The Two-Dimensional Plane

The task for this exercise was to analyse and annotate a photo that had a number of subjects at the same approximate distance from the camera, for instance the interior of a room.

Study the image carefully.

What catches your attention first?

The first item that caught my attention was the the sack in the centre of the photo with the writing on.

Where do your eyes go next?

The next place that my eyes get drawn to are the boards with the hooks and pieces of ironmongery at either side of the sack, from there the eye is draw to the various billhooks hanging on the rails behind the sack.

Are there things on the edge of the picture that distract you?

On the right hand side of the photo is a lorry and part of a stand. On the left hand side is part of a trolley or plough.

Does you gaze remain in the frame or is something pulling it out of the frame?

The truck on the right hand side of the photo draws your gaze out of the frame in that direction. In addition there is a rope barrier in from of the display. At the right hand side the rope loops back on itself. If the eye follows the rope from the left side of the frame then it gets lead back to the left side of the frame and then out of the picture.

If the rope on the left hand side had looped back in the same manner as on the right hand side then the viewers attention could have been drawn into the image and pulled around in a circular direction as the sacks in the centre of the photo can draw the viewers eye upwards, the rails either side with the billhooks hanging from them draw the attention in either direction to the boards from which the hooks and ironmongery hang, which draws the eye back to the rope once again.

Divide the frame? Where does the main subject lie? On one of the four points of the ‘golden section’? In the centre? On on of the four quadrants?

Depending on what the viewer takes as the main subject then it’s position does vary.

If the viewer takes the sack containing the pig fattening nuts as the main subject then this lies in the centre of the image. If, however, the viewer sees either of the boards to the sides as the main subject then these fall on the lower two points of the ‘golden section’. Personally I see the sack as the main subject and this is in the centre of the image.

The final part of the exercise was to mark the dominant shapes and groups of objects on the photo, to note when objects intersect of obscure wah other and to mark the main tonal and colour areas.

The Two Dimensional Plane - with annotation

As can be seen from the photo several object intersect each other, for instance the fork intersects with the billhooks hanging from the right hand rack, the rope runs across the front of the interecting with every item at the bottom of the frame.

The main tonal colour is brown. The sack and straw provide the bulk of the color in the iamge. The white of the caravan in the background and the green tarpaulin on the truck do provide a bit of relief from the brown.

This exercise was quite interesting as it highlights how important it is to be aware of what will be within a photo when you are taking it. Composing the image correctly to avoid distractions, to ensure the main subject is in the area that you want and that objects you want to be seen are not obscured by other items. Also it is important to be aware of elements that may draw the viewer out of your image as well as how you want the viewers eye to move around your photo.





Depth: Foreground, mid-ground, background

Exercise 2.3 required us to take three images from the ‘People and activity’ project and in each photo identify the foreground, mid-ground and background by drawing lines around them.

The definitions provided for each were:

  • Foreground is usually within a few metres of the photographer.
  • Mid-ground is in between distinct foreground and background. Soe photos don’t have a middle-ground, like Blossfeldt’s studies.
  • Backgrounds can be anything from distant buildings to th esky or just a white backdrop.

The following three photos were taken at the British National Ploughing Championships and I believe have defined foreground, mid-ground and background as annotated on each.

Depth-4287 with annotation

In the above image the woman and dog are the subject and are therefore prime candidates for being the mid-ground of the image.  The background contains the lorry, people sitting on the ground and the distance landscape. The foreground is the nearby grass.

Depth-4347 with annotations

In the photo above the family and signs are the subject and become the midground of the image. The people in the distance, the ploughed field, tractors and the distant trees, hills and sky fill the background. The foreground becomes everything closer to the camera that the dogs’ shadows.

Depth-4359 with annotations

In the above photo the mid-ground and background were easy to determine. The tractor, plough, driver and judge are the subject and provide an indication of where the mid-ground is. The background is the distant people and parts of the ploughed field. The foreground, however, became a bit more arbitrary as there is quite a distance from the camera to the subject of the photo.








People and Activity – Initial Reflection on Ex 2.2

For the second exercise in Part 2 of the course I identified two events that I could possibly go along to and photograph. The first was several weeks ago and was a charity event put on in aid of our local hospital, an even that involved a 5K run (or walk for the less energetic) while navigating giant inflatables.

I took part in the event last year and so thought there would be lots of opportunities for photos. On the day I wasn’t up to going and so decided that Plan B would be the event of choice.

Plan B was the British National Ploughing Championships which were being held just outside Taunton in Somerset. The event has been running for around 6 years but is held in different parts of the country in order to make it fair on all of the participants.

In the spring qualifying heats are held with the finals being held in October. Winners from the event get to compete internationally.

We discovered all of this by chatting to a lovely chap who was involved in a horticultural society and apologised as he wandered into one of my shots.

At first glance the event did not seem to be a large one. A number of static displays of small steam engines (not the train variety), a couple of larger engines that were pulling ploughs across a field (something that was fascinating when you realised that there had to be another engine at the other end of the field and the ploughs were being pulled to and from on a long steel cable by wound on drums beneath the steam engine).

Several horses could be seen ploughing in the distance and then there were the trade stands.

