masterpiece but rather to demonstrate a technique

My fourth image, is similar to the third in that the horizon is just above the third line, unfortunately whiles it is compositionally good its a bad subject something that really comes across as I am processing these images, they seemed like a good idea at the time of shooting but on reflection do not work that well as my friend who is sitting next to me just commented its ok compositionally but I would not hang it on my wall ah well

My Fifth Image is the worst in my opinion as the horizon bisects the centre line of the camera and the one composition rule I do agree with is that things need to get out of the middle, this shot is the worst of both worlds for this

My Sixth Image takes the horizon up to the top third placing it just below that line, this can be very effective having a high horizon (see the lavender fields shot above) as long as the foreground holds the viewers interest this is really a picture of some grass


My seventh Image continues the theme above not really working for me even though it should be compositionally the right thing to have done it’s just not interesting and nothing draws the viewer

My eighth Image, could have been the best were it not just of grass

I thought when I started this shoot that this would turn out well, it has a lot going for it surprisingly, the place is the chase through windsor great park where Henry VIII used to hunt when staying in Windsor the trees along the way are old and a lot of them were planted at his request and are very old and have some great shapes to them, unfortunately I failed to capture any of this in the image most of the visible trees are new none of the history or majesty of the place comes out in the picture, I was rather obsessed in getting this vanishing point of a row of oak trees that I rather failed to see that the images while technical were not good images in the first place. They do convey the principles but don’t really have the Zing that would make someone reading this enthused to balance their composition and place the horizon based on some pre thought.

In my last image I have tried to convey some of what I have been saying up untill now, in this image there are two distinct horizons one is the actual horizon at the top of the trees which I have deliberately kept high so I get as little of the bland white sky that upsets the exposure, the second is that of the bridge and the train which is set on the upper third line so that all of the action below has space to act. This was tagged transport for a course in stock photography I did where we were sent out top shoot images based on a topic I liked this because it has trains and cars and seems to capture a moment in time where a lot of busy people are trying to get places, we will never know their stories but I guess that allows us to imagine what may be happening to each of them. So unlike my exercise shots this has interest that draws the viewer in and allows the viewer to engage their imagination which for me is a where a photograph scores when the viewer has an experience with imagination triggered by the photo

EXERCISE – Focal Lengths and Different Viewpoints

This exercise requires me to take photographs at different focal lengths while also moving the camera. In the last exercise the camera was in a fixed position so the action of increasing the focal length of the lens had the predictable effect of enlarging the image, that is to say that less of the subject filled the frame but each object in the frame took up more space referred to as zooming in.

In this exercise we are required to move closer to the subject as well, now if we did this exercise in the same style as the last i.e. took a wide-angle shot moved in closer physically then increased the focal length of the lens before taking another shot, the results would be practically the same as in the last exercise except that the resulting photo would appear to have been taken with an even longer lens as some of the “Zooming” would have been the product of your feet rather than the lens. This however, is not the purpose of this exercise, in this we are tasked with doing the opposite.

The first shot should be taken with the telephoto lens, a subject is chosen and composed to fill the frame, and then switch to the wide-angle lens and move physically closer to the subject until it again fills the frame. The other requirement of this exercise was to ensure that there was some depth to the scene so some objects at a distance behind the main subject.

I decided to go to Windsor great park with my eldest daughter who has become a useful companion on some of these photographic trips, making herself useful carrying some of the equipment and holding reflectors, I think she is learning a bit from this too. The reason for going to Windsor great park was that I had a memory of long straight rows of very old oak trees lining the way to Windsor castle, unfortunately my memory and the reality were not quite a match and the idea I had for getting a nice straight row of trees with Windsor castle at the end for my straight category in assignment 1 did not quite pay off but I did get several other useful images including these.

To set the scene I noticed a really nice tree that looked dead, you can see it in the background of these shots, it was my intention to use it as the basis of this exercise, however because it was about ten feet the other side of a farmers fence it was impossible to fill the frame with it using my wide-angle lens, I simply could not get close enough.

I spotted the tree that features here and realised by moving around I could shoot this tree and use the other as a reference in the background, the result was far better in the end as the old tree as you will see demonstrates the way the focal length changes perspective in a beautiful way.

Ok let’s look at the first Image Taken at ISO 100 with a focal length of 65mm using f/22 at 1/13 sec

I used a small aperture and slow shutter speed to keep some depth of field in this shot, I did mount the camera on a tripod for two reasons firstly to eliminate camera shake at a slow shutter speed and secondly to help compose the image as tripod mounting allows you to make fine adjustments to the frame before making the image.

