Tag Archives: Stephen Shore

Marten Elder – Perceptual Renderings at the Equinox Gallery

Martin Elder, PR20, 2014

Martin Elder PR20, 2014

Marten Elder is a photographer who studied under Stephen Shore at Bard College in New York. His Perceptual Renderings exhibition is part of the second Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver. Elder’s work reminded me of Erin O’Keefe’s images with their bright, vibrant colour palettes. It was great to see the actual photographs in the flesh, as they were quite big and the colours are definitely more vibrant on paper than on a computer screen.

I found the Festival’s brochure write up on Elder’s method of working a little vague so I went in search of some extra information. In an excerpt of an interview with Emma Lee Wall, reported by Jill Singer of SightUnseen, Elder describes his method of working as follows:

Instead of treating the photograph as a window into the world and attempting to extend pictorial illusion, I started making compositions that were intentionally flat.  It was the same basic logic used to look at the world, but for reverse effect.  Then I started to allow myself to break other rules, which led to the focus composites and the wide spectrum of colors rendered. … The color is all color as it exists in the real world, in the same relative relationship to one another, but mapped to the entire spectrum of what the digital camera captures and what the print can reproduce.

Elder concentrates on rendering the actual colours of shadows and likes working with concrete subjects as concrete with its natural grey colour reflects all other colours very well. He also uses plants for some of his images, but personally I found those images a little over the top and a bit unbelievable. The organic subject matter definitely did not render as well as the inorganic matter. I found his images of kerb stones, stairwells, corners and gravel on roads particularly interesting as abstract works.

Perceptual Renderings at the Equinox Gallery

Perceptual Renderings at the Equinox Gallery

Elder’s images are extremely well composed, have a high graphic element and very interesting colour palettes. His work is a constant experiment into the workings of colour. I’m still not sure whether the photographs are composites. It would be nice to have a better understanding of his process as I do find the images very intriguing.

More of his work can be seen on his website, listed in the Bibliography below and the exhibit can also be viewed online at Equinox Gallery’s website.


Singer, Jill (2014). Marten Elder in 01 Magazine [online]. SightUnseen. Available from: http://www.sightunseen.com/2014/11/marten-elder-in-01-magazine/ [Accessed 4 April, 2015]


Martin Elder [online]. Available from: http://martenelder.com/ [Accessed 4 April, 2015]

Elder, Martin (2015) Perceptual Renderings [online]. Equinox Gallery. Available from: http://equinoxgallery.com/artists/portfolio/marten-elder/1 [Accessed 7 April, 2015]


Assignment 3

The brief:

Take about four photographs each (16 altogether) that illustrate the following colour relationships:

  • colour harmony through complementary colours
  • colour harmony through similar colours
  • colour contrast through contrasting colours
  • colour accent using any of the above.

Try to vary the subject matter, including both arrangements (such as a still-life) and found situations. In arranged photographs, you will have the advantage of being able to choose objects and settings that have the exact colours you are looking for. Uncontrolled situations are rather more difficult, and demand more careful observation. Make use of both lighting conditions and filters to help create the colours, but not in every photograph. To accompany these photographs, make notes about the ways in which the colour works in each image, and make a sketch for each to show the balance and movement.

As mentioned in my planning post  I found this assignment really time consuming. Finding the right combinations of colours in the correct ratio is exceptionally difficult as well. An artist friend once remarked to me that people tend to dress in ways that reflect their natural surroundings and where I live we are surrounded by mountains and ocean, and for eight months of the year we have grey skies and rain, so the population tend to dress in dark (mainly black) and muted colours for the most part of the year (reflecting the mood of the weather in my opinion). It improves a bit during the summer when the sun is out and the flowers are blooming, then we see people in colour on the streets. Originally from South Africa where colours are always visible and vibrant it does take some getting used to. Unfortunately for me, just when I was ready to start working on the assignment portion, the weather changed and the colours were put back into the closets.

I eventually settled on a loose theme which was inspired by William Eggleston’s Democratic Forest series (see planning post). With weather fluctuating between drizzle, rain, torrential downpours and the occasional peek of sun, and armed with plastic bags and towel for my camera, I set off to photograph Vancouver in a nonpartisan way, hitting the forests, city streets, industrial alleys, countryside and harbours. I tried to ignore the fact that I was looking for colour combinations, but found that that monkey was often on my shoulder creating problems for me.

All post-processing was done in Lightroom 5, with the exception of the creating of the colour balance/abstract images which was done in Photoshop by applying an artistic filter. The corresponding colour balance/abstract images follow directly after my reflections on each image, followed by the movement sketch and an explanatory comment.

I am including a colour wheel diagram for reference purposes.

Johannes Itten's twelve-park color circle

Johannes Itten’s twelve-park colour circle showing primary colours (yellow/red/blue) and the secondary colours (orange/green/violet) and tertiary colours (yellow-orange/red-orange/red-violet/blue-violet/blue-green/yellow-green)

Complementary Colours

Complementary colours are those colours located opposite each other on the colour wheel.

Fig. 01 - Complementary: orange-blue

Fig. 01 – Complementary: orange-blue
f5.6, 25 sec, 22mm, ISO 100

The sun had set and the lights around the Marine Campus had come on and they cast a beautiful orange glow onto these boathouses. I took a long exposure which lightened up the dark sky to a nice blue creating a very pleasing harmony and smoothed out the water. The shrubbery in the foreground had some orange foliage as well which emphasizes the orange glow of the sides of the boathouses and the reflection in the water. The clouds in the sky add a touch of drama to the image. I was very pleased with this image and think it is my favourite of the series.

Post-processing consisted of local adjustments to lighten the exposure of the water by two-thirds stops to bring out the reflections and the foliage by a third stop. A radial filter was applied over the boathouses to bump up the exposure and open the shadows a bit and add some clarity. Another radial filter was applied to the shrubs on camera left to lighten the foliage slightly.

Fig 01 - Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig 01 – Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig. 01 - Complementary: orange-blue movement

Fig. 01 – Complementary: orange-blue movement

As can be seen in the image above, the shrubbery framing the bottom of the image draws the eye inwards towards the boathouses, while the boat houses stretch diagonally across the frame converging in the distance close to the ferry. The blue doors of the boathouses form punctuation points along this diagonal line bouncing the eye along from boathouse to boathouse.

Fig. 02 - Complementary: orange-blue

Fig. 02 – Complementary: orange-blue
f5.6, 25 sec, 52mm, ISO 100

The image in fig. 02 was taken at the BCIT Marine Campus, where students learn the art of seamanship. The reflection of the orange lifeboat in the water below caught my eye and with my camera on a tripod, I chose to shoot vertically to give emphasis to the pilings of the pier and make the most of their reflections in the water. The blue sky and water create a complementary harmony against the orange lifeboat and its reflection in roughly a 1:2 ratio (one part orange, 2 parts blue). The slow shutter speed smoothed out the ripples on the water caused by the breeze to a mirror-like smoothness and the foreground bushes add just a little touch of framing at the bottom of the image and pick up on the orange tones, serving to draw the eye into the frame.

Post-processing involved globally bringing up the shadows and adding a pop of clarity. Then local exposure adjustments were made to the shrubbery to lighten them up a bit, the exposure on water in front of the pilings was increased by a third stop and a couple of bright spots had a highlight reduction and exposure reduction applied to them. Then the image was sharpened and a touch of luminance added.

Fig 02 - Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig 02 – Complementary: orange-blue abstract

Fig. 02 - Complementary: orange-blue movement

Fig. 02 – Complementary: orange-blue movement

The movement in this image (fig. 02) is mainly of a vertical nature with the vertical pilings and their reflections and the lifeboat, which is poised for a downward movement in the case of an emergency, with slight undulating curves on the foreground shrubbery which draw attention to the lifeboat’s reflection, with the stability of the horizontal line of the pier’s platform and roof line behind the lifeboat, as illustrated above.

