Category Archives: Assignments

Assignment 5 – tutor feedback

Following are my notes from the discussion with my tutor, Wendy McMurdo:

  • Good set of images, documenting life on the street – potentially my strongest assignment
  • Only through risk-taking and experimentation can I improve. As a result have to expect some failures and that not everyone will like what I have done.
  • The element of chance in the technique used is a quite different approach for me
  • My description of the method is clear and concise
  • Good to reflect on ideas of confrontation (in street photography) and personal space
  • Don’t be afraid to work in a more abstract way – get close to subjects
  • Consider presentation pairs of images in double-page spreads to invite comparisons
  • Research: need to increase length (min. 500 words) and depth of posts
  • Assessment: best to present example prints as well as online blog. Prints can be presented in a variety of ways, but must be labelled clearly and the whole should be presented in an archival clamshell box.
  • Consider different ways of presenting prints e.g. a concertina layout

Here is a link to the tutor report: Tutor report – assignment 5

Assignment 5 – photography is simple

Brief

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.

In your assignment notes explore why you chose this particular subject by answering the question ‘What is it about?’ Write about 300 words.

What’s it about?

Rue du Marché (Geneva, Switzerland, 2016)

Rue du Marché (Geneva, Switzerland, 2016)

This assignment is about many things, in fact. The obvious answer is that it’s about the Rue du Marché (which I photographed in assignment 3). More than that, it’s about what really makes the street special: the people. The buzz, the diversity, about what makes Geneva special.

This assignment is also about me pushing myself a long way outside of my comfort zone. I don’t “do” street photography. I recognised why, but was determined to push myself. The inspiration came from the assignment 4 feedback given to me by my tutor, Wendy McMurdo. She suggested that I look at the work of Eamonn Doyle. To say I was impressed is a gross understatement. It was one of the driving forces for me visiting Rencontres d’Arles and subsequently writing a blog entry on Eamonn Doyle. More about this in the following section titled “Research”, but it’s enough to say here that I used the assignment to both respond to the street and to tackle my own fears about street photography.

Note: my response to exercise 5.2 can be found here.

Research

My research started with Eamonn Doyle and especially his work titled ON. I love his gritty in-your-face style, and seeing them printed in very large format at Arles really lit the fuse (see my blog post here on his show titled END).

Via another student, I was switched onto the work of Lukas Kuzma. I find his punchy, high-contrast style very interesting. I was particularly fascinated by a Blurb publication that he made called Continuum. Not only are the photos engaging, but on page 11 he writes about his technique and he states that he photographs mostly without looking through the viewfinder. The light went on for me at this point because the idea of pointing a camera at a stranger in the street is something that I struggle with.

The fabulous work of Alex Webb also formed an influence, especially his series The Suffering of Light (Webb, 2011). The style is quite different from Doyle and Kuzma, but the highly saturated, contrasty and multi-layered photos he produces have real depth and interest. There’s a subtle quirkiness – his photos are often of movement in flux and unusual situations which I find very engaging.

Into this mix came the book Diane Arbus:In the Beginning (Rosenheim, 2016). I wrote a blog article about the book in which we can see her earlier work, but in which it is clear that her clear-eyed style was already fully formed some time before the photos which formed the basis of the famous Aperture book.

Concept Development & Process

The work of Eamonn Doyle formed the key aspiration for this assignment. The method of Lukas Kuzma gave me hope that perhaps I could make a small step towards my aspiration. The work of Alex Webb and Diane Arbus formed more of a background influence – I can best describe it as being alert for more interesting people – the slightly quirky characters that are attention-grabbers. For the rest, it was a desire to continue my progression, established over my last four assignments, of not repeating what I’d done before, but to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone.

