David Haydock

Welcome to a 2022 update on my photography course blog.

Let me introduce myself.

Dad to a 20 year old trainee chef, husband, foster carer and semi-retired Finance Director.  Occasional motorbiker (ex-racer), musician and wannabe photographer.  I am surprised to find myself back in education in my 50’s.  I have toyed with photography for years, but am now actually learning the art of photography, and have some fun with it along the way.  I really don’t know how this will turn out, but let’s give it a proper go.  This blog is a record of my course work, assignments and thoughts in general.  I started my course with the OCA some years ago, but work, and then a brush with cancer, got in the way.  Back at it now!

Please also take a look at the 365 project section.  A group of family and friends challenged each other to post a photo to a closed Facebook group every day for a year.  We choose a whole series of themes, and critiquing each others work.

Originally from Huddersfield (c’mon you Terriers!), but gradually headed south with career, and ended up in Stroud, which is kind of like Huddersfield but with smaller hills.

As for the Smokin’ Haddock bit, blame my wife’s cousin, Miguel.  A few years back I was racing at Snetterton and Miguel was helping out.  Being named Haydock my nickname was always Haddock.  On that day Miguel says “you were smokin’ today Haddock”, and the race team name was born.  Miguel designed the logo and away we went.  It has stuck as a bit of fun ever since.

And on the subject of cousins, a big thanks to my cousin Andy Walmsley for pointing out the OCA to me.  A former student of theirs, and a fine photographer himself.

Davidv1

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Exercise 2.12 – Pixel Painting

‘In this exercise, your goal is to produce a portrait in which you moved, altered or otherwise manipulated pixels. How you achieve this is entirely your choice, but you will need to use Photoshop. Look at some of the many Photoshop tutorials on the web, but try to avoid cliches. This exercise will require a lot of experimentation and play, so you’ll need to produce many different versions of your portrait. You could start by researching the fashion photography of Nick Knight.’

Manipulating pixels requires a surprising number of Photoshop techniques. Not just the actual manipulation, but, for example, the selection process, use of different types of layers, dodging and burning, ‘fill’, brush tool, and a whole load of other tools and properties within all of the above. Again I spent hours watching Youtube videos trying to select and absorb some of these techniques. Layer by layer (no pun intended) I am getting to grips with the skills and the possibilities.

I did look at the work of Nick Knight. Absolutely stunning, but the craft needed to produce these images is way beyond me, so my efforts are more humble and contained. Good to have that inspiration as a starting point though.

I started out by having a go at some portrait painting that was a bit cliched, although I’m not entirely sure what that really means in this context. I then went on to work on this image.

Sony A7iii, 24-105mm @ 59mm, f14, 1/50th, ISO200.

This image was taken by Pefkos beach on the island of Rhodes. I noticed the beach hut with its old, shambolic wooden door, and the bamboo screen and old bench. I liked the textures and so asked my wife, Jacqui, to provide the subject for the shot. I offset her to the left, looking across the frame. I think it is a standard composition technique that creates space and interest in the shot. Next, a decision on what to do with it to fulfil the object of this exercise. I went down three routes.

Firstly, I wanted to manipulate the pixels to create a black and white image that was more ‘high key’, although not necessarily a completely high key portrait. To start, I did some research on how a high key effect is created. My process in Photoshop was as follows:-

  • Used the original image as the base layer in Photoshop.
  • added a Black and White adjustment layer.
  • Selected Jacqui and created a levels adjustment to be able to control the levels for just the part of the image containing Jacqui, then used the Levels adjuster to give the image of Jacqui a bit more punch.
  • Added a Brightness and Contrast adjustment layer for the rest of the image. Increased brightness, and slightly reduced contrast to give some of the high key effect.
  • Finally, added a Curves adjustment layer to enable a few final subtle tweaks.

A reasonable job creating a higher key image, but next to playing with colours.

Secondly, using more Youtube research on selection areas and changes in colour I carried out the following Photoshop actions.

  • Used original image as the Base layer in Photoshop.
  • Created. a new normal image layer, and used this to start the colour in Jacqui. Using the selection techniques I had learnt via YouTube I just experimented with different colours for parts of Jacqui. Just a bit of fun, but good for learning more Photoshop techniques.
  • I then added a Black and White adjustment layer, but with Jacqui painted black to allow the colour version of her to still show through from the layer below.
  • Next, I added a Brightness and Contrast layer to bleach out the background, again with Jacqui ‘cut out’ to allow the colour version of her to show through.
  • Finally, I added another standard layer to play with Jacqui’s colours a bit more.