Fig. 03 - Complementary: red-green

Fig. 03 – Complementary: red-green
f8.0, 1/400, 24mm, ISO 200

Red and green form almost equal parts in this complementary harmony in fig. 03. The green foliage of the trees, shrubbery and grass is offset by the maple trees which are beginning to turn red and adding to balance the red is the red curved building in the background and part red sign in the front.

In post-processing a bit of contrast and clarity was added, highlights were brought down quite a bit to bring out the detail in the sky and the shadows were opened up a bit too. Locally the exposure on the road and the tops of the trees was brought down a third of a stop.

Fig 03 - Complementary: red-green abstract

Fig 03 – Complementary: red-green abstract

Fig. 03 - Complementary: red-green movement

Fig. 03 – Complementary: red-green movement

In fig. 03 the trees on the left form a linear perspective off into the distance, while the shadows on the road in the foreground create interesting diagonal movements leading from the edge of the frame inwards towards the tree on the right. The curve of the road on camera left leading to the street is echoed by the curve of the red turret of the building in the background. The trees also provide vertical movement stretching from almost the bottom of the frame to the top edge creating an impression of strength and stability.

Fig. 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet

Fig. 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet
f8.0, 1/320, 18mm, ISO 100

This was the only yellow-violet complementary harmony that I was able to find (fig. 04). These striking yellow dragons silk-screened onto a violet background flank the original entrance to the Vancouver Art Gallery (the actual entrance has been moved around the side of the building and this majestic entrance is only used when movies are made these days. Most movies made by Lionsgate Films and other companies, that feature a court house in them are usually shot on these steps). The title of the main exhibition is hung over the portico’s ionic columns. (The exhibition is on my to do list). The violet hues of the silkscreens are echoed in the man’s jacket (camera left) as well as in the socks of man who is sitting on the edge of the fountain reading a newspaper. His bright socks form the punctum of this image for me. My eyes keep being drawn back to his ankles.

A tiny bit of contrast was added to this image in post-processing, highlights were reduced and the shadows were opened up all the way. White and black points were set and some clarity and a touch of vibrance were also added. Local adjustments were made to the front of the gallery  to lift the exposure, shadows and add an extra bit of clarity to the building. Exposure and shadows were brought down on the corner of the highrise in the background as there was a spot where the highlights were blowing out. A bit of luminance was added when the image was sharpened.

Fig 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet abstract

Fig 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet abstract

Fig. 04 - Complementary: yellow-violet movement

Fig. 04 – Complementary: yellow-violet movement

The granite monument in the middle of the fountain is triangular in shape and this is echoed in the triangular shaped portico of the gallery’s entrance as seen in fig 04 above. Both triangles have their base at the bottom, indicating stability. According to Itten (1970, p 75) the triangle ‘is the symbol of thought.’ Quite apt in this case as this building used to be the Provincial Law Courts before it was turned into an art gallery. The wide angle of the lens creates a diagonal line along the roof of the gallery, which is reinforced by the fountain wall below and complemented by the movement of the people walking across the frame to the right. One is also very conscious of the eye-line of the man reading the newspaper (Gestalt Law of Good Continuation), which in turn brings the attention back down to his socks again. The diagonal line of the branches of the tree tend to lead the eye out of the frame and the vertical line of the building in the background is reinforced by the Gallery’s ionic columns, providing elements of strength and stability to the image.

Similar Colours

Similar or analogous colours are those colours which are located next to or very close to each other on the colour wheel.

Fig. 05 - Analogous - green

Fig. 05 – Analogous – green
f8, 1/160, 26mm, ISO 400

In this image of Deep Cove harbour (fig. 05), there are various tints and shades of the colour green: the bright green of the grass, the lighter manufactured green of the building’s roof, the darker shades of the cypress trees, the lighter tints of the maple trees in the centre of the image and in the distance the blue-green of tree-clad mountains. All these shades and tints of green combine to create a restful image. Green is the colour representative of growth, balance and harmony. It is also classified as an emotionally positive colour (perhaps that is why hospitals used to be painted green back in the day). The various shades of green can be clearly below.

Post-processing involved adding contrast and bringing the highlights right down to bring out detail in the sky as it was raining. Shadows were bumped up a bit, and clarity and vibrance added. Local adjustments were made to the tree on camera left to bring out more detail, by lifting the exposure. The clouds also had an adjustment done to drop the exposure by another third stop and bring down the highlights a tad more. An exposure adjustment was also done on the trees on the right to open the shadows a bit.

Fig 05 - Analogous - green abstract

Fig 05 – Analogous – green abstract

Fig. 05 - Analogous - green movement

Fig. 05 – Analogous – green movement

Apart from the obvious vertical movement of the trees in Fig. 05 above, there is also a parallel diagonal movement between the hedge in front of the building and the walkway at the harbour’s edge. The roof is triangular in shape featuring a triangular skylight and triangular portico at the entrance. This structure lends stability to the image and tends to anchor the eye in that corner for a while.

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange
f5.6, 1/320, 180mm, ISO 100

I was sitting on a bench near a bus stop on one of Vancouver’s busiest street when this particular bus happened on by (fig. 06). This woman’s red jacket above the orange signage on the side of the bus attracted me immediately, but it was only when I had uploaded the image that I notice the orange stripe above her head. It must have been from one of the internal bus ads. I thought the vertical repetition of the red-orange shades worked quite well. Red is the colour of physical movement and excitement.

Only local adjustments were made to this image. There was a bright spot on the side of her sunglasses where the sun was catching the metal and I have toned that down quite a bit. I also reduced the exposure across her forehead to balance out her complexion with the bottom half of her face as this area was too bright because of the sun striking her. I then brought down the exposure and saturation of the yellow grab pole on the woman’s right to avoid the eye going to that bright spot.

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 06 - Analogous - red-orange movement

Fig. 06 – Analogous – red-orange movement

There really is not much movement in this image, apart from the woman’s eye-line. She is looking ahead in the direction she is travelling.

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange-yellow

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange-yellow
f8, 1/160, 18mm, ISO 200

This photo (fig. 07) was taken on Granville Island, a place where art and industry co-exist on a little island under a bridge. I liked the abstract nature of the rusted, charred and patched corrugated iron wall of the one warehouse I happened to walk past. The analogous colours range from red to orange-red to orange to yellow-orange to yellow, all colours on the warm side of the colour wheel. The graffiti scrawls add an extra element of interest.

Post-processing involved adding some contrast, lifting the shadows quite a bit and adding clarity and vibrance.

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 07 - Analogous - red-orange-movement

Fig. 07 – Analogous – red-orange-movement

In Fig. 07 there is vertical and horizontal movement as can be seen from the directions of the corrugated iron and paint marks. The beam at the top of the image provides a slight diagonal perspective as does the graffiti on the right of the image. The graffiti on the lower left of the image is more curved in nature and draws the eye in.

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange
f8, 1/160, 200mm, ISO 200

Coming out of Stanley Park into West Georgia Street (the main thoroughfare of the city) there are three rows of trees lining the sidewalk, all maple trees in autumn colours (fig. 08). I was lucky enough to get here on a day that it was not raining and so set about photographing the boulevard in both directions. It was early in the morning and the sun was just making its way through the clouds so the light in these trees was absolutely fantastic. I wanted to capture the canopy of red-orange foliage above as well as the carpet of fallen leaves on the ground. The fall colours are offset by the dark tree trunks and patches of green which show through the leaves, but otherwise the red-orange totally dominates the image. The orange colours create feeling of warmth and happiness.

In post-processing I added a small amount of contrast, lifted the shadows slight and set my white point. I then added clarity and a bit of vibrance. Local adjustments involved bumping up the exposure and lifting the shadows slightly on the tree trunks to make some of the bark detail visible. I also brought the exposure and highlights down a bit on the traffic lights and signage. I then applied two radial filters to the canopy of foliage to focus attention on the leaves and I also applied a tiny radial filter on the man (another photographer) in the centre of the frame to add just an extra layer of interest to the image.

