Tag Archives: Surrey

Assignment 5 Illustration and Narrative

Change in the Village is the story of two families who lived, at different times, in the same valley on the Surrey and Hampshire borders and the story of the village that grew up there. The narrative starts when an itinerant farm labourer and veteran of the Crimean War marries a local girl and settles in the valley and ends, over a hundred years later, when my childhood in the village finishes and I begin to attend the Grammar School in the nearest town.

It is an exploration of shared memories and common values, of lifestyles that have all but been forgotten, of how the Surrey peasant and rural working class lost their land and their dignity, and how the people that displaced them lost their innocence in war and found peace in this insignificant place. It is a journey through a shared landscape that can still be found and that has shaped the history of the valley and of the settlers who drifted here. For a thousand years this waste land, the common land upon which the village is built, held no value nor offered wealth to the the great landowners but in 1861 it was enclosed and everything changed in the village.

A full description of the development of this narrative can be found in the post Researching and Completing Assignment 5.

A selection of PDFs of the complete narrative are available to download:

Change in the Village 1 low res – Page by page PDF designed to be printed double sided

Change in the Village 1 spreads low res – The spreads

The photographs that make up this narrative can be found in Assignment 5 Images

The Spreads

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-1

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-2

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-3

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-4

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-5

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-6

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-7

Change-in-the-Village-1-spreads-8

Assignment 5 Images

The following photographs were used in assignment 5. I have not included the individual images that make up Shared Landscapes as these were conceived as a typology and not relevant as individual images.

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Fig. 01 The Village Green 1/125 at f/10, ISO 800

Fig. 01 The Village Green 1/125 at f/10, ISO 800

Fig. 02 Squatter's Cottage - 1/160 at f/9, ISO 200

Fig. 02 Squatter’s Cottage – 1/160 at f/9, ISO 200

Fig. 03 The Common - 1/200 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 03 The Common – 1/200 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 04 Dene Lane - 1/100 at f/8, ISO 160

Fig. 04 Dene Lane – 1/100 at f/8, ISO 160

Fig. 05 The Boathouse Frensham Little Pond - 1/125 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 05 The Boathouse Frensham Little Pond – 1/125 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 06 2 Old Frensham Road - 1/60 at f/20, ISO 1000

Fig. 06 2 Old Frensham Road – 1/60 at f/20, ISO 1000

Fig. 07 2 Old Frensham Road 1/400 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 07 2 Old Frensham Road 1/400 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 08 2 Old Frensham Road - 1/500 at f/6.3, ISO 200

Fig. 08 2 Old Frensham Road – 1/500 at f/6.3, ISO 200

Fig. 09 Fred Grover's Cottage - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1000

Fig. 09 Fred Grover’s Cottage – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 1000

Fig. 10 Steam Lane - 1/60 at f/10, ISO 1100

Fig. 10 Steam Lane – 1/60 at f/10, ISO 1100

Fig. 11 The Clumps - 1/160 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 11 The Clumps – 1/160 at f/14, ISO 200

Fig. 12 The Enclosed Common - 1/60 at f/13, ISO 800

Fig. 12 The Enclosed Common – 1/60 at f/13, ISO 800

Fig. 13 Camps in the Woods - 1/60 at F5.6, ISO 800

Fig. 13 Camps in the Woods – 1/60 at F5.6, ISO 800

Fig. 14 Hops - 1/250 at f/2.8, ISO100

Fig. 14 Hops – 1/250 at f/2.8, ISO100

Fig. 15 Vine Cottage - 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140

Fig. 15 Vine Cottage – 1/100 at f/9, ISO 140

Fig. 16 The Bourne School - 1/60 at f/22, ISO 200

Fig. 16 The Bourne School – 1/60 at f/22, ISO 200

Fig. 17 The Bourne School Gates - 1/640 at f/3.2, ISO 200

Fig. 17 The Bourne School Gates – 1/640 at f/3.2, ISO 200

Fig. 18 Old Lawnmower in Graveyard - 1/80 at f/10, ISO 400

Fig. 18 Old Lawnmower in Graveyard – 1/80 at f/10, ISO 400

Fig. 19 Farnham Grammar School - 1/20 at f/3.6, ISO 800

Fig. 19 Farnham Grammar School – 1/20 at f/3.6, ISO 800

Fig. 20 The Bourne Graveyard - 1/60 at f/11, ISO 900

Fig. 20 The Bourne Graveyard – 1/60 at f/11, ISO 900

Fig. 21 The Family Grave - 1/30 at f/14, ISO 800

Fig. 21 The Family Grave – 1/30 at f/14, ISO 800

Fig. 22 The Bourne Graveyard - 1/100 at f/16, ISO 560

Fig. 22 The Bourne Graveyard – 1/100 at f/16, ISO 560

Fig. 23 Cattle on The Common - 1/160 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 23 Cattle on The Common – 1/160 at f/16, ISO 200

