I Have Gained Insight into My Old Statement “I Don’t Like Landscape Photography”

My tutor, Jayne Taylor, suggested it might be beneficial for me to review “A graveyard and steel mill in Bethlehem, Pensylvania” by Walker Evans, and “Shot at Dawn” by Chloe Dewe-Matthews.

This has been a real blessing for me. With Walker Evans I have been able to see how one photo can tell a story on its own. All I had to go on was the name of the photographer, the photo, and the year. I analysed the photo in the manner that we were guided to in Foundations in Photography – Picture Analyses Red Bridge, Okawa by Toshio Shibata. Having the year of the photo was beneficial because I remembered about the Great Depression and could therefore contextualise the photo.

Shot at Dawn had no impact upon me until I had read the introduction to the series. Although to be fair on myself, my analysis of the photo was OK. I had picked up on the divide between both sides of the first photo, and the leafing lines pointing to nothing, a meaningless draw of the eye. I now suspect this was intentional. Why? A division of opinion about war and deserters existed during the war, the meaninglessness of executing armed forces personnel, and I believe Dewe-Matthews questions the validity of war in that first photo.

So what does that tell me about my dislike of landscape photography?

Until begining this research is had no understanding of the potential to tell a story or provide context with landscape. I had only a vague understanding of the potential for an introduction or context to help the viewer to interact with the narrative. I like the idea of an introduction or a post script to get the viewer to engage with the presented photography.

The other thing that I have realised is my lack of technical understanding on how to express myself within, and control such a broad canvas that landscape provides.

My sociology and events photography are ways of expressing myself and gaining insight into the world around me. Its visual story telling and relationship building. Macro photography slows me down and is more about my process of grounding myself in nature – it tells the story of my inner process.

I feel that I can now be a little more adventurous with landscape photography and can begin to explore landscape with a new outlook.

Review of “Shot at Dawn” Chloe Dewe-Matthews

Chloe_WW1_R4936F17-10x81/34 (Dewe-Matthews; 2014)

Thoughts upon viewing:- leading lines of wall, telephone wire, tree line. They all take the eye to the centre of the image. This makes no sense, there is no obvious meaning there, was this deliberate or an accident? It divides the photo in two.

Lots of space with the grass in the foreground and the sky.  Graveyard with flowers and a wheelie bin. Church is obviously regularly used. Gravestones, death, flowers, love and remembrance.

Scattering of houses with space and green areas around them. Small community. The scene suggests a small but active community. I’m intrigued as to why the eye is initially drawn to nothing and the significance of the divide between the houses and church, especially as the church is clearly part of the community.

I am beginning to enjoy analysing specific photos, especially when I don’t read about them first.

The purpose of the series “Shot at Dawn” (Dewe-Matthews;2014) is explained in the introduction at http://www.chloedewemathews.com/shot-at-dawn/. Due to the limitations of my mobile phone I can only read part of the introduction.

However it explains that Dewe-Matthews re-visited the sites where deserters from the Belgian, French and British armed forces were executed, during World War One. She took the photos at the time of day and seasons that the executions would have taken place.

As a series there are grasslands, fields, trees, forests, bunkers and the occasional building. Lots of space and emptiness.

Without the introduction, the photographs would not appeal to me. Most are not aesthetically appealing, the composition varies, and there is little narrative or continuity (I emphasise, without the introduction). I am starting to understand how a photography series works, and how different photographers make use of captions, or as in this case, an introduction.

Chloe_WW1_R02F18-10x815/34 (Dewe-Matthews; 2014)

Now I have read the introduction my observations  and thoughts become secondary to my questions.