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange abstract

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange abstract

Fig. 08 - Analogous - red-orange movement

Fig. 08 – Analogous – red-orange movement

The most obvious movement in fig. 08 above is the curve of the canopy of red-orange foliage as well as the vertical movement of all the tree trunks. A slight diagonal movement is hinted at with the cement path, but most of the path is covered by leaves, so that is not clearly visible. The group of people standing near the bus stop form a nice circular interlude for the eye to rest on.

Contrasting Colours

Itten classifies contrasting colours as being formed of 2, 3, 4 or more hues. They can be dyadic (two colours diametrically opposite each other on the colour wheel – these are our complementary colours. Triads are three hues where their intersecting lines form an equilateral triangle, eg yellow/red/blue. Tetrads are two pairs of complementary colours which when the intersecting lines are joined within the colour wheel form a square or rectangle, eg yellow/violet/red-orange/blue-green. Hexads are three pairs of complementary colours. There are only two hexads in the colour wheel, namely: yellow/violet/orange/blue/red/green and yellow-orange/blue-violet/red-orange/blue-green/red-violet/yellow-green.

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue
f8, 1/800, 18mm, ISO 200

I was at a gas (petrol) station (fig. 09) in the rural area near the US border and just happened to look up to see these beautiful clouds in the blue sky and the contrasting red and yellow fascia board. I immediately grabbed my camera, dropped down next to the truck to get down low and took a couple of shots. The blue sky is grounded in the centre of the frame by the blue newspaper stand and shield on the door to the shop. The red of the fascia board is repeated on the trim of the windows and in the car in the lower right corner. The yellow is echoed in the parking kerbs and strip on the door. Colours that form an equilateral triangle within the colour circle are known triads. Red/yellow/blue is the best known one.

Post-processing involved adding a tiny bit of contrast, clarity and vibrance and lifting the shadows ever so slightly. The image was then sharpened and luminance added.

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 09 - Contrast - red-yellow-blue movement

Fig. 09 – Contrast – red-yellow-blue movement

There is so much movement in this image (fig. 09). The clouds look like they are radiating away from the thick, white cloud just above the white building. The wide angle lens caused a strong linear perspective, which would probably have been more noticeable on the bottom had all those stands not been in the way. If I had included a bit more of the concrete in front of the shop this might have been a bit more visible, but I literally only had time to fire off two frames. The car provides a bit of inward movement to the photograph drawing the eye into the frame again.

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green
f8, 1/200, 55mm, ISO 200

I happened to capture this image (fig. 10) of another photographer on Granville Island (his camera is tucked away under his jacket – you can just see the lens poke at the jacket under his arm). It was actually the beard that drew my attention. He was walking past a restaurant and I immediately saw the blue-red-green contrast as he stepped past the red flower boxes. The reflection of the blue boat rental sign enhances his blue clothing. Just as red/blue/yellow in what is known the painters’ primaries is a triad, so too are red/blue/green triadic primaries in the digital world i.e. the world of transmitted light.

In post-processing I added a tad contrast, lowered the highlights a bit and opened the shadows slightly and added quite a bit of clarity. I also sharpened and added luminance.

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green abstract

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green abstract

Fig. 10 - Contrast - red-blue-green movement

Fig. 10 – Contrast – red-blue-green movement

The obvious movement in fig. 10 is the direction in which the man is walking, namely camera left. His eye-line is directed straight out of the frame, at me I think, judging from the expression on his face. The horizontal and vertical lines of the window frames are echoed in the building in the window’s reflection. The slight diagonal line of the red flower box provides a sense of movement that enhances the subject’s walk through the frame.

Fig. 11 - Contrast - blue-yellow

Fig. 11 – Contrast – blue-yellow
f5, 1/500, 145mm, ISO 100

While downtown one weekend I found a colourful blue entrance (fig. 11) and decided to wait and see who would walk by. After a while this gentleman dressed in a bright yellow parka stopped in front of the door long enough to read his text messages on his cell phone providing quite an interesting shot. The blue/yellow contrast is a cold/warm contrast, the colours are separated by three other colours. Blue is a recessive colour, while yellow advances. In colour psychology blue is regarded as the colour of trust, honesty and loyalty and it also relates to one-to-one communication, while yellow denotes happiness and illumination.

In post-processing I opened the shadows a fair bit and added vibrance. Then I performed some local adjustments on the door to raise the exposure and open the shadows a little more so the details of the door could be seen.

Fig. 11 - Contrast - yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 11 – Contrast – yellow-blue abstract

Fig. 11 - Contrast - yellow-blue movement

Fig. 11 – Contrast – yellow-blue movement

Even though the subject in fig. 11 is stationary, there is movement in the diagonal branches of leaves coming in from camera right and their corresponding diagonal shadow on the pavement below. The subject’s eye-line is directed down to his cell phone in his hands.

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange
f8, 1/125, 35mm, ISO 400

On a hill, overlooking a warehouse with some kind of silo, I came across this collection of containers at the docks (fig. 12). The view from where I was standing was over the harbour, looking at the mountains on the North Shore – another rainy day. The colours in this photographs can be classified as a tetrad, ie two pairs of complementary colours which would form a square or rectangle if we were to connect the lines between them on the colour wheel. In this image we have orange/blue and red/green. While the blues in the photograph are about the same intensity, the reds vary in tone from a bright red to the rust red on the silo. The orange is also fairly consistent, but the green varies across the gamut as well from emerald green moss on the roofs to the dark green of the maple tree on the right to a less saturated green in the shrubbery in the front of the image. The green of the mountains has been rendered to a grayscale by the atmospheric conditions. Within this tetradic contrast there is a further contrast of cold/warm. The blue/green (cold) contrasts with the red/orange (warm).

In this image I added some contrast to counteract the flat lighting, took the highlights right down to bring out the details in the sky, opened up the shadows and added clarity and vibrance. I also performed a local adjustment on the sky to bring the exposure down some more and added a radial filter to the silo.

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange-abstract

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange abstract

Fig. 12 - Contrast - red-blue-green-orange movement

Fig. 12 – Contrast – red-blue-green-orange movement

The photo in fig. 12 offers a vertical movement up the silo tower and an undulating movment across the mountain range in the distance. The stacked containers in the foreground are rectangular in shape providing a solid sense of stability to the image.

Colour Accent

Colour accent, also defined as the contrast of extension by Johannes Itten, is the contrast of one or two patches of colour against a larger spread of colour. As Itten (1970, p. 59) states: “It is the contrast between much and little, or great and small.”

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow f4.8, 1/50, 32mm, ISO 400

When I turned around from shooting fig. 12 and started walking up the hill, I noticed a rain, sodden moss-clad bench under a maple tree (fig. 13). The analogous green of the moss against the bright green grass got my attention and I placed a big yellow maple leaf on the bench (realistically some of the leaves from overhead would have fallen down onto the bench at some time during the fall, so I am treating this image as my still-life). The yellow of the maple leaf adds a perfect tonal contrast to the greens of the bench and grass, making the mossy slats of the bench pop.

In post-processing contrast and clarity were added and the shadows were opened up a bit.

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow abstract

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow abstract

Fig. 13 - Accent - yellow movement

Fig. 13 – Accent – yellow movement

The movement in fig. 13 consists of parallel diagonal lines leading the eye in from frame left.

Fig. 14 - Accent - orange

Fig. 14 – Accent – orange f8, 1/40, 48mm, ISO 200

These orange cones immediately attracted my attention in one of the Vancouver alleys and just as I was framing my shot a cyclist rode into my frame (fig. 14). I waited for him to cycle through hoping to press the shutter before he passed the tree. Instead he stopped and got off his bike. Not knowing how long he would be there I took the shot anyway. I think it definitely works better having a live body in the shot and him having an orange jacket on was a bonus. The orange cones and jacket create very bright accent points against the grey building.

The only post-processing done on this image was to bring down the highlights and exposure and tone down the saturation of the Road Closed sign, but still keeping it white.

