Katherine Ye Hangzhou 2014 Art Class
Unit 1- Photography

Hey! I'm Katherine and I'm a student of CIS HK. Welcome to my process journal for unit 1. Currently our unit if on photography, enjoy! Note: Newest posts are at the bottom. Also, none of the photos that I use belong to me (unless I say so)!

Image taken from: http://rudyrustam.wordpress.com/2014/page/2/

September 5th, 2014

Art Unit one: Impression, Hangzhou
Key Concept: Communication
Related Concepts: Innovation, interpretation, representation
Global Context: Personal and cultural expression

1. In many people's mind, a photograph is a picture made by a machine. It is easy and simple to pick up a camera and press the button. So, how can photography be art?

In order to answer this question, we need to know that art means. "The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power." That is google's definition of art.

Photographs are artificially made portrayals that affect the audience's mood by evoking strong emotions. The artist's job is to show the viewer a unique vision of a scene by capturing a moment in time, similarly to paintings and drawings. Photography is a medium of art that requires skill, an understanding of how to use tech, and artistic ability. All of these links are someone linked to other forms of art as well. Photography is not something that can be easily done, because of all these things.

2. What elements in a photograph can be manipulated for conveying the photographer's own agenda?

The elements in a good photograph can be manipulated so that the message of the photograph is able to be conveyed correctly. The final results of pictures establish agenda. An important element for a good photograph is the concept of having a source of life behind it, even though photographs are a still picture. Some photographers who are successful will really make the viewer think that the picture is meaningful, while other make the viewers question the picture. A few examples of elements include pattern, symmetry, texture, lines, and depth of fields.

Patterns and repetition can be seen all around us, and emphasising these patterns that we can see leads to striking shots. We usually overlook patterns that life is filled with these days, but once your eyes spots them you'll immediately want to incorporate it into photography. Repetitive pattern can give the impression of large numbers and sizes and to take a good photo incorporating that, you need to zoom in so that the pattern fills up the entire frame.

Symmetry can create great photos if they have a good composition and a point of interest. It can divide the photo into two (horizontally or vertically). Symmetry brings a sense of harmony. and soothes the eyes and mind of the viewer. Achieving symmetry can be make very appealing photographs.

To create texture in your photograph, you need to exclusively shoot at a specific time of a day to get the perfect lighting to create the alive three dimensional feel.

A powerful element of a photograph is lines. The draw the viewers eye to the focal point and impacts the overall 'feel' of the image. The different types of lines are horizontal, vertical, diagonal and converging lines. Each type of line is used differently for a different affect.

The composition of an image can be drastically impacted by the depth of field. It isolates the subject from the background and/or foreground.

3. Are imagination and creativity as important for a photographer as for a painter? When and how can photography be more about imagination than reality?

Yes, imagination and creativity is as important for a photographer as for a painter. Imagination and creativity are both very important skills in the field of art. Both of these skills makes people be unique and think outside of the box, which is what you want to do when creating your own work. Good photographs tend to be superior than reality. Photos might capture the moments OF reality, but it requires great imagination to take a good photo. You can be imaginative in photography which forming new ideas, pictures, and visions in your mind.

4. What is the essence of a good photograph, or what constitutes a good photograph?

In my opinion, a good photography has two parts behind it. The first part is being able to convey the message or story that the photographer is telling, and the second part is to have artistic and technical skills behind it.

A good photography is able to convey the photographer's message. I believe that the message is either one that is relatable to the audience, or one that can be freely interpreted. Everyone is shaped by their own space and time, therefore everyone will have a unique different interpretation and perspective on a photo. They are able to evoke emotions to the viewers, whether if it's the feeling of happiness, hope, sadness, or anger. Here are examples of good photographs that convey emotion.

Elements of a good photograph also includes a good use of a range of techniques. A few examples of technique in photography would be lighting, framing and composition, angles and lines, and focus.

Lighting is one of the most essential techniques of photography as without lighting, a photo cannot be taken. Lighting bring out the mood of the picture, for example dull and gloomy lighting brings out a dull and gloomy mood. The main sources of lighting are daylight, artificial light, flash, fireworks, moonlight, etc. All of these sources can be taken advantage of and be used to compose brilliant photos. Here are some examples of lighting in photography.

Another technique that is necessary in photography would be framing and composition. Framing is technique in drawing the attention of your audience to your subject by blocking other objects in your photo. Framing gives your photo context, gives photos a sense of depths and layers, leads the viewers eyes to the main point and intrigues your viewer. The frames for photograph can some in all shapes and sizes and a few examples include shooting through branches, windows, tunnels, and sometimes even people. Here are a few examples of different types of frames.

