Pre task thoughts
I’m thinking that this will be a tricky one, and pleasantly challenging too. It’s almost like zooming in without zooming in; I mean, focusing on just one part, or section of the frame while trying to ignore the other parts sounds onerous, although not impossible to get used to. I am wondering how much the eye will play its part when I try to compose the section of the grid; will it include forms to create some harmony or balance by using peripheral vision, seeing things out of the corner of my eye inadvertently? I bet it does.
Not having a specific subject to stick to is surely a very liberating feeling at first, although I am having trouble thinking about what to shoot because of that freedom. Oh dear, here I go again, thinking too much.
I’d like to try a few macros with this, as this will make it easier for me to concentrate on just one area of the frame, I think, seeing as we don’t have to bother with the rest of the frame, as the brief suggests. Maybe a few wide angle shots too will help me see how aware I will actually be of the rest of the frame; peripheral vision is kind of hard to turn off after all…
Putting some ideas and sketches down in my notebook the other day, seems to have helped me think about a few things: it’ll probably be better if I choose the framing part of the grid towards the edge of the viewfinder/screen. Why’s that? Well, I’ve noticed that if I frame centrally, then my eye flicks around picking out elements with which to create, presumably, a semblance of structure within the pictorial space (I have this niggling feeling that I should NOT be fighting this ‘visual aid’, and should let it do what it needs to do).
Whereas, by placing, or framing the intended subject towards the edge, or one side of the viewfinder/screen, I am emphasizing the fact that I need to force myself to concentrate on just that space and not the frame as a whole… So hard to do judging by my first efforts (contact sheets below).
Frames within frames…
I found that once I started shooting and looking for the tighter frame within a frame approach it became much easier to do. Sometimes we just have to get out there and try, learn by doing and all that.
With the above shot I was really trying hard to focus on the corner of the frame and not anything else. I wanted to capture that calming blue, and the delicate curve of the cover.
As much as I tried to consciously avoid any connections outside of the white rectangle, there does seem to be some involuntary, unconscious connections here. Or am I just looking for them? After all, there must be some connection simply because we find ourselves in a bedroom, so the slippers and desk obviously fit in with the scene (and our expectations). However much I remind myself that I really concentrated on just that corner, I can’t help feeling that it appears composed. Am I looking for closure?
The strong sunlight flashes across the frame enticing movement. I framed the top left where I thought the verticle wooden beam created a nice composition using the rule of thirds. There is, once again, a strong relationship with the frame itself in terms of dynamics. The lack of reference points or other subject matter puts an emphasis on the leading out horizontal line, and, to a lesser extent, the line coming off of the wooden frame (the broken yellow diagonal).
In some ways this could be a double strategy shot. What I mean by that, is that the top left, if we focus just on that section as the task requires, there seems to be a nicely balanced composition, at least in my view; whereas if we take the frame as a whole, and my selection in relationship to it, then the shot picks up on some previous exercises from Project 2. That being, the use of an extreme placement of a focus point, or subject within the frame. If we needed to justify such a tight positioning of the subject here, I would say that the leading lines racing out of the shot to the right give reason (balance) to the placement. Although there is a lot of darkness below those lines to accept, maybe a little too much…
With this lampshade shot I’m getting a similar sensation to the bed cover shot above, where there seems to be some type of compositional balance when taking the frame as a whole. Although the elements to the right of the lampshade, this time, I find irrelevant and distracting. I think this shows that maybe we do not unconsciously include external details, although I’m sure that depends on quite a view factors such as colour, light, angles, noises (I don’t take my shots with earplugs on, do you?), and the reasons, and time we have for composing the shot.
By opening and closing the aperture the background becomes part of the composition in two very distinct ways: opening the 25mm up to its maximum aperture of F/1,4 (shot on the left) creates the (often overly desired) blurred or creamy “bokeh” effect, which helps draw the eyes to, and keep focus on, a single point without any intrusive distractions in the background, but, rather, adding more of a mood to the setting. So how conscious was I of the rest of the frame here? By purposely blurring the background, I belie (reveal?) an awareness of it; a clear, subtle aesthetic choice to ‘include’ it within the pictorial space by, paradoxically, excluding it.
On the other hand, the second shot, (on the right) thanks to stopping down to an estimated F/8 (hard to tell as it’s a clickless aperture ring), we see detail in the background coming forth. Once again, I kept me eyes on the bottom left frame of the grid for the composition, but we can clearly see that the slightly more perceptible details in the background, although still nicely blurred and not too intrusive, still play an involuntary and integral part in the overall compositional power of the shot.
I find my eyes firmly stick to the slim focus of the first shot, and then swish over the frame and then back to the focus, as seen before with Ex 1.2 Point, to be expected as there’s little else to see; the second shot still keeps the focus point, but I find my eyes flash all over the frame trying to make out those almost perceptible details swimming around the penknife. I feel that it is much easier to make assumptions and understand the context of the photo here with that slightly clearer background information (at the cost of giving lesser importance to the focused area?).
