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.

Assignment 2: assignment notes & submission

Introduction

Having been given the choice of Crowds, Views, Heads or a subject on your own choosing, I reviewed the options here

Typically I would have selected “views” or “other” as they are a lower risk category that I could work on, on my own and at my own pace.  “Views” is still an area that interests me that I will return to.  I was also drawn to the “crowds” option but feel that, in order to avoid a set of clichéd images, this merits a longer-term approach. I have a number of ideas about how I would like to capture this that contrast with a typical street approach, but they will take some months for me to capture.

In the end I selected “heads” which is both the area the most outside my comfort zone but also the area in which I am most interested in developing my photographic voice.

In the previous assignment, my tutor feedback included the comment, “ … (a) thorough, more lengthy, approach can result in the kind of work that you could never think of in advance of being there.” With that comment in mind, I have taken great care to research portrait photographers throughout the coursework in part 2 of EYV.

Theme

Having picked heads as my subject matter, I decided to present Strong Women of the Matriarchy as my portfolio for this assignment, being all the living women on the matriarchal side of my partner’s family.  They range in age from 84 to 16 and most I have not photographed before.

In the course handbook for Assignment 2 we are guided to be “… cropping close around the head to avoid too much variety in the backgrounds.” I hope to have taken that guidance to the extreme by controlling the background, lighting and approach to each portrait as much as I can.  Given the restricted brief, I was worried that my approach would result in images that are more technical than creative, and I have certainly had some feedback for the OCA discuss group that underlines that. You can read those responses here.

I believe that the character and personality of each of these strong and independent women is apparent. I am grateful that each of them permitted me to photograph them knowing that every detail would be visible and that there would be no retouching.  Some chose make up, some didn’t and this reflects how they wanted to present themselves to me and to the lens.

Technical set up

Having decided on subject matter, I wanted the theme of “collecting” to have a strong presence. I decided to control the background by using a simple dark backdrop and main light source with one or two reflectors when necessary. The main light source was in front of the subject at an angle of about 30-40 degrees to the left and slightly above head height pointing down.  This, I believe, is classic Rembrandt lighting which I created using a single flash unit and soft-§box.  I also used a single reflector on the right side at a similar angle to avoid too much shadow on the right side of the face again so maximum detail can be revealed.

Drawing upon the exercises in Project 1 in Part 2, “The Distorting Lens”, I knew that I wanted to use a telephoto lens to minimise distortion in the headshots.  For this series I used my 56mm lens (85mm equivalent).

At the same time, I knew that I wanted to use a small aperture to maximise depth of field.  Mostly I used f 8-11 to create the depth of field I was looking for to reveal details in the portraits. Using a telephoto lens at about 5 feet from the subject is going to limit depth of field, but using the lens near f 11 counters that without introducing diffraction effects into the image. This provides front to back focus of each head revealing every line and blemish, or every trace of makeup applied.

Evaluation

What worked well

From a technical perspective I believe I have delivered a good degree of technical competence.  The images are in focus, correctly exposed and without apparent distortion.  I have kept to the brief and, unlikely in Assignment 1, I have been consistent with format, colour, framing and composition.

What didn’t work so well

Whilst technically competent, I found the brief quite constraining and so I wonder if my creativity is too limited or worse absent. I wanted to create the sense of a collection but wonder if that has come across.  One member of Discuss suggested that the portraits could have been even more “specimen like”, however I did want to present that spirit of family as a collection of people with their inherent humanity and not just inanimate objects. During the exercises in part 2, most of the photographers that I have researched do not use tight headshots.  Martin Schoeller does but then his portraits are printed to huge sizes such as 6’ by 4’ so the impact is very different to a small screen based image. Ultimately what didn’t work so well was my own understanding of whether or not I have done enough.

How the series might be improved in the future

In this set of images I had chosen to present them as deadpan.  I am now not sure if they are deadpan.  I might choose to explore this further.  However, along the way with this first series, some of the subjects blinked.  The eyes shut images (some can be seen on the contact sheets) look quite different to conventional portraits and I wonder now I should have actively pursued this option. It would have presented a more creative interpretation of the brief whilst sticking to the constraints of that brief though at this stage I am not sure how I would have explained what this represented.

 


Bibliography

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

Assignment 2: contact sheets

All contact sheets have one highlighted image which is the one that I have selected.  The first model was Shirley and the contact sheet has a mixture of portrait and landscape format shots.  It was during this first shoot that I felt that the close cropping required and portrait format was too predictable and Photo Booth like  I tried, and preferred, the landscape format with space on the left of the image for the “head” to breathe in each case.

During the photographs, most of the subjects blinked in a shot.  I have kept a shot in the contact sheet where this has happened as it is an image group that I would like to revisit.  It breaks the rule of a portrait for eye contact to be absent but I also think it makes for an interesting alternative take of a portrait. One issue I am not clear about is whether I should be submitting the assignment to my tutor electronically on printing out.

Assignment 2: choice of approach and subject

Introduction

Having been given the choice of Crowds, Views, Heads or a subject on your own choosing, I reviewed the options here.

Typically I would have selected “views” or “other” as they are a lower risk category that I could work on, on my own and at my own pace. “Views” is still an area that interests me that I will return to. I was also drawn to the “crowds” option but feel that, in order to avoid a set of clichéd images, this merits a longer-term approach. I have a number of ideas about how I would like to capture this that contrast with a typical street approach, which would be achieved more quickly.

