Photography: Film Review
The image above shows a great sense of contrast between the whiteness of the snow and the dark lines created by the outline of the trees; the dark box to the left also shows a minor focal role in the entire image in terms of its size and off-centered positioning. The sensory effect of the above image is rather mystical and almost fairy-like, save for what seems like a garbage can as the side of the path which anchors the image to an immediate sense of reality.
How the trees are bent towards each other creates a tunneled effect, especially with the line of sight directed forward due to the path. The trees look graceful yet frozen. As the trees are partly covered with the snow, there is an effect in which it seems that these objects partially fade into the whiteness of the ground. The tunnel the trees create also give the illusion of a powder-like arch, like the whiteness is something that floats in mid-air, seeming like a distant mist that further adds to the enchanting effect of this photograph.
In looking at this photograph, the stark-red colour of the bus against the grayscale of the background immediately draws my attention. Hence, the bright color draws my eyes; from the general “redness” of the bus, my eyes go to the next bright detail and that is the front of the bus with the bright yellow lettering, showing the bus number and the destination. The contrast created by the yellow-against-black effect further focuses my attention on this detail. From there, the next detail that I notice is the strip of white on the side of the bus. At some point, I had to think in terms of the hierarchy of focus whether it was this strip and the bus’s yellow-black combination that would get my attention first, and then I realize it is because the orientation of the bus that makes me look first at the front (where the bus number is) and then my eyes trace from left to right, thus, my eyes register this white strip which creates a bigger impact than the bus number.
In looking at this photograph, there are therefore two elements that I immediately take notice of: the contrast of the colour of the object against the background, and then the size and orientation of the object against the background. Since the bus dominates the image, all the grayscale background gives support to the object of the photograph. Very few details from the background did get my attention, and these are the whiteness of the clouds and the white markers on the street. Hence, the details of the background are only secondary.
When it comes to describing the visual and audio elements of this particular photograph, what usually comes to mind is how this image has captured in a moment that is specific to this young girl. Hence, when it comes to the emotional effect of this photograph, this shows a sense of intrusion because what this image represents is a moment that this young girl was having at the point when it was shot. The relationship therefore is how the visual aesthetics of the photograph gains some substance because of its audio elements. In this case, a viewer can feel certain emotions provoked by this photograph by means of memory (memories of childhood or memories of another child) or by means of realization such as the joys of having this moment of happiness as a child.
A picture can then give a viewer a range of emotions, depending on the subject at hand and how the picture becomes a representation or a proof of that specific moment that highlights an emotional context. It can be observed that pictures such as the one above are an example of such art, especially when the captured image brings forth an appreciation of the small things that convey the aspects of daily life. Although visually it “freezes” the object, the audio elements of the image give this fleeting moment a great sense of depth to the object; for instance, in the image above, although it shows that the girl seems to be caught by someone outside the scene, the joy in her eyes and smile can convey the curious nature of the girl and even her playfulness amidst the presence of the towering adults around her.
In the above picture, it can be observed that the depiction is quite two-dimensional. As the camera was focused on the branches of the tree with “The Eye” in the background, the challenge in such shot is how to introduce depth. This is further challenged with the use of black and white instead of coloured.
A. The important approach when a photographer decides to take a shot of something like the above image is to ensure depth. One approach is by defining the foreground and background. The main subject can be either located at the front of the back, but this is up to how the camera is focused. In the example above, the subject is the tree, and in order to create depth, it is set against a different object which is the Eye. The challenge in such shot is how to make the tree not flat against the eye. Hence, as the foreground, the camera focused on the subject thus blurring the background.
When it comes to the use of frame, it is important to take note of how it can magnify certain objects and how it includes and excludes certain elements. In the above image, the framing only captured a portion of the tree and a portion of The Eye. A small portion of the sky also lets the composition of the two “breathe”, thus not entirely taking up the frame. By putting the portion of the sky in the frame, it creates further depth because the Eye gets to have a spatial relationship with something else. Hence, the hierarchy of the visual relationship, through framing, that helps in the depth of the photograph goes: the tree with the The Eye, and then The Eye with the sky.
Perspective is one of the critical components of art and design because it also determines depth and the spatial relationship of the objects in the frame. In the above example, perspective can be seen by means of size and emphasis on the subject. As the tree is nearer, it tends to look bigger than The Eye; although in reality the Eye is bigger than the tree. What the picture shows is in order for the tree to look bigger, it appears heightened through its darker colour, and the Eye’s silhouette makes it look much farther than the tree.
Positive and negative space – the dynamics between positive and negative space demonstrate how the relationship of the subject and the background can give way to formation of an image that is neither the subject nor the background. It is a strategy in composition which takes advantage of how two-dimensional space can be re-created by means of simulating certain images or illusions.
Figure-ground relations – artists are very strategic when it comes to creating an image based on the relationship of the background and the major figure/s. This relationship can determine the success of the photograph, especially in terms of how it creates the degree of emphasis on the major and minor figures, and how the background serves as a support visual. Such can be seen in the image of the red bus above. It also helps in that way that the orientation of the bus is directed by the street markers on the road, thus the relationship between the ground and the figure are harmonious.
The rule of thirds is one of the basic applied principles in photography; its purpose is to ensure that a certain balance is achieved by means of composing the objects according to the “thirds” of the visual plane. As can be seen in the image of the girl below, by imagining three lines that “cut” the plane equally vertically and horizontally (thus a total of three vertical lines, three horizontal lines and three sub-planes), the subject should be placed within a specific “third” of the image. In the image of the girl below, she is placed in the third “vertical third” and first “horizontal third” of the plane. However, it can be noted that the positioning on the thirds is a bit off-set, which is to say it is not smacked in the middle but rather it tends to border to the next plane. Some artists do this to throw off a bit the idea of a perfectly balanced image.
