Humans of ISB

Emily Travers, Student

Are you going through any struggles right now? What would you say to those in your position?

“I’m having troubles with a friend that’s being difficult. They came in the beginning of the year but I’ve grown close to them since we’ve done things outside of school. If I could say anything to to anyone that’s going through the same thing, I guess just don’t be awkward about things. They’re only awkward if you make them awkward. Just, be chill”.

Lirong Zhou, Chinese teacher

Is there any strong emotion you are feeling at the moment?

“I’m very happy about the performance of my IB classes during the exams. The results are not out yet, but I am very proud of how well they did. For next year though, I am a bit more worries because I will be having three IB classes instead of two”.

Nadine Rosavear, Librarian

Is there anything that you would say is your biggest struggle right now?

“The biggest struggle…I have one more year at ISB, and then the school won’t be able to renew my contract due to the age restrictions that are taking place in China. So that’s a bit of a struggle because I will have to move, and I’m really sad because I will miss ISB and China. If I have to choose where I will go next would like to see more of Europe or perhaps Africa. I’ve already seen a lot of Asia “.


Angeline Reyes, Secretary to the MS Principal

What brought you here, to China?

“Work. I hadn’t thought about moving to China before. It was just an opportunity that came, really. I don’t regret it, I’ve been living here for over 11 years and I’m happy here. I’ve grown used to life over here, since it’s been a long time. It’s like my second home away from home”.

Cara Wang, Nurse

Did you always want to become a nurse?

“In the beginning, I didn’t plan to become a nurse. But when at the time when I grew up, in China, it was really proud (sic.) if you could go to a University, and so I chose to study medicine because my grades, my score were good enough that I was allowed to go to University. I think it was a good decision. I’m very happy right now, with my work and life and everything. But sometimes I hate it too,  you know? When you have to work during nights, constantly 7 nights a week, it’s really difficult”.

Portrait reflection

In this photo of my friend Gina, I used the technique of taking unfocused shots, in this case making the entire image blurry. We were standing outside with a rather neutral background, which works better for blurred shots, so I decided to take this picture. I adjusted the aperture to a low setting, so that I could blur the image further.


Here, I focused on one body part of a kid in the kindergarten class. I saw the kids playing with hammering blocks and thought that focusing on the entire person would distract from the actual thing they were doing. Thus, I decided to crouch down and take this picture of a little girl’s hands as she played with the blocks. I had to raise the shutter speed a lot, because the kids were constantly moving their hands and anything too low would create motion blur.


This image exemplifies eye contact. I took this picture as part of the “humans of ISB” project that we did, here photographing our librarian Ms. Rosaveare. I changed the white balance in the photo, so that it has a slight metallic feel, which matched the surroundings in the library with all the modern things around as well as her shirt. Here I used a short depth of field, making the background unfocused with her in.


In this picture I took of my mom, I broke a compositional guideline, in this case the rule of thirds. I positioned her in the dead centre of the image, which works well to create an emphasis on her face and not the background. I had her stand very still, since I needed to use a lower shutter speed to compensate for the lack of natural light. I didn’t want to raise the ISO, since I feared that it would ruin the effect of the purple and create too much visual noise, since it was nighttime.

In this image of my uncle pouring tea, I again used lighting but used it in contrast with the shadows to create an interesting effect. There had just been a power outage, so I thought that I would make the best out of it and start taking photos. I had to raise the shutter speed slightly, since he was moving around, and so I had to raise the ISO to compensate for the lack of light, which sadly created some noise in the brighter parts. I only wanted the face in focus, which meant that I had to lower the aperture to get a shorter depth of field.

Here, I took a candid shot of a girl playing with building blocks. I didn’t want the image to look posed (especially because it’s hard to tell a kid to pose naturally…), so I simply sat down and let her play, taking a few pictures. The shutter speed had to be quick, as with all kindergarten photos I took, because kids are constantly moving. To compensate for less light coming into the camera, I had to raise the ISO.

In this image of my friend Jonathan, I used the technique of using a wide angle. It distorted the image and view, and made for an interesting optical effect/illusion. I crouched down and told him to stand in a profile view, and focused on the arm. To get this effect, I had to lower the aperture (I feel like that’s the only thing I’m doing in these posts…). That worked really well with the background, which would have been too busy had it been in focus. It was a really sunny day, so I had to raise the shutter speed since it was already too bright even with the lowest ISO.