Fig 14. Accent - orange abstract

Fig 14. Accent – orange abstract

Fig. 14 - Accent - orange movement

Fig. 14 – Accent – orange movement

In fig. 14 the cones provide a circular movement around the cordoned off area. The yellow tape creates a movement from camera left to right to the Road Closed sign and then gives an undulating curve to the next cone. The man’s eye-line is looking up the road to something out of the frame.

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink f8, 1/160, 35mm, ISO 200

Out in the country side just before Halloween this the pumpkin patch lent a few photographic opportunities (fig. 15). I immediately noticed the bright pink wheelbarrow on the side of the muddy path and composed so that it would be in the corner of the frame. The bright pink creates a garish contrast to the orange pumpkins. Orange and pink are not really colours that I would put together. This might be because pink lacks the intensity in colour that the orange has.

Post-processing involved adding a bit of contrast, bringing down the highlights sufficiently to pull the details out of the sky, opening the shadows a bit, adding clarity and vibrance.

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink abstract

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink abstract

Fig. 15 - Accent - pink movement

Fig. 15 – Accent – pink movement

The movement in fig. 15 is mainly of a diagonal nature. The muddy road leads into the pumpkin patch from the bottom left corner. The rows of orange pumpkins lead the eye across the frame diagonally. There is a bit of a circular motion in the stance of the three women in the field who are searching out a pumpkin to take home. The tree framing the top right hand corner also leads in with diagonal lines drawing focus to the pumpkins, while the pink wheelbarrow tends towards the right.

Fig. 16 - Accent - red

Fig. 16 – Accent – red f8, 1/400, 30mm, ISO 200

What first drew me to this scene in fig. 16 were the shadows on the green corrugated building and the interspersion of light on the ground under the trees. This is a light-dark contrast. The red and yellow circular sign and the man’s red shirt in the lower right of the frame provide a pleasant accent contrast. I think because of the second red accent point, the yellow circle which is behind the red circle tends to decrease in significance slightly and it is the red colour that pops out against the green.

Post-processing involved increasing the exposure overall by a third of a stop, adding a bit of contrast, reducing highlights a bit, opening up the shadows and adding clarity and vibrance. Local adjustments were on the green building to lower the exposure there and bring in a little more contrast to emphasize the corrugations on the walls. Around the parking garage I bumped up the exposure by a third stop and opened the shadows a bit more. I also increase the exposure on the red shirt. I brought down the exposure on the grey building in the background brought down the exposure on the recessed area on the left of the frame.

Fig. 16 - Accent - red abstract

Fig. 16 – Accent – red abstract

Fig. 16 - Accent - red movement

Fig. 16 – Accent – red movement

The branches of the trees and the resulting shadows provide diagonal movement throughout the image. The only circular movement is that of the sign and the curve of the pole on the right of the frame. The bird house in the foreground and the chains of the tyre swing provide converging lines in the shape of implied triangles.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I used my 18-55 mm and 55-200 kit lenses for shooting this assignment. I have varied my techniques using short exposure times as well as long exposures, shooting landscapes, urban scenes, candid street photography and abstracts. I am definitely taking more time setting up a shot than previously, thinking more about the composition and the flow of the image. For the most part I have cropped very little and only on a few images mainly to get rid of a distracting element.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

Overall I think I am happy with the photographs. I would have liked to improve on my people photographs as I don’t think they are as good as they could be. I have posted some of my rejects on my OCA Flickr album for comparison purposes. I think I have applied the knowledge of colour well and my work is presented in a simple, straight forward manner. I certainly have a greater appreciation about the subject of colour, never having ever had an inkling that it was so involved. I think I have communicated my intentions fairly well. I’m still battling with the conceptualisation of my thoughts though.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

I have tried to base this assignment along the lines of Eggleston’s Democratic Forest. I had to be fairly creative in coming up with ideas for shooting in the rain and I tried a variety of things like shooting through the car window to create abstracts. Unfortunately not everything made the cut, but I definitely benefited from the exercise and will continue to explore some of those avenues. From a creative point I think fig. 01, 07 and 08 are my personal favourites. With regards to my personal voice – I may be seeing snatches of something develop. I do know what I like photographing and don’t, but will continue to push myself in different directions to continue this search.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I find that I have now settled comfortably doing the learning log and I have started to develop a better physical notebook. I started a new book with this assignment. My previous book sort of morphed into more of a written notebook which I was not too happy about.  I spent a lot of time researching colour, finding more information than I could use. Johannes Itten’s Elements of Colour was my main reference text on colour. I also read a few journals and research articles. I have been to three exhibitions: Work is Art at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art; the Karen Cooper Gallery and Bacchanal at the Art Works Gallery and have reviewed them all.

I have watched the following videos to help me with this assignment: Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour and Colour Theory. The photographers I researched for this assignment were: Steve McCurry, Fred Herzog, Stephen Shore and William Eggleston (about his work, and two documentaries: William Eggleston in the Real World and William Eggleston, the Photographer) .

I tackled Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida, ploughing through it twice resolutely to gain some understanding of his writings. I do have to admit he had my poor brain in a knot quite a few times, but I think I managed to get a handle on the book. No doubt I will use it later and be able to build on my understanding of it. Little nuggets from the book have been coming to the foreground while I was working on this assignment, which I was pleased about.

I attended a talk by young photographer, Jess Findlay at the North Shore Photographic Society, which I joined recently in order to build up contact with other photographers. Another interesting video I came across which will probably stand me in good stead when I get to level 2 was a TedxTalk about Bridging the self-acceptance gap with “psyphotology” which featured photographer, Peter Hurley and psychologist, Anna Rowley.

I did not get as much reading done as I would have liked, Johannes Itten and Roland Barthes having taken up a lot of my time, but I do feel that the quality of the reading was perhaps better. I know there is a lot of reading ahead for Assignment 4 on Light and it will be slow going as it is of a more scientific nature. I’m hoping to add either Sontag or Berger to the list as well.

Reference List

Barthes, R. (1980). Camera Lucida Reflections on Photography. Paperback edition. New York: Hill and Wang.

Itten, J. (1970). The Elements of Color. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company.

Understanding the Meaning of Colors in Color Psychology [online]. Empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com. Available from: http://www.empower-yourself-with-color-psychology.com/meaning-of-colors.html [Accessed 7 August, 2014]


Ballard, Louise. (1964). The Art of Color by Johannes Itten. The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, 22(3), 344.

Burton, David. (1984). Applying Color. Art Education, 37(1), 40–43.

Burton, David. (1992). Red, Yellow and Blue: The Historical Origin of Color Systems. Art Education, 45(6), 39–44.

Colour Theory [webcast, online]. Jose Alvarado. 3 minutes 37 seconds. http://vimeo.com/35918329 (accessed 13/10/2014)

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Lecture, Prof. Pete Vukusic. Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour [webcast, online]. Institute of Physics, Exeter University, UK, 2007. 1 hour 05 mins 11 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWhGmwUojBE (accessed 1 September, 2014)

OCA Basic Colour Theory Photography Course Supplement [online]. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/node/57828. [Accessed 19 September, 2014]

Rutter, Chris. (2014). Color Theory Fundamentals for Digital Photography [online]. Available from: http://www.graphics.com/article-old/color-theory-fundamentals-digital-photography [ Accessed 14 August, 2014]

Worqx.com. (2014). Color Theory: Overview [online]. Available from: http://www.worqx.com/color/ [Accessed 14 August, 2014]


Assignment 3 – Planning

I have to admit that I have found finding preparing for this assignment more onerous than the previous ones. I think it has to due with the fact that colour seems so deceptively simple, yet it is actually quite complex. My planning began with obtaining a good foundation in the subject of colour and to this end I read Johannes Itten’s The Elements of Color. This book is based on his book The Art of Color which was used in the Bauhaus as a reference text. The book has many exercises that build on understanding colour. I tried to do as many of the exercises as possible, but owing to the fact that the book is really geared towards artists, ie painters, there were a few exercises that I had to skip as I was not about to run out and purchase painting materials.

