Assignment 1 – Contrasts

For this assignment, what I thought at the outset ought to be a straight-forward and reasonably simple task proved to be a little more difficult. And the problem was mostly to do with matters of perception, what I see versus what others may see, what I see versus what is actually the case, and what I see versus what the camera sees, given its’ inherent mechanical, optical and electronic limitations. As a result the contrasting qualities in the selected image pairs may not actually best show the necessary extremes, and it was not always possible to find subjects that I felt best suited the requirements. However, I can say that the images chosen do generally conform to the requirements of the assignment. I  also enjoyed the project oriented aspect of the assignment, namely that of seeking out, comparing and choosing suitable subjects to photograph.

My chosen pairs of contrasting images consist of the following:

1 – Sweet and Sour

2 – Many and Few

3 – Rounded and Diagonal

4 – Straight and Curve

5 – Rough and Smooth

6 – Still and Moving

7 – Thick and Thin

8 – Light and Dark



1 – Sweet & Sour


Sweet – ISO400, 50mm, f/2.2, 1/30sec


Sour – ISO500, 50mm, f/2.2, 1/60sec

I had just done some shopping at the time I began to think of sitting down and actually writing this assignment. I had by then already long been thinking and keeping a keen look-out for any obvious contrasts in my day-to-day life and travels. So I soon noticed one immediate and possibly all-too-obvious contrast amongst my purchases as being that of a bag of sugar versus some lemons. I think for most people, the first thing that comes to mind when looking at obvious food items is “how does it taste?”, before even questions or ideas on shape or texture come into mind. But for the items above, we instinctively know what classes of taste they represent. At the same time, I suppose the images are contrived, as might be displayed in some cookery book. I would much rather have photographed the lemons hanging in a tree perhaps, against a leafy background, and the sugar in a pre-processed state, as sugar cane. The images were quick to set up and photograph. I feel though that too shallow a depth of field may have been used in both images, the sugar particularly.



2 – Many & Few


Many – ISO100, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/160sec


Few – ISO640, 85mm, f/11, 1/160sec

When one describes a collection of objects as being many in number, then that’s usually because it’s easier to describe them as such, rather than trying to count them in order to give an exact figure. People are not usually concerned with the exact numbers of random things unless they have a direct interest in them. I came across a section of dried river-bed recently and was struck by the very large number of rocks and boulders strewn across its’ surface. The low angle I photographed them from, and thus as deep a field as possible, in the first photo above serves only to increase the sense that there were indeed many rocks at this location. But describing a collection of objects as being few in number can be either relative or subjective, or both. In the photo of the boats above, where these the only examples afloat in the entirety of the lake that I photographed them on, then maybe it could rather be said there were many   boats in number. But as it was, there were many more, but out of the view of the framing of this image, loosely moored along the shoreline of the lake for some distance. Hence the description of them as being “few”, appear as being so only within the frame of this photo. Had I turned to angle my point of view to run down the length of the shore, then the resulting view would have become one containing many boats.



3 – Rounded & Diagonal


Rounded – ISO1000, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125sec


Diagonal – ISO400, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/125sec

I would describe the object in the first image as being rounded due to the possibility that it has become so over time. It is actually a hand post at the end of a set of stairs, and has obviously seen such use that it shape has changed, perhaps only subtlety, over time. It may once have had more definite edges in parts of its’ shape, maybe been squared off in some way, as the flattened top seems to suggest. So my description of it as being “rounded” refers to the possibility that its’ shape has indeed changed. Then again I could just be seeing what I want to see, and the shape as seen, is what it actually is. I tried to photograph it against a relatively plain but brighter background, making it somewhat backlit, so as to show more of the quality of its’ roundedness. The corrugated roofing and tiles in the second image are strongly diagonal, both in relation to each other, and to their position in relation to the cameras’ squared field of view. And again most of this effect is due to the location of the point of view chosen to frame them. Had I shifted my location further along then the effect might have been less obvious or quite different. I had overlooked the possibility that this roof, just across from the roof to my own house, could display diagonal qualities until I had actually attempted looking at them through the viewfinder of my camera. So an earlier suggestion in the course material to keep the camera held to the eye as constantly as possible might be a useful one.



4 – Straight & Curve


Straight – ISO1000, 35mm, f/5.6, 1/4000


Curve – ISO280, 50mm, f/4, 1/30sec

The straight lines in the first image frame the edges and cornices of a set of outward facing windows of a house. They are really more architectural embellishments than some necessary structural requirement. However I like the contrasts between the sunset-lit and dark shadowed areas that further serve to accentuate those edges. I notice however that barrel distortion in the image produced by the lens (a Nikkor 18-105mm AF-S) slightly curves the image upwards and downwards at the top and bottom edges of the frame. This effect is especially more pronounced in images captured in RAW format, as these were. The second image is a photograph of a part of a spiraling staircase. The top left of the image shows a structure that is part of a circular ceiling section that houses a light fitting. I decided to photograph only the parts and sections of a bigger view so as to highlight the curvy sections contained within. I could have used a flash to give a brighter, clearer or more definite image, but then the shadows that work to deepen and accentuate the curves, especially in the ceiling section, would have been lost.



