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

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

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