Tag Archives: Assignment

Assignment 4 Applying Lighting Techniques

Assignment 4 asks for 8 photos that show the use of lighting to individually show shape, form, texture and colour in a subject. I have spent several weeks building up to this assignment and have described that process in Developing Assignment 4. That post describes the thinking and the research behind these photographs.

All the photographs in this submission are taken with off-camera Nikon Speed Lights triggered by an infrared on-camera controller. The flashguns were always set on manual rather than TTL to enable me to control their power individually.

In this submission I have included two series of photographs. The first set are from my last two shoots which used a wooden base board, a green paste board backdrop and a small selection of vegetables. The second series are from four different shoots and selected on the basis of the lighting and set-up having created the ideal environment to display each of the attributes required by this assignment.

Having spent so much time researching and exploring still life I wanted to create one final picture that represented the end of the process as well as completing the assignment.

Fig. 01 Green Backdrop Vegetables - Colour - 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 01 Green Backdrop Vegetables – 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 01 is that picture. The colours and the set are influenced by David C. Halliday but rather than using the natural light that he prefers I have used two lights. Both are diffused using soft boxes, one is fixed high, quite near to the left of the camera at 1/2 power. The second is high to the right at 1/8 power.

I believe that this photograph is an appropriate ending point because, although it has no vanitas symbolism, I have tried to mimic the lighting and tones of a 17th century painting thereby bringing together all the research and test shots in a single image.

Series 1 – Same Subject, Different Lighting Set-ups

Fig. 01 Green Backdrop Vegetables - Texture - 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 02 Green Backdrop Vegetables – Texture – 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig.02 Texture

There are still two speed lights being used but neither are diffused so that the hardest possible light is hitting the subjects. The light on the left is low and back of 90 degrees to throw light across the face of the pepper and the top of the radishes. The right hand light is back of 90 degrees and angled to put light along the backboard as well as across the mushrooms.

Fig. 03 Green Backdrop Vegetables - Form - 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 03 Green Backdrop Vegetables – Form – 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 03 Form

I used three speed lights. The main light on the left is at 135 degrees on 1/2 power; the fill light from the right is at 135 degrees and 1/8 power and a third light is on the right at 90 degrees at 1/32 power.

Fig. 04 Green Backdrop Vegetables - Shape - 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 04 Green Backdrop Vegetables – Shape – 1/60 at f/18. ISO 100

Fig. 04 Shape

There is one speed light in a soft box at the centre of a translucent acrylic sheet placed behind the subject and a second speed light in a soft box on the left hand side behind the acrylic sheet to stop the backdrop falling off to grey. I have consciously li the subjects and post processed to avoid a full silhouette, which I see as being inappropriate for this subject, and have left just enough light to see the shape of the carrots.

Fig. 05 Green Backdrop Vegetables - Colour - 1/60 at f/14. ISO 100

Fig. 05 Green Backdrop Vegetables – Colour – 1/60 at f/14. ISO 100

Fig. 05 Colour

I have chosen this photograph from a slightly different set-up as my first colour submission instead of fig. 01. The lighting set up is a main soft box directly overhead at 1/2 power and a fill soft box at 90 degrees from high on the left on 1/16 power.

Series 2 – Different Subjects with a variety of Lighting Set-ups

Fig. 06 White Vanitas - Colour - 1/60 at f/14 , ISO 100

Fig. 06 White Vanitas – Colour – 1/60 at f/14 , ISO 100

Fig. 06 Colour

This image was lit by two speed lights, both diffused in soft boxes. The main light was directly overhead at 1/4 power and the fill light was at 45 degrees with a honey comb grid with a frosted gel and aimed at the grapes.

This picture brings together some modern vanitas motifs and contrasts the colours of frivolous fashion items with the colours of nature. The watch reminds us that time flies.

Fig. 07 Black Vanitas - Form - 1/60 at f/16

Fig. 07 Black Vanitas – Form – 1/60 at f/16

Fig. 07 Form

This image was lit by three lights. The main light is at 135 degrees left on 1/1 power, the second is from the same angle on the right at 1/2 power (this light is specifically there to create a highlight down the left hand side of the black head. A third light is at 90 degrees left with a honeycomb grid and aimed at the skull to give that form.

There are a number of vanitas motifs used here with fashion items between a mannequin head and a skull which is filled by an industrial sized roll of cotton. the cherries and lemons represent the sweet and sour of life and the flowers symbolise the fragility of beauty.

I could have easily chosen a photo to represent colour from this shoot as the black background seems to exaggerate the colour intensity but I had found it harder to light the White Vanitas set for colour so fig. 06 was more challenging technically.

