Exercise 1.11 Stillness & Movement

Below is a series of images of gulls. In some respects they are a staged series as they are not random chanced upon images. The gulls are coming to bread paced on the ground by me with the camera set up in advance. In order to capture movement a slow shutter speed was set with the some shots at 1/8th and others at 1/30th of a second. The day was overcast and the light quite flat and consequently the levels were adjusted in Photoshop Elements  to slightly to broaden the tonal range. Also, the images were sharpened slightly. They were taken at the telephoto end of my zoom lens. I like the contrast between the still of the sea, the ‘solidity’ of the shingle beach and the blurred movement of feeding gulls.

Part of this exercise is to look beyond what’s recorded in the image and consider if they communicate anything unintended; symbolic or metaphorical is suggested in the course notes. What has surprised me about some of the images is how elegant the movement is, especially some of the gulls in flight. I am very familiar with gulls, I am a keen birdwatcher and I knew that by putting down lots of bread I was would have a fast moving feeding frenzy. So, I was expecting blurred aggression and some of the images represent something akin to this (especially the later ones shot at 30th sec.) However, the earlier ones (shot at 8th sec) have a softness to them where the movement is rendered quite etherial, even balletic.

The common perception of gulls is a negative one. Stereotypically they thought of as loud, aggressive, messy, and if I can be anthropomorphic, ‘anti social’. While I acknowledge they can be difficult they have learnt to take advantage of humans, particularly, in feeding on the mess we leave behind – for example, scavenging half eaten kebabs and the like left behind by late night revellers. In this respect they should be seen as recyclers cleaning up after us, the same way that vultures are seen as cleaning up carrion on the plains of Africa and India.

Gulls deserve a better ‘press’. They have a beauty and a soft elegance that the stereotype is blind to. The process of recycling implies a sense of movement; the subject of the recycling undergoes a change of state being transformed from one unwanted thing into something deemed to have a new value. Hopefully some of these images have an allegoric quality serving to realign the perception of gulls: recycling the recycler as it were.  Revealing a beauty in their movement that is not often seen.

 

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Exercise 1.10 Shutter Speed

Being a little house bound but itching to get out and press on with photography I came up with this hand home-based remedy. This exercise wants me to capture movement and I had just the thing hanging from the ceiling of the conservatory. In reality we hardly ever use it so today it literally had the cobwebs blow off it!

Below is a sequence of images in the order of 1/125th, 1/60th, 1/30th and 1/15th of a second shutter speeds. On reflection I should have gone for a 500th and 250th as well but I somehow overlooked this…

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Exercise 1.9 Soft Light Landscape

These three images are the result of following the ‘Soft Light Landscape’ exercise. They are of the river Deben in Suffolk on a stretch upstream from Woodbridge.

In the early morning light with the combination of low ISO and high F stop the shutter speeds were long hence a tripod and shutter release were used. Bracketing the shots, as per the instructions, was actually essential because the water and wet mud tended to produce under exposed readings from the light meter.

The three images were all adjusted in Photoshop Elements to add or enhance the luminosity. Using ‘Levels’ the shadows, mid tones and highlights were all manually altered. It surprised me just how little adjustment of each was needed to bring out this luminosity. Even as ‘thumbnails’ on the screen the difference from the original was clear, yet they have retained a natural look and don’t look over produced.

 

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Research Point: Gabriele Basilico

This week I have looked at the work of the late Gabriele Basilico as a preparation for ‘Exercise 1.9 Soft Light Landscape’. I wasn’t familiar with his work before this. I was so impressed with his depictions of buildings. Photographed in early morning light he captures a great tonal range. No doubt also aided by the use of medium and large format film cameras.

As a record of the built environment the near absence of people is intriguing. Perhaps the presence of people would be a distraction and hence the viewer can assimilate the image without the very human reaction of wondering about who the people are and what they doing.

The war-zone images shows us buildings as survivors, or otherwise, of conflict. In this sense they seemed ‘too obvious’. I’m sure most of us we would be curious about these. So for me it was his other architectural images, those of factories and docklands that drew me in more.

Recently, I been taking some images of redundant old buildings and others that have undergone changes in use. And now feel inspired by Basilico’s work to raise my standards of image making – as best I can with the equipment I’ve got.

Picture Analysis: Red Bridge, Okawa

Take a close look at the photograph above. What do you see? Write a visual description using short phrases and keywords. Describe the objects you see, their shapes, colour and tones, the direction of lines. There’s a picture to analyse in each part of this course. Always start your analysis by describing what you see. 


(Before I approached this task I avoided researching this image on the internet or in reference books. So, what follows is my interpretation and one not influenced by the writings of others…)

I see a bridge, a large red bridge, possibly a suspension bridge. The view point is to the right of the bridge producing an image three-quarters to the viewer. The image is in landscape format however, it is not far from being square.

The most striking thing about it is the shape and the colour. It is basically triangulate in shape and red. Steep square columns rise up dominating the image. Several of these columns make up the bridge and the basic triangle shape. They are a red oxide colour and lit from the left causing a few highlights on some of the columns.

