Category Archives: Part 2 – Elements of Design

Assignment 2 Tutor Feedback and Reflection

I have received my tutor’s feedback on assignment 2. It is included below along with my comments, reactions and reflections. The assignment was submitted on 14th February and the feedback was received back on the 2nd April. I have quite obviously covered a lot of ground in the intervening 6 weeks so a number of feedback comments have been overtaken by events.

” Overall Comments

Again this was another strong submission Steve, including a diverse range of imagery from the Turks and Caicos Islands.

 The issues raised in the previous report are as follows:

  • Further consider the Monochrome versus Colour debate
  • Look at the work of Josef Koudelka in particular relation to image composition.

I can see you have responded very well to this feedback and enjoyed reading about your thoughts on Koudelka (and here and here and here) posted on the blog.

Feedback on assignment

This was a strong series of images Steve, which took the opportunity to develop a themed body of work via a place already full of visual interest.  From a technical perspective I couldn’t really see much wrong with the way in which you construct an image IE: Composition / focus / exposure etc. I do think some worked better than others in my opinion … I’d guess others would have a different opinion though. ”

A Combination of Vertical and Horizontal Lines

Fig. 01 – A Combination of Vertical and Horizontal Lines (Fig. 4 from submission)

” The imagery that stood out for me was as follows: Fig. 4 – Ruined Mansion at Emerald Point. ”

Distinct Shapes

Fig. 02 – Distinct Shapes (Fig. 10 from submission)

” Fig. 10 – Cruise Ship Through Ruin ”

Rhythm

Fig. 03 – Rhythm (Fig. 13 from submission)

” Fig. 13 – Bottles.  This was not to say the other imagery didn’t answer the brief, but just these images stood out for me with the beer bottle on the left of the first step of fig. 04 being the ‘Punctum’ for me personally. “

Response

The “cruise ship through ruin” always felt like one of the strongest images because it had so many graphic design elements to go with the colour and the juxtaposition of the cruise liner on a perfect sea with the ruined building.

I can see why the bottles in fig 13 attracted particular attention as the subject was odd, I felt that this image was the nearest I came to capturing the unusual hidden in full view and, as I said in my submission, it made me feel that I could have created a more interesting set if I had “found” William Eggleston and Stephen Shore before, rather than after the trip. I believe that my subsequent study of Eggleston, Shore, Ray-Jones and Parr have helped me improve my observation skills and become more alert to potential subjects.

It is interesting that “The Ruined Mansion at Emerald Point” appealed and why it appealed. The beer bottle was the special feature for me as well and the sense of something very normal having happened here in the recent past made the ruin more intriguing as it has moved from a millionaire’s holiday retreat to a ruin and appeared to now have a role as a place for someone to sit and drink beer but instead of throwing the bottle onto the piles of rubbish they had carefully placed it on the step.. 

” I thought the idea of exploring this island was already ahead of the game in terms of visual interest. Many of these assignment submissions come in and do not really leave any kind of comfort zone. That is not to say that a series of images must be shot in an exotic location to be of interest … probably the opposite actually, once you scrape the surface.  I did find that the images that intrigued me the most made reference to an area of abandonment or former glory IE: Fig 04 or Fig 10. I think this might have been the theme to explore as many of these relatively new tourist locations have a hidden or unseen past to explore, with deep significance. “

Response

I am in total agreement and the idea that developed on location was exactly that. I initially wanted to bring together a combination of ruins, abandonment, new developments,  the degeneration of new and old and the restored and unrestored historic colonial buildings to paint a picture of flawed progress. However, and I see this as the fundamental challenge of these assignments, instead of selecting 15 images that told this story I had to find 15 images that told this story and “ticked off” the various design elements. In editing I had to choose between the story, the strongest images and exhibiting the design elements and these objectives were often mutually exclusive.

To satisfy my own need for the story I pursued three themes in parallel. I looked for the design elements, I worked towards a study of degeneration  and looked for ways to document the islands without producing a cliché ridden travel guide. (here and here)

In a few cases the three objectives intersected and where that happened I captured the strongest images in the submission. I didn’t want to shoehorn in an image that fitted the theme of the series when it was a weak answer to the design criteria but I also felt uncomfortable broadening the series to include images that fitted the criteria but were not as strong in terms of the theme.

