Category Archives: 04 Looking through the viewfinder

Exercise: A sequence of composition

The brief:

This exercise will help you to think about the practical process of composing an image. For this you need a situation which involves people – ideally out in the street. The idea is to record the way you approach and shoot a subject from the moment when you catch sight of a possible photograph, to the final best image you can make of it. Ordinarily, you would only shoot when the moment seemed just right, but here you will record all the moments that are ‘almost’ right. …take pictures as you go along. They will be a record of how you moved around and found the best images – a sort of stop-frame movie of your shoot.

After quite a few attempts at this exercise and with some glorious sun shining, I have finally managed to get enough images in one shoot to make up this exercise. I headed downtown to the city centre with my 18-55mm lens where I was sure to find interesting faces and something happening. I heard music while I was walking along one street and followed the sound, realising that it was coming from the Art Gallery. I came to the crosswalk (figure 01).

Figure 01

Figure 01

I crossed over and came across the hat vendor who has her stall on this corner (figure 02). I’ve photographed her many times and she always seems to have a newspaper in her hands.

Figure 02

Figure 02

I walked on past the hat vendor – a few interesting faces and gestures (figure 03).

Figure 03

Figure 03

Ah, the puppet man!  I’ve photographed him (figure 04) on several occasions as well, although he doesn’t usually sit here. Perhaps he has moved his location because of the construction around his usual spot.

Figure 04

Figure 04

I found the source of the music. I took a wide angle shot to capture the whole scene (figure 05).

Figure 05

Figure 05

I noticed the people sitting on the steps of the Art Gallery and moved in closer to get a shot of them (figure 06).

Figure 06

Figure 06

I stepped back to get a closer shot of the band, but I wasn’t crazy about this angle (figure 07). I recognized the band. Its one of the local carnival band – a real motley crew of people who take part in every single parade that happens in the city.

Figure 07

Figure 07

So I moved in closer and changed my viewpoint slightly (figure 08). At this stage I was wishing I had my 55-200mm lens with me. The man with the brightly coloured jacket was just begging for a close up shot.

Figure 08

Figure 08

Another shot to get the other half of the band (figure 09).

Figure 09

Figure 09

I moved over a bit and went vertical – better – now their limbs aren’t amputated (figure 10).

Figure 10

Figure 10

Keeping it vertical I shifted slightly again to include the band leader, but that yellow basket on the bicycle above the female drummer’s head was bothering me (figure 11).

Figure 11

Figure 11

Then I noticed this band member standing well back and she was talking to another photographer (figure 12). This was better. The couple were engaged, the background wasn’t too bad. The figures were sufficiently separated from the trees. This is definitely the best of the band photos.

Figure 12

Figure 12

I turned back to the band again (figure 13) to catch a fairly lively sequence.

Figure 13

Figure 13

I changed position again and noticed that the band had chalked a message on the sidewalk. I took a wide angle shot of this with the band in the background (figure 14).

Figure 14

Figure 14

The band leader was making some jokes, trying to get the audience to depart with a dollar and I turned around to capture some of the expressions (figure 15).

Figure 15

Figure 15

Not finding my ‘eureka’ shot with the band, I decided to head down the street towards the old theatre row and came across these three lasses on the street corner, dressed in green with the green sign of the Lennox Pub (an irish pub) in the background (figure 16).

Figure 16

Figure 16

I headed down towards the theatres and saw this interesting lady approaching (figure 17).

Figure 17

Figure 17

I managed to fire off another shot as she approached and she made contact with the camera, although I don’t think she was aware that I was taking her photo. I think this is the best image of the series.

Figure 18

Figure 18

I got to the end of theatre row and after trying to get a few shots against some interesting window signage, sadly without success, I decided to head back when I came across these two couples walking on either side of the Entertainment Hall of Fame medallions in a mirrored fashion (figure 19).

Figure 19

Figure 19

Down at the corner of Granville Street and West Georgia was this homeless girl and her dog (figure 20). I thought she would make a stark contrast to the carnival band who were also collecting money.

Figure 20

Figure 20

I then turned around and noticed this container on a lamp post, with the young man sitting on the bench in front of the sign – a bit of a double entendre.

Figure 21

Figure 21

I found that I took my time and thought more about some of my shots than I usually do. I sat and waited in front of interesting backdrops for the right scenario to play out, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. If I had had my 55-200 mm lens with me, I probably would have been able to do the entire sequence with the carnival band, as I would have been able to zoom in for detail shots. I had deliberately left that lens at home as I knew I would have to work harder to get closer with the 18-55 mm lens and I didn’t want to take the easy way and take any shots from across the street.

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

The Brief:

Find a subject, on that is very clear and set within a large, even background. Take a series of four photographs in which you place the subject in different positions in the frame. Make the first exposure without too much thought. Then take four images with the subject in different positions: subject in the centre; subject just off centre; subject close to edge or corner.

For this exercise I went to the soccer field on Grand Boulevard park. It has a raised embankment on the one side which gives enough height to shoot down on the even, green grass. There were a few children playing with their model airplane just behind me and I used them as subjects, capturing their actions when they were running after the plane to retrieve and bring it back for a relaunch again.