Fig. 08 Black Fruit - Texture - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 08 Black Fruit – Texture – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 08 Texture

For fig. 08 there were only two lights used, although in retrospect a third light on low power from above and behind might have worked better for the top of the melon. The lights are left and right at 90 degrees and fairly low down to try and glance the light off the fruit skins. The one on the left has a honeycomb grid fitted to direct the light at the green melon skin whereas the one on the right is in a soft box with no diffuser.

Fig. 09 Skulls - Shape - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 09 Skulls – Shape – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 09 Shape

The final photograph uses skulls as a classic still life, much used by Irving Penn and David Bailey who were both influential in the way I approached this assignment. the lighting is very simply a full power flashgun in a diffused soft box behind a translucent acrylic sheet behind the skulls.

Conclussions

As explained in Developing Assignment 4, I found this assignment frustrating and enjoyable in equal measure. It is a very simple assignment and I felt that it would have been too easy to take all the photos using one or two objects that included shape, form, colour and texture and to complete the project in a day or less. This might have been the intention but I wanted to use the assignment to explore the history of photographic still life, the symbolism of the 17th century painters that has carried forward into photography and to look at how contemporary photographers are approaching still life. I also took a much closer look at Irving Penn. As I worked through this research I tried different sets and different approaches and this explains why the photographs above come from multiple shoots.

The most enjoyable aspect was, without doubt, the research and then setting up shoots to test out the ideas that flowed from that research. John Szarkowski, in his introduction to Still Life: Irving Penn *(1), remarks that still life is the only form of photography where the photographer is totally in control of every element, the subject, the lighting and the technical aspects of photography and for this reason it is an appealing genre and one that I am pleased to have been introduced to. It is technically challenging and on several occasions I yearned for a large studio steaming with natural light and not to be working on the kitchen table. A few of Irving Penn’s assistants to go out and collect subjects would not have gone amiss either.

Self Assessment

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Technical skills are very relevant to this assignment and I have had to research and think about off-camera flash photography. Joe McNally’s two books The Moment it Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries were both immensely useful in this regard. I am satisfied that I make significant technical progress during this assignment, learning and implementing techniques of set-up, lighting and exposure.

However, there are still plenty of technical flaws to address at the next opportunity to work in a “studio” environment. I tend to under light the subjects and have not perfected the way to bring enough light to white backgrounds to stop the loss of exposure and the decline to grey. I understand for portrait that a light hidden behind the subject is a way of addressing this but that would not work for still life so there is still work to do here.

Quality of Outcome

I am reasonably satisfied with the outcome. I have printed each of these photographs and, whilst I can see areas where they could be improved, I am pleased with the results of a first attempt at still life.

Creativity

It took great creative energy to design the sets, which, with the complex sets, is harder than either the photography or the lighting and I feel that many of them were creative and brought together both traditional and historic ideas.

There was a lot of experimentation with different types of subjects, sets and lighting approaches and maybe a few hints of inventiveness.

This assignment does not feel as if it builds upon assignments 2 and 3 so it is difficult to comment on how it progresses the development of a voice.

Context

I took my research very directly into the sets and tried, at different times, to use the complexity and strong colours of artists such as Paulette Tavormina and Mat Collishaw, the simplicity of Irving Penn and David Bailey, the soft natural tones of David Halliday and Krista van der Niet and in parallel to the assignment tried out Simon Norfolk’s ideas in My Dad’s Stuff.

I believe that I have linked my work to both contemporary and historic photographers.

Sources

(1) Penn, Irving. (2001) Still Life. Boston: Bullfinch Press

(2) McNally, Joe. (2008) The Moment it Clicks: Photography Secrets From One of the World’s Top Shooters. Berkeley: New Riders

(3) McNally, Joe. (2009) The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light From Small Flashes. Berkeley: New Riders

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Assignment 2 Elements of Design

Introduction

Assignment 2 asks for the elements of design to be incorporated in a set of photographs directed towards one type of subject. My subject is a personal view of a single place based on a week of taking photographs in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) in December 2013. In the context of the groups of subjects suggested in the course notes my “type of subject” is a mixture of landscape and intimate landscape with a touch of human interest. I recognise that, in doing this, I have strayed from the path but to have stayed within a single “type” would have limited my ability to express my personal view.

When I first returned from Turks and Caicos I posted a blog article describing my impressions of the islands and how I set out to capture a personal view. The Caribbean in my View.