The next step was to research photographers who make exceptional use of colour and I chose to research Steve McCurry, Stephen Shore, William Eggleston and Fred Herzog.

I created a mind map to play with some ideas that I might work with:

Assignment 3 - Mind map - first draft

Assignment 3 – Mind map – first draft

I had initially intended to see if I could ‘recreate’ some of Fred Herzog’s scenarios by going to the same locations and photographing the area as it is now. I had managed to find quite a few of the locations of his photographs and thought this would be a very interesting exercise.

However, the typical Vancouver weather set in and torrential downpours began making it impossible to photograph anything without risking my equipment. Some of the areas Herzog photographed are a little inaccessible in the fact that they are not car friendly – there is zero parking space in the streets these days (there was ample space when he roamed these streets). In between showers I managed to shoot in some areas nearer to home, but it was a little all over the place. I looked at fellow students’ assignments and didn’t see much of a theme for assignment 3 in many of the blogs I looked at. I then began to wonder if a theme was necessary.

So I posed the question on the OCA forum and I got this reply from Clive [1]:

It’s good practice for future courses to make connected bodies of work. As in Assignment 2 which investigates the compositional scaffolding that supports and enhances meaning in an image, colour relationships are another means of strengthening and supporting meaning in an image. Unless working in purely abstract terms the colour relationships should be subordinate to the meaning of the image but should enhance it.

Something to avoid is making images that have no other intent than to demonstrate a specific colour relationship and be reduced to ‘this is a blue flower with a yellow flower’, ‘this is a red flower with green leaves’. Working to a theme, say documenting your local shopping area, helps avoid this and gives purpose to the functioning of colour relationships in the course of making images with narratives that are essentially independent of their formal qualities.

OK – so a theme was preferable. My planning was now totally out of the window and shot to pieces by the rain. I continued on with research and while researching Eggleston, became aware of how he made his series “Democratic Forest” and I decided to switch my theme to something similar by creating a series along the lines of “My Democratic Vancouver”.

Here is my amended mind map for assignment 3:

Assignment 3 - Mind map - second draft

Assignment 3 – Mind map – second draft

The plan may change slightly, but this is more doable given the crazy weather we are experiencing right now.

Reference List

[1] CliveW, 2014. ‘TAOP Assignment 3’. [28 October 2014] OCA Forum: Photography, Film & Digital Media [online]. Available from: http://www.oca-student.com/content/taop-assignment-3-0 [2 November, 2014]

Fred Herzog

Doing reviews on photographers renown for their use of colour in the early days of photography would not be complete without a few words about Vancouver’s very own Fred Herzog. Herzog was born in Germany and emigrated to Canada in 1952, settling for one year in Toronto before coming to Vancouver and turned to documentary photography around 1957. In Michael Turner’s essay ‘An Interview with Fred Herzog’ which is found in the book Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs[1], Turner states:

 A glance at his website (http://www.fredherzog.com) indicates an inordinate number of photos from the ‘50s and ‘60s, emphasizing his work in colour (in advance of better-known American artists William Eggleston and Stephen Shore).

By the time Shore set out on his road trip to make his series Uncommon Places between 1973 and 1978, Herzog had already been working in colour for close to thirty years. Herzog’s work remained relatively unnoticed by the art community until fairly recently (Herzog is now eighty-four years old), when the Vancouver Photographs book and corresponding exhibition was launched at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2007. Prior to this, Herzog mainly exhibited his work via slide shows with personal narration. Due to new digital technology it has now become possible for him to make prints of his slides. As Arnold (2007 p. 5) states:

 The marginal status of Herzog’s work was amplified by his use of colour … A further impediment to art-world recognition was the lack of a means through which Herzog’s photographs could be easily exhibited and sold. Herzog made his colour images on Kodachrome, a slide film with excellent sharpness and long tonal range that could not be reproduced in prints.

It almost goes without saying that through their overt connection to the practice of wandering through the city – Herzog’s photographs invoke the gaze of the flâneur …’ (Arnold, 2007 p. 9). Herzog’s prints are relatively small (16” x 20”) so the viewer is invited to stand close and peer into the frame and thereby participating in the photograph as a flâneur as well. The majority of his photographs were captured at a distance which is proportionate to the human eye, so giving the impression to the viewer that the scene is close by.

In the tradition of the flâneur, Herzog positions himself as a narrator outside the depicted action, a figure of whom only the viewer/reader is aware. His views of Vancouver’s downtown streets, their evening crowds energized by the vibrant electricity of neon light, carry the viewer through public space as an empathetic part of the crowd.

Arnold (2007 p. 10)

 Herzog shares a visual language with his two great influencers, Robert Frank and Walker Evans, as well as Stephen Shore. All these men photographed everyday life on the North American continent –things like automobiles, shop windows, street signage (or neon signs in the case of Herzog) and society in general. They were recording a cultural and societal history of their time.

Some of my favourite Herzog images are those of Granville Street in the evening. Granville Street is the street where everything happens: parades, festivals and a multitude of other interesting events. Most of Granville Street is now closed to traffic (with the exception of buses and taxis) and the neon signs of the theatre row are fast disappearing with the regentrification of that southern part of the street. Twenty years ago it was pretty seedy part of town. In his image entitled Crosswalk, one can see the vibrant reds of the neon signs stretching down the length of the street contrasting with the pale blue of the Famous Players Theatre Tickets billboard and car situated just below it. The yellow Ben Hur billboard and the yellow garbage can next to the car provide a cold-warm contrast to the blue hues. The red stop light draws the eye to the centre of the frame, then down to the lady below in the red coat crossing the street. The electric bus cables run overhead, which together with the neon signs, provide a diminishing perspective and creating movement, drawing the viewer further and further into the frame.

In Red Stockings Herzog has simply photographed the lower torsos of a woman and her daughter standing on a street corner. The young girl is wearing a dark green skirt or dress with very bright red tights with short blue ankle socks and matching red shoes (the additive primary colours – red, green and blue). Her mother standing next to her is dressed in a similarly bright red dress. The two vertical figures, with similar stances, contrast with the diagonal lines of the sidewalk and road.

The cold-warm contrast of the orange and blue buildings in Orange Cars Powell provide a very vivid colour combination accentuated by the deep blue of the sky. And with the two orange cars parked in front of these buildings, the orange to blue ratio is probably not 1:2 as Johannes Itten would have advocated, but it works just fine for me, making a very striking image.

Herzog was awarded the Audain Prize in the Visual Arts in 2014 and one of his photographs has been commemorated on a Canadian stamp. Here is a short documentary about Fred Herzog.

Reference List

[1] Arnold, Grant (2007). Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver.


Arnold, Grant (2007). Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs, Douglas & McIntyre, Vancouver.

Bushey, Jessica (2008). Archives and Photography Exhibition Review – Fred Herzog: Vancouver Photographs. Archivaria, The Journal of the Association of Canadian Archivists, Vol. 65, 97-105.

Fred Herzog [webcast, online] Bijan Ahmadian, July 2014. 5 mins 40 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVDTzl4VDIg (accessed 23/10/2014)

INTERVIEW: Fred Herzog – “In His Own Words” (excerpts). American Suburb X [online]. Available from: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2013/05/interview-fred-herzog-in-his-own-words-excerpts.html [Accessed 13 October, 2014]

Walsh, Meeka (2011) Colour His World: The Photography of Fred Herzog [online]. Border Crossings Magazine, Issue 119. Available from: http://bordercrossingsmag.com/article/colour-his-world-the-photography-of-fred-herzog [Accessed on 15 August, 2014]

Stephen Shore

In this short video clip on Shore’s American Beauty project, Shore describes his photographs as a visual diary, as postcards of where he has been, what he has seen, what he was eating and the people he has encountered along the way. He made this series of photos in the 1970s using a large format camera. During his journey he paid attention to what it was like to see things and make sense of the space around him. Before he takes a photograph he thinks about how the elements relate to each other and tries to find the balance between them and then he looks for a point that seems central to the picture and so finds his vantage point from which to shoot from. He likes recording things of interest without making them the point of the photograph as can be seen in his photograph from the Uncommon Places project (US 10 Postal Falls, Idaho). Shore has developed an awareness of looking at the everyday world with clear and focused attention and it is this that interests him.

