Assignment 3: assignment notes & submission

Introduction

My understanding of the brief was to prepare 6 to 8 printed photographs that represent “the decisive moment”. The brief clarifies that though street photography typifies this type of image, landscape can also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day.

With that in mind I prepared an initial set of images which I thought captured decisive moments in a set of landscapes and I submitted those for peer review. The result of that submission for review can be read here.

As a consequence of that fairly negative feedback, I revised my approach and went back to street photography which I took in London in the UK, and a selection from a recent trip to Los Angeles in the USA.  These images I hope include the visual climax that Swarkowski referred to.

Technical approach

As encouraged, with my second set of images, there is no story linking the images other than half were captured in the UK, the other half in the USA. As time was pressing, I have used the combination of a standard lens and black and white to both visualise and present the images.  I tend to see images in terms of shapes and tones – colour is something I notice later on.  As some of these images were taken as black and white jpegs, without the ability to reintroduce colour, I chose to present them all in black and white.  This is not because I am trying to hark back to a bygone age, but simply because I tend to see images in this way first and only consider colour later on.

All the images were taken with a 53mm equivalent focal length and I used aperture priority typically f5.6 to f8 so I did not have to think too much about exposure, focusing instead on the brief moment of each capture.  ISO was 400 in the UK shots and 200 in the US shots.

I printed all the images with a Canon Pixma 10S printer on Canon Pro Platinum paper.  I did not have access to matt A4 paper but will use this for future assignments and will reprint these images when that paper arrives.

Reflection

Personally I prefer my work on the Dungeness power station and surrounds though I understand these were not obviously DM enough for the viewers.  These images were printed on postcard size paper to be submitted in a little paper bag to create a nostalgic feel in an ironic twist of the chocolate box image normally seen on postcards, the nostalgia being for “big nuclear power” which has had its decisive moment.

However, I take on board the expectation that the viewer should not have to have the images explained by the photographer for decisive moment images and that each image should stand alone. The 6 images that I have printed at A4 were all brief moments in time where the composition immediately before and after shutter release was very different and these moments represent the visual climax.

Evaluation

What worked well

Technically these images are reasonable.  Everything is in focus where it should be and exposed properly.  The print quality is competent.

Image 1 – shows the millennium bridge at St Pauls to Bankside, London.  I aligned myself with the view above and below the bridge with the dome of St Pauls central.  I then just waited until people aligned themselves geometrically and was particular pleased that a guy is taking a photo of St Pauls atop the bridge.

Image 2 – shows a random collection of people at High Street Kensington tube station, each preoccupied in their own moments, oblivious to those around them.

Image 3 – the woman on the bench at Blackfriars station had just picked up her phone as I took the shot.

Image 4 – I waited until the cyclist on Venice beach was almost out of the frame before releasing the shutter to create energy through the image.

Image 5 – at Santa Monica, I captured the volleyball at the top of it’s ascent – all 4 players’ eyes are lined up with the ball and there is active movement amongst the players.

Image 6 – at Paradise Cove my two sons were jumping the waves and I caught the eldest at the top of his high tuck jump some four feet off the ground.

What didn’t work so well

Whilst I understood what the decisive moment was, particularly in respect of street work, I was captivated by the idea that landscape shots could also capture the DM. However, the feedback from the Discuss Forum (particularly from two tutors there) suggested to me that I had this completely wrong.  I am still unclear as to how I might capture a landscape using the decisive moment as they perceive it – I thought I had with my first set of photographs.

My second submission whilst more obviously visually climactic decisive moments feel like a failure as I feel I should be able to better express what I was trying to achieve with the first image set.

How the series might be improved in the future

When I rework this assignment, I am keen to understand better how I can avoid “action” shots to prove decisive moments.  I want to explore how I can incorporate this way of shooting into landscape work that does not require detailed written explanations from me and that is self-evident within the images themselves.

 

 


Bibliography

  1. Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.53

Assignment 3: peer review -version 2

Following the critique of my first image set, I am choosing to now show a second set of images that hopefully fall more squarely in the decisive moment area.  The images are presented in black and white as some of them were taken in B&W jpeg so for consistency I am presenting that way.  I also continue to struggle with colour – I tend to see images as tones and shapes and only think about colour once in Lightroom.  Black and white is therefore consistent with my way of seeing.

I have presented 9 images here and will reduce to 6-8 images for my final, printed, submission. (Image 2 is portrait format but I like the composition and geometry.  I may have to delete it for consistency with the “landscape” format of the other images.)