For the assignment submission my aim was to select a series of photographs that captured my overall impressions which meant I needed to:

  • Convey the strong colours, bright sunlight and deep shadows of a typical day in the islands.
  • Capture a sense of the constantly changing light as rain clouds rushed across the sea and land.
  • Show how these tiny specks of coral are exposed to dramatic weather events that seek to destroy anything but the strongest structures and, even without the storms, that nature is relentlessly degenerating anything left in its path.
  • Provide a glimpse of the people who came unwillingly to these islands from the other side of the Atlantic and who can trace their ancestors to the ship wreck of a slave trader off these islands in 1841.
  • But, in doing this keep the view wide enough to feature the larger beauty of the place and explain why we escaped here in mid-winter.

Because this submission is a intended to be a collection I would like them to be viewed in sequence before each image is considered individually as included below.

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In preparation for finalising my chosen images for the assignment I worked on some specific themes. These are studies of particular visual elements that captured my imagination and seemed representative of the place. Four collections are included in this blog at:

Each collection could have formed the basis of this assignment but I wanted to document my personal view in no more than 15 images  and within that view to express my overall feelings about TCI. To tell this story I needed to select images that represented the whole. “Openings” and “Metamorphic” are both important as part of the picture but are too narrow in subject.

Single Point Dominating the Composition

Man on Beach at Grace Bay 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 32mm

Fig. 1 Man on Beach at Grace Bay 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 32mm

Man on Beach, my choice for “a single point dominating the composition” represents the visitor experience. Emerald sea, blue sky, “white” beach under strong sunlight, a perfect day. I have place the central subject dead centre beneath the largest cloud to create a sense of tranquility but there is touch of tension introduced by the white boat leaving the scene to the left. Colour is an important element of this image with the contrast of the man’s red shorts lifting an otherwise blue image. His body shape, the slight movement blur on his raised foot and the long leading shadow give a sense of movement.

My tutors suggestion to look at the work of Josef Koudelka *(4) arrived after completing this shoot but I think my initial study into his compositional skills (see Josef Koudelka and Composition) has had some influence on the my editing. I realised that he is not adverse to placing his subject in the centre of the frame such as in France 1973 (man and hovercraft) or Slovakia 1973 (man in handcuffs) and this was in my mind when editing my Man on Beach.

I took several shots where the sand, sea and sky dominated the image, some with one or two boats or people in the composition and some without anything other than the landscape in the frame. I was drawn to these simple three tone images and had Richard Misrach’s “On The Beach” * (1) series in mind.

“On The Beach” is a collection of photographs taken from a high-rise hotel room in Hawaii so I could not follow his style on a flat, low rise island but I like his simplicity of composition and the way he often offers us a large empty space with a single small subject. I tried several shots from different angles to try and capture the scale of the TCI beaches, especially Grace Bay which is 12 miles long, and how people are often tiny specks within a landscape of limited colours and textures albeit often with a wide variety of tones. Misrach wants to show how insignificant and vulnerable we are within the landscape and I see this is an important idea at a time when climate change is threatening our complacent view of where it is safe to live.

None of my images following these ideas made it to my final selection partly because the most effective were vertical aspects and did not fit into the collection. Some are included in the contact sheet below.

Contact sheet of other images considered

Two Points

Fig.02 Two Boys at Wheeland - 1/124 at f/16, ISO 720. 24mm - 70mm lens at 24mm

Fig.02 Two Boys at Wheeland – 1/124 at f/16, ISO 720. 24mm – 70mm lens at 24mm

Two boys at Wheeland introduces two local residents at a bar well away from the tourist areas. Colour is important to this composition with the bright woodwork providing a strong contrast to the shadows and skin colours. The image is given structure by framing the two boys with the yellow doors and the way they are looking into the space created to the right of the frame. These two young men were gambling on fruit machines in a room adjoining a local bar and I caught them enjoying the moment after sharing a joke.

This image as presented is a compromise because it was captured in a vertical aspect and worked well with the doors as strong verticals framing the length of the boys’ bodies but I am mindful of the advice provided by my tutor on assignment 1 and by other tutors on the OCA forum not to mix formats so I re-cropped to a horizontal aspect. I am satisfied that it still works.

The alternative crops and some other possibilities for two points can be seen here.

Several Points in a Deliberate Shape

Fig.03 Three Men on Grand Turk - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 560. 24mm - 70mm lens at 26mm

Fig.03 Three Men on Grand Turk – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 560. 24mm – 70mm lens at 26mm

The three men outside the general store in Grand Turk tell another part of the island story. The two men sitting down and the one standing form an implied triangle or perhaps more accurately a trapezium. The photograph was taken in quite deep shade and was challenging to process but the three differing poses and how differently each man relates to the camera make this a strong image. The man to the right was willing to talk to me and this is reflected in his direct connection with the camera. The man in the middle covered his face as soon as I rasied the camera and the man to the left seemed oblivious to me being there yet seems to be standing to attention. I think there is a story here, note the empty spirit bottle at the base of the post and the second one under the plastic tumbler.