Fig. 24 Shared Landscape 1

Fig. 24 Shared Landscape 1

Fig. 25 Shared Landscape 2

Fig. 25 Shared Landscape 2

 

Researching and Completing Assignment 5

Fig. 01 Cattle on The Common - 1/60 at f/16, ISO 100

Fig. 01 Cattle on The Common – 1/60 at f/16, ISO 100

Introduction

Assignment 5 has a straight forward brief, the essence of which is to create a magazine story in the form of a picture essay and to design the cover of the magazine that will run the story. The final result should ideally incorporate both illustrative and narrative techniques.

As this assignment comes at the end of TAoP it is an opportunity to bring together elements of the whole course and it was always my intent to allocate a disproportionate amount of time to researching, planing and undertaking this assignment. TAoP naturally led me to researching a wide selection of established photographs, many of whom have very directly influenced my thinking even when their style or chosen field is not directly relevant to my own work but more than this influence they have collectively taught me a set of basic principles that I wanted to take forward into assignment 5 and beyond.

Working in a Series

The first principle, which is especially relevant to narrative, is that work is more effective when presented as part of a series. Nearly every photo book that I have studied and reviewed is greater, more powerful, than the sum of the individual photos within in. Sometimes this is because of the story line but often it is simply the effect of developing and building a conversation with the audience,  exponentially drawing the viewer deeper into a subject as each image is revealed.

See – Planning Assignment 3 with Tony Ray-Jones and Martin Parr

Quality of Research and Understanding

The second principle relates to the ethics of documentary photography. Respected photo journalists such as Stuart Freeman (1), and Phillip Jones Griffiths (2) both point out the importance of the photographer immersing themselves in their subject so that their work respects and honestly represents it. Freeman states that “storytelling in photography must be as vigorous in thought and research as it is beautiful in construction and execution” and this aide has directed my whole approach to assignment 5.

This ideal is best summarised by a quote from Tod Papageorge (13).

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t reading enough.”

See – Philip Jones Griffiths – An Engaged Observer

Contextualisation

The third principle flows from the second. Jones Griffiths points out that documentary images must be properly contextualised. His example is that a picture of a starving child is just that, it doesn’t mean anything. The photographer must provide the context, why is this child starving? what events led to this point? who is depriving him of food? Jones Griffiths believes that this can only be done by combining photographs with text, he argues that we live in a literal society so words are an essential element of photographic story telling.

See – Captions and Other Words in Photo Narrative and Phillip Jones Griffiths and the Use of Captions, Cutlines and Other text in Vietnam Inc.

Respecting the Subject Through the Quality of the Image

For the final principle I will refer back to the second part of the Freedman quotation. Understanding the subject is not enough, we must use whatever skills we possess to bring beauty to the construction and execution of the photographs. Exhibit one to support the case for this principle can be found in the work of Josef Koudelka (4) who has championed isolated and suppressed communities for much of his career and who makes these marginalised people important, human and valuable by the art and technical excellence that he brings to every one of his pictures.

See – Josef Koudelka – Wall and The Role of Olive Trees in Koudelka’s Wall

The Concept

Choice of Subject

It was always going to be important to select a subject that I already, at least in part understood, I felt that my classmate, Adam Newsome, had been so successful with his assignment 4 on IEDs (Adam’s Assignment) (5) because he had based it on a subject with which he was already intimate. This intimacy allowed him to explore and document the subject in real depth and to offer the audience an unique viewpoint.

I chose to look at my own childhood and the village in which I grew up.

Parallel Timelines

Having looked at a wide range of narratives and photo stories I wanted to develop a story line that had multiple strands. I had connected with Julian Germain’s For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness (3) for many reasons but I especially responded to the idea of combining his “current” photographs with the subject’s own photographic memories, this gave the audience two timelines to follow and the opportunity for juxtaposing past and present. This worked well because Germain gave both sets of pictures equal prominence and therefore equal value, there was no suggestion that because the subject’s photos were amateur ‘snaps” that they should be treated with any less respect.