  • What horrors did the executed soldiers witness on the front lines?
  • How did those experiences affect them mentally and emotionally?
  • Now we have an understanding of post traumatic stress disorder do we treat our service personnel differently? (I am a pacifist who believes that in the UK we treat our service men and women abysmally. Leaving it to charities to provide the mental health support without providing them with the resources to do so for all that need it)
  • Did this traumatised military staff receive a fair court-martial? (No! Without the understanding of how trauma affects people a court-martial could never be fair)
  • How would it feel to walk up to a wall to face a firing squad on top of the trauma from the front line?
  • Would it feel like an injustice?
  • Would there be shame and guilt?
  • Would there be an internal voice saying “I’ve let the side down – I deserve this”?
  • I don’t believe that anyone can knowingly walk in front of a firing squad without being terrified.
  • How would it feel to be in the firing squad knowing that you are about to/or have killed a person who is on “the same side”?

References

Dewe-Matthews, C; 2014; Shot at Dawn; Online at http://www.chloedewemathews.com/shot-at-dawn/ (Accessed on 26/07/2017)

Dewe-Matthews, C; 2014; Shot at Dawn; Oxford; Ruskin School of Art; Online at http://shotatdawn.photography/ (accessed on 26/07/14)

Exercise 1.13 Make a Contact Sheet

Brief:- A contact sheet is a document with a collection of small “thumbnail” images on it. This can be a printed document or a digital document like a pdf or even a Microsoft Word file. Contact sheets are useful for viewing images quickly. Also, viewing each image so small renders it more of a graphic, emphasising its main shapes and lines. In this exercise you will learn how to make pdf contact sheets in Adobe Bridge to send to your tutor with assignments.

 

I chose to use Lightroom for this process rather than Bridge. I am not familiar with Bridge and Lightroom has a straight forward process to create pdf contact sheets. I have used the “stroke border” option for the contact sheet. I did not do this when I made a contact sheet for 100 photos, it isn’t a necessity, however I do think that I prefer the contact sheet with a border. I welcome feedback on what you prefer and how you prepare your contact sheets.

Lightroom (_DSC0876.NEF and 34 others)

Lightroom (_DSC0876.NEF and 34 others)

Lensculture Free Street Photography Competition – My Day (Managing Health/Studies/Projects) – Long Term Goals

lensculture are currently running a street photography competition. If you are entering a single photo you can do so for free. There are only fees for submitting 2 – 5 single photos or a series of 10. You retain the copyright of your image, although you do give consent for lensculture to make use of it, and they will link back to you if they do.  https://www.lensculture.com/competitions/street-photography-awards-2017

We all have commitments, family, friends, work, caring for relatives, health issues etc, to manage alongside our studies. For me its physical and mental health. I would really like to be able to evaluate, develop and upload my photography from Northern Pride within a week. That is not possible for me. I stepped well outside of my comfort zone at the weekend, and that is fantastic. However, the consequences are that I am exhausted emotionally, and in pain physically. It’s not a big deal, and it’s not a complaint, but I do have to be realistic and honest with myself about what I am capable of on any given day.

Today I am capable of updating this blog, entering a photograph in the lensculture competition and reading the blogs of other creatives on WordPress.

My goals have developed since beginning Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts, and I now have a clear and realistic plan, based upon my current health limitations. I am also aware that things may take longer, or not as long as imagined, and that flexibility is good. I am a newbie to Foundations in Photography, and it is already helping me to develop a vision for my future.

My Plan

Foundations in Photography – to complete over two years – Why? to explore life and my relationship to the wider universe through developing my technical and creative photographic abilities. To study part-time over two years, so that I keep the pressure off of myself, manage my physical and mental health and increase my confidence with and enjoyment of photography.

BA (Hons) Photography degree with the Open College of the Arts (part-time over 6 years). Why? Two reasons, long-term I aim to be a professional photographer and I believe that studying photography alongside my personal projects will push me and bring the best out of me. I am impressed with the Open College of the Arts. The quality of the study materials, the professional tutors, the amount of support available from the support team. The thing that I am most impressed with though is how OCA has created a student platform through the use of OCA-Student, and the encouragement and guidance with setting up blogs. The blogs are a superb way of submitting coursework and assignments, but more than this, they are an excellent way of learning from and interacting with other students.

