2020 Photo Challenge #8

February’s theme / technique: Being Creative with Patterns

The six visual keys to a great photograph are:

    • Patterns
    • Texture
    • Lines
    • Light
    • Depth of field
    • Space

This month we are going to look at Patterns. Patterns can be found everywhere, in nature or man-made constructions. For a photographer, using patterns is key to a good composition.

They are made up of repeated objects, geometric shapes or abstract patterns, or colours and they may be random or ordered. Visual patterns in nature are often loose and organic – think of spirals, waves, rock formations, sand.

    • Try using patterns as the main subject of your photo with the focal point on the patterns removing the context.
    • Or you can use the pattern as a backdrop to something else.
    • Try abstract imagery using close-up photography – peeling paint, rust stains for example
    • Break the pattern, for instance position one red apple in the midst of a pile of green ones. And of course remembering the rule of thirds, any break should be on an intersection.
    • Create your own patterns.
    • Combine patterns. Contrasting or complementary patterns work well.
This month's final assignment – Use pattern as a background for a more substantial subject. 

Don’t have your subject too large in the frame or it will detract from the pattern. And consider whether the patterned background adds or takes away the impact of the subject. Remember also the general ‘rules’ of compositional techniques.

I have four very different subjects this week, all from the archives I’m afraid, but photographing patterns is a thing of mine so even if I were to look for new subjects they would more than likely turn out the same!

First one I am not so sure of. This pretty jug of daisies is the subject, but does the patterned tablecloth distract from it? Or is it that the composition is too tight? I cropped in a bit and tried to correct the camera distortion, but this probably hasn’t helped with the framing. That daisy is too near the top of the frame I feel.

Next is this image of an Ammonite sculpture with a background of trees which appear to echo the curves of the sculpture. I’m happy with this organic background, but is it enough of a pattern?

My third offering is another sculpture in the Eden Project, this time with the pattern of the hexagonal windows of the biome in the background. This one I think works, possibly because the pattern is so large and the subject a similar tone, though from a composition perspective I would have liked the sculpture more to the right-hand side of the photo.

Finally this shot of a Kea (New Zealand parrot) with the pattern of the diamond-shaped fence in the background. Now this one breaks the rule of having the subject too large in the foreground, but does it distract from the pattern? Or does the pattern form a geometric balance to the curves of the bird’s feathers? I like the fact that the background is of similar hues to the subject.

I would really appreciate your thoughts on these images. The aim of this year is to improve my photos. But I do need your help!

If you would like to join in with the 2020 photo challenge then please take a look at my 2020 Photo Challenge page. No complicated rules, just a camera required 🙂

    • Create your own post with some information about how you composed the shot.
    • Include a link to this page in your post so others can find it too
    • Add the tag #2020PhotoChallenge so everyone can find your entry easily in the WP Reader
    • Get your post(s) in by the end of the week, as the new theme begins next Sunday with Textures.

Last week Susan had a closer look at the patterns found on Hellebores and came to some interesting conclusions.

Cee has several fantastic breaks in her patterns and Traudel spotted these mail boxes.

You’ll find Kaz lounging about the pool and Pauline rising to the challenge in her piece of Paradise.

Thanks to everyone who has joined in so far!

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I have lived in the UK for most of my life, but when young I definitely had wanderlust and even ended up living in South Africa for several years which was a wonderful experience. I now look forward to a long and leisurely retirement doing what I like most - gardening, photography, walking and travelling.

57 thoughts on “2020 Photo Challenge #8”

  1. The Ammonite works best for me, Jude, but probably because I like the subject matter. The first shot is too busy, I think, even if the composition was better. You score well with the Kea though. Happy Sunday! 🙂 🙂

    1. I agree that the tablecloth doesn’t work well, it might have if I’d taken a better shot. What I really wanted was to take some new photos but the weather hasn’t cooperated.

      1. It looks miserable from what I’ve seen. James was at Camden Lock this morning… dampish but it was a late birthday treat so he didn’t mind. And Marie came back from Harrogate yesterday saying Yorkshire has disappeared under floods and her landing at Leeds was one of the most frightening things she’s ever done. 😦 24C today- I guess we’ll suffer in summer.

        1. Yes, poor Yorkshire and the Midlands have been problematical. So much rain… but I imagine there’ll be hosepipe bans somewhere in the summer! You’ll have to head for cooler climes in the summer!

  2. My thoughts…get closer, Jude, if you want the pattern to be the subject….I don’t think it is, in any of these, sorry to be brutal- just my thoughts

      1. Well, you have a point, Margaret…but, picky me, I would have liked to have seen the bird a bit higher in the image….😳

        1. Well the figure is the subject, but I agree that the foliage is a distraction. I need a big city to get out and look for better examples.

    1. The challenge here Sue is for the pattern to be the background to the subject, so it isn’t the subject itself, there needs to be something else. Not an easy one. I think a distance shot would be better so the subject is relatively small next to the background and none of my examples are. I’m imagining something like a person walking past a brick patterned wall, similar to some of your photos.

  3. I love the sculpture in front of the hexagonal windows. The placing is perfect – it gives a sense of movement that I think would be lacking if it were further to the right. I like the kea too, and no, you’re not too close. But I agree with Jo that your first picture is too busy. Interestingly different takes on your own challenge!

    1. I would have liked to have found something new to photograph as obviously when I took these pictures I wasn’t particularly thinking about the background.

