Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge _ Black and White: The Basics

Composing myself for a Challenge

This month Cee’s Compose Yourself Challenge is about black and white photography. This is an area that I don’t wander into much. I bought my first roll of colour film in the early 1970s and after that had little use for black and white. I do appreciate the dramatic quality of some black and white photographs more now that I am older but generally I want to portray the world in living colour. I do sometimes use black and white to create a more retro look or if I feel that the colours in a photo don’t work I’ll try black and white before I dump it. Sometimes it works out better.

I have not really used RAW before either and after consulting my camera manual to find the RAW button went out to take some pictures in the garden. Sadly it appears I did something wrong. I guess you have to press the button before every shot, I ended up with jpegs after all and changed them to black and white with Picasa which is my preferred editing software.

I set out to take more abstract pictures than usual looking for texture and detail. It was a bright sunny day so not ideal for what I wanted to do.

I have cropped  and straightened some photos and either used the Black and White feature or filtered black and white. For the next one I used a feature called Holga-ish which I thought was more interesting. It not only turns the photo black and white but gives the effect of being taken with one of those old plastic cameras.

 

 

Conclusion

I do think that using black and white seems appropriate for an old, slightly scruffy house like mine. The sky certainly looks better. I love to see a bright blue sky but in this case maybe it is a bit distracting because there is so much of it. On the other hand I did prefer the colour version of the one with the bench as I liked the bright reflection in the window surrounded by neutral colours. I am not sure if I quite “get” digital black and white photography yet so I’m glad we are continuing with this subject next month.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge – #21 – Landscapes

Composing myself in May

For our latest assignment Cee has asked us to show landscapes. This is probably my favourite type of photograph. I really took to photography because I wanted to capture the things I saw that I found beautiful or interesting or that I was afraid I would not see again.

I have chosen some older pictures today as I’ve not been out and about with the camera much lately.

First of all here is a recent one that I took of the City to Sea Bridge in Wellington, New Zealand. I really liked this bridge and I thing that what attracted me to it was the shapes. There is a lot of geometry going on here as the artist has used a lot of shapes in his sculpture. I also like the texture of the timbers and  the vertical poles just make the picture a bit more interesting.  I think that rule of thirds also applies here as the scene divides into foreground, buildings and sky. I didn’t love the orange cones where some work was taking place but sadly I didn’t have the option to come back another day.

City to Sea Bridge Wellington

City to Sea Bridge , a public artwork in Wellington, New Zealand.

Here is another cityscape. This one was taken high above the city in an observation wheel.  Again there are a lot of interesting shapes and vertical lines in the high rise buildings while the older smaller buildings below give some perspective I think. I quite like the harmonious colours in this picture as well greys, blues and white with a little bit of reddish-brown as a contrast.

Melbourne as seen from the Star Observation Wheel in Docklands.

Melbourne as seen from the Star Observation Wheel in Docklands.

This is Darling Harbour in Sydney taken in March. It was getting towards sunset and the buildings took on a kind of golden glow which I liked. I think that I must have been using the geometry rules unconsciously in my cityscapes because I had not given them any thought in any of these pictures but city buildings do lend themselves to that type of picture with high-rise buildings reaching for the sky. There are strong horizontal lines in this picture too through the middle of the picture which divides it nicely into three sections, the boats, the buildings on the esplanade and the high-rise buildings in the top third.

 

Darling Harbour Sydney

Darling Harbour , Sydney in the golden hour before sunset.

 

The following three photos were taken closer to home. The first is the Huon River at Franklin. I don’t think this would have been a very interesting picture without the rowing boats to give some sense of the width of the river. I like the reflections of the boat and people in the one in the foreground as well.

Messing about in boats - Franklin, Tasmania

Messing about in boats – Franklin, Tasmania

Still on the Huon but this time at Huonville. The river leads your eye on to the horizon and the reflections of the clouds make the picture more interesting I think. This picture is all cool colours so quite restful to look at.

image Huon River at Huonville

The Huon River from the bridge at Huonville

The last one is Hospital Bay at Port Huon and was taken from a hill above the township. David actually found this spot and brought me up there to photograph it. The photo definitely falls into the Rule of Thirds category and has horizontal lines in the fence line and trees and the opposite side of the bay. From the hillside you can see the Port Huon jetty and a fish feeding boat which give perspective to the scene as do the cluster of homes on the left.

