21st December, the shortest day of the year so probably not the best day to do some bird shots with the 600mm lens. Started the day with a "Winter" set for project 15. I now have all the seasons shot at Castle Acre and will process them and put them in the journal when I have caught up on some of other projects prior to 15. Also made some very wintery shots with the Wista 5x4 around Castle Acre, using Provia and Delta 100. Then to Cley and Salthouse for some bird shots. I have always wanted to do more with the 600mm lens and while the odd trip to Thetford forest for Dear never quite comes up with that magic moment and "Wildlife Photographer of the Year" I decided to have a look at seabirds and waders again. One reason for choosing them over songbirds in the garden is their size. The 600mm has a closest focus distance that is still 5m or so (cant remember exactly) and makes a finch small in the frame and a gull therefore is easier to fill the frame. Salthouse on the North Norfolk coast is about as cold and windswept a place that you will find. Problem number one was that the pools behind the shingle banks were 98% frozen over and not much prospect of gulls or waders using them. Some birds, havent looked up the names yet and a few images for todays posting, maybe more over Chritmas.
A recent thread on the OCA student site discussed various landscape photographers and their relevance to contemporary photography and how we as students of photography should be influenced (or otherwise) by the current well known names and names from the past. The discussion ranged from Ansel Adams through to modern protagonists such as Charlie Waite and Joe Cornish.
Much of the "National Trust" type, coffee table publications have gorgeous photography and they sell well in shops all around the land. A whole industry has grown up alongside this which teach you "how to" do the same and many enjoy that.
I have, like most others I guess had a go at this type of work and while there is some short term excitement at another 20 sec shot at f16 of a stream or sea with groynes, they are for me imitations of work by others (who have mastered the style) and why go there, is it worthwhile. One could argue that if I take as many rocky outcrops and ferns as say Joe Cornish or Edward Weston then I will be a good photographer.
What is happening here if I am not careful is blatant plagiarism dressed up as becoming educated and instead of looking for my own style and images I might as well just look for the tripod holes in the mud, buy a few books with location details and join the queue to expose my Vevia at Padley Gorge or wherever.
However, in the same way that Weston was influenced by Stieglitz, Beethoven by Mozart and Constable by the Dutch landscape painters of the 17th century it is unreasonable not to think that we are all under the influence of others to some extent.
I am, and his name is Harry Cory Wright. His work is not "typical" of what I have mentioned above and has been described as "banal" by some. Minimalist images that are not forcing themselves upon the viewer I feel have the potential to be longer lasting and while less fashionable in the short term, may have more to offer a viewer over a longer period. I have known of his work for a few years and have visited his gallery, often feeling that I wanted to know more about this work and not daring to enquire, because at that time it seemed "unusual" and I thought that I needed to stick with the mainstream and behave.
I need to make a step change, stop looking over my shoulder wondering who is watching me and be ready for comments that are challenging rather than complementary.
Sometimes I wonder if the anticipation of results from my photography is becoming over optimistic. I recently spent a number of hours along the North Norfolk coast around Cley and Salthouse on a very bright day, albeit very cold and was convinced that there were plenty of good images on the card. Tonight I am looking at them and I cant say there is one that I find inspiring and worthy of inclusion anywhere. At the time I was excited and busy, moving around with all the hints and tips running through my brain, for good composition, dealing with the difficult light but using incident readings and all to no avail. Ive tried a number of rescue remedies, high contrast monochrome, panoramic crop, selenium tone, but they are all poor.
The only bad technique that day was a zoom lens. Technically its very good but in the main I don't like them , and I like to use a single prime lens. The discipline of thinking in one field of view is better for me. Next time, no zoom. Pick say 2 primes and work around it.
For a while I am going to return to the course projects and work on the tasks. Maybe that will focus me on a task rather than the current roaming. Also they need to be completed and some of them are better done during these short days.
OK, before anyone starts scrolling down their screen looking for Assignment 3. It hasn't been done, but it will be. It just suits my situation at the moment to do something additional to image making. Assignment 3 will come along soon.
Assignment 4 is a critical review of about 2500 words about the life and work of a photographer. The OCA list five, although it is possible to do A N Other, but I will conform and stay within the list. In addition I am mindful of Assignment 5, where I am required to produce 12 photographs "in the style" of one of these photographers.
The critical review will deal with their life history, work, influences and successes and why they were chosen for the essay. Although as I said, another photographer could be chosen (subject to tutor comments) I thought it interesting to look at the OCA list in a little more detail before making my choice. My first comment is that I had only heard of three of them, which in itself is appalling and demonstrates why doing this course will at least introduce me to more photographers than I had previously been aware of.
A quick run through of the candidates then.
I have a few of his books and they were all well read years ago when I did my work in a wet darkroom. His books "The Negative" and "The Print" are masterclasses in developing and printing using large format negatives. Inventor of The Zone System and founder member of the f64 group, he is perhaps the best known of all those on the list. A god like figure in the world of monochrome, but I wonder how I will fare when it comes to his style.
I had never heard of him. Reading about him and looking at his work has not brought about a "wow" moment. The style of his work is however interesting although I have never found myself interested in this type of work I feel uncomfortable that later I will have to work in his style.
Well, Fay Godwin, I think you either love her or hate her. I do both. I feel my opinions of her are so mixed that I would need an entire essay on its own to explain them. Far be it from me, but aren't many of them just ordinary photographs in very poor light. Maybe some other time I will expand on this.
I was aware of some nudes and shells, but only from magazines and the Internet. Further research has however interested me. Not only his photography but his life. A complex man who lived in a wooden hut, had many lovers and photographed a toilet. During a holiday this year I read a biography by Ben Maddow and began to realise that Weston was establishing himself as a possible candidate for my essay.
Again, I had never come across this photographer prior to this list. His work using 35mm transparency and the hard won landscapes in remote parts of the world hardly seems plausible as a style for myself to try and emulate.