The image is given structure by the verticals and horizontals that frame and link the men and the implied diagonal formed from the man with a blue hat to the man with sun glasses. In hindsight I can see a link back to Josef Koudelka who I have noticed often works with three subjects to give his images balance.

Grand Turk is visited by cruise ships most days but the ships dock in the southeast corner of the island and few of the passengers trouble to visit the old town where the, now abandoned, salt industry was centred. Apart from a run-down hotel and two dive shops there seems to be little industry in the town and these three men are representative of  the male population that appeared to just sit in the shade.

A Combination of Horizontal and Vertical Lines

A Combination of Vertical and Horozontal Lines

Fig. 04 Ruined Mansion at Emerald Point – 1/125 at f/8, ISO 125. 24mm – 70mm lens at 24mm

Moving away from people the Ruined Mansion at Emerald Point is a combination of horizontal and vertical lines. This image has a logical place in the collection but is different to most of the other images not least because it was captured during a short cloudy period. Colour is less important and the lack of saturation allows this image to offer a contrasting sense of place. The composition is consciously central as I want to lead the viewer through the arches, up the steps and across the bridge to the remains of this huge beach house with the symmetrical composition helping to make the steps and bridge the dominant subject.

The building is slowly being overgrown as it collapses and combined with the lack of saturation this makes the photograph quite melancholy. The image asks several questions about who the owners are and why it has not been repaired given its beach front location but I also wonder who neatly placed the empty beer bottle on the steps.

This house was in a small group of other houses that were all equally badly damaged so I presume that Emerald Point, which is on the northest tip of the island, was exposed to a major storm or hurricane at some point in the recent past. This image documents the power of the weather and is therefore an important part of the story and part of a theme of degeneration.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

Diagonals

Fig. 05 Ladder on Blue Wall - 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 36mm

Fig. 05 Ladder on Blue Wall – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 36mm

The first of two images using diagonals is Ladder on a Blue Wall. The harsh shadow and dry texture of the ladder and the wall communicate the heat of the sun in a simple graphic design that has become a geometric abstraction. The quirky design of the weathered ladder hints of a make-do-and mend economy.

I have cropped this tight to allow the ladder to break the frame at the top and the bottom, I think that this lifts the image from being purely graphic to “offering evidence”, as Michael Freeman *(3) would put it, that there is more to the ladder and more to the wall than we can see and therefore asks the viewer to imagine where it is coming from and leading to.

Fig. 06 Stairs - 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 06 Stairs – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm-70mm lens at 24mm

My second diagonal returns to the theme of degeneration, the relentless weathering by sun and rain of all materials. This derelict house on Grand Turk is slowly decaying but in the meantime the stairs provided a strong diagonal across the image whilst throwing an interesting shadow that prevents the concrete wall from being dead space. I like the partly open door to the bottom left of the frame and the overall sense of neglect.

Diagonals are the easiest elements of design to find as they can often be achieved merely by changing the angle of view. The two I have chosen are strong diagonals that bring structure and balance to the images and the subjects fit well into the island story.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

Curves

Fig. 07 Small Boats at Chalk Sound - 1/125 at f/11, ISO 100. 24mm - 70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 07 Small Boats at Chalk Sound – 1/125 at f/11, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 24mm

Small boats at Chalk Sound interests me as a composition, whilst there is an obvious curve in the rainbow there is also an implied curve created by the angle of the boats’ masts and the shape of the clouds.

This is a photograph of the weather, sunlight in the foreground and a large raincloud in the distance with sheets of rain falling on the horizon. The sky and the weather is a dominant feature of these island landscapes and I wanted to include a composition where most of the frame is filled with dramatic cloud patterns but the two boats add just enough interest  to the foreground to lift the image above being just a cloud picture.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

Distinct, Even if Irregular, Shapes

Fig. 08 Weathered Timber - 1/125 at F/22, ISO 200. 105mm prime lens

Fig. 08 Weathered Timber – 1/125 at F/22, ISO 200. 105mm prime lens

The first of my three images featuring distinct shapes is of Weathered Timber. This continues the theme of degeneration and is another very graphic composition with three major blocks, rusty red, black and faded blue. This image and fig. 05 probably fit into John Szarkowski’s second category of “failure in colour photography” where the image is of beautiful colours in pleasing relationships* (2). Despite recognising that weakness I continue to like simple graphic combinations of colour as long as there is some context.