The first thing I note about this image is that the perspective is compressed, when I looked at this frame with my naked eye away from the camera the old tree appeared to be further away from the subject tree, so the telephoto lens compresses the perspective , also I should mention I used a focal length of 65 mm on a lens that has a maximum focal length of 270mm, 65 mm on a camera with a 18MP APS-C CMOS sensor which has a crop factor of 1.6 would have an equivalent focal length of 104mm, I did not use the maximum focal length of the lens simply because I could not get far enough away for this to work and while hard up against the ditch 65mm was the maximum focal length that would frame the image. I suspect that the result would be even more dramatic if I used the extremes of the lens, however, I would probably be in for a long walk judging by the results of the previous exercise the 200mm lens pulled the subject in a long way so my new 18 – 270 mm  lens would be worse.

To put this into context the next image was taken with my 10 to 22mm Canon lens set to 10mm (I do love this lens at its extreme) and I walked up to the tree with the view finder to my eye untill the tree filled the frame, this was something of a shock, I was stood so close to the tree it looked like it would be impossible to frame it I really had no idea how wide this thing was untill i did this exercise its a shame we did not have a second camera so I could take a picture of the set up because unless you do this exercise you can’t begin to understand how ridiculously close I had to get to set this image up

The image was taken at ISO 100 with a focal length of 10mm using f/22 at 1/13 sec

Again I stress the camera was set up very close top the trunk of the tree for this shot it looked impossible and this result looks nothing like the way you would have imagined it had you seen the setup.

This leads me to some things I have now discovered partly by doing this and partly from an online course I have been doing on creative light and composition, there is a whole world of creativity to be had from moving in close with a wide-angle lens and using it like a macro lens, it gives really nice DOF while creating some interesting perspectives. It’s a technique I will be exploring more as a part of my journey to find my photographic voice.

Back to the image, as you can see the tree fills the frame in almost the same way as the first image but they are so different take a look again at them side by side:

The first thing to note is how far away and small the old tree looks, in reality the old tree was half again as tall as the subject. This is a very good example of how the telephoto compresses perspective and the wide-angle expands it. the other thing I notice is in the grass, in the first image it looks like it got out of bed washed and brushed its hair in the second image it looks like it rushed up without using a comb. It sort of creates an image for me of a modern haircut that is all sticking up with gel.

Borrowed the image of the hair from Haircuts For men it’s an online resource for all things about men’s hair cuts go check them out if you need to know about men’s hair

This wild dramatic effect appears to be common with very wide-angle shots and is often reflected in the sky and clouds, if you go wider into the realm of the fish eye lens the image begins to take on a spherical aspect which in the 10mm lens you can begin to see starting to take effect.

Lastly here is an image taken from the same position as the telephoto shot but this time with the 10mm Wide-Angle lens fitted

The image was taken at ISO 100 with a focal length of 10mm using f/22 at 1/10 sec

This is in my opinion a dramatically unremarkable image that should be consigned to the don’t pick bin however I include it just to demonstrate the effect at the original distance, notice that from here the old tree has the same proportion as the old tree in the first image suggesting that the perspective changes are reduced as thye subject gets further awy and also that the telephoto zoom simply magnifys what the wide angle sees, I am sure that there is some physics to support this however I have to get a lot of other things done so if I do look this up it will have to wait a while.

EXERCISE – Focal Lengths

In this exercise we were challenged to find a scene and take a sequence of images at different focal lengths from a fixed position.

I went for a walk while at our stables in Farnham and found an old gate into a field at the top of the lane, from here it was possible to see right across into Odiham in the distance, the view was quite breathtaking, and is one of those things that makes you realise what a great thing doing a course like this is as it is making me go places I have never been and explore things I havent seen just to get that perfect shot.

I noticed that there was a nice house in the distant horizon so I set up the tripod to take a set of images at different focal lengths ending up with a long telephoto shot of the house.

For the First image I decided to use a 10 – 22mm Canon zoom lens, it is one of their super wide-angle lenses and it gives a wonderful distorted wide view at its shortest focal length, this first shot was taken at 10mm as I thought this would give the most dramatic contrast to my longest zoom lens for the final image. As you can see it shows a very wide-angle of view that extends back to the gate on the left of the picture, it also makes a very dramatic sky. The day had turned really hot after raining earlier and the rain clouds were giving way to that lovely blue sky with puffy white clouds. You can see in this image that the clouds get more dense as they get to the horizon this will become significant in the telephoto images.

Notice here that the house in the distance is barely noticeable as it looks very small if you click on the image then zoom in you can just see it.