I’m still not certain what is the best order to create these layers in, how you can actually manipulate the image in multiple layers, or indeed how many layers I should have because the file sizes are becoming huge. More research need to improve my process. Nothing subtle about the final image.

Finally, I decided to use less colour on Jacqui, but to bring some points of colour interest in to the background. I carried out the following process in Photoshop:-

  • Used the original image as the Base layer in Photoshop.
  • Created a Black and White adjustment layer with a mask to allow varying amounts of Jacqui’s colour to show through.
  • Created another image layer and coloured in parts of the door, the padlock, bench supports and Jacqui’s sunglasses. Used the ‘colour’ blending method to allow texture to show through. I did also experiment with other blending methods just to see what they looked like, but stuck to the colour method for the final image.
  • Added an Exposure adjustment layer, but only for the black and white background. I darkened these parts slightly to create an alternative to the previous high key approach.
  • Created an Exposure layer for ‘Jacqui’, and brightened her to make her stand out a little more.
  • Added a final image layer to create the black and white piano keys effect on the bench.

This final image is more subtle than the previous one. I enjoyed working on it.

A few learning points. I need to get to grips with the ordering and use of layers. Selection of areas of the image can be a painstaking business. There are tools to help, but refinement is a slow process and does make a difference. Limitless possibilities as to what you can do with an image, but be committed in your ideas. Like anything else related to the arts, you need to master tools and techniques to be able to express yourself. There are no shortcuts.

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Exercise 2.11 Split Contrast

Split contrast is an other darkroom technique that is much easier to achieve in the digital domain. Use it to add drama too your pictures or to correct problems in exposure, for example, an over exposed sky above a correctly exposed landscape. You’ll need a good image editing program such as Photoshop to do advanced work like this as it involves using layers.

The course paperwork goes on to describe the stages to go through to improve an image of a silhouetted man against a well exposed foreground and an over exposed sky. The stages involved using different ‘layer’ techniques, but gives little description on how to use those layers. The first step in completing this exercise was to spend a number of hours digesting YouTube videos on firstly, the concept of layers, and secondly, how to use layer techniques. A particular YouTube channel I found very helpful in describing the basics, and then building on them, was ‘Anthony Morganti’.

I had a couple of goes at just using layers on some holiday snaps, but then selected an image for this exercise that I thought could benefit from the split contrast process. It is an image I took at Scammonden Dam, just off the M62 outside Huddersfield. I don’t know the three subjects, but did notice them looking out to the apex of hills and dam, plus their slightly juxtaposed clothing (white trainers on a muddy path). Parts of the image are well exposed, but the sky in particular is not, and so loses the drama and definition of the clouds.

Scammonden Dam – Sony A7iii, 24-105 @ 35mm, f16, 1/250th, ISO1250

As guided by the course notes I went through the following stages.

Stage 1 – Choose the photograph and use it create a Base Layer in Photoshop.

Stage 2 – Added a black and white adjustment layer.

Stage 3 – Added a curves adjustment layer, and then used the curves to create a high contrast image. I then added a layer mask to this adjustment layer, and painted black on the wooded hills and then path and boulders in the foreground. This allowed the original standard contrast of those areas to show through i.e. I had cut a hole in the high contrast adjustment to allow the original black and white layer underneath to show through. Finally, I added a gradient mask across the path to allow it to blend in better.

Stage 4 – The course notes stated to use another curves adjustment layer to darken the image, thereby bringing out the drama of the otherwise slightly washed out clouds. It seemed simpler to me to use a brightness and contrast adjustment layer, so that is what I did. I then added a layer mask to paint black over the areas that I did not want to darken, i.e. everything except the sky and the water. I now had an image that had the increased darkness in the areas that I needed it to compensate for over exposure of the original image, the sky and water, with more drama/contrast in some other areas, but retaining the original exposure for most of the land areas.

Stage 5 – The finishing touches using the dodge and burn tools. To do this I added a new image layer.

