Thursday, 17 November 2011

Assignment 5 - Making Images - Making Prints

The assignment requires 12 photographs in the style of Edward Weston. Most of the images were shot during the summer and autumn of 2011 on the island of Menorca, around a small piece of coast at Cala de Sant Esteve and near Favoritz lighthouse with two from other locations. These quiet areas on the South East and East corner of the island are regular places for me to photograph when I am on the island as they provide some unique opportunities. While there I constantly quized myself about Weston and how would he photograph here. There are some similarities with Point Lobos, California although they are tenuous. They are by the sea, there is rock, the sun in the summer is high and intense. Weston's style had changed during the pre war years. He became interested in shape and form within the landscape, looking closely around his feet with the occasional vista. I needed to find images at these locations through the eyes of Weston. Technique was an issue. Weston used a view camera, which gave him movement of the lens and film plane. I have a 5x4 field camera but the logistics of getting film through x ray machines at airports makes it too difficult to use overseas. I had part of the solution with a 24mm tilt/shift lens for my Nikon but this looked too wide for Weston, and I was conscious that the 1:1.5 ratio of my camera was wrong for Weston as he worked with 1:1.25 using either a 5x4 or 10x8. Cropping to 1:1.25 would take place later in processing. I am wondering at this stage, while standing on a rock in the baking heat of mid June whether I am taking some of this too far. To work in the style of Weston ?, does that mean go back to the 1940's or bring Weston to today, would his style be different because he has a Nikon in his hand ?.

However, images were taken and back in the UK, editing, selection, processing, printing has to take place. My first hurdle is to remove my style for the output and final set of prints. This posting is being written during the processing (hence the rather fragmented words) and I am constantly finding myself selecting files that I think will work, only to question, would EW pick that one, I doubt it and move on.
As an example:

Old Army Building - La Mola - Menorca - 2011

Old Army Building at La Mola is the type of photograph I am happy to make. I like the shape of the building, how it sits within the rather barren landscape, its isolation ( it may have been an explosives store) and the cloud shape. I have gone towards Weston in changing the aspect ratio and I have toned it with a tritone, to mimic the colour of the prints that the chemistry of 1940 produced.

But, I don't think it is a "Weston".  There is shape (the building has symmetry and perspective), texture (in the sky and the building) and the foreground is strong and supportive, but for Weston I think it would be a tadge superficial. Weston is more intimate with the landscape, he wants you to feel as if you can touch it. The generic style of Weston at this time is Modern Realism, he had met Alfred Stieglitz in 1922 and had joined Willard Van Dyke and Ansel Adams and others in the infamous Group f/64 during 1933 and all of his work in the 1940's is of that style. Modern Realism and Group f/64 wasn't only about "realism" it was realism with a style, not relying wholly on technique.

Another example: slightly darker tone.

Log on Rocks - Favoritz - Menorca - 2011

Log on Rocks is a probable for selection into the 12. There is more of Weston in here by way of texture and shape and its intimacy. The light is soft and allows me to see all the detail among the rock, its angularity and its roundness. There is a lot to look at and it engages the eye at many levels while the viewer can explore. The geology is interesting and varied and the log is clearly driftwood, so contextualises the scene as being near the sea. Weston was a craftsman in the darkroom. He would spend hours retouching and it is clear from his daybooks and his images that his skill with dodging and burning is a contribution to his style and his success. My work here does not include that much using of the dodging or burning tools within PS. I prefer to make layers with lasso area adjustments and use curves, selective colour, levels and vibrance.
For local small areas the history brush, with a tablet and pen using various blending modes. In particular for this image, Colour Dodge, Colour Burn and Soft Light.

During the processing constant reference is made to the Soft Proof image. For the paper I am using this tends to lighten the image very slightly and reduces the contrast.

Prints for my tutor are being sized at 12.5 inch x 10 inch.


Now on the second set, first set were oversharpened and the tone was poor. They are printed from a roll printer and this induces a slight curl. They need to be mounted on some light card (lucky that my office / studio is next door to a office supply company). Freeman suggests this assignment should take 60 hrs, well maybe it could but I seem to have entered an iterative state and cant get the result.


  1. Interesting reading Nigel. Have you settled on a paper yet? And, in your research did you find out if Weston favoured any particular paper/dev' combination? I'd also be interested in how you've fixed the curling print to the card - I have used Spraymount (I think that was what it was called), but not very successfully.

  2. John, The tutor versions are on HO everyday satin with the gloss enhancer on. I may use something more luxurious if I reprint them for assessment.
    I didnt find anything relevant on Westons materials. Spraymount is OK, but I like dry mounting tissue as its cleaner.

  3. I've spent a little time looking into this and it's quite fascinating. We talk of the scarcity of silver gelatine paper and chemicals now, but Weston and his ilk had similar problems with papers (especially) being discontinued on a regular basis. Silver Chloride appears to be a favourite, which can still be obtained, though very expensive) and processed with Amidol, produces the warmth of tone that Weston enjoyed.

  4. Your eye for detail Nigel is quite something...and I'm sure it will pay off in the final results. I found the 'in the style of' assignment quite a challenging balance between trying to get your output authentic yet retaining your own style and approach...also Weston's era was so different to ours...I look forward to seeing the results.

  5. I am still not sure Penny and I might be barking up the wrong tree. My Westonish photographs are how I would expect him to portray the areas I went to. The scenario being " Hey Edward, if you can drag yourself away from Charis, how about I take you to Favoritz lighthouse and we take some photographs" and these are the outcome. The outcome, whether its a good tutor report or not is that I have grown to like EW and will continue after this to read him.