Simon Lewis

TAoP Assignment One

i. Contrasts

This assignment deals with the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas and concepts. I had a lot of fun looking for ideas and themes. The following are my top selections together with some accompanying notes - just click each image to enlarge it. My Tutor's comments are shown below each image and where relevant I have shown a corrected version of the image. You can download a copy of my tutor report for this exercise by clicking the button below.

You can read a summary of my learnings from this assignment and the accompanying exercises at the foot of this page.
Many & Few
I arranged coloured glass beads on a sheet of glass with a flash below. No matter how I arranged the beads, I always ended up with a circular pattern. It took me a few shots to realise that the pattern was being created by the light. Nonetheless I really like the symmetrical nature of the beads and this led me to choose a square crop. I also like the narrow range of colours and deep shadows. To experiment a little I added some coloured gels to the flash, but opted for the clean white version shown here. 1/250s f8 ISO 200

I like how the empty carpark is neatly balanced by both the car and empty spaces on one hand and also the space above and below the green line on the other. The single car neatly contrasts with the beads but also the conventional idea of a full car park.
1/160s f2 ISO 1600

Tutor comments:
You do not give exposure details on any of your images or how the subject is lit which could be useful to know in subjects like this. (SL: These have now been added). However it convey to the viewer “many” and therefore conforms to its title. Pictorially it does make an interesting shot and you could try using colored gels over the light source to see if you can create more interesting lighting effects.

Few: Again an image that conforms admirably to its title. Pictorially the car is a touch too near the left hand side of the frame. The answer would have been to move the camera a little to the left and that would place the car more on the left hand “third”. (SL: The following rough mock-up shows how this re-crop might have looked.)
Stacks Image 70
Transparent & Opaque
I was scribbling some ideas for images at the kitchen table when I looked up to see the afternoon sun filtering through a bottle of Perrier water. I really like the reflected colours on the table. I love the balance and composition too.
1/160s f9 ISO 1250

Once again, Beth helped me with ‘opaque’. Here she posed about a metre behind the plastic sheet we found. I really like the blurry backlit shadow and the hint of colours from the garden beyond. Loads of Photoshop to remove the dirty blotches and spiders webs from the sheet itself...
1/125S F6 ISO 200

Tutor comments:
Transparent: Nice shot that is transparent. The color and reflections are lovely. To improve the composition a little tighter crop is required; crop off the light areas on either side so that the viewers eye is concentrated on the colored bottle and reflection. (SL: Adjusted image below)

Opaque: This image does have a “ghostly” appearance to it and you have made very good use of the plastic sheet that you found. It demonstrates clearly that you can make interesting images (as this is) from all manner of items. Well done.
Stacks Image 79
Diagonal & Rounded
These two abstract images neatly contrast one another. I like the wooden grain in both and the way that the shadows in each image play just an important part as does the light. As happy as I am with the diagonal image in abstract, I do feel it needs some context.
13s f36 ISO 200 and 1/125s f5.6 ISO 200

Tutor comments:
Diagonal: There are strong diagonal shapes to this image and it could do with an item such as a flower placed in a strategic spot to add interest to the viewers eye. I would try to get as much texture detail out as possible by the use of strong side lighting. There is already nice texture detail in the foreground area of the picture.

Rounded: For me this is the best image in what is an excellent assignment. A very simple but effective composition the oil filled light (or whatever it is) is nicely placed within the frame and adds a lovely touch of color. The shape of the light is also echoed in the round table. Brilliant.
Continuous & Intermittent
It took me a little while to identify these two contrasting ideas - even though I pass both locations fairly regularly: just shows how important it is to keep your eyes open. With the traffic, I wanted to get the lighting exactly right so I waited for a fairly gloomy evening just before sunset. I like the feel that the continuous traffic is not moving at very high speed. There is a sense of effort and burden - of people trying to get home. It’s exactly what I was hoping to achieve.
0.4S f7.1 ISO 200

The dilapidated groyne leading to the sea at Camber Sands has a certain timelessness that I wanted to capture. It shows how nature reclaims everything in the end. The 2 images also work well side by side.
1/640s f4 ISO 200

Tutor comments:
Continuous: You chose the right time of day (dusk) to do this type of shot and it has worked well. However you could afford to crop off the light bits right at the top of the frame so that the viewers eye is not distracted.
(SL: re-cropped below).

Intermittent: The sky area on this image is dull and you could afford to crop most of it off. The wooden post on the left has been cropped off by the edge of the frame and should have been included. The answer would have been to move the camera slightly to the left to include the whole post, or crop more of it off (but not all) so that it looks a deliberate crop. (SL: Points accepted. Unfortunately I was not able to revisit the scene to re-shoot. I have not cropped out the sky).
Stacks Image 95
Liquid & Solid
My first thoughts were to compose a ‘running water’ type image shot at one of the nearby streams, but I hated the composition in all of my attempts and did not fire a single frame. Then I hit on the idea of trying to illustrate the different states of water i.e. liquid and solid. In ‘liquid’ I wanted to illustrate how liquids are freeform. Very happy with the result which was lit with one softbox above and in front of the camera. White balance adjusted to 2900K to bring out the blue. 1/125s f32 ISO200

With ‘solid’ I wanted to try and capture the unyielding grip of ice. In truth there is probably too much of the leaf and not enough ice in the image to truly demonstrate the idea - but I’m very pleased with the image from a technical perspective!
1/5s f22 ISO 200.

