Exercise 5.3 – Behind the gate Saint – Lazaire

Brief:

 

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gate Saint-Lazare in part three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery).

Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again?

What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log.

You can be as imaginative as you like.

In order to contextualize your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto
discussed in Part Three.

Write about 150–300 words.

 

Response:

The single most element that my eye kept returning too is the mans heel just above the puddle.
As for the information it contains there is quite a bit.
The first piece of information is that he’s airborne, perhaps trying to leap to a shallower part of the puddle.
The second bit of information is that the puddle is large and quite unavoidable if he wants to get to where he’s going.
The third and final piece of information I get from it is that he’s about to land in it, how deep is it ?
, unfortunately Henri didn’t take a second image to my knowledge and therefore it will remain a mystery.
Which is a pity because if you pose a question it would be nice to also have the answer.
The Composition of this photograph is excellent considering Henri just stuck his camera through the gate without seeing what was on the other side.
What makes it for me is the reflection in the puddle.
It reminds me a bit of my shot I called Peter Pan.

 

Peter Pan ?

This image was shot for an earlier exercise.

 

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Exercise 5.2

Brief:

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it.

You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to.

Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log.
Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case?

Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the
relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.

 

Process:

I went out with my 24-70 mm. lens at night around Hammersmith in London.

I hand-held for all the shots.

The intention was to get some images like Rut Blees images taken for London transport.

I did get some.

I also tried to get some shallow depth of field shots like Gianluca Cosci took to emphasise the corporate take over of urban spaces, this I also did.

The image I decided upon was one taken by Neil Armstrong of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon.

I’d taken this from across the street and exposed for the interior wall.

Photographs:

This iconic image was taken of Buzz Aldrin near the legs of the lunar module.

Neil Armstrong, image as11-40-5903, NASA. 1969.

Space one…….

Contact sheet.

Research:

I have previously looked at Blees and Coscis work and was aware of it.

As I walked past this office building I noticed the photograph that is circular and mounted on the wall, I had seen this before; so in a rare case of image first research second I took the photograph.

Turns out it was a crop of an image taken by Neil Armstrong of Buzz Aldrin during the Apollo 11 lunar mission.

You can tell it’s the same image by the reflections in the helmets visor.

 

Analysis:

Barrett says there is three types of information in a photograph, that in the photograph, that information surrounding the image and how the picture was made.

He calls these the internal, the external and the original contexts.

The brief asks :

Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

For my chosen image I’d have to say yes to all.

Stylistic because it blends so many ideas and styles together, Juxtaposition because of the photo mounted on the wall together with the sign in the window and the statue; the subject can definitely be described as a decisive moment.

It also is a reflection on the commercialisation of space as I don’t think that NASA intended for the photograph to be used to advertise office space.

This window was a pleasant find and is one of the reasons I like photography.

As for which of Barrett’s information is to be found within my image ?  that to be found within the image and that which is found surrounding it.

 

Reflections:

As I said, I went out with the intention of doing something different but I just couldn’t resist using this image.

I was seven years old when Armstrong and Aldrin walked on the moon.

I can remember my mother letting us stay up late to watch the landing and the first steps on the moon on TV.

I thought it was the coolest thing ever, I can only imagine what it felt like for those involved.

Exercise 5.1

Brief:

Use your camera as a measuring device.

This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!).

Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a
sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’.

Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4).
In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:
Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t
mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever
you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your
intention, but because it is there.

 

Process:

For this exercise I wanted to explore the idea that I was an outsider looking in.

I also wanted to vary the distances and focal lengths to show how far or close I relate to the subject.

I went out over two nights to get shots of reflections in windows aswell as anything else that could reflect the idea of an outsider looking in.

On the first night I took my 70 – 200 f 2.8 and on the second my 200 – 500 f 5.6 and a monopod.

I often put my camera into continuous high so that I could image stack to remove noise in post processing.

 

Photographs:

Reconstruction.

Time.

Don’t go there…

Worry.

Beanie hat.

Passenger.

Trainee?

Outside looking in.

Reinvention.

I selected this shot because it portrays part of the journey from homelessness through the grimy window to reconstructing your life.

I selected image 16 because it shows the emptiness of time passing by and image 39 because it shows my intended path of getting a photographic degree.

Image 11 shows what I  avoided unlike many homeless.

Image 16 gave me a feeling of the lonely and anonymous journey I took.

Image 8 was selected because it shows re-training for a different stage of life.

No selection from this sheet.

This one really isn’t the selection, I used median image stacking using all similar shots to portray the jostling crowd and reduce the noise of the image ; this one is my select.

I selected this image because I thought it was someone looking out of their window, turned out to be a bust wearing a beanie hat.