Here, I used the technique of getting the subject looking at something  outside of the frame. I told the boy to look away from the camera, at something in the background. The result is that the viewer is left to wonder what the boy is looking at, which is up for interpretation. It was a sunny day, so I didn’t raise the ISO. The boy didn’t mind being photographed, so I was able to use a lower shutter speed since he stood still. The one thing I would change about this image is that I think my white balance is a bit off, making the image a bit too cold.

In this portrait of my friend Samantha, I used the technique of creative Lighting. I was in the studio, and we used the gel lights which made quite an interesting blend of blue and red, which made for a striking image (compare with the Obama poster for an example). I kept the ISO low, since we had a strong light source, and the shutter was set at a fairly quick speed so that too much of the light wouldn’t be let in. I positioned Samantha looking away from the camera, since I found that pose to be more interesting than a simple front view of the face.

I took this picture of a girl in the PreK class to demonstrate perspective. The girl laid down on the mat, and I took that opportunity to take this bird’s eye perspective shot. The area where they sat was near a window and quite well-lit, so I only adjusted the shutter speed to be quicker so that there wouldn’t be any motion blur (kids move!). Here the aperture was lowered as well, so that she would stand out more against the background. I think the image works well because the warm colors of her shirt contrast against the cool green in the background.

Street Photography Analysis

Street Photography Field Trip reflection

Manual 101

The exposure triangle is made up of three components that work together: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. The first thing, aperture, is marked by the f stop (e.g F5, F4.5) on the camera, and is how large iris of the camera is. In layman’s terms, this means how large the hole in front of the lens is. When the f stop is raised, the hole gets smaller, and the image gets a larger depth of field. A larger depth of field allows for more of the image to be in focus. The negative side of this is that less light is let in, due to the fact that the aperture hole is smaller.


Shutter speed controls how long the camera’s shutter is open. The longer the shutter is open, the more light is let in, as the lens is exposed to more light. Thus, if quick movements are to be captured in an image, the shutter speed needs to be lowered. If the shutter would be open for too long, there will be motion blur, blur caused by the movement of an object before the shutter is closed. In some types of photography, these are desirable aesthetic effects; however, in most types of photography this is not desired and should be avoided.


The last component of the triangle is ISO, the light sensitivity of the camera. The higher the ISO is, the brighter the image will be, as the camera is able to take in more light from what exists in the image. Thus, ISO is very useful when you need to make an image brighter while keeping a fast shutter speed and/or high aperture. The disadvantage of this is that a high ISO creates more “noise” or film grain, which basically means that there are small particles in the image, similar to the effect of a static TV.


Together, these three components make up the exposure of the image. When used correctly, this makes for a nice, well-exposed image with adequate lighting. To have that, you want to use all three components correctly, which is how they are related. For an example, if you want to shoot an image of a field outside, and you want all the flowers in focus, you’ll need to have a very high aperture. That will make the image very focused, but very little light will be let in. Thus, you need to adjust the two other components so that it will be brighter. You’ll first of all want to have a longer shutter speed, so that more light will be let in to the lens. To avoid heavy film grain and overexposure, you will want to keep the ISO fairly low, since the long shutter speed already lets in enough light. Overexposure is when the image is too bright for the features to be seen, with entire sections possibly even completely white. When taking photos, you want to avoid this at all costs.

As a photographer, you need to understand how to use manual mode in order to make your images the best they can be. A DSLR is a very powerful tool, and with the help of manual mode you can be in control. With manual mode, you can adjust virtually every aspect of a photograph, and control what your camera does. Rather than letting the camera choose what it does, you can do whatever you want in the image.

Below are my favourite photos from this unit.

Freezing action: This image was taken in-class, with the help of my classmates Jonathan and Daniel (it may even be featured on their blogs too). Although we used Jonathan’s camera, we all were involved in the process of getting this perfect shot. We took multiple photos, discussing how we could make it better. What works in this photograph is first of all that the shutter speed is just right. Thanks to being very fast, we were able to capture the exact moment the balloon burst. In order to balance this exposure-wise, we used a higher ISO. What also works is that the composition is quite good, with the water being perfectly in frame, not “kissing the frame”,  and the arms providing visual weight to balance it out.


Motion blur: I think this image is one of the best I’ve taken in this unit. To get the blurred effect, I lowered the shutter speed. Since the train was going much faster than this, I knew there’d be motion blur. I still kept the ISO at a low level, since the shutter speed was slow and the area well-lit. I zoomed in a bit, so that the train was completely centered, which I think was a good framing decision since it just emphasizes the train and keeps everything else out of frame.