My decision: Edward Weston. I visited an exhibition of his work in London in September, now re reading his biography (this time making notes) and have just acquired "The Last Years in Carmel".
Critical review writing is new to me so I will do some reading on the style and techniques needed prior to starting.The OCA has a 3 page document on this and that seems like a good place to start and base my technique as I assume the tutors use it as a checklist for content.
An amazing morning. -2.2C and a clear sky with the promise of an amazing dawn in low lying areas. 6.45 and out with one lens. I like to do this from time to time as I find changing lenses a bind and an unnecessary break in the photography. Its not needed in my opinion and travelling light is much easier. So, the D3 and 300mm 2.8, incident meter and a monopod, although I think the Gitzo tripod is in the Land Rover somewhere if needed. The D3 is quite capable at ISO 1000 so 1/000 sec and higher quite possible even at dawn. Ive also decided to keep all my shooting close to home, well within 10 miles. Ive been finding that by revisiting small patches of countryside I am getting know them, anticipating where I think shots will be and the topography and how that effects the light and atmosphere. The Nar valley is shallow, its no Swaledale and may only be a few 10's of feet lower than the surrounding countryside but it is enough to collect fog in a thin layer just before dawn and near to Wormegay has a fen, so bleak minimalist features. As the sun rose it was amazing, although I am not sure I got my position right. The fog about 10 feet thick and good recessions in tones to the distance. After a while I moved to another favourite, West Briggs Wood. Still good light although less options due to being in and around a forest, so the edges were best options. Still looking for assignment shots that are Autumn, so one or two predictable trees, but my style is naturalistic rather than contemporary so there may be a few cliches in there still.
If, it looks good tomorrow I will do a similar trip, maybe the same lens, but maybe an extension tube in my pocket to allow closer focus distance on some detail. I never like to rush PP so, the Raw files will be left for a day or two before I look at them again. Its my digital equivalent to sending the films for process. When I look at then again they will be new to me and I will be happier then rather than now to manipulate them.
Saturday 6th November and at last some images of Autumn, all in a random sort of way. Weather and cloud watching is now as important as having a lens on the camera. Three mini trips in the last two days to West Briggs Wood may have saved the day. Due to being so behind the season I am playing catch up, which means getting some ordinary shots at least and then maybe next week look for something a bit more unusual. First efforts were in bright but overcast light, which although good doesn't cut it for Autumn. Vibrancy of the colours is paramount and while the images were OK, it wasn't ever going to be good enough. Second and third attempts were better, good light but wrong time of day. The part of the wood I wanted to work in was still without direct light, so I needed to work on the South side or at least something with a South facing aspect. I had armed myself with 80-200 zoom, 50mm, 60mm macro and 24mm PC-E. and in the end the 24mm and the 60mm macro predominantly used. The right angle finder used also to get the 24mm very low down on the tripod. 60mm for some nice close ups of leaves. Third rather rushed visit was late in the afternoon, this time the 300mm on a monopod. The sky had now become very black, the sun was low and I went looking for a single sunlit tree with a stormy cloudscape. I love the 300mm and its max f2.8 is great for isolating detail. There were a few moments that may have worked, but no PP yet, so nothing to show, but relief that something has been done.
Also saw deer and loads of squirrels, but the 600mm not taken on these visits, so nothing of them, but they can wait till another day
A well known on line source tells us about The Doldrums being an area of calm winds near the equator, then adds,
"Colloquially, to be in the doldrums, said especially of a person, is to be listless, despondent, inactive, stagnant, in a slump".
That's me then.
Why am I not getting on with the tasks at hand, why so much prevarication about what to shoot and why the reluctance to get the cameras out and just see what happens ?.
In my APEL application I remember talking about how my photography "just happens" and how I felt vunerable because that "method" of working was maybe unreliable. I am now not so sure that leaving that behind and being in a structure is such a good thing. There are a few issues that I have to deal with first. Number one is that some of the course projects I find quite mundane and a chore to complete rather than being exciting and interesting. I know this attitude is wrong and I need to try and find more within the projects and embrace them rather than just being a means to an end.
Photography, and how successful you are is about being confident. Judging yourself is more important than how a tutor may see your work, because they only see the final work, they see nothing of the thought or angst that lies behind the images. Anxiety and doubt about new work, whether it be a success or failure is always at the back of my mind, and I know that if I prepare some work that is deemed a failure it will be months before I look at a camera again. This iterative process does lead to The Doldrums, a place where the thought of failure almost secures that outcome, if for no other reason than that Autumn will not last forever and if I don't shoot some work soon, it will be Winter and with no autumnal images failure is assured.
Maybe then this week then I will seize the moment, look at a weather forecast and just do it.
Having missed seeing the Edwin Smith prints at Chris Beetles gallery I was determined not to miss the Edward Weston exhibition, so having 1 day left of my September break I decided to have a day in London, see some old friends and buy one or two final components for my 5x4 equipment.
London (well Mayfair) doesn't start very early, but I do so I always find myself sitting around in cafes eating bacon butties and drinking coffee. This time was not wasted. I needed to consider how I was going to react to the prospect of being inches away from prints made by Cole Weston using original Edward Weston negatives. I knew some of the prints would be familiar as I had just completed reading "Edward Weston - His Life" a biography by Ben Maddow, that included some of the famous images and I also have "Edward Weston - The last years in Carmel", a beautiful book of Weston photographs published by The Art Institute of Chicago. During the reading of the biography I had initially not understood Weston at all. His work as a professional photographer seemed predictable (portraits of wealthy ladies, dogs, children etc) and his early personal work left me cold.
