Category Archives: Part Five: Narrative and Illustration

Exercise 4: Rain

For this exercise we had to imagine a magazine cover on one subject: rain. The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject.
We have the whole cover space in which to place the image, which should be attractive, and preferably original.

This was not an ideal time to carry out the exercise – temperatures have reached the highest for the year, and skies are clear blue. Deciding against waiting for a downpour, I’ve instead used an image which suggests rain, which becomes stronger with the associated text.

My initial thoughts always visualised scenes looking out at the rain, but this seemed to place the focus on other elements, with the rain becoming secondary to the image.
By considering other viewpoints and focal distances, the concept of producing an image with a much narrower focus evolved.

Having researched magazine layout styles and how images were incorporated, I wanted the final look to have fairly clean edges which would act as the backdrop to supporting text.
Placement of the finished image was therefore crucial if the cover was going to look balanced, and have impact.

The image was produced by using a paint tray filled with water. Two coloured gels were used to reflect the required colour. A water dropper was placed above the tray, which was followed by trial and error to achieve the desired effect.

The final image was then positioned with enough room for the main body of text, and a clear area of colour at both header and footer sections for the remaining text.
I’ve tried to include just enough text to balance the image, but have stopped short of creating any more due to limited illustrator software. I felt more text would start to turn the cover into ‘a dog’s breakfast’, to quote a quaint turn of phrase.

The final result is shown below;


Although I’m pleased with the cover image, the font style could still benefit from a re-visit, but general placement and balance seem to work well.
The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject, which I feel has been achieved in conjunction with the text.



Exercise 3: Juxtapositon

Continuing with narrative and illustration, this exercise called for an image showing a still life approach, someone with a possession, or the results of their work or hobby.
The aim was to show juxtaposition, defined as ‘the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect‘. The idea was to be portrayed in one image.

I’ve chosen a book called the ‘Time Traveler’s Wife‘ by Audrey Niffenegger, with the current cover shown below.

The story revolves around a couple who met when Clare was aged 6 and Henry was thirty-six,  who married when Clare was twenty-two, and Henry was thirty. Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into the past or future.

My intent was to use two items which highlighted the difference in age, whilst trying to retain the slightly vintage look of the original image. I also wanted to retain a similar depth of field and overall tonal range.

The chess set was selected as it’s not a game ordinarily associated with a younger age group. My next task was to find something related to a female child which could be incorporated with the chess set, rather than being set apart from it.

I tried using various toy figures but they were too close in colour scale and size to the chess pieces, which is where the idea of using the duck came from.
It is bright enough to be the main focal point in the image and larger than the chess pieces, and also manages to convey the child oriented message.

The image was taken on a Fuji XF1, and has been reduced in resolution for web purposes.
In post processing, using Photoshop CS6, a ‘cross process’ curve was applied to increase the vintage look, and background contrast.
The final result is shown below;

1/210 f/1.8 ISO 200

1/210th f/1.8 ISO 200

This is the first image I’ve taken where the placement of text also had to be considered.
This did take longer in the initial stages as the brain had to do a mental shift to include this element, but I’m pleased with the overall result.

I think that the two elements contrast well and show juxtaposition to good effect, without being too obscure. The image, because of its two opposing elements create enough intrigue for the viewer to want to look closer at the book.
The exercise has also been useful when considering future images where such a concept is required.


Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Vintage, London, UK, 2005

Exercise 2: Evidence of action

In this exercise continuing with narrative and illustration, we were required to produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened.

I initially considered solid objects which naturally come to mind due to their ease of use and handling. The concept seemed easier to convey, but course notes also referred to abstract ideas and concepts.

With this in mind I’ve used two subjects, one which contains text, and the other to suggest the absence of something linked to the former.

A macro lens in conjunction with a Canon 5D has been used to create the desired overall angle and depth of field. The image has been reduced in resolution for web purposes, and is shown below;

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

The intent was to show just enough of the death certificate to convey what had happened, and throwing the ring box out of focus to show what it was, without it being the main focal point.
I decided not to use a tripod even though the shutter speed was very low, as I did not want clarity in too much of the text.

Initial attempts used a tighter framing of the certificate with a wedding ring as the symbol to go with the illustration, but this was too informative and the text too prominent.
The certificate not only conveys what has happened but the ring box also suggests the link between the two subjects.

