Assignment two – Elements of design

OCA assignment 2 title

This assignment is designed to incorporate the insights I have learned so far into a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject. The objective is to be able to identify the graphic elements in any photograph and assess how important a role they play.

Planning and preparation

To produce a set of photographs directed towards a theme, I initially considered a rural and nature series based in the valley where I live.

Single point

single point 5      single point 1b - Copy

Both fit the criterion. Left: This image also states a single point in its message. Right: A lone tree – not a very original shot.

Two points

2 points

Two cactus flowers, but I think the picture is too fussy.

Several points in a deliberate shape

several points in a deliberate shape

Bright and contrasting – the red berries form an S shape.

Combination of vertical and horizontal lines

vert hor

I am pleased with this image.  Christmas tree saplings with rows of horizontal supports and watering pipes.



An obvious shot but clearly a strong diagonal implying fast movement.


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Left: Tractor lines in a field. Right: The road through the valley. Both imply curves and lead the eye out of the frame.

Distinct, even if irregular, shapes

definite shape 1

The farm gate across the road. This is really a combination of shapes – regular as in the triangle. There are also curves and lines.

Implied triangles


Me taking the photograph! To reinforce the subject matter, I included the triangular-shaped branches of the fruit tree.


rhythm 1    rhythm 1c

This was difficult to find in the natural environment. Left: I opted for this fir tree because I visualise a vibrating hum. However, it is not obvious and I am unsure whether others will “see” this. Right: Low tide at Arnside. The  ripples in the sand create rhythm.


pattern 1

The log pile shot tight to the frame implies that the logs extend outside the frame and form a natural pattern – repeated circles, although they are of differing sizes.

I am not satisfied that the above images are strong enough photographs to clearly convey all the elements required, therefore I have changed my mind and am setting out to take photos of “street details” for the assignment. I have included more nature shots in my learning log.


Final Selection

My thinking for this assignment has been based on Michael Freeman’s words ‘…it is usually better to err on the side of doing something unusual than to be predictable.’ I am aware that colour can often overwhelm other important design components in an image, but I have included strong colour in a couple of my images because it plays an important role in identifying the elements – as in the “single point” photo of my title page.

Single Point

single point 1 - Copy

In this shot the eye is immediately drawn to the single point – the light. By nature we humans can be a little wary of the dark, therefore the light is a natural pull, potentially offering warmth and safety. The subject is not instantly recognisable, therefore the delay causes the viewer to linger longer. The shot clearly displays Gestalt’s Principle of Segregation “In order for a figure to be perceived it must stand out from it’s background”.

single point 3

I included this shot for its strong sense of lines and shapes and I like what it represents. The perspective slightly exaggerates the high-rise grey buildings looming large over the competing brightly coloured sign. The sharp contrast in colour makes the sign a clear single point.

Although the buildings give a strong impression of rising above the ground, the wording on the sign makes one realise something else is going on deep below ground. To improve on this shot I could have taken it from an even lower viewpoint.

Two points


This shot clearly connects two points – the bikers. It is interesting because the stronger point in this case is the smaller subject/bike. This is due to the impression of speed portrayed by the position of the bike and the rider. The weaker point, although larger and more prominent to the fore of the frame does not portray the same dynamic in terms of action or speed.

Several points in a deliberate shape

several points def shape

The several points in this shot imply a triangle. The focus is wholly on the shape it creates rather than the surroundings stones. The shot was produced by standing close up against the stone wall and angling the camera upwards. There were several rows of horizontal stones protruding from the wall, but by careful selection and composition I was able to create the effect.

Combination of vertical and horizontal lines


I tried shooting this subject from various angles until I got the appearance I wanted. This photo is strong because it shows the reversal of the norm. Horizontal lines are normally seen as a base providing strength, support and stability. Here they are less easy on the eye and appear almost fragile compared to the verticals, which in this shot have the more powerful role and are additionally supported by the horizontals just seen beneath the struts.


I have been looking at the work of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, in particular “Shadows in an Alleyway” where shadow and light play a key role. In my shot, lighting and placement in the frame strongly convey the impact of vertical and horizontal lines. Repeated vertical lines are portrayed in a true sense of strength – as pillars. Horizontal bands of light run across the floor and light reflects on to the rear wall, highlighting the horizontal pointing. The light and the man (with his white shirt and white paper butty bag!) draws the eye adding depth to the photo.

vert hor

I want to include this image of Christmas tree saplings (not strictly street detail) because it is so strong in impact. The horizontal lines hit the eye first, followed closely by the rows of verticals converging to the back of the frame.



I shot this old cast iron radiator at various angles and settled for this perspective. Although it is quite static and literal, it does portray a strong downward dynamic, aided by the pattern on the bars. I also note how diagonals in the rectangular frame create an illusion of the frame being slightly askew.


curve 2

This image conveys movement through it’s curves. I purposefully cropped (in the camera!) the curve to the right of the frame in attempt to invite the viewer to consider which direction the curve will take. A yellow car complimenting the yellow curving lines of the road, can be observed through the tinted glass implying it’s continuation in the form of a spiral. The dash of colour to the top right of the frame catches the eye and coaxes it to the downward curve, disappearing out of the side and base of the frame.


