Exercise 1.4

The Task

The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital camera.  This function projects a grid onto the viewfinder screen to help align vertical and horizontal lines, such as the horizon or the edge of a building, with the edge of the frame.  Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the viewfinder grid.  Don’t bother about the rest of the frame!  Use any combination of grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.

When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame not just the part you’ve composed.  Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame.  Composition is part of form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as you progress through the course.

Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content.  Focus on composition and the material nature of any specific medium.  (Wells, 2009, p.347).

Select 6-8 images that you feel work individually as compositions and also as a set.  If you have software for making contact sheets you might like to present them as a single composite image.  Add the images to your learning log together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines containing your thoughts and observations.

For the first part of this exercise I went to Peel on the west coast of the island and decided that I would use the orange life buoy to compose my photos.  I placed it approximately in the centre of each section of the grid.  I used a Canon 40D camera set to Av mode f16 in order to keep sharpness.  As it was a very gloomy day I set the ISO at 400.  This gave a shutter speed of 1/80 so I also placed the camera on a tripod and used the panning handles to change the position of the life buoy.  I did find it difficult to ‘not compose’ the rest of the photo in each case.

The photos are shown below:contactsheet-exercise-1-4

The first three photos are taken with the buoy in the top of the grid – the buoy does catch your eye in the first two but the placement toward the edge of the frame in the first one is the more pleasing.  The third photo with the pole in it tends to lead your eye to it rather than the buoy although it does eventually travel to that edge of the frame.

The next three photos were taken in the middle section of the grid.  The same thing happens with image 6 and the pole.  Number 4 again with the buoy to the left is the better composed picture.  Number 5 has the buoy very central although the eye does go there due to the colourful wheelie containers to the left.

In my opinion the bottom 3 are as overall pictures badly composed and also over-exposed on these camera settings.  The eye tends to see the water and dirty harbour wall before looking at the life buoy.  Number 7 is the best of these as you see the buoy and then the people add some interest.  In Number 9 your eye does go left to right with the sign on the wall, then the wheelie bin followed by the life buoy.

For the second part of this exercise I chose to travel around the coast of the island taking photos of the various lighthouses as shown in the contact sheet below.  I chose to convert the photos into black and white as the weather conditions were gray and murky on both days these photos were taken on.


As far as possible I tried to find lead in lines to each lighthouse; in some cases where there was more than one light house I used the actual houses as the lead in to the next one.  I tried to place the main tower of the lighthouse slightly off centre to the right to help the eye travel through the photo.  I find image 2 discordant in terms of both individual and in the overall composition having both taken the photo with the lighthouse virtually central and then placing it in a central position in the contact sheet.  I like the last photo the best as I feel like you are being lead in through the gate to view the lighthouse.  I found it interesting that when taking image 5 the lighthouses tended to cluster round the centre of the picture and although the one at the back is the tallest by far it ends up appearing presumably due to the distance as being the same size as the one at the front and there is more sky than I would have envisaged.

I think this is an exercise that could be built on – for example by taking the lighthouses at night using a slow shutter speed and tripod; however for the current purpose and using Av mode I didn’t think this would be successful.

For anyone who may be interested the names of the lighthouses are as follows:

  1. Langness
  2. Lower lighthouse Point of Ayr
  3. Port Erin beach
  4. Ramsey pier
  5. Lower & upper lighthouses Point of Ayr
  6. Upper lighthouse Point of Ayr
  7. Maughold lighthouse
  8. Peel pier
  9. Douglas Head lighthouse

Shore (2007:38) talks about the ‘depictive’ level of a photo and I think the exercises in this part have been trying to demonstrate the first two of these: flatness and frame.  The other two he refers to are time and focus and he sees these as the way in which the ‘world in front of the camera is transformed into the photograph’.


Shore, S. (2007).  The Nature of Photographs.  London: Phaidon Press.






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