Once inside (its ring the bell to be let in) and handed a list of the work on display I was left alone in complete silence with 37 pieces of photography. I have never experienced such emotion as when walking up to Number 4 "Shell 1927". It wasn't happiness or sorrow, the types of emotion we come used to over a lifetime of ups and downs, but one of connecting with the image and the photographer. I remembered the Weston day book entries from around that time when he first discovered Shells and the later technical entries of f256 and four and a half hours exposure. His determination to achieve technical perfection and the rejected negatives due to unplanned movement. It was possible for the hour or so I spent there to be affected by them, to recall the different women in his life while in Mexico or especially the later years in Carmel. As photographers, we all know the time we spend before and after an exposure, the bit nobody will ever see and it was that that intrigued me with these images. Through the biography I had become close to him, his day books and his letters are detailed and explicit and being close to the photographs the words and the images came together and I felt much closer to him, as a photographer.
I didn't spend any time reviewing the images, either technically or artistically. I will do that later when the catalogue is delivered and I can detach myself from the experience. I spent the time filling in gaps, asking myself questions about how he felt when the exposures were made and a little sad, knowing that the onset of Parkinson's disease was making it difficult for him to actually operate the camera.
Feeling inspired, next to Aperture (never bought anything there but its an Aladdin's Cave), RG Lewis to say hello to Len (No sale yet then of M9's) and then to Teamwork for dark slides and a loupe.
My photography has recently been taking a back seat for various reasons and I didn't really (if I am honest) have the time for a day in London, but having made the effort to be with the Weston photographs I feel refreshed and able to think more about the future and my OCA work.
Its not that long ago that I said " Perhaps if I buy a black cloth I will buy a 5x4 camera" . I didn't buy a black cloth but I do now have a 5x4 camera. A Wista 45DX flatbed field in cherry wood. The only lens I have at the moment is a Rodenstock 150mm (standard lens for 5x4) some Provia 100f and a quickload back. I am not sure I will take any photographs for some time because I am still fascinated by the options that it will give me in the field. It is therapeutic to sit behind it and conjure up the various scenarios where it will be used. I already know some locations at the southern end of Derwentwater (Manesty) where I can spend hours with my new baby. Some of the lens movements I am used to. I have a 24mm tilt/shift for the Nikon and love the tilt for landscape and the rise for buildings. The Wista has these of course, in amazing amounts, but coupled with front and rear swing the options are endless. The second reason for trying some LF is to produce bigger high resolution prints. I am lucky to have a 24" roll fed printer and I can maximise the quality of that with enormous file sizes from scanned 5x4. There is much to be learned about using LF. Some relearning about film, such as reciprocity factor and exposure compensation with bellows. Scanning will be done at first with a 2450 Epson, but that will go soon and a V750 acquired. There seems to be the need to use adjustable film holders, ensuring that the film is correctly in focus. Scanning software in my experience ranges from chalk to cheese in its ability. The bundled Epson works, but specialist software is better and needs time to set up.
How does this effect my OCA work ?. Initially I thought, not much, but if I do Edward Weston as my essay and my later assignment, it would be nice to shoot it all on LF. It may help to get into the role and think more "Weston" rather than switching on a D3.
My OCA work has taken another delay. We all know that when this happens we become anxious and how discontinuity in our work is not good. My day job is planning for major construction projects and delay is a word I hate. It starts a process of having to take measures to mitigate the delay and find methods to accelerate the work methods to get back on programme. These can include working longer hours, employing more resource and spending money. Well luckily the OCA will not require the later but I feel under pressure to do something about the problem. The problem is that the construction planning work has taken over my life with a very large project on Guernsey and to quote a recent BP employee "I want my life back". Having to work 11-12hrs a day allows no time for photography. The work even has the ability to be nasty towards me, by asking me to travel at 0600 in the morning and see light that I would die for. No good setting aside a day to get up and be out at 0600 with the camera, because the light on those days is rubbish. So, while in this temporary wilderness of all work and no play I am delivered my daily copy of "The Eastern Daily Press" with a superb article about monochrome king Edwin Smith (1912-1971). Smith was a prolific photographer of the English landscape and published books of architectural significance illustrating over 40 volumes from 1944 to 1975. His work (over 60,000) pictures are held by The Royal Institute of British Architects. Smith loved tone, pattern and texture and I have often used his work as an inspiration for my own. His work can be seen at http://www.ribapix.com/ (type Edwin Smith in the search box) where there are over 4,500 photographs and also for a short while at http://www.chrisbeetles.com/
What a performance. Deciding which of my possible locations to go to was a nightmare. By 1pm I still hadn't set off. The day was bright with fair weather cumulus and the light variable. No rain but very windy. As if in some "anti" moment I choose the location I thought least likely at the start of the day. Holme - next - the - sea is a small village on the North Norfolk coast about 4 miles east of Hunstanton. The village is inland but there is a nature reserve on the coast run by various naturalist and ornithology trusts, so that's where I ended up. I am a member of one of the groups and that allows me access to a remote area of beach, dunes with marram grass and some pine woodland. Whether the area I used was exactly one acre I don't know, but my garden at home is about one third of an acre so I tried to keep within a size of three gardens. One of the reasons for not wanting to go to Holme was the wind and the sand. I don't mollycoddle my equipment that much, but sand is nasty and will ruin stuff quickly, but because the location has areas of elevation (we are short of that around here) it drew me and that's where I spent 3 hrs shooting 126 images for a 12 image assignment. I have tried to slow down and work with more "technique", thinking, reflecting, taking and then moving. The incident meter worked well, producing some good looking histograms despite the viewfinder display protesting. I never look at the image while out shooting only the histogram. Even on a D3 its far too small and in any case I think its fair to assume that with a 100% finder I will have pointed it where I wanted and don't need to check composition at that stage. The only exception is sometimes I use live view in magnification mode to check the near and distance focus when using the tilt lens, but on a bright day this is difficult and would be better with a black cloth. Perhaps if I buy a black cloth I will buy a 5x4 camera. The only filter used was a Lee ND grad. The sky was well outside the DR and while most of the images were made without a sky, some got interesting and needed this. Lenses used were the 24mm Tilt/shift, 50mm and 80-200 zoom. I haven't made up my mind yet about how to present the work. Its likely to be monochrome, due to that being my preferred genre and that there is little colour anyway at this location and it will either look washed out or if I saturate them they will look wrong. Within monochrome I probably have more decisions to make than if they were presented in colour. Straight or manipulated is the initial question. Manipulated sounds fun but for this assignment I don't think we need to be "clever" so I will have a look at some standard film types in Silver Efex Pro, maybe a bit of yellow filter and certainly some dodging and burning and a judicious amount of retouching. I hate annoying highlights and will always remove them if they drag the eye in any way. I never go to processing straight after a shoot. I always hate what Ive done anyway and can only come back to it a few days later, when I seem to see the images with fresh eyes. So, a bit of experimental PP with look alike PanF and maybe Delta 100.