I do not intend to use this as an excuse to ignore the assignment or to argue that my work would have reached great heights if only I had not been constrained of the assignment. The test is to present strong images, tell the story and meet the criteria. However, I am close to completing my shoots for assignment 3 and know that the images collected so far are tending to place theme above the perfect completion of the assignment criteria so only time will tell whether that is a step in the right direction in terms of feedback and assessment.

Implied Triangle

Fig 04 – Implied Triangle The Conch Fisherman

” I also liked the action portrait of the Conch fisherman, but felt this might have worked better if it had been shot deliberately, with collaboration, in a setting where the background gave significance or context to the image. “

Response

Point taken and accepted. I took half a dozen pictures of this chap and whilst he was willing to chat about his trade and was quite friendly I’m not sure whether I could have tempted him to collaborate. The resident population, or “belongers” as they call themselves, are not especially comfortable with tourists who presumably might be called  “unbelongers”. I recently watched the excellent Bill Nighy drama “Turks and Caicos” and the point was made there that the locals just clean up after rich tourists. 

But, back to the point. I could have used one of the following shots of the same man as these contain far more context but de-power the design element but this does raise another issue which I struggled with when editing the series. In his feedback to assignment 1 my tutor suggested that I should not mix the aspect of my prints, i.e. do not mix horizontal aspect and vertical aspect prints in the same submission. I subsequently used the OCA forum to ask whether this was the general view. The tutors on the forum did express the same view so all of assignment 2 was presented as horizontal aspect prints.

I am still struggling with this inferred rule. Whilst I recognise that the majority of photo books have a consistent format there are many examples where the occasional vertical or square aspect is included in a book of horizontal aspect prints. I also noted that David Bailey did not feel constrained in his Stardust Exhibition where he mixed vertical and horizontal on the same wall or where he created photo montages of related prints in single frames that included square, vertical and horizontal.

If I had not felt bound by this inferred rule I would have used 2 or 3 vertical prints including fig. 05 below.

Fig. 05 Conch Fisherman - 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Fig. 05 Conch Fisherman – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Fig. 06 Conch Fishermen - 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Fig. 06 Conch Fishermen – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

” When you look at a series of images and one makes you stop, this can be referred to in terms of what Roland Barthes would call ‘Studium’ or a general enthusiasm or interest assigned to an image. This is as opposed to something that might be classed as a rare detail or piercing moment of either pain or delight, which Barthes would term ‘Punctum’.  I have listed a publication below by Barthes entitled Camera Lucida, which I urge you to read in relation to developing your photographic critical position.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays

The Blog is working very well for you and you appear to be updating it regularly, which is excellent. It is very easy to navigate and contains some really strong and diverse research, which is excellent at this stage of the degree. Just check the spelling of the ‘Bibliography’ link.

Suggested reading/viewing

Parr, M.2004:Think of England. London. Phaidon Press Ltd.  (see follow up work here)

ISBN-13:978 – 0714844541

Eggleston, W.2002: William Eggleston’s Guide. New York. MOMA Press  (see follow up work here)

ISBN-13: 978-0870703782

Shore, S.2004: Uncommon Places. London. Thames & Hudson  (see follow up work here and here)

ISBN-13: 978-0500542873

Barthes, Roland.1993: Camera Lucida. Vintage Classics. London. (see follow up work here)

ISBN 13: 978-0099225416

Response

I also felt that leading into assignment 3 was the right time to explore Martin Parr. I have seen extracts from “Think of England” in Val William’s book on Martin Parr and have ordered “Think of England” but it is currently out of stock at Amazon. I have completed a review of “The Last Resort” (here) and although my choice of subject for assignment 3 is quite a long way from Parr’s style his approach has helped me understand the key role that observational skills play in photography.

 In his feedback on assignment 1 my tutor suggested that I start to research the banal and this of course quickly led me to William Eggleston and the new colour movement. I have already completed my shoots for assignment 2 when I received this advice but I have spent a lot of time researching Eggelston (here and here) and that led me to Stephen Shore and Uncommon Places (here) and ultimately to Tony Ray-Jones (here) and Martin Parr (here)

” Pointers for the next assignment

Apologies about the late response regarding this feedback, as I note you already have looked at some of these practitioners in relation to assignment 3. Anyway ….. please use the following to inform assignment 03 – Martin Parr, William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. Parr is a well known Magnum Photographer, so it may also serve you well to try and become acquainted with what the Magnum Photo Agency [http://www.magnumphotos.com] is all about. The other two [Eggleston & Shore] are very important American photographers especially in relation to the use of ‘Colour Photography’.