To enable me to introduce multiple timelines to my narrative I decided to base part of the story on the writings of George Sturt who lived in “my” village between 1891 and his death in 1927. Sturt was not a typical man of his times, a self confessed socialist who was also a business owner and employer and who saw his employees as people and friends. A number of his books are heralded as classics but his most moving works are a trilogy of books (6), (7), (8), based on conversations with his gardener whom he calls Bettesworth. Bettesworth, or Fred Grover, was an old man when Sturt first employed him and the stories of his life in a tiny Surrey hamlet tell the story of that village from the 1840s until his death in 1905. Sturt’s other book, Change in the Village (10) and his Journals continue to map the evolution of the area until Sturt’s own death.

The concept was to trace the spirit of Fred Grover and to document his path through this landscape and to overlay that with own childhood in the same place. I hoped to find places where Fred and I could meet and ideas upon which we might have agreed or even argued. I aslo wanted to draw on any similarities that I could find between my family history as it related the the village and Grover’s.

From the outset I wanted to use a small number of photographs from Grover’s time and from my family album. This would enable me to not only juxtapose past and present but to also provide visual variety.

Text and Captions

Whilst recognising and accepting that this assignment was about photography it was also clearly set as a magazine article and for that reason alone it needed text to complement the images. My study of the early photo stories had been informative but it was also obvious that this approach is now historic, Life and its competitors have long gone and the Sunday magazines, National Geographic and specialist magazines that are image heavy such as travel magazines have a high proportion of text to image. I am sure that there are examples of pure photo stories in magazines but I would more see this to be the province of the photo book or internet slide show.

More importantly I considered whose work had influenced me the most when researching narrative and quickly concluded it was Kodelka’s WallJones Griffiths’ Vientnam Inc and Lam’s Abandoned Futures. Each of these books are heavily reliant on the written word to contextualise the photographs.

It also seemed relevant that as I would be researching the subject matter in some depth part of the story would only be told effectively by combining words with the photographs. I made the decision to format the story as if it was to be published in a magazine but to adopt a text / picture mix similar to Jones Griffiths.

Appropriation

The use of old photographs would already introduce an element of appropriation to the project but I was also keen to try and link the modern photographs with the past by using quotes from George Sturt’s books as captions. This approach also linked this assignment back to assignment 3 and my research into Anna Fox and Victor Burgin.

Other Influences

Different photographers and writers influenced different parts of the assignment.

Joachim Brohm and the Bechers influenced the way I approached a double page spread typology of cottages and other buildings that I knew as a child and that Grover would have known.

I researched a number of different views on how a photo story should be created and took forward ideas from Harold Evans’ Pictures on Page (11) regarding layouts and the relationship between pots and text although there was, of course the need, to translate the ideas from broadsheet to a smaller format. His ideas on how to build a story are invaluable an, being a newspaper man, he likes words so further justified my essay writing. Equally useful was Derek Birdsall’s Notes on Book Design (12), his ideas on how to layout a page were inspiration even though I know that I fell way short of his high standards.

My general background research is summarised in my post Narrative andI endeavoured to carry forward that research into this assignment.

Overall my strongest influences were the photo journalists such as Jones Griffiths, who I have already mentioned, Stuart Freedman, Chris Steele-Perkins, and Eugene W. Smith (for Minamata rather than his work for Life Magazine). In each case these men talk about and follow the principles I have discussed above. Quite clearly they are usually documenting subjects of world importance and I had no such subject in leafy Surrey and their technical excellence is way beyond my limited skills but their real influence on me was to set a pace for the assignment that allowed me to become absorbed in my subject and think through the photographs I wanted and how I wanted to use them.

The Process

Developing the Concept

The concept was developed in parallel with the research described in Narrative but, even before I started with OCA, I was planning a project to look at the journeys of William Cobbett or the writings of George Sturt. Partly because they were both local men and partly because they wrote about the countryside  I love and rural issues which are important to me and that always take a back seat in our urban dominated political landscape. However, I realised that the scale of the research required to deal with Cobbett was inappropriate for a single assignment and I also wanted to bring a personal element to the work and that would have been harder to achieve with Cobbett.