Figure 01: First exposure without much thought

Figure 01: First exposure without much thought

This was my first quick exposure without much thought taken. I like the way the boy’s gaze draws the eye towards the bottom right of the frame, leaving one to wonder what he is looking at.

Figure 02: Subject in centre of frame

Figure 02: Subject in centre of frame

In figure 02, the subject is in the centre of the frame. There is no tension in this image and it is rather predictable.

Figure 03: Subject in top left of frame

Figure 03: Subject in top left of frame

There is definitely an uneasy tension in figure 03 as the boy is placed in the top left of the frame. His head is very close to the top of the frame, giving the impression that he is about to leap out of the frame entirely.

Figure 04: Subject bottom right of frame

Figure 04: Subject bottom right of frame

With the placement of the subject in the bottom right of the frame (figure 04), no space has been left for the boy to run in to. He is almost at the very edge of the frame and this feels unnatural.

Figure 05: Subject bottom centre of frame

Figure 05: Subject bottom centre of frame

In figure 05 I placed the subject at the centre bottom of the frame. Although this placement is just a little lower in the frame than figure 02, it works better. There is more interest as the model airplane that the boy is carrying is tilted slightly offering a slight diagonal line pointing to the top right and bottom left corners of the frame. As well the boy’s right knee, foot and left arm form a diagonal to the opposite corners. He happened to glance up at me just as I was pressing the shutter and smiled.

 

Exercise: Fitting the frame to the subject

In this exercise I was asked to take a series of photographs of a subject while adjusting the frame to fit the subject in a variety of ways. The first photo was to be taken without too much thought as to composition and this would be serve as a baseline comparison. I headed down to the shoreline in North Vancouver to make some images of the Vancouver Harbour with the city skyline as backdrop on an extremely grey day between rain showers. There were a few barges very close to the shoreline and I decided to use one of those as my subject.

Figure 1: Ex 06 - Baseline photo - quick composition

Figure 1: Ex 06 – Quick Composition
f4.2, 1/160, 55mm, ISO 100

My next image was to try and make the subject fit the frame as tightly as possible. There is not much difference visually between figure 1 and figure, although I could probably have cropped in a little more to get rid of the water in front of the barge.

Figure 2: Ex 06 - Subject fitting frame as tightly as possible

Figure 2: Ex 06 – Subject fitting frame as tightly as possible
f4.2, 1/160, 70mm, ISO 100

The third image is taken so that no edges of the subject can be seen. By cropping in so close on this image, the photo is divided into three horizontal sections: the water and the barge,  and the city with its vertical buildings as a backdrop. The tyre hanging off the side of the barge serves as a visual anchor point. This image creates the illusion that the city is extremely close to the barge, when in actual fact it is quite a distance away (about 15 minutes with the ferry).

Figure 3: Ex 06 - Subject extending past edges

Figure 3: Ex 06 – Extending past edges
f5.3, 1/100, 175mm, ISO 100

I changed my position slightly and decided to take another image where the barge extends past the edge of the frame on one side, but the skyline is more prominent on the left side as well as the anchoring buoy next to the barge. This angle reveals the expanse of water on the other side of the barge and also clarifies the fact that one is viewing a boat. I prefer the asymmetrical balance of this image.

Figure 4: Ex 06 - Subject past edge

Figure 4: Ex 06 – Subject past edge
f5.6, 1/100, 180mm, ISO 100

My final image is taken as a wide angle shot, putting the barge in context of the whole harbour and its surroundings. This image puts into perspective the distance of the city from the barge. I like the way that the barges and the sea dominate the city, emphasizing that this is a working harbour, on which the economy of the city relies.

Figure 5: Ex 06 - Wide angle

Figure 5: Ex 06 – Wide angle
f4.0, 1/160, 18mm, ISO 100

I was then asked to look at alternative crops to the final image. I first did a vertical crop with the barge as subject. The barge loses its importance in this crop and the focus is shifted to the grey sky.

Figure 6: Ex 06 - Vertical crop

Figure 6: Ex 06 – Vertical crop

I also made a square crop of the barge (figure 7). I prefer this image to Figure 6 (vertical crop) as there is less bright sky visible and the rolling grey clouds seem to lend a strength to the image that is echoed in the stability of the barge. But I had to lose most of the city and surrounding barges, as I wanted to leave some space in front of the subject.

Figure 7: Ex 06 - Square crop

Figure 7: Ex 06 – Square crop

I then did a tight crop of the barge (figure 8) which got rid of the shoreline foreground and some other barges in harbour. This image concentrates attention on the barges as the bright red colour bands serve as anchor points and keep drawing the eye back to the barges.

 

Figure 8: Ex 06 - Tight crop

Figure 8: Ex 06 – Tight crop

My final crop was a panorama crop. I think this is my favourite crop as the bright grey sky has been reduced considerably and only the dark rolling clouds with detail are kept. The expansive grey sea has also been reduced, leaving the red barges and cranes to pop out of the image.

Figure 9: Ex 06 - Panorama crop

Figure 9: Ex 06 – Panorama crop