A frame of a photo doesn't need to go entirely around the edges of your image, and it could just be on one or two edges of your shot. A good example would be the photo above that used people as the frame. When your considering framing, you need to ask yourself 'will this add on to my image, or take away from it?' This technique needs to be done well or else it will create a cluttered illusion in your picture. Lastly, you need to consider if your framing will be in focus or not. A blurred frame will add a sense of mood with depth in your shot, where a focused frame adds context into your scene.

Another crucial technique to your photo would be angling. The camera angle marks the location at which your camera is placed to take a photo. The different camera angles effects how your viewer perceives the scene that you shoot. A few examples of camera angles would be high-angle short, a low-angle shot, a bird's-eye view, and a worm's eye view. Each of the different angles have different effects on the picture. A high-angle shot is when the camera is physically higher than the subject, making the subject look small, weak and/or vulnerable. Meanwhile, a low-angle shot is the complete opposite as it is taken below the subject and makes the subject look strong and powerful. Bird's eye view is a photo taken directly above the scene and it can establish landscape. Worm's-eye view is a shot that is taken looking up from the ground. Here are pictures of each type of angle explained.

5. What are the differences between a point-and-shot tourist photograph and an artistic photograph?

I think that the two types of photographs both have different purposes, therefore the message conveyed in the two types would naturally have a different outcome.

Point-shot tourist photographs are more of a quick 'take-and-go' type of picture that doesn't require any time or skill to take, as anyone can press the button on a camera. Those types of photos are more for keeping memories, and tend to be good for looking back after a while to recap those memories captured. Meanwhile, good artistic photographs take a lot of imagination, time and skill. Those photos are for conveying the message and emotions that a photographer is trying to put out. A good artistic photo needs a lot of elements like lighting, angle, framing and composition, etc. We can't say that one is better than the other, but they have a very distinguished difference.

Above I put an example of each type of photograph, each taken in the same place but for a different purpose. You can clearly see the difference between the two. The first picture is a young women taking a selfie in front of the famous dome in Rome. The subject was the person herself, as the background stating her location is clearly blurred out. There was no detailed thought on any photography techniques. Meanwhile, the artistic photo of rome has the consideration of all of the techniques that weren't used in the first picture.

Examples of Famous Photographers

September 5th, 2014


Name: Alfred Stieglitz
Birthdate: January 1st, 1864
Death: July 13, 2946
Nationality: American
Theme: American Modernisation
Occupation: Photographer, modern art promoter
Summary: Alfred Stieglitz has dedicated his work to making photography an accepted form of art and that photography can convey the equal amount of artistic expression as paintings or sculptures.

Name: Lewis Hine
Birthdate: September 26, 1874
Death: November 3, 1940
Nationality: American
Theme: Social Realism
Occupation: Photographer, Sociologist
Summary: Lewis Hine's work was used to change child labor laws in the U.S. You will notice that the titles of all his work are all linked to child labour, for example "Faces of Lost Youth" or "The Mill".

Name: Cindy Sherman
Birthdate: January 19, 1954
Nationality: American
Theme: Varies
Occupation: Photographer, film director
Summary: Cindy Sherman's work recalls long traditions of of self-portraiture and also theatrical role playing in art. Her art is powerful enough to force the audience to reconsider stereotypes and cultural assumptions.

Name: Jeff Wall
Birthdate: September 29, 1946
Nationality: Canadian
Theme: Contemporary art
Occupation: Artist

Inspiration from Hangzhou's Living and Learning Environment

September 6th, 2014


Black & White VS Colour

I think that Hangzhou's scenery, landscape and culture mesmerises me the most, hence the photos that I have put up above.

I feel as though the the theme of black and white really interests me because monochromatic use of colour really versatile. Black and white also adapts to lighting situations really well, and it pushes the distraction of colours out of the way. When a photo is black and white, it helps viewers concentrate of the subject and message of the photo. It makes the tones in photographs very subtle and shows a high contrast.

Meanwhile, coloured photos are also an interest of mine since it makes a photo more vibrant and alive, which draws the viewers attention. Colour can often portray and communicate the mood of the photo, for example a warm toned photo would express happiness, while a cool tone could express sadness.

The decision of whether to choose black and white or colour is often a very difficult dilemma for photographers if they do not have a clear vision of what they want to capture.

Different Types of Photography


1. Aerial photography: Taken from an airborne device.
2. Astrophotography: Photography of the space
3. Black and White
4. Commercial Photography: Commercial aspect to photography
5. Nature Photography: Capturing nature and wildlife
6. Night photography: Self explanatory
7. Panoramic Photography: Wide shots of areas, up to 360º
8. Sports Photography: Capturing action in sports
9. Travel Photography: Pictures that illustrate a story
10. Underwater photography: Pictures shot beneath the ocean's surface

Mr. Tang's Message

An answer to the questions can take different forms. It could be a simple, straight answer, or an elaborated in depth analysis. Whatever the form it takes, the goal is not just to answer the question but also, maybe more importantly, to find your ideas and inspirations for creating your own work. The questions serves as stimuli to get you to think further, and link your understanding with your own art practise.