Eggleston in particular is cited as being the photographer who introduced the art world to Colour Photography, with his ground breaking exhibition at MOMA in New York in 1976.  Prior to this, most serious photography had been monochrome.

Lastly, regarding work already conducted on assignment 3 – in relation to reflections / portraits, please see the work Tom Wood conducted from Merseyside buses in the 1980’s called ‘All Zones Off Peak’.

I hope this is of help to you Steve and I look forward to your next assignment.

Response

Very helpful pointers and I sense that Parr, Eggleston and Shore are ideal influences at this stage. I have used the Magnum site extensively as it bypasses the frustrations of general image searches on the internet where separating the wheat from the chaff is laborious and frustrating.  Magnum has two massive advantages, they are all photographers at the top of their profession and the site has a powerful search engine so it is very easy to focus in on a single topic across many practitioners. They also provide a historical and contemporary cross section of styles so it is possible to find very different approaches to the same subject.

I will certainly look into Tom Wood, I did see some of his work when I helped take a school party to London last year but I will now search out images from “All Zones Off Peak”. It is too expensive to buy a copy as it is currently showing on Amazon at £165.

Overall Reflective Comments

I would obviously have been happier if more of the submission images had made the “short list”, 4 out of 15 seems a poor hit rate, but looking back on the submission six weeks down the track I fully accept that they were not all strong enough and, if I was to assess them now I would have only added 1 or 2 more to the “short list”. As mentioned above, I feel the key is to ensure the theme and what I want to say is given priority over ticking off the assignment criteria and I need to push further out to test where this takes me. 

There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from my tutor’s remarks and whilst I have collected plenty of test shots and have some potential final images for assignment 3 there is still plenty of time to use his guidance to good effect. 

Eggleston, Shore, Ray-Jones and Parr are influencing the way I observe but I am not seeing a clear influence coming through in my photos. There are fleeting glimpses of the way they see and capture the world in a some very isolated examples of the pictures I have taken in the last month so hope still springs eternal. I would have given myself a better chance of showing their influence more directly if I had chosen a different subject for assignment 3 as I have not come across many reflections or mannequins in their work.

Assignment 2 Self Assessment

Marleys 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100

Marleys 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100

Self Assessment

Quality of Outcome – My  concept was to provide an insight to the islands in no more than 15 images based on a cross section of subjects held together by a common style that represents me and the type of images I want to create.

The collection is no better than half way to achieving this objective. The positive is that all 15 images are very personal and reflect my sense of the place. I believe there is a common style but it doesn’t flow through all the images in a consistent enough manner to give me the sought after cohesiveness.

I now question whether a more narrow perspective of the place might have resulted in a stronger and more coherent collection.

Technical and Visual Skills – I am reasonably satisfied with the technical and visual skills I have employed in assignment 2.

Having made the decision to use the trip to Turks and Caicos as a shoot location for the assignment it was important to observe and photograph what was there rather than what I wanted to be there. I wanted images that went beyond the obvious and to do this I had to be visually aware. The first two months of TAoP has made me more aware of potential subjects and viewpoints and I know that I approached this location quite differently than I would have done before starting this course. My only regret is that I found the work of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore after completing the shoot as I believe I would have been better prepared to find the mundane and everyday things that would have more uniquely described the islands.

I believe that my compositional skills are evolving as I research the work of more photographers and Josef Koudelka has influenced my photographs of people in terms of how I thought about what to include and exclude and where to position my subjects. I generally continued to crop fairly tight and only took a wider view when that added to the image. I would criticise a lot of my pre-TAoP work as being too conformist and over reliant on the rule of thirds so I believe I have made a step forward by being more willing to break the rules to achieve the right emotional effect.

Technically I believe my images are generally competent although I struggled, as I always have struggled, with getting the right overall exposure when photographing black skin tones if there is strong light and shadows.

I have not introduced any new techniques in post processing the assignment collection but, in my testing and preparation, I processed a black and white series using NIK Silver Effects Pro after reading Michael Freeman’s description of its features. (see Black and White Caribbean).