In terms of process, I took the part 5 title literally: Photography is Simple. I wanted to replicate the long-established street aesthetic of using monochrome (a nod to Doyle, Kuzma and Arbus although Doyle and Kuzma also create colour work). I also wanted to set the camera so that all I had to do was look and press the button. I knew in advance that focus would be a challenge, so I decided that hyperfocal focusing was the answer. I used aperture priority, set to f/8, set the small zoom lens to 23mm (to give me a 35mm equivalent on my camera with an APS-C sensor) and focused at the hyperfocal distance (about 3.6m). All I had to do was to be at least 1.8m from my subject and all should be fairly sharp. I also set my camera to produce JPEGs using a B&W film simulation mode, something that Fuji have some experience with! I kept the camera at about waist level for almost all of the shots. It took a little while to get used to this position and the impact on framing, but eventually I settled into a rhythm of working. I found it was a lot of fun working this way – it was about not thinking, just reacting. I felt it was a very liberating way to work – photography truly is simple!

I visited the area on two occasions and took over 550 photos in total. The method might be liberating, but it does result in a lot of strangely framed shots! Again, I’m glad that I’m not using film.

Selects & selection process

The process that I followed this time was to print my “picks” as a contact sheet onto a page of A3 and use that to look at periodically to come to a conclusion about my selects. Primarily I looked for photos that were interesting in some way. Maybe they showed an interesting group of people, an expression or some kind of interaction, rather than just “people in the street”.

Contact Sheets

Following are the contact sheets containing the full set of photos including exposure data and an indication of my selects.

Assessment Criteria

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

The technique I used was more-or-less a given: keep it simple. This allowed me to focus on what was happening around me. The experience was enlightening because it gave me a hint about how much mental processing I’m doing when thinking about photography. I suspect that this isn’t always a good thing because it gets in the way of seeing. The simple point-and-shoot technique was very liberating. Since I could not realistically compose with my camera at waist level, I did a little cropping in post-processing to focus attention where I wanted it. In some cases, I also needed to lighten shadows as the B&W film simulation in-camera could be a little harsh on the contrast. On my second shoot, I used exposure compensation of +2/3 to +1 stop to assist with the shadows.

2. Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

From a presentation point of view, I believe that the photos form a coherent set with the use of monochrome throughout and landscape 3:2 format. I believe that I achieved what I set out to do: to communicate what the street looks like, to give a feel for the people. I think that there’s enough consistency that this set could also work printed as a grid, in a large format in a similar way to Eamonn Doyle’s works at Rencontres d’Arles.

In exercise 5.1, we’re asked to not “evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame”. Several of the photos nicely link to this point in terms of what I didn’t notice at the time such as the expression on the girl’s face and the way she holds her body in 08Oct2016-004 and the child peeking out of the pram in 10Sep2016-154. There’s for certain a strong element of chance, but perhaps it’s also the case that the subconscious picks up on things that simply don’t register in the conscious mind.

3. Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

I believe that I have answered the brief in a creative way, inspired by photographers that I admire. I had to invent my own process for being comfortable at least starting with street photography – something a long way out of my comfort zone. The process was a combination of a technical approach plus pushing myself to get out there and not be so shy. From a personal development point of view, I think the process has been valuable – I have surprised myself my being able to do it in the first place and secondly coming back with (in my opinion) some results of a decent quality.

4. Context

Reflection, research, critical thinking

Of the photographers mentioned in the research section, there’s no question in my mind that Eamonn Doyle had the greatest influence over this work. I had to work out for myself how I might approach the assignment technically to capture some of the feeling of Doyle’s work. The artistic influence of Doyle plus the practical technique of Kuzma allowed me to pull it all together.

References

Geneva, Switzerland. (2016) Google Maps [online] At: http://www.maps.google.com (Accessed 12 September 2016)

Kuzma, Lukas (2015) Continuum. At: http://www.blurb.com/b/6105438-continuum (Accessed 12 September 2016)

Rosenheim, Jeff (2016) Diane Arbus: In the Beginning. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Webb, Alex (2011) The Suffering of Light. London: Thames and Hudson

Assignment 4 – tutor feedback

Following are my notes from the discussion with my tutor, Wendy McMurdo:

  • Good feedback regarding my approach and in particular my editing process
  • Clear to see how my ideas have developed in the contact sheets
  • It would be useful to reflect at this point on my journey through EYV to see what I have learned and how I have changed
  • Recommendation: go to Arles! In particular, look at the work of Eamonn Doyle and his work titled “END”. Plan to write one or more reviews.
  • Observation: I need to develop my research more – at least one review for each submission. I am ok with my level of book reviews, but need to increase my exhibition and photographer/photo reviews.
  • Look at blogs of John Umney and Stan Dickenson for inspiration about how to attack research and reviews

Here is a link to the tutor report: Tutor report – assignment 4

Assignment 4 – the language of light

Brief

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise
  • Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.