What I Learned Today...

September 6th, 2015

Today I learned that you can answer questions in different ways. Your answer could be simple, or in depth. Questions can help you stimulate your mind to think and search for your own ideas. While researching about photography, I also learned the different types of photography (as seen above) and I got inspiration and ideas of what I want to do in photography.

Thinking of the Assessment

September 8th, 2014

In today's class I'm dedicating my time on thinking ahead for the assessment and trying to figure out what I want to do as my final piece. There is an endless amount of things that I could do but I'm trying to think about what would be the easiest and best route to take. I think that I've settled with the idea of doing black and white nature photography.

In the post above about black and white vs colour, I wrote 'I feel as though the the theme of black and white really interests me because monochromatic use of colour really versatile. Black and white also adapts to lighting situations really well, and it pushes the distraction of colours out of the way. When a photo is black and white, it helps viewers concentrate of the subject and message of the photo. It makes the tones in photographs very subtle and shows a high contrast.' but I think that colour suites landscape better. I feel like colour will embody my emotions on hangzhou's environment perfectly and it will fit hand in hand with nature photography.

At the same time, another one of my options would be pictures of people in Hangzhou. I could easily take a good photo using students of CIS, Green town, or anyone in the streets and show my impression of Hangzhou. I could show the liveliness of Hangzhou and what it's like to live here. I could also consider taking pictures of the buildings of hangzhou. There are endless amounts of choices, and it's really difficult to just go with one.

Nature Photography Research

Nature photography is the photography that is taken outdoors, dedicated to displaying the world's natural elements like landscape, wildlife, plants, and textures. It puts more strong emphasis on aesthetic values on photos compared to other types of photography. Magazines like National Geographic Magazine, National Wildlife Magazine and Outdoor Photography is devoted to nature photography.

Wildlife photography is the photography that capture animals in their natural habitats. Animals are usually photographed in action, for example while eating, fighting, or even in flight. It is debatable whether photographing animals in captivity or in control counts as true wildlife photography. Here are examples of wildlife photography taken from National Geographic.

The techniques required for wildlife photography is greatly different from those in landscape photography. In wildlife photography for example, requires wide apertures to achieve fast shutter speeds, freezing the subject's motion, and to blur out backgrounds. Meanwhile, landscape photography usually uses small apertures.

Comparing Different Shots

Here is an analysis of some of the shots that I took in preparation for my final assessment.

Photo #1
- Con: This photo is not focused on the subject
- Con: Not a very appealing photo overall
- Con: Bad lighting
- Con: Bad use of the rules of third
- Con: Distracting leaves in the background

Photo #2
- Con: Far away from the subject (ratio between background and subject is off)
- Pro: In focus with the subject
- Pro: Good use of framing (leaves in the lower right corner)
- Pro: Good contrast of colour between the flowers and the greenery

Photo #3
- Pro: Interesting angle/viewpoint for the audience
- Con: Too far away from subject
- Pro: Subject is in focus
- Pro: Good lighting
- Pro: Good framing (leaves and the bottom)

Photo #4
- Pro: Excellent lighting
- Pro: Camera is angled so that the viewer's eye is parallel to the butterfly
- Pro: Good field of depth, subject is focused
- Pro: Ratio between the subject and the background is perfect

Photo #5
- Con: The manhole covering (sewage cover) is distracting and takes away from the photo
- Con: Subject is too far away
- Pro: Good lighting

Photo #6
- Con: Subject is a bit blurry
- Con: Rules of third is off
- Pro: Good angle so that the butterfly detail can be seen
- Con: The background is in focus (it should be blurred)

Photo #7
- Pro: Subject is focused, while background is blurred
- Pro: The metal gate sort of serves as a frame, and bring the viewers eye in towards the butterfly
- Pro: Excellent lighting

My Assessment Pictures

These are the photos that i have chosen for my assessment.

The theme that I have chosen for my impression of Hangzhou is nature photography, specifically butterfly photography, as I felt like wildlife could really be able to represent my emotions and feelings of Hangzhou. Also, butterflies are spirited, and lively creatures that I have always been fond of.