I felt that I already had a number of personal connections with George Sturt. My father had collected his books and as another passionate socialist shared many of Sturt’s views about the treatment of the rural poor. I had walked past his house everyday on my way to school and knew all of the places he wrote about but, more to the point, I knew these places not as a visiting student but as someone who had grown up in the lanes, fields and commons that he describes. His countryside was my countryside and it was this shared landscape that I mots wanted to explore.

Research

The first step was to re-read Sturt’s books and as I did this I formed a strong affinity with Fred Grover who had lived in a tiny cottage a few hundred yards from where I grew up, moving there around a hundred years before I was born. Sturt’s conversations with his old gardener revealed a complex life hidden behind the simple and stereotypical facade of the Surrey labourer and my copious notes centred around the important moments in Gover’s and, his wife, Lucy’s lives. His war service in the Crimea,  the enclosure of the common, the birth and death of their children, Lucy’s decline as her epilepsy worsened, the shadow of the workhouse and destitution that was the end of the road for so many of the rural poor.

Each strand opened up new avenues of research including:

  • Roger Fenton and his Crimean War photography, specifically searching on-line libraries for a photograph of the men of Grover’s regiment. I had looked at Fenton’s still life work during assignment 4 so it was interesting to look at a different aspect of his career.
  • Farnham Museum, who were most helpful with searching their photographic archives for pictures of the 19th century village, Sturt’s house, Grover’s cottage and, after much searching, a single photo of Fred Grover himself talked by George Sturt.
  • Simon Fairlie’s “A Short History of Enclosure in Britain” (15) was invaluable and provided much needed historic context and that helped explain Sturt’s thoughts on the matter.
  • I met and talked to Wendy Maddox, who co-incedentially had been taught by my Father at The Bourne School in the late 1940’s, and who is an amateur but dedicated historical researcher who has carried out extensive work on the history of the village and specifically on the old graveyard. She was part of the team who identified Fred and Lucy Grover’s unmarked graves. The results of some of this research can be found on The Bourne Conservation Society website (16)

Photography

It is not really appropriate to describe my photography trips as shoots. Over a period of nearly three months I kept visiting the village, walking through different areas, talking to the people I met and taking photographs that seemed to capture the village I remembered. My aim was to find Grover’s spirit or part of my own history so other than starting my walks from obvious landmarks such as his cottage, Sturt’s house, the houses where I had lived, the school or the pub I did not plan shoots.

Over time I began to find themes and that invested my work with a little more purpose. I began to form an idea of wanting an element of typology in the final piece and a lot of my walks were in search of cottages that had been the homes of the original squatters who inhabited the village.

A number of my walks were on, what had been the common land, and is now either part of Frensham Common which is managed by the National Trust or The Bourne Woods which are owned by the RSPB and has become quite well know for its staring role in films such as Gladiator and Robin Hood.

My photographic technique changed significantly during this time as a heavy DSLR and camera bag became too restrictive and, given I was often photographing people’s home from the lane in front of their house, it also felt too invasive. Instead I started carrying a mirror-less Fuji XT-1 and this liberated my approach and led to, what seemed, simpler and more appropriate compositions.

Sources

 Books

(3) Germain, Julian (2005) For Every Minute You Are Angry You lose Sixty Seconds of Happiness. Gottingen: Steidl MACK (Reviewed o line via a combination of Julian Germain’s web site – http://www.juliangermain.com/projects/foreveryminute.php and the MACK web site – http://www.mackbooks.co.uk/books/16-For-every-minute-you-are-angry-you-lose-sixty-seconds-of-happiness.html

(4) Koudelka, Josef. (2013) Wall: Israeli and Palestinian Landscapes 2008 – 2012. New York: Aperture

(6) Sturt, George. (1902) The Bettesworth Book: 1978 Edition, a facsimile of the second edition published in 1902. Firle: Caliban Books.

(7) Sturt, George. (1907) Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer: 1978 Edition, a facsimile of the second edition published in 1907. Firle: Caliban Books.

(8) Sturt,George (1913) Lucy Bettesworth. London: Duckworth & Co. Sturt, George (1907) Memoirs of a Surrey Labourer. 1978 facsimile of the 1st Edition. Firle, Sussex: Caliban Books

(9) Sturt, George (1912) Change in the Village. 1955 edition. London: Gerald Duckworth & Co.