For my second image I zoomed the lens to its longest focal length of 22 mm which is still wide-angle but not so extreme. Yu can see in this image that while still a wide-angle of view this focal length produces very little distortion to perspective, a factor that makes the 10mm end of the zoom range always feel far more dramatic. I have to confess when I was a lad at school I had limited funds and for christmas I managed to get my parents to buy me an 70 to 300 mm Vivitar zoom for my Pentax Spotmatic because I was all about big telephoto lenses and zooming in I really did not consider wide-angle to be “Worth the Cost of the Lens” I guess that is a lack of maturity for you, its only since I got fired up in April that I have actually owned a wide-angle lens, can you believe it took 35 years for the prejudice to dissipate how daft I love the wide-angle views now and I love what it will do to a tall building when you get close and look up, I also love the concept of using it in close up and using a small aperture to get a very long depth of field and its ability to do hyperfocal length pictures. But I digress the next image:

You can see here that because we are zoomed in a little and the blue sky is above it gives us less of the blue in the image making the sky more white, as I zoomed in further in the rest of the series this got worse and made the day look like one of those bland overcast days where there is just a white diffuse sky. Normally you try to limit the amount of sky in these conditions that gets into you image as it makes exposure more trying due to the very large difference between the bright white sky and the dark ground, I overcame this a little in these images by applying a small amount of exposure correction using a graduated filter in light room. The change is very small but makes the image a little more appealing to the eye making the grass stand out a little more rather than being a little dark. This is one of the benefits I discovered in shooting in raw mode that I can adjust these things with a little more control without loosing picture data the way you would with a Jpeg file.

For the next image I had to change lenses, at the time of shooting I was still using my old Canon 28 to 200 zoom so I fitted that to move a little closer and set the zoom to 57 mm as it gave me the next composition I wanted, that makes it sound like I calculated the focal length and precisely set the zoom to the calculated length of 57mm, this is of course not even close to the train of events I fitted the lens and adjusted the zoom to a pleasing composition and shot the frame, I only know it was 57mm because the meta data from the file records the focal length (Just in case you were wondering about the preciseness of the measurement and the relatively odd number.

So I present the third image:

This image appears to have crossed some of the foreground towards the line of trees and the house that is the eventual target is now visible just under the horizon. Also note that all pretense of blue sky and fluffy white clouds is gone as the area zoomed in to contains the rain clouds that are disappearing over the horizon,  where I was standing it still felt nice and sunny and was all blue sky above but the telephoto lens takes us into the distant realm where the weather is still clearing up. We can also see here some of the flattening of perspective that the telephoto lens brings with it, something that will be fully covered by the next exercise.

The final image is taken at 200mm which at the time was my longest lens, in this image we can clearly see the house that was hidden in the distant horizon of the first picture. If you compare the final image to the initial image you will be able to see why the 10mm lens is called a wide-angle lens its due to the angle of view in the final shot the whole frame is delimited by a small section in the centre of the wide shot where as the wide shot seems to extend from one gate post 360 degrees round to the next (well not quite):

Why do we bother to take wide and telephoto you may ask yourself, the answer is simple, the last image has the same number of pixels as the first, there is as much data about the enlarged image as there is about the wide image this means that if you zoom the wide image so that the house is the same size as the telephoto image the house will be almost unrecognisable and will seem to be made out of odd blocks of colour known as pixilating.

This means that taking awide image and cropping will never be as good as a telephoto lens shot, not to mention the way perspective is changed but that’s the next exercise.

There are some important lessons that should be emphasized here the first is that a 200mm lens is quite heavy, its hard to hold steady also the magnification of a 200mm lens will exaggerate the shake of your hand holding the camera. If we reflect back to the lesson on panning and movement we know that moving the camera while panning blurred the background well shaking a telephoto will blur the image so it is imperative to use a fast enough shutter speed to freeze the shot when hand holding a camera. The rule appears to be that you need the reciprocal of the focal length so a 200mm lens requires 1/200 sec shutter speed at a minimum and probably faster would be better. Also it is said that because zoom lenses are heavy you should base this rule on the longest focal length it is capable of, so if you had a 300 to 500 zoom lens hand-held you should never take a shot with less than 1/500 sec. Actually I suspect you should never hand hold a 500mm lens but having never owned one I have no imperial proof of this.

Four my last shot however life was good I had my sturdy tripod with me and all of these shots were taken with  the camera mounted on the tripod and using a cable release so that a heavy finger did not shake the focus (laugh you can but its one of the biggest causes of blur and camera shake heavy button action who knew?

Exercise: A sequence of composition

This sequence was taken on a walk through the lion and lamb walk in Farnham, I think I may have missed the point of the exercise a bit as I was very aware of people who probably did not want their picture taken there is one lady in this sequence who put her hand over her face and the laughing girl in the middle sequence waved as I was clicking these.

One reason tis is not really working for the exercise for me is that over 50% of the images were out of focus and some of these are not pin sharp I discovered after this walk that my trusty 28 to 200 EF lens was faulty and also read that the optical quality of that lens was always questionable which answers a previous question I had over why some of my images were not as sharp as they should be. I have now replaced the lens and am taking better pictures with a better optical quality lens. I intend to re-do these shots somewhere and replay this assignment properly as this does not feel like a sequence however enjoy the inhabitants of Farnham for now!