Fig. 09 Front Street Grand Turk - 1/125 at f/16, ISO180.  24mm - 70mm at 24mm

Fig. 09 Front Street Grand Turk – 1/125 at f/16, ISO180. 24mm – 70mm at 24mm

Front Street Grand Turk brings together a number of strong shapes including the large triangular block of the stairs and their supports, the rectangular yellow wall of the hut, the red roof and the blocks of shadow, sea and street. This image features several elements of place to give a sense of the elegant, if now weathered, old building contrasting with the more modern, but well maintained, tin hut on the other side of the street. I like the multitude of lines and shapes and the strong colours that together have a mid-day sun feel about them.

Fig. 10 Cruise Ship through Ruin - 1/125 at f/16, ISO 360. 24mm - 70mm lens at 24mm

Fig. 10 Cruise Ship Through Ruin – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 360. 24mm – 70mm lens at 24mm

The final choice for distinct shapes is Cruise Ship Through Ruin. I think this could have been included as a composition of verticals or diagonals but I see the square openings as the most dominant shapes even though the shadows cast by the remains of the roof are the most interesting feature.

Each day the residents of Grand Turk’s only town watch one or two cruise ships head to the custom built port at the tip of the island. There the passengers disembark to a groomed beach, a duty free shopping mall and the type of Caribbean bar you might find in a theme park, a few hours later they board ship and sail off through the night to another island with more duty free shops to drink cocktails from coconut shells.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

Implied Triangles

Implied Triangle

Fig. 11 Kite at The Bight – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 24mm – 70mm lens at 56mm

The first of two implied triangles returns to the beach and is a simple composition of a man flying a colourful kite against the darkening sky. I have enhanced the grey of the clouds with a graduated ND filter and then deleted the filter over the kite. I took this shot through the grasses at the back of the beach to suggest the location is a little off the beaten track.

I was drawn back time and time again to the different tones of the shallow water inside the barrier reef and the way this divided the frame into horizontal blocks. I think that it is interesting to have alternative implied triangles, the people and the kite might be the more obvious but the triangle between the white sails and the kite are equally strong. I like the calm symmetric composition with the kite at the centre which fits with the calm sea and empty beach.

Implied Triangle

Fig. 12 Conch Fisherman – 1/500 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

The conch fisherman is my favourite photograph in the collection. The implied triangle formed by his body and arms as he reaches into his tub to take another conch to clean is a very strong shape. I have cropped tight to focus all attention on the subject but the sea and the specks of sand on his body give the photograph a context. I considered whether to dodge his face to reduce the shadow but because one side of his face is so well lit I think the shadows show the strength of his features and add more texture to the image.

It is fortuitous to be able to include a conch fisherman in the collection as this large shell fish is the staple protein in the islands and appears on every menu. TCI is the only place in the world to have a commercial conch farm and conch shells are to be found washed up on every beach.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

Rhythm and Pattern

Rhythm

Fig. 13 Bottles – 1/250 at f/8, ISO 100. 50mm prime lens

Bottles is the first of two rhythm images. This photograph of the wall of the local Coca Cola importer appealed at many levels. The ubiquitous nature of Coke is an obvious story but the huge, out of scale bottles were so out of place I wanted to capture them. I have cropped in tight to the bottles to emphasise the rhythm as the eye moves across the row and, in some ways, this tight crop makes the viewer work a little harder to realise that the roof line gives the photo scale.

I have included a wider crop in the contact sheet below. I think that I would have captured this image quite differently if I had studied William Eggleston or Stephen Shore before I left rather than after I got back. I say this because they are so incongruous and out of place but are also such recognisable items that they are, at the same time, everyday and mundane.

Rhythm

Fig. 14 Conch Shells – 1/125 at f/16, ISO 125. 105mm prime lens

Conch shells as mentioned above are emblematic of these islands and in that regard made the perfect subject for the second example of rhythm. It does not have the regular rhythm of the bottles but after several test shots and crops I liked the inclusion of  a small area of background and the diagonal lines formed by the edges of the shells.

Pattern

Fig 15 Metal Lizards – 1/125 at f/8, ISO 110. 105mm prime lens

Metal lizards completes my collection and is included to represent pattern. The lizards are on sale in a local craft market so are destined to leave TCI behind them. Until then they are tacked to boards in their thousands and create striking macro and micro patterns.

Contact sheet of other images considered.

All contact sheets collected together in one post.