Tutor comments:
Liquid: This makes a nice pattern picture and it does conform to its title. Well exposed and sharp, other than that not much can be said.

Solid: The main problem with this images is that its just a little too tight in the frame as the top leaf is just cropped off on the left hand side. There are nine leaves and for some reason odd numbers are pictorially more attractive so if you attempt this shot again with fewer leaves try three, five or seven.
Smooth & Rough
I was lucky enough to spend some time on a boat this summer. I loved how the ocean was silky smooth in the mornings before the first breath of wind started to ruffle the waves. This image - taken at
1/200s f7.1 ISO 200 - has a really calm and tranquil feel to it. By contrast, this broken beam covered in rough moss is surrounded by thousands of stony pebbles. I can only describe the effect as ‘uncomfortable’. 1/320s f7.1 ISO 200

Tutor comments:
Smooth: Again this makes a nice simple pattern picture and the waves are taken so that they are diagonal across the frame. There is also a nice texture to the water which adds interest to the shot.

Rough: Once more you have a dull, uninteresting sky. You could afford to crop off the sky and the rock at the top.
(SL: now done - below). This would still give a “rough” image with the pebbles on the beach and I would have concentrated more on the concrete beam.
Stacks Image 111
Black & White
In some ways choosing the subject matter here was quite difficult, because I wanted things that were very definitely black or white. I wanted my blacks to be really black and my whites ultra white. My fist choice for black were the tyres of my car. No go - tyres aren’t black, they are mud coloured! Nonetheless, these two images really capture the ideas and the contrast (of each other and from a technical perspective). I’m delighted with the lighting in ‘black’ which was achieved with a softbox about 30cm directly above and very slightly left of the bowls, and the natural light in ‘white’. 1/160s f16 ISO 200 and 2s f13 ISO200

Tutor comments:
Black: You don’t say how you lit the subject on this one but it was very effective. (SL: detail now added). A very nice “product” type shot you can clearly see the shape of the bowls even if they are against a black back ground. Well done.

White: You could afford to lighten this shot a little in Photoshop . You have very nice detail in the cups but they could be just a little whiter without losing detail, but be careful not to over do it.
(SL: now accomplished)
Stacks Image 120
Curved & Straight
The concept here was inspired by a birthday present,‘Light science & Magic’. I’ve only dipped into it, but I’m totally into the family of angles and how light (even flashguns) can be harnessed for purpose, rather than used at random. I wanted to put some of the techniques to use and chose the rugby ball shaped bowl as a test subject. I’m really happy with how the light shows off the curved rim. If only I could figure out how to add a tiny bit of light into the deep shadow in the foreground. In ‘straight’, it’s the same idea but I particularly wanted to ‘stretch out’ the length of the rulers. Losing focus part way along the length helps to do this. 1/200s f13 ISO 200 and 1/200s f32 ISO 200

Tutor comments:
Curved: More interesting than your straight image you could afford to crop off the black background. There appears to be some nice texture inside the bowl and again you have another “product” type image that has been well handled.

Straight: This image does record “straight” but is not as pictorially good as some of your other shots. You could try using a colored gel over the flash to add more color and interest, but again the subject matter is not stimulating.

Here's What I've Learnt:

My first foray into getting my work formally assessed was an interesting one: it’s several years since any work of mine has come under critical review. On the whole there have been good bits and bad, so in no particular order, here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Quite a lot going on in this project - not only did I need to find contrasting items, but I also wanted/needed to make my images as technically proficient as possible. That did not always happen. As an example, the red car in ‘few’ was framed poorly. That’s something I did not realise at first; in fact I knew all about the ‘rule of thirds’ but thought I was following the convention at the time. Not so. Reframing with more room to the edge of frame proved this. The revised version shown in this assignment is a quick photoshopped mock-up but it clearly shows how the image is now better for the change.
  • Not as easy to find the relevant content as I thought it would be. While there are contrasts all around, I wanted to convey the right message visually, so it took a while to find exactly the right subject.
  • Don’t rush. Each of the images took time to get right - but it’s clear I could (and should) have spent more time on some. The beach groynes are the perfect example. I'll be more considered in future.
  • It’s all in the framing. Not always possible to see exactly what the end result will be in camera (I have a cropped viewfinder on my Nikon) so critical review on computer is vital before submitting.
  • It’s all in the framing (again!) Sometimes details that seem important at the outset are actually not relevant to convey the message. The green bottle is my example here: I specifically included the curve of the bottle along the left side of the frame. At the time I thought it was important to show the shape of the bottle in order for the viewer to understand what they were looking at (it’s an abstract image). Peter (my tutor) asked me to crop it out. I thought he was wrong - but guess what? The image is stronger as a result.

Peter has given me good feedback to work on next time. Overall I am happy with his comments and feel I've got very useful pointers for future work.