While there and shooting I was concious that the outcome is a photographic essay. It should be complete when presented and act as a panel of photographs that tell the viewer something of the place, not only by way of the vista, but the textures and the feel of location. There are nagging thoughts when I shoot. How would Edward Weston, Fay Godwin, Ansel Adams, David Ward etc etc look at this location ?. They would produce master pieces, or would they ?. It is difficult to find out just how many failure days these people had. Some of them probably took more time, came many times to one location and that is something I must consider. I do have images from this location taken last winter and I may look through them and include any that offer more variety.
After the hurry of getting Assignment 1 finished within the confines of "Spring" I have taken the break I spoke about below to think about some of the comments from my Tutor and consider what I am going to do in the One Acre. Generally Assignment 1 was well received with no poor comment, in fact Excellent - Well Done were the final words. There was however one comment relating to some of the images that were patterns within the landscape. "Be careful of making pictures which don't have a fixed relationship to the rectangle they are contained within" is part of the general summary and I am conscious that I will need to avoid anything that strays into this genre in Assignment 2. I am excited by the opportunity to work in a small area and have a number of locations in mind. The course notes end with a sentence in bold. "Remember that the key is variety". I have set aside Friday 16th July to do this and it may well rain. If the light is a bit "Godwin" (mostly flat and boring) I will work with monochrome in mind, use the tripod, maximum DOF and go for textures and minimalist compositions.I want to use my prime glass as the quality of some of these is gorgeous, so the 24mm PCE, 50mm, 85mm and 300mm will all have to be considered plus some tubes to get minimum focus down.
I am also minded not to get too clever. Infra red had come to mind but maybe that will be useful later in the course and if used now will negate it for later. So, keep it simple, shoot slow and try and remember some of the words and images that mean so much when reading at home.
Due to a number of circumstances I have pressed pause on the Landscape work for a few weeks. Some difficult work assignments and a close family member in hospital contributing to overload. I did manage a few hundred words to add to Project 11 a few days ago and felt pleased with my efforts on light measurement and my renewed interest in measuring light. However blogspot managed to wipe it away and I have nothing to show for it. This was such a demoralising moment I didn't have the energy to start it all again. Maybe I should write in Word and cut and paste into here. Certainly as a platform to work in this is unpredictable to say the least.
29th June 2010
Pressed play again yesterday and visited a field of poppies that a friend had told me about. First visit was mid day and didnt work, but in the evening another visit which may have one or two for summer in the final assignment. Also found time and energy to write some more on Project 11, which despite blogspots second attempt to delete words is now complete.
One of the Poppy shots. Not sure if this will ever get used in an Assignment but its just refreshing to have taken a photograph again. Maybe in Project 15.
Project 11 is the first in Part 2 of the course notes that looks at : Light and its measurement.
I like everyone else who has ever taken photographs seriously will know and understand that without "good" light the outcome of a shoot will be poor. Good light is however a commodity and while during the hours of daylight (even moonlight, which is of course reflected daylight) it exists in some shape or form it will suit some situations better than others. For landscape photography this "good" light is a different requirement to different people at different times. The date, your latitude on the surface, of time of day, cloud, significant weather etc all will change the light and it probably will never repeat itself in that location for many years, if ever. For those reasons I have come to try and plan shooting landscape and take some of the science into account. Not in a high level way at all, but simple planning of trips and shoots can help in avoiding disappointment. For example, I will never visit my favourite locations in The Lake District in the middle of Summer. The sun high in the sky flattens the landscape too much and although I know there is a dawn every day, its way too much to try and find it at 04:00. This is not a golden rule for every occasion. I shoot travel/tourism for Stock in Menorca and for that type of work a high sun, blue sky and a beach full of sunbathers and swimmers is the ideal shot to advertise a holiday in the Mediterranean. So, Springtime and Autumn visits to The Lakes have better light by virtue of the sun's position in the sky (lower) and helps the modelling of the landscape. In addition the cooler mornings and afternoons have the possibility of smoke from chimneys and mist in valleys to add the atmosphere of a rural location.
Landscape photography and the issues of lighting in the UK in particular make for a busy time when in the field. After a storm the clouds will gradually break up, at random and huge shafts of sunlight will pour through like spotlights in a theatre. At those times you have to work quickly to catch these fleeting moments. I can recall moments when the need to change lens, measure the light, relocate etc were done at such speed it had made my previous work in sports photography look quite sedate.
The Colour of Daylight does not require any special shoot but does require that we understand and can identify the concept and practice of how daylight will contribute to our photography of the landscape. One of the problems that exists in identifying the various colours of daylight (as measured in Kelvin (K) ) is that our eyes are very adaptable and adjust to see all light as normal. This is particularly the case in doors with fluorescent tube lighting which is normally quite warm. The tubes and desk lamps in my office and studio have all been changed to 5400K daylight and the difference is very strong, and looks very blue when adjacent to normal tubes. It is however the only reliable way to view printed work and examine prints for correct colour. It is possible with a special meter to measure colour temperature. For landscape photography I do not require this. They are very costly and will offer little to my work. However, I can appreciate a need when copying work, such as paintings where faithful reproduction is of paramount importance, and especially when shooting on film.