I selected this because it shows a feeling of loneliness.

 

Research:

For this exercise I didn’t research a photographer or any other artist.

I  got inspiration from my old journal.

Below is a copy of my thoughts from my learning log.

Part of the brief for exercise 5.1 is the following:

“Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!).

Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a
sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’.”

Sometime after reading this I happened across my old journal I wrote for the three months I was homeless.

This homelessness went on for nearly three months during the most deplorable weather  Oxford has ever experienced, from November 2013 through to February 2014.

The notes in this journal took me back to the bleakest time in my life.

In it were my feelings toward fellow campers, the hunger, the desperation and the loneliness.

Colorado, an American student who saved his money by living in a family sized tent that blew down and leaked often and Cat Weasel an older homeless gentleman who wasn’t all there if you know what I mean.

These and more helped me retain my sanity.

I have to mention here an experience I had at 7 am. Christmas morning.

Two young Scandinavian students stopped across the street from me, not another soul to be seen; took off their hats and started singing a Christmas carol.

Their voices were angelic and echoed from the surrounding buildings.

It was very moving, once finished they donned their hats, smiled at me and carried on their journey.

It was an incredible experience to say the least and I was the only  person there to appreciate their fine singing.

This journal then gave me the idea of measuring how far I have come since then but it didn’t seem to fit the narrative very well.

Maybe I can explore something more specific that I noted down.

I’ll give it some more thought over the weekend.

Well I gave it more thought and decided upon the subject of an outsider looking in.

Looking on the WWW I came across this article in Psychology  today which deals with Highly Sensitive People .

“As one highly sensitive person put it recently, it’s like being an outsider looking in.

Life as a HSP feels very much like pushing your nose against the glass that separates you from society and all you can do is watch and wonder how they do it and how you can ever get in”.
Deborah ward, On The Outside Looking In, Finding the balance between community and sensitivity.
Psychology today October 16 2011.

It doesn’t entirely relate to homelessness but the overall feeling of the article felt strangely familiar.

Analysis:

I like my first image very much, it shows a contrast between the dark and cold outside to the warm glow of the interior.

There’s also a contrast between the circles on the window and the straight lines and squareness of the interior.

The grimy window also adds a certain atmosphere that adds depth of feeling to the shot.

The second image of the chair and clock has a feeling of time passing to it.

From the empty chair to the Earthy tones.

It’s a photograph taken through the window of an interior decorating business and this I think explains the balance within the image.

The image of the Police and their van isn’t as strong an image as the others but did fit into the story I was trying to tell, I did like their faces being framed by the window.

The image of the man using his phone at a table to me is a powerful scene.

Many a time I was connected to distant friends via the  cafes WiFi.

The space around him gives the feeling of loneliness and his expression suggests that all is not right in his world.

The shot of the bust in the window was included because I thought it was someone looking out, as it was on the 6th. floor of a block of flats I didn’t know until I processed the image that it was a bust wearing a beanie hat.

The man on the bus image has many reflections, coloured lights and isn’t what I’d consider a perfect technical image.

But it does have feeling and begs the question “where are you going and where have you been ?” .

The bartenders shot was taken because of the interaction between the three people, that and the fact I was outside looking in.

The last two images really portray my journey to date.

From outside and not belonging to having and working a plan.

The pub was again a median stacked image, I knew the crowd would move and I wanted this to express the chaos of their interaction.

What I didn’t expect was that some of them would remain still despite the jostling that was going on.

This to me makes the image and is therefore my choice or select.

The final image portrays my photographic journey, I’m outside taking photo’s and aiming for my degree.

This is my state of the art at the moment.

It almost made it as my choice for this exercise because of the content but also because I hadn’t noticed the reflection of the traffic lights upon the poster which look like they were part of the original photographers image.

Reflection:

I found this exercise more liberating than some of the past.

Mainly because it was up to me to come up with the subject and how it was treated.

If I had not found my old journal and the idea it gave me it may have been more difficult to conceptualize.

As it is I feel I have completed this exercise with more confidence than some of the previous ones.

I have also started to let go of the technical aspects of photography and let the inner me shine through more.

I’m no longer going to fixate on noise and levelling etc. to the extent I have been doing and concentrate more on the subject and what I intend for a given image.

Exercise 4.5

Brief:

Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screen-grab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.
Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One.

You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing.
Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.
Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots.

In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.

 

Process:

For this exercise I decided to make my subject Bicycles, the most common form of transport on Earth.

When I searched for images they all appeared to come from catalogues and web sites selling them.

To differentiate my photo’s I had to search for the unusual or different in order to stand out.

I went out at different times of day using various focal lengths to achieve my goals.