Following on from the degree

Develop as a professional events photographer and create a stable career.

The events photography will be the source of income so that I can live, and also to provide the means required to push the sociology photography that means so much to me.

 

Review of “A Graveyard and Steel Mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania” by Walker Evans

My tutor Jayne Taylor suggested that I review “A graveyard and steel mill in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania as a follow on to exercise 1.9 soft light landscape.

I decided that I would analyse the photo before researching Walker Evans, and I’m very pleased with my analyses, having now researched Walker Evans. My analyses helps me to see how much I have developed by completing two sections of the coursework for Workflow.

W1siZiIsIjIxMTY2MiJdLFsicCIsImNvbnZlcnQiLCItcmVzaXplIDY0MHg2NDBcdTAwM2UiXV0Fig 1

My notes:- Four layers, Foreground – cross, then mid-ground split into two layers (front) graveyard (back) church and buildings, background – steel mill.

Very few blacks, mid-tone are quite dark, few whites, low contrast.

Initially I thought the shadows were confusing as one Shadow (headstone and cross – middle of mid-ground) appeared it was falling to north north east, whilst the rest are falling to the east. I’m using my mobile phone to look at the image and finally managed to see that the headstone shadow is also falling to the east, but the shape of the headstone made it appear different.

Sun – left, quite low, suggesting mid to late afternoon. Taken in bright daylight, but the grey sky suggests otherwise. Why? Photo silver nitrate on gelatine and developed in dark room, overall picture under developed, but with correct development of mid and foreground (having never used a darkroom this analysis is based upon my limited knowledge of digital developing).

Photo taken in 1935, the great depression. This makes me believe this photo is a metaphor.  Why? The picture doesn’t give me a realist impression of death, the graveyard has better light and more lights and whites than the rest of the photo, I find it quite cheery. The photo is a metaphor for the death of a community, Bethlehem,  and the impact of the steel industry on unemployment, loss of income, property and decline of a community.

Research:- Starting point Wikipedia. Great Depression, Drought, Dustbowl. Unemployment soared to 25%, GDP fell by 15% worldwide (comparison – 2008 recession – worldwide GDP only fell by 1% and that had a major impact worldwide). (wikipedia; 2017)

Bethlehem Steel Corporation – well developed, well managed and profitable company that made a loss of $30m from 1931 – Dec 1933 and had to lay of staff and close mills and factories. Although at the time Walker Evans took the photo the company was turning over a profit as it had retooled and developed production lines to produce rolled tin for the newly developing tin can (beer can) industry. Despite this growth Bethlehem and surrounding community had been devastated by the Great Depression. (encyclopedia.org; 2017)

During 1935 Walker Evans photographed for the Resettlement Administration . Words associated with Walker Evans are information specialist, formalism, modernism, realism and documentary. (The Metropolitan Museum of Art; 2004)

Despite the consistent biographies of Walker Evans I don’t find this particular photograph of his to be of the documentary, information or realist styles of photography. I feel that this photo presents an allegorical narrative of the impact of the Great Depression upon a town and community.

References

Amazing Day With Northern Pride – Anxiety Vanished – Thankyou

This is just a short post as I’m exhausted. I’ve left early because talking with so many people is emotionally draining. This has been a well organised, attended and supported event. Lots of happy, joyful, colourful and photogenic people. I’ve lived it.

It took me a little while to get into asking people if I could take their photos – and then you couldn’t stop me. The overwhelming majority of people have happily had me take their photos.

I’ve also been able to take photos of Northern Pride committee members Jane and Chris – Jane has been very supportive in enabling me to take photographs. There were so many organisations supporting the event and I have many photos of them, which I will email and tweet to them. The security was excellent with the local police and Smart Security and although Cleveland Police don’t police the event as it’s out of area, they attend and support Northern Pride.

I have no idea how many people I have asked if I could take there photos but it was a lot. I’m pleased with my self for that. I don’t enjoy portrait photography because of my anxiety, so this is another part of my development as a photographer.