This brings me to the differences of shooting on film and onto a CCD. When shooting onto film the photographer must first choose a film, initially an ISO speed rating, negative/transparency and daylight or tungsten. The characteristics of a film are far more subjective and require the photographer to have viewed images from various film stock and with a project in mind make the correct choice. It is not possible here (or necessary) to describe characteristics of various films, although generally the saturation towards red in Kodachrome, blue in Ektachrome and green on Velvia are but a few. So having made your film choice you have to choose your filters carefully to balance the light source to the film, and get it right first time unless you want to repeat the work and correct errors. With view cameras there was always the possibility of using a Polaroid back to check the exposure, but the problem here was that the colour characteristics of the Polaroid would be different to the film for the final work.
Digital capture has to a large extent made this area of photography much easier. We can see instantly on the camera, or preferably on a tethered PC what effect any filtration is having and more importantly, adjust the camera settings to achieve correct white balance for the work in hand. I always shoot RAW images in the camera (sometimes plus a low resolution jpg to view monochrome) as this permits development of what is essentially my digital negative. The in camera white balance setting therefore has little relevance while shooting. Setting it to Auto WB will however allow the on board camera engine make a usable image for general observation while shooting.
So, with RAW images we can change the colour temperature at will. In Adobe ACR the settings range from 2000K to 50000K. These extremes may come in useful one day but fro now and within the context of Landscape Photography I generally use the range 4000K to 7000K. For my taste outside of these limits is unacceptable. While converting and processing RAW images to TIFF for further work it is interesting to note that for monochrome conversion the colour balance can be used to manipulate the image.
Project 11 also looks at the Measurement of Light. Recently, perhaps as a result of shooting images for this course I had become interested in what perfect exposure might be. As part of my book buying I have Martin Freemans book "Perfect Exposure" and although I had wondered howan entire book could be written on this subject I now understand. Modern DSLR cameras maybe OK at metering but really they are hampered by one basic flaw. Reflected light, and the colour of the reflective surface. The 18% grey card and all things averaged being responsible the way the camera tries to get an average. Having to take that into account everytime we meter in TTL mode is a pain, so I recently purchased a KenkoKMF-2100 meter to replace my older a less ambitious Sekonic. I wont go into all the technical detail here, as the link will take you to all that, but it is an incredible tool that can measure incident, spot, average, DR, flash and show the ratios of a mix of ambient and flash together.
I have always been a fan of incident light meter readings from my days track side shooting motor sport. White cars, red cars etc, using reflected ttl based systems for that (especially on chromes) was pot luck.Back then I used a Gossen Lunar 6.
There is as school of thought that maybe all this exposure business isn't so important with digital capture. After all in a split second I can see the image, see the histogram and can bracket 7 different exposures in 1 second. We have Adobe Photoshop, where it is said we can correct it if it needs it. Maybe some of this is true, and if digital capture was to replace all film photography we would be safe working along these lines. Unfortunately this isn't the case. Large format film cameras are used widely among professionals and with transparency film stock is expensive, and not tolerant to poor exposure. I am not advocating the purchased of such equipment for this course (although it would be nice) but like being able to navigate by direct reckoning in the age of GPS, its comforting to be able to do it properly from basic principals.
So, my D3 etc is now always set to manual, I will take incident readings, supplemented by spot readings in critical areas and my photography will improve. Well we will have to wait and see, but it is comforting when using incident readings that the histogram does look good even though the camera is protesting that the exposure is wrong.
Project 10 looks at colour differently from those used in Project 9. Here we are to demonstrate the use of soft muted colour across the entire image, where maybe the atmosphere is reducing the image with a cast. The course notes are written with film in mind and suggest that filters are not used. With digital photography the conversion from a RAW image to those shown requires a judgement on colour temperature,the use of curves and contrast so there is by its very nature some subjective interpretation as to what the natural look may be. Having said that, the selection of film stock would produce its own bias towards either blue with Ektachrome and green with Velvia.
Photograph 1 was shot mid morning in February in The Lake District.The muted tones are created by the misty atmosphere, winter colours and the low morning light. Beige, almost sepia tones give way to a colder blue cast in the distance. The original full frame shot showed more of the distant mountains and some sky. The mountain tops were snow capped and the sky quite white.The removal of those elements (due to their brightness) reduces the whole image to dark and intermediate tones.
Nikon D3 80-200 f2.8 105mm 1/6400sec f9 -1EV
Photograph 2 was shot around noon in North Norfolk during January on a very foggy day. The overall sepia hue is entirely natural, being created by the diffuse sunlight and the fog. The compression created by the long telephoto lens enhances the depth of the fog and reduces the contrast.
The first of two projects using colour in the landscape. Bright colour in the British landscape is quite rare, even in the built environment, so we are left looking for blues, greens and browns. In 1 and 3 the daylight (5500k) light is producing natural colour. In 2 the late evening light (3500k) is saturating the colour and in that instance helps the image.
This project calls for three photographs.
The largest range of colour contrast
One isolated colour set against a contrasting background
The largest range of greens you can find in one view
Photograph 1 (The largest range of colour contrast) incorporates blue and orange, which are broadly speaking contrasting colours. As can be seen from the colour wheel below there are a number of options for opposite contrasting colours. Many of these are difficult to find within the context of a landscape and my subject shows an Amaryllis set against a diffuse background. The shot was made with a telephoto lens using a large aperture to isolate the main flower using a shallow depth of field and and push the background bokeh to the limit. The blue could in fact be more towards violet to be completely opposite.
Photograph 2 (One isolated colour set against a contrasting background) is a beach groyne on the coast at Wells next the sea in Norfolk. The green marker against the blue sky does not fulfill the brief in its entirety due to the competing orange/red wood in the foreground. The light here is at late evening and very warm and a polarising filter was used. The image was shot using a 24mm tilt/shift lens with the tilt at maximum to produce the out of focus areas to the left and right. In some ways the Red, Green, Blue colours are all isolated, so maybe it works in a number of ways, however I will look for a new image at some time in the future.