 

Pictures:

As you can see from the majority of these shots most are taken side on and under good lighting conditions.

They are product photo’s, informative but very bland.

Only three show people with their bicycles.

 

Club outing

At rest

Awaiting an owner

Busted 1

Busted 2

untitled

With helmet.

My top pick……

Contact sheet 1

 

Contact sheet 2

Research:

For this exercise I looked at photographers such as Rut Bleeses night shots of London, Tony Ray Jones, Brassei and Sato Shintaro.

None of which fit my particular subject very well.

The problem if it can be called that, is an ordinary subject is Ordinary.

Subjects such as Apples and sunsets have been done so often that it’s hard to come up with something different.

This statement from the OCA course sums the issue up nicely.

“While we’re not expecting you to go to Japan to photograph Mount Fuji, the difficulty of seeing something in an original way confronts every artist and photographer.

The problem isn’t so much the iconographic subject – after all, it’s often said that the whole world has been photographed.

It’s rather an expectation of how a photograph of a particular subject should look”.

Rob Bloomfield, Expressing your vision, page 94, OCA 2014.

Analysis:

I’m still not satisfied that I have produced images that show my chosen subject in a way that is more interesting and different from those of my screen grab.

I tried by changing the angle of view as well as varying the time of day and showed the bicycle in its more natural state, not the pristine environment of a catalogue.

Do they succeed at the Creative criteria for the course, maybe; the shadow image does.

Reflections:

This was a very interesting exercise that posed the problem of making the normal seem interesting or by making images that are different to the norm.

The problem with my chosen subject is that they don’t stand of their own accord, they must be held in place by something else.

This limited the opportunity for variation on the theme, unless they were being ridden they were locked to a post or bike stand.

The slightly zoomed in shots of the handlebars, the broken wheel and chain still are recognisable as bicycles but are different from the Googled images.

Exercise 4.4

Brief :

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form.

For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body,
rather than a man-made object.

Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool.

The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.
Take some time to set up the shot.

The background for your subject will be crucial.
For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card.
You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background.

Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.
Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging.

The key to success is to keep it simple.

The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change
the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.
Add the sequence to your learning log.

Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill.

Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just
as useful as perfect graphics.

In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots
from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.

 

Process :

For this exercise I attached a large roll of blue art paper to my wardrobe and draped it over my coffee table, this gave me a decent back drop.

Next I set up my camera on my tripod varying the distance to subject and I used different lenses.

I set up my SB 5000 flash on an old tripod and an old cheap TTL flash on camera, I used the SB 5000 in radio AWL mode and TTL.

By varying the distance and direction of the flash, using flash modifiers and also using various different lenses I came up with the following shots.

 

Photographs :

Diagram notes: rather than do separate  drawings for each shot please refer to each of the settings listed under each photograph and refer to the master drawing above.

The angle of the flashes are measured from the subject and assume that 0 degrees is the direction the lens is pointing at.

800 mm.  f 64 @ 1/200th second .

Distance to background 1 m, Subject distance 2 m.

Hand held off camera flash only with head zoomed to 200 mm. and a height of 1.5 m. 225 degrees off set.

150 mm. f 8 @ 1/200th second.

Distance to background 1 m, subject distance 0.38 m .

Hand held off camera flash only with head zoomed to 14 mm. and a height of 1 meter using the wide-angle panel and diffuser  dome.

150 mm. f 8 @ 200th second.

Distance to background 1.5 m, subject distance 0.38 m.

Hand held off camera flash with head zoomed to 200 mm. and a height of 0.5 m, 150 degrees off set.

150 mm. f 8 @ 200th second.

hand-held off camera flash with head zoomed to 24 mm. using the wide-angle panel at a height of 1.5 meters and a 270 degree off set.

400 mm. f 25 @ 200th second.

Distance to background 10 cm, distance to subject 2 meters.

On camera flash was fired over my shoulder at the ceiling using its wide panel.

The off camera flash was at a height of 1.5 meters at an angle off of 225 degrees using its wide panel.

 

Contact sheets.

Research :

The first thing I had to research was how to get my flash to talk to my camera, using the manual and the excellent Nikon videos I managed it.

The next order of business was to look at what others had done in the way of still life pictures, I concentrated mainly on the painting masters such as Monet in order to see what I preferred.

Then I watched plenty of YouTube videos on flash photography in order to get a sense of the mechanics of it.

Analysis :

Although I used a constant picture angle, changing the direction, height and angle of the flash guns gave very different effects.

The more shadows and the darker the background gave a mood as well as a sense of three-dimensional form.

The softer and more direct the light and the mood lightens but your left with a more two-dimensional shape, brighter but flatter colours that are rather unsatisfying.

