Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Henri Cartier-Bresson

Introduction: My tutor suggested I look at the work of this eminent photographer in attempt to inspire me to introduce some spontaneity and humanity into my own work. I borrowed from the library, a large tome of his work introduced by Yves Bonnefoy. I will start by reproducing what Cartier-Bresson wrote on describing his photography.
L’imaginaire d’apres` nature
“For me, the camera is a sketch-book, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to give meaning to the world, one must feel involved in what one singles out through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, sensitivity, a discipline of mind and a sense of geometry.
It is through economy of means and above all by forgetting ones-self that one arrives at simplicity of expression.
To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It is at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.
For me photography is to place heart and eye along the same line of sight. – It is a way of life.”
I’ve looked through the book and chosen 5 images that I really like. I’m not sure if I can find the pictures on the web and link to them but if I can, I will. The book offers no information on the images other than a list of captions.
1. This is plate one in the book and is entitled; “Barrio Chino, Barcelona 1933”
This made me smile the instant I opened the book. I needs no further explanation other than CB responded with the spontaneity that anyone carrying a camera would have. Perfect juxtaposition. Totally unrelated to the context of the photograph – looking at the drawing, I am reminded of the cowboy doll Woody from Disney’s Toy Story.
2. Plate seven in the book is entitled “Academician on his way to a ceremony at Notre Dame 1953”. The photograph shows three onlookers watching as an elderly gentleman dressed in a cape and plumed hat climbs into a taxi. More interesting than the academician, are the three onlookers. Their expressions show they are looking into the rear of the taxi at something or somebody we cannot see. A curious somewhat bemused gaze. Several questions arise; is this merely a queue at the taxi rank, is this a well known and respected figure that has drawn a crowd of well wishers or curious gawkers? The man in the beret on the left is wearing a dark stripe on his left lapel. Is he in mourning? His coat is well worn with an odd button. He has his right hand in his coat pocket and his left arm behind his back. He is standing with his feet apart. Does he have some sort of authority? The second man has a cigarette and is just about to strike a match. The third man’s stance and facial expression leads me to think he has just stepped into the foreground to look into the taxi. Up to this point I have not searched for any information about this image…….
The information about the photo which, is in the V&A collection, is as follows; “Black and white photograph of an elderly academician in ceremonial dress seen in profile, about to get into a taxi. To the left is a line of workers watching the man.”
3. “Rue Mouffetard, Paris, 1954” in the caption for plate 140. It shows a young boy about 8 or 9 years old, cradling a large bottle of wine in each arm, walking towards the camera, head held high with a cocky expression on his face. Several other children seem to be following him with excited curiosity, maybe anticipating a potential disaster or just enjoying his obvious pleasure and self importance………
Apparently, Cartier-Bresson showed up at the boy's 50th birthday party; they had kept in touch over the years. When he opened the door, Cartier-Bresson stood there cradling a magnum of wine in each arm.
4. “Barcelona, 1933” is plate 151. It shows an elderly woman walking past a mural on a long wall on which there is painted the rear view of a male and female figure. The female is holding aloft a furled parasol or umbrella in her right hand.. The walking woman holds a handbag in her left hand. Her right hand is held up to the right side of her head as if she has been struck. Again, perfect juxtaposition and spontaneity. Sold by Sotheby's London in 2007 for £12000. I like it but not that much.
5. The last image is plate 3 in the book and shows a man sitting on the curb in an alley, apparently talking to a cat. It is entitled “Downtown, New York, 1947”. The buildings soar above the seated figure and passing pedestrians can be seen two blocks down. To me, this signifies isolation, solitude, maybe loneliness in a city.

Further Reading, Colin O'Brien and Vivian Maier
Both of these photographers are of the film and (mostly) black and white era of photography. As I grew up in this era (post war 50s and 60s) for me they have a nostalgic quality as well as being a social documentary.