This is the result. Certainly a more dramatic image, but with lots of imperfections from this ‘layers’ beginner. Noticeably the halo effect and inaccuracy in my painting of masks. Watching the YouTube videos there are clearly a miscellany of Photoshop tools that be used to improve my technique, but such is the dazzling array of tools I’m sure it will take a while too master these techniques. The course documentation does say that I will need to practice with lots of images, and so I will. Happy with this first attempt. All done using the wifi in the bar of the hotel we are staying in at a little place called Pefkos on the island of Rhodes. Not a bad place to be processing photos.

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Exercise 2.10 – Dodging and burning

Dodging and burning is one of the most widely-used darkroom techniques: 

Dodging refers to lightening a part of the image. 

Burning refers to darkening a part of the image. 

These techniques are useful because they allow you to subtly improve the lighting and shadows in a picture. In extreme cases dodging and burning can be used to totally re-balance a composition and remove unwanted distractions by darkening them to black. 

Take one of the night portraits you made. Open it in Photoshop. The dodging icon looks like a lollipop. The burning icon usually looks like a small hand with thumb and forefinger in a circle. 

Identify which part of your photo is the most important point – usually the face in a portrait. Use the dodging tool to lighten it so that it’s the lightest part of the composition. If the face is already too bright, dodge other important details that you want to bring out, or go straight to the next step. 

Identify which is the background of the image. Use the burning tool to darken your background plus any elements you want to be less visible. 

Continue to use the burning tool to darken any areas that detract attention from the portrait, e.g. something bright or vividly coloured in the environment. 

 

I chose the following photo.

Jacqui-no-dodge

It is clearly under exposed, particularly the subject.  The dogs are almost silhouetted, and the graffiti lacks any impact.  It kind of flat in appearance.  Because so much of the tunnel wall is dark it doesn’t benefit from the architectural shape or any depth.  The subject isn’t framed well, and there is a distraction top left.

I used the dodge tool to bring out the main subject, to show the dogs and to create a sense of framing around the subject.  This gives the photo a better composition.  I then increased the exposure of the tunnel as it moved into the background.  I picked out some of the graffiti to emphasise it (plus a bit of saturation increase on the reds and blues).  Using the bur tool I then darkened some of the foreground to help create a spotlight effect.  Finally I darkened the distracting graffiti in the top left corner.  Here is the final image, and both of them side by side.

I guess it is a question of taste as to whether I could have worked the photo more.

Jacqui-dodge

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Exercise 2.9 – A Night Portrait

Photographing at night represents a challenge for the photographer, particularly for making portraits. The low light means either having to increase ISO, which could introduce grain to the image, or using long exposures that will cause blur. Most photographers would use flash carefully balanced with any ambient light and a slight increase of ISO. 

Here, you’ll use all the methods at your disposal: high ISO (3200 and beyond), flash and long exposure. 

Photograph a model of your choice; if you feel bold, ask members of the public to pose for you. 

You’ll need a tripod for the long exposures. And your model will have to stand as still as possible. Exposures can be several minutes long so there’s bound to be some blur, but this can be visually effective in itself. 

As with Exercise 2.6, include a full-length figure in the environment. 

Aim to create three finished night photographs, although you’ll need to make many more exposures than that to ensure success. 

To prepare for this project, have a look at Weegee’s night photos (museum.icp.org/ museum/collections/special/weegee).

This has been a useful exercise in that it brought together a number of newly learnt techniques.  I do feel that I have taken some photos, and created images, that would have been beyond me before commencing this course.  Some of the photos deploy new to me techniques, whilst others are examples of me appreciating new photographic concepts, I guess the artistic element. 

First of all the work of Weegee.  Named Weegee because of his ability to turn up quickly at crime scenes as if he had predicted them (Weegee being a phonetic spelling of Ouija). He was mainly a crime scene photographer in the 30’s and 40’s, and is credited with being one the key photographers who created the tabloid ‘hot off the press’ photographic reporting.  He mainly worked in New York and had access to police radios thereby enabling him turn up at crime scenes and accidents quickly.  He had a dark room in the back of his car and so his images really were hot off the press.  His images generally represented very stark direct reporting of dark scenes such as traffic accidents and crime victims.  However, he also took some great street scenes of people celebrating and enjoying themselves, in particular society events and parties.  An example of both are below.

