The second assignment for my OCA TOAP photography course has been to look at the elements of design in an image. Over the last few months, I’ve been working through the module assignments looking at the effect of points, lines and shapes within an image. For the assignment, I have put together a collection of images that bring all these ideas together around a single subject.
Chosen Subject and Approach
The assignment suggested a number of subjects that could be chosen from:
- flowers and plants
- street details
- the raw materials of food
The last option in the list opened the subject up completely by allowing the selection of my own subject and I decided that I would make my subject simply foods, making it less restrictive than raw foods.
The reason for choosing foods was that I had an interest in developing my ideas, skills and techniques in photographing still life subjects. My first experience of still life photography was during a project in this module and it wasn’t a great success. The projects aim was to construct a still life image with multiple points so that the points in the image worked together but were not positioned as to be boring. I was so completely focused on the structure of the image that I failed to notice that the image as a whole was very flat, uninteresting and boring, not because of the predictable way the objects had been placed.
A later project in this module required the construction of two still life images showing implied triangles and I was determined that I would identify what it was that was so unsuccessful in my first still life and work towards not making the same mistake again. Studying other peoples images, I realised that the elements missing from my first image were a sense of depth and any interesting lighting. By paying attention to the depth and lighting, my second still life attempt was much more successful.
1. Single Point Dominating the Composition
To create a point in an image, an object needs to be relatively small in the image but contrast with the background so that it becomes significant. Here, the egg contrasts significantly with the plain white background. The lighting is being used to emphasise the contrast and provide a sense of depth by creating the shadows. The narrative of the scene was to try and show a delicious runny egg ready to be eaten. On reflection, the egg is looking like it has already begun to satisfy someones hunger so rearranging the cutlery to be less formally placed and adding some toast crumbs could strengthen the story being told.
2. Two Points
This was a simple scene where there are two point which are small and strongly contrast with there background. Technical consideration was given to try and ensure the two points were in focus, by selecting an appropriate narrow aperture, but the cutting board and knife were starting to fall out of focus so as to not detract from the two points. Also, with the addition of the chopping board and knife to give the image a purpose, I had to rearrange the points so that the image had a sense of balance.
3. Several Points in a Deliberate Shape
The intention of this image was to arrange the points into a start shape. When I look at the image, this is how I see the points working together. However, when I have shown other people the image and explained the intention was to arrange the points into a deliberate shape, they have replied that it is a circle. I found this interesting and it demonstrates the idea that as much as we can use the elements of design to try and influence the way someone looks at and sees an image, we can’t control them.
4. A Combination of Vertical and Horizontal Lines
In this image, I’ve tried to use the lines to guide the viewer through the scene. The vertical lines created by the knives take you into the scene, the horizontal lines of the stacked plates take you to the cake and then the intention of the jam running out of the cake was to take you back down towards the bottom of the image. I feel the lines of the knives and the plates are quite strong but the intended lines created by the jam don’t seem to be quite strong enough.
The narrative of the scene is a cake waiting to be cut. The lines in the image are contributing towards a sense of stability and nothing moving which hopefully brings about a feeling of anticipation for the cake being cut and served.
Using the corn, I liked how arranging them to go across the frame formed two sets of diagonals – one formed by the objects whole and the other in the opposite direction formed by the objects structure. On reflection, I feeling the lighting could have been improved in this image. Diagonals themselves can give a sense of depth but the even lighting is detracting from this.
The number of elements used to create the effect of the curve in this image made it the image that took the most time to create. In the image, the main curve was intended to be the items on and immediately around the plated with the spot of jam providing a central pivot point. Initially, this arrangement was leaving the background empty and uninteresting so additional items were introduced and were arranged to support the main curve.
7. Distinct, even if irregular, shapes
I couldn’t think of any food that had a more distinctive shape than a banana but I didn’t just want the image to be of a plane, unpealed banana. By cutting the banana in half, having carefully pealed back the skin, I created an arrangement that I felt had curves taking the eye though the image and had a pleasing symmetry.
8. Implied Triangle 1
The original idea of this image was to simply take a triangular slice out of the cake. However, as the cake was cut, I found myself with two triangles and I decided I wanted to get both into the composition. I experimented with a number of arrangements before I settled on the one used. The earlier attempts didn’t seemed to be working because the lines being created kept leading the eye out of the image. Finally, by using and arranging the spoons, the image has finished with three implied triangles within one image that work well together.
9. Implied Triangle 2
When researching ideas for how to photography food, I liked the back lit effect created with pieces of transparent fruit which I have replicated here. As with the example of the implied triangle above, I’ve been able to include multiple implied triangle into this image.
With this image, I was trying to create two parallel rhythms symbolising two lines on a musical score. In the foreground, there is a definite rhythm for the eye two follow. However, in the background, I’m not completely convinced that the apple stalks don’t interrupt the rhythm being created.
This is a simple image demonstrating the idea of a pattern. To give the image a slightly more dynamic feel, I arranged the kiwis to form slightly diagonal lines whilst making sure the items broken the image boundary and suggesting the pattern continues outside of what can be seen.
In the introduction to this module, the course notes mention that “Colour, in this context, can be something of a distraction”. Before deciding on the final images to use for the assignment, I tried converting them all to grey scale (with some adjustments to the image processing) to see if they still had strength in the points, lines and shapes. The grey scale conversions have been included in a gallery below and I feel they do still demonstrate the intended design elements.
When putting the images together, I tried to think of the images as a collective panel of work so tried to keep the images look and feel similar. In order to light the images, I was using a torch to paint in the light in a darken room, so it took a number of attempts to get the lighting as I wanted for each picture. On the whole, I think the images work well together as a collection with the only exception being the image taken to demonstrate curves. In this image, I was struggling a little with the edges of the images and I decided that adding a vignette supported the composition. On reviewing the images as a complete collection, this may not have been the best idea.
My natural inclination for selecting a subject would have been to choose something to do with nature or landscapes as these are the subjects I have previously enjoyed the most and feel most comfortable with. Choosing a subject that lent itself to still life/table top photography took me out of my comfort zone but has expanded my experience and photography techniques.