- 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.
- 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.
This exercise looks at the impact of slow shutter speeds on the image.
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.
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…”.
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.
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)
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.
Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision. OCA 2017, p.47
Szarkowski, J. (2007) The Photographers Eye. New York: MoMA
Guy Bourdin was a french fashion photographer who had great success in the 1970s. He created a style of imagery that effectively captured a surreal quality partly due to the hyper-real colour pallette that he used, but also through his use of front to back depth of field. Literally everything is in focus and this permits the eye to take in a lot of detail in the image.
“Deep focus give the eye autonomy to roam over the picture space so that the viewer is at leat given the opportunity to edit the scene himself, to select the aspects of it to which he will attend.” – Bazin (1948) quoted in Thompson & Bordwell, 2007
In some of his images, the depth of the image is limited by a close background so the deep focus is compressed by a shallow image stage, in others the there is a deeper image as the background is further away, but we often uses props to create the effect of a theatre stage backdrop or series of backdrops so there isn’t a natural gradual receding background but rather a number of staged, parallel backdrops, each further away from the previous providing a discrete stepping of distance rather an analogue recession. This creates an unusual sense of drama in his images, a sense of other worldliness that transcends our every day experience of the world as we usually perceive it. This use of deep focus, colour and staged background makes his images both compelling and unsettling to view. He almost anticipates the digital age, though he died, in 1991 well before its advent.
Below is a photograph I took using deep focus and a slightly surreal image of a phone box on a beach. It was a hot summer and the colours are strong which gives an edgy feel enhanced by the deep focus. I use a Nikon D70 with a 50mm f1.4 lens at f13. I could not find anything comparable with people in my personal archive.
- Guy Bourdin courtesy Michael Hoppen Gallery at https://www.michaelhoppengallery.com/artists/30-guy-bourdin/overview/#/artworks/10379 – accessed February 2018
- Mark Owen-Ward (2010)
Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.48-51
In Project 2 of Part 2, we are encouraged to research the varying depth of field chosen by various photographers to understand the effect on the viewer of different lens technique and on occasion the political impact of choosing either a shallow or a deep depth of field.
“The most political decision you can make is where you direct people’s eyes.” – Wim Wenders (1997) quoted in Bromberg & Chanarin, 2008
Mona Kuhn is a photographer who seems to prefer the use of shallow depth of field. Whereas “soft focus” has in the past been a cliched technique used in portraiture to romanticise and feminise, presenting an unrealistic and flawless view of the subject, often female, Kuin uses selective focus to create a sense of intimacy between the viewer and the subject.
In her “Evidence” series, Kuhn uses both reflection and depth of field to great effect to draw us closer to the subject – in one example the focus is at the front of the image and in the background out of focus are pair of nude figures in close proximity. This creates the sense of great intimacy and mystery and of a feeling of us being in the room and somehow part of the scene, yet not as a voyeur but as part of the image. She portrays beautiful people as her website suggests, perhaps as part of a”utopian community” of which the viewer/photographer appears, at least briefly, to be a part. It is clear that the photographer is presenting her beliefs in her imagery, perhaps that one based on a more collective and sensual approach to life in clear contrast to the nuclear family model which is the societal norm in the west.
In interview in Issue Magazine (online) Kuhn talks about being “drawn to nudes as timeless forms” but also mentions being introduced to the naturist community in France where “Nudity is perceived as free and natural. It reflects a basic understanding of freedom and respect that I have not seen anywhere else.”
Clearly her images point to her own personal experience, her belief in nudity as freedom and her perception of the nude as an interesting form in itself. Her images are not overtly sexual, which whilst not ignored, is not the intention of her photography.
In contrast, the photographer Rineke Dijkstra, has taken nude images of women who have recently given birth. The images, in The Photograph As Contemporary Art, are far removed from the mysterious sensuality of Kuhn’s imagery. Dijkstra takes full length portraits of her subjects with full depth of field and straight on. There is no suggestion or attempt to portray sensuality – instead she show s an “unsentimental approach to maternity” that portrays the reality of the impact of pregnancy on women, yet also shows the instinctive protective and nurturing care towards their newborn children.
The different use of depth of field by each of these photographers creates a very different experience for the viewer. Both techniques are creative but I wonder whether as a photographer they are mutually exclusive, but which I mean do you have to choose one path or the other or is it possible to use both techniques within a single voice?
Below is a photograph I took some years ago of my then very young daughter using an old Pentax ME Super film camera. I remember the shot was taken on a 50mm lens at f1.7 (the maximum aperture). The negative was then scanned. This uses a shallow depth of field for maximum effect!