The first image is of the victim of a car crash

1938 https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/auto-accident-victim-new-york

1945 https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/objects/v-j-day-victory-parade-in-little-italy

When asked about his technique Weegee’s response was reputedly ‘f8 and be there’.  Still probably holds true for today’s photographers in this reporting genre.  A medium aperture that gives reasonable depth of field, and lets in a reasonable amount of light.  Then of course he used flash, hence the well lit subjects and black background; something I have learnt about through this part of the course.  I think most of his images still look as good today as when he shot them.  I am certainly a fan.  Clearly years and years of dedication and learning his craft, not only the camera technique, but getting into place to be able to capture the images.

And so to the photographs I shot.

I can categorise them into four groups.  The first group were shot with flash at a BBQ outside our house (generally closer up portraits), the second with flash in an urban landscape (graffiti etc.),  the third in an urban landscape with tripod and long exposure, and the fourth with high ISO, but not flash.

Image number one

Through the fill-in flash exercise I have started to be able to manage exposures (foreground and background) by controlling the combination of aperture, shutter speed and the power of the flash.  This have given me much more control over the image.  This shot is my favourite portrait using this  technique.  Removing all of the background light by using a relatively fast shutter speed in the late evening light (1/125th), and then controlling the light on the face with f4.5 and lower power from the flash.  It’s a shot I could not have taken a few months ago.  I used the Nikon D300 with a Sigma 30-100 lens.

 

Emily1v2

Image number 2

I have been shooting images in low light using high ISO for a while now.  I think the images, whilst ‘noisy’, can be very atmospheric.  The technique is really useful.  The image below was shot using my Sony RX100iii compact camera.  Being a relatively new camera it handles high ISO much better than my old DSLR Nikon300 (although in good light the DSLR still wins out).  This one was shot at ISO 6400 enabling a 1/80th shutter speed to give a fairly crisp image, and at f6.3 to give enough depth of field to keep both subjects in focus.  At ISO 6400 there is plenty of noise in the image, but I still like it.  The composition has some rule of two thirds in it, plus the hiding behind the hair demonstrates the occasionally camera shy character, with my wife looking on at the antics.

DSC07076v2

 

Image number 3

I have included this one in the final three because it demonstrates the slower shutter speed techniques, with the aim of a still sharp subjects and the blurred motion of the dogs.  I have also pulled the shadows out using PhotoShop.  The shutter speed was 4 seconds.  Clearly I had to use a tripod.  I don’t think the photo is actually that good so maybe some better composition and subject selection is required, but at least I tried this technique!

_DSC1771

Here are four others that I particularly liked.  The first uses two different light sources.  The foreground subject is lit by flash and is outside the house.  The background subject is lit by lights inside the house.  I really light the facial expressions, and the moodiness of big Sister in the background.  A bit different.  The second is my take on a Weegee black and white celebration/fun shot.  It the captures the girls in a very different ‘light’ to the first image.  The third image uses a powerful flash setting to light up the tunnel.  The fourth one is a bit off brief as in it isn’t a portrait; however, I was taken by the power of our house silhouetted against the late evening blue sky.  I used a tripod, f13 for depth of field and a shutter speed of 1.6sec.  Particularly pleased with this one, and again not a photo I could have taken before embarking on this course.

E&DE&D2_DSC1793White House

I took lots go photos and here is a contact sheet for some of them.

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Picture Analysis: The Conversation

 

The conversation 

Michael Buhler-Rose.  The Conversation, from Constructing the Exotic, 2006 to 2010.

At https://www.michaelbuhlerrose.com/constructing-the-exotic/s4ws93x9blea3bbotg82oqqw04p6um 

Write a visual description of the photograph above using short phrases and descriptive keywords.  The four key elements you should describe are:

  • Facial expression
  • Posture and gesture
  • Clothing
  • Location

The characters are like mannequins, each with a different pose.  There isn’t a common pose so perhaps they are not a bonded group from a common background.  Maybe they only come together for some sort of hobby/performance, or to pose for this photo.  Their expressions appear fixed; unnatural and constructed.  Each individual is immaculate, a little too much so.  The costumes suggest the Indian sub-continent, but the skins are paler than I would expect (except the Lady sat on the steps who appears ill at ease, maybe a different or genuine ethnic background who is not comfortable in this tableau?).  Are they posed as a 4 and a 3 to match the space available i.e. to try and fit the environment that they are placed in?  It seems likely that the two groups are placed as they are in order to create a strong composition.

The exotic Indian clothing does suggest a dance troupe, or performers of some sort.  Same style, but different strong bright colours.  Too much of a coincidence for it not to be planned. The contrast of characters with their environment suggest they are visitors thereby strengthening the performers/models assumption.

