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First blog post

This is the post excerpt.

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grasshopper

 

 

1st Blog, 1st degree course; Oh my!

This is going to be an epic journey, I can’t wait.

Just FYI this little fellow is a grasshopper I saw when I lived in Florida, I couldn’t get a lower angle because it kept head butting me every time I tried.

The decisive moment – where I currently stand.

After watching the you tube video on Bresson and doing exercise 3 I find that I neither agree with or disagree with Henri on this topic.

I’m more in line with Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck Is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”, I think this sums it up most admirably.

Exercise 3.3

Brief:

1. What do the time-frames of the camera actually look like?

If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera
first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release.

What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight?

Describe the experiment in your learning log.

2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama.

Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground.

Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon.

Now try to see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes).
Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement).

When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.

 

Process:

I don’t have a film camera so couldn’t do the first part of this exercise.

For the second part I went to Putney bridge and set my camera to shutter priority mode and did as described in the brief.

 

Photographs:

 

Research:

None.

 

Analysis:

This exercise is to help get you used to observing.

In this photograph of the Thames from Putney bridge I did as described in the brief.

What I noticed once I got the image into post processing was the little things that I hadn’t noticed whilst taking the shot.

The most obvious was the sea-gull that I should’ve expected to be around water but just didn’t notice until afterwards.

It’s often the little things that make or break an image.

 

Reflections:

This reminds me of days at the rifle range and the watch and shoot exercises we did.

you’d be told a direction but not a distance, then when given the command “up” you had a couple of seconds to put two well-aimed shots on target.

It’s all designed to get you thinking and observing.

Observational skills can’t be taught, they can only be developed through practice.

I can only observe through my experience that people have a tendency to not look up.

Henri Catier-Bresson

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a French photographer famous for his street style of photography.
These video clips of his interview where in many ways eye-opening.
His early childhood through to him at the time of the interview showed a unique perspective of his developement into the photographer he became.
He came across as an easy-going man who had travelled the world and experienced much in his life time.
From meeting and talking with Gandhi to his experiences in his home town brothel whilst growing up.
He also describes how he took some of his more famous images, I especially enjoyed the moment he told the interviewer that most photography is luck.
The way he got the famous image “Behind the Gate Saint-Lazare, Paris, 1932″ was a good example of luck.
But was it a case of luck or more like what Gary Player said in an interview one time, the immortalised quote ” The more I practice, the luckier I get”.
I feel it’s more like the quote attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”.
You have to have a certain skill level, you then have to put yourself in the place where an image is likely to occur; then it’s down to luck.
This is what I think Bresson meant by  luck.
Otherwise the world operates on the basis of statistical mechanics, you know; the Simians with typewriters writing Shakespeare theory.

You can see his impact on photo-journalism, what he called the decisive moment when moving things are in balance.
Any sports photograph is a perfect example of his thinking here.

At the start of this research point I was seriously questioning this course, after all what has a “this is your life” video have to do with me learning photography, not much; but it did get me thinking of Seneca and his philosophy and this, in a very round about way was the main lesson I took from these video’s.
This train of thought took me back seventeen years to my start in car sales and my boss telling me I must “Practice, drill and rehearse” in order to be succesful.
Again I have been reminded of the truth of their wisdom.

Exercise 3.2

Brief:

Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above. Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.

Process:

This exercise sounds easy in concept but in practice it’s a little more difficult.
Most of these difficulties were self-imposed as I always try to find something a little different from the mainstream.
Armed with my new camera and tripod I went out over a period of many weeks seeking some good movement shots.
I tried slowing the shutter and allowing the subject to move through the frame.
I tried panning, a technique I will have to work on a lot more.
I also tried to keep my ISO as close to 100 as I could.
The OCA student guide says not to use Auto ISO so I tend to forget the setting as I’m going along.

Photo’s:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Research:

For this exercise I looked at photographers such as Robert Capa, Robert Frank and the one I really liked was the OCA student with Parkinson’s disease.

I agree with Gerry Badger regarding Francesca woodman’s work, you only have to look at it to know she was a troubled soul; dark and troubling images that probably reflected her feelings of despair.

Analysis:

Motion can be either implied such as an object caught still even though it must be moving such as a plane in flight or shown as in a moving bus at night. As this exercise called for movement within the frame I chose the latter as it’s more obvious to the viewer and that’s what I wanted to show.

Reflections:

I tried in part to imitate some of the Photographers mentioned. The bicycle rider was taken as the sun went down on the King’s road and the Bus was taken near Fulham Broadway station. The first was handheld and shaky with the long exposure, I added tilt so as to differentiate it from my fellow student and the second was tripod mounted, the girl in the poster had a haunting effect on me so I decided to wait until a bus went past. The others where standard longer exposures to catch motion, I’m particularly fond of the landing geese and the fountain that looks like a firework display.

