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.

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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.

Experimenting with flash

While looking for subjects for exercise 3.1, freezing movement; I tried an experiment comparing an image of a spinning fan taken with and without flash.

The images below are taken at roughly the same shutter speed but the flash seem to have almost frozen the fan’s motion.

It’s after you zoom in on the flash image that you can see the safety screen behind, almost super imposed on the fans blade.

55mm. 1/80th. sec. f 5.6 ISO 1600

55mm. 1/60th. sec. f 5.6 ISO 100

iTTL flash.

The effect is quite startling.

As it didn’t entirely freeze the fans motion I didn’t include it in my images for exercise 3.1, maybe practice some and include it in later exercises and assignments.

The frozen moment Exercise 3.1

Brief :

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject.
Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible blur in the photograph.

Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated
John Szarkowski.

Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and
a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.

 

Process :

All of these photographs were taken on my trusty D5200 and 18-55mm lens.

As is required in this section I used shutter priority mode and set the ISO to 800.

This left me with little to control depth of field except my distance to subject, sometimes that wasn’t within my control either.

 

Photographs :

55mm. f 5.6  1/1000 th. sec.

55mm. f 7 1/1000 th. sec.

55mm.  f 5.6  1/1000 th. sec.

55mm. f 5.6  1/1000 th. sec.

55mm.  f 9   1/400 th. sec.

 

contact sheet.

 

Research :

Before deciding how to approach this assignment I spent some time looking at other photographers work in this field.

Many of my fellow students seem to have emulated Harold Edgerton and his “aesthetic properties of milk” shot.

This to me is a very pretty but way over done subject.

I also looked at some of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work along with Robert Capa.

I decided on a street photography style whilst walking around a Fair at Parsons Green in London.

 

Analysis :

As you can see in the contact sheet, many of my images were under exposed and had to be fixed in post processing.

I was so concentrating on keeping a high shutter speed and capturing an image that I quite forgot about exposure.

Also the nature of this crowded enviroment together with my short lens meant that I had to crop in most of my images, something I try to avoid normally; the distances involved in combination with the 55mm. end of my only lens meant that the focussing square in the viewfinder often covered the subject’s head never mind and eye.

I think a 70-200 mm. zoom would’ve been ideal.

I find you have to be careful with subject selection when freezing motion, as can be seen with the Police car, it might well have been stationary.

The best subjects for these turned out to be the ones where motion has to be occurring as in the slide picture.

The lady and her daughter in the cup ride and the woman selling the bubble gun’s are more subtle in their implication of movement.

 

Reflections :

I dislike shutter priority mode more than automatic.

I definitely need more practice with this mode and need to lower my ISO every opportunity I have.

A longer lens and a full frame sensor would’ve helped also.