There is a juxtaposition of the exotic female characters with the Western vegetation.

The prefab unit is out of place, and the dull, industrial and mundane corrugated sheeting contrasts with the eye catching coloured exotic outfits.  Or more likely the characters are out of place because the vegetation could be consistent with the prefab unit.

Constructing the exotic – it certainly is being constructed because none of the clues suggest that it is naturally exotic, individuals or location.  Maybe it is the Ladies creating the exotic in their pastime with the photographer creating an image to suit them.

This isn’t a photograph that records an occasion or documents the lives of individuals.  It appears to be a construct in itself creating a certain amount of confusion.

The above are my words before looking at the photographers notes.  Here is what he has to say:

This series explores the conventions of the figure in painting and photography through the lens of historical colonial and Indian art. By placing the unfamiliar within the familiar the door is opened to questioning the identity of the “exotic other”.

In these images western women who were raised either within the Indian subcontinent itself or simply born into its socio-religious heritage become, in one sense, the “other”. Their placement, the familiar contemporary western cultural landscape, draws the viewer into their world and pulls at the seams of the notion exotic.

Looking at the other work in this series is quite challenging.  It certainly isn’t the type of photography that appeals directly to me; nevertheless, it is using photography as a tool to tell a story and challenge preconceptions.  The FIP manual also suggests looking at the work of Henry Peach Robinson, one of the 19th Century pioneers of pictorialism.  He similarly creates tableaus depicting a variety of scenes, and in doing so portrays an artistic message.  Going back to the old masters Raphael does similar.  In my own work I can see the potential for creating similar tableau, but perhaps for different purposes e.g. reconstructing scenes from our local community.

Fading Away 1858

Robinson, Henry Peach.  Fading Away. 1858.  At http://betterphotography.in/perspectives/great-masters/henry-peach-robinson-the-pictorialist/25794/

 

 

 

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Exercise 2.8

This was an exercise in using fill-in flash to balance the exposure of foreground and background.  The basic principle is that the shutter speed controls the exposure of the background, and a combination of aperture and flash output controls the subject/foreground.

Martin Parr is a great exponent of this technique and I particularly like his work.  Here is a recent one taken on an Indian beach.  Without the use of fill-in flash the figures in the foreground would be silhouetted.  The gentlemen in the white shirt is further away from the flash, and therefore under exposed compared to the figures in the foreground.

INDIA. Kerela. Fort Cochin beach. 2016.

Parr, M from Indian Beaches  https://www.martinparr.com/recent-work-4/

I have never used fill-in flash before, and if I’m honest never really tried.  I had only ever used the automatic flash built into cameras, and I have always found it rather crude.  Clearly it is a technique that works because there are no end of great photos taken using the technique.  In order to do this properly I took to ebay and picked up a second hand Nikon Speedlight SB700 to fit to my Nikon 300D DSLR.  When the flash arrived the first job was to read the manual to work out what the flash is capable of.  Once I’d got to grip with the basic functionality I experimented with a few shots around the house.  I also did some research online and found help such as this one Fill Flash

I took to the hills around my house along with my wife and kids.  There were some dramatic skies, and the remnants of recent snow falls.

The exercise required me to use the camera and flash in manual mode.  I did use the cameras light meter to find some basic settings that would work for foreground or background.  I then set about experimenting with the variables; shutter speed, f/stop and flash output/power.  The flash gun has different ways of altering output.  Pure manual or distance.

Here is a selection from the series of photos I took along with some explanatory notes.  Hover over each photo to see the camera settings.

The top two photos show the difference between no flash and flash, but with other settings virtually the same.  The top right photo with the flash pulls out the detail of the subject but whilst retaining the detail in the sky along with the silhouetted trees in the mid-ground.  Bottom left shows the impact of an increased aperture, and bottom right shows the impact on the background of slowing the shutter speed.  The sky is washed out.

The guide to the exercise in the OCA handbook states that the shutter speed changes the background whilst the aperture changes the foreground, the implication being that the two are independent of each other.  I was already starting to learn from these initial shots that the two are not completely independent of each other (no surprise when I think about it).  Top right and bottom right use the same f/stop, but the change in shutter speed, whilst having a dramatic impact on the background, is still having an impact on the foreground even when the flash is used.