Shore is fascinated with how people live: he likes architecture and style of houses. There is an emotional resonance that attracts him to photograph urban neighbourhoods.

At the age of 14 several of his photos were acquired by the Museum of Modern Art. At the age of 23 he became the first living photographer to have a one-man show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

At the age of 17 Shore chronicled the happenings at Andy Warhol’s Factory. He learnt a lot from watching Andy Warhol work. This was his first encounter with an artist working and he came to realize that a lot of the process of art is all about making a series of decisions. Watching Warhol he would see Warhol try something out. If it didn’t work Warhol would discard it and try something else. That was the beginning of Shore’s aesthetic learning.

Shore then spent a lot of time learning about space in a picture. Shore pays attention to the space in a photo and chooses his vantage point of where to stand so that the view point articulates the space as can be seen his photograph of Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico. He is particularly fond of the use of linear perspective and likes to create layers within in his photographs. He never crops his pictures. He believes in working within the boundaries he has set himself.

I really like Shore’s early works in the American Surfaces and Uncommon Places series, as well as his recent Israel/West Bank series. In his landscapes, one gets the impression that one is seeing right into the depths of the photograph, all the way to the horizon. In his “snapshot or postcard” images, he photographs ordinary things of American culture and presents them to us in a new fresh light, showing us the well know subject, yet at the same time providing a new take on it.

Early critics of his work described his American Surfaces series as ‘thin, benumbing and banal’ stating that ‘Shore is hardly making a distinctive contribution to the genre‘ (The Village Voice, October 5, 1972). Little did they realise that they were looking at one of the pioneer’s of colour photography.

Reference List

American Beauty: The Work of Stephen Shore, Docere Digital Studios, Inc. / Joy of Giving Something Inc. 2006. 5 mins 31 secs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J8kuBc27VO8&index=5&list=PLC566B48C6F7D6F11 (accessed 16/10/2014).

Shore, Stephen (1972) American Surfaces: Pueblo Bonito, New Mexico [online]. Available from: http://stephenshore.net/photographs/E/index.php?page=9&menu=photographs (accessed 19 October, 2014).

Shore, Stephen (1974) Uncommon Places: U.S. 10, Post Falls, Idaho [online]. Available from http://stephenshore.net/photographs/D/index.php?page=11&menu=photographs [Accessed 19 October, 2014].

The Village Voice (1972) American Yawn, Irish Wail [online]. Available from http://stephenshore.net/press/VillageVoice_Oct_72.pdf [Accessed 19 October, 2014].

Assignment 2

The brief:

The idea behind this assignment is to incorporate the insights you have learned so far on the course into a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject. You should 10 – 15 photographs, all of a similar subject, which between them will show the following effects:

  • single point dominating the composition
  • two points
  • several points in a deliberate shape
  • a combination of vertical and horizontal lines
  • diagonals
  • curves
  • distinct, even if irregular, shapes
  • at least two kinds of implied triangle
  • rhythm
  • pattern

Choose from these groups of subjects:

  • flowers and plants
  • landscapes
  • street details
  • the raw materials of food
  • if you prefer, choose your own subject.

Having had a couple of false starts to this assignment, I decided to choose the raw materials of food. Details of my planning can be seen on my Assignment 2 – Planning posting. As mentioned there, I have looked at the following photographers for my inspiration:

  • David Loftus
  • Beatrice Peltre
  • Carl Warner
  • Keiko Oikawa
  • Mittongtare Studio
  • Jean Cazals
  • Anders Schonnemann
  • Clara Gonzalez
  • Alexandra Grablewski
  • Mythja
  • Clare Barbosa

I found that I was really inspired by the fresh, airy feel that many of the photographers had in their images – very much like a bright summer’s day. I was also intrigued by some of the dark, moody photographs that were more gritty in nature. I learnt from researching these photographers that most photographs are taken from a 45 degree angle, face on and level with the food, or from overhead. With that in mind, I decided, as a theme, I would shoot raw food using natural light only and try to keep props to natural elements as far as possible. I also wanted to reflect arrangements that looked natural. My only lighting equipment that I used were white foamboard bounce cards, three black foamboards and a diffuser and some crumpled tinfoil. I used a tripod for most of my shots, with the exception of the overhead ones, where I climbed onto a ladder and hand held the camera. All post processing was done in Lightroom 5.

Fig 01 - Single point

Fig 01 – Single point
f8, 1/20, 50mm, ISO 400

My inspiration for this photo (fig 01) was drawn from an image I had seen where an old packing crate was stood up against a shed’s wall with one shoot of asparagus propped up inside. I wanted the Indian eggplant to be given prominence, so placed it in a shadow box frame. I believe that even though there is an extra element in the frame, namely the picture frame, this still qualifies as a single point, because the eye is immediately drawn to the vegetable. The fact that the eggplant is contained within the frame also fools the eye into thinking that it is one element. My light was coming from two windows – from the left of frame (8 o’clock position) and from the top of frame (12 o’clock position). I took this shot from the top of the ladder, however I don’t think I was not sufficiently centred over the frame as there is a slight angle at the top of the frame, even after I straightened out the vertical and horizontals in post processing. I wanted everything sharp for the overhead shot, so used an aperture of f8. Post processing involved boosting the contrast a little, bumping up the shadows, clarity and adding a touch of vibrance. I also set the white and black points.

Fig 02 - Two points

Fig 02 – Two points
f6.3, 1/8, 135mm, ISO 100

I liked the play of light around the ridges of these acorn squashes (fig 02) and played around to get an optimum composition. I elected to put on squash lying flat facing the camera and the other on a cutting board upright to create a bit of height in the image. I purposely did not include the whole upright squash to create a more asymmetrical balance. Both stalks on the squash form visual points to lead the eye forward and back. I used my tripod and remote shutter release as I was shooting a a slow shutter speed. The light source was from camera right (3 o’clock position) and camera left (11 o’clock position). A little light was blocked by standing my husband in front of the door as the ridges on the left hand squash were blowing highlights. Post processing involved boosting the contrast and clarity to make the image pop. I also decreased the shadows so that the ridges of the squash would be enhanced. I then made sure that my white background was uniformly white, dodging where necessary.

Fig 04 - Several points in a deliberate shape

Fig 03 – Several points in a deliberate shape
f8, 1/10, 180mm, ISO 100

In figure 03 I focused on the heirloom tomatoes in the background as I liked the close contrast with the red colander and green basil. I have attempted to create a few planes in this photograph as there are three surfaces visible as well as differing heights of the fruit, herbs and utensil. Both red tomatoes on either side of the yellow tomato form triangles together with the yellow tomato which is the apex of both triangles. Again my camera was on a tripod and I used the remote shutter release. The light source was from camera right (4 o’clock position) and camera left (11 o’clock position). Post processing only involved boosting contrast and clarity minimally as the colours are nicely saturated and there are sufficient highlights in the image and minimal shadows.

Fig 04 - Combination of vertical and horizontal lines

Fig 04 – Combination of vertical and horizontal lines
f2.8, 1/50, 50mm, ISO 100

I arranged a bunch of spring onions (fig 04) in vertical orientation with their roots facing the camera as I liked the tangled detail that the roots present. I then put a similar bunch in horizontal orientation, but that didn’t look quite right, so I then spread the onions out, lining them up neatly and sliced off their ends, placing those at the far end of the cutting board and placed a knife down as if I had been interrupted in the middle of the task of chopping vegetables. I used a shallow depth of field here so that the ends of the vertical onions and the chopped bits and knife would be blurred slightly. This brings the eye back down to the front of the image again. The diagonal lines of the table top also lead the eye in to the vertical arrangement. The light source was from camera right (3 o’clock position) and camera left (11 o’clock position). Post processing involved boosting the contrast, bringing down the highlights a tad, lifting the shadows and boosting the clarity. Again tripod and shutter release were used.