Assignment 3: peer review & feedback

Please find my images for Assignment 3: The Decisive Moment.  I have chosen to present images of Dungeness power station in Kent.  You may know that the site contains 2 nuclear stations A and B one of which is closed and one of will close within the decade. It is a decisive moment for nuclear power as alternative fuels have their moment. The irony of this is that nuclear power was once viewed as the future.  I have chosen to use small postcard size matt card to present images, in the same way a favourite view of a seaside town might appear on a postcard.  It is supposed to be an ironic twist so I would appreciate any thoughts! (NB the images look grey as they are scans of the actual prints)

The approach
Up close
The departure

Exercise 3.3

  1. The ability of the human to perceive timeframes is very different to that of a camera.  In the first part of this exercise we are encouraged to look through the shutter of a film based camera as we press the shutter release.  Realistically, I need at least a one second shutter speed to realistically perceive a recognisable, albeit, upside down image.  Whilst I can perceive light and glimpses at shorter shutter speeds such as 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8th of a second, it is not a recognisable image.  However, looking through the viewfinder, especially of a rangefinder camera, allows the viewer to perceive the continuous motion of life and extract a moment from it. In this respect we can glimpse short instances where the composition of a potential image just comes together in a moment.
  2. In the second part of this assignment I needed to find a high viewpoint then consider in order, the foreground, then the middle, then the horizon and sky.  Our attention tends to look at one one these distances not all of them – perhaps it is because there is too much detail to process in the brain to look at more than more element. However, defocusing and viewing the whole scene provides a satisfying and unusual and broader view of the world. For this task, I got onto Santa Monica beach and looked at the view from the pier into the far distance of Venice beach producing the image below.  I used f11 to capture the image, however, I think I could have moved the hyperlocal distance to a point slightly more towards the mid-ground which would have brought more of the far distance into focus.

Assignment 3: assignment brief, initial response & approach

Send a set of six to eight high quality photographic prints on the theme of the “decisive moment” to your tutor. Whilst street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, it doesn’t have to be. The aim is not to tell a story but to work naturally as a series with a linking theme, whether location, event or period of time.

Initial response

I have a strong response to this brief and a clear view of what I want to present.  There is a particular series of images that I have wanted to take for some time and this brief provides the opportunity to explore it.  Rather than explore two or more different approaches, I intend to explore a single idea initially through this blog and the OCA forums to refine and approach my thoughts and end up with and effective set of prints.

The linking theme for the images is the decline of nuclear power in the UK.  It could be the decline of any big primary industry in the UK, but I have a particular interest in a location linked to the nuclear industry.

Approach

The nuclear industry in the UK is in decline.  The future is alternative fuels.  The nuclear industry is at a decisive moment where it’s very future hangs in the balance. I intend to showcase that decline using techniques and ideas which I have gathered along the way.  As well as a linking theme, I intend to create a strong visual link between the images by presenting them in a set way, using the same format and style image to image.

Traditionally we have used picture postcards, typically vivid colour, to show the idyllic place we have just visited.  I intend to use a similar picture postcard format but rather than glossy colour, I will use matt card and print the images in monochrome.  This creates a sense of the past, while retaining a jewel like quality for the actual images, presented like special treasures. The images themselves will be a contrast to the materials used to show them.

I have in mind the photographs of water towers by Bernd and Hilla Becher with there highly curated approach to framing images of similar subjects in different locations.  Their use of black and white brings a link between images while also introducing a degree of separation from normal through the removal of colour from the images, an approach which I think will work well with this assignment.

My intended use of the postcard format is to bring the sense of a historical reminder of a place or event to a subject that is on the brink of becoming historical. Below are two versions of the postcard, one printed as a borderless print the other printed with a frame. At this stage I prefer the second, borderless print on the paper which is Hahnemuhle Photo Rag 308gsm matt card.

 


Bibliography

  1. Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.72-73
  2. https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/bernd-becher-and-hilla-becher-water-towers-p81238, accessed 3 July 2018

Exercise 3.2

This exercise looks at the impact of slow shutter speeds on the image.

Researched Photographers

Robert Capa

The famous images of the D-Day landings in Normandy are evocative of that important part of our collective history.  The blurred images from that day are viewable at Magnum Photos. The weather on that day was grey and raining, and given the relativeness slowness of film emulsion then, the movement in the images comes from camera shake due to nerves and the physical movement of the photographer dodging bullets to capture these images. It is unlikely that the movement apparent in the images is deliberate but more likely due to the adverse circumstances.