This has been a thought-provoking exercise and enabled me to shift slightly out of my comfort zone which is working more with solid objects.
It has made me give more thought to what should be excluded from an image, as opposed to what should remain.




Exercise 1: A narrative picture essay

This exercise required that we set ourselves an assignment and then photograph it. The aim being to tell a story in a set of pictures, with between 5 and 15 images.
Approximately sixty images were initially taken, with a gradual culling as the final layout was visualised throughout the process.

Photos have been taken on an Olympus E-M5 with a 12-50mm lens. All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

Assignment choice

Several themes were debated and two were finally selected. The first entailed a trip to a fly-in day at a local airfield, but my armoury of lens’ wasn’t really up to capturing anything at a great distance. The nature of the event also resulted in restrictive access to a number of areas which I had envisaged using.

The final layout depicts a visit to Furzey Gardens in Minstead, Hampshire.
The gardens are a mix of traditional planted areas, rustic and traditional artefacts, tea rooms, and lakes, in a rural setting.

When plotting the intended images I kept these elements in mind and have tried to include the key aspects, which can be seen below.
Although captions were required for each image, I felt that the layout was fairly self-explanatory.


I found it useful to consider the targeted audience for this narrative, and the context in which it would be used. With this in mind it has been styled in more of an advertorial layout.
Viewing all of the images taken, certain ones immediately stood out as not gelling with the overall theme. The reasons were varied, and included stark colour contrasts, overly detailed, or lacking in purpose, to name but a few.

I initially viewed the images in Microsoft Words’ Publishing layout as this gave more immediate results as to how the images worked as a set.
Viewing them in smaller scale also helped to review which images could stand alone at almost thumbnail size, and which overall could act as a centre-piece.

A more detailed explanation or each image is shown below;


IMAGE 1 – Thatch and gardens
This was selected to show the ground of the setting in conjunction with some of the structures, without including too much detail. The viewer is left to imagine the rest of the scene. I have also purposefully left images of people out to give a more tranquil feel to the set, and echo what the gardens themselves also convey.

IMAGE 2 – Close-up plant
The second image was selected for its detail and colour combination. This worked well with the surrounding images, and being of smaller scale, was necessary to enhance these qualities.

IMAGE 3 – Lake
Wanting an image taken with a longer focal length, this section of the gardens made an ideal scene. Again colours, and contrast are kept in balance with the overall set of images.

IMAGE 4 – Floral woodland
This image stood out from the rest due to the colour combination, which I felt was better suited to a larger size, and therefore have placed it centrally.
The bright green is a colour I’ve also tried to keep in the majority of images to form a more cohesive set.

IMAGE 5 – Fledgling
The gardens are a haven for wildlife which I’d hoped to capture in some way, but wasn’t hopeful.
This is a cropped image as I was unable to get too close to the subject.

IMAGE 6 – Exit sign
I was undecided whether to use this due to the pull of text on the eye. Contrast and brightness levels were adjusted to subdue tones and ensure it blended with other images rather than stand out.

IMAGE 7 – Lantern
As part of my initial research, I’d planned the picture script with shots that I aimed to capture, covering the key elements of what the gardens had on offer.
‘Traditional artefacts’ was one point, which the lantern conveyed. It’s also set against a backdrop of traditional style herbs which I’ve kept slightly out of focus to enhance the lantern.

IMAGE 8 – Cream tea
As the cafe is a key element of the gardens, the inclusion of the cream tea was a natural choice. It is also in keeping with the bright colours in the image set.

IMAGE 9 – Scarecrow
The final image is of a scarecrow or more accurately, his feet. A cropped image has been taken as it shows the key features and is better portrayed at this size. It again retains the traditional theme that the overall layout is geared towards.

Initially a plain white background was used which looked too stark. Instead I’ve used an image of a bluebell wood taken at the gardens, and reduced its transparency levels so as not to compete with the overall layout.

The exercise has been useful in researching a subject, not only to think about what images should be included, but more importantly which ones should be left out.
Visualising an audience and the context in which the layout would be viewed, was also a key learning point.

Having worked mainly with individually placed images to date, which stand on their own merits, it was interesting to consider sets of images.
Scale and placement altered the whole layout, which then highlighted images which no longer seemed a good fit.

Although course notes suggested that graphic elements within each image were not so important in this exercise, they were a factor. It is difficult to ignore them when faced with a set of pictures.
overall balance was more highlighted, for this and every other compositional element involved.