Introduction

The starting point for this assignment was exercise 4.3 – artificial light. My response to that exercise was inspired by Sato Shintaro’s Night Lights scenes. For this assignment I wanted to develop the theme of the beauty of artificial light. I wanted to move away from a reproduction of reality and produce something much more abstract that distilled the brilliance and colour of artificial light, but hid the form.

Research

The images from the series Liebeslied by Rut Blees Luxemburg provided good food for thought.

Rut Blees Luxemburg: Rayners Lane, 2007

Rut Blees Luxemburg: Rayners Lane, 2007

Rut Blees Luxemburg: In Deeper, 1999

Rut Blees Luxemburg: In Deeper, 1999

Rut Blees Luxemburg: Cockfosters, 2006

Rut Blees Luxemburg: Cockfosters, 2006

I particularly like the way that she often used water as a reflector of the artificial light in a way which makes the surfaces seem metallic and shows that even though there are deep shadows, the light spills everywhere.

Penelope Umbrico’s series titled Suns (From Sunsets) from Flickr (referenced in Alexander, 2014) also provided inspiration. This series, which relies on the work of others, has a kind of “pop art”, abstract look which is arresting, partly due to the vivid colours.

Another inspiration came from Mark Rothko:

Mark Rothko: Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow On White And Red, 1949

Mark Rothko: Violet, Black, Orange, Yellow On White And Red, 1949

Mark Rothko: No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953

Mark Rothko: No. 61 (Rust and Blue), 1953

Mark Rothko: No. 3/No. 13 (Magenta, Black, Green on Orange), 1949

Mark Rothko: No. 3/No. 13 (Magenta, Black, Green on Orange), 1949

The great swathes of colour that he used for many of his paintings triggered the idea of using camera motion to remove the form of the subject, but retain the colours. Finally, I had a starting point.

Concept Development & Process

To experiment with camera motion, I used a tripod with a slow shutter speed and panned the camera while the shutter was open. I found that, like assignment 3, using a shutter speed of 1sec to 1.5sec worked best. The results were ok – I felt they were interesting but somehow they didn’t quite capture what I had in mind. I was also unsure that the technique had enough interest for a whole series. Another problem: due to the camera motion, sometimes even quite vivid colours became lost because something else was “painted” over the top.

After reviewing my first set of images, it occurred to me that another thing I could try was deliberate out-of-focus. That would make the highlights flare nicely and (in my opinion) in a very cinematic way. On my second night out, I started experimenting with hand-holding the camera using a moderately high ISO (400-2000), a wide-open aperture and with the focus ring set at minimum focus. The results immediately looked better. I found the best results were obtained from getting relatively close to simple subjects with interesting colours. It was quite amazing to see the results transformed. It became a case of looking for interesting lights and seeing what the technique did for them. I noticed that even small spots of colour became quite dramatic when out of focus – they took on a greater significance.

After trying out my out-of-focus idea, I did some Web research to see who else had tried this, looking for inspiration. There are plenty of examples of such images, often associated with the word bokeh, but most do not use a radically out-of-focus approach – the majority have something in sharp focus (often a foreground element) with an out-of-focus background. I did realise, however, that some of the work of Sally Mann goes in the same direction due to the limitations of the antique and home-made lenses that she loves to use.

Photos

DRG-26Jul2016-018

DRG-26Jul2016-018

DRG-26Jul2016-035

DRG-26Jul2016-035

DRG-26Jul2016-042

DRG-26Jul2016-042

DRG-26Jul2016-047

DRG-26Jul2016-047

DRG-26Jul2016-056

DRG-26Jul2016-056

DRG-02Aug2016-003

DRG-02Aug2016-003

DRG-02Aug2016-006

DRG-02Aug2016-006

DRG-02Aug2016-032

DRG-02Aug2016-032

DRG-02Aug2016-034

DRG-02Aug2016-034

Contact Sheets & Selection Process

Following are the contact sheets containing the full set of photos including exposure data and an indication of my selects.

