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Advanced Composition Techniques

Alignment is a mechanism for composing an image that has prominent lines, concentrating on this aims to align two or more of these lines, for example on an office building, aligning the top of the building with the frame emphasises the geometry. With the photographer choosing how to present objects, the edge of the frame can have a major effect and influence on the image. A way to convey strength in composition when concentrating on frame dynamics and alignment is by analysing the horizontal and vertical borders. The corners contribute strongly to the design and directional flow of the photograph; utilising the angular momentum of straight lines can move the viewers eye in a particular direction across the image, this is particularly useful when photographing buildings.

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Contrast plays the biggest role in defining lines visually; contrast between light and shade and between areas of different colour aids composition and directional flow. Specifically with architecture the dynamic lines are an important feature to emphasise due to the direction and movement along their length and height. When composing an image of a building it will automatically become more natural and inviting because it will compare the angle and length.

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Horizontal lines, for instance, have a more tranquil effect than diagonal lines as they lead the eye in a single direction naturally from left to right. Zig-zags can be exciting, but also disruptive to the flow of an image as it breaks up the natural line that the eye will take. Bold lines can express strength whereas thin, curving lines suggest delicacy.

‘in illustration a line is often the first mark made, in photography it occurs less obviously and usually by implication, in respect it is similar to the way we actually see the world, where most lines are in fact edges’ .

I want to experiment with lines and how the eye can be led around a photograph through the photographers use of dynamics. I feel that Andre Kertez employs this well as he uses dynamics strongly within his work.

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Henri Cartier Bresson also incorporates a lot of shadows within his photography, but more specifically tries to capture the living moment, the peak of the entertainment and action going on in the world; despite it being the peak it can sometimes be the most tranquil moment captured due to the stance people are in and  additionally their expressions. Bresson also focuses his work on angles and how the whole frame will lead the eye to a main subject of focus, for example the stairs leading to the man riding his bike.

Alignment within photography concentrates on the arrangements of objects and lines in relative positions, frame dynamics however concentrates on utilising the setting to create frames within frames. View point is also integral to composition when photographing architecture. Photographing buildings from below causes the lines of the building to converge inwards, this can aid the emphasis of the image as it creates a vanishing point. My aim is to explore both the setting and the subject within the frame; placing compositional emphasis on the use of leading lines whilst simultaneously consciously waiting for the decisive moment to occur with that frame.

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Street Photography London

I like Joel Meyerowitz, he seems to love life. His philosophy always makes me happy because of it’s simplicity – ‘what you put in the frame, determines the photograph’. He seems to approach his work from a philosophical point of view as much as a literal, image based one. The real world continues outside of the frame, whatever you choose to put in it, immediately become relevant. Joel shoots on a Leica, which he says is the finer instrument out of that and an SLR. This is due to the fact that an SLR blocks your second eye, whereas with a Leica your other eye is able to see whats coming. I’d never considered it before, but this must be a huge advantage in terms of timing.

I’d like to attempt street photography with a waist level viewfinder and compare the outcomes. I wonder if the physical process of looking at the world through a lower prism would help remove the fear factor associated with looking at strangers. I have grown to love the street photography genre as it has shown me a new type of present that exists only in the photograph. In the photograph it is always the present. I have always been drawn to the notion that life continued after these moments, without the camera, there is no picture.

Forced Narrative

Shooting at a lower angle with a longer lens helped isolate strangers walking by. The two Cindy Sherman style images were shot at 300mm, exaggerating depth of field. The panoramic crop was inspired by Tarantino’s recent film the hateful 8. The essence of the crop brings about a dramatic, filmic quality. It also draws the viewer into the face. It pulls the elements of the frame together and forces a relationship that isn’t really there. This is perfectly demonstrated in the image at the bottom. Two women of different ages, crossing paths in the street. No relationship, no knowledge of each other. Bring them together in the frame, they almost look Photoshopped. The frame however forces the viewer to consider the relationship, developing a narrative that doesn’t exist.

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Street Photography

Street photography has got to be one of the hardest disciplines in photography. Forget complex studio lighting techniques or advanced composition – all of these things can be taught. Holding a camera, looking a stranger in the eye and taking the picture – there’s no lessons for that. In that moment, invading someones personal space for your own gain. Will they freak out, swear, try and hit you? Who knows. But the struggle for our art is real, the fear is real. Maybe photographers love it for the rush, the fear of being caught?

Garry Winogrand had an interesting approach to street photography. In this video at 4:52 you can see exactly what he does to get close to people. In short, he pretends he’s and idiot. It’s as if this is an attempt to disarm the subject in front of him, a clueless man with a camera is no harm and we can continue with our conversation. His mantra of ‘I know what I’m photographing is interesting, but I haven’t seen the pictures yet’ leaves me conflicted. Of course there will always be an element of chance to street photography, but there is a definite formula for a good photograph. Composition, timing, lighting – one must have these key elements to make an interesting image, maybe I’m being too much of a purist and not embracing the love of chance. I do however like his comment ‘I like to see what things look like photographed’. Through all my reservations about chance, this has always stuck with me. Seeing the world with your eyes will always be completely different to how the photograph represents that moment, the magic of not only street photography, but photography in general, will always exist in that unknown.

Best place to practice street photography – The London Marathon

Every year men and women from all walks of life drag themselves through a grueling 26 mile run – at least that’s what their faces say. This is a perfect opportunity to try out photographing strangers as they are completely distracted. The crowds are dense, the noise booming and their are cameras everywhere – people expect to be photographed. That’s where you come in. Set your shutter speeds fast and get shooting. Every type of facial expression, from desire to fear can be captured in a twenty minute period. Your focusing skills will be tested as well as your ability to adapt with crowds and changing light. Something that was almost unexpected from this experience was how it teaches you to see a scene as a whole. The temptation is to single out an individual from the crowd, but you can train yourself to see the scene as a whole. With people running right in front of you it can also help develop depth within your photographs. Here’s a selection from 2016, some are better than others, but the experience is incredibly valuable.

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Using a scanner as a device to capture images is relatively untapped. Sometimes referred to as ‘Scanography’ the process is as simple as it sounds, take an item and scan it. The results vary depending on light leeks, ambient light sources and of course the marks on the scanner. The initial reaction might be to Photoshop the imperfections out, but I rather think they add character, the images become reminiscent of Tintypes. The individual images have been placed together on a single image file and presented as a triptych.

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