For anyone familiar with any of the Great Steam Fairs (such as Dorset) that occur around the country this paled by comparison.

That is until we discovered the three other fields where the ploughing competitions were going on. Although still not a patch on the Dorset Steam Fair the amount of horses, tractors and other vehicles that were pulling ploughs around was enough to make the day interesting. Certainly enough to draw several thousand people for the day.

Looking at the people there were all ages, from little babies all the way up to octogenerians and older.

Dogs abounded, most on leashes, with the one or two that weren’t being exceptionally well behaved.

The day started off a bit cold and overcast but just after lunch the sun came out and it soon became a case of taking off coats because it was too warm. Thank goodness for camera backpacks.

There were plenty of oppotunities for photographs and I took about 340 in total, which made the first pass through to reduce the selection to 50% quite a challenge. In fact I had to go back through after my initial pass and select a few more to achieve the 50%. I realise that I could have stuck with the initial 120 that I’d selected as that would have fulfilled the spirit of the exercise which is to reduce the number of images that you like, then reduce them a second and third time until you have the set that you are going to work with but hey, let’s stick with the percentages.

Second pass will reduce the number to 85 photos with the final selection being about 34 photos. Already I know that there are certain images I want to hang onto. There’s a number of photos of horses, there are a couple of photos of dogs, some people in period costume and lots of photos of ploughing. There are also a set of photos of one of the participants that show just how high the standard that they hold themselves to in the competition.

Finally, there are several photos that are reminiscent of the photographer that I used as my source of inspiration for the exercise, Martin Parr.

So to finish this initial review of the activity here is the result of my preparation and my reflections on the questions from the exercise in the course material

Question 1 – What kind of photographs do I want to make?

Andreas Gursky

Looking at some of Gursky’s images its very difficult to make out individuals people or objects. This is something that I don’t like as much when photographing people. I like to see expressions on faces, to catch those unguarded moments where a person’s personality shines through.

However, his F1 Boxenstopp series do have a look that I find appealing. The groups of mechanics working around the cars provides a good example of how to take photographs of groups of people engaged in an activity and includes a form of repetition because each image contains two teams rather than one, and also contains individuals standing out from the crowd.

Martin Parr

As soon as I went onto Martin Parr’s website (, the first image I was presented with was of a group of people waiting in a queue outside what appeared to be a marquee. The Royal insignia on the marquee suggests to me that this may be a Royal Garden Party or similar event.

The looks on people’s faces as they wait patiently in the rain is what particularly draws me to the image. The slight smile on the face of the chap looking towards where the photographer is taking the photo, the slightly distracted look on the face of the woman in the centre of the image; these are things I want to capture in my images.

Looking through some of Parr’s other work, including his Oxford and Cuba Tourism projects, I found myself loving the way that he manages to capture people without them seeming to be aware of his presence and so behaving in a completely natural way. The image from his Cuba Tourism series of a group of people taking part in a water aerobics style activity while standing in the sea is made all the more memorable by the guy in the forefront of the shot who appears to be taking water measurements or taking a photo of something in the water while unaware that his shorts have slipped and his “bum crack” is on show for anyone to see. It’s these subtle things that make an image for me and Parr is definitely someone whose work I want to explore more.

Robert Frank

Frank’s “The Americans” provides a lot of images of people going about their activities. The images being black and white removes a lot of distraction allowing the majority of the individuals to blend into the background with those that the viewer is drawn to standing out.

The use of black and white for my photographs is something I might explore during this exercise where images might benefit from it. Particularly as a lot of the participants in the charity event will be wearing black tee-shirts.

Manuel Alvarez Bravo

It’s hard to see many opportunities to capture cultural aspects of the events I’m planning on photographing. It’s possible that with the ploughing event there will be more of an opportunity for this.

Trent Parke

As both of the events I’m looking at will be during daytime, the opportunity to frame shots with lighting effects is going to be slim.

Robert Avedon

There will definitely be opportunities to draw individuals out of the background in both events. Reducing the depth of field to blur backgrounds and highlight particular individuals will definitely be something that I could do, particularly at the charity event.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Quite a lot of the photos I take of people are candid and not posed. I find that is when people are at their most revealing but can also be when they are most vulnerable. I’m sure that there will be the chance to take some candid photos throughout the event, particularly at the start and finish areas.

Question 2 – Research the type of photography or photographer that inspires you.

See research into Martin Parr.

Question 3 – Pre-visualise images

I think I need to get shots of people leading the horses while ploughing and close ups of the horses faces when their taking part in events. I also want to try and catch the faces of people who are watching the events, particularly if they happen to be wearing something interesting. Anyone involved in traditional activities would also be a good subject for a photograph.

Question 4 – Equipment

I’m going to need freedom of movement so a tripod won’t be needed, however, a monopod would be useful as it’s small enough to carry all day even if not needed and is quick to set up. Macro and other lenses for close up work won’t be necessary, whereas a telephoto lens will allow the opportunity to get close into the action without needing to be inside the ploughing arena. A prime lens for wider shots would also be useful.

Question 5 – Planning

Travelling to the ploughing event will require a bit of planning as it is about 30 miles away. Taking photographs won’t require permission as the event is open to the public.