(10) Sturt, George (1923) The Wheelwright’s Shop. First paperback edition 1963. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

(11) Evans, Harold. (1979) Pictures on a Page: Photo-journalism, Graphics and Picture Editing. London: Book Club Associates.

(12) Birdsall, Derek. (2004) Notes on Book Design. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.

Internet

(1) Freedman, Stuart. (2010) Ethics and Photojournalism – http://www.epuk.org/The-Curve/952/ethics-and-photojournalism

(2)  Photo Histories (August 2014) – Philip Jones Griffiths – http://www.photohistories.com/interviews/23/philip-jones-griffiths

(5) Newsome, Adam. (2014) IEDs – https://adamnewsome.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/level-1-art-of-photography-assignment-4/

(13) Foto8. Mark Durden Interview with Tod Papageorge – http://www.foto8.com/live/tod-papageorge-interview/

(14) Smith, W. Eugene and Smith, Aileen M (1971) Minamata vs. Chisso Corporation – Magnum Photography site – http://www.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2TYRYDDWZXTR

(15) Fairlie, Simon (2009) A Short History of Enclosure in Britain. First Published in The Land Magazine – http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/articles/short-history-enclosure-britain

(16) The Bourne Conservation Society – http://www.bourneconservation.org.uk/index.htm

Photography as Archeology

Fig. 01 The Old Dairy Weydon - 1/100 at F/18, ISO 1,000

Fig. 01 The Old Dairy Weydon – 1/100 at F/18, ISO 1,000

For 6,000 years we have built structures, places to live, to keep us safe, to work, to store the product of our labours, to preserve our ideas or to give structure to our beliefs, to remember our ancestors and commemorate our successes. For much of that time we have made durable things, weapons for hunting, attack or defence, tools to ease our labours, vehicles to transport goods and people, and for a myriad of other purposes. Since the first farmers stopped following the game herds and selected a place to settle in the landscape humans have changed that landscape by collecting raw materials, by farming, by building and by scattering the things we made.

The things we build start with clear structures and purposes but as civilisations evolve our creations lose their purpose and their structure. Nature is always waiting to reclaim every element of every thing we make. We might stave her off for a few years, a few generations or a millennium but eventually she degrades and degenerates everything. Some objects settle into the landscape over time and we come to terms with their demise to such an extent that, as ruins, they define or are thought to beautify the greater place in which they stand but others sit defiantly ugly, never able to gracefully decay, remaining as eyesores, a blot on the landscape. Some temporarily find new life but time will tell and the greatest of our achievements eventually become dust.

Archeologists seek out these abandoned structures and objects to document their existence and to study their context before nature removes their trace. We mostly associated this science with the distant past, the discovery of something that is lost, the process of putting flesh onto the bones of history but all around us there are structures and things in the early stages of their demise, the abandoned buildings and discarded objects of the recent past that might become the archeology of the future but more often are cleared to make way for the next great idea. The documentation of these recent relics can be as compelling as an episode of Time Team, in each building or discarded object there is the history of people, of failed dreams and social change, of seismic shifts in our politics, habits and desires.

Assignment 5 has taken me back to the houses, villages, heaths and woodlands of my childhood and in searching for the past I have found shadows of my generation and the generations that preceded me. I have captured some of these with my camera.

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Photographically these objects offer interesting subjects but I find myself torn between using the saturated colours that I love, black and white graphic representations that remove the distraction of colour or desaturated and muted colours that might offer the best of both worlds. I was mildly critical of Tong Lam’s Abandoned Futures because I felt there were too many inconsistencies in his style and that this made his narratives slightly disjointed and I envy the certainty of style that can been seen in the work of Stephen Shore or Josef Koudelka who, I assume, never question whether to change their colour palette or, in Koudelka’s case, lack of colour.

There are examples of colour and monochrome being used together in a single presentation, David Bailey worked in both mediums and his Stardust exhibition showed his colour and black and white work, if not side by side, at least in close proximity. Irving Penn’s Still life includes examples of both and there is the sense that he moved freely between them. Most recently I visited Russell Squires’ Landings Exhibition where panoramic landscape photos in colour alternate with square format, black and white, intimate landscapes. These examples don’t necessarily set any precedents and the reasons that each artist mixed media in this way might need to be more carefully considered at some later date. At this stage and for these photos from around Farnham, I am switching between desaturated colour and black and white based on the approach that best suited each specific subject. A few months ago I conducted a similar study in Turks and Caicos and selected saturated colour as the approach that best suited the subjects and the warm Caribbean light. I may subsequently review this work and criticise myself for the lack of a consistent style.

