Part 2 Imaginative spaces

Project 2 Lens work

Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course. Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve re-imagined your photograph.

I researched the work of suggested photographers: Ansel Adams, Fay Godwin, Gianluca Cosci, Mona Kuhn, Kim Kirkpatrick and Guy Bourdin and decided that whilst I particularly admired the work of Ansel Adams, Gialuca Cosi and Guy Bourdin, the photographer who I was most likely to find a similar image to in my own archive was Fay Godwin.

The sense of expansive but restricted space in the photographs, communicated through Godwin’s use of deep depth of field, presents the message of the book in a subtly visual way.” Expressing your Vision course book, Open College of the Arts, Rob Bloomfield 2014.

Fay Godwin

Fay Godwin

Margaret Drabble describes her as the most poetic of photographers, known for her bleak landscapes:

“She set out on a long journey into the wilder landscapes of Britain, sometimes in company, sometimes alone, often on foot, and built up over time a body of work that reflects a deep sense of place and the poetry of place.”

“She developed a keen sense of space and topography, patiently waiting for the light or the sky to respond to her needs, learning to battle for permissions to enter forbidden or forbidding terrain. There is a deep loneliness in some of her images, a sense of desolation…” (accessed 28.10.15).

Tim Larkin describes her use of sky and light as “a consistently beautiful timing in capturing a sky that supports the rest of the picture”, (accessed 28.10.15).

I trawled through my archive looking for images in the style of Fay Godwin and thought that this would be easy for me as I take lots of landscape images, however this was not the case. Most of my landscape images contain the coast or the sea and of those that didn’t there were few that were actually taken at f22 or with a particularly small aperture. The two below that I did find I have converted to black and white to fit the brief, however neither successfully conveyed the empty wasteland of Fat Godwin’s images.

_MG_2050 newport spring 15 St D BW v2

        1/200 f22 ISO 400

007 newport sp 11 12 28.10.11 BW con

1/60 f22 ISO 200

So whilst out walking today I tried for a couple of shots that might communicate  this better:

_MG_4480 bw

1/8 f22 ISO 800

This is not a shot I would have normally taken, I took it only to fulfil the Fay Godwin brief; it is not pretty but is closer to her style than my previous images I think.

This next image is more personally pleasing to me; I actually shot it for another purpose (the light and the colour, which has now been taken out!). I do think that the expansiveness of the shot accentuated by the large depth of field, is closer to the style of Fay Godwin than my previously selected images.

_MG_4461 bw

1/125 f22 ISO 400


Project 1 The distorting lens

My learning points from Project 1

That focal length combined with viewpoint can distort perspective. Therefore I must be careful when taking street photography portraits, when possible to move towards the subject, rather than zooming in to give the truest image (exercise 2.2).

When using a wide angle lens at a low viewpoint (I usually do this when I want to accentuate a subject) I should try to shoot without lines in the background, or blur them with a large aperture, to ensure that the distortion is not obvious (exercise 2.3).

For portrait shooting I should be aware that using a wide aperture (shallow depth of field), from a distance of about one and a half metres away with a medium focal length is useful for lifting the subject from the background and should add intensity to the eyes (exercise 2.4).

When using a wide aperture, long focal length and close viewpoint to isolate a subject, I should consider the background carefully; the background in the composition is important, even if it will appear blurred. Also I am aware that including a reasonable amount of blurred background, often with some form or lines, may add interest to the image (exercise 2.6).

When using a tripod I must not let it limit or restrict my natural choice of viewpoint, and must challenge myself to use it more often so that I become more accomplished and less impeded by it. I must also ensure that I review the images critically whilst shooting to improve the quality of my tripod shooting output.

These were extremely worthwhile learning exercises for me.

Project 1 The distorting lens

Exercise 2.7

Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

I used this as an opportunity to experiment with my new tripod and shutter speeds. These shots were all at a focal length of 16mm, in hindsight I should have taken the opportunity to use my wide angle Tamron 10-24mm lens to further accentuate the effect on perspective.

_MG_4256 enh 100 no tripod   _MG_4301 enh 200

1/25 f22 ISO 100 with tripod                        1/60 f22 ISO 200 handheld

_MG_4286 enh 100   _MG_4287 enh 200 best

1/25 f22 ISO 100 with tripod                         1/50 f22 ISO 200 with tripod

_MG_4310 enh 100   _MG_4311 enh 200

1/40 f22 ISO 100 with tripod                     1/85 f22 ISO 200 with tripod

_MG_4244 320 no tripod   _MG_4266 enh 200 no tripod

1/50 f22 ISO 320 handheld                       1/25 f22 ISO 100 handheld

_MG_4260 enh 100 no tripod   _MG_4280 100 tripod

1/50 f22 ISO 200  handheld                       1/25 f22 ISO 100 with Tripod

On reviewing these images it is certainly easy to achieve a deep depth of field, however they are generally uninteresting unless they have foreground interest or a leading line. I think that the leading line in particular draws the viewer inside of the picture whilst foreground detail adds depth.

What was interesting for me to see was that whilst I would usually use foreground interest or leading lines when shooting a wide angle shot with a small aperture, I am doing this less often when using a tripod. I think that I am still developing my ease of movement with a tripod and must therefore make a conscious effort to place it and manipulate it to obtain the viewpoint/perspective that I would naturally without it.



