Assignment 1: The theory and practice of contrasts

Task: Take 16 photographs. 8 pairs of images that show a contrast between two qualities, and an image that contains a contrast within it.

Before starting this assignment  I looked on to find a definition of ‘contrast’ to give me a set definition to work within.

Contrast: “To set in opposition in order to show or emphasize differences”

Johannes Itten (November 11, 1888 – May 27, 1967)

The Basic Course by Swiss expressionist painter Johannes Itten was based on colour, tone, lighting and comparative relationships between them and the background. The images from his book illustrate very prominent subjects. I need to ensure that the meaning for each quality is clear in each image. Therefore by looking at other photographers’ images I intend to identify particular characteristics that resemble each contrasting quality.

After 4 weeks of reviewing my old photos and determining what the key principles are for portraying each each quality, I have finally assembled below what will be my first completed assignment.


1. Blunt: When setting up the composition I placed a sharpener and sharpenings in the background. Then after learning about focusing with a set aperture in project 2 I opened up the lens aperture to f/2.8 to narrow the field of view. This enabled me to emphasize the blunt blue pencil and blur the sharper pencils in the foreground and background. My tutor thought that this worked very well.


2. Pointed: I used drawing pins as the subject for this property. Using an aperture of f/4.5 I focused the scene in a similar way to ‘blunt’ however my tutor has explained that there is no point of interest so the viewer’s eye does not know which drawing pin to rest on. The on-camera flash also fired which has create a lot of reflected highlights, adding to the busy nature of the image.  Therefore I need to re-do this making one pin standout more than the others as my tutor has suggested (below).

Pointed 2nd attempt

I found it quite difficult to photograph the pin without including the blu tack in the scene. I decided to change the camera’s viewpoint. I also used a large aperture of f/4.5 to create a shallow depth of field and focus the interest on the pin in the foreground. The blurred pins in the background maintained some interest in the image. It was whilst re-shooting this image and trying various alternatives that I came up with the photograph below. I feel it’s a stronger reference to the pointed theme. I created this image at the end of TAOP. I think it demonstrates how my eye for composition and visual language has improved since completing my first assignment.

Pointed version 3


3. Hard: I used a macro lens to get as close as I could to this brick wall. Using an aperture of f/4 I was able to not use a tripod and get a sharp image and retain the texture of the wall. Bricks aren’t the most interesting subject to photograph so I tried to make use of the horizontal and vertical edges to lead in and out of the frame whilst suggesting that there are other bricks outside the frame.


4. Soft: Again I used an aperture of f/2.8 to create a blurred softening effect in the foreground. The bear’s nose was the fluffiest part so I wanted this to remain in focus. However there is a blue tinge and I agree with my tutor that this creates a ‘cold’ unattractive feel to the overall photograph. I have returned to this image after completing Section 6: Artificial Light in order to explain the blue tinge. I had set the white balance to ‘tungsten’ because I was using this type of light source, however the flash fired, eliminating the need for a tungsten wb and creating a blue colour-cast.

Soft changes

The image above shows the same composition as my first attempt. I used Aperture 3 to adjust the colour temperature, by moving the slider to the yellow warmer colours, to create a more natural look. Whilst this was a relatively quick process, I can see how my understanding of light later in the course has helped me to edit and refine my work. Now I will be able to foresee some of the problems I have encountered like getting the white balance setting right. I feel that the resulting colour adds to the softness of the image.


5. Black: I seem to be spending more time with my lenses nowadays! I thought it would make a change for them to be in a photograph for a change. Setting up the scene was a challenge because of the reflection off the glass lens and the metallic Canon logos. This was made more difficult by the fact that I had used a flash to try and capture the detail in the lens focusing rings. My tutor has pointed out that the resulting highlights in the foreground are distracting. Therefore after receiving my feedback I used Aperture 3 to lower the exposure (image below). Since the majority of the colour was black I was able to reduce it by 1 stop. I decided to crop the highlight in the foreground as there wasn’t any need for it to be in the image and it detracted from the theme of the image.

Black changes


6. White: The Apple mouse on a white table was difficult to photograph because I was unsure just how much detail to maintain. An aperture of f/3.5 and ISO 200 has enabled me to retain the edges of the mouse, however I was probably over-cautious and my tutor has suggested increasing the exposure. I used Aperture 3 to increase the exposure and burn out some of the highlights (below). I try to use image processing software minimally to retain a realistic shot. However it is temptingly quick to use with pleasing results. I am very happy with my image below for ‘white’. Enough of the edges remain to determine the shape of the mouse, the wire and scroll button add interest and the Apple logo is almost camouflaged in the lower third.