Nikon D3 24mm PC-E f3.5 1/1600 sec f4.5
Photograph 3 (The largest range of greens you can find in one view). The late evening light across the field has produced long shadows from trees to the left of the frame. The general composition of the photograph is horizontal and parallel strips, with receding green tones towards the distance.The lighter greens in the Rape Seed crop and the trees offer the lighter values against the deep shadow green. I have no knowledge of how to measure the greens to determine if the whole range is captured, but to the eye they seem numerous. Once again a panoramic crop suits the photograph, by way of reducing the sky to a minimum.
Two months ago when the course folder arrived I did a read through and got the general feel for what was coming up and looked for anything unusual. Projects were started (at No 1) Assignment 1 started and the general view would be work through in chronological order. This worked well for a while but I now find that some of the images are going to be harder to find and to save time I will open up many more of the Projects and fill in the gaps of missing images from time to time. My field book will be my aide memoire and during a shoot I may well find images for a number of Projects. This should save some time. Today for instance I spent 4 hrs looking for an image in Project 9, without any real success. Plenty of new images for who knows what were taken, but had I had the whole list of Projects with me I would have been able to work on a broader scope and with a detailed purpose.
I mentioned here on the 27th April that I had become interested in the work of David Ward and that I was reading his book Landscape Within. I have since started reading his latest book Landscape Beyond and am becoming totally wrapped up with his work. I confess however to being a quality junkie, and love the output from 5x4 Fuji Velvia 50. I am aware that with our top of the range DSLR cameras we cannot match the detail and tonal range from film at this resolution, and we cannot of course have full movements that a field camera has. So, maybe "flattery deceives" and I am being won over by the technical style of the images rather their substance. I hope not, maybe they hold my attention longer, but it is without doubt the simplicity of Ward's work that I find so interesting. He is not alone in his ability to create outstandingly detailed images. Many others including Ansel Adams and Edward Weston were able to isolate the landscape and see the micro landscape as well as the vista. I have a gradual lack of interest in the grand vista and am spending more time looking at the area around my feet and not looking up.
My affection with this style of landscape photography may be detrimental to my coursework as I am spending far too much time "off course" tinkering with this genre and not working on the Projects. It did start to get in the way last week in Cumbria. Up there to catch up on some projects I did spend too much time looking at and thinking of Wards words.
It is clear that not even Ward understands how these words are used and how they convert into every image we take as photographers. I understand what he is trying to tell me, although when in the field and shooting there are doubts at almost every stage. How simple, perhaps this is too simple, etc. etc. and while trying to overcome these issues we rely upon our instinct to intervene and save the moment. I say save the moment, because that is exactly what we are up against. Time is not on our side to enter into an endless mental debate about these issues. The light is changing and if missed is gone forever.
Where possible I enjoy thinking "Ward" when out shooting but for the immediate future I need to think "Freeman" and work on his tasks.
So, I have to do Project and Assignment photography to finish this module and perhaps enjoy my photography later.
The control of perspective in a photograph is one of the essential tools to convey depth and a 3 dimensionality. Any 3 dimensional scene or object will convey an element of perspective. It is inherent in the texture and shadows, and the knowledge we have that objects although large appear smaller at distance. The tools available for this are:
Form and Content
We are asked to produce a photograph that makes obvious use of perspective to draw the eye into the frame. Any of the above techniques can be used. I have chosen 2 images that both use Linear Perspective.
Photograph 1 is a disused railway bridge near Keswick in Cumbria. The old railway route is now a footpath and the bridges are now decked and fenced. A wide angle lens (25mm) at f7 has given me almost complete depth of field by the use of hyper focal focusing. The converging handrails and the arch of the bridge combining to maximum effect in this example of linear perspective. The near symmetrical alignment enhances the perspective and the eye becomes fixed at the far side of the bridge. I have also enhanced the aspect ratio more towards panoramic. The removal of the rather bland white sky keeps the interest on the structure rather than the general landscape beyond. It is difficult to judge the length of the span of the bridge due to this unfamiliar type of structure. It would have been simple to have included a figure at the far side, but for me this geometric image works far better.
Nikon D3 17-35mm at 25mm 1/60 sec f7.1 Monopod
Photograph 2 uses the same linear perspective but with the addition of height and the use of a 200mm lens to demonstrate the depth in this simple landscape of a track, with a hedge and trees alongside. The tramlines (tractor tyre marks in the crop) that run parallel to the track reflect the main feature and enhance the linear perspective. The hedge at the far side of the green field acts as a stopping point for the eye and the landscape beyond is not really explored. Once again the tendency towards panoramic style removes most of the featureless sky.
The role of figures in a landscape. We are asked to think in terms of
Focus of attention
Establishing the scale of the scene
Photograph No 1 is an iconic shot from The Lake District of Ashness Bridge. Photographed many times and used as an illustration in many books and advertisements. From this vantage point we can clearly see the bridge, some of Derwent Water, Keswick and Skidaw in the background. The figures in this instance are offering valuable scale and a point of interest at the thirds of the image.
Nikon D3 85mm lens. 1/60 sec f16 on a tripod.
Photograph No 2 shows a fisherman in Watendlath Tarn. The figure here is included solely as a point of interest. The lighting is acute and the figure contrasts with the green background.
Nikon D3 200mm lens, 1/1250 sec f8. Exposure -0.7EV to reduce the detail in the background and reduce the potential for over exposure in the water.
Photograph 3 shows a figure on a wooden pathway across a wetland area near Derwent Water. I included the figure for balance. Without the figure the image has no point where the eye stops as it scans from foreground to the distance. The figure halts that flow. In addition the figure provides scale, as it is difficult, without reference to maybe the house in the background, to understand how wide the footpath is.