Exercise 32 Cloudy Weather and Rain

This is a multi part exercise. In part one we are asked to look at how exposure changes between sunlight and shadow caused by cloud. the following series of photographs show this change in a landscape.

Fig 01 Clouded Over - 1/125 at f14, - .67 stops, ISO 100

Fig 01 Cloud – 1/125 at f14, – .67 stops, ISO 100

Fig.02 Sun Breaking Through - 1/160 at f/14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig.02 Sun Breaking Through – 1/160 at f/14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Sun - 1/200 at f14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Sun – 1/200 at f14, -.67 stops, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Shade 5 hours later - 1/60 at f/16, -.67 stops, ISO 110

Fig. 04 Shade 5 hours later – 1/60 at f/16, -.67 stops, ISO 110

This part of the exercise shows that cloud cover, even on a sunny day, significantly impacts exposure. There is a 2 stop difference between the same scene lit with full sun and when the sun is covered by cloud. There is a further 3 stop difference between shade at 11 am and shade at 5 pm. The dark marks in the sky in fig. 04 are swallows.

The third part of the exercise asks us to take photographs in the rain.

DSC_7627

Fig. 06 Rain in the Distance  1/125 at f/16, ISO 160

DSC_7636

Fig. 07 Rain in the Distance 1/1600 at f/5.6, ISO 100

Fig. 08 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Fig. 08 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 1600

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 4000

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/5.6, ISO 4000

Fig. 09 Raining 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 900

Fig. 10 Raining 1/1000 at f/4.5, ISO 900

Fig. 05 1/125 at f/8, ISO 720

Fig. 11 Puddles After Rain 1/125 at f/8, ISO 720

Fig. 05 1/125 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 12 Puddles After Rain 1/125 at f/8, ISO 400

Fig. 13 Umbrellas 1/125 at f/9, ISO 450

Fig. 13 Umbrellas 1/125 at f/9, ISO 450

The second part of the exercise is pending a dull day.

 

Exercise 31(b) Variety with a Low Sun

Continuing with exercise 31, variety with a  low sun, this post concentrates on back lighting and edge lighting.

Over a few evenings in slightly different locations I was able to find a variety of backlit landscape subjects.

Fig. 01 1/180 at f6.7 less 1/2 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 01 1/180 at f6.7 less 1/2 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 02 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 stop, ISO 560

Fig. 02 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 stop, ISO 560

Both fig. 1 and fig 2 are variations on back lighting. Fig 1 is nearly directly into the sun whereas fig. 2 has the sun on the right hand side and just above the frame so the lighting changes across the picture. They are quite different in terms of atmosphere with the first picture being about shapes and tones whereas, in the second picture I am trying to capture the peaceful warm light of a summer’s evening.

1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 a stop, ISO 250

Fig. 03 – 1/60 at f/16 less 1/5 a stop, ISO 250

1/60 at f/13 less 1/5 stop, ISO 160

Fig. 04 – 1/60 at f/13 less 1/5 stop, ISO 160

1/180 at f 6.7 less 1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 05 – 1/180 at f 6.7 less 1/5 stop, ISO 100

Figs. 3,4 and 5 are in search of the elusive edge lighting which is undoubtably the hardest to find in a landscape. I think that fig. 3 comes nearest.

 

Exercise 31(a) Variety with a Low Sun

Most of the exercises in this part of the course are a challenge, not because of the subject matter or the exercise but because of the vagaries of the British weather and having the right conditions coinciding with the time available to undertake the exercise. It doesn’t help trying to undertake them in mid-June when dawn and dusk are so far apart and at pretty unsociable times of the day.

This exercise is designed to show the advantages of shooting when the sun is low. We are asked to collect a set of pictures that exhibit front, side, back and edge lighting.

I am dividing my results across two posts. This post focusses on back, front and side lit subjects in a single landscape, Waverley Abbey in Surrey.

The title of the exercise includes the word “variety” so I have taken a number of field trips on different evenings and experimented with different subjects. I am keeping my options open on assignment 4 and might work with natural light so I want to use this exercise to try out techniques.