Colin O’Brien has a particular resonance being British. Although he started making photographs a year before I was born, I can recognise a lot in his photographs. I too started making contact prints from a Kodak Brownie in a frame with a kit I was given as a present at the age of 14. (Remember Johnsons of Hendon?) Unfortunately it was to be another 40 years before I got into a proper darkroom and made enlargements from my negatives. I liked the everyday life patterns of his pictures, almost unremarkable subjects at the time but now as a historical record, they take on a new significance. There are similar subjects in our family albums, relatives and events of the past. Not as skilfully photographed but valuable as a record none the less.

I first heard a about Vivian Maier in a documentary film (probably on YouTube, from a link on the OCA Student Forums). Being American and photographing in New York and Chicago makes her subjects seem vaguely exotic. I’ve never been to either place in reality but we all have the Hollywood/Newsreel version of the United States in our heads. What Maier’s images show to me is that at the same time as Colin O’Brien was photographing in London, life was being lived by ordinary working people across the Atlantic in New York and Chicago. The Americans may have appeared more affluent but Maier’s photos also hint that life was not a bed of roses for everyone.

I think street photography is a marvellous genre but I don’t think could ever succeed at it. I can do the candid shots, either by taking pot luck with framing and looking away from the subject while pressing the shutter, or hiding away with a long lens. However, I think the best shots are those in which the subject has engaged with the photographer and you can see a response in their eyes. Either contempt, compliance or indifference. I would have trouble coping with the contempt. I’ve watched a videos of Bruce Guilden and Joel Meyerowitz working in New York. My skin is not that thick!

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Part 5 Narrative and Illustration – Project: Illustration

Exercise: Rain

The brief for this exercise was to produce a single photograph illustrating “rain”. I have developed an idea I put forward in part four and used raindrops on a window but this time I have used the specular highlights of distant street lights and traffic signals as a background abstraction while focusing on the droplets on the glass. I think this works particularly well especially with the green traffic light. I have to admit to providing the “rain” myself with a misting bottle. I waited but the rain didn’t come at the right time. I used a portrait format as it was intended for a cover page with space above and below for titles and copy.
8951: 13s f5.6 130mm ISO200 White Balance Auto, tripod mounted
Conclusion: I think this image works very well even as an abstract. Though the colours are mainly warm, I do get a feeling of cold and damp and being glad I’m on the inside.
That is the final exercise for this section. It will be some time before I can undertake the final assignment (Jan 2012) I am planning to complete some of the recommended reading and write up some notes. I may also attempt some practice assignments which I will add to my blog, just in case my final assignment does not work out for any reason.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Course Reading “The Photograph” by Graham Clarke

I have finally finished reading this book. It has taken me nearly a year. I have only understood about half of the text. Written by an academic, for academics, the language is very obscure. I was constantly referring to a dictionary. For an author with such a large vocabulary, Clark’s constant use of the words “indeed” and “thus” was irritating. I learned much more from watching the excellent Genius of Photography series (my learning style is audio/visual/kinesthetic) and a lot of Clarke’s book became clear as a result.
It was not all bad though, in conjunction with the TV series, I learned a lot about the history of photography,  the development of the different genres and the way in which the medium has changed and is perceived in modern (today’s) society. What I didn’t understand was how so much indifferent photography can be accepted as art just because the so called artist or critic strings together a lot of big words and vague notions. I’m not saying the work has no validity, if the photographer believes in it, that’s its own validation. I just find it incredible that so many people seem to fall for it. If a photograph needs too much wordy explanation then perhaps the “artist” should become a writer or poet.
Cleverly, the whole gist of the book can be summarised by the penultimate sentence “…….the photograph is, in the end, open to endless meanings.” The flyleaf describes Clark’s book as a “clear and incisive account”. Not for me. While the book does communicate successfully in some areas, it obfuscates equally in others.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Part 5 Narrative and Illustration – Project: Illustration by Juxtaposition