Fig 05 - Diagonals

Fig 05 – Diagonals
f5.6, 1/15, 50mm, ISO 100

For my diagonals image (fig 05), I placed a round cut from a tree trunk as my plane, then simply dropped cinnamon sticks from a low height in front of it and left them where they fell. They had all fallen in a diagonal orientation. I then took a handful of cloves and let them fall onto the tree trunk and finally I used an old chef’s tasting spoon to scoop up a spoonful of the cloves and placed that on the tree trunk in a diagonal orientation as well. All the elements in the photo (except the tree trunk) are diagonally oriented. I wanted to blur out the background a little, but not too much, otherwise the cloves would just be one black mass and they would lose their identity, so I used an aperture of f5.6 which gave sufficient blur in the rear of the image to keep the focus on the spices in the front. I shot this image at differing angles (overhead and from the front low down, but this angle best suited the display of the diagonals. The light source was from camera right (3 o’clock position) and camera left (11 o’clock position). Post processing involved boosting contrast, shadows and clarity and a little vibrance was also added. Tripod and shutter release were used.

Fig 06 - Curves

Fig 06 – Curves
f8, 1/10, 160mm, ISO 100

I wanted to emphasize the rounded shape of this little watermelon (fig 06), so chose to shoot only a portion of it filling the frame. With my camera on the tripod and using the remote shutter release I aimed downwards so that I could include the diagonal lines of the table to contrast against the curve of the watermelon. The watermelon was backlit by the window, with sunlight pouring in. In post processing I cropped the image a bit to exclude part of the table, boosted contrast, brought down the highlights and shadows, added clarity and vibrance.

Fig 07 - Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

Fig 07 – Distinct, even if irregular, shapes
f2.8, 1/100, 50mm, ISO 100

Mini peppers (fig 07) have a very distinctive shape (almost conical) and as I had a whole bag of them I decided to put some of them in my little red colander to enhance the colour contrast between the orange, yellow and red peppers. The diagonally oriented peppers create a good design contrast contained in the round container. I threw a bright yellow tea towel next to the colander to offset the orange peppers. I placed the colander so that it was overhanging on the cutting board to create more visual interest. Then it was up the ladder for me again to get an overhead shot, handheld. The light source was mainly from camera right (3 o’clock) and camera left (11 o’clock position). I brought up the exposure by a third in post processing, boosted the contrast and highlights, opened up the shadows quite a bit and added clarity and vibrance.

Fig 08 - Distinct shape, even if irregular, shape - fennel

Fig 08 – Distinct shape, even if irregular, shape – fennel
f5.6, 1/50, 75mm, ISO 100

There is probably not another vegetable that has such a distinct shape as fennel (fig 08). It is hard to describe its shape – possibly fan shaped? To show off the feathery fronds, I chose to backlight the vegetable by placing it on a cutting board in front of the windows. I then tossed a yellow cloth behind it to add some depth and contrast to the image. I then chopped off a few fronds and dropped them in front of the vegetable, letting them spill over onto the table and finally I placed a knife on the cutting board. I used a tripod and remote shutter release. In post processing I lowered the highlights a fraction and opened up the shadows quite a bit. I then added clarity and some vibrance.

Fig 09 - Implied triangle - beetroots

Fig 09 – Implied triangle – beetroots
f2.5, 1/125, 50mm, ISO 400

For this overhead shot (fig 09)  I arranged three beetroots to form an implied inverted triangle, overlapping their stalks to form complementary lines, the apex of the triangle being the centre beetroot. I placed them on a black slate tile in order to contrast their bright colours. The light sources were at camera left (9 o’clock position) and from the top of frame (12 o’clock position). I also placed a black foam board at camera right to darken the right side of the frame slightly. I boosted the contrast in post processing, brought the highlights down quite a bit, set white and black points, and boosted the clarity and added a touch of vibrance.

Fig 10 - Implied triangle - garlic, mortar and pestle

Fig 10 – Implied triangle – garlic, mortar and pestle
f2.8, 1/100, 50mm, ISO 100

I shot this photograph (fig 10)  fairly low, on a tripod using my remote shutter release. I, once again, used my tree trunk platter and placed a garlic bulb on it, first scrunching the garlic so that the skin would come loose and which fell in front of the bulb. I then placed another bulb with its roots toward the camera and broke a few cloves loose from another bulb and scattered them in front of the platter. To create some height in the image I placed a mortar and pestle behind the platter. The pestle and two garlic bulbs form an isoceles triangle with the apex of the triangle being the tip of the pestle. I then focused on the garlic bulb on the right. The front cloves were blurred slightly to draw more attention to the implied triangle. The light source was from camera right (3 o’clock position) and camera left (11 o’clock position). In post processing I boosted the contrast, lifted the highlights and shadows a bit, set the black and white points and added clarity.

Fig 11 - Rhythm

Fig 11 – Rhythm
f2.8, 1/60, 50mm, ISO 200

I think this is the image (fig 11) that I struggled most with. While I get the concept of rhythm, it is not so easy to translate it in an uncontrived manner using food. I lined up all sorts of food, bumping an item out of sync, but that simply did not work for me, even slicing them and arranging them on a cutting board, but then realised I was probably overthinking the whole thing. I took a carton of eggs out of the fridge and removed an egg. Standing on the ladder again, I filled the frame with the egg carton. The rhythm is broken when the eye comes to rest on the empty slot and then continues to the two final eggs. The light sources were from camera right (3 o’clock position) and from camera left (11 o’clock position). I bumped the exposure up by a two-thirds stop in post processing, added some contrast, and lifted the shadows very slightly and added a bit of clarity.

Fig 12 - Pattern

Fig 12 – Pattern
f8, 1/10, 190mm, ISO 100

I noticed the irregular pattern on the skin of this small seedless watermelon (fig 12) which draws the eye across the frame, so with my camera on the tripod and using the remote shutter release I filled the frame with the pattern. The light source was from camera left. I made a small crop in post processing, boosted the contrast, added some highlights, lifted the shadows and added vibrance and clarity.

As it is stated in the course manual at the beginning of Elements of Design, colour can be a distraction when working on these design elements. I have, therefore, created a  set of black and white versions of the photographs above, (some extra processing was needed in the way of tonal adjustments to each image) for comparison purposes in order to see what the effect would be like in monochrome. For ease of viewing I have put these into a slideshow. It is obvious that those photographs where texture is more prevalent, for example, the two points and the implied triangle of the beetroot images, work well in black and white.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Discard Images

My discard images can be seen in my Flickr Food Photography album.


Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

I used two lenses for this assignment, namely a 50mm f1.8 and a 55-200mm f4-5.6. Having the camera on the tripod for the most part forced me to check the edges of my frame for any distractions and edges of equipment like foamboard creeping into the shot. I took my time with this assignment as I was limited to the hours when the sun would come into the room so I did not rush it at all. I took my tutor’s advice from the feedback on Assignment 1 and studied Laura Letinsky’s work and I hope I have taken some of the pointers that he made on board in this assignment. I feel my observational skills have definitely improved as I am definitely more aware of the direction of the light and have tried to use that to bring out highlights and shadows in my images. I feel that my still-life compositional skills have definitely improved as well.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

My blog is coming along nicely. I am enjoying the process and I believe that it is laid out well and is easy to navigate. I have applied all knowledge learnt up to now in this assignment to the best of my ability, having never attempted a subject like food photography before. My aim was to convey raw food in natural light in as natural setting as possible and I believe I have succeeded in that.  Although I don’t really like still life/product photography, I really enjoyed this assignment and will probably dabble again. I also have so much more appreciation for all the food photographers out there. It is not an easy task. I have brushed up on my Lightroom skills a bit and have been able to better fine tune my images in post processing than before and I believe the quality can attest to this.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

