Feedback on Assignment Two
Before commencing Assignment Three I will revisit my tutor’s (at the time José Navarro) comments from Assignment Two and make the suggested improvements. This will help me to organise my thoughts and work whilst also learning techniques and tips that I can apply to future projects.
The feedback begins by noting that the assignment preparatory work is good as is my explanatory texts. While my blog presentation is good it can be further improved by ensuring that, when clicked each image opens in a new window. I have made the necessary changes to the blog to enable this.
José notes that the images show developing observational skills and have captured fleeting scenes by reacting to the world, which he likes.
He notes that while I did carry out pertinent research, I should work towards contextualising my work in the framework of other artists practice as well as relevant critical issues.
Before commenting on individual images José, highlights the quality of the Black and White conversions. In my accompanying text I had omitted to mention whether the photographs had been taken in colour and then converted or had been shot in B&W. He notes that the B&W images look rather ‘flat’ with very low contrast.
I shot the images in colour RAW format, converted them to grayscale and then made some adjustments to lighting and contrast. I have been using Photoshop Elements 11 for only a few months and while I have been experimenting with some of the .adjustments available I am still learning how best to use its features. I chose a grayscale conversion at the time as this was what I had been working with throughout the Elements of Design exercises and I was familiar with this simple process. José suggested I do some research online on the two main methods for B&W conversions in Photoshop: channels and the B&W command. As Photoshop Elements 11 does not have a channels command I looked at the B&W command. It became clear very quickly that the options available in this feature offered increased tonal range and contrast. I therefore, have used this feature to convert my colour photographs as follows.
Single point dominating the composition
José notes that the window has enough visual weight to dominate the composition but that the line of poles sticking out of the wall could be distracting. He suggested some further post-processing to darken the wall.
I did this using the ‘convert to black and white’ command I experimented with the B&W options different options before deciding upon the ‘scenic landscape’ setting. I then increased the contrast slightly to darken the wall, the poles and the door, which serves as the ‘single point’.
José noted that the image worked well with the eye moving between the two points. He notes that an automatic B&W conversion, such as I carried out, has rendered the red and green colours of the flags a similar shade of grey.
I took José’s advice and experimented with the B&W command and noted with interest the difference that each option had on the flag colours. I again opted for the ‘scenic landscape’ version and increased the level of green in the image. This has made the colours of the flags more discernible and increased tonal range.
Several points in a deliberate shape
My tutor noted that this was a good idea and good use of vertical format. However he recommended some cropping to arrange the boats towards the back into a well-defined array. On reflection, I can see that the abras and building details in the background distract from the ‘deliberate shape’ in the foreground.
I applied quite a heavy crop to the image to remove the ‘busy’ background although I opted to retain a section of abra canopy to add context to the shot. The tighter framing now emphases the triangle formed by the front of the abras. After some experimenting I converted the image to B&W using the ‘urban/snapshot’ function and lightened some of the shadows to allow the texture of the wooden boats to be seen.
Combination of vertical and horizontal lines
José felt this image was ‘An interesting, unusual composition that works quite well’. He noted that further improvement to the composition could have been made by selected a higher viewpoint, which would have separated the bottom of the boat and the canopy above the “Abra no.50” sign. There was nothing in the locale that I could have stood on, however I can see how this advice could have improved the image by removing the curved base of the abra. This is something I will consider in future.
Following up on Jose’s advice regarding the quality of the B&W conversions, I reprocessed this file and converted it using the ‘urban/snapshot’ function to increase the contrast slightly.
My tutor said that the diagonal in this photograph is evident but could be made more obvious by selective use of tonal contrasts. He believed this would make the carts stand out more against the walls.
I reprocessed the image in PSE11 and converted it to B&W using ‘urban/snapshot’. I then adjusted the contrast to darken the carts and emphasis the ‘diagonality’ of the photograph.
My tutor’s feedback advised that, as with the diagonal image, selective use of tonal adjustments such as B&W command could make the shape of the vase more defined against the out-of-focus background.