The view of the Huon River from halfway up Percy St, Port Huon

The view of the Huon River from halfway up Percy St, Port Huon

 

Conclusion

If you want to take interesting landscapes using at least some of the rules we’ve looked at certainly helps. I  think the trickiest thing with them at least for me is trying to capture the picture that expresses how I felt about what I saw. Sometimes you just can’t do it because the scale is too great to comprehend in a picture. I’ve tried to take pictures in some places where I’ve seen for example, a forest from the road or from above. I can take the picture but when I look at it I just see a mass of trees and it doesn’t mean anything. Below are two photos I took while travelling on the West Coast Wilderness Railway between Strahan and Queenstown. In the first one you see the trees and the timber pole but it doesn’t really give a good sense of what the picture is about. The following one does it better I think.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge – #20 Review and Practice

Looking Back

This fortnight is devoted to reviewing what we have learned in Challenges One to Nineteen.

I decided to take a few new pictures to share to illustrate some of the subjects we have tackled.

Week #3 – Always take more than one photo.

Even when I was still using film and had to be careful about how many pictures I took I always took more than one shot of anything that I really liked. I did that not only to make sure I got a useable photo but to look at it from different angles. Now that I have a digital camera I always take multiple photos, even a simple task like taking pictures of the new pergola can turn into six or eight photos.

If you look at these photos you will also see that they contain a lot of vertical lines, the upright posts on the pergola and the fence and horizontal lines, the cross pieces of the pergola, the gutter and the weatherboard the house is made of. The second photo has the path as a leading line to draw your eyes onwards.

Week #5 – Leading Lines

Here is another photo with leading lines. The timber path leads your eyes on to the pergola and then continues down to the bottom of the garden. There is quite a lot of geometry going on here with the square shape of the pergola, rectangles and the triangle made by the open ladder.

Pergola still under construction.

Pergola still under construction.

 

Week #11 – Centrepoint

Here is a photo of Polly which I cropped to a more or less square with her eyes and nose  in the centre square of the grid. Below it is the original photo.

Polly centre of frame.

Polly centre of frame.

Test shot of Polly

Test shot of Polly

 

Week #15 – Cropping Tips

I’m a compulsive cropper. I probably started cropping pictures when  I started to learn scrapbooking. My instructor would show the group how a picture could be improved by cropping parts of it to make it fit more cohesively into the design of the page. Once I started using digital cameras I discovered editing software and found that by cropping I could turn a photo that I would normally had thrown away into one that I liked or a good one into a better one. I frequently crop photos to get rid of distracting objects. In the case of Living Barbie and Skipper the background was fine but I thought that the cropped photo made a better portrait.

Conclusion

Some of the things we have covered in the challenge so far are things that I was conscious of and thought about before I took a photo. Others were new ideas to me which I will try to consider in future. Sometimes you don’t have time to think, you just have to take the picture especially with action photos and wildlife but even then if you know the rules you may use some of them instinctively.

 

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge #19 Geometry

When I saw that the title of Cee’s latest Compose Yourself challenge was Geometry I knew that it was definitely  going to be a challenge for me. I was very bad at geometry at school chiefly due to my inability to draw a straight line. I have no trouble with the math part of geometry. I can calculate the area of a room I want to paint for example but I’m not so good with angles. I can’t hang pictures straight to save my life.

I could easily see the shapes in the first few examples Cee gave us but some of the later ones like heads and hats I really would not even have thought of looking for. Do I find them unconsciously though? Well let’s see.

Here are four photos I’ve used in previous posts.

One of the two bedrooms.

One of the two bedrooms.

The first one, a bed in the apartment I visited during Open House Hobart is pretty easy. Lots of rectangles. The bed, the throw, the horizontal line of pillows, the windows and the railings outside. I can also see the square cushion and square picture right above it. Didn’t notice that when I took the picture or the almost triangular areas of carpet in the front left and right corners.

Let’s try another.

The Sapphire Dining Room during the day. It is sometimes used for other activities.

The Sapphire Dining Room during the day. It is sometimes used for other activities.

The main dining room on Explorer of the Seas taken outside of meal time. Rectangles again obviously, the tables, the columns, the curtains around the atrium and the rectangular shape of the section of the restaurant in the background of the photo. There are also circles the chandelier and the recess it is set into which I wanted to include in the picture but also the round backs of some of the chairs which I did not notice at the time and the round downlights.

How about this one?

#birdonawire, #nesting

#birdonawire, #nesting

That is very geometrical, two matching blue shapes. I was going to say triangles but they are really more some kind of quadrilateral. In fact, and I had to look this up, they are either trapeziums or trapezoids depending on whether you are from the USA or UK. Either way they have two parallel sides. Here is an explanation and don’t anyone ever ask me again please.