Two interesting choices; two equally valid aesthetic choices; two choices which the photographer has to carefully select depending on his of her objectives (see Ex 2.2 for more advanced usage with this).
I tried to align the focused line of the books between the two ‘triangles’ (in red).
This underlines how I feel about the frame within a frame technique we are using here: we can still apply our existing guidelines to composition, at least, I feel that that is what I am trying to do here. What else could I be doing here? (Bearing in mind that I am still at the beginning of this course, so I am looking forward to gaining new skills regarding this question, and I hope I can come back and answer it.)
When thinking about how the book section relates to the whole frame, I have also noticed how the blurred bookcase in the background creates a nice effect of supporting, or anchoring, and adds some dynamics overall.
Now, did I unconsciously compose that? Did I though?
This shot was taken looking down through a radiator (I had a lot of fun with this subject as you can see from the contact sheets below!) where I had wedged a bike torch to add some interest to the innards of the radiator as it was nighttime and pretty dark. This shot had later been cropped to a square and some levels toyed with (one of the few I have edited – see the link just below). I added some post crop vignetting to draw the focus even more towards the centre (even if the subject here isn’t perfectly aligned at the centre, as seen from the grid laid over the image).
I love this kind of photography. It is also one of the few shots where I tried a central placement. As I mentioned above, I don’t think the centrally placed subject works so well as a technique with this type of task due to its inferred stability and the way it symmetrically involves other elements within the composition (hence the desire to crop to a square). The fact that there is hardly any other details around the central area in this shot, however, works in its favour, I reckon, and justifies its inclusion; I did later’heal’ the bottom part on another version of this shot, as I found it distracting.
Yet another radiator (during the day this time). I used the 14-42mm and managed to trick the lens/camera into focusing inside (it couldn’t lock on as the hole was too small) by first focusing on the radiator outside and then position the camera over the hole. Why didn’t I just use manual focus? Menus can be tiresome and fiddly (and Olympus ones are), and as I usually use manual/lagacy lenses I have no need to set up a function button with manual focus. And even if I did have that function, this was just as quick if not quicker. My selected rectangle here, is nicely composed, I believe, which can’t really be said for the rest of the frame as a whole. That being said, it does kind of work for me in terms of contextualizing the framed rectangle’s ‘distant’ focus down inside the radiator.
With this shot (still with the radiator), I purposely stopped down as far as the 25mm would go and a slow shutter speed of 1/4 (ISO 400) to try and just get another type of effect (being sharper and darker with obviously less flare). I also used the self-timer to try and reduce camera shake; and balanced the camera over the hole hands free. Risky. I also noticed with this shot that I could switch (in my mind) the selected frame (in the viewfinder) as to effectively obtain two shots for the price of one (indicated by the red numbers), although the first shot (1) was my main focus here.
(Do I use parentheses too much?)
Removing the torch, and opening the aperture to F/1,4 I was able to let more light in giving more details and some (I think) quite interesting shallow DoF effects.
I was looking for the bottom rectangle (A) when composing, but there is a decent shot possibly in the top rectangle too (B). The third area to the left (C) adds a nice almost mirrored effect of the orange light. I’ve now got to the point where I won’t even ask the question as to whether I intended that or not!
Referring back to Ex 1.3 – i, there are strong lines in this shot running through my point of interest and diagonals which lead both in and out of the frame (yellow lines).
Post task thoughts
I really enjoyed this – seemingly at first – restrictive exercise, as it turned out to be a creative and thought-provoking one too. My initial doubts and issues with the idea of zooming in mentally within the frame whilst maintaining a fixed focal length brought some interesting insights as I went through this mini task. (Actually, not that mini a task at all if we look at how much I have written and commented about it, quite the opposite in fact!)
This task has really made me think about what is going on in our heads when we frame, from a conscious level and an unconscious one; how much are we involved when we appear not to be? Is our peripheral vision always active even when we are trying to ignore it? Do we have an aesthetic criteria for form and structure that needs to be abated possibly through an unstoppable urge for closure? All conjecture and hyphotheses at the moment. I am aware that I need to read up more; although, as I progress through these exercises, I realise that I need to read up on a lot more than just photography to answer some of the questions and observations that are coming up: fascinating! Thing is, when am I going to do all that then?
The adventure continues…
PS Might need to steer away from almost always using my beloved primes with a narrow Dof; if I can feel it being a tad too frequent over the course of these first few exercises, then that’s a fair indication that it probably is becoming too common, and I really should try some new focal lengths, or just stick to the zooms even? I dunno. But worth keeping an eye on.
Definitely worth keeping an eye on.
My Notebook notes