At the time, I felt as though this image had enough contrast, however, as with the previous images I hadn’t experimented with the range of tonal adjustments. I edited the image using the B&W, ‘urban/snapshots’ command and slightly increased the contrast and noted that this had given the vase more of a three-dimensional appearance and increased the appearance of texture.
Distinct, even if irregular shapes
José noted that the composition and higher-contrast B&W conversion had given the boat a certain 3D quality that he liked.
I tried out the various B&W conversions to see if I could improve the contrast in this image further and noted that the ‘portrait’ version offered more contrast to both foreground and background.
The feedback regarding the implied triangles photographs was that in both of these photographs the background was too ‘busy’ and visually distracting. Looking back I can see this in the shot of the mannequins in the old souk. Here the background has got a lot going on which makes the implied triangle less distinct. I experimented with a crop that would have removed the lanterns from above the mannequins, however the paneled door in the background was still a strong visual feature.
With the boats image, I think the implied triangle is more apparent in the colour version, as the brown/orange of the boats contrasts with the blue of the creek water. I experimented with the B&W conversion options and contrast but couldn’t seem to achieve a strong implied triangle.
I therefore decided to re-shoot the photographs for this element of design. As my previous attempts has backgrounds which distracted from the implied triangles I decided to keep the composition of the new photographs simple, with a focus on three obvious points in the frame.
The obvious points in this image are the mooring posts at an abra station on Dubai Creek. One post is closer to the camera and shorter and this helps the white pointed tips of the posts to form an inverted implied triangle. Freeman (2007, p86) describes inverted triangles as less stable and more aggressive than triangles with an even base.
I took the shot with a tele-photo lens set to 150mm and an aperture of 5.6 to enable the posts to be sharply focused while the abras on far side of the creek are out-of-focus and therefore have less visual pull. After converted the image to B&W using the convert to black and white command I increased the contrast to darken the background further to allow the posts to be prominent. While the background is out-of-focus and shadowy there are still some contextual clues visible such as the boat tied to the wall and the life rings on the abras.
Freeman (2007, p84) notes that the triangles appear easily to the eye and can be formed by three prominent points of interest, particularly if they are similar in content tone and size. I decided to end this series of ‘city’ photographs with a shot of a group of pigeons, a common everyday urban sight. I spent quite a long time watching these birds through my lens and attempting to catch them in an implied triangle formation. This was more difficult than in sounds as they didn’t seem to stand still for even a few seconds.
I selected this image as it has a very simple composition, just the three birds and a little background grass. The birds bodies form three points that could be connected to form an implied triangle. I managed to capture the pigeon on the right hand side of the frame sharply as it stood still while the other two birds pecked around in search of the crumbs a nearby market trader had scattered for them. I converted to B&W and opted for a ‘vivid landscape’ format as this offered high contrast and made the birds’ shapes quite distinct against the pale stone.
Rhythm and Pattern
The feedback on both of these images was very encouraging. My tutor said they were beautiful compositions and their simplicity makes them very visually appealing. José noted that the these images illustrate how important contrast is for a successful B&W image. He suggested that I could increase the contrast further by making areas in the shade in both photographs even darker, to achieve more dramatic B&W.
Working with the original colour JPEG file I reprocessed ‘rhythm’ through the convert to black and white command and then adjusted the contrast.
I performed the same steps with the pattern image and converted it to black and white. I then adjusted the contrast and highlight commands to achieve a stronger ‘contrasty’ look.
With hindsight I now see that my initial images were, to varying degrees, lacking in contrast and appeared washed out. I do not have a great deal of post-processing experience and had not chosen the best option for converting my images to B&W. I also had been over-cautious in my use of the contrast tool. However, I have taken time to experiment with the Photoshop Elements 11 software, suggested by my tutor, and used these to rework and improve my initial images by adding contrast and tonal range. Post-processing is an area I will spend more time exploring over the next few months as the rising heat and temperatures of a Middle East summer inevitably drive me indoors.
Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX