Tag Archives: Art of Photography

some thoughts on ‘constructing worlds’ at the barbican, london

looking through the exhibition space at the barbican

looking through the barbican centre exhibition space

I enjoyed this exhibition of photographs linking architecture and pictures hugely. As ever, I got there far too late in its run (it’s over next Sunday, the 11th); it would really be better to go early on and – if I like an exhibition – think about it for a bit and then go back again for a second look a few weeks later. What follows is not so much a review as a set of thoughts, written a few hours after walking through the gallery… Continue reading

assignment # 2 – elements of design: pictures + commentry

Produce 10-15 photographs, all of a similar subject…

Flotta – Friday 1st August 2014

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…between them they will show the following effects:

1: single point dominating the compostion

1: A Single Point

1: A Single Point

I thought long and hard about using one of the shots of the wind turbine, with its nacelle as the point, but in the end decided that a: the square view through the window and the doorway of this small brick hut (a sentry hut?) was “pointy” enough and b: that this was a much stronger photo than any of the turbine pictures. I particularly like the way moving your eyes over its surface  generates a strong sense of refocussing (as discussed in part 4 of Shore’s The Nature of Photographs) and the way the various horizontal and vertical lines in the picture reinforce the idea of the frame. The point possibly becomes a punctum, leaving us with a picture about pictures hung on (or here, in) a wall, with the almost central positioning of the point achieving a sense of uneasy stillness which works nicely with the flatness of the view.

2: two points

2: Two Points

2: Two Points

Two water tower supports, out towards Stangar Head. I think these qualify as points because of the way the crumbling concrete contrasts with the softness of the land and the lack of any obvious focal point out towards the horizon. This is probably a bit soft, when viewed at print size, a warning not to use a heavy 35-70mm zoom handheld with a shutter speed of 1/80th sec. The framing of this is key: I spent a reasonable amount of time with the camera, judging how close to the edge the two structures needed to be to achieve some sense of balance; I then carried on this process cropping a bit more off the the sides and bottom of the image in Lightroom. I hope your eyes travel along the horizon from the larger tower to the smaller one, and then back again…

 

a combination of vertical and horizontal lines

3: Vertical and Horizontal Lines

3: Vertical and Horizontal Lines

A natural triptych which – like 1 – creates a very strong sense of planes. Taken inside a searchlight emplacement (the light would have split into 3 strong beams as it passed through the vertical slits) I used the camera’s flash throttled back to minimum intensity to get some sense of texture on the inside wall helped by the black staining, which is presumably carbon deposited by the arc-ing rods that made the beam of the searchlight. It was hard getting the colour temperature right here, something that wasn’t made easier by the chromatic aberration visible down the verticals of the slits, that I only noticed when I got the second version of the print back. I’ve corrected it on the file uploaded here, and will get a new print made when I get the prints made for assignment 3.

several points in a deliberate shape

4: Several Points in a Deliberate Shape

4: Several Points in a Deliberate Shape

Two triangles combine to make a quadrilateral tilted away from the viewer like a ceiling over the ludicrously busy field. Your eye either moves round the edge of the shape, or zigzags up from the pole on the right, to the windmill, down to the power post and back up to the other smaller windmill. The slight a-symmetry of the distances off to the left and right edges of the shape make it more interesting than if I had moved off to the left, when I would have lost the way that the field above the road and the sky area locks jigsaw-like into the foreground bit of field with its run-to-seed docks and yellow flowers.

distinct, even if irregular, shapes

I took advantage of the 10-15 picture scope for this assignment to add all three of these – a building of unknown purpose at Stangar head, the inside of the buried nissen hut that acted as the magazine for Buchanan Battery and a recycled nissen hut spotted on my way back to catch the ferry. I think compositionally the three work as a sequence, with the centrally placed doors of 5 and 6 creating a similarity with the curve of the nissen hut in 7 echoing the corrugated ribs in the roof of 6.

5 and 6 are fine (and I like the green object in 6 – a Heineken can? – in the lit part of the spill of earth into the hut, wishing the coke bottle in deep shadow over to the left was equally lit) but I’m particularly happy with 7 where planes merge into one another making shapes out of things that would have simply seemed unrelated if I hadn’t moved left and right, back and fore til they lined up and worked as a 2D arrangement…

curves

8: Curves

8: Curves

Here, I think the viewer’s eyes starts at the top left of the frame and follows the zig and the zag of the road down to the bottom right; the fence post directs the eye up to the cottage and then you track up the gentler curve of the horizon back to the top left. And then you do it again. It would be slightly better if i’d taken half a step to my left, lining up the ruined cottage’s chimney with the fencing stab, I think, but I can live with it as it is. Definitely among my favourites out of the pictures  in the assignment.

diagonals

9: Diagonals

9: Diagonals

I spotted the playpark as I walked through the village and realised it was perfect for doing something that collapsed the many planes formed by the various bits of equipment into something much flatter. It was then huge fun to move left and right, step back and take a half step forward again, squat down, stand up, lean and lean back before taking each of the 3 pictures I took here. This is the one that creates the nicest chaos of diagonals, I think.

The only bit that I feel unhappy with is the very top where I can’t quite work out where the exact point to cut off the confluence of the near poles should be. As a result, it’s an ‘almost’ rather than a ‘definitely’. Getting it right would involve going back though, and I won’t be able to do that until next year now.

at least two kinds of implied triangle

Another group of 3 to take advantage of the 10-15 limit, as 10 manages to get the asked-for two with the obvious vanishing point of the road tailing off towards the horizon, and the inverted triangle formed by the two cottages on either side of the road and the inverted Stop! Children sign painted on the road. 11 was included as the first thing I thought when I noticed the two cottages and the bloke in a red caghoul, fixing a fence was “triangle!” – it proved a lot harder to get the red of the caghoul light enough and red enough (and the landscape light enough for it to show up strongly) than I thought it would. 12 is there because i like the way that the bank opening up to the concrete shelter on the right seems to lack any sense of depth, while pointing the way to a vanishing point somewhere off to the left. Also, it rhymes beautifully with the triangle formed by the washing lines in…

rhythm

13: Rhythm

13: Rhythm

…this one! Here I took several other shots, trying to get a fully left to right waveform from the clothes on the line; this was the one that worked best. Also, the way the gaps in the breezeblock wall and the fencing stabs below the washing move left to right in some sort of counterpoint helps the rhythmic feel here. the way the washing pole seems to bend into the picture helps too.

pattern

14: Pattern

14: Pattern

As I said elsewhere, brick isn’t really a particularly Orcadian building material and is only really found in the wartime buildings that dot the landscape. I wish I’d been able to find a more imaginative pattern somewhere, but I didn’t, so here’s a section of the wall of the Fleet Communications Centre. After 70 odd years, at least the pointing is holding up…

 

Lastly, I confess that I have deviated from the order these are given in the Assignment Brief, as the images seem to flow better this way: eg the final implied triangle matches the way the washing lines fill the upper half of rhythm; the first four pictures go obviously one, two, three, four; diagonals goes quite naturally to the first implied triangle, and not just because they’re the only ones in portrait format.

At any rate, if I were to hang the prints on a wall, this is the order I would like you to walk past them.

reading – during part 1 of the course

I have read (and re-read) the first two chapters of both Photography: a Critical Introduction (ed Wells; Routledge, 4th Edition 2009) and The Photograph (Clarke; OUP, 1997) as I have gone back and forth, to and from work, while I have been working through Part 1 of The Art of Photography. Both books cover similar things here – photography itself and how it developed over the first 150 or so years of its existance, the relationship between pictures and the things they depict, what makes a photograph a photograph and what difference do all these things make to the way we think while looking at pictures.

Alongside this, I have also read bits of Understanding a Photograph (John Berger; Penguin, 2013) and The Nature of Photographs (Stephen Shore; Phaidon, 2010); the combination of all these has, I think combined to change the ways I view other people’s photographs, although I don’t think it has fed into my own work in any tangible way yet…

…or so I wrote in the middle of July, while I was waiting for the feedback on my first assignment. I intended to come back and expand on this, but I didn’t.

Foolish, forgetful Simon! Continue reading

elements of design # 3 – horizontal and vertical lines

horizontal and verical lines

inukshuk – yesnaby, orkney

Produce 4 examples of horizontal and 4 of vertical lines. Avoid repeating the way in which a line appears. The most successful will be those in which the line is the first thing a viewer would notice.

– AoP Coursebook

Continue reading

the frame # 9 – cropping and extending

MIA Bus Station, Florida, USA

Again – like swapping the camera blithely through ninety degrees – I think I have been cropping photographs fairly consistently during this part of the course, making a banner header for most of the exercise posts. I definitely like panoramas, on screen at least – I don’t think I often get any thing printed that isn’t fairly close to either square or a standard 3:2 frame…

Generally, any hesitations I have over changing the frame from what was shot,  come from reducing my ability to view (either as prints or on screen) large versions of the resulting pictures. The reason can be seen in the Miami Airport Bus Station picture, which was taken from a scan made by Snappy Snaps at the same time as they made me a set of 6″ x 4″ prints.

Looking closely at the original or not that closely at the crops, shows how low the resolution was for this. Also, while I don’t seem to mind isolating a small section of a negative, I am definitely reluctant to alter the aspect ratio. I’m not sure why, but I suspect that it has something to do with liking the regular conformity of a series of pictures, as much as anything. That said, there seems something horribly random about composing a picture through a viewfinder and then changing its shape radically later.

This probably ties in with a reluctance to desaturate digital pictures to make black and white images and the fact that I own one panoramic camera with a swing lens and quite a few medium format cameras that take square pictures. I also suspect that this is something I need to confront and get over.

Anyway, here are a couple of cropped pictures with comments inline with them when viewed as a slideshow:

1 – Miami Airport Bus Station, April 2014


2 – Alice – Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, May 2014

 3: All Souls’ Church from Oxford Circus, June 2014

All Souls' Church - Regent Street London. June 2014

All Souls’ Church – Regent Street London. June 2014

The idea of extending pictures is one that interests me. This (shot at the same time as I was doing Exercise # 5) is an attempt to get a decent, large, clean view of All Souls’. With a bit more work to neaten up the joins (not really visible here, but definitely present if you look at a larger version) it would be quite a good picture, I think, albeit a narrow one. It was manufactured from 3 portrait shot, meaning the overlaps were quite near the edges. More shots, or possibly more shots in landscape might have meant that the bits that matched were closer to the centre of the frame, with less likelihood of distortion.

I like the idea of creating long, thin (or short, wide) pictures of two parades of shops on the Lea Bridge Road, at the bottom of my street. I would like to make them from a large number of stitched together pictures, taken moving crab-wise along the edge of the opposite pavement. I have had one go already at the first of these (wonderful shops painted yellow, green, orange, pink, red and green etc) but realised as vans came along and parked obscuring the shops, that i needed to choose a quieter time to do this.

Once I have managed to get the series of shots (taken I think with the camera in portrait and with the shots overlapping by at least a third) I expect to need to do some perspective correction and then to spend ages stitching the pictures together manually. It should be worth the effort, even if its just to record what the shops were like at a set moment in time. Even better would be to come back and repeat the exercise in a few years, giving a sense of how the area has changed. Once I’ve got the first sets taken, I’ll  post here, and then leave them, and the shops, to mature like a good wine…