My dark room – the computer.

I have a confession to make……… I am a nerd, a computer geek.

As one of the American founding fathers once said ” there never was a good knife made of bad steel”, so I feel about slow computers and internet connectivity.

Editing the bigger files of my new camera was causing my old computer to hesitate when manipulating images especially  RAW files.

So I decided to build a new one but which way to go ? Intel or AMD.

Intel traditionally  are faster but expensive where AMD are slower but half the price.

Delving into the murky waters of on-line geekdom I discovered that AMD had finally pulled even with Intel performance wise and they still retained a price advantage albeit only slightly.

They gave parity and saved several hundred  pounds in price, awesome.

Armed with my new-found knowledge I ordered the bits, an AMD Ryzen Threadripper CPU, new memory, new S.S.D, an Nvidia GTX1080Ti video card and the painfully expensive Asus motherboard.

I also decided to get a new case, Windows 10 pro and a power supply while I was at it.

One day later all these boxes arrived, I was like a child on Christmas morning.

Several hours later I had it built, I triple checked the connections and got ready to load my shiny new copy of Windows; I flipped the switches.

Wouldn’t even get past POST (power on self test), not even the BIOS (basic input output screen) would appear.

More checking on-line and I found that the incredibly expensive memory I had bought was none standard i.e it was overclocked.

Never mind, update the BIOS and all  should be well, it wasn’t; still wouldn’t boot.

It was about now that I was starting to panic, had I wasted thousands on junk; even worse, had I broken it somehow and would be unable to return it?

I did what all Brits should do in such circumstances, I made Tea then slept on it.

Prior to disassembly and shipping it back I decided to try one last thing.

Deep in the small printed motherboard manual somewhere it mentioned putting just one stick of memory in slot D1, totally counter intuitive but it should maximise memory compatibility or so it said.

I gave it a shot not thinking it had any hope of working.

A lot of beeps later it booted to the BIOS screen, I was elated.

I then proceeded to test each stick of memory in turn in slot D1, they all worked.

I then tested each of the eight slots in turn, they worked, puzzling.

I then loaded each one with a stick of memory building up to all four sticks, it worked!

I still have no idea why it worked after all this messing around but it does.

Windows loaded easily and I spent another day or two taking my software and passwords from my old computer to my new one.

This whole stressful build reminded me of the old saying ” Computers are like old testament Gods, all rules and no forgiveness”.

How true!

 

The trials and tribulations of printing.

Not too long ago I bought a new printer and was somewhat bothered by the fact that I had to keep adjusting how bright the prints came out.

In order for your photographs to be seen as you intend on your blog you must calibrate your monitor, most monitors are too bright and blue.

To get your prints to match the screen is another matter and more difficult.

It never really occurred to me, although it should have; that monitors are back-lit and have light shining from behind the image whereas prints are seen using reflected light.

This revelation also exposed a problem with my room lighting, the bulbs and the curtains where giving a yellow cast, I fixed that with daylight led bulbs balanced to 6500K and I only work when the sun is down; not ideal as the walls are painted a light cream colour but much better than it was.

After many You-tube  Videos I went out and purchased a Colormonki display calibration tool and a Spyder 5 printer calibration tool.

Calibrating my monitor was as painless as the blurb on the Colormonki Box suggested it would be, just load the software and place it on your screen; it takes about ten minutes and will remind you when it needs re-doing.

It also came with what they call a passport which  when used with Photoshop and Lightroom , helps colour balance your  photo’s in difficult lighting conditions; very clever.

The Spyder 5 loads and prints colour swatches and then scans them in order to match your screen with the printers output.

You have to do it for each type of paper you’re using and it produces a profile for your printer.

I found the plastic guide to be awkward and gave me inconsistent results until I discarded it and placed the reader directly on the swatches.

This was very time-consuming but gave me excellent results.

I am fairly confident that I can produce very good prints and after all the expense it should prove cost-effective compared to a professional print service.

A windfall and new gear.

It’s been a while since I did any work on this course due to a financial crisis that required me to sell all my camera gear.

Good news is I recently had a bit of a windfall that allowed me to get back on track financially and get some new gear.

I went a bit wild but got a Nikon D5 and the Tamron F2.8 Trinity plus the Nikon 200 – 500 f5.6.

I also purchased a Gitzo tripod and ball head.

Damn! now I’m all out of excuses and must get cracking.

No more complaining about depth of field or not having a lens long or wide enough for what I want to do.