A trapezoid (called a trapezium in the UK) has a pair of opposite sides parallel.

It is called an Isosceles trapezoid if the sides that aren’t parallel are equal in length and both angles coming from a parallel side are equal, as shown.

And a trapezium (UK: trapezoid) is a quadrilateral with NO parallel sides:

Trapezoid

Trapezium

In the US:

a pair of parallel sides

NO parallel sides

In the UK:

NO parallel sides

a pair of parallel side

OK what else can we find?

The Burrow

The Burrow

This is The Burrow, a lovely reading nook at the Botanical Gardens and I admit that I took the photo as much for the shapes as for the colours. I liked the symmetry of the squares and rectangles of the book-case, the books and the green wall. There is also the cushion, another square and the rectangular shape of the timber flooring.

 Let’s have just one more.

I don’t very often take pictures just for shapes but I do like the rectangular shapes you get in a stack of apple boxes as well as the weathered timber.

Apple Boxes -Huon Valley Tasmania

Apple Boxes -Huon Valley Tasmania

Conclusion

I did find quite a lot of shapes in my pictures in the end. I think that looking for them did teach me something. I don’t take many portraits but I did understand the idea shown with Cee’s photo of the man on the beach being a triangular shape. I don’t take a lot of portraits so I was not really aware of this before.

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge #18 Contrasting Colours

Composing Myself With Contrasting Colours

In my home decor I tend to prefer harmonious colours which are more relaxing to look at on a daily basis but I do love colour and when I am scrapbooking will sometimes create a page with bright contrasting colours. I certainly like them in my photographs.
Remember that red and green shop front that had me puzzled in “Warm and Cool Colours”?

Here it is again. Contrasting colours.

Maker's on Church St, Geeveston

Maker’s on Church St, Geeveston

Red Geraniums and mixed flower border, Napier, NZ

Red Geraniums and mixed flower border, Napier, NZ

The red geraniums and light and dark pinks contrasted so well with the green foliage that I stood out in the rain to capture them.

The famouse face of Old King Cole, Luna Park, Sydney

The famous face of Old King Cole, Luna Park, Sydney

This is a better picture than I took on my last visit to Sydney. The blue and yellow are a great contrast in this photo.

Tug Rum Melba at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

Tug Rhumb Melba at Cockatoo Island, Sydney.

 

Antartic vessels , Princes Wharf Hobart 2007

Antarctic vessels , Princes Wharf Hobart 2007

The orange on both the tug and the Antarctic supply ship contrast strongly with the blue sky and sea which would increase their visibility especially way down near the South Pole where everything is either blue or white. On the other ship the blue and yellow contrast with each other. I have often noticed that public transit systems tend to have a lot of yellow, orange and blue in their stations and trains. I wonder if this is for visibility too or because they are high energy colours that keep people moving along at a brisk pace. Maybe a bit of both.

Public transport, Kings Cross Sydney 2012

Public transport, Kings Cross Sydney 2012

Here is another blue/yellow/orange combination which I photographed mainly because I liked the colour combination. In the following photo, a prop for a parade on board ship,  there are a multitude of colours all contrasting, or clashing if you like with each other. The reds, yellows and oranges of the graphics with the green, blue and mauve of the background. It’s all a bit chaotic.

Mosaic

Tiled Mosaic, Napier.

Royal Palooza decorations, Explorer of the Seas

Royal Palooza decorations, Explorer of the Seas

I had to search for a good purple/yellow combination and found this one of daffodils and tulips although these are more of a pinky purple.

Beautiful tulips

Beautiful tulips

Conclusion

I enjoy these colours together and probably if I were making a scrapbook page one of these bright, contrasting pictures would be the one I would choose to enlarge and feature rather than one that featured colours that were all similar to each other. It’s easy to see why portrait photographers like their subjects to wear clothing that will contrast with the background they will be using , why many sports teams wear brightly coloured uniforms and why clowns wear such garish colours together.  Contrasting colours are shouting “Look at me!”

 

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge – #16 -Colour Basics

Colour Basics is the subject of Cee’s  Compose Yourself Challenge this fortnight. Like most of us I’m familiar with the colour wheel. I am sure anyone who has ever painted their house or read articles about decorating has come across it. Decorating magazines talk a lot about warm and cool colours and using complementary or contrasting colours. I do a bit of scrapbooking (got to do something with all those photographs) and the principles are the same.

I don’t consciously think about that when I am taking photos very much but because I love colour I do tend to think about whether the colours in some photos are appropriate to the mood I’m trying to create in the picture. Here are some photos with cool colours.  There are a lot of blues and greys and a little green in them but no reds or yellows.  As I have not had the opportunity to go out and take any new pictures lately I used pictures I have used in previous posts for this challenge.