Panning: Here, I used a slow shutter speed of 1/60 to get the blurry effect in the background. However, since it was nighttime, I also needed to raise the ISO, so that the image wouldn’t be underexposed, so the ISO was at 800. Then, I focused my camera manually at the taxi, and followed it with the camera for a sequence of images, and later selected the best of them where the taxi is clearly in focus while the background is blurred.

Shallow Depth of Field: This image was shot with a low aperture, to get a shallow depth of field meaning that not all of the image is in focus. Rather than using motion and slow shutter speed to get a blurred background, I used manual focus to only focus on the pine cone. It was a sunny afternoon, so the ISO stayed low. I also didn’t want to keep it too high since I found that the shadows on the pine cone helped increase the three dimensional feel of form.


Light Painting Reflection

Light painting is a photography technique where the photographer uses long exposure in the dark combined with lights to “paint” with the lights. The camera is set to a long shutter speed, and then the photographer or an assistant “draws” in the air using flashlights or other light sources, either just drawing things or illuminating existing things. The way light painting works is that the long exposure allows for the camera to pick up the light moving, showing every area where light has been shone. Since it is done in the dark, the only thing the camera will pick up moving is the light. There are a few important things you need to remember before doing light painting.

First, remember to keep the ISO low, probably the lowest you can go on your DSLR. ISO is how sensitive your camera is to light, and the higher your ISO is, the brighter your image will be. If you’d be taking a normal picture in the dark, such as one on your cellphone, then your ISO would have to be very high since a normal picture is taken with a very fast shutter speed. This means that the camera only has time to take in a little light before the shutter closes, and so the ISO needs to be high to make your image bright. However, since we will be using a long exposure in order to capture all the light when light painting, the camera will be able to take in a lot of light before it closes the shutter. Thus, if your ISO is too high, it will take in too much light which will make the light that you paint less clear, and will overexpose the image. Potentially, your image could just end up completely white. To avoid that, you need to keep your ISO low.

Second, remember that you need to manually focus your image. If you use autofocus (as most people do when taking pictures), the camera will be constantly re-focusing, trying to adjust to the light as you paint. To switch your camera to manual focus, flick the little switch labeled AF-MF on your lens to MF. Now, this means that you’ll need to focus your camera before you start painting, and to do so it’s the easiest if you get your “painter” to stand in front of the camera, and then focus your camera until you see the light clearly.

Lastly, know what you want to do before you start. Since the camera will pick up all light you draw, you can’t doubt yourself or stop in the middle of drawing (and obviously not erase anything). Some planning ahead is extremely useful for light painting. Is there an interesting object or physical feature in the setting you’re shooting? Incorporate it into your drawing! Don’t be afraid to experiment!

I found that the most challenging thing about light painting was to picture in my head what I was drawing. Since light painting often is literally drawing into thin air, it’s often hard to picture what you’re actually drawing. That was especially hard when trying to write names or words in the air, since I was unsure a lot of the time what I was actually doing. I found that the more you do light painting, the more you start learning about how the things you do translate into the image. It is very helpful to go over your images and thinking of how they can be improved for next time.

The most enjoyable thing about light painting for me was how creative we could become with our photography. We could draw and experiment with the lights a lot, which was very different from my previous experience taking photos. Usually, in normal photography, you simply have to react to what the subject you’re trying to shoot does. In light painting, you can choose what your subject in the photo is, since you get to draw and paint.

Below is my favourite photo of the unit. I think it’s a cool demonstration of the technique of “ghosting”. I also think the blue colour makes the image really interesting, with a mysterious mood.


Compositional guidelines

Burning house project

Name: Kenny D

Age: 14

Location: Beijing, China

Occupation: Student

These are the things I think I’d have brought along with me if my house was on fire. The two postcards are first-day issue postage stamp cards, and they’re quite rare because they are a special issue. I’d bring them because they are the ones I value the most from my collection, which I started when I was 6. The letter is from a very close friend who recently moved away to another country, and it is also very important to me. The book is a very old (100 years or so) fairy-tale book in Swedish, and it is my favorite book since it has a lot of history to it. The matches are if I’d need to start a fire, and the glasses are for my vision (otherwise everything would’ve been blurry). The flash drive contains the essays I’m the most proud of, as well as some photos and videos that I’d never want to lose. I’d also bring my passport and ID for practical reasons, as it would help a lot if I’d lost everything else. The teddy bear is one that my dad gave me during kindergarten, and it has a lot of sentimental value. The two rocks are fossils I found when I was very little, and they remind me of my small hometown on the Swedish coast.

Principles of Design