From the outset I must say that I found the course material on this exercise far from clear and the examples given not very helpful. I am still at a loss to properly understand what the hand drawn grid on page 29 is supposed to be. I am also wondering how, for the final choice of images, a number of disparate images taken for the purposes of the first part of the exercise can really hang together as a set. So bear with me!
My camera, Canon EOS70D, does not have a viewfinder grid as such. There is a partial grid, with a cartouche within it, but this does not really help with the compositional approach required here. Instead I have used a three by three grid on the camera’s rear screen, and have shot using Live View.
I have found the instruction to compose in just one part of the grid a little difficult to apply – each square within the grid is relatively small and it is really difficult properly to compose a shot within that limited space. What I have therefore done throughout is to choose on particular point in the view as the main focal point and locate that in the various grid squares. For each scene I have therefore taken nine shots, with the focal point appearing in each of the grid squares. The rest of the pictures have then been left to compose themselves around that focal point.
I have selected the following six groups as examples. (I took more groups but the others do not add anything.) 1-3 and 5 were all shot at 50mm, 4 and 6 with a 10-18mm wide angle at 12mm for variety. The chosen focal points are: reflected trees in the puddle; a tree stump in the burn; a small clump of snowdrops; the join between two kerb stones; the ‘ford’ sign; house number on the stone wall.
As with Exercise 1.2 Point I struggle with the idea that the relationship between the point, or here the ‘composed’ part of the image, the chosen focal point, and the frame is more important than the over all relationship with the other compositional elements. I would though say that, leaving aside the sixth group above for now, the least interesting, successful images are those where the composed subject is in the middle of the picture. As the point is equidistant from each edge of the frame (ok, not strictly equidistant as the pictures are not square) it is a bit adrift. (What saves it, for example in the ford set, is the relationship to the strong horizontals of the bridge and the tree bough, and in the reflected trees set the strong verticals of the trees and the asymmetrical, raking, leading lines of the edges of the road.) Clearly the images are more interesting where the subject is closer to one of the edges.
So far as the sixth group is concerned I find it harder to draw any conclusions. Part if the problem here I feel is that the choice of a wide angle, and close view point to the subject creates such a degree of distortion and make it so hard to identify what the focal point actually is. That said, the three images where the number can clearly be seen at the right hand edge do have some impact and visual interest and they d benefit from the number being close to the edge.
While out taking the above shots, quite by chance I came upon the horse standing in the burn at the lower ford on what, after the Square Mile project, I have now come to call “Gara’s round” in honour of that set’s invisible protagonist, pawing at the rocks in the stream bed and splashing water. As I did not have the luxury of time (the horse moved off shortly after I took these few shots) and because here the subject was so much larger making it impractical to try a full grid of nine shots, I restricted myself to just three, concentrating on the relationship between the horse and the side edges.
The first one, with the horse in the middle, is ok as a composition but I feel again that the image is more animated where the horse is closer to the edge, particularly in the case of the third shot. I feel this is better than the second because of the way the horse is facing. In the third shot the his still facing into the over all view whereas in the second it is facing out of the frame, leaving the space behind it as effectively dead. (I feel that for once the hints of flair from the sun on the lens add to rather than detract from the final image.)
Just on a practical point, I did ask the rider for permission before shooting and she was happy to oblige, but not prepared to hang around!
The final set
As I said at the beginning I am not sure that these really hang together as a set – there is nothing in particular that links them thematically. I have therefore chosen them on the basis that they work individually. All were shot with the camera in “automatic” SCN mode. Apart from the horse, all shots used a tripod to maintain a consistent view point.
The brief says to make a montage or contact sheet of these images. Unfortunately the software packages that I currently have do not seem to allow the creation of a montage (by which I assume is meant a composite picture of all of the chosen images). I can create contact sheets (as above) but these always contain the file name, breaking up any montage effect. I have therefore decided to show the chosen set as individual photos, with technical details beneath.
ISO 320, 62mm, 1/80s, f/5.0
ISO 400, 12mm, 1/250s, f/11
ISO 100, 35mm, 1/64s, f/4.5
ISO 200, 35mm, 1/64s, f/4.5
ISO 100, 50mm, 1/100s, f/5.0
ISO 125, 29mm, 1/50s, f/4.0
Of this set I feel that the second is perhaps the weakest though I do like its slightly off kilter look, its lack of any true verticals, and the distortion from using a wide angle lens from a very low vantage point.
The first image has a certain something extra from the out of focus line that cuts the field of view in two – this was a strand of wire that produced a somewhat ghostly and enigmatic presence because of the relatively shallow depth of field.
In compositional terms I think these have all got something to offer not only in terms of frame but also point and line, and could perhaps just as easily stand as examples for those other exercises as well. Serendipitously the horses head, the rider, and the two sun spots form a straight line and it is only now that I notice the inner spot and the saddle blanket are almost the same colour!