Having never done any food photography (the odd snap of someone’s meal in a restaurant not being taken into account) this was quite a challenging assignment for me. I spent a lot of time researching various food photographers and inspecting their images closely. Notwithstanding I tried to come up with some different items to include in my photographs in the way of natural elements for some of my props. I do feel that the collection of photographs in this image are part of an individual style.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I am now comfortable with my learning blog and find that I use it more than my physical notebook. I still need to work on keeping the notebook with me. I have downloaded Menderley, a PDF/bookmark manager, that Stephanie dh recommended in the Flickr Content and Narrative discussion forum and I find that this has helped me organize my life a bit better. I have been to two exhibitions: Faces of Humanity: in black and white – An Exhibition by David Bong and Gu Xiong: a journey exposed and reviewed both of them. My review on David Bong was read by his office and I was contacted and thanked for my accurate review. Needless to say, that made me feel pretty good. I have watched the following videos to help me with this assignment: Sebastião Salgado: The silent drama of photography; An Interview with Laura Letinksky; Food Photography Without Expensive Gear – Chris Marquardt; Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling, as well as a video about Jacques-Henri Lartique. Because I was not able to get to too many galleries this summer, I reviewed the Russian photographer, Elena Chernyshova’s series, Days of Night/Nights of Day. My write up was quite long and I couldn’t link to any of her images (they were in a slide show) so I contacted her asking her permission to use one of her images on my blog. She was extremely pleased that I had asked and gave me permission to use some of her images, which I have done, with the necessary credit to her and explanation of my usage. I reviewed Stephen Shore’s The Nature of Photographs, and also John Berger’s Understanding a Photograph. Most of the research articles I found about food photography did not really help me much. They were more geared towards tricks of the food stylist, historical/political trends in food styling, some really complicated techniques such as food stacking and levitating food, a project someone had done on rotten food, the revamp of Bon Appetit magazine, the need to share your meal on social networks, and the role of the food stylist. All extremely interesting reads, but not quite what I was looking for. Nevertheless, some snippets were helpful. Going forward I plan to attend more exhibitions and get through this pile of books that is on my desk waiting to be read.


Barboza, Clare. (2014) Clare Barboza Photography [online]. Available from http://clarebarboza.com/ [Accessed 27 July, 2014]

Carafoli, J. F. (2003). Tempting the Palate: The Food Stylist’s Art. Gastronomica, 3(2), 94–97.

Dunea, M. (2014). Food for Photography. Nielsen Business Media, 12.

Feliciano, K. (2009). Raw Food Photography. Photo District News, 29(2), 24–26, 28.

Fredrickson, L. (2012). Food Pairings. Popular Photography, 76(1), 24–25.

Fredrickson, L. (2013). Plated Waste. Popular Photography, 77(2), 20–21.

Freeman, Michael (2007). The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos, The Ilex Press. Lewes, England.

Grablewski, Alexandra. (2014) Alexandra Grablewski Photography [online]. Available from http://www.agrablewski.com/ [Accessed 29 July, 2014]

Goldwasser, A. (1998). Fashion plate. I D, 45(6), 58–59.

Kelby, Scott (2014). The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 book for digital photographers, New Riders.

Kolonia, P. (2013). Thought for Food. Popular Photography, 77(10), 54–59.

Loftus, David. (2014) David Loftus [online]. Available from http://www.davidloftus.com/food [Accessed 28 July, 2014]

Margolis, L. (2013). Back to Basics: Food Photography Lighting & Styling. PhotoShelter Blog. Available from: http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/05/back-to-basics-food-photography-lighting-styling/ [Accessed 29 July, 2014]

Matalon-degni, F. (2010). Trends in Food Photography. Gastronomica, 10(3), 70–83.

Milano, D. (n.d.). 10 Tips for Mouth Watering Food Photography. Digital Photography School. Retrieved August 14, 2014, from http://digital-photography-school.com/10-tips-for-mouth-watering-food-photography/ [Accessed 29 July, 2014]

Mittongtare, Pornchai. (2014) Mittongtare Studio [online]. Available from http://www.mittongtarestudio.com/ [Accessed 28 July, 2014]

Mythja (2014). Mythja Photography [online]. Available from http://mythja.com/ [Accessed 29 July, 2014]

Oikawa, Keiko. (2014) Keiko Oikawa Photography [online]. Available from http://www.keikooikawa.com/ [Accessed 28 July, 2014]

Peltre, Beatrice. (2014) Beatrice Peltre Food Styling & Photography [online]. Available from http://www.beatricepeltre.com/ [Accessed 28 July, 2014]

Ramelli, Serge. (2014) The Art of Black and White Yesterday and Today!  [online] available from http://photoserge.com/tutorial/the-art-of-black-white-yesterday-and-today/ (accessed 11 August, 2014)

Schonnemann, Anders. (2014) Anders Schonnemann Photography [online]. Available from http://www.schonnemann.dk/ [Accessed 29, July, 2014]

Warner, Carl. (2014). Carl Warner [online]. Available from http://www.carlwarner.com/foodscapes/ [Accessed 28 July, 2014]

Workshop, Todd Porter and Diane Cu-Porter – Story on a Plate: Food Photography & Styling [webcast, online] Creative Live, Seattle, USA, June 2014. 32 minutes: 48 seconds. https://www.creativelive.com/courses/story-plate-food-photography-styling-todd-porter-and-diane-cu (accessed 27 July, 2014)

The Nature of Photographs: Stephen Shore

The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore is a strange book to say the least. It is a very quick read – only about one hour, and you are done reading. It is written with very little embellishment about the various concepts covered, each page consisting of very short paragraph(s) – the page with the most writing having only five paragraphs. Yet, despite its conciseness, it contains much information which requires more thought. It is a deceptive book, illusive in character for one has to tease out the concepts in each further read of the book. The book contains a variety of photographs from well known photographers such as Diane Arbus, Eugène Atget, Philip-Lorca diCorcia, Walker Evans, Robert Frank, Paul Graham, André Kertész, Dorothea Lange, August Sander, Garry Winogrand and many more as well as Shore’s own work.

The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore

The Nature of Photographs by Stephen Shore

According to Shore (2007), a photograph can be viewed on several levels. The physical level refers to the flat surface coated with either emulsions, inks or dyes, etc. The physicality is determined by the photographic paper (the flatness), the edges of the print, the moment of time captured in the frame and the type of emulsion or pigments which contribute to the hue and tonal range of the photograph. The final element, namely texture is determined by the type of paper the photograph is printed on. Colour adds another layer to the physical level.

The depictive level consist of a ‘photograph’s visual grammar’ (Shore, 2007 p. 38), namely flatness, frame, time and focus. These are all tools which the photographer uses in making his/her photograph. The flatness refers to the rendering of an image which one sees in a three dimensional capacity normally into a two dimensional image on a piece of paper. Usage of a wide-angled lens changes perspective as opposed to a telephoto lens which will compress the view one sees. The edges of the photograph form an important component. They hold or exclude objects, people and scenes. Sometimes what is not seen is just as important as that which is in the frame. Time refers to the duration of the exposure—a very fast shutter speed is ‘Frozen time: an exposure of short duration, cutting across the grain of time, generating a new moment.’ (Shore, 2007 p. 72), while a slow shutter speed is rendered as ‘Extrusive time: the movement occurring in front of the camera, or movement of the camera itself, accumulating on the film, producing a blur.’ (Shore, 2007 p. 74). A very long exposure setting would be seen as ‘Still time: the content is at rest and time is still.’ (Shore, 2007, p 76). Focus is the tool that the photographer uses to direct a viewer’s gaze to the subject of the photographs. Various depths of field can alter the attention drawn a subject.

Although the mental level is separate from the depictive level, it is the decisions taken on the depictive level that form the mental level, namely the photographer’s point of view, what he/she chooses to include in the frame, when to press the shutter and what to focus on.

All the levels interact with each other and build upon each other. The mental level is the ability to be aware of one’s surroundings while perceiving changes and brining this awareness under one’s control.

Reference List

Shore, Stephen. (2007) The Nature of Photographs. 2nd ed. London: Phaidon Press Limited