Nikon D3 with 50mm AIS MF lens, 1/200 sec f11.
Photograph 4 has figures that are much smaller than in the previous 3. The only purpose here is that the figures provide scale. The scene on its own is clearly a bridge over a river, but how big ?. The figures are not as prominent as I would have liked and looking again at this shot it would have improved by allowing the figures to be on the bend in the path.
D3 200mm lens 1/1000 sec f8. Exposure -0.3EV to reduce overall tone and enhance figures on the path.
Whether or not to include figures in a landscape is a difficult question. Often the decision can be made based upon the end use of the image. Photograph 1 for example was shot as part of my Stock and has been used in a book on walking. It therefore had to have walkers, without them the editor would not have chosen it. The figure only works where it provides an essential difference and I would not generally include any without good justification.
The progress on keeping up to date with the projects has suffered a bit recently due to the work on Assignment 1 becoming too intensive. Although nothing recorded here for projects there has been some background activity. Frustrated with Norfolk and Lincolnshire I have just returned from 3 days in Cumbria. I always return to The Lakes when everything else fails, although there is no guarantee that my photography will become enriched by traveling 5hrs up the A1. The course folder traveled with me and was an aide memoir for project related work. What is for sure is that the food is good and the beer even better, so nothing is ever lost.
Project 6 - framing the view differently. I have some ideas for this but nothing worked out that well so this one is on the back burner for a while. When I find my location to shoot this it will be quick and simple, but for now , no location.
Project 7 - figures in a landscape. Shot some for this in Cumbria, so images are available, just PP needed to complete.
Project 8 - using perspective to help composition. Many of my images from the last 3 months have been shot with many of the techniques being looked for here, so I don't propose to shoot anything special for this and will rely on some from previous shoots. Unless we get some fog which would be nice.
Project 9 - colour themes. Once again I think my recent Lake District shoot has some for this. Certainly plenty of green.
Project 10 - soft colours. I had The lakes in mind for this when I booked the trip. Soft greens and browns in abundance.
I have decided to produce my assignments in book format via Blurb publishing. Since my first book at Blurb there have been technical changes that I have to take account of and produce a draft copy prior to getting the final version for my tutor. Blurb have changed their printing equipment and this requires me to download a new ICC profile for soft proofing in CS3. This is essential, the soft proofed images were slightly flat and required a little additional work with curves. Despite several read throughs the draft does have 2 errors which will be rectified when the new version is uploaded.
In addition to this printed version I will send my tutor a CD of the images so that they can be viewed on a PC.
The concern here is that the images are cliches of Spring. Too obvious or too illustrative. There isnt time however to continually shoot images. The season has moved on and although to my regret I have found some fields of Oil Seed Rape with elevation that could be included I have chosen to call time on this assignment, take the critique from my tutor, learn from that and improve for future work.
The errors have now been corrected and the final version is in print.
Books on Edward Weston, and in particular his landscape images are not easy to find in the UK. In the USA the second hand book market does seem to have more for sale but the cost is high and postage to the UK is as much as the book. I have found an on line resource that has solved the initial problem of " what does his work actually look like". The University of Arizona has a website entitled "Center for creative arts" and can be found at http://www.ir.uair.arizona.edu/ccp/ They hold a collection of nearly 3000 images of Weston and the same for Ansel Adams. I had no intention of looking at Ansel Adams as my chosen photographer, but having now looked at his landscape work away from the famous Yosemite images I am once again drawn to him. Weston and Adams were of course good friends for many years and formed, with others the f64 group.
My route to Photography 2 was via APEL and while I am pleased that my previous work and experience satisfied the requirements of the university I still consider that there is a need to read this book and cement together some of the exercises that I would have encountered in The Art of Photography. In addition, Michael Freeman often refers to these in the Landscape course text and makes the assumption that you will have done the level 1 course. The book is by no means basic, if that is what is implied by being level 1. I don't intend to read it from cover to cover, but I am dipping in and out to chapters that look of particular interest and where Freeman refers me to TAOP exercises. Design basics and graphic elements have always been of particular interest to me. Working in civil engineering I see shapes and lines in every aspect of the built environment and take this further into the world of natural history and landscape. Looking at these chapters, remembering the concepts and taking them into the field is not always easy. Photography, like any design process, (architecture, civil engineering, naval architecture and structural design) has the ability to return output, that without recourse to any formulae either looks good or bad. The old saying "If it looks right then it probably is" is certainly how I make my final edit and selection of work. We cannot of course rely entirely upon intuition and Freeman talks about this in Chapter 6 describing how Andre Kertesz "was simply not interested in examining his own process". Others (Ansel Adams, Walker Evans, Edward Weston etc) did and I am inclined to think that their approach to refinement is more appropriate. I gain some comfort from Edward Weston who wrote " that for photography, landscape was too chaotic.... to crude and lacking in arrangement". A comment like this from someone like Weston is comforting, when I cannot find that elusive composition. Weston however intrigues me.
Landscape within - David Ward
This book is not amongst the list of recommended reading, but is by one of the UK's leading contemporary landscape photographers. The book is not written for those who want a "how to" book in the general sense, although one chapter does talk of some useful techniques.This book is of course about landscape photography, but asks the reader to consider it at a deeper level. Photography of the landscape is investigated through Ward's love of writing (and some stunning photographs) and questions our motives for landscape photography. In the introduction he states " What you need to cultivate first and foremost in photography is, I believe, your vision; you need to train yourself to really see, not just glance around you but to concentrate totally on your surroundings". I have taken this thought with me when shooting, and try to slow down the tempo, look closer, look deeper, sit, stand longer before either taking a shot or moving on. Ward also asks us to look closer at the landscape, not macro photography, but what is closer to your feet, what is all around us but often ignored. Within this closer world lies an opportunity to photograph an intimate landscape that will produce a unique image. Once again, these thoughts travel with me when out shooting, hindered only by my ability to match my expectation with results. A book I will read and re read from cover to cover.
Edward Weston - His Life by Ben Maddow
I find Edward Weston's work interesting although sometimes difficult to see as a body of work, due to the diverse subject matter he works with. This nagging away in my head and the need to produce some assignment work later based upon a photographer from a short list, I came across this biography. The book is heavy going, mainly because the author is mixing his own text with the day books/journals of Weston to tell the story and having only got part way through the whole picture is not easy to interpret.I think I would prefer to read a biography or just the day books. I am of course (at this juncture) interested in his landscape work and this as yet has not been covered. I do need to continue with this, get some more books (although the large image books seem rare and second hand cost £100) and really get to the bottom of this man. My alternative is to park up Weston, concentrate of Fay Godwin for the assignments (perceived as easier to emulate etc) and maybe come back to him later. There is no need to abandon this yet as this will not be relevant for at least 3 months.
The need for images has never been greater. Spring has now arrived, although it was -2c last night and the Assignment 1 must be shot. This process continues, but during time at the PC I have wandered into a number of possibilities in presentation, style, post process etc.most of which can be left alone or at least returned to for other uses. This photograph I am unsure about. I am not convinced that it has any merit but I keep coming back to it. I publish it here so that it is easier to look at outside the context of CS3 and maybe that will help.
Project 5 explores the possibilities of a single subject and requires a variety of composition and view point, using the same lens. For this exercise I had originally shot a series at Caste Acre Priory, but later rejected these on the grounds of insufficient variety. The location for the series below is Bawsey St James church. The only remains of a village dating to the Anglo Saxon period and visited by Channel 4 Time Team in March 1999.
To shoot the series I used the D3 with a 35mm f1.4 manual focus lens. The day was an amazingly clear Spring day without a cloud in the sky. Clouds would have offered some interest in the otherwise plain blue, however due to the small physical size of the church, the silhouette against a plain sky allows the subject to remain the centre of interest, even when at a distance.
The road leading up the small hill has a S shape curve and is fenced both sides with simple post and wire. The choices here are explored in Photographs 1 - 5. The church remains small in the frame and the emphasis is on the road and fence. Small changes in viewpoint had a major impact on composition. The horizon with its curved line allowed me to balance the composition with a number of options. Position of the horizon once again being important. Large foregrounds only work when there is some interest by way of texture or detail. Although similar in many respects they all have sufficient differences to allow further selection.
No 6 takes an entirely simplistic form, allowing the church to move to the centre and reduces the foreground. The overt amount of plain sky is always going to happen with a vertical format and the small foreground. In this instance the sky with its natural gradation to very deep blue is important as it offers balance and adds to the symmetry.
For No 7 and 8 I have moved in closer and we see more of the detail of the building, especially in No 8, where the frame is filled and the aspect ration changed a small amount to allow the building fit in the frame, and form a tighter composition.
For No 10 I moved down the slope and deliberately put the main subject out of focus, by limiting the depth of field. The small flower becoming the point of interest.
In No 11 and 13 I moved away by a considerable distance. No 11 is perhaps not the strongest of images, but is included for that purpose. No 13 reduces the church to almost a spec on the horizon. The strong diagonal of the river takes over and actually leads the eye away from the building, so again, while interesting, and fulfilling the brief to the maximum, is of little use.
In normal practice it is unlikely that I would be working with only one lens. However for the project that was all I was allowed (the choice which one was mine), and to a degree it was interesting. This coupled with the choice and availability of viewpoints, created some shots that were more novelty than useful and that explains the omission of some photographs from the numbering sequencing. The lack of lens choice was crucial and knowing that no changes could be made once I had started, took the emphasis away from the camera, and I spent more time having to think about opportunity and viewpoint.
During the last few weeks I have laid on my stomach too may times to produce low viewpoint photographs. Its dirty, wet and people around you think you are mad. The answer is a right angle finder. The DR-5 fits to the D3 eyepiece and allows me to use the camera in a altogether more dignified way when working below waist height. It will also be useful in the studio when the camera is being used above the subject. Being comfortable when shooting, whether its warm dry clothes, heat in the studio or just simply having to be a contortionist makes a huge contribution to the quality of my work and this will be a good investment.
I took some time today to look at HDR and Tone Mapping. Michael Freeman has an interesting section on his website and it seemed the time to have a look at a technique that has become fashionable in recent months. I had looked at HDR a while ago, and used CS3 with absolutely no success. The results were horrible, and as I had no immediate need for the technique I had left it alone. A while ago I had to shoot some hotel room interiors with a massive DR. In that instance I had made 2 exposures, laid one over the other and with a mask and soft brush blended the two as one. The result again was not that good. So, with Landscapes on the agenda, and the possibility of future difficult interiors I returned to the subject.
Photomatix is specialist software for this purpose and seems to offer plenty of control, for "normal" HDR output. I say normal because much of what I have seen in the past has a "painterly" look that cinematographers are using in film making where CGI is involved. All I want is the ability to overcome the constraints of the CCD in my camera. Most CCDs can only see about 4.5 stops of DR. The human eye can adjust itself to see a range of 24 stops.
HDR software uses a number ( say 5 for most situations) of frames of the same image, all with a different exsposure and combines them as one. Typically the bracketed frames will be at -2, -1, 0, +1, +2 stops.
I had taken a few bracketed sequences of Castlerigg Stone Circle, but only 3, -1, 0, +1
This image is my first attempt and in monochrome.
Notes for future work:-
Use the 5 shot auto bracket set up from -2 to +2 and shoot on high speed multi frame setting. If not, as the clouds move there are issues with registering the images.
Always use A priority so that shutter speed is varied and not f stop. This ensures constant depth of field and in focus elements are easier to register.
Always use the tripod.
Continue to use the ND graduated filters as these will help the highlights.
The watermarks are due to it being a trial version