Exercise: Juxtaposition 1

I chose a fairly routine example for the juxtaposition example of the project. At my work in a Learning Centre, I quite often photograph students being presented  with their certificates of achievement. On this occasion, my colleague Allyson is pictured with a recently presented award. Normally these photos are made with the department’s compact digital camera in a fairly predictable way. I have used my DSLR and posed Allyson at a desk surrounded by all of the paraphernalia of “e-learning”. I removed the glass from the certificate frame to avoid reflections. I have lit the scene with window light from the left and fill-in flash from my on-camera flashgun. I have included both landscape and portrait orientations.
8864: 1/60s f5  ISO 400 40mm, Flash bounced  from white ceiling.

8862: As above but lens at 32mm
Conclusion: This was a fairly straightforward exercise and although it was interesting to do, I didn’t find it much of a challenge. I will include the book cover illustration still life option too. That will be my next post.

Exercise: Juxtaposition 2

I’ve had a bit of fun with this one. I’ve started off by doing a bit of beachcombing down on the Sussex coast to see if I could find anything interesting to photograph. Within 45 minutes I had collected an assortment of string, plastic, seaweed and a Polish beer can. I bought it all home and decided reproduce a beach set for a still life using a bag of pebbles that I had bought for the garden, some shells I had collected over the years and a blue cotton backdrop to represent the sky. I thought the bright saturated colours would add impact to a magazine cover for a fictional periodical. I added some text to put the image into context.
Lighting set up:
As shown below; two soft boxes, one above the set, the other to the left of the camera. An additional foil reflector was hand held to the right of the set to improve the highlighting of the bucket.

8895: 1/125s f29 ISO200 32mm Manual mode, WB: Flash
The final image was laid out using MS Publisher and saved as a .jpeg image.
Although this mock up was a bit of fun, there is a serious message here about plastics in the oceans. The sheer volume out there is staggering and the impact on wildlife can be horrendous. See more here:

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Part 5 Narrative and Illustration – Project: Narrative

Exercise: Evidence of Action.

The object of this exercise is to produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened. I discounted the suggestion of something broken or empty. Instead I went out for a walk, hoping to find evidence in nature. To be honest, I had something in mind and was not disappointed and came across two situations, both grisly in which something has clearly happened:
DSC_8850_edit01_web DSC_8851_edit01_web
The first, a predator, probably a fox has killed a bird and made off with most of the corpse. The second was the remains of a deer which appears to have become trapped by the  antlers in sheep netting and perished while trying to get free. Of the two, I have chosen the first as it is enigmatic and poignant while the second is overwhelmingly macabre and has little implied movement in the composition.
8850: 1/125s f5.6 31mm ISO800

Illustration: The learning notes made reference to concepts which are abstract and need imaginative treatment when put forward in a photograph. Such ideas would include; happiness, love, wealth, poverty, anger, satisfaction and envy. The symbols listed for protection were fairly comprehensive and I couldn’t think of any more obvious ones. Symbols for growth would include plants, trees bearing fruit, different size money piles or bags (financial growth), babies, children and adults together, spawn, tadpoles and frogs, tree rings buds and flowers.
Exercise: Symbols
For this exercise I have to list symbols (more than one) which could represent growth, excess, crime silence and poverty.
Growth: see the list above. In a photograph, I can see a quadrant section of a tree trunk with prominent rings, superimposed over it would be the objects at differing stages of development in a chronological progression from the centre outwards.
Excess: (greed?) Symbols for excess could include shows of ostentatious wealth, large buildings, cars, boats, aircraft, all of the symbols of wealth, gold, silver, jewellery – bad taste. Excess could also be depicted with over stacked supermarket shelves, the results of excess in a lifestyle, drunkenness, obesity and related  health problems. For a photograph I can see a juxtaposition of any of these symbols with symbols of poverty (see below)
Crime: Obvious ones, police fighting crime, jails, prison bars, handcuffs, arrested criminals, scales of justice, courts, scenes of devastation (property and human) resulting from crimes, misery, desolation. In a photograph; an anguished face (victim), a desolate criminal  alone in a cell.
Silence: Index finger pressed against the lips is the classic symbol, in some cultures a rose can replace the finger. A period of silence marks respect and silent prayer. In a picture, still water can represent silence. In a photograph, sitting or standing figures with heads bowed and eyes closed are redolent of silence. Empty streets and low sunlight, long shadows invoke a feeling of peace, perhaps silence.
Poverty: Sadly there are too many. An empty bowl, an emaciated child, ragged clothes, tin shanty houses, bare feet (in context) In a photograph any single one or a combination of these would symbolise poverty.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Reading a photograph – background notes from reading Camera Lucida by Roland Barthes