I think the cool coloured photos can often look dramatic but I enjoy using bright, warm colours and you will find a splash of red in many of my pictures. Here are some warm coloured photos. Most of these have a little green or blue in them but it doesn’t predominate.

I had not given a lot of thought to where brown fitted in. I know that brown is a warm colour but it was only when I put my cool colour gallery together that I really understood. I had included a picture of an old stone building with a green door. Next to the other cool colour photos it looked warm because the predominant colour was the sandstone blocks the walls were made of not the green door.

High Street, Oatlands, Tasmania

High Street, Oatlands, Tasmania

I went through my warm colour photos and a couple of them did not have the same warm tones as the others because there was an equal amount of green, blue and white in them as well as red. I’m not sure where I stand on these. The photo of  “Makers on Church Street” I had thought of as warm because the first thing I notice is always the red, it is my favourite colour remember. However, really there is probably more green in the picture and that does really stand out. As for the one of Luna Park in Sydney despite the bright reds and yellows it is largely a blue toned picture so perhaps more cool than warm. What do you think?

Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge – #15 – Cropping Tips

Composing Myself

I remember taking photos when I was a teenager with my old Intamatic camera. I would carefully arrange my subject only to discover when I got my prints back that there were all sorts of unwanted objects in the background.  After that I tried to be aware of what was in the background when I was taking a photo but sometimes I could not avoid including  them.

Years later I started scrapbooking and learned to physically crop my photos to look better in an album but once I started using a digital camera I became a serial cropper. Mostly I like to use Picasa which is very straightforward and I find I can often save pictures that I would have once discarded by cropping them. I do take multiple pictures from different angles so I have lots of options and if there is a photo that I really like but would like to experiment with I will make a copy to play with.

Here is one that I used for an earlier edition of this challenge. I had been taking photos of buildings but really liked this red moped in the foyer of a building. I didn’t think that the result quite worked though. There were too many reflections and just too much going on. I was much happier with it after I had cropped it.

cropped photo

cropped photo

Original photo

Original photo

 

I decided to take some original photos for this challenge so this afternoon I took a few in the doll room and a few in the back garden.

Doll Photos

As a doll photographer I crop pictures a lot. If I am taking pictures of fashion dolls in the Barbie sized dollshouse I want to convey the idea that these are characters that live in the house so I don’t like to show other objects in the room.  If I am photographing dolls or paper dolls for a post about fashions or doll types I don’t want a distracting background. Sometimes I might take a picture of several dolls on a shelf but crop it to show just one or two  to illustrate a story I’m telling or just to tidy it up a bit so that the reader won’t see parts of other dolls in the photo. In the first pair of photos I’ve done the latter. I just feel that the picture looks better without the heads of the dolls on the lower shelf. In the second pair I wanted to focus on two particular dolls.

My Netta and Metti dolls

My Netta and Metti dolls

The same picture cropped slightly.

The same picture cropped slightly.

One of my doll shelves.

One of my doll shelves.

The same photo cropped to feature my two "Baby Alive" dolls.

The same photo cropped to feature my two “Baby Alive” dolls.

Garden Photos

As Cindy follows me around when I go outside she often ends up in photos as she did in this one of our driveway and garage. That gave me the opportunity to crop the photo to get a nice picture of her. If I had been trying to photograph her she’d have probably come towards me and ruined it.

The apples on my tree are getting ripe now and I’ve been meaning to photograph them. I think the second photograph where the fruit is in the centre of the picture surrounded by leaves looks better than the first one as it is more obvious what the picture is about.

Cindy standing in the drive.

Cindy standing in the drive.

The same photo cropped

The same photo cropped

Apples on my tree

Apples on my tree

The same photo cropped

The same photo cropped

Conclusion

Cropping pictures is a great way to improve photos whether you are getting rid of street lights, rubbish bins or people who walked into the frame of your photo at the last minute or just trying to improve the composition of your picture. It certainly does help to use the highest resolution you can. I was using a little Canon compact camera today and one of the photos I took in the back garden showed Polly sitting at the back door. I tried to crop it but I could see that it would be too grainy if I cropped it that much. I have found the same thing with action photos at cricket matches. My camera does not have the same capability as a DSLR so if I zoom in on a player and then try to crop the photo it won’t look good.

The back garden

The back garden

The same picture cropped. I wanted to crop it to show Polly at the back door but did no like the result.

The same picture cropped. I wanted to crop it to show Polly at the back door but did not like the result.