Exercise – Positioning the Horizon

Once more I’ve had loads of good shooting time and logging on my hands so I’m on a bit of a roll!  Don’t worry, I will start to go quiet for a bit as I work towards my next exercise and the assignment, so I won’t be doing 2 posts a day!

For this exercise I needed a fairly interesting landscape with an obvious horizon as I needed to shoot the same scene, positioning the horizon at various heights in the frame, throughout the sequence of shots, where the purpose is to look at how the positioning of the horizon can change the way an image works.

Image 1:

1. I positioned the horizon very low on this first shot, aiming for half way between the bottom edge of the frame and the imaginary line marking the bottom third of the image.  With the flat grey sky, there’s not really enough going on to make the image really work that well with the horizon so low.

Image 2:

2.  I brought the horizon up to the bottom third line for this one – it feels a little more comfortable than Image 1, but still not enough details in the sky to make it work that well.

Image 3:

3. The horizon is now between the lower third line, and the dead centre of the image, starting to reveal  more foreground interest, it kind of works, but the driftwood at the front is cut in half and needs to be shown more.

Image 4:

4. the horizon is now dead centre, right on the halfway line, making it a bit too even.  There’s a bit more of the foreground interest, but it’s still not enough to balance it out properly, and the driftwood is still too cropped.

Image 5:

5. the composition is starting to feel much more comfortable now – the horizon is between half way, and the top third line, bringing the whole of the driftwood foreground interest into the shot – I’m torn between this image and image 6 below as to which one I prefer.

Image 6:

6. The horizon is now on the line of the top third, and it feels a little more balanced that when the horizon was on the lower third, as there is the foreground interest.  I think had the driftwood been a little lower in the shot I would have probably preferred this over image 5.

Image 6:

6. The horizon is a little too high on this one I think, especially as there is too much empty space below the driftwood.

Exercise – Balance

“At the heart of composition lies the concept of balance” (Freeman, 2007, p.40) for a composition to work well, the elements within the image need to balance, in relation to all the other components of the image. For this exercise I needed to look at some of my recent images and look at the balance within the elements of the image, and how it works as a composition, looking at it in terms of a weighing scale – kind of like a see-saw balance, and trying to illustrate how it balances..  Please excuse my sketches – drawing is not my forte, it’s the reason I’m a photographer and not a painter!

Knightstone Island:

This first image has a very symmetrical, center-weighted balance, although possibly very slightly weighted heavier on the left hand side due to the slightly higher buildings on the promenade, which I don’t think distracts from the composition too much.

Ashcombe Park Cafe:

With the larger element towards the centre of the image, and the smaller element right on the right-hand edge, the balance works and the eye travels naturally from the larger to the smaller.

Spider in Web:

The small spider balances off against the larger space on the right, with the radials from the web leading the eye across.

Weston Beach Race Start:

I’m not 100% sure if I like the balance in this image – the guys closer to the camera naturally lead the eye back towards the smaller element of the guys further away, but I feel it may have worked a bit better had the guys towards the back been a little further forward and closer to the right hand side of the image, with more separation between the two main elements.

Sinking Mud Sign:

I can’t quite make up my mind on this one either, Part of me thinks that the two elements are unequally weighted being different sizes, but then part of me thinks that the thinness of the sign-post isolates the sign as the main element that side of the image and, evens out against the mass of the 4 people!

The Grand Pier:

With this shot of the pier the two main elements are round about the same size, albeit due to one being further away than the other, so i think they balance each other quite well, with the diagonal leading line of the pier carrying the eye between the two elements, although the pointing arm could possibly encourage the viewer to follow that line towards the empty sky.

Exercise – Focal Lengths and Different Viewpoints

Robert Capa – arguably one of the best, if not the best war photographer of the 20th Century, was once quoted as saying “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not getting close enough”, and this exercise, designed to show the difference between shooting on a long zoom, and shooting closer to the subject on a wide-angle, shows the effects.  Mind you, Capa said that, not long before his untimely death caused by standing on a landmine in Indochina, so perhaps there are times when you shouldn’t try and get too close.

For this exercise I needed a subject that I had the flexibility to choose my viewpoint, so I chose the cafe in a local park, now closed down for the winter.  I had a great clear view of it to take my first shot which needed to fill the frame on a long zoom.  As there was a playpark behind me, and trees between me and the subject I couldn’t quite get back far enough at the right angle to use the full zoom of my 55 – 200mm, so the first one was shot at 160mm focal length.

It looks pretty much as you’d expect, as it’s from a distance, there is no massive convergence of the verticals, they are pretty much almost straight up and down, and the front of the building looks nice and square on. The perspective of the building looks quite normal.

For the second image I changed to my 18 – 55mm lens and walked straight up to the cafe until I could fill the frame with the lens at it’s widest focal length of 18mm.

Stood right in front of the cafe, on the wide angle setting really distorts the perspective of the building, with the verticals narrowing more towards the top of the image.  It also seems to compress the distance between the front and back of the building, along the side wall.

Out of the 2 images, the second one is by far my favorite as it makes for a more dynamic viewpoint of the subject, as it’s so different to how I saw it with my eye, before putting the camera to my eye.  It makes it look much more interesting, and almost looming!

Exercise – Focal Lengths

I'[m on a roll, having made the most of the sun the other day!

This exercise was designed to demonstrate the different effects that a change of focal length can have on an image – not just enlarging the subject in the viewfinder, but also changing the feel of an image.

Again I used Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier as my “muse”, for part of this exercise anyway.  the first image I took is a very wide shot of Weston seafront, showing pretty much everything – the pier, the beach car park, and also the old pier in the background.

Wide – Shot at 18mm focal length (F16, 1/200th Sec, ISO 200)

For the next shot I went to the fullest extension of my standard lens, which crops out pretty much all of the beach car park, and focuses in on the two piers, showing the old and new.

55mm focal length (F16, 1/200th Sec, ISO 200)

For my third and final image I changed to my long lens and zoomed in to the fullest extension of that lens and completely cropped out everything but the old pier,  if you’re not familiar with Weston-super-Mare then it’s entirely possible that you would think that this was the one and only pier there!  It’s also interesting how much it compresses the distance between Weston and the Welsh coastline the other side of the Bristol Channel.

200mm focal length (F16, 1/200th Sec, ISO 200)

Exercise – A Sequence of Compostion

This exercise was designed to get me to think about the practical process of composing and image – ideally with a situation involving people, but I thought I’d give it a go on Weston-super-Mare Grand Pier first.  I found this exercise to be an interesting challenge, as I’m so used to seeing the composition and then bringing the camera to my eye and pressing the button.  this time however I had to approach the subject  viewing it through the viewfinder and taking photos as I worked my way towards my final composition –  so taking photos as I went along, whether I would consider it to be a suitable composition or not. it was really tough as I hate releasing the shutter if it’s not going to have a chance of being a useable image, so I don’t think I’ve quite achieved the aim of the exercise!  I thought I’d still log it, but I’m going to see if I can find another subject to see if I can do a better job of achieving the aims.

I approached the pier the way I usually do – from the front!  It’s kind of the standard view of it – if you’re a tourist, walking up to it from the town centre, it’s the first view you’ll have of it as you cross the road.  Luckily it was a lovely sunny day, so I was able to go pretty punchy on my exposures – I do think a seafront in the rain can be quite a depressing sight – I always think of the old Morrisey song “Everyday is Like Sundays” with the line “This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down” so luckily I got to enjoy probably the last sunny day of the year!

Once I’d shot the entrance from various angles and crops I took a stroll down onto the beach to try and capture it from a lower angle, looking along the length of the pier, before ducking under to get a few shots of the struts – although those shots didn’t really do it for me!  I came back out from under and as I looked up at the pier, there were a couple of visitors looking over the side, looking along the seafront, pointing things out, and I thought they could give the image an interesting balance, so took a couple of them there, trying to capture the pier, and arms pointing.

I then spotted various people walking dogs and got a couple of shots of them, dog walking is a massive thing on most beache and Weston is no different.

I started to walk a little way away from the pier, along the beach and spotted a little group of teenagers, taking photos of each other in front of the pier, a little way away from a sinking mud danger sign; I kind of liked the comparisons between these guys stood out there, with the warning sign, so worked around that shot for a couple of shots, before turning my camera back to the main subject of the pier.

Out of the whole set of shots, I think my favourites are actually one of the early ones of the pier, it feels quite nicely balanced, although I think if the 2 people walking away had been slightly further forward, they would have had a bit more separation from the background, and would’n be so lost in the image.

And I also quite like the one of the kids “chimping*” at the back of their camera after having taken photos of themselves by the pier

*Chimping – the act of looking at the just-taken photo on the back of the digital camera whilst making appreciative noises such as “ooh, ooh”

Exercise – Position in the Frame

For this exercise I needed a subject that clearly stood out against an even background so I headed back over to the woods to shoot the wooden bench/sculpture thingy that I used in my previous exercise.
I needed to take 4 images of the subject – the initial photo being a standard composition, not over-thought, just naturally and quickly.

Below is my first image – pretty standard, a bit loose for my liking, but then I needed to leave room around the subject for re-composing the shots that followed.

Then I recomposed with the subject slightly off-centre -this is a composition I use quite a lot, for pretty much any subject, but portraits in particular, especially outside, with something relevant in the background.  I think I like to use it a lot as it’s kind of a standard composition  when I’m filming interviews (although it would be a tighter crop)

For the shot below the subject is closer to the edge of the frame, I think had I shot it right on the edge it would be even more noticeably “wrong” to me!

With the image below, tight up in the top corner actually works a little better than the one above, I think because the shape of the seat fits into the corner quite comfortably.

As with the image above, the subject tucks in the corner quite well in the image below.

In the final image, I think it’s too central horizontally in the background, even though it’s dropped down towards the bottom of the frame.

Overall I think my favorite compositions are the second one, with it 1/3rd over to the left and also second to last image, where it’s bottom right corner., both of them seem to balance well, although the second from last one brings some of the sky through the trees which distracts a little from the subject.

Exercise – Panning with different shutter speeds

Again, this is another exercise slightly out of sync from the prescribed exercise order, as until today I’d not really found a suitable subject – and my step-sons didn’t fancy running up and down the road for me!

Today I took the opportunity to head down town with my camera, with the intention of carrying out a couple of the compostition exercises, and as it was the Weston Beach Race today, it was an ideal opportunity to catch up on the shutter speeds exercise that I’d missed out.

I’ve never had the chance to see it before, and although I didn’t go in to the actual race, I had a reasonable view of the start of one of the races, albeit through a couple of wire fences which somewhat let the images down a bit!  The start of these races involve a mass of riders racing to their bikes, hopping on and speeding off to the beach track – there must have bee a good couple of hundred riders, all pelting for their bikes lined up on the Beach Lawns – cool!

So, the exercise – find a moving subject and, with a variety of shutter speeds, pan the camera with the subject whilst taking the photo, keeping the subject in the centre of the frame.  I’ve played with panning a little in the past, and it’s possible to get some great effects from it

The first image below, as the riders were heading out to their bikes was shot at 1/200th Sec, the 2 guys at the front (luminous green helmet & black and yellow suit) are pretty sharp, but the background is showing the movement of the pan, as are the racers in the background.


This was shot at 1/160th Sec, again, subject pretty sharp and frozen, backgorund a little motion blur – not as much as the last one, but the lens was wider and maybe I was a little steadier with the camera!


This was also 1/160th but I wanted to use it as I love this guys mohican 🙂


This was 1/125th Sec, and to be fair this poor lad couldn’t get his bike to start so was going a little slower than the previous subjects!


1/80th Second – starting to show my rubbish panning skills – I’m defintely much more used to doing it with video!!  Min have t you, the fencing didn’t help matters, I guess I should have taken the hit on my purse and paid to go in – although seeing as I was just popping down town it was a bit steep for a 30 minute visit!


1/40th Second – the guy with the rubber glove on his head is showing a bit of movemenr, along with the blurry motion blurred background, I’ve always had issues with showing movement in my images – I have an urge to get everything technically perfect and always head for the delete key when I take images that are a bit too blurry like this one, although looking at it, I suppose it’s just about bearable.


1/20th Second – same as the previous image, I struggle to consider this a useable image personally, but I suppose it’s not too bad!


And after this one at 1/13th Second I stopped taking slow shitter speed shots and went back to normal as I didn’t want to miss the action!  With this shot I think it’s gone through the borderline unuseable image and into the realm of the slightly abstract and arty, and I quite like it!  there’s not an iota of sharpness anywhere in the image, but I think it kind of works.


Out of all of these images, narrowing it down to my favourites I’d have to choose the mohican one, although the composition isn’t great, having cut off his wheels, but I like the rest of it, and I’d also have to choose the last one, as I think it works, not just with the extremem motion, but also the general composition, and also I guess the blur makes the fence dissapear, which helps.