I decided to read this book as I have seen references to it in the OCA Student Forum and other texts on the course reading list in relation to the reading of a photograph. It was hard work. I'm not sure if it was because of the translation from French or, more likely, my lack of experience of the language and concepts of philosophy. Luckily, it is mercifully short.

What did I gather from the book? I made some notes.
The two ideas from the book most often quoted in connection to the reading of photographs are:
Studium: described variously as, the field of cultural interest, a kind of general enthusiastic commitment. The studium is passive.
Punctum: wound or impact, an unexpected flash, a sting, speck, hole, a little cut. Allows for the formation of a critical reading, it enables an active reading of the scene.

From Graham Clarke's book, The Photograph:
Clarke refers to Barthes's assertion that the photograph is a transparent envelope.
...misplaced assertion that the closer we look at a photograph, the more we see.
…when we look at a photograph we see something that no longer exists. The moment has passed.
...When Barthes declared that "photography evades us" and is "unclassifiable" , he alerted us to the paradox of something seemingly so obvious and yet so problematic.

I found this summary from Wikipedia:

Photography and Henriette Barthes
Throughout his career, Barthes had an interest in photography and its potential to communicate actual events. Many of his monthly myth articles in the 50s had attempted to show how a photographic image could represent implied meanings and thus be used by bourgeois culture to infer ‘naturalistic truths’. But he still considered the photograph to have a unique potential for presenting a completely real representation of the world. When his mother, Henriette Barthes, died in 1977 he began writing Camera Lucida as an attempt to explain the unique significance a picture of her as a child carried for him. Reflecting on the relationship between the obvious symbolic meaning of a photograph (which he called the studium) and that which is purely personal and dependent on the individual, that which ‘pierces the viewer’ (which he called the punctum), Barthes was troubled by the fact that such distinctions collapse when personal significance is communicated to others and can have its symbolic logic rationalized. Barthes found the solution to this fine line of personal meaning in the form of his mother’s picture. Barthes explained that a picture creates a falseness in the illusion of ‘what is’, where ‘what was’ would be a more accurate description. As had been made physical through Henriette Barthes's death, her childhood photograph is evidence of ‘what has ceased to be’. Instead of making reality solid, it reminds us of the world’s ever changing nature. Because of this there is something uniquely personal contained in the photograph of Barthes’s mother that cannot be removed from his subjective state: the recurrent feeling of loss experienced whenever he looks at it. As one of his final works before his death, Camera Lucida was both an on-going reflection on the complicated relations between subjectivity, meaning and cultural society as well as a touching dedication to his mother and description of the depth of his grief.