Thankyou to the LGBTQ community, friends, family and supporters, Northern Pride and it’s supporters and sponsors.

It’s going to take some time to develop these photos.

Time to eat.

Northern Pride – My Kind of Britain – Emotionally Preparing to Photo in a Large Crowd

My Kind of Britain is an ongoing project about diversity, equality and discrimination, that I began a few months ago. I intend for it to be an ongoing project. With this in mind I am visiting Northern Pride in Newcastle tomorrow. “Here at Northern Pride we have an overall mission to reduce homophobia, promote awareness of equality and to unite LGBT communities across the region.”

Preparing my photography equipment is straight forward. My mental health is a little more difficult. I’ve had increased anxiety and racing thoughts for a couple of days. I have to build up to talking with people, explaining a project and seeking consent. It terrifies me in the build up and right up until I open my mouth. However once I have started to speak I take on the role of photographer, become present and my mind switches off. Today my emotions are quite intense. It will pass.

I’ve completed a lot of coursework over the past few days so that I could switch off today, and so that I can develop my photos on Monday and Tuesday.

Time now to phone a friend and seek support for the anxiety I’m feeling.

 

References

www.photosociology.info/sociology/ethnicity-and-diversity

www.northern-pride.com

 

 

Exercise 1.12 Smash – Balloon Burst

Brief:-

  1. Set up your camera on a tripod a few metres from the ‘impact zone’ (ground, wall or other) and set the shutter speed to the fastest possible for the available light. Focus your lens manually on the ‘impact zone’. Take a few shots to make sure the exposure is spot on.
  2. Now ask an assistant (standing out of shot) to drop or throw your object onto the impact zone where you’ve nailed focus. (They may need to wear protective glasses depending on your choice of object.) Take your shot.
  3. Review your photo. How was your timing? Is the shutter speed fast enough? Should you increase your ISO?
  4. Try again…and again…
  5. Review your images.

You should have a variety of images that show the frozen movement. However, this project doesn’t just illustrate the effect of a fast shutter speed, but also the significance of chance in photography. Even if you photographed the same kind of object ten times, the resultant images would all show subtly different results. This is one of the reasons why photographers invariably shoot a lot of exposures.

This exercise also shows how a ‘planted’ object can alter the interpretation of the environment.  All juxtapositions have this effect, but usually in subtler degrees.

I have really enjoyed this project. My friend and I had a lot of fun that afternoon, and he was very patient with me making adjustments to the aperture, shutter speed and ISO. I did not have my tripod with me that day, and I really wanted to try to catch water as a ball in the air, so my friend burst the balloons with a pin and his hands are in shot. If we get the chance to do this again then we will use a pin on a stick so that it will be easier to remove in developing. We had 50 balloons, so at 5 frames per second I took 250 photos. I used manual focus throughout.

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 5000, f6, 1/8000th sec

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 8063, f5.6, 1/8000th sec

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 6400, f4.5, 1/6400th sec

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 100, f6.3, 1/40th Sec

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 100, f7.1, 1/20th sec

Exercise 1.12 Smash

ISO 320, f4.8, 1/500th sec

I have included the last photo to demonstrate that in freezing fast-moving objects there is a lot of chance involved, however there are ways to mitigate it. Good communication with the person helping you. Taking the time to set the camera up before each shot. Using continuous exposure – I could try with my Fujifilm 9900 which has 12 frames per second, and for something like this the loss of image quality would not matter. We did try to use fruit juice to colour the water, but the balloon needed to be filled with pressure from a tap. Every time I tried to add fruit juice the ballon would spurt all of the water back onto me.

I like the first and the fourth photos. The first because I managed to obtain my ball of water, and the movement in the fourth photo is beautiful and dynamic, it catches the moment of explosion. Seeing the bubbles of air within the water is also pleasing to my eye.