 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-01  EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-02  EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-03 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-04
 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-05 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-06  EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-07 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-08
 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-09 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-10  EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-11 EYV Assignment 4 Contact Sheets-12

I followed the selection process originally suggested by my tutor for assignment 2: try alternative selections, display them and live with them for a while before editing down to those required.

While editing, I looked for variety: colours, shapes and composition; and tried to eliminate repetition.

Creativity Criteria

I believe that I’ve managed to meet the creativity criteria in an imaginative way by capturing the beauty of artificial light in its pure essence. It took some experimentation and reflection to get to an end point where I feel that by ignoring the form and concentrating just on the arrangement and colours of the light, I have come up with something stripped down to the essentials. I had a lot of fun with this simple technique. It reminded me of my first Polaroid camera – there was nothing to fiddle with – just find something interesting and point. Every outcome was a surprise.

My response to Exercise 4.5 can be found here.

Assessment Criteria

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

In the same way as assignment 3,  I felt that I learned as I went through this assignment. I tried out my initial idea of using camera movement which worked successfully in assignment 3, but in this case it didn’t give me quite what I was looking for. On the 2nd night out, I tried my out-of-focus idea and fine-tuned to give me images that I felt were immediately pleasing. This evolution is clearly visible in the contact sheets. Quite quickly I became aware that bright light sources in a simple arrangement were more effective than broad patches of light. I also found that getting closer and zooming in heightened the effect by reducing the depth of field.

2. Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

From a presentation point of view, I believe that the photos form a coherent set with enough variety of colour and structure to be interesting. I have used a landscape, 3:2 format and colour throughout for consistency. I believe that this set could also work printed as a grid, in a large format. Each image has interest and they also work together.

3. Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

As above.

4. Context

Reflection, research, critical thinking

The two photographers mentioned in the research section had the greatest influence over this work. Reflection was an important part of this assignment – looking at the results, trying again. As described earlier, I wanted to explore the creative element and get out of my comfort zone with this assignment and try something new. I believe that I have succeeded.

References

Alexander, Jesse (2014) Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography [Kindle Edition] From: Amazon.com (Accessed on 29.09.15)

 

Assignment 3 – tutor feedback

Following are my notes from the discussion with my tutor, Wendy McMurdo:

  • My submission, including the prints is good
  • It would be worth thinking about different ways to present these prints as a series. Possibilities include a book, or printing them as a grid. Such a series could work as a “cinematic narrative”, so the order is important.
  • Need to think about what I want to show and how. I have a certain amount of control over how people see the work, so it’s good to experiment. A suggestion was to put the (full) series in a line around a wall. Useful to look at lots of exhibitions to get ideas.
  • Recommendations: “Performing for the camera” (Tate), “Trienniel 50JPG” at the Centre de la Photographie (Geneva) and the work of OCA Photo student John Umney. Also take a look at some references for street photography that will be provided in the tutor feedback.
  • Consider boosting my research and reflection part. More reviews of exhibitions, even of single prints would be useful. Consider reviewing a single chapter of a book and how it applies to me rather than trying to digest a full book.

Here is a link to the tutor report: Tutor report – assignment 3

Assignment 2 – tutor feedback

Following are my summary notes from the discussion with Wendy McMurdo, my tutor:

  • My submission is good as it is, however there would be value in re-working my selection – there is good material in the contact sheets which I have overlooked
  • Think about using landscape format for a narrative or series of photos – don’t always fall back on my (almost default) of square format
  • I should use the opportunity to be experimental and take risks. Be weird!
  • Selection process: print the contact sheets and put them up somewhere I can often see them. Live with them for a few days and try out some alternative selections.
  • Think about creating dissonance, especially with this type of theme – I want people to look again, so having a too consistent presentation might be a mistake
  • Think about a title for the series

Here is a link to the tutor report: Tutor report – assignment 2

 

 

Assignment 3 – decisive moment

Brief

Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

Introduction

The Rue du Marché in the old part of Geneva is a busy shopping street with many up-market stores and, unlike the even more expensive Rue du Rhone just next door, Rue du Marché is a wide pedestrian street. If you stand in the Rue du Marché you’ll see constant motion: shoppers, trams, buses, cyclists, street performers and the list goes on.

My original idea was to try portray stillness within the busy surroundings by focusing on a relatively still subject and using a slow shutter speed to blur people in the background. After trying this out, I came to the conclusion that there was actually not very much that was stationary in the street! After some experiments with moving the camera (seen in the first few contact sheet pages), I tried panning with a moving subject and at that point, the lightbulb came on – I liked the results very much. They showed the movement I was looking for and had the advantage that the background turned into very interesting blurred, abstract shapes.

On my second visit, I tried to build on this idea by finding interesting looking backgrounds and then waiting for interesting looking subjects to appear. Once I found a background (usually something colourful and well-lit), I found that the best technique was to spot a likely subject, focus on the rough area of the street where I knew the subject would end up and just wait for them to move into the frame.

Photos

Following are my final selects for this assignment.

 DRG-12Mar2016-066  DRG-12Mar2016-071 DRG-12Mar2016-076
 DRG-19Mar2016-024 DRG-19Mar2016-027 DRG-19Mar2016-065
 DRG-26Mar2016-050

Contact Sheets & Selection Process

Following are the contact sheets containing the full set of photos including exposure data and an indication of my selects. The obvious observation is that I took a lot of photos (271 in all) over the three visits to the location. I found that the miss-hit ration with this panning technique was very high. For example, I usually find that about 1 in 10 of my photos are at least worth a second look. With this technique, the ratio dropped to about 1 in 20 if I was lucky. I’m was sure glad that I wasn’t using film!

I followed the selection process suggested by my tutor for assignment 2: try alternative selections, display them and live with them for a while before editing down to the 6-8 required.

 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-01 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-02  EYV A3 Contact Sheets-03 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-04
 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-05 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-06 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-07 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-08
 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-09 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-10  EYV A3 Contact Sheets-11 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-12
 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-13 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-14 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-15 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-16
 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-17 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-18  EYV A3 Contact Sheets-19  EYV A3 Contact Sheets-20
 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-21 EYV A3 Contact Sheets-22  EYV A3 Contact Sheets-23

Process Used

I used a compact camera which I think is less intrusive in this situation where the subject is quite close. The camera was set to shutter priority mode with speed set from 0.25s to 1s. For most subjects, I found that 0.25s to 0.5 worked well. As the shots were taken during daylight, I needed to use a 3 stop neutral density filter to reduce the light levels to within the aperture range of the camera set to ISO 100. All shots were hand-held.

For the prints, I used my Epson 2880 A3+ printer with Epson Ultrachrome K3 ink and Hahnemühle Photo Rag Baryta paper. This is my standard setup. I find the heavyweight (315gsm) paper gives a durable and high quality result and works well for both monochrome and colour. I printed directly from Lightroom using a printer profile downloaded from the Hahnemühle website.

Relationship to “Decisive Moment”

Rather than taking a classical decisive moment approach where the motion is typically frozen, I was more interested in what I loosely call a “slice of time”.  I believe this contrasts nicely with the “formal flash of time” used by Price (2015) to describe the decisive moment.

Although it took some experimentation to get there, I believe that I managed to express my original idea of showing stillness within motion. In effect, the photos show the passage of time rather than a peak moment – from that point of view, I have chosen to invert the concept and show the movement in everyday life rather than a dramatic peak.

Assessment Criteria

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I felt that I learned as I went through this assignment. That is, I tried out a number of techniques before settling on one that I liked. This evolution is clearly visible in the contact sheets. The contact sheets also show the high percentage of failures that this technique brings. I have a new respect for the advantages of a rangefinder type of camera with an optical viewfinder where there isn’t a black out when the shutter is open.

2. Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

From a presentation point of view, I believe that the photos form a coherent set with enough variety to be interesting. I have used a landscape, 3:2 format to give a format consistency and use colour throughout for consistency and also to relate to the real world. When converted to monochrome, the photos lost a great deal of impact, possibly due to the loss of the subtle background toning.

I believe that my idea of a “slice of time” is communicated strongly in the selected images. I am happy that they select a subject from a background of movement and make that subject stand out in a way which shows movement, but freezes it at the same time.

3. Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

I am happy that this series expresses my original vision of showing stillness within motion. It took a couple of attempts to get there, but the results work for me. This assignment has taken me a long way from my comfort zone – it’s the first time that I’ve attempted anything like street photography and although I’ve played with the panning technique in the past, this is the first time I’ve worked with it over a period of time and used it to create a series.

4. Context

Reflection, research, critical thinking

The course notes in part 3 state that there are no sure methods available to learn how to look. Cartier-Bresson said that “what matters is to look” (see here). During this assignment, I tried to work on my observational skills. In practice this meant a combination of two things. Firstly, as mentioned in the introduction, I came to the conclusion that the background, even if blurred, did play a role, so I looked for interesting backgrounds. Secondly it meant observing the flows of people in the street, looking for more “interesting” ones. After capturing many shots of people walking, I started looking for other means of getting around: bicycles, skateboards, scooters in order to give some variety.

Probably the strongest influence for this work was Maarten Vanvolsem. I even experimented with the “strip-scan” method, but decided to put it aside for another day. The movement that Vanvolsem shows (e.g. Contraction of Movement 3, 2007) is actually very similar to what I managed to achieve with a conventional camera.

References

Price, Derrick. (2015) ‘Documentary and Authenticity’ In: Wells, Liz (ed.) Photography: A Critical Introduction [Kindle Edition] From: Amazon.com (Accessed on 23.09.15)

Assignment 2 – revisited

Tutor Feedback

I was a litte nervous going into the assignment 2 feedback session, but in the end I was happy that she was happy with what I’d done. Having said that, my tutor asked me to try an alternative selection because she felt that there was good material in the contact sheets which I’d overlooked. She also made the comment that the processing approach I’d taken (cropped to square format, converted to monochrome and split-toned) had made the photos more beautiful, but maybe not more interesting.

I found this comment intriguing because I’d spent my whole photographic life trying to make beautiful photos. It was the first time that anyone had said to me that there was an alternative. Strange, but true. This comment caused me to think a great deal about alternative approaches and to consider this idea of beauty and interest. Can we have one, but not the other? Is it possible to have both at once? What if we have neither? Intriguing stuff …

Alternative Selection

Process followed

My tutor advised me to print my contact sheets or the individual photos, put them on a wall or somewhere I could look at the frequently and live with them for a while. She suggested trying out several alternative selections until I found one which suited me.

While choosing I consciously tried to put aside my usual ideas of beauty and tried to think about what caught my eye, what might be interesting somehow.

Photos selected

 DRG-17Dec2015-003  DRG-17Dec2015-011  DRG-17Dec2015-021
 DRG-28Dec2015-007  DRG-17Dec2015-032  DRG-17Dec2015-030

Conclusions

I found this process of producing an alternative selection quite challenging. It took me a long time to make my original selection, narrowing down, making substitutes, trying to avoid repetition. In this second selection I have tried to go with my gut feel and avoid any processing of the photos. The harsh orange/yellow light gives and other-worldly feel, but it’s exactly as it was on those nights. I will keep in mind my tutor’s suggestion about how to make selections and try it for the next assignment.

Assignment 2 – collecting

Brief

Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing:

  • Crowds
  • Views
  • Heads

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.

Introduction

I wish I could say that this assignment was a simple, linear progression, but it was far from that. I was initially enthused by the controlled dept of field approach used by Kim Kirkpatrick and really liked the “slice of focus” technique used by Gianluca Cosci which turned everyday scenes into something else entirely. After figuring out that Cosci most likely used a view camera or at least a tilt lens, I abandoned that approach.

To cut a long and not very interesting story short, two things came together. The first part was inspiration by the work of others. I was attracted by the work of Martina Lindqvist and Paul Seawright (see following section Research).  I have always been attracted to the solitude and mystery of night photography. The second piece of the puzzle was a series of days and nights of very heavy fog along the whole length of Lac Léman. The fog gave everything an air of unreality, even of foreboding. So, I got out and started collecting …

Research

In addition to the Part 2 photographers (Kirkpatrick, Cosci etc.), the work of the following photographers referenced in Alexander (2014) influenced me in this assignment.

Paul Seawright

Seawright’s series The Forest focuses on the so-called “edgelands” where street lighting ceases and nature begins.

Paul Seawright - from the series The Forest, 2001

Paul Seawright – from the series The Forest, 2001

Seawright’s work served as a strong influence.  Not only is there the night photography connection, but I also find the “edgelands” concept intriguing. A single image (contact sheet 3 – DRG-17Dec2015-032) was definitely inspired by Seawright, but it didn’t make it into the final set as explained below (see Selection). Seawright’s work in this series has a sinister air. We can’t help but wonder what lies beyond.

Martina Lindqvist

Lindqvist’s series titled A Thousand Little Suns shows the effects of light pollution on the environment.

Martina Lindqvist - Untitled 05

Martina Lindqvist – Untitled 05

I like the slightly eerie, cinematic feel of this series of photos. They represent the unreal air that I was trying to achieve in my own photos, taking ordinary objects but in extraordinary lighting.

Images

The following table contains the final set of 9 selected images for the assignment.

DRG-28Dec2015-012

DRG-28Dec2015-012

DRG-28Dec2015-006

DRG-28Dec2015-006

DRG-27Dec2015-021

DRG-27Dec2015-021

DRG-27Dec2015-016

DRG-27Dec2015-016

DRG-17Dec2015-027

DRG-17Dec2015-027

DRG-17Dec2015-025

DRG-17Dec2015-025

DRG-17Dec2015-020

DRG-17Dec2015-020

DRG-17Dec2015-019

DRG-17Dec2015-019

DRG-17Dec2015-003

DRG-17Dec2015-003

Technical Notes

All images were taken using a tripod due to the low light levels necessitating the use of slow shutter speeds. I used a medium zoom lens (18-70mm) with the widest aperture possible (generally around f/3.5 or f/4.0) because I wanted a shallow depth of field to enhance the natural blur given by the fog.The images were all processed similarly to help unite them. The processing was straightforward: a crop to square format, conversion to monochrome to take out the harsh sodium street lighting, and finally digital split toning. I originally used warm split toning to bring back some of the street lighting tones, but in a softer way. Finally, I switched to cool tones because I felt that added to the sense of unreality.

Selection

The process of selecting 6-10 from a total of 83 was slow and continued right up until the last minute. Following are the contact sheets containing the full set of photos including exposure data and an indication of my final selects.

Contact sheet 1

Contact sheet 1

Contact sheet 2

Contact sheet 2

Contact sheet 3

Contact sheet 3

Contact sheet 4

Contact sheet 4

Contact sheet 5

Contact sheet 5

Contact sheet 6

Contact sheet 6

Contact sheet 7

Contact sheet 7

My selection process was as follows:

  • Firstly I worked through the full set of photos several times, making an initial selection – my “picks” – those which I think are worthy of more effort. At this point, I ruled out any with obvious technical issues.
  • I then edited down this set to remove duplication of content. I picked the strongest in terms of composition, lighting, exposure, focus etc. I still ended up with several containing trees, but they all have different lighting or simply look different, so I feel that they still work.
  • I carried out an initial rough editing: cropping, contrast adjustments to get an idea of what the final result might look like and how the photos start to work together as a set.
  • I refined my selections to focus on the theme of unreality. This resulted in removing one from contact sheet 3 – DRG-17Dec2015-032 which was inspired by Seawright’s The Forest series, but I felt did not work so well with the other selects. It might reappear in the future should I be inspired to think about my own response to this idea of “edgelands”.