The walkway/road sits at the base of the triangle. This has what looks like a pale creamy timber fence on either side. This starts in the bottom left of the image and raises a little, disappearing into the red columns and terminating about two-thirds across from the left.

Beyond the bridge the background is a dark green, making the sun lit bridge stand out. On closer inspection it appears to be a wooded hillside covered in pine tress with some bare trees in the lower section. This is difficult to make out as the background appears very flat. At the far end of the bridge on the right hand side the light has cause a narrow triangular shadow to form against the trees.

 

What took your attention first? And where did your eyes move to after that?

The red triangulate shape of the bridge

 

A picture can have many subjects, but what’s the main subject? Apart from the objects depicted, does the photo have a metaphorical subject?

The bridge would appear to be the main subject. However, as an image of a bridge things don’t quite add up. We don’t see what the bridge crosses nor do we see where the bridge meets the other side. It is an though this could be a model bridge who’s far side runs into a flat two dimensional background print of a pine forest. The shadow cast by the bridge also seems unnatural perhaps confirming the flat background.

A metaphor? Possibly. Bridges take us from one place to another different place. “I’ll cross that bridge when I come it” expresses an anticipated or perhaps postposed decision or action. So a bridge can be a metaphor for a kind of transition or translocation. However, this image might imply even more because it seems this bridge doesn’t actually go anywhere. In this case perhaps the metaphor is about a lie or a misrepresentation, something that will or disappoint or let us down.

 

Describe the quality of the light and shadow. Note the atmosphere or mood of the picture.

The mood is interesting. The sun lit bridge implies something positive. Red is an exciting colour, hopeful perhaps, while the background is dark, barely discernible – not quite what it seems.

(Light and shadow already covered, see  above)

 

What does the title tell you?

The title tells us it is a red bridge and implies the location of the bridge is Okawa. Researching the image before writing this may have given a greater insight into it. However, at present the title implies a real legitimate bridge in a real location.

 

Name every object, that is every ‘thing’ that’s in the picture.

The red structure of the bridge

The road or walkway of the bridge

The fence either side of this

The background – the trees – this appears as one uniform thing

 

Is what you’re seeing and what you’re describing the same thing? Or is there something you think you ‘know’ intuitively? Make a distinction between what you can see and what you’re guessing, feeling or intuiting.

I am seeing the structure of a bridge but there is nothing else to give it a sense of scale. This could be a ‘real’ bridge but equally it could be a scale model. In fact the shadow cast by the bridge hints that there is a scale issue here.

‘Intuitively’ I suggest the image is not what it seems as the bridge doesn’t go anywhere.

 

What is your felt or personal response to the photograph? This is your experience of it.

A little disappointed, like a magician has fooled me! It reminds me of one of those images that depict one thing while at the same time depicting something else (eg, that old visual trick of young woman and an old woman all in one portrait), as though its intention is to deceive or trick the viewer. Although low on any scale or measure, it doesn’t feel particularly ethical to me.

Exercise 1.6 Light and Shadow

I spent some of the afternoon of 22nd August 2016 chasing shadows for Project 2. We had some strong sunlight but with a sky peppered with cloud the shadows were intermittent at best.

I’m not over impressed with my results. Though some feel interesting, pointing my camera at tarmac doesn’t feel fulfilling. Perhaps I’ve been too enthralled with Trent Parke’s work and we don’t have too many skyscrapers and bustling city streets around here. Quite the opposite in fact, we have big skies in East Anglia.

I continued taking shots for this project using my lunch break to capture the light shining through the windows in some rooms where I work. I am happier with these and quite like their abstract quality. This has surprised me, as abstract work is not something I’ve done before.

Technique wise, I used spot metering to help produce the necessary contrasts and these were further enhanced in Photoshop Elements. I used the white and black adjusters in ‘camera raw’.

Here are a selection:

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Project 2: Light & Shadow

In preparation for next photographic project I have to study the work of Trent Parke. Here are some notes I made on how he uses light and shadow in his image making…

Parke certainly makes some very bold images. Generally monochrome his emphasis on contrast is quite forthright. Falling into the genre of street photography but quite unlike conventional photos of this type he sometimes produces images that are quite abstract, making use of reflections in glass and water and using slower shutter speeds to blur movement. Some left me pondering what is actually was he had photographed and then it was a short step to wonder how he had done it.

Technique wise, light is a major driver in Parke’s images. Living and working in Australia he uses the harsh bright sunlight there to his advantage. With scenes that are strongly lit to start with, he then overrides or ignores the meter reading. For example, in the image below, Parke may have taken his light reading from the lower section of the wall to the left of the woman. All the other darker areas of the image, e.g. the shadows, the abstract form on the left and the woman’s coat have been rendered under exposed and thus very dark.

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In this other example (below) a light reading had been taken from within the poorly lit areas of the image thus, rendering the figure of an old man completely bleached out in a column of direct sunlight.

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In addition to natural light he sometimes uses a flash while he also uses reflections in glass and water to further enhance his compositions. Whether Parke manipulates, his images I have not yet established. He could emphasise contrast further in Photoshop or even use coloured or polarising filters on his camera to exaggerate contrasts.