In the end I selected “heads” which is both the area the most outside my comfort zone but also the area in which I am most interested in developing my photographic voice.

In the previous assignment, my tutor feedback included the comment, “ … (a) thorough, more lengthy, approach can result in the kind of work that you could never think of in advance of being there.” With that comment in mind, I have taken great care to research portrait photographers throughout the coursework in part 2 of EYV.

In the course handbook for Assignment 2 we are guided to be “… cropping close around the head to avoid too much variety in the backgrounds.” I hope to have taken that guidance to the extreme by controlling the background, lighting and approach to each portrait as much as I can. As a result, I believe that the character and personality of each of the six women comes thoroughly strongly. They are strong and independent women ranging in age from 84 to 16. I hope that the genetic similarity is apparent but that the strength of character also comes through. I am grateful that each of them permitted me to photograph them knowing that every detail would be highlighted and that there would be no retouching. Some chose make up, some didn’t and this reflects how they wanted to present themselves to me and to the lens.

Technical set up

Having decided on subject matter, I wanted the theme of “collecting” to have a strong presence. I decided to control the background by using a simple dark backdrop and main light source with one or two reflectors when necessary. The main light source was in front of the subject at an angle of about 30-40 degrees to the left and slightly above head height pointing down. This, I believe, is classic Rebrandt lighting which I created using a single flash unit and octabox. I also used a single reflector on the right side at a similar angle to avoid too much shadow on the right side of the face again so maximum detail can be revealed.

Drawing upon the exercises in Project 1 in Part 2, “The Distorting Lens”, I knew that I wanted to use a telephoto lens to minimise distortion in the head shots. For this series I used my 56mm lens (85mm equivalent).

At the same time, I knew that I wanted to use a small aperture to maximise depth of field. Mostly I used f 8-11 to create the depth of field I was looking for to reveal details in the portraits. Using a telephoto lens at about 5 feet from the subject is going to limit depth of field, but using the lens near f 11 counters that without introducing diffraction effects into the image. This provides front to back focus of each head revealing every line and blemish, or every trace of makeup applied.


Bibliography

  1. Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.52-53

Assignment 2: assignment brief & initial response

Brief

Create a series of 6 to 10 images from one of:

  • Crowds
  • Views
  • Heads
  • A subject of your own choice

I am to use the exercises from Part 2 as a starting point to test out combinations of  focal length, aperture and viewpoint. Images must be presented in either portrait or landscape format not both. The tutor will assess how well the series in terms of technical skill and how well the assignment works as a whole.

Wikipedia on collecting – “It has been speculated that the widespread appeal of collecting is connected to the hunting and gathering that was once necessary for human survival. Collecting is also associated with memory by association and the need for the human brain to catalogue and organise information and give meaning to ones actions.”

On first reading of the brief I was immediately drawn to one of the categories.  However, I am learning to sometimes ignore the reflexive approach and be more measured so here is my response to each option given.  I will do this whilst keeping in mind the Wikipedia taken on collecting being necessary either for survival or for memory by association, giving meaning to my actions.

Crowds

My initial response to crowds was to dismiss it.  It is very contemporary but there are so many images of a single person on a crowded station surrounded by blurred commuters that I felt this was not an area I would be drawn towards. However, on reflection, there are many ways to interpret what a crowd is and a number of interest projects and series have now come to mind.

A crowd may not typically be as small as 3 people but it might be 10-20. I think of the work of Michael Hanke who photographs people such as those that watch airshows or participate in chess competitions.  He is interested in the crowds or viewers or participants and takes stunning crowd images a couple of which are below.

An area that interests me is that of people and their hobbies. Around the UK you will find groups of men or women (occasionally both) surrounding their favourite hobby forming little crowds unified by a common interest such as allotments, model railways, sewing, colouring-in, remote control planes and boats, sewing, etc.  I do however feel that this is a project that lends itself to a longer term time frame.

Views

There are two ways of interpreting the word view though the brief steers the student towards that of urban or rural landscapes. Alternatively one could interpret the brief as being capturing different opinions, particularly political views.

Capturing pretty scenic views is of little interest to me as a photographer though I can see the artistic merit of some images. Urban landscape images hold more appeal though I would like to find a new way to present them. I have an idea that I would like to take a pictorial landscape approach, normally reserved for postcard type scenes but to apply it to scenes of environmental degradation, one of the burning platforms of our time – I am interested in the juxta-position of “beautiful” imagery with the devastated landscape. I think this might act as an elegant counterpoint to the typically gritty portrayal of environmental calamity which often just turns people off from really looking and understanding. A new approach is needed. This is a project I would like to look at but again I think it will need a longer time frame than I have available.

Heads

Such a broad category but the brief makes clear that this assignment is about lens technique and experimentation or creative risk so a specific approach to the headshots is what is required that shows a series with a strong link between images. Photographs of people are the area in which I feel least confident but which I feel I have the most interest. It would be easier for me to dive into photographing views, however I think the challenge of creating a strong, coherent series of people photographs would be good for me to tackle, taking me outside my comfort zone.

A subject of your own choice

This fourth category is easy to miss as it is mentioned almost in passing. However it is mentioned and so should be considered. Is OCA throwing this in as challenge? I have not come across any EYV students that have pursued the fourth category; the majority that I have looked at have preferred Views or Heads

 


Images

  1.  http://michaelhanke.photography – accessed 2 Feb 2018
  2.  http://michaelhanke.photography – accessed 2 Feb 2018

Bibliography

  1. Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.48-51