Getting the two to balance takes patience and skill.

The main differences I noticed in the qualities of light between these exercises was that flash photography is like the Ambient artificial exercise but without the colour/white balance problems and obviously I can control the amount and direction of it.

Reflections :

This was a very interesting exercise that challenged me to think of every aspect of the finished product.

Getting a decent background took several days visiting art shops before I found the right size and colour of paper I needed.

Finding a subject was easier but the local super market thought I was strange holding fruit up to the light.

The flash guns can’t talk to each other, If I had two of the marvelous Nikon SB 5000’s I could have set ratios of light between the two.

As it was the Simple and cheap TTL flash would only work mounted on the camera and couldn’t be set as a master flash.

This  posed some exposure problems until I found that both set to TTL worked well.

Overall I enjoyed this exercise.

Exercise 4.3

Brief:

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term).

The correct white balance setting will be important; this
can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot.

You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash.

Add the sequence to your learning log.

In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.

Process:

For this series I went to different locations where a variety of light sources and colours were apparent.

For the most part the shots where hand-held except on mount Coot-Tha for the shots of Brisbane and the woman photographer.

I used a variety of lenses from the 24-70 mm. f 2.8 Tamron SP, 70-200 mm. Tamron SP and a Sigma 150 mm. f 2.8 macro.

After many years smoking, drinking too much coffee and getting older I have to drive up the shutter speeds to keep the photo’s acceptable, this requires some higher than I’d like ISO numbers; hence the choice of Nikon D5 as my camera as it handles low light very well.

Pictures:

The Sporting Page, Chelsea.

The Worlds End Pub, Chelsea.

London bus.

Cat in a carpet shop.

Photographer, Mt. Coot-Tha, Queensland; Australia.

Brisbane, Mt. Coot-Tha.

Two cats indoors.

Display, Brisbane museum.

Woman using her phone, Koala centre theatre near Brisbane.

Girl waiting for a bus, Fulham.

Contact sheet 1.

Contact sheet 2.

Research:

None.

Analysis:

Artificial light can be tricky to get right but is very rewarding when it is.

The different colours and the varying harshness is different from daylight because it is constant once the sun has gone down.

The different light sources also have varying colour temperatures which makes white balance tricky at best.

If there are a mixture of lighting types within a frame white balance can become impossible, the photo of the Worlds end pub is one such case.

It has incandescent, tungsten, HID car lights and coloured lights all in one shot; very tricky but quite pretty.

Bailey’s chip shop was another challenge, varying light sources and different skin tones added to the equation.

Reflections:

I love the city at night, the colours, the reflections and the people and places all take on a different persona once the sun goes down.

Although the white balance can be tricky in post processing, your camera will be fooled; there’s always the lack of places open for coffee when it is cold.

 

Exercise 4.2

Brief:

In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day.

It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk.

You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it.

Add the sequence to your learning log together with a time stamp from the time/date info in the metadata.

In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.

 

Process:

I set my camera to manual mode and kept the aperture set to f 5 throughout the entire series.

I also tried to take a shot once an hour during the day, from early morning to the evening.

 

 

Pictures:

07:22
08:31
09:40
10:44
11:49
12:56
13:55
14:56
15:58
17:07
18:06
19:36
contact sheet

Research:

I looked in the manual for my camera on how to set up time-lapse photography, which I didn’t use due to the weather.

 

Analysis:

Despite the rainy day I think you can see that the light from hour to hour does change in quality.

The effect is subtle and gradual throughout the day but if you look at the differences between early morning/late evening and midday, you can see how harsh the light becomes.

The shadows are more pronounced and the colours are flatter.

The so-called golden hour produces colours that are more vibrant despite the shadows being elongated and more obvious.

I can see why late evening or early morning is the preferred time for most photographers.

Reflections:

This series was taken during a miserable couple of weeks in Australia.

This was the first day that there wasn’t a severe lightning storm but it was threatening to do so.

As it was raining and the only cover I had was keeping me dry ,I had to forgo using a tripod and leaving the camera set up.

Unfortunately I had set the auto ISO function with the intention of leaving aperture and shutter speed a constant, I forgot to turn it off when the weather turned out so miserable hence the varied shutter speed and ISO settings.

There is also a slight variation in framing due to hand holding for the shots and then returning to the house to get dry.

I learned a lot about staying focused on the task at hand despite threats from the weather and poisonous critters of various kinds.

I also found that setting your equipment the night before isn’t a good idea as the conditions you’ll shoot in will have changed and some settings will be forgotten.

You may ask why I didn’t choose an indoor subject, the lady of the house asked me not to as it’s still an ongoing building project and messy.