- Mona Kuhn, Evidence portfolio courtesy of https://www.monakuhn.com/portfolio/works/, accessed February 2018
- Mark Owen-Ward (2007)
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, pp.48-51
- https://www.monakuhn.com/portfolio/works/, accessed February 2018
- http://issuemagazine.com/mona-kuhn/, accessed February 2018
- Cotton, C (2004), The Photograph As Contemporary Art, Thames & Hudson, pp. 112-113
In contrast to exercise 2.6, this exercise is about maximising depth of field with wide angles lenses. I have not included the metadata for these images as they were all taken with my Fujifilm X-T2 with my 16mm (24mm equivalent) lens at apertures of f11-16 to ensure front to back sharpness.
I have tried to include foreground elements to pull the viewer’s eye through and into the image.
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.47
Exercise 2.6 is about use of short focusing distance, wide aperture and longer focal lengths. Depth of field will be limited and the effect of the background must be considered as part of the composition.
I started this exercise with 3 separate images which include metadata showing the wide aperture of f1.2-1.4.
The first image is fairly flat and the out of focus sky does not distract from the subject of the photo. In the second image I am using selective focus to pick out one element of a fence panel using the rest of the fence panel as the background. The image is very abstracted and difficult to understand. The third image has a busier background and detracts from the integrity of the subject.
In the second sequence I look at changing the point of focus from the left (or front) of the receding fence to the centre and finally the rear (or right) of the fence to see the impact on the composition. This is a second take on the image above of the fence panel. This time I have selected a metal fence and provided more context to the image.
I find the central image where focus is just left of central the most normal composition. The left hand image where focus is hard left is more dynamic but the background is distracting as the leading line of the fence leads the eye to more and more out of focus areas. In the third image the leading line also leads you into focus and this is my preferred treatment of the three images.
Next I attempted a “contra-jour” image using a wide aperture and sunlight heading towards the lens, being careful not to introduce accidental flare. The colour of the bokeh in the sun, echoes that of the rust on the fence post and the softness of the background complements the soft shape of the post.
My final image introduces a human element, the shallow depth of field puts the eye out of focus, yet it still remains a strong element of the composition.
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.47
This exercise looks at the same scene using different points of focus looking at how the depth of focus changes depending on where the focus point is set all other things being equal, ie, ISO, aperture, camera position. Both images were captured at ISO 200. f1.4 and shutter speed of 1/450 sec on a 24mm equivalent lens.
The symmetrical framing and close focus of the first image makes the composition clearly focused on the iron railing and the textures of the metal – the background is out of focus to the point that it doesn’t attract too much attention. The depth of focus is very shallow barely extended beyond the front fence. In the second image the depth of field extends from the distance to very close to the fence although the fence itself is not in focus. This centres the composition on the graffiti which is framed by the out of focus fence posts. The industrial nature of the bridge and fence complements the graffiti and the fence posts provide a degree of compression to the image giving more power to the graffiti.
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.46
In this exercise I have to taken a straight portrait with good light, a simple background, a wide aperture and a telephoto lens about 4-5′ from the subject. I have chosen to photograph my daughter at home using natural light – in the back of my house there is a lot of light so I have used natural light which comes in from a window at the left of the subject (right for the viewer) and also a top light window. To the left of as you view the image, there is a white wall. Overall there is a lot of soft light bouncing around. I used my medium telephoto (85mm equivalent) at f1.2, ISO 200 and the shutter speed was 1/180 sec. I focused on her right eye. The depth of field is very shallow at this wide aperture and close focusing distance. Whilst her right eye and the tip of her nose are in focus, her left eye and chin are out of focus. This shallow focus gives a dreamy look to the portrait and the eyes really stand out.
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.45
This exercise requires the use of a wide angle lens from a position below the subject preferably looking up from a close low viewpoint. Whilst not specifically requested I decided to take a portrait using this “not ideal combination of focal length and position. However, I have seen this style used for dynamic portraiture, particularly by Lee Jeffries. He describes his work as “neither journalism nor portraiture” though the images are clearly portraits. The wide angle lens he uses and level to low position he adopts, occasionally higher, adds dynamism and drama to what are already difficult images to view.
The image above, taken from below waist image shows clearly distortion in the arm length and see of hands – it adds to the grotesque power of the image which is still one of the easier images to view by Jeffries.
With this in mind and a much less distressing image set in mind I took a photograph of a friend who enjoys martial arts. He is wearing gloves which partly conceals the distortion of his hands.
While the lens choice and position is not ideal, I think this treatment slightly enhances the portrait although the chosen context is clearly completely wrong, the exposure is suspect and the composition is not good!
- Bloomfield, R (2014) Photography 1: Expressing your Vision., OCA 2017, p.44
- http://leejeffries.500px.com/home – accessed January 2018