Now, having read the book and understood at least this much of it, I was pleased, on reflection to suddenly find a connection to a question in my mind that has been there ever since I read the chapter "How do we read a photograph?" in Graham Clarke's book.
The question was; if we view an seemingly ordinary photograph cold, i.e. with no information of the of the author or of his intent, is our reading of the image more, or less correct or valid than his? And is it right to colour our perceptions with our own experience, or hold back in our interpretation knowing that the photographer's experience and emotions may , in all probability , override our own if they become known to us?
By way of illustration, take a look at the following image:

You might say," interesting sky, reasonable composition, looks like a monument to the poet Tennyson, the empty seat could indicate absence (of the poet, long dead) and the railings, preservation or protection of his memory. If you are a meteorologist , you may interpret the cloud formations.
On the surface, a picture with some narrative given the limited information available. If we add a bit more information and confirm that this is indeed the Tennyson Memorial on the Down that bears his name at Freshwater on the Isle of Wight not much changes unless you equate the sense of place with Tennyson and his contemporary Julia Margaret Cameron. If I add the photographer's name; Richard Down, it will mean nothing because neither I, nor my work are known to any significant number of people.
But this image has an emotional significance (to me) beyond the obvious, so much so, that it has hung above my desk ever since. It is probably the first image that I have made where I can recall exactly how I was feeling at the time, why and how I chose the viewpoint I did . For you to share some of that emotion, I can tell you the date: 12th September 2001. The narrative now changes from what you can read from the photograph to what I now tell you about the circumstances of its making and why it means so much to me.
Still numb after the shock and horror of the previous day's events and not having slept well, I planned a walk from the hotel in Freshwater where we were staying, along the Downs to the Needles walking east to west.  As I walked past the monument, the sky ahead to the west was filled with the dark clouds of approaching rain. In my mind at that time I saw them as a metaphor for the terrorist threat approaching us from the west.  I happened to turn and looked at the sky to the east with these very different cloud formations as a backdrop to the monument. The scene was a distinct contrast and I was compelled to photograph it, not only to record it but to capture the sense of optimism for the future. That was my immediate response and I made the image with very little thought beyond that initial spark.
To me, this picture of a monument has itself become a monument to the events of that day in 2001. The empty seat marks the absence of the thousands who have died on that day and since, as a consequence of those events. That is my personal reading.
To return to my question, has your reading of the photograph changed having read my explanation?
From the highlighted section above, I’m not sure that I agree with Barthes. (assuming of course that I have understood his argument)  Having communicated my punctum, I don’t feel it has been lost (to me) or diminished. Subsequent personal events have reinforced the emotional attachment I have to this image, symbolising as it does, remembrance, absence and optimism. 

Part 5 Narrative and Illustration – Project: Narrative, continued

Exercise: A narrative picture essay – continued

I managed to research and plan this project fairly well but there were a few details which left my coverage of the events of the day a bit hit and miss. My idea was to cover the assembly of the procession, the judging and prize giving first, the parade next and to finish with the fireworks and bonfire. The judging was very low profile and although prize winners were announced over the PA system, I wasn’t sure when and where the prizes were given out so I missed that bit.
The most difficult part was selecting the photographs from the dozens that I made. I decided on six from the afternoon’s preparations, six from the parade after dark and just three of the bonfire and fireworks (It was raining by this time, as forecast)
I have arranged the selected images onto a couple of contact sheets with exposure details. (these are not a final selection and could change)

Liphook Carnival, Bonfire and Fireworks

My next task was to arrange the photographs in a interesting way to provide a narrative of the day. Using MS Publisher, I found it easy to resize, caption and position the images. I then saved them as .jpeg files so I could display them on this blog. My final selections are displayed as two images shown below.
Liphook Carnival and Fireworks
Liphook Carnival and Fireworks02
What did I learn from this exercise?: The most important lesson from this exercise was that you can never do too much planning. I gathered all of my information from the Carnival website and walk around the route. I think I would have been better prepared had I spoken to the organisers to find out about the judging. With regard to the fire works, a visit to the park in daylight may have given me a better idea of the best viewpoint for the firework display. I had my tripod set up out of the way but as you can see from the pictures, I had  a row of trees on the left of the frame. As mentioned above, editing over 100 images down to 15 for the essay was difficult. Arranging them effectively was also hard. I will  find out more about the design and layout of pages to make the task easier for future projects. Overall I think this is a reasonable first effort.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Part 5 Narrative and Illustration – Project: Narrative