Demonstration of Creativity – Perhaps as a result of 30 years of Kodachrome slide photography before completely switching to digital in 2000 I respond to saturated colours and strong contrasts. My challenge is to create images that use my love of colour positively without producing clichéd travel photographs. My subject selection and composition endeavours to counter-balance the use of strong colour and I feel that I have achieved the result I wanted in most of the collection.

Judging my own creativity is very challenging. My studies of openings and degeneration are progressional and built on ideas developed photographing rural Italian villages but on this shoot I was searching for and testing how to bring a common thread to these fairly narrow subjects. A little of this work has found its way through to my final selection and I am pleased by that. I would say that I have approached nearly all these images in a “new” way and that half of the final collection are of subjects that I would not have photographed prior to starting TAoP. In those terms I see this set as being developmental.

In thinking about whether I am developing a personal voice my main conclusion is that it is too early to tell so I will talk a little about my current creative thinking as I begin to build a clearer picture of my next steps based on the images captured as part of TAoP that interest me the most.

The first idea that crystallised by being focussed on the TCI shoot and that is influenced by Koudelka’s “Czechoslavakia, Slovakia. Bardejov. 1967. Gypsies” and William Henry Fox Talbot’s “The Open Door” is to start looking at openings, windows and doors, as an insight into a community, sometimes with the occupants included and sometimes using everyday objects to suggest occupancy.

I continue to be interested in degeneration by the forces of nature but need to significantly develop my ideas to avoid becoming over focussed on “pretty” colours and patterns.

Context – I am enjoying the research and reflection aspect of this course much more that I had expected. My tutor suggested that I looked at the compositional skills of Josef Koudelka (see Josef Koudelka and Composition) and to investigate “The Banal” (see Banal and the Topographical Movement  and  William Eggleston – One Picture of One Thing).

It is quite clear that this type of research is an essential part of the course and key to my personal development. I want to delve more deeply into Eggleston and Stephen Shore’s work in particular as I am particularly interested in their ability to capture a sense of place by documenting the ordinary. I see no particular link between their work and mine but I find their images of America compelling and want to understand them better as an enabler to being influenced.

I have booked to see David Bailey’s Stardust exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, it has had mixed reviews but I am keen to see his work close up. He was a man who helped change photography in Britain by invading a world that had hitherto been the preserve of the “right sort of chap”.

Contact Sheets to Support Assignment 2

This post supports my assignment 2 submission. For each element of design I collected a number of alternative images as part of my selection process. These contact sheets which are the unused photographs.

Single Point Dominating the Composition

Single Point Dominating the Composition

As discussed in my submission I was interested in the simple combination of sky, sea and sand which reminded me of Richard Misrach’s “On The Beach” series and tried many compositions with and without a human subject. On the bottom row I have included two wildlife images which I liked but were too weak and generic to use. Also on the bottom row are two examples of the many photos I took of small items washed up on the beach in interesting patterns or in isolation.

Two Points

Two Points

Included within two points are the vertical crops of Two Boys which I used in the assignment in a horizontal format. I was very intrigued with the stool and the concrete block top right and bottom right and might have made more of this subject if I had researched William Eggleston before rather than after visiting TCI.

Verticals and Horizontals

Verticals and Horizontals

Because I became interested in collecting images of openings I had a lot of choices for this category. The first photo in row 3 is a particular favourite with the beach viewed through a broken door and torn fly screen.

Diagonals

Diagonals

The unused images collected above show the wide variety of diagonals that caught my eye. The first two images are part of a study of degeneration in close up that eventually became a central theme along with a wider view of degeneration when looking at damaged buildings as included in the last two images.

Curves

Curves

It was difficult to avoid curved beaches in my short list of curves but a few other opportunities also presented themselves. I particularly like the “triangular” photographer taking pictures of the local wedding set under an arch.

Distinct Shapes

Distinct Shapes

There were a wide variety of distinct shapes ranging from towering clouds to strange little huts and it would have been easy to break my self imposed limit of 15 images and to have included either of the yellow bar (centre row 2) or the green bar to its right. The soft chair outside the green bar was especially appealing.

Implied Triangles

Implied Triangles

There were plenty of opportunities to capture implied triangles but very few dominated the composition or went beyond photographing three things. I am happy with my final choice which was a horizontal crop of the fisherman in the second image on the bottom row.