The strongest visual force in this photograph is road that cuts through the hills covered with white snow. The combination of the dark road with the white strip of snow in the middle can be regarded to create a strong visual force that pulls the viewer forward. This is therefore the implied directional movement of the image. In terms of the quadrant, the upper left quadrant is the strongest because it is the terminating point of the line and that the number of cars that seems to be clustered in the area creates a visual weight albeit the cars looking smaller from this angle.
In this composition, the rule of three is no longer necessary because the strongest visual force is right in the middle. The emotion elicited by this image is cold, not just because of the snow but because of its colour, but also a sense of wetness and haste due to the movement of the cars on the road. The placement of the horizontal lines at this point is minimal as it is only used to establish the horizon in the distance, but the slope of the left is also a horizontal element.
The verticals in this image are strongly emphasized through the winding road heading upward/forward. Because of the thickness of the two roads with the strip of snow in the middle, the emotion elicited is that of an attractor which, as previously mentioned, makes the viewer feel the forward movement.
The sense of motion in this image is strong because of the road and the moving cars. The image itself is also about movement. Because the road defines the movement and the vehicles are contained in the road, the image shows a stable sense of motion.
When the two roads “converge” due to the perspective, it creates a triangular shape.
The important masses in this image are the snow-covered hills/mountains. This is highlighted by the road because it cuts through the mountains at ground level and the uneven coverage of snow takes the form of the side of the mountain in addition to the presence of the vegetation that dots the outline of the mountain.
Photographs inevitably use shapes, lines and forms as a means to define the relationships of the objects in the image and to also highlight what the subject is about. Due to the photography usually containing these components, the eye needs to finally determine where it should rest, and ideally, the eye rests on the subject.
The emphasis serves as the resting place for the eye. Even if the picture has many elements, in the end, the eye should return there. As can be seen in the picture, there are two potential emphases on this photo: the girl in the foreground and the girl in the background. The eye tends to see the girl in-front first, and then go to the girl at the back; and then, because the girl at the front is emphasized, she becomes the focal point.
The human form can be considered as the most interesting thing in the image; in this photograph, the detailed ground mainly serves as a ground albeit its spatial dominance in the picture; this is also because the human form is an intricate subject. What makes this emphasis also workable is that the girl is set against a simple background; although the ground is textured, it is not domineering. Hence, the girl is further highlighted because in terms of texture, the girl is more textured. Another important point as to why the girl in-front is emphasized is because of movement; she is walking forward.
Texture plays an important role in photographs because it adds different degrees of intricacy on the subject or among the objects found in the frame. It also creates the dynamics of contrast between background and foreground.
In the photo, it can be observed that the object itself is much textured as compared to the other two figures beside her. Because of these details, in addition to the fact that she is wearing bright colours, the object manages to stand out of the image despite the fact that she is not in the foreground and that the colour of the dress of the woman further back is also as bright.
How lines create a sense of texture and shadowing can be seen in the outline of the clothes of the two women. The folds of clothes of the woman in blue creates specific depth to her clothes, thus making her image textured. The grouping of the folds around the neck area of the woman in blue creates a visual movement and effect to her figure, especially as it wraps around and below the woman’s head. The same can be also said to the woman in red in which the lines of the details of her clothes further make the entire figure demonstrate a great sense of depth specific to the figure itself.
Contrast plays an important visual impact because it highlights the details of the object and the visual hierarchy which the eye can trace while looking at the photograph.
The contrast of scale allows the eye to establish and understand the relationship of the objects with respect to the background and other objects. It also helps the viewer to orient himself or herself based on the associated reality of the object. For instance, in this photo of the tree branch against The Eye, the visual reality is that the Eye is bigger than the tree, but the photographer makes the tree seem bigger or as big as The Eye in this image. Hence, the contrast of scale may be helpful in this photograph, but through the use of depth, the image is not disorienting.
The contrast of shape is another important element in photography; this helps determine the differences among the objects in the frame, and at the same time, it creates a visual impact. For instance, in the picture of the rose against the dress, the contrast of shape helps the viewer make sense of the object behind the emphasied bouquet. From there, seeing that the bouquet is being held by a woman in a dress, the understanding and meaning of the photograph becomes deeper.
Contrast of colour is another important factor, especially as colour creates a significant impact on the image. In this photo, by preserving the color of the rose and turning the background to black and white, the rose becomes emphasized. Another example is that the contrast of the lights of the buildings, the Eye against the dark sky and river creates a dramatic overall effect to the image.
Contrast of texture also highlights the beautiful details of the objects in the frame. Going back to the photo of the rose, the emphasised texture of the rose highlights the beauty of the flower. However, the dress against the rose is textured as well. By means of controlling the colour, the rose becomes the focus, thereby turning down the visual impact of the dress as brought by its texture.
The contrast of the tone of the image is a means to control the impact of the objects in the image. This can be seen in the photo of the rose in which the heightened tone of the smaller object makes it the emphasis of the photograph. By toning down the background (woman, dress and man) by means of turning them to greyscale, the photograph then defines the subject.
Unity is achieved in this photograph despite the differences in the shape of the objects in the frame. By means of highlighting the focus and the strategic visual function of the other objects, unity is achieved. The rhythm can be seen in the dotted lights of the building at the bottom of the Eye. This progression creates a line that helps the eye stay focused on the subject yet at the same time, the rhythm also creates a visual merit of its own.
Elkin, J. Photography Theory (Routledge, London, 2007).