Exercise: A narrative picture essay

I have chosen to record a local event, the Liphook Carnival and Fireworks on this coming Saturday 29th October. I have researched the afternoon/evening’s events on the website.
The website also has photographs from last year’s event so I have some idea what to expect. There is also a route map for the procession.
Schedule - during the evening:
Carnival night kicks off at 7.00pm so please get your spot early so you can see all the fun!
  • 5.30 pm All floats to be assembled by this time
  • 5.45 pm Judging of Floats, Push and Pull Vehicles and Adult Fancy Dress
  • 6.30 pm Entertainment in the square
  • 6.45 pm Crowning of the carnival queen in the square
  • 7.00 pm Procession moves off
  • 8.30 pm Procession returns through the square, bonfire and fireworks in Radford Park
I am planning to arrive in the late afternoon to record the assembly of the floats, judging and prize giving. If I can leg it fast enough to get to the square I’ll try to get to the crowning of the Carnival queen too. I’m going to drive the route on Friday afternoon to find a good spot to photograph the passing floats and a good vantage point for the bonfire and fireworks.
Most of  the event will take place after dark. I will use my flash gun (GN 42m @ ISO200 and variations according to lens focal length settings, automatically) I will try to use the lowest practical ISO settings. The weather forecast for the daytime is dry but cloudy with some rain in the evening. It could be an interesting event experience.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Light: Assignment 4 - Applying Lighting Techniques

 The Brief: To make about eight images of a portable object using different types of lighting to show the physical properties (form, shape, texture and colour) of the subject.
For this assignment I have chosen to photograph an old 35mm Voigtlander Vito folding camera. It has an interesting shape, differing textures but very little colour other than black and shades of silver-grey. I was given this camera by a friend in 1996 who inherited it from her father and although I put a film through it to check that it was working, I have not used it since. The model dates from 1953.
I have interpreted the  brief loosely and included other objects in some of the frames to add context, colour and to make the images more interesting. My intention is to produce two images for each of the physical properties listed. By introducing other elements to the photographs I hope that each will also provoke questions from the viewer and that they may see some narrative, either from the whole set or from at least some of  the individual images.
Form 01 (Photograph 3)
8278: 1/125s f32 75mm ISO1250 WB: Flash
The set was lit with a single 60cm soft box the the left at 45º and a large white reflector to the right. I wanted to get maximum depth of field so I increased the ISO setting sufficiently high to allow minimum aperture of f32. To add some context to the picture I have included some black and white prints and colour slides taken in the 1950s and 60s. This lighting gives a good indication of the form and an overall idea of the materials used in the manufacture. The camera looks heavy, solid and well made.

Form 02 (Photograph 4)
8282: 1/125s f32 62mm ISO1250 WB: Daylight
I chose to make the second photograph outside in bright sun against a blue sky to illustrate the conditions in which the camera was most likely to be used and in which it would perform at its best. I included my hand to show a human connection (as it would be in use) and a lower viewpoint to show a different aspect of its form.

Shape 01 (Photograph 5)
8352: 1/13s f32 200mm ISO200 WB: Daylight, tripod.
I have again used daylight to produce this partial silhouette. I placed a sheet of tracing paper over a sunlit window to diffuse the light. I have allowed some light to spill onto the camera as I felt that a totally black shape wouldn’t have enough interesting detail or information to make the shape identifiable as a folding camera with a rangefinder attached.

Shape 02 (Photograph 6)
8367: 1/13s f32 150mm ISO200 WB: Daylight, tripod
This shot was set up in a similar way the previous one. I was careful to include the light coming through the viewfinder and the rangefinder, although turning the camera through 90º on this occasion, the  spilled light was lost apart from the suggestion of a circle from the highlights on the edge of the lens hood.