5 – Rough & Smooth


Rough – ISO500, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/500sec


Smooth – ISO220, 50mm, f/4, 1/30sec

A close-up of the elephant skin in the first image can surely only be described as being rough based solely on its’ initial outward appearance. Upon touching or caressing it, this perception is further reinforced by the numerous short tough hairs that grow out of it. The skin itself is leathery but quite pliable to touch and did not feel as thick as it appeared. It also seemed to slip and slide easily over the moving muscle and bone mass it contained (I sat and rode around on it for a while). The eggs are further items from my previous shopping spree (I also bought bread and milk too, some carrots, garlic, onions…..). The broad and even reflective property of the the eggshells suggest an almost unblemished surface. As an observer there is an urge to pick them up and fondle them, roll them around in the hand and maybe even juggle them (two eggs were actually broken in the course of this photo being taken). A keener smoothness is seen on the polished stone surface on which the eggs are positioned. The reflective highlights are brighter and sharper, more defined, suggesting and even smoother surface than those possessed by the eggs, a quality that I at first missed in my concentration on the eggs. I think the shot could have benefited from being taken from a slightly lower angle, as that used in the image of the lemons, and maybe a shallower field of depth.



6 – Still & Moving


Still – ISO1600, 52mm, f/9, 1/4000sec


Moving – ISO500, 66mm, f/5.3, 1/2500sec

The “still” scene I came across in the first image was characterized by the absolute stillness of the very warm morning air, a dense smokey mist that overlay everything, and the immovable silhouette of the steel platform in the mid-ground. Nothing stirred or moved within this field of view as far as I could tell. An unseen contrast of this photo is the fact that it was taken from the back of an elephant as it paused before crossing a river. Taking a just as carefully registered photo of the same scene had the elephant been in motion would have been impossible as they are always very bumpy rides (I did try!). The second image is probably my favourite of all those presented within this assignment. These boys, previously paddling quietly in the river at a distance, decided upon noticing my approach to put on a veritable performance of aquatic feats and displays. This included dunkings and dives, back flips and dolphin-like porpoising. I was mesmerised, and almost forgot to capture the photographic opportunity presented. I’m sure they would have continued their sport for as long as I stood there as an observer. The river itself was far from sluggish, and the strength and flow of the water (moving from right to left) is hinted at in the wake created as it flows around around the boy in the middle of the image. Besides that, a constant stream of floating clumps of water hyacinth added to the general movement and dynamism of this river.



7 – Thick & Thin


Thick – ISO500, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/640sec


Thin – ISO100, 50mm, f/4, 1/2000sec

It’s possible that an elephant might take offense at having it’s legs, knees and ankles being described as thick. As elephant legs go, the ones pictured above might actually be elegant and shapely, but then again it’s a matter of perception, relative to what we know of ourselves as humans. I really was in awe at the size and strength of the elephants I came across in the forests and along the rivers of the Chitwan National Park in southern Nepal. And despite those qualities, along with their sturdy build, they possessed an obviously gentle nature. A person seeing the second image for the first time without realizing what they were looking at might at first ask “what are those thin lines?”. The thin lines are in fact overhead electrical transmission cables. I think they could be described as being thin due to a few relative properties they apparently show within the confines of the image. Against the large framed space of the plain and clear background of the sky they are thin. The wide spacing between each cable again suggests a certain thinness, and then there is the ratio between the thickness of the cable versus their apparent length, also suggesting thinness. Taken altogether it’s easy to suggest that these may be long, thin cables. In actuality, the cables are about 1/2 inch thick when looked at up close (recent rewiring along my road had left a few cut-off pieces lying around). So as cables go, it could be that they are considered as being thick. So again a matter of point of view and perception seems to determine their apparent properties.



8 – Light & Dark


Light – ISO1000, 66mm, f/5.3, 1/125sec


Dark – ISO1600, 105mm, f/5.6, 1/13

Another obvious and well recognised contrast is that between light and dark. In the first image, the light isn’t just what is emitted by the lightbulb, but is also shown in the different shades of colour, again both light and dark, in the fabric of the lampshade and again projected against the wall. The second image is almost overwhelmingly dark, despite the presence of the lantern. The image was exposed for the light emitted by the lantern so as not to blow out its’ detail, so the background, despite it being dark anyway, may have been rendered even more so than was visible to the naked eye at the time. So in this case, the darkness is how it was seen by the camera, rather than the eye.



Contrast In A Single Image


Contrasts In A Single Image – ISO640, 70mm, f/11, 1/320sec

For this image I decided to photograph something that would show a range of tonalities, or contrasts, from light to dark, as well as still and moving. The image is that of a range of hills, that due to distance, progressively become lighter in their shading. I think this effect is not defined by the amount of light actually falling on the hills, but more by a combination of a generally smokey or misty atmosphere, and the point in the image at which I decided to focus for detail, namely the hills at mid-range. It just so happened that a kite (the species of bird, not the man-made flying contraption)  was flying around in an area quite close to my position, and so I waited patiently, still focusing on the scene, hoping that the bird would fly across the cameras’ field of view. When it did so, I made sure to take at least two or three images, one above of which I selected as having the best composition, focus and exposure. Besides the contrasts of tone between the hills, the kite lends a sense of movement to the scene, despite its’ wing flaps being frozen in time. This I feel is in great contrast to the obvious stillness of the relatively distant background. I was lucky to get this image at the time I did as within about a half hour a sudden squall blew down from surrounding hills out of the frame of the image and the scene darkened in its’ entirety.


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