Sources

Books

* (1) Higgins, Jackie. (2013) Why it Does Not have to be in Focus: Modern Photography Explained, Thames and Hudson

* (2) Eggleston, Wiliam. (2002) William Eggleston’s Guide, 2nd Edition, 2013 reprint, The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

* (3) Freeman, Michael (2010), the Photographer’s Mind. Lewes, The Ilex Press.

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

Internet

* (1) National Gallery or Art (2008) Misrach Exhibition www.nga.gov/exhibitions/2008/misrach/

Assignment 1 Contrasts

The first assignment asks for eight pairs of images that express the extremes of different qualities and one that demonstrates contrast in one picture. We are told not to lose sight of the fact that we are aiming to produce 17 interesting images.

My original thought was to create 17 images around a single theme but this quickly proved to be too restrictive so I aimed for pairs that complimented and related to each other. I wanted each image to have value in its own right but to work better because it was part of a pair.

It is quite clear that the assignment is asking for images to be conceptualised and then sought out and captured. This in itself is a lesson in how large a gap exists between the idea and the end result at this stage in the course but it made the assignment challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

Contrast in a Single Image – Black and White

Fig 1 - The Dark Angel - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 100, 105mm prime lens

Black and White – The Dark Angel – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 100, 105mm prime lens

The Victorian section of the Aldershot Military Cemetery is a place of decaying grave markers, monuments from a time of great certainty where, even in death, the rulers of Empire expressed a black and white view of their place in this world and the next. Rudyard Kipling, a man of his time, wrote:

“Blesséd be the English and all they make or do.

Curséd be the Hereticks who doubt that this is true!”

I liked the contrast of the discoloured and nearly black angel against the statue of Christ in the background that is still predominantly white. There is an irony that time and weather is slowly creating a black angel where once a whiter angel stood and will, in time, do the same to the statue of Christ.

Rather than using the, perhaps, more obvious choice of processing in black and white I made the decision to present this as a colour image which better captured the light in the trees and made the angel more distinct against the background. The intent is to move from dark to light, from black to white.

I wanted to capture the Gothic feel of this statue and of the graveyard in general and have therefore processed the image leaving the angel quite dark. I chose a tight frame to capture the upper third of the statue to focus on her sad face and selected an angle that encloses Christ in the triangular space created by her wing.

HIgh and Low

Fig 2. High - 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

High – The Standing Tower – 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Fig 2. Low - 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Low – The Fallen Tower – 1/100 at f/3.2, ISO 100, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to capture high and low. I was helping at Sarum Academy in Salisbury on the day the old tower was scheduled to be demolished and spent the late afternoon waiting for the digger to prepare the site by raising the rubble platform to a suitable height. For the final sequence I chose a low angle to maximise the sense of height. 

In high the last part of the old Sarum Academy is about to fall, the mechanical digger has just touched the tower and the first pieces of debris are falling. The tower has been a been a local landmark for decades, placed as it was, on a hill above the largest housing estate in Salisbury. The staff and pupils saw this as an important moment in their history as one of the last remnants of the run-down old school made way for the new academy.

In “low” the tower is falling. A cloud of dust is rising and the bricks are tumbling towards the camera. It is a symbolic moment in the politics of education, an old school brought low by the development of an ambitious new academy.

Earlier in the afternoon there had been sunlight on the site and the tower was lit by a warm evening light but by the time they were ready to bring down the tower the site was mostly in shadow. For these images to work the tower and the machine had to be isolated and stand out so I used a touch of HDR toning in Photoshop to sharpen the contrast and the outlines of the bricks and then created a mask to leave the machine in colour which I then de-saturated to avoid too great a contrast.

I am pleased by the sharply defined bricks, the choice of mixing black and white with colour and the overall composition but a little disappointed that the cloud of dust raised in low makes the sky look quite different to high without it being obvious as to why. Overall I like the fact these images capture a piece of local history.

Light and Dark

Light - 1/80 at f/14, ISO 6400, 16 to 35mm lens at 16mm

Light – The Junk Room – 1/80 at f/14, ISO 6400, 16 to 35mm zoom lens at 16mm

For light and dark my idea was based the idea that these terms are often relative. I wanted two subjects with contradictory attributes so that light existed because of dark and that dark was exhibited by the inclusion of light.

The junk room in light is a gloomy corner of the props warehouse at MC Motors but I have endeavoured to focus attention on the light or lights. There are four sources of light, natural light coming from a dusty skylight in the adjoining space to the right, the star, the paper lantern and the small hanging light. Each is a different temperature and therefore a different shade so there is a also a mix of reflected light in play.