Texture 01 (Photograph 7)
8399: 1/125s f32 75mm ISO100 WB: Flash, tripod
This photograph was made using a single flash head at 45º to the left of and at the same level as the camera. The texture of  the tooled leather back of the camera can be seen clearly with the maker’s name  stamped into it. It is also noticeable that this harsh side lighting has brought out some of the wear and tear that the camera has suffered over the years.

Texture 02 (Photograph 8)
8440: 1/125s f22 80mm (Macro) ISO100 WB: Flash, tripod
I had to soften the light with a diffuser (60cm soft box) for this shot and I have used a macro lens to get really close to enable me to show the differing  textures of the lens glass, the machined metal and the bellows. I have also been able to show even more of the wear, tear and age of the camera. The light was at 45º to the left of  the camera and above pointing 45º down.

Colour 01 (Photograph 1)
8446: 1/125s f20 105mm ISO100 BW: flash, tripod, black and white conversion
To emphasise the monochromatic nature of the camera, I have set it against a white backdrop and made a black and white conversion. The lighting is from a 60cm soft box at 45º to the left and above, with a large white reflector to the right. I have achieved even lighting which shows in the polished metal surfaces. This has had the effect of reducing the surface defects brought out by the harsh directional lighting previously. (Texture 01)

Colour 02 (Photograph 2)
8488: 1/125s f11 62mm ISO100 WB:flash
To contrast the image above, I have used a dark background and differential focusing to separate the two cameras and use colour to emphasise the difference that 58 years has made to the consumer camera market. The foreground is lit by a flash unit at 45º and on the same level, with barn doors to restrict the light to the immediate area of the camera. I have also used a diffuser to soften the light a bit.  The red camera in the background is lit with a honeycomb snoot from directly above.

Assignment 4: Conclusion I was aware at the at the start of this assignment that producing eight interesting photographs of a single object would be a challenge  By choosing this camera as my object, I was able to introduce some context to my images, i.e. a still life with some period photographs and some situations in which the camera could have appeared in use. I was also able to show the age and wear on the camera, it has been well used over many years. I was very pleased with the result of the black and white conversion. The lighting has the style and quality of a 1950/60s catalogue or advertising illustration. Finally, I have shown the camera with its mass market replacement, the digital compact.

Vito01               Vito02
As part of a future project, I may reload the Vito with film and try it out again.  Here are a couple of example scans of the test film 16 years ago.
Assignment 4 Tutor Feedback
*My tutor did not use the file names that I submitted with the images so I have appended the titles above with the reference he used in his report.
Once again I seem to have completed  the assignment in a competent manner from a technical perspective but I have missed something in my interpretation of the brief, treating it as a technical exercise on lighting. I wonder if  the assignment briefs should be a little more prescriptive as regards to what is expected? There is no doubt that I can produce images with humanity and spontaneity, it just didn’t occur to me in this instance. Perhaps my style is destined to be “strangely impersonal”
Will either edit or re-photograph the two “Shape” images and post them below.

Shape: I tried to edit these two images but in the end it was easier to re-photograph them using studio lighting. The prints I have made were conversions to black and white. The two images are below:

0068: Manual 1/125s f29 95mm ISO100


0086: Manual 1/125s f29 95mm ISO100


Sunday, 9 October 2011

Part 4 Light–Project: Photographic Lighting 2

Exercise: Contrast and shadow fill: This exercise will demonstrate how you can control the contrast with photographic lighting by using reflectors.
This still life was set up as described in the course notes, i.e. with a light to one side of the object and the camera at 90º and on the same level as the object. I chose to photograph some china which was highly glazed. This has given a lot of highly defined reflections which are a bit distracting. All photographs had these camera settings.  Manual 1/125s 32mm ISO100 WB: flash. The f stop for each exposure is noted at the top of the frame with the type and quality of reflector used
8085: f16 No diffuser, no reflector