Fig. 01 Pond at Waverley - HDR processed using HDR Efex Pro 2 from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 01 Pond at Waverley – HDR processed using HDR Efex Pro 2 from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 01 is a HDR image. I have been reading Michael Freeman’s helpful book, Capturing Light *(1) and have also read his blog posts on the subject of HDR. (For some reason Safari cannot find The Freeman View blog today but I found an article by Freeman on the Manfrotto site here)* (2).  I subscribe to his view that this is a technique that should not be ignored solely on the grounds that it is often seen in its most extreme forms. I am quite relaxed about using HDR when working with an image that contains a very wide tonal range but, before reading Freeman’s advice I either used HDR Efex Pro 2 which is the software I used for Fig . 01 or processed PSD files in Photoshop Merge to HDR Pro.

Fig. 02 Pond at Waverley - HDR processed using Merge to HDR pro and ACR from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Fig. 02 Pond at Waverley – HDR processed using Merge to HDR pro and ACR from 5 images. 1/160 at f/16 (-1 stop to + 1 stop)

Freeman, in Capturing light recommends a different approach which can be summarised as using TIFF files, merged using HDR Pro, converted to 32bit and then post processed in Adobe Camera Raw (ACR). I have tried this approach in Fig. 02. In both images the intent is to avoid the “HDR look” which Freeman calls an “illustration” and to maintain a more photographic look.

I think Freeman’s technique gave me slightly more control over the contrast and I was able to recover more vibrant shadows. As part of understanding light I have been collecting books of impressionist paintings from our local charity shops. Within pretending be to be an art connoisseur it appears to me that the impressionists had a particular way of introducing highlights into their paintings that glister and shimmer. I was originally considering basing assignment 4 on this idea and so have some of these paintings in my mind. In fig 2 the way the light is reflecting off the pond and the water lilies reminds me of some of Pissarro’s paintings and is an effect I would like to explore more deeply.

Fig. 01 and 02 are one approach to dealing with the challenges of backlit subjects. the sun is behind the trees in the background to the right.

The next set included below are of the same subject, a tree in the same location.

Fig. 01 Front Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 03 Front Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 02  Front Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Front Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 3 and 4 are both front lit. The sun is approximately behind me. I have under exposed by 1/2 a stop to increase the saturation and made minor adjustments to the contrast with a slight “S” curve in photoshop. The light works well in both these images and fig. 4 is helped by the dark clouds that had begun to build.

Fig. 03 Side Lit - 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 05 Side Lit – 1/90 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 100

Fig. 04 Side Lit - 1/60 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 110

Fig. 06 Side Lit – 1/60 at f/13, -1/5 stop, ISO 110

Figs 5 and 6 are both side lit but from slightly different angles. Like 3 & 4 they are 1/2 stop underexposed and with a slight “S” curve applied in Photoshop.

The back lit images of the lone tree were failures.

I had set out to find a lone tree and recalling this one at Waverley thought it might make a good subject. However, I was working too early in the evening to get a soft evening light for the backlit versions and as the sun started to get into the right position there was too much cloud. I need to try this again on another evening.

Whilst researching something quite unrelated I came across a series of photos taken by Simon Norfolk *(3) who is better known for his work in war zones. On his website there is a small set of photos taken at Blenheim Palace of oaks in the park.

Fig. 07 Blenheim Palace by Simon Norfolk

Fig. 07 Blenheim Palace by Simon Norfolk

These appear to be taken at dawn rather than dusk as there is mist in the background; he has obviously used artificial light on the trees.

I am not sure what type of lighting he would have used but I am very taken by these images and want to attempt this technique.

The only equipment that I can use are two hot-shoe soft boxes along with 3 flash guns and it will be interesting to see whether they cast enough light. I will have to use trial and error to get the exposure right as he may have stopped down the exposure and boosted up the lights to get this effect. Joe McNally *(4) uses this technique a lot for outdoor portraits.

It is possible that I might need to try the technique with smaller trees but this would be a great technique to master and used for still life and portraits as well as landscape.

Sources

Books

(1) Freeman, Michael (2013) Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography. Lewes: Ilex.

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

Internet

(2) Manfrotto School of Excellence. Michael Freeman article on HDR processing. http://www.manfrottoschoolofxcellence.com/2011/06/michael-freeman-night-time-hdr-and-definitely-a-tripod/#.U6MYVhbv5Gw

(3) Norfolk, Simon. Official Website http://www.simonnorfolk.com