Project 1 The distorting lens

Exercise 2.6

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log. Don’t forget that the camera’s viewfinder image is obtained at maximum aperture for maximum brightness and therefore at the shallowest depth of field. Use the depth of field preview button to see the actual depth of field at any particular aperture. It’s surprising to see the effect that a single f stop can have on the appearance of an image.

I shot these outdoors at 200mm focal length with the widest aperture that my lens would allow at that length. On reviewing the data I was surprised at the different shutter speeds that the camera choose to meet the aperture that I set, the light conditions were obviously constantly changing.

_MG_4369 enh      _MG_4387 enh1/400 f6.3 ISO 400                                               1/2700 f6.3 ISO 400

_MG_4374 enh       _MG_4383 enh1/800 f6.3 ISO 400                                                1/640 f6.3 ISO 400

    _MG_4398 enh     _MG_4410 enh     1/1300 f6.3 ISO 400                                                 1/1600 f6.3 ISO 400

The last shot incidentally was very experimental and not something that I would have attempted that day as there were high wind conditions; as I expected only a small part of the flower was in focus and in my attempt to capture it in a moment of lulled wind (and avoid falling over canoes) I had inadvertently stepped back to a focal length of 300mm.

Whilst I was obviously aware that wide apertures create a shallow depth of field, I was not aware that this combined with a long focal length and a close viewpoint accentuates the effect. Although I do enjoy using this technique I believe I have never paid much attention to the blurred background (whether it is composed or not, or how vague/indistinct it is), I will now try to be conscious of this depending on what I want to achieve. I see now that this out of focus part of the shot does need to be handled with just as much care as the main subject as the most successful images are those with a reasonable amount of background (images 1, 2, 3 and 5).


Project 1 The distorting lens

Exercise 2.5

Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom in; you’ll need to be aware of the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Focus on the subject and take a single shot. Then, without changing the focal length, set the focus to infinity and take a second shot.

_MG_4365 enh     _MG_4366 enh

F10 ISO 200 1/200                                 F10 ISO 200 1/160

As you review the two shots, how does the point of focus structure the composition? With a shallow depth of field the point of focus naturally draws the eye, which goes first of all to the part of the image that’s sharp. It generally feels more comfortable if the point of focus is in the foreground, although there’s nothing wrong with placing the point of focus in the background.

The different points of focus are obvious in these two shots and yes the eye is drawn first to the sharp part of the image. I think where the point of focus is comfortable is controlled by the photographer and their objective. I have often used this technique and vary the focal point between foreground and background depending on my objective.

These two shots were taken when I was collecting for One Square Mile assignment, it may be subjective, but for me the most comfortable focus point is in the first image, the foreground.

_MG_2557 enh    _MG_2558 enh

However in the next two shots the most comfortable focus point by far was the second image, the background; this was one of my final images and my intention was for the viewer to see the courts and the net, so I guess I shot it to achieve that balance.

_MG_2568 enh    _MG_2572 enh

I am finding it interesting to contemplate on some techniques that I instinctively use,  learning about why and how I use them and how I can improve them.


Project 1 The distorting lens

Exercise 2.4

Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus on the eyes and take the shot.

_MG_4444 enh

I took this shot as instructed with a wide aperture, F 5.6, at 100mm focal length, one and half metres away and as the light was fading and the rain beginning, selected ISO 400. It was a fast shoot due to the rain, however I do like the way that the shallow depth of field emphasises the subjects face and blurs the background. I would like to experiment with this more for portraiture, to learn more about how the shallow depth of field slightly compresses the features and see how it can add intensity to the eyes, whilst lifting the subject from the background.



Project 1 The distorting lens

Exercise 2.3

Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Select your shortest focal length and take a close low viewpoint, below your subject. Find a natural point of focus and take the shot.

You’ll see that a very wide lens together with a close viewpoint creates extreme perspective distortion. Gently receding lines become extreme diagonals and rounded forms bulge towards the camera. Space appears to expand. The low viewpoint adds a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge. Not the ideal combination for a portrait shot!

_MG_4333 enh       _MG_4430 enh

These images were taken with my telephoto 16-300mm, at its shortest focal length. The perspective distortion that it produces is obvious. The lines next to the boat and the cone in particular show distortion in the background.

I have often used this technique when photographing hulls of boats as I like the way that the form then bulges towards the camera.

_MG_2966 enh

I use this technique when I want to emphasise the size of an object such as these super yachts’ at the Boat Show. On reviewing other images shot in this way, I find that I generally shoot without lines in the background, probably using my instinct to avoid the distortion of background lines.

_MG_3929 enh

I also include this “snap” I took on my I phone a few days ago of a particularly humungous hot chocolate. I remember deliberately using the low shooting technique to emphasis the size of the object and my subject also remarked when I shared it with her that I had “cheated” and had made it look bigger.

IMG_1280 i phone enh

I guess the learning points are that it is a useful technique should you want to distort a subject but to be aware of its limitations, he effect on the background in particular, and yes its definitely not a technique to use for portraits!