The curves and folds here are taken from a close up shot of a Robbie Burns statue in London. I love the dynamic of this one, it sends the viewing eye in many directions giving it a flowing movement. There is smoothness but maybe not delicacy, the light adds a shiny effect and highlights the thickness of the “fabric”.

Distinct, even if irregular, shapes


The strength in this shot is the effect of perspective. Shot from a bridge with a wide-angle lens pointing the camera downwards, it shows a mix of regular (triangle and rectangles) and irregular shapes. The curved “enclosure” to the right dominates the frame and arouses curiosity.

Implied triangle

implied triangle 2a

The strength in this shot lies in the way the eye is drawn in. It attempts to follow the figure heading towards the apex of the implied triangle. The graffiti on the walls implies messy and unruly chaos. The neatness of the “triangle” with it’s converging lines disappearing in the distance, restores some order to the image. I wonder whether I should have omitted the spotlight? But it does highlight the graffiti.

implied triangle 3

This arrangement of the three young men uses the outline of their bodies to form a triangle. It is a stable yet relaxed image and is visually pleasing in the otherwise untidy setting of the street market.



This example of rhythm shows clear syncopation. For a better image I could have shot the building sloping down to the right of the frame. However, the fact that the “beat” rises to the top right corner of the frame gives a sense of an increase in pitch, so producing higher notes!


My other candidate for rhythm conveys good continuation and repetition from left to right. The image reminds me of a heavier version of wooden wind chimes or tribal musical instruments, with “bracelets” of seeds or beads that rattle and rustle when shaken. To me the optical sound would be a deep hollow rattle.


pattern 1

This image conveys a regular pattern. By nature it is a static image, but I chose it because on closer look the viewer will see that each tile varies in detail, thus creating and maintaining interest.


The brief suggests this may be a good time to work in black and white or create copies of the colour shots for comparison. The following pages display some of my assignment shots in monochrome medium. Some images simply did not lend themselves well as the images were almost monochrome anyway. Other shots were chosen because of the colour, which  highlighted one or more of the elements.

single point 1  single point 1 - Copy

This image works well in either medium as it conveys the same message and still draws the eye to the light. The white light is harsher though and the overall picture is colder as it does not show the warm stone colour.

single point 3 - Copy - Copy              single point 3

In this image the building has more impact, thanks to the emphasised verticals in black and white. I think this one works well and demonstrates that bright colour is not required to emphasise the point. It focuses more attention on the graphic elements.


several points def shape

Similarly the shot on the right works well as the lack of colour portrays the age of the subject – stone and cobbles.

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The figure and the vertical lines are not affected, but I note the bands of horizontal light on the floor have lost their impact.

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Right: The verticals and horizontals are highlighted strongly and appear more defined and sharp. This gives a more solid feel to the whole structure.

curve 2          curve 2 - Copy

Here I feel the colour plays an important part in emphasising the curve, highlighting the vehicle and to guiding the eye down the frame.

implied triangle 2a - Copy         implied triangle 2a

The implied triangle is more defined because there is no colour to distract the eye. The light and shadow work well too.


  130BW   130

I had to tweak this a little in Lightroom to improve the clarity and contrast. It has lost depth, detail and appears rather flat, so personally I prefer the colour version.



Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

I feel my compositional skills have improved since the last assignment, particularly in the original framing. Taking on board my tutor feedback regarding post process cropping, I have worked on getting in closer and considered the angles and viewpoints of potential subjects in the viewfinder. I also focused on the intersection of thirds when placing the elements in the frame. I am mostly using the camera in manual, including focus, as I feel this is the best way for me to learn the technical aspects of my camera.

Visually I am now more aware of the surrounding elements and other subjects and activities going on around my chosen subject and consider whether to involve or omit them from the frame. For example I waited for a car to appear before taking my curves shot.

Quality of Outcome 

I Think I have communicated my ideas and justified all the images in a clear manner. I have only included images which I consider to be strong and that support the brief requirements. I am looking to add a more personal and creative style of presentation to my future assignments. At this stage though I have been concentrating on applying and recording my new-found knowledge.

Demonstration of Creativity

I am now looking for unusual aspects and camera angles as suggested in my last tutor feedback. For example my first photo of “Distinct, even if irregular shapes” demonstrates both these things. I also converted some shots to monochrome to see if the images became stronger and defined the graphic elements more. I think I have demonstrated creativity in my shots, whether using black and white or colour to emphasise the intent. I have been more creative while experimenting in my learning log too, there are several shots in there I would like to have included in my assignment but they did not fit the “street detail” theme.


To assist my research, I re-visited Michael Freeman’s book, “The Photographer’s Eye”. His book explains the concept of the elements of design and expands on the course brief. To produce a set of photographs directed towards a theme, I initially considered a rural series based in the valley where I live. I spent a long time (too long), making lists and taking many shots, but was not satisfied that I could produce enough strong photographs to cover all the elements required. I therefore settled on “street details”, but have included a range of rural, flowers and plant shots in my learning log.

I looked at other photographers work in relation to the Bauhaus SchoolMoholy-Nagy and Rodchenko in particular. I have started to analyse and “read” other photographers images, as suggested by my tutor. I am analysing my own images too not only to justify the composition, but to relay to the viewer what they symbolise to me. These findings are noted within the assignment, my learning log and my Research file.

By taking my own photographs and looking at those of others, I have learned that every photograph contains some elements of design and if it has been well composed, it will also have order, which in turn makes it a strong image.