Exercise Object in different positions in the frame

4 photographs
Find another subject, this time one that is very clear and set within a large, even background (you can see how useful it is to keep that list of potential subjects – you will need one for almost every exercise).
You are going to take a series of photographs in which you place the subject in different positions in the frame. As in the last exercise, you should make the first exposure without thinking too much about this; in other words, compose the shot naturally and quickly. Later you will be able to compare this with the other versions.
Then take about four or five images with the subject in different positions:

• right in the centre
• a little way from the centre
• close to an edge or corner.

When your results have been processed, lay them out and put them in order of preference. Which version appears to work the most comfortably? Which the least? As you assess what you have done concentrate on the relationship between the subject and its background. Where the subject was placed in the middle of the frame, the subject will certainly be prominent, but the background may have no central mass: it has been ‘punctured’ so that it just surrounds the subject equally. Compare this version with your others. Do you think this makes the subject and background work together?


So this exercise sees me wanting to break all the rules according to the rule of thirds I should like the images that sit neatly on one of the third lines but sorry I like the one with the bird right in the middle and the reason is little to do with composition and a lot to do with atmosphere and attention the bird is looking straight at the camera and has expression (I think I will have to go out and re shoot this exercise I don’t think I am happy with the results but hey its a learning log and this is what happened first attempt.

Image 1 in order of preference

Image 2

In this image the bird is not looking out of the frame he is still a little central and I think some of these may have worked better if I had pulled back on the zoom they looked like they would work in the viewfinder but that just goes to show it’s not always true in the heat of the shot

Image 3

This only gets third over the last image because he is looking toward the camera and not so disinterested

Image 4

Dont like this it’s not a good composition he is looking out of the frame and basically I want to find a better subject and do this all again hey its a learning process!

Exercise 6 Fitting The Frame To The Subject

4 photographs
For this exercise, you need something clear in appearance and compact in shape. It must also be accessible, from close to and from a distance, as the idea of this project is to experiment with how much space it takes up in the frame of the viewfinder.
One of your continuing activities is to note down possible subjects and settings. Now is the time that you will find it useful. An easy subject would be a car, or a person, or a handbag, but you may think of something more imaginative than these.

Plan to take at least four different photographs of the subject you have chosen. For the first get yourself into a position where you can see the entire subject in the viewfinder, and photograph it as you normally would – without taking too much time to consider the composition. You will use this shot as the baseline for the others that follow. Make the way that you hold the camera suit the dimensions of the subject: if it is upright, for instance, make a vertical picture.

With this done, take a lot more care over the second picture. Move in and around
to make the subject fit the frame as tightly as possible – right up to the edges if you can, but not beyond. Even consider tilting the camera so that the subject fits the frame even more tightly. For the third version, close in so that you can see none of the edges of the subject, and photograph just a part of it.

Finally, for the last shot, move right back until the subject occupies only a small part of the frame – a quarter or less – and do your best to make a composition that stresses the surroundings. If your subject is easy to move, consider placing it more effectively within its surroundings.
When you have the results (if you are using film, wait until you finish the roll before continuing), make prints of them, then compare them with the examples of the same exercise. Although your choice of subject matter will be different, there should be some similarity in the proportions of the photographs.
Now make a pair of L frames or use four strips of card and place them over the print. Move them around to crop the picture – look for alternative possibilities. If you prefer to do this on-screen with a digital image, then use the cropping tool in whatever software you have. Be careful to save the original full image and make copies for the cropped versions. 


Image 1

As you can see Image 1 depicts the water Lilly sitting in the centre of the frame showing some of its surroundings

Image 2

In Image 2 I pulled in tight and took an image where the flower filled as much of the frame as possible I think this is a more striking image

Image 3

For Image three I used a 100mm Macro lens and an extension tube to get in close to the Lilly, this shot was taken with a precarious arrangement of tripod and boom hanging over the pond and my daughter with her foot on the rear tripod leg to ensure that the rig did not tip into the pond. I love real closeup macro shots and this turns the water Lilly into something very different to look at

Image 4

In Image 4 I pulled right back to set the Lilly in its surroundings using a low angle and a very wide lens to get this dramatic image, in the background is the daughter mentioned above just so she did not feel left out 🙂

The exercise called for the use of a pair of L frames to help crop the image to find alternative possibilities, I chose to make virtual copies of the image in Lightroom and use the excellent crop tool to deliver the following alternatives to image 4.

In this image I applied the rule of thirds and placed the subject Lilly at the cross-section of the top third line and the left third line

This image was achieved using a radical post box crop to give a thin slice of the original image

This image used the angle crop slider set to its maximum of 45 degrees cropping the image down to its core and rotating it by 45 degrees

Lastly I cropped the other way to the letterbox crop and produced a pillar crop the sort of thing that might fit well in a book or publication or even a sidebar for a web page.