Hiroshi Sugimoto

In contrast to Capa, Sugimoto actively chose to photograph films in cinemas using a timed shutter release lasting the whole duration of a movie, (Contacts, 2009).  Coupled with his large format film camera and small apertures, the startling black and white images result show a white glowing cinema screen and ghostly empty cinemas where the movement of people during the screening has rendered the people invisible showing just the chairs and interiors of the hall. Talking on YouTube, Sugimoto states how “vision and concept together” have to happen before he takes any photographs. In his images of the movie theatres, the theatres become “… the cases that hold the nothingness, the emptiness …” created when you have ” … too much of a thing so that it becomes nothing…”.

My images

Sugimoto’s concept really resonated with me. I have long had the idea that I wanted to use slow shutter speeds to show the beauty of the motorway landscape. This desire is rooted in a childhood experience of walking along the newly constructed M25 with a friend – not yet open to the public I felt the shock of the human engineering juxtaposed against the green backdrop of the London green belt to be a beautiful thing; showing the awesome power and capability of human beings. But motorways are nearly always covered in vehicles and that moving traffic creates a visual noise that interferes with the perfection of the landscape in front of us which is only truly revealed when the traffic is absent and during daylight. I have a cleared defined vision and concept ahead of capturing these images.

With this in mind these images are my first attempts at capturing these landscapes. Not far from where I live there is a bridge from which I can view the M1. It is not the most dramatic of these potential landscapes but it was close and despite the weather being less than helpful (2deg C and raining) I thought I would try it out. I have taken some images before the slow exposures and you can see those in the contact sheet below. The 10 and 15 stop neutral density filters that I used created a blue cast which is visible in the contact sheets and the light generally was less than ideal. The circles images are my chosen images which I have edited to correct the colour balance.

 

The metadata for the 2 images I have selected to show in full below show that the exposure times are 27 and 30 seconds respectively.  I didn’t fully appreciate that my camera is limited to 30 seconds as standard.  I can access even slower times like 1-5 minutes which will help eliminate completely the residual traces or some of the more slowly moving vehicles like lorries, which especially when white high sided articulate lorries, leave a ghostly trace.  This in itself might be worthy of a project but I would like to explore even longer exposures on a brighter day to complete the surreal nature of a vehicle free motorway landscape with images captured all around the UK. I have used the wide angle lens (24mm equivalent) for these images though I did find the field of view too wide and cropped the image slightly – I would have preferred a more natural 35mm equivalent gentle wide angle lens.

The first image looks north towards the intersection of the M1 and the A414 at Hemel Hempstead. A ghostly trace is visible on the far right carriageway in the image.

In the second image I have crossed the bridge and am looking south.  If you look carefully you will see the speed restriction signs indicating a 40mph limit although there are no cars!  However, there is one visible stationary car in the hard shoulder, a motorway maintenance van.

This exercise has really whetted my appetite for continuing this project.  The colour casts are quite challenging as is getting the right time exposure. Very long exposures will reveal movement in the trees on a windy day and indeed the wind on this day means that the image is not perfectly sharp as there were vibrations apparent in the tripod such was the force of the ice-cold wind on the bridge.  This will become a long-term project for me as I continue to practice technique and search out locations and access points to continue capturing these images.

 


Bibliography

Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision. OCA 2017, p.47

Contacts (2009) [YouTube] Created by Hiroshi Sugimoto., Nov 2009, at: URL: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rY3nGoZqw9U, Accessed 19 February 2018

Magnum Photos, Robert Capa. At: https://www.magnumphotos.com/newsroom/conflict/robert-capa-d-day-omaha-beach/ (Accessed on 19 February 2018)

Exercise 3.1

In part 3 of the course we have set our camera to shutter priority and are working to understand the impact of shutter speed on an image.  In this exercise the challenge is to find “… the pleasure and beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening …” (Szarkowski, 2007, p.5)

The images are taken certain show the beauty or a fragment on time, but I’m not entirely sure that this is separate from the act. In this case, I have asked my model to lift her head abruptly to move her hair up over her head.  I tried this in two variant seating positions and one standing. In each case we see hair in a position, that almost looks styled, but is actually just freezing a moment in time.  For each of the images, I also used some continuous fill light off camera. The selected shutter speed was 1/200th of a second.