Pattern and Rhythm

Pattern and Rhythm

As can be seen above I tried a number of different approaches to pattern and Rhythm but eventually focussed in on the items on sale in the tourist markets because they seemed more specific to TCI than the leaves in the intimate landscapes. I was very tempted to use the first image on the forth row, the wavy metal, for rhythm but a variation of the conch shells appealed more because of their unique shapes and colours.

Metamorphic Elements of Design

1/125 at f/22, ISO 200

1/125 at f/22, ISO 200

Continuing to work towards assignment 2 “Elements of Design” based on a photo shoot in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

In seven days I wanted to capture a personal view by developing and following simple themes that flowed through the whole shoot. One such theme was the effect of the climate on structures. Living in the north of our hemisphere we think of places like the Caribbean as having an idyllic climate but the reality is that a mixture of strong sunlight, rain, salt laden wind from the ocean and autumn storms create a harsh climate that will alter all but the toughest materials.

Time and nature relentlessly break everything down; wood becomes soft and weathered , iron rusts and crumbles, paint cracks and flakes, walls crumble and fall, glass clouds and breaks. Eventually an object becomes a collection of simple elements that can be scattered by the wind or tide.

This relentless process degenerates the original, desirable properties of every material and in so doing creates new textures, colours and forms  and in these we can find great beauty. Many of the elements of design are here and there was a temptation to build assignment 2 around these collections.

Degeneration Collection 1 focuses closely on the textures, colour and forms.

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Degeneration Collection 2 takes a wider perspective.

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Black and White Caribbean

I set myself the objective at the end of assignment 1 to improve my black and white processing skills. Whilst in Turks and Caicos I endeavoured to “see” in black and white which, as might be expected, is challenging in a place where colours are typically strong. There are a few obvious characteristics of a landscape that impact whether a black and white shot will work, the most obvious being the sky. A single coloured flat sky is even less dramatic, if dramatic is the aim, in black and white than in colour, this is even more true of pale skies. My single Ansel Adams reference book is a collection of his portfolios *(1) that I purchased in the Philippines over twenty years ago and has moved around with me ever since. It is noticeable that most of his skies are either deep blue, rendered as nearly black, or, when cloudy, often rendered in more subtle tones of grey.

The second characteristic is that the shot needs strong contrasts to work. I have found that I can’t force this contrast. It is either there and can be used to good effect or it isn’t and I achieve a flat looking image. I am not suggesting that this is rule for black and white photography just that I do not achieve a result that is satisfactory to my eyes unless I start with a contrasting scene. Using Adams as a benchmark tends to push me towards seeking a high contrast result and I think it is fair to say that Koudelka’s *(2) and Cartier-Bresson’s *(4) images, whilst very different in subject matter, also lean towards high contrast. I also find Koudelka’s images dark in tone (and content) and so far I have not been brave enough to process towards such dark tones but this may change if I start to shoot grittier subjects.

On my trip to Turks and Caicos I took very few books but one that did travel was Michael Freeman’s Black and White Photography Field Guide *(3) which I referred to frequently when trying to think in black and white. I have generally found this little book helpful as it is a very practical guide and quite appropriate reading for a beginner.

I had considered using a small number of black and white prints as part of assignment 2 but having asked about mixing media on the OCA forum the advice was to not mix black and white and colour in the same assignment. In the same vein I have been advised by both my tutor and some answers on the same forum to avoid mixing vertical and horizontal frames. I understand and accept the reasoning but this leaves me slightly disappointed as I feel I have made some progress in black and white processing and using some in an assignment would have given me the chance to hear my tutors views. I did consider submitting a complete black and white assignment but I felt that, whilst this might help me focus on the elements of design, it would be a perverse decision when attempting to document a place with so much colour.

This post is therefore an opportunity to record that progress and the thought processes I have gone through so I can refer back here when I next attempt a collection of monochrome images.

Sky at Chalk Sound - 1/125 at F/11, ISO 100

Fig 1 Stormy Sky at Chalk Sound – 1/125 at F/11, ISO 100

Fig 1 was taken on a perfect day when there were rain clouds blowing across the islands at some speed. I have an emotional attachment to this view as it is a familiar sight for any sailor sailing in bright sunshine whilst watching squalls only a short distance away. I have processed to maximise the contrast between the white boat on the right and the dark landmass in the distance. It was important to leave some sense of the rainbow in the image as this is an important curve linking the two boats. The sky is the real subject so I have framed it to dominate the composition.

Fig 2 Beach Bar - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig 2 Beach Bar – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

In complete contrast to fig. 1 The Beach Bar in fig. 2  is an interior to exterior shot and as such quite challenging to process. I have used HDR Toning in photoshop to get detail into the shadows and to preserve the definition of the woman on the veranda. I am pleased with this shot which was taken in a locals’ bar well away from the tourist areas. The women was very interested in something that was happening out of my view and I was taken by her pose and the fact that she continued to eat whilst looking out of shot. The old-fashoned wall paper and the advertising on the drinks cooler seem at odds with one another and add some tension to the scene.

Fig 3 - Sapodilla Bay - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 100.

Fig 3 Sapodilla Bay – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 100.

Fig 4 Sapodilla Bay - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

Fig 4 Sapodilla Bay – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

Fig 5 Sapodilla Bay - 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100

Fig 5 Sapodilla Bay – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100

With the three images of Sapodilla Bay I wanted to test whether I could create strong images from sea, sky and beach scenes. Before starting TAoP I would not have looked for a black and white answer to the question of how to make a beach scene more interesting but I reached a point that I was comfortable with after quite a lot of experimentation with the multitude of variables offered by Silver Efex Pro 2, which I purchased after reading about its possibilities in Michael Freeman’s Black and White Field Guide *(3). It appears to offer more creative control that the black and white layer in Photoshop but it is tempting to go too far and drift towards a HDR look which is not what I wanted.

It was quite hard to find a benchmark for this type of shot, I wanted to make the sky the dominant feature because it is the shape of the clouds and the varied tones within them that lift the image beyond “yet another” beach photo. I looked at the sky in Ansel Adams’ “Pinnacles”, Alabama Hills, Owens valley, California 1945 and the sea in “Dunes”, Oceano California and used his processing as a loose guide. I recognise that he would have looked for greater contrast between the foreground objects and the sky and I might have made more of the beaches in Fig. 4 and 5.

Old Timber Taylor Bay - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

Fig 6 Old Timber Taylor Bay – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

Broken Screen Taylor Bay - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 720

Fig 7 Broken Screen Taylor Bay – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 720

Post and Rope - 1/125 at f/f11, ISO 100

fig 8 Post and Rope – 1/125 at f/f11, ISO 100

Old Timber Taylor Bay - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig 9 Old Timber Taylor Bay – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Ruined Roof Emerald Point - 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100

Fig 10 Ruined Roof Emerald Point – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100

The last images, figs. 6 to 10 are all part of a study of decay. Turks and Caicos is in the hurricane zone and even when the weather is more peaceful it is still an environment of harsh sunlight, frequent rain and strong winds. Ruined houses, weathered timbers, washed up wreckage and a few sunken boats were evidence of nature’s fight-back.

Fig 6 and fig 9 are the remains of a washed-up door and frame from something large, I am not sure whether it is from a ship or something like a barn door. It was weathered and sea rolled before ending up at the back of the beach at Taylor Bay.

Fig 7 and fig 8 are details from a large, abandoned house overlooking an idyllic beach. It appeared to have been deserted quite recently as the main fabric of the building was still sound but I was intrigued by the weathering on the details such as the fly screen and the posts that lined the path to the beach. These might be the first signs of the eventual demise of the whole structure.

Fig 10 is more dramatic showing the sky through the roof of another large abandoned house at the other end of the island. I think this was probably first damaged in a hurricane and is now well on the way to collapse so, in some ways is a natural progression from 7 & 8.

Overall I have found these exercises in black and white useful. I feel that I have learnt a little about what works in black and white and I am more confident in using this medium. My tutor suggested that I needed to have a position on the black and white versus colour debate but I am not ready in my own mind to take a position. I have enjoyed my forays into black and white processing and am very interested in the work of the many masters of the art, I see it as a valid medium in the 21st century and would respect anyone who chose to work entirely in this way. If I had to choose I would stay with colour but I would prefer not to choose and to use both. I am increasingly finding situations where I find black and white works best but the majority of the time I want to capture the colour of both the natural and the man-made world.

Sources

Books

* (1) Adams, Ansel, with an Introduction by John Szarkowski. (1981) The Portfolios of Ansel Adams, New York, New York Graphic Society, Little, Brown and Company.

* (4) Cartier-Bresson, Henri (1999), The Mind’s Eye, Writings on Photography and Photographers. Aperture Foundation, New York

* (3) Freeman, Michael. (2013) Black and White Photography Field Guide, The art of creating digital monochrome, Lewes, The Ilex Press Limited.

* (2) Koudelka, Josef. (2007) Josef Koudelka: Thames & Hudson Photofile with an introduction by Bernard Cuau. London: Thanks and Hudson.

* (5) Eggleston, William, (1976) The Guide with an introduction by John Szarkowski, New York, The Museum of Modern Art

Openings in the Islands

Fig 1. A Study in Openings Turks and Caicos 2013

Fig 1. A Study in Openings Turks and Caicos 2013

On my visit to the Turks and Caicos Islands I was capturing images for assignment 2. My objective was to develop an assignment portfolio of, no more than 15 images, that expressed a personal view of the islands. As discussed in an earlier post “The Carribean in My View”  I wanted to build towards a visual description that captured my sense of place and told my story of the islands.

My tutor’s feedback on assignment 1 arrived soon after returning from the trip so his advice and comments were not taken into the week-long shoot but they have strongly influenced the way I have looked at the raw, captured images. His comments have led me to start a process of understanding the banal and topographical movement of the 1970s.  My image selection and editing has undoubtably been influenced by beginning to study the photographs of William Eggleston and Stephen Shore. I am drawn to the idea of documenting our surroundings on the basis of photographing what is there and not entering a place with pre-formed ideas of what will be there to photograph or only capturing the grand or the beautiful. This approach opens the mind and eye to new possibilities and removes some shackles that might otherwise limit subject identification.

My key point here is that my original objective of finding a personal view, photographing what was there and the Eggleston/Shore ideas have come together whilst I was editing and selecting images. The perfect scenario would be to start the shoot again with these new influences in mind but in, many ways, I am more comfortable with the thought that my original idea has loosely  fitted into an framework that was established forty years ago by these and other great photographers. It is important to declare that I am not comparing my work with theirs in any qualitative sense, only that I feel that my thought processes fit within their broad ideas.

I approached the week by letting themes develop through my viewfinder, allowing me to see links between different locations. Following those links helped me develop some structure to my shooting and made my work more progressional even in such a short timeframe.

One theme that I took into the week was “openings”. Doors and windows humanise a wall. A wall is one dimensional, a barrier, a division, a unyielding surface. It is an analogy for preventing movement, preventing communication, a barrier. Opening a wall with a door adds a dimension; for there to be a door there has to be something beyond the wall, a place to go to or leave from. A window goes a step further because it means someone needs light or to look out or wants others to see in. Doors and windows transform a wall from a closed barrier into something that can be opened and by doing that they tell a story about the building.

In Turks and Caicos I became interested in the state of openings. Cared for architectural statements, with designed shape and colour, strictly functional openings to let in light and breeze, openings that were once cared for but are now neglected, some to the point of being holes without form or substance.

Photographically there is an abundance of horizontals and verticals but the verticals that give strength to some are part of the decline and decay of others. Occasionally a diagonal joins the mix as a shadow or a broken shutter hanging on a thread until the next strong wind comes through. Each window has a history, some have a future, some are only a trace of what once was and will soon be gone. None are grand or glorious, none are important or notable but they are there and tell part of the story.

Collectively, as seen in fig. 1 they document a tiny aspect of the island story. Individually, as shown in the gallery below they are a study of form and colour, of texture and line, of decay and weathering. The cracked wood, broken glass and flaking paint tell a much more personal story of one house, one place and one opening.

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Exercise 21 Rhythm and Pattern

Fig 1 Red and White Tin Hut - 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 34mm

Fig 1 Red and White Tin Hut – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 34mm

One of my key tasks when in the Turks and Caicos islands was to complete exercise 21 where we are asked to seek our images that use either rhythm or pattern. As discussed earlier in my blog I was seeking to adopt a documentary approach to TCI and endeavour to capture the sprit of the place without resorting to too many clichéd Caribbean travel photographs. The rhythm and pattern exercise was an excellent additional idea to have in my head.

Pattern, as Freeman* tells us, is repetition within an area whilst pattern is directional repetition. Both design elements are used to engage the view by encouraging them to look at an image in a particular way. Rhythm will lead the eye in a prescribed way across the forms and spaces that flow across, or up and down, the composition. Pattern is less prescriptive and suggests that the eye roams around the frame exploring the repetition.  Both are powerful tools to draw the viewer into an image and, for many of us, both pattern and rhythm are reassuring elements as they suggest organisation and structure even when neither really exist. Because rhythm is the directional repetition of pattern there will always be pattern within an image that is relying on rhythm.

Fig 2 Birds Over Salt Pond Grand Turk - 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 70mm - 300mm lens at 300mm

Fig 2 Birds Over Salt Pond Grand Turk – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 70mm – 300mm lens at 300mm

Fig 2, in my mind, is rhythmic. The lines of birds were startled by me when I tried to photograph the group at rest in an old salt pond in Grand Turk. I had time for one shot as they moved to another part of the pond and as a result this was taken with a comparatively slow shutter speed which has not frozen the movement of all the wings. This slight blur has meant that each element of the pattern flows into the next and the top line have formed a rhythm across the image. I processed this with a green filter to reduce the definition in the background and then I emphasised the contrast of the birds to make the pattern and rhythm more distinct.

Fig 3 Mangrove Shoots - 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 3 Mangrove Shoots – 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 3 Mangrove Shoots - 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 4 Mangrove Shoots – 1/125 at f/5.6, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 3 and fig 4 are examples of pattern. Near to where we were staying there was a large shallow pond with a narrow band of mangroves on one bank. I was intrigued by hundreds of mangrove shoots that were emerging from the mud which was covered in a crust of mossy growth. Both these angles enable us to see patterns in the mud, the shoots and the shadows.

Fig 5. Yellow Tin Wall - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 200. 24mm - 70mm lens at 35mm

Fig 5. Yellow Tin Wall – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 200. 24mm – 70mm lens at 35mm

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Fig 6 – Ugly Pink Wall – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 35mm

Fig 5, 6 (and fig 1) are part of a series of images where I used a similar composition on different walls. I was interested in the different textures, colours amount of weathering and liked the composition with part of a window to the right. Fig 5 has a rhythmic flow across the image with the rhythm partially broken by the window shutter. In contrast the strange pink cement in fig. 6 forms a pattern with the stone of the wall.

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Fig 7 White Lattice – 1/1000 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 7 White Lattice - 1/1000 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig 8 White Lattice – 1/1000 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens

Fig. 7 and 8 are very simple patterns with little or no variation. Fig 8 being a tight crop of fig 7. I like the straight forward graphic design of these images. The tight crop appeals a little more than the original because the strange piece of metal comes more into the image and breaks up the pattern.

Fig 9 Fence - 1/1000 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens.

Fig 9 Fence – 1/1000 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens.

Fig 9 is a detail from the same historic house in Grand Turk as figures 7 and 8. the pattern of the fence posts repeats across the image and thereby becomes a rhythm. As well as the rhythm I like the three strong shapes formed by the sky, the tree and the fence. A simple composition but that captures the place for me quite well.

Fig 10 Tacky Tourist Tiles - 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens.

Fig 10 Tacky Tourist Tiles – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 105mm prime lens.

Fig 10 is an example of pattern. The shadow at the bottom left spoils this image but I am keeping it here because it is a straight forward pattern.

Fig 11 Cruise Ship off Grand Turk - 1/125 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 24mm

Fig 11 Cruise Ship off Grand Turk – 1/125 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 24mm

In fig 11 there is pattern in the detail of the contrasting sunlight and shadows and rhythm in the spaces through which we can see the sea and the ship. This ruin was one of many that I found in Turks and Caicos and they became a recurring theme of my photos. I especially liked this image as the classic caribbean view is from inside a ruined building. The huge cruise shop which I followed down the coast and photographed at anchor makes an additional contrasting point against the storm damaged shell.

Fig 12 Front Street Grand Turk - 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 70mm

Fig 12 Front Street Grand Turk – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 70mm

My final rhythm image is of Front Street on Grand Turk where the local men were resting in the shade of a few small trees. There is a rhythmic flow across the different height trees and the men sitting beneath them.

Sources

*Freeman, Michael (2007), The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes, The Ilex Press.