A relatively simple, but effective, use of the flash.  The first photo has no flash, the second does, and the third has the aperture opened.  The third is the most effective as it pulls out the detail in the subject, but I suspect could have been even better if I had slowed the shutter speed to bring back some of the detail of the sky.

The photo top left uses flash and is not far off the effect I wanted.  The drama of the background sky is captured and the foreground subjects are reasonably well lit.  The shot top right was an experiment.  Aperture increased and the shutter speed slowed down.  Everything is then over exposed.  Bottom left is kind of a half way house, and loses drama.  Bottom right is my favourite.  It keeps the same aperture as bottom left because I liked the exposure of the subjects; however, I wanted to reduce the exposure of the sky by increasing the shutter speed.  I was concerned that increasing the shutter speed from 1/100th to 1/250th would have some impact on the subject (despite the flash) so to compensate I slightly increased the flash output.  I think it work nicely.

Top left is without flash and loses all the detail of the subject.  Top right is with flash and is far better.  The colours in her hair and face are all present along with the lining of her hood.  Bottom left is with an increased aperture, but washes out the subject.  Bottom right is actually the same original as top right, but has had some photoshop work done, mainly to darken her face a little.  I think the flash was just a little too bright on her face, and causing a few reflections/shine.

Overall I enjoyed this exercise, and I think it will be a useful technique for the type of photography I am interested in.  I will need to practice a good deal more though.

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365 Week 28

Well after a few weeks away from the project, and actually taking photos in general, I have come back in at week 28.  Here is the contact sheet.

ContactSheet-001

Day 182 – Up on Rodborough Common looking over the River Severn and on to the stormy clouds covering the Forest of Dean.  It was an experiment using fill in flash to capture the figures in the foreground, and correctly expose the background to capture the drama of the storm.  Pleased with it.

Day 183 – The Hill Paul clothing factory. Unusual to have an industrial building in Stroud made of brick.  All of the mills and factories from the Victorian era are built from Cotswold Stone. This area is famous for it. In fact the quarry in the valley in which we live provided the stone for the House of Parliament. The Hill Paul building overlooks the station and following a campaign to save it from demolition is now well presented flats. I really like this piece of architecture. Bold and imposing.

Day 184 – Denika, another experiment with fill in flash to pull out the colours of her hair, face and coat.

Day 185 & 186 – A work trip to London provided the opportunity to photo the comparison  of old and new.  In case towers, in the other road structures.

Day 187 – the dogs can always find the sunshine.  I like the textures and contrasts.

Day 187 – out walking in the woods and the change of the seasons is evident.  Green shoots coming through the winter decay.

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Exercise 2.7 – People in light

The purpose of this exercise was to experiment with, and understand, the different types of light ranging from the warm (orange) light produced by a flame through to the cool (blue) light of an overcast day.

The idea was to take a series of photographs of the same person, but in a number of different light types.

I carried out some research on light temperatures and the impact of in camera and post processing white balance.

Rather than explain it all, I found an excellent beginners guide to understanding white balance.  Many thanks to ‘photography life

As a result of the information contained in the above article I worked out that I needed to shoot in RAW with the white balance fixed at 5,200k.  If I had used auto white balance and/or jpeg settings then the camera would simply have compensated for the variation in light types to produce a  neutral image i.e. it would have carried out the white balancing itself rather than leaving the image as captured with all the colour variations still in place.  The course notes should perhaps have stated this.

Ideally I would like to have taken more photos with good sunlight and experienced some quality sunrises and sunsets, but this time of year that is a bit tough.  Still, as seen below I did manage to take sufficient shots to demonstrate different light colours.  A very good learning exercise that has opened my eyes to both the impact of light types and what I can seek to achieve from the final ‘balanced’ image.

ContactSheet-001

 

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365 Week 20

Due to time constraints this one is a bit of a cheat.  Exercise 2.6 happens to include 7 photographs, and so I have used those photos for week 20.  The exercise is here.

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Exercise 2.6 Near and Far

Aim to shoot a conclusive series of full-length and head-and-shoulders portraits using a foreground figure or face in front of a background scene plus a foreground space with a figure in the distance – with both areas in focus.

This is an exercise that combines portrait and landscape, utilising composition skills and depth of field.  The placing of the subject is important, experimenting with different placements e.g. rule of two thirds, centrally, on the edge of the frame etc.  Perhaps some juxtaposition, or relationship between subject and environment.