8088: f11 diffuser, no reflector

8089: f11 White reflector at 1m

8090: f11 White reflector at 0.5m

8091: f11 Foil reflector – dull side

8092: f11 Foil reflector – shiny side

8094: f11 Crumpled foil – shiny side

Conclusion: The effect of ‘shadow fill’ reflectors can clearly be seen on the shadow below the left side of the plate. From the initial shot with no reflector of diffuser, the shadow is deep and contrasts against the pale table top. The introduction of the white card at differing distances and the aluminium foil, dull shiny and crumpled (the effect can be very subtle here) has gradually decreased the depth and contrast of this shadow as to virtually eliminate it. The positioning of smaller reflectors (I use polystyrene blocks) could also soften the other shadows if required.

Exercise: Concentrating the light: I have demonstrated the effect of concentrating the light from a flash unit by using a honeycomb snoot which produces narrower and more diffused pool of light.
8116: 1/125s f13 48mm ISO100WB: flash

Exercise: Shiny surfaces. The objective here is to construct a light tent with tracing paper to photograph a highly reflective object using studio lighting.
8125 f11 8126 f11
DSC_8125_web DSC_8126_web
First I photographed the inside and outside of this polished stainless steel dish without a light tent to show the extent of the highlights.
8127: f11 8128: f11
DSC_8127_web DSC_8128_web
I then repeated the shots with a tracing paper funnel round the object and lens. Unfortunately, I had only a small amount of tracing paper so the camera could still be seen in the reflection as I couldn’t roll it around the barrel of the lens.
I then set up something I had tried before, a light tent made with a background support pole. two lighting stands and a cotton bedsheet:
I then photographed the stainless steel balti dish again, with and without the light tent and got  better results. Camera settings: 1/125s f13 40mm ISO200 WB: flash
8224: without light tent
8220: with light tent
Conclusion: The very intense highlights have been eliminated by the extra diffusion of  the tent. In this example, the reflection of the camera lens is restricted to a small shadow on the base of the bowl which is much less obvious.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Part 4 Light–Project: Photographic Lighting 1

For these exercises, I have used my selection of existing portable studio flash equipment. It is quite basic but includes everything I need to complete the exercises.
Exercise: Softening the light. The objective of the exercise is to compare two photographs taken with diffused and direct light. I set up the light as suggested and used a 60cm soft box as a diffuser. Camera settings for both shots: Manual 1/125s 52mm ISO100 WB: flash
8057: f13
8058: f9
I have noted the following differences:
  1. The diffused light is slightly blue in colour.
  2. The shadows are very deep and black with the undiffused light. The diffuser also softens the edge of the shadows.
  3. There are reflections in the shiny side of  the bowl with undiffused light.
  4. The undiffused light gives a contrasty image.
  5. The diffusion in this case is an improvement. There are no harsh, distracting shadows.
Exercise: The lighting angle. The object here is to demonstrate the effects of moving the the light around the object. For the first four shots, the light is kept at the same level as the camera.
Camera settings Manual 1/125s f8 70mm ISO100 WB: flash (Silhouette f32)
8068: Light in front, next to camera

8069: Side, right of camera

8070: Behind and to one side (right)

8072: Directly behind (silhouette)
The next four shots were made with the light at a 45º angle to the set. Light position as indicated.
Camera settings Manual 1/125s f8 90mm ISO100 WB: flash (light to rear f16)
8078: Front 45º

8079: Right side 45º

8080: Right side to the rear 45º

8082: Behind (f16) 45º
The last three shots were made with the light directly overhead, slightly to the front and slightly to the rear.
8073: Above

8074: Above to the front

8075: Above to the rear
Conclusion:  The lighting position that reveals the form of this object best  is with the light at 45º above and 45º to one side (8079). This is because it is the most natural angle (ie the position of the sun in the sky) and one that we have evolved to use to interpret the form of objects. It makes them easy to understand visually. Frontal lighting gives a rather flat image although it shows the textures in the sculpture well in this case.