Exercise 1.12 Smash – Harold Edgerton – Attempt to Emulate Edgerton

Brief:- This exercise asks you to choose some suitable small objects that you can break! An old toy, some rotten fruit, a shirt or a balloon filled with water would all work well. The point here is to freeze a fast-moving object in an otherwise still location. You must get the object in sharp focus to reveal the detail of its disintegration and movement. Choose a suitable location where you won’t make too much mess. Aim to frame the object quite close, with the environment around it. You’ll need to frame the object in front of a background that helps to emphasise it visually: that could mean a complementary colour (e.g. red against green) or an opposite tone (light object against dark background or vice versa). Before you start, research the freeze-frame photographs of Denis Darzacq at http://www.denisdarzacq.com/ Do an online search for Harold Edgerton’s experiments. These photographers give you images that would be impossible without the mechanism of the shutter.

 

 

These notes are quite concise as I spent a lot of my time trying to photograph milk in the style of Edgerton.I say more about that at the end.

Electrical engineer, deep-sea and sonar photography, fast flash photography to capture balloons exploding and the bullet through the apple. Photographing and recording for nuclear testing. Photographic techniques have been a part of and an extension to his work

Milk Drop Coronet 1957 – high speed motion picture, then develop single image showing the coronet.

Milk drop coronet 1957Fig 1

Guisse Moran Tennis Serve 1952 – Multiflash – single negative, shutter fully open. Taken in pitch black. Strobe lighting. Film only exposed when strobe flashes.

Gussie Moran tennis serve 1952Fig 2

Atom Bomb explosion circa 1952 – Raptronic shutter. Shutter opened by magnetic field so the shutter could be open for a fraction of a second – down as low as 2 milliseconds

Atom bomb explosion circa 1952

Shadow Photography – No camera, no lens, just film, flash and fast-moving object. Flash is timed to fire just before the subject passes in front of the film. This way a bullet can even be filmed.

Stroboscopic photography – Electrical charge stored, discharged into inert gas tube for flash, flash then exposes the subject so rapidly that it can illuminate and freeze subject at high-speed, so running water would appear as drops of water.

Here are my attemptsExercise 1.12 SmashExercise 1.12 SmashExercise 1.12 Smash

I decided that I would try to capture a milk drop coronet. I have a Nikon d7100, Tamron 18-270mm lens at 270mm, and I attached the whole set of Vello Extension tubes, 36mm, 20mm and 12 mm – this gave me a focal length of 507mm (adjusted to include 1.5* built in crop sensor. I had the ISO at 8063 so the images have a lot of noise. I have done what I can to reduce it in Lightroom by using a combination of grad filter, eraser brush with auto mask to delete brush from the edges of the milk drops, then reduced clarity and increase noise slider. When I can afford better Lighting on external flash I will give this ago again. All are taken at 1/250th sec. I couldn’t go faster without underexposing and introducing more noise through development. Considering that Edgerton was using a high-speed motion camera which could record between 6,000 and 15,000 frames per second, then I think I have done well at 5 frames per second. It would have worked out better if I was using a pipette to drop milk or have someone else to do so, and I will also try the method that Edgerton did – having one drop of milk on a flat surface and dropping the next drop onto the milk on the flat surface. I have had a lot of fun today.

References

Fig 1 Edgerton, Harold; 1957; Milk Drop Coronet; Online at https://edgerton-digital-collections.org/

Fig 2 Edgerton, Harold; 1952; Gussie Moran Tennis Serve; Online at https://edgerton-digital-collections.org/techniques/multiflash

Fig 3 Edgerton, Harold; 1952; Atom Bomb Explosion; Online at https://edgerton-digital-collections.org/techniques/rapatronic-shutter

Sheldon, James; 1998; EXPLORING THE ART AND SCIENCE OF STOPPING TIME: A CD-ROM BASED ON THE LIFE AND WORK OF HAROLD E. EGDERTON; Cambridge; MIT Press; online at https://edgerton-digital-collections.org/