White changes

7. Moving: This was probably my most technically challenging shot. Having learned how to freeze and illustrate movement by either increasing or reducing the shutter speed I knew that I could use this to illustrate movement. I thought that using a toy VW camper-van would enable me to have more control over the subject than going outside and photographing something that was moving. I needed to be able to have several attempts at trying to achieve the image I had in mind of the camper-van leaving a motion trail behind it to illustrate it’s movement and direction. I used a tripod to ensure that my camera was steady. Before rolling the camper-van infront of the camera I worked out far the camper-van needed to be from the lens in order to be in focus. I then used a remote control to open the shutter for 2 seconds (This shutter speed seemed to blur the motion just enough, as I had experienced in Project 4).I posted my favourite image of the shoot on my learning blog here. It was very rewarding to get some positive feedback and I was extremely grateful to Duncan who suggested  that I used a 2nd curtain sync flash to freeze the camper-van whilst also leaving a motion trail. This is how I achieved the image below.


My tutor liked the motion effect I had created, however the camper-van was very close to the top left-hand corner of the frame and it appeared a little flat. Taking this advice on board I had to look through other images I had taken during the shoot because I had no way of extending the top left-hand corner of the image. I chose the shot below because the camper-van retained the motion from the bottom right-hand corner but was far enough away from the edge of the frame to give the viewer an impression of where it was moving to. Since the image below was from the same shoot as my submitted image (above) it had a similar ‘flat’ appearance. Therefore I increased the exposure to burn some highlights in front of the camper-van and boosted the saturation to brighten the orange. I was very pleased with the finished photo because I had been able to manipulate the camera’s settings to create the image I had in mind.

Moving changes


8. Still: This was one of those ‘right time, right place’ photos. It was a calm early morning and the river was unusually still, mirror-like with everything reflected perfectly. My tutor suggested cropping out the distracting background and concentrating around the boat. I took his advice, and tried to crop the image so that the main subject is the still water and it’s reflections. I’ve only revealed part of the Endeavour to add interest to the image and the fact it can be worked out by the viewer from the boat’s reflection.

Still changes


9. Opaque: The strong shadows made by the back-lit bottle seemed a good subject for this quality. I used a portrait view due to the size of the bottle sculpture. My tutor pointed out that the lamppost on the left-hand side is quite distracting so I cropped it out to produce the image below.

Opaque changes


10: Transparent: Whilst reading a section about lenses I thought it would be a good idea to use it with my glasses to illustrate transparency. It took time to position the glasses so that the ‘What Lenses Can Do For You’ text was magnified. My tutor was very happy with this image.


11. Curve: York Railway Station has a very pronounced curve to it’s roof. I waited until the platform was clear of any passengers who may have distracted from the intent of this image. I tried to capture the curve of the track and the roof, and whilst my tutor agreed that this fitted the requirements of this assignment he suggested standing more to the right-hand side to emphasize the curvature of the building. Unfortunately I haven’t had an opportunity to return there so I cropped some of the left-hand side of the photograph (below) to focus on the curve of the roof.

Curve changes


12 Straight: I came across this shot accidentally. The sun was fairly low and cast a shadow across the grass from the fence. I converted it to black and white to emphasize the lines.


13 Solid: The above image was taken at the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. I used a tele-photo lens to zoom into part of the rock formation, creating a pattern. My tutor suggested placing an object on the lower third, unfortunately I haven’t been back there so I was unable to do this. However I can see that this would add interest to the image.


14 Liquid: This fabulous fountain in Coventry (above) was an ideal subject for liquid. I nearly used it for ‘curved’ due to the shape of the water. I was unprepared for this image so I didn’t have a tripod. This meant I was shooting hand-held with an exposure of 1/8 sec. This has blurred the image slightly which has added to the motion of the water but reduced the sharpness of the surrounding features. My tutor suggested removing the distracting people in the background. I cropped the right-hand side and the resulting change in frame proportions has emphasized the water spouting in the foreground.

Liquid changes


15 Many: I cropped this photo of spectators (above) so that they filled the frame, giving the impression of more people not in the image. I was unsure whether to crop the space in the top left corner but I feel it reinforces the ‘many’ people in the photo.


16 Few: I tried to focus on the two leaves left on the tree whilst blurring the empty branches in the background. Using my camera horizontally enabled me to show both elements in each half of the image. My tutor recommended a minor crop of the right-hand side which I have done (below). This has removed the part of the trunk that was visible and left the branches of the tree in the frame.

Few changes

Continuous & Intermittent

17 Continuous and Intermittent: This pedestrian tunnel near York Railway Station provided a great opportunity to use lead in lines that converge at the end of the tunnel, which has been positioned off-centre to add interest.

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