In my first photo that you see, there’s a butterfly on a pink flower and in the second photo there's a blue butterfly extending it's wings on a metal fence. At first I had no idea that I was going to get such lucky shots, but then I did. The butterflies symbolise my impression of being in Hangzhou. They symbolise the hope and freedom that I felt the moment that I arrived at our campus and the fragile state that I was at. Because I was so nervous, I felt like I could crack at any moment. From that, the butterflies also showed my nervousness, from the idiom ‘butterflies in my stomach’. I didn’t know what to expect when I arrived at Hangzhou, but I just went with the flow and expected great things to happen. CIS Hangzhou is such a good experience for us, and we should cherish it while the year lasts, just like a butterfly cherishing it’s week of living. The butterfly also represents the beauty that I saw in Hangzhou, mainly the overwhelming greenness and nature in the place. A message that I want to convey to the audience is that we have to appreciate the little things in life, because usually we overlook things really easily and we never observe details.

I particularly like the photos because it was caught at such a lucky moment. I love the vibrancy of the flower popping out in the first photo, and the detailed pattern that you can see on the butterflies' wings. I also like how the backgrounds are completely blurred out so that the subject of the photo was emphasised. The photos aren't as HD as I would of liked it to be, but considering on the fact that I used my phone to take this photo, I’m pretty happy with the result. Next time for improvement I should really try to use a camera for better results. This photo has the concept of having a  source of life behind it, even though it is a still picture.

When I took the photos, it reminded me clearly of the famous Hangzhou legend of the butterfly lovers, which was a story about two lovers who died and turned into butterflies. In the end they were together and lived happily ever after. It was like the Chinese story of Romeo and Juliet, but it had a happier ending. This relates to my photos because the butterflies represents my sense of freedom in hangzhou, and the two lovers were turned into butterflies so that they could be together in freedom.

I wanted to have at least three photos for this project, but because I wanted to stick with a consistent theme, butterfly photography, and it's extremely difficult to photograph butterflies, I was not able to get a third photo. I'm still very satisfied with the photos because they truly express my impression of Hangzhou.

Changes to Photo(s)

Above you see that I made a few changes to my second photo . Today we had to present our pictures to the class and explain our intentions and message of our photos. I think I did well on my presentation, but my Mr. Tang had a concern. If you look at the original photo, you may notice that there is a large rusty nail. He said that it took away from the photo, which I agree with, and it drew the attention immediately to it because of the vibrancy of the colour. It also contradicts with the message that I am trying to convey to the audience as a butterfly is a lively, free, and beautiful creature, while the nail is dead, rusty and old. So, I cropped out the bottom of the photo, so that the nail would not show.

Also, I made the background black and white because there was a lot of green, and it kind of took away from my photo as well. The reason why I kept the fence because it was part of my main subject as it signifies the restraint that I feel in Hangzhou, regardless of the amount of freedom (the butterfly) that I feel. Originally you can see in one of my old posts that I was contemplating on whether to use black and white, or colour, and this sort of resolved my dilemma.

I felt like today was extremely useful because I got feedback from my peers and it made my realise the pros and cons of my photos. Now I know what to work on until the end of our assessment deadline!

This is my third photo that I would like to hand in. This photo expresses my entire experience in Hangzhou that has happened, and is to come. The side substructures of the bridges acts as the frame for the photo, leading the viewer's eyes into the centre of the bridge, which leads to a drop own that cannot be seen. This represents my first impression when I went to Hangzhou, when I had no idea of what was to come and I took the risk of following a path that I didn't know what it would lead me to.  As the path of the bridge stretches out, you can see that it gets brighter and brighter, representing the bright future that my Hangzhou experience will have.I especially like the technique used in the photos. The symmetry creates  a good composition and a point of interest for the viewers, while bringing a sense of harmony. This results into the photo soothing the eyes and mind of the viewer. The vivid colour of green in the background represents balance and harmony (linking back to my butterfly photos), and it is also the colour of growth. This photo connects to my butterfly photos extremely well, as they all set off similar messages that I want to convey to the audience.

This is the last photo that I would like to submit. As you can see, everything is in black and white apart from the sky, at that is because I want that to be the main focal point for the viewers. The sky represents my impression of freedom in Hangzhou, and it tries to convey the message that we should enjoy Hangzhou while it lasts. The sky is in the stage of a sunset, and that symbolises the end of a new day. I want the audience to get the idea that we need to cherish every day to the best of our ability because before we know it, it will not last very long. The orange tint to the sky brings an energetic feel to the photo, and it brings a mixed combination of emotions like cheerfulness (the yellow) and flamboyant (the orange). This links back to my first photos of the butterflies, where I mentioned that butterflies cherish their short lives, and that relates to our Hangzhou experience. The colours of the sky symbolise my different emotions. Also, the dynamic emotions that the colours represent are also given by butterflies.

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Excellent quick work! Thanks Katherine, for your immediate commitment to the project. This is a very good start, now you need to look into each questions in much more depth and use examples to demonstrate each point you are making. In this process you should gain ideas and inspirations for creating your own works.