The three resulting images are below.  The thirds is the most striking but annoyingly there is a background clip showing in the background.  No doubt I could remove this with Photoshop but my skills aren’t quite there yet for that.  My favourite is the 2nd image which shows a little movement in the hair which would be missing if I had selected a faster shutter speed.

 

 


Bibliography

Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision. OCA 2017, p.47

Szarkowski, J. (2007) The Photographers Eye. New York: MoMA

Personal reflection: Colour

Wednesday 14 Feb 18

(see list of illustrations 1)

I started this journey with the OCA to develop my creative voice, choosing Photography as my vehicle. I have no idea if photography will be my final destination though.

Since I have started this course, and especially since the start of this year I have been having more frequent and more vivid dreams.  Last night I had a startling dream of and about colour.  It is hard to describe but it felt euphoric and healing; I almost felt overwhelmed by the sensation of colour, ecstatic, full of humour and pleasure.  For those who know me, they will wonder if I’m on some sort of medication – I’m not one for grand and emotional outpourings.  All I can say is that something is awakened in me and for some inexplicable reason, it feels like I should be making something visual (images?) that is connected with healing.

Reading my own words makes no sense to me – how can a photograph be healing? At this stage I do not have the answers but I want to capture the emotions.  I have touched on this before, but I have a condition which was described growing up as being “colour blind”. Apart from the obvious, I am not blind to colour, this diagnosis hijacked my childhood dream of becoming (don’t laugh) an electronics engineer.  Perhaps I took the diagnosis to heart because I also decided from an early age that I preferred black and white, or monochrome, photography. For years that is what I defined as “my photography” – for years that is what I read about, bought books about, viewed exhibitions about, collected and photographed.  I used tri-x, fp4, hp5, acros and worried about acutance, edge sharpness, developer dilution.  More to the point I ignored colour; I had no right to talk about colour because I was “blind” to it or my colour vision was “all wrong” or “untrustworthy”.

I started Expressing Your Vision wanting to develop my photography, knowing that I had to get out of my monochrome comfort zone and this has been encouraged by my tutor.

Last year I went to the most amazing exhibition Breathing Colour (Jongerius, 2017).  The artist created an exhibition using colour and form, that was principally about colour, that awakened something in me.  This exhibition shook me up visually and the OCA Discuss forum is opening my mind creatively.

I feel now that colour is calling out to me; I’m just not quite sure how to respond yet.


Illustrations

  1. Owen-Ward, M. (2018), Orange

Bibliography

Jongerius, H. (2017), Breathing Colour, [Exhibition].London: Design Museum, 28 June – 24 September 2017.

Assignment 2: reflection against assessment criteria

Before submitting my assignment to my tutor I must take time to reflect on my submission against the Course Assessment Criteria.  These are outlined on page 10 of the course handbook and again  at the end of part 1 on page 34 in graphical form which I have included below.  Assignment 2 marks the end of Part 2 of the course which has looked at “how the lens controls the depiction of space though focal length and aperture.”

 

 

 

 

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%)

I worked through part 2 of the course methodically.  During the assignment I made very specific decisions about which lens to use, which aperture, lighting control, distance from subject, composition and design.  My interpretation of the brief was to control as many of these factors as possible to maximise the technical result of the assignment as far as possible. Technically my six images look like a series and there are no disconnects from image to image as occurred in my first assignment submission. However, because of that control there is not a wide use of different lens techniques in this particular assignment.

Quality of outcome (20%)

I am satisfied that the resulting images work well as a series and are technically competent. I have actively sought peer feedback on this and feel that I have done a reasonable job on the quality of the images.  I am not sure that a viewer not aware of the brief would be aware that this assignment was specifically about collecting.

Demonstration of creativity (20%)

I am not sure that I am yet doing enough in this area.  I feel a conflict between being creative and the constraints of the brief.  I honestly felt bewildered when I discovered that one student used a photo-booth for this assignment. Yes this is a creative approach to collecting head, but is it using a dslr in aperture priority mode? Do creative risks mean ignoring the college instructions if the results justify it? I am as yet unclear on this and believe this is my greatest area of challenge – yet it is the area that I most want to develop.

Context (20%)

This is another area that I am working to improve and need to develop.  Now I am reading more and learning to reference what I discover rather than just keeping it in my head.  I find this challenging, as do many, as it is not a natural way for me to work or communicate.  However I recognise it as necessary and a strong part of what will help me develop my creativity above.  A work in progress.