Dark Font - 1/20 at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Dark Font – 1/20 at f/2.8, ISO 6400, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

The dark font is in Salisbury Cathedral and, from the right angle, acts as a mirror capturing reflections of the brightly lit wooden bust and other artwork.  I spent a long time waiting for a moment with no one in the frame but then chose this image with two visitors by the bust because they contribute a sense of scale to the image.

Following the idea of dark being relative I needed a subject where the inclusion of light told the viewer that the scene was dark. As modern cameras deal so effectively with poor light, note the ISO of 6,400, we sometimes need to include a bright light to explain that we are in a dark place.  An example of this is regularly seen on televised cricket where the director will show the bright lights in the hospitality boxes to explain how dark it has become in the middle.

Few and Many

Few - 1/125 at f/6.7, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 40mm

Few Locals – 1/125 at f/6.7, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 40mm

You can guarantee to find people sitting on the steps of Teramo Cathedral regardless of the weather and I felt this image worked well, for few. Three couples and a single in front of the huge wall sitting on the broad steps.  I like the balance of the people and of the linear steps against the high wall. I know that I am drawn to symmetrical images but there is just enough irregularity here to make the composition work.

Teramo is a small provincial city on the east coast of Italy in the shadow of the Apennines. Very few tourists ever visit here so the subjects are pretty well guaranteed to be local which explains why, even on a sunny afternoon they are all wearing coats.

Many - 1/200 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 65mm

Many Tourists – 1/200 at f/5.6, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 65mm

The other side of the country in Rome you can equally guarantee people at the Trevi fountain and if the sun is out there will be a crowd. I left a little piece of empty space in the bottom right to give a hint of context and to show that the front row were sitting on a wall.

Few asks the viewer to think about a small number of people and wonder what each little group is doing, they are quite distinct and doing something different. Holding hands, making a phone call, chatting and sitting alone. On the other hand many has so much happening you are asked to view the dynamics of the crowd, people videoing, taking photos above their heads, showing their photos to each other, chatting, just sitting, coming and going, drinking, eating and just looking. A real tourist scene.

The less obvious contrast is that no self respecting Roman will visit the Trevi fountain when the tourists are there. There may be some Italians in the photo but you can reasonably assume no one is a local.

Much and Little

Much Graffiti - 1/125 at f/6.3, ISO 5600, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

Much Graffiti – 1/125 at f/6.3, ISO 5600, 24 to 70mm zoom lens at 24mm

The South Bank is famous for its ever changing, fast evolving and constantly replenished graffiti. To such an extent that I considered using this for “continuos” but it was hard to think of a pairing without it becoming too tenuous. Whenever I have reason to be in London I come here as, in the space of a month, the whole place will be refreshed with new street art. Banksy would be sprayed over in a week.

In much this artist was working on a new piece on one of the larger walls. I used a very high ISO rather than flash as I wanted to capture the shabby look, balance and depth is achieved by including the different walls and the big puddle. The fact the artist was hidden beneath a huge hoodie amused me, it is as if being incognito is an essential element of his art despite the fact that nobody cares about who does the graffiti here.

Few Graffiti - 1/125 at f/14., ISO 4000, 16 to 35mm lens at 35mm

Few Graffiti – 1/125 at f/14., ISO 4000, 16 to 35mm lens at 35mm

Is graffiti a noun? Can you say few graffiti ? I’m not sure. To pair with much graffiti I wanted a wall that was worth photographing in it’s own right and that had a small amount of street art. I found it on the other side of London at MC Motors which is where I also found the light junk room in light and dark.

In my day-to-day work, MC Motors is a wedding venue but its main role is as a studio that is hired out for fashion shoots and TV shows. The owners also own the venue for Dragon’s Den and I think somewhere’s next model was filmed here last year. The props are brilliant but it is the decaying paint on many of the walls that makes it so popular with photographers.

I selected this subject because it seemed that, at some point in the past, someone had cared about this strange little painting being here and had tried to remove it which was a further contrast against the South Bank. I framed it right down at the bottom to show as much clean wall as possible with the drawing significant but not dominant.

Camilo José Vergara was part of the inspiration for this pair of images. He clearly sees documenting graffiti as a way of documenting social trends and the fact the authorities leave the South Bank as a live art gallery is, indeed, a sign of the times, quite unthinkable even twenty years ago. The other Vergara influence was to leave the artist’s plastic bag in much. I better understand that this type of untidy detail is a key part of the scene.