I used my Daughter as the model, with the landscape being the walk along the river and canal from our house.  It is semi-rural, part river and fields, part old and new industrial.  It is very much our home territory, and so besides this exercise it is a time and place I want to capture for posterity. 

Here is the series of photos with a description of each photograph.

Emily-river

Our house is on the opposite bank of the river on the right hand side of this photograph, and so this point represents the start of many walks with family and the dogs.  I have placed Emily so as to provide a left hand edge to the frame.  Also, her face is just about on one of the golden points according to the rule of two thirds.  The lane takes the eye down to the cottage and to the hills beyond.  I think Emily integrates into the distant view.  By shooting over her shoulder I intended it to imply that you are starting out on a journey with her.  There is a slight loss of focus on the cottage so the purpose of the exercise is not met 100%.  I would have needed a tripod to be able to both reduce shutter speed and reduce aperture (or a more modern camera with better low light capability).  The shot would have been easier to execute in the brighter summer sun. 

Em-Noahs

In contrast to the previous photo the light for this photo was much better.  A winter’s low afternoon sun was shining through the trees gently lighting up Emily and Mischief.  This enabled me to get a slightly better depth of field.  Whilst Emily is again on the left hand side the composition is quite different.  She doesn’t quite blend into the photo as well as the previous one, but I still really like the composition.  The wrought iron work was my starting point.  I then effectively split the frame into three, both vertically and horizontally.  Vertically; Emily and Mischief, the iron work with the green grass background, and the river winding its way around to the viaduct.  Horizontally;  the dry stone wall, the stone mill, and the brick viaduct.  The colours were a bonus.  Annoyingly I have cut off the top of the wrought iron work.  Careless execution of the photograph.  Lesson learnt!

Emily-path

The first of the shots with Emily in the ‘far’ rather than ‘near’.  The ‘near’ features on the one side the graffiti strewn walls, and on the other the remains of the abandoned canal framed by one of the many trees that have established themselves.  I think the relationship between the dogs and Emily helps creates some of the depth in the photo.  Again there are three parts to the photo.  The wall, the path, and the canal.  The light was challenging.  Shadows in the foreground, and low winter sun in the background.  I have used PhotoShop to slightly darken that sky, and then to pull out the shadows.  The colours of the jackets really help, and without them it would have been quite bland.  For me I have captured the atmosphere of these wintery afternoon walks, and the near and far composition has certainly helped me do that.

Bit of an experiment with this one.  Clearly the two images are from the same photograph, just cropped differently.  The right hand image is the original.  My idea was to capture both the graffiti and the canal path disappearing into the distance.  It works OK, but doesn’t seem to fit the brief very well.  With Emily placed centrally it is all about Emily with little depth to the photo.  I then cropped it to place Emily’s face on one of the golden points.  This lost most of the graffiti, but seems to have gained a great deal more than it has lost.  Probably a combination of the placing of Emily in the frame and the greater emphasis on the wall and path leading away and across the frame.

Em-house

A slightly different approach with this one.  I deliberately framed it to get Emily’s face on the golden spot, but looking back across the frame and up the canal without looking at the camera.  It kind of creates a bit of movement across the frame.  The ‘far’ is not so much a distant view as it is actually more about the height.  The house in the background is actually the level crossing gatekeepers house.  The railway runs behind that wall, and beyond that the road.  Three levels and eras of transport.  Somewhere along this valley there will be a photo opportunity that captures all three.

Em-two-thirds

The final photograph in this series and quite possibly my favourite.  Emily is a quite a distant subject, but still stands out because of her red jacket.  In the foreground are elements that exemplifiy the area.  The path and riverbank on the right hand side gives a clue to the fact we live in an area of outstanding beauty.  The dry stone wall in the centre is a recently restored wall that would have been a part of the original boundary of Brimscombe Port (see Assignment One for more details on the Port), and reflects the efforts to restore some of the heritage of the area.  The crumbling stonework and metal fencing represents recents years and it’s largely disused light industry.  All of this combines to create the environment in which we live.  Emily and the dogs demonstrate today’s largely leisure related use of the area.  We can walk and cycle for miles along the old canal and riverbank paths, and a little further afield are the cycle tracks along old railway routes.  A nice conclusion to this particular series of images.

Posted in Part 2 | 3 Comments