Thursday, 19 May 2011

Taking time out.

Despite a recession my business is booming and my clients require more and more of my time. These are Blue Chip companies with large important projects and it is essential that I concentrate on this. When I do get the odd half day to do some photography my mind is elsewhere. There are always residual thoughts going through my head and the photography is compromised. With this in mind I have contacted the OCA and agreed a 1 year deferment. The relief is tangible, and I will continue where possible to shoot the projects and assignments as time permits, but without forcing the outcome. My photography is important to me and it is important that the work I do for this course is of the highest standard I can achieve, and not a compromise in order to meet a deadline.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Landscape Photography - Learning - not sure

During the last month I have moved up a gear and made an effort to get on top of some projects. The second Lake District visit may have helped and a few evenings out at sunset and dusk have bagged a few images that will make useful photographs to illustrate the project writing. Some of the projects that on the surface appear rather benign can be quite interesting after a while, although what I am not getting though is any sort of WOW factor. The techniques are good to practice, but so far I am doing nothing new, not discovering anything and therefore wondering whether I am actually learning anything here that I couldn't have learnt by buying the various Martin Freeman books and pursuing my love of photography with regular shoots, book buying and gallery visits. In short carrying on as before. I now find myself doing less of the photography that I enjoy (architecture, wildlife, studio still life) and more of the course work, which is not my cup of tea it seems. The assignments are a different issue. I am enjoying them and the results seem to get a 50/50 vote from my tutor and I feel they extend me, make me think and make me angry with myself. That is probably why I am working on assignment 4 and 5 while only managing project 12 to 20.

All in all, its a struggle. Not because I don't understand that when you point your camera at the Sun it fools the meter, or that moonlight is in fact reflected daylight, or that clouds enliven the sky, or you can use a smaller aperture and longer shutter speed when using a tripod etc etc. Its because the gain is not not equal to the pain. As I said the practice in these various techniques is good (in a similar way that a pilots license requires you to perform some basic tests every now and again, to prove your basic level of competency) although was more relevant with a film camera. Digital has removed all of the doubt about exposure and it is now easier in that environ to ensure good results, especially when shooting into the Sun and at dusk. I also quite understand my tutor reading this and say "well if its easy why isn't your work better" and that is a fair comment. I have started to use 5x4 film for some work, not because the course requires it, really out of a sense of frustration, towards making it more interesting (and more relevant) with camera movements and the added techniques that need to be learned and added to my work flow, using a high end scanner.

Landscape photography is an awesome subject (similar to history, theres so much of it) and when I am shooting I love it. Shooting project 34 for instance (using a graduated filter) just to prove a point, when I have used a ND grad in many photographs already will seem like a chore rather than a useful learning experience. I will of course do it, one needs the marks.

The "learning" is not coming from the projects.

The real "learning" is with my reading. There is no better feeling than not being able to put down a book, when you are hooked on the authors every word. The freshness of finding for the first time a new idea, the discovery of a new photographer, the opportunity to look at their work, stimulating and exhausting. Maybe I will not do very well when it comes to marks (poor projects) but I will have gained what I need,  knowledge.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Contre-jour - Projects 20. 21.22

The Lake District visit in February didn't produce images of note largely due to the weather and strong winds. It was, as always though enjoyable as a spectator. I have just returned from another 4 days just outside Keswick and the weather has been fabulous. Good light, no wind, longer days and temperatures above 20c all conducive to being able to bag a few projects and start Assignment 5.

Project 13 - throughout the day
Project 14 - changing light / changing views
Project 20 - sun stars and diffraction
Project 21 - silhouettes and reflections
Project 22 - positioning the sun
Project 23 - soft light

The ones I have missed seem to require me getting up at dawn, which is fine during the working week but not on holiday, so they will come later.

The course folder was referred to from time to time and I am pleased that some work was done and after a week or so I will return to the Raw files and start some PP work and write them up.

Assignment 5 : in the style of an influential photographer, was also on the agenda and the 5x4 was included in the kit for the trip to work on the Edward Weston style.

363 digital files, 12 5x4 negatives and optimism by the bucket full.

So far, this seems to have been a rather positive trip and working towards a number of useful milestones. In reality it was one of the hardest I have ever done. Not that the photography is overwhelmingly difficult (its not that easy either) but all I wanted to do was be a tourist. I walked the 4.5 miles around Buttermere without a camera. I just didn't have the mental state to bother about photography. My indulgence was just to enjoy the vistas, the moss on the trees, the rotting logs in the forest, the lichen, the ferns, the lambs, the other walkers, the ice cream van at Gatesgarth and be a tourist. So often I have found myself missing out on the experience because of the constant requirement to photography. In the afternoon we made our way back to Keswick and did the lake tour. Again no camera, just the enjoyment of being there with no pressure to take the picture of "child with ice cream" or whatever. This non photography day may have resulted in no images but it didnt prevent me thinking about my work in hand. As a photographer your eye constantly sees shape, texture, light and shade. The seeds of new ideas are sown and will be gathered later, so while there is a temptation to constantly be looking through a view finder (because we might miss something) I now feel I will spend more time observing and run the chance of missing an awesome "now" moment for my longer term ambitions.

The non photography period was not repeated, I had "lanced the boil" so to speak and on the last day (29th April) I started on the Edward Weston assignment. The slow, detailed approach using the view camera is so rewarding. The constant re evaluation of the composition, the focus plane adjustments, incident light meter readings supplemented by some spot readings and other minor adjustments become therapy rather than a chore. You check 10 times that the lens is closed before you withdraw the dark slide and then as quickly as possible (the light may change) you make the exposure, turn over the slide and slip it back in. Then all over again you ponder whether to make another, perhaps half a stop darker, and so it goes on. The negatives and transparencies are to go away next week and then the joy of the light box. These images are cherished, handled with white cotton gloves on their way to the scanner and feel a part of you as you can remember every moment in their making.
Wista 5x4 Field Camera in use on Gitzo Tripod

EDIT - Some time later after some editing.

Contre jour - against the daylight is featured in three projects (20,21,22) and I am not seperating them to any great degree as they all seem to cover similar ground.

Primarily this is when the camera is pointed directly at the sun to achieve a particular effect. My own preferences here are that I do not like this technique that much. The photographs tend to be dominated by the technique and suffer with poor tonal range, not easily dealt with on a digital platform.

Project 20 - Sun Stars and diffraction.

24mm f32

This straight into the sun image was shot at f32 on a wide angle lens and shows the maximum sun star. The resulting image is extremely back lit with very dark shadows. Recovery by PP is not possible without there being obvious manipulation. The sun star effect is at its maximum due to the very WA lens and the small aperture. A normal or telephoto lens cpupled with a large aperture (say f2) would reduce the effect to near nil.

Project 21 - Silhouettes and reflections

The Silhouette (named after Etienne de Silhouette) is a photographic method whereby the person of object is full tone black against a single colour or tone. In landscape photography this is generally a tree or building and is used as an effect rather than any other reason.

In the example below I have included a foreground shadow silhouette to enhance the image of the trees. Careful positioning of the sun behind a tree darkens the shaow and creates the classic silhouette.