        1. No way! There aren’t many background patterns out here in the countryside. Though I could have thought about using something within the home – I do have a few patterned soft furnishings. I think this assignment works best when you have a wide-angled distant shot so the background is prominent and the subject is small. One to think about over the course of the year.

  4. The tablecloth would have worked for me without the jug.
    The ammonite sculpture is a (circular) pattern, and a good one.
    The bird was fine for me, and I didn’t mind it dominating the blurred fence.
    Best wishes, Pete. x

    1. The tablecloth is a massive fail Pete, but I wanted to include it to see what others thought. Sometimes we don’t think about the way we see patterns and I am sure in that photo I was concerned with the jug of daisies and probably didn’t even notice the tablecloth! Thank you for your viewpoint, this is my aim to elicit some feedback.

  5. I think this is a hard challenge and I was lucky to have one that worked. Your pictures made me think about how our brains act around patterns. We look to complete them, as in the trees (willow?) behind the ammonite. The floor has an interesting pattern. If you’d been thinking of the challenge at the time, you might have angled the shot to get more of that in too.

    The dome shot is similar – our minds seem to forecast and complete the pattern at some level. I see a giant, ghostly face overlooking the figure (two eyes and a hint of a nose or mouth). The lines inside the outer glass could be distracting, but they also give a feeling of weather whipping down, as if the figure is working in bad conditions. Perhaps that’s all the rain we’ve been having!

    The teapot shot has so much to think about because of the angles and probably running out of table and even the crease in the cloth. You did a better job than I could have – I’m not good with lines. I see that picture as a simile at the contrast of the real flowers with the flowers in the teapot design.

    I like the bird shot a lot. The camera has made a really nice effect on the wire and the pattern is a great contrast with the feathers. I’d have liked it even more if the pattern had gone to the edges, but you’re right, we don’t have infinite angles at our disposal when taking pictures, without some form of hovering device.

    1. Thanks for all your insight Susan, it is very welcome. The whole reason for the challenge is to make me look at my photos and try and understand what it is I am trying to convey. I have to admit that a lot of the time I am simply recording an event, a place in time, a snapshot. I want to become a more discerning photographer and think about what it is about an image I want to say. Using pattern as a background is a challenge and I’ve not really done that, the background a lot of the time is incidental to the subject. But now this is in my head I shall look out for occasions where it might work.

  6. In picture 1, I agree with you that a little more “breathing room” above the daisies would be welcome. In picture 2, the curve of the bushes does indeed echo the tighter curves of the ammonite. And who would’ve thought someone would make a sculpture of an ammonite? I find picture 3 works the best of the group in coming across as a unified whole. In picture 4, I’d have preferred the diamond pattern not be broken by the object just above the bird’s beak. And the kea appears to be yawning—if parrots can yawn.

    1. Thank you Steve, I appreciate your input, being the amazing photographer that you are. The object above the parrot’s beak is, I think, another parrot in the background! And he was a very vocal parrot! This is obviously a part of my photography that needs work! I had never really considered using pattern as a background and I was hoping to get out and find some new examples as old photos didn’t have this objective in mind. I have ideas in my head, but I haven’t come across anything yet to photograph which fits the bill. Oh, well, the reason for these assignments is to challenge myself and this one certainly has!

        1. I don’t often do much with editing software other than adjust the light / contrast, but it is a thought. If the rain continues I may well have time to have a play 🙂

  7. This is a tricky one this week Jude ! I think for me the #2 of the ammonite works well and I find that the Kea’s feathers complement the background 🙂 I know perhaps there is a tiny distraction of the other Parrot that could be eliminated by some careful * editing .. but appreciate there’s a challenge in some circumstances of being able to circumvent those niggly *extras in the frame . I think I’d have found this week difficult for sure Lol
    I do hope the weather cheers up a bit so you can get out for some more of your photography this week 🙂

  8. Here are my thoughts, for what they’re worth:
    “the rule of having the subject too large in the foreground” — eek, I didn’t know there was such a rule. I’d say you’re okay in that regard, though I’d prefer the repeating diamonds to take up more of the background and not to be marred by the blurred whatever-it-is above the beak.
    I’m not sure the trees behind the amonite are a ‘pattern’ — shouldn’t they be more regular?
    The daisy shot has a lot happening in it, in addition to the distortion. Maybe the blue jug on its own would have been better, and also would have echoed the teapot shapes.
    There’s also a lot happening with the Eden shot — if we could see more of the full hexagons to get a feel for a pattern, and less of the greenery, and none of the two horizontal lines, I think it would work better. But more hexagons would make the sculpture less substantial. Tricky!

    1. “Don’t have your subject too large in the frame or it will detract from the pattern. And consider whether the patterned background adds or takes away the impact of the subject.”

      Not a rule as such, but a tip for this kind of photo. Remember the assignment is still about patterns, but this time the pattern is the background so you need a subject in the foreground that doesn’t dominate. My Kea is all wrong for this reason. Organic patterns as per the trees are much more random, so acceptable, but again in this case I am too close.

      It’s an interesting concept and difficult to get right, and of course none of these images were taken with this task in mind. I shall look out for some throughout the year and maybe come back to this at some point. After all that is what this year is about – learning! And I thank you for your comments and observations – all good ones – I might even look for a larger biome to see if that works better.
      Tricky indeed!

      1. That’s a really good point about not having taken the photos with this interpretation in mind. You would have approached them very differently! My ‘leaves against leaves’ photo was definitely taken just for this one purpose. Took one look and said “aha! substantial object against patterned background!”

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