This looks like a lovely linear process, but in actual fact, I re-visited my original set of photos several times to see if I missed anything, so it turned out to be an iterative process in practice.

It was interesting to see what worked and what didn’t within the theme of unease. I thought that the images of the church and graveyard might work, but in the end they look too much like an architecture shot for the former and too hackneyed for the latter, so they didn’t make the cut.

Evaluation

What Worked Well

I wanted to portray a sense of unease and I think that the combination of the fog and the shallow depth of field worked. I particularly like image DRG-17Dec2015-019 on contact sheet 2 – it has a working title of “The Church”. The crossed branches in the background remind me of gothic arches and the foreground object looks a little like a monk’s robe. The backlighting though, is eerie and suggests that perhaps what is worshipped here is not good.

What Didn’t Work so Well

I think I chewed this assignment for far too long before the idea came to me. The idea of taking photos in heavy fog has occurred to me several times in recent years, but this is the first time that I took action. Lesson: just do it!

How the Series could be Improved

See Demonstration of technical and visual skills section below for ideas on technical improvements. In terms of content, including people could be interesting. Obviously not front-and-center portrait shots, but it’s possible to imagine glimpses of people – almost on the margins – which might make things more interesting. It would raise questions about what are they doing out on a night like that? Images of Jack the Ripper’s London come to mind …  Practically, it would not be easy – during several nights out, I saw only one person so the gap between idea and execution is large.

Assessment Criteria

Following is my assessment of how I did against the standard OCA assessment criteria.

1. Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills

I have worked on a strong, but conventional compositional approach, placing objects in the frame carefully and balancing them where there are several objects. For the exposure, I was looking for heavy shadows and a silhouette effect and also to control the sometimes very strong highlights. I think that overall the exposure worked.

I would have liked to try a larger aperture, but was limited by available equipment. I tried  my 60mm f/2.8 macro lens, but the effective focal length of 90mm with a 1.5x crop factor was too limiting. In addition, due to the lens to subject distance in most of the photos, the depth of field was larger than I would have liked. I would like to try a tilt lens to get better control of a slice of sharp focus – I feel that approach would have added to the uneasy feeling I was looking for.

2. Quality of outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

I feel that the series well demonstrates what I was looking for and works as a collection due to theme and presentation. The brief refers to a coherent idea – although my working title might change over time, for the moment, the idea is about unease and a surreal feeling even in the middle of familiar surroundings. In retrospect, I think that the series has a film noir feel – which very well describes what I had in mind.

3. Demonstration of creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

A lot of my past photography could fit easily into the “Views” category for this assignment. I wanted to do something different which gave a different view of my local area and one that isn’t all that common. There was definitely an aspect of good luck – we haven’t had fog like that since. There was also an aspect of planning – the first night was wandering around my immediate neighbourhood, experimenting. Subsequent nights were planned. Once I had an idea of what the outcome would look like, I was able to visualise how certain scenes might work in the fog. In some cases my ideas worked, but not in all.

4. Context

Reflection, research, critical thinking

In the end, I was much more influenced by Seawright and Lindqvist than by the photographers presented in Part 2. Although the Part 2 photographers initially inspired me, I could not see how I could translate their ideas into my environment and in the end my idea developed along a different path via a combination of circumstances and having the work of Seawright and Lindqvist at the back of my mind.

References

Alexander, Jesse (2014) Perspectives on Place: Theory and Practice in Landscape Photography [Kindle Edition] From: Amazon.com (Accessed on 29.09.15)

Assignment 1 – square mile – revisited

Based on my tutor’s feedback, I decided that I’d produce a 2nd, smaller set of images that I think are much more coherent and focus on something that is common to many Swiss villages: a trough (un abreuvoir in French, since you asked). Some of them are very old, some relatively new. Some of them have eau potable and some don’t, but they’re everywhere, even in bigger, more developed towns.

So I did a tour of the local area, picking out villages which are close to where I live. They’re all wine-making villages with beautiful stone farmhouses and a lot of character. And sure enough, each one had a trough. Some had more than one, such as Confignon – just up the road. Let me know what you think.
Square Mile - 2nd go