Rough and Smooth

Rough Wheel - 1/60 at f/6.3, ISO 100, 24 - 70mm zoom lens at 36mm

Rough Wheels – 1/60 at f/6.3, ISO 100, 24 – 70mm zoom lens at 36mm

As discussed in my research I visited the Milestones Museum at Basingstoke twice in the course of this assignment thinking that there would be a number of industrial images in the final set.

In the end rough wheels is the strongest and the only industrial image to make the cut. I wanted to emphasise the rough surface so used a diffused flash gun on the floor underneath the wheel to throw the light across the surface to create deep shadows and highlights. I took a whole series of photographs but chose this composition because of the balance provided by the cogged wheel and its teeth which provided a second type of rough.

Smooth Discs - 1/60 at f/3.2, ISo 100, 105mm prime lens

Smooth Discs – 1/60 at f/3.2, ISo 100, 105mm prime lens

Because rough wheels was all about texture and lighting I needed a complimentary pairing that relied on the same elements. I chose these DVDs positioned one in front of each other to offer a similar composition. Because smooth discs had to be about texture and light I used a small LED light from the left and a hot-shoe soft box from above and to the right. This has emphasised the smooth surface and all the reflections (or are they refractions?) have changed the look of the subject and hopefully emphasised the smooth surface.

Rough and smooth are tactile characteristics so, without the ability to touch the subject, I had to use light to show  that these were rough and smooth surfaces.

Diagonal and Rounded

Diagonal Arial Dance 1/1600 at f/4.2, ISO 400, 70 - 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Diagonal Aerial Dance 1/1600 at f/4.2, ISO 400, 70 – 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Rounded Tumble - 1/4000 at f/4, ISO 250, 70 to 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

Rounded Tumble – 1/4000 at f/4, ISO 250, 70 to 300mm zoom lens at 70mm

These two images are selected from a series taken using a trampoline and an energetic young relative who was happy to try and create the required shapes. A very fast shutter speed was used to freeze the moment. Diagonal has captured her at the top of a leap and in a ballet-like pose. Rounded was a little harder to achieve but the close crop has focussed on her rounded shape while she is in the process of turning round, of becoming rounded.

Moving and Still

Moving Cyclist - 1/125 at f/2.8, ISO 360, 24 to 70mm at 24mm

Moving Cyclist – 1/125 at f/2.8, ISO 360, 24 to 70mm at 24mm

The moving cyclist was captured on the edge of the graffiti zone on the South Bank. Taken whilst in mid-air performing a stunt and into the light with a flash gun to fill in the shadows. The artificial light adds to the sense of frozen action but, for me, the picture is made by the spectator on the left. This was taken with a wide lens but I have cropped to balance the cyclist with the spectator.

Still Skateboarder - 1/100 at f/8, ISO 640, 24 to 70 zoom lens at 35mm

Still Skateboarder – 1/100 at f/8, ISO 640, 24 to 70 zoom lens at 35mm

The still skateboarder was taken in Aldershot. I have left the framing very wide and cropped for width rather than using a 3:2 image to enable me to emphasise the empty bus shelter backed by the white windows and to show him as a isolated and rather lost little figure. His spiderman-like shirt and batman-like hat make him look very out-of-place.

Curved and Straight

Curved Poppies - 1/100 at f36, ISO 2500, 105mm prime lens

Curved Poppies – 1/100 at f36, ISO 2500, 105mm prime lens

I have written up the shoot that led to these Remembrance Day images.

I planned to use poppies for curves and expected to use the wreaths rather than the individual flowers. In the end I liked this near-macro photograph which is a quite abstract representation of the commemorative symbols and full of curves. I wanted there to be strong contrast within the image itself which I feel emphasises the shapes and increases the abstraction.

Straight Poppies - 1/100 at f6.3, iSO 100, 105mm prime lens

Straight Poppies – 1/100 at f6.3, iSO 100, 105mm prime lens

For straight I had planned to use the lines of wreaths on the memorial. However, I watched the wreaths being laid out by three military policemen. They were laid out in reasonably straight lines leading up to the memorial, the intent being that the people laying the wreaths could collect their wreath and place it at the base of the war memorial when they came out of the church service.

This sergeant was not happy with the ‘straight” lines and kept returning to make minor adjustments until he was satisfied that they were parade ground perfect. I felt this act of straightening was an expression of everything he stood for. His military desire for order and neatness, his pride in the job he had been given and the importance he placed on honouring the fallen in a manner that he believed they would understand. Straighten that line soldier!

To end as I began with Kipling:

“You may talk o’ gin and beer / When you’re quartered safe out ‘ere, / An’ you’re sent to penny fights an’ Aldershot it;

Straightening poppies is indeed to “Aldershot it”.