Tag Archives: walthamstow

light # 5 – light through the day


“You will need a sunny day for this exercise, or else sun at different times on differentdays. You are going to photograph one scene from dawn to dusk. The number of pictures you take will depend on the time of year, but get at least one per hour, and more at the end of the day when the light is changing faster. Find a landscape location with a fairly definite subject that will catch the sunlight even when the sun is close to the horizon. It needs to offer a good, clear view that is lit throughout the day – containing an isolated building, perhaps, but convenient to reach, as you will need to keep going back to exactly the same spot. Try and keep the composition exactly the same for all the photographs; either remember which parts of the scene touch obvious points in the viewfinder (such as the corners or any markings on the screen) or draw a little sketch. Keep a note of the exposure for each photograph”

– AOP Coursebook.

I took these pictures over the course of three days, way back in November. I’d set my tripod up, leaning into the velux window in the attic, looking out from my work-room (it’s where I’m sitting typing now) to the northeast. The view was open to the south so the light would pass over the view revealing detail and creating shifting shadows for the whole of the period of daylight. Continue reading

assignment 1 – contrasts

1: The Pictures

Black and White

walthamstow, black

1: blak (adj) – of the very darkest colour owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white

wʌɪt - Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black

wʌɪt (adj) – Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black

Many and Few

signs - walthamstow

3: ˈmɛni (adj) – a large number of

wʌɪt - Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black

4: fju (adj) – a small number of

 Smooth and Rough

walthamstow, black

5: smuːð (adj) – having an even and regular surface; free from perceptible projections, lumps, or indentations

wʌɪt - Of the colour of milk or fresh snow, due to the reflection of all visible rays of light; the opposite of black

6: rʌf (adj) – having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level

Still and Moving

7: stɪl (adj) – not moving or making a sound

signs - walthamstow

8: ˈmuːvɪŋ (adj) – in motion

High and Low

9: hʌɪ (adj) – far above ground, sea level, or another point of reference

10: ləʊ (adj) – located at or near the bottom of something

Broad and Narrow

11: brɔːd (adj) – having a distance larger than usual from side to side; wide

12: ˈnarəʊ (adj) – of small width in relation to length

Diagonal and Round

13: dʌɪˈag(ə)n(ə)l (adj) – (of a line) straight and at an angle; slanting

14: raʊnd (adj) – having a curved shape like part of the circumference of a circle

Continuous and Intermittent

15: kənˈtɪnjʊəs (adj) – forming an unbroken whole; without interruption

16: ɪntəˈmɪt(ə)nt (adj) – occurring at irregular intervals; not continuous or steady

Light and Dark

17: lʌɪt & dɑːk (both adj) - with little or no light

17: lʌɪt (noun) – the natural agent that stimulates sight and makes things visible – & dɑːk (adj) – with little or no light

2: Notes on the Pictures

Black and White – Something totally white or totally black would simply have been absenses, rectangles of #000000 or #FFFFFF respectively.  Against the white of the online ‘page’, ‘White’ is merely very pale grey. The main difficulty in taking these was getting the exposure to the point where white was ‘white’ rather than mid grey without blowing the highlights and for black to be ‘black’ while retaining some sort of variation…

Many and Few – Good examples of the need to seize the moment and take the photograph rather than storing ideas away for another day. I spotted a perfect ‘Few’ on my way to work one morning but didn’t have time to take the picture; the next day a second agent had been engaged and the shot was no longer there. I ended up finding a different single sign, and made the picture posted here of it. Likewise, the day after I took ‘Many’ one of the signs, and with it the single cluster of signs was gone; a few days later there were only four.

Like ‘Black’ and ‘White’ I suspect ‘Few’ makes less sense on its own than it does twinned with ‘Many’.

Smooth and Rough – I took a few tryouts (I dind’t have a tripod with me, but wanted to see what it would look like with different lenses) for ‘smooth’ at a point when I intended to use the black and yellow tape for intermittent. As soon as I had it downloaded onto my laptop, I realised that the way the light bounced off the metal floor made it made a better candidate for smooth. Now I see how pitted the surface is in places and how the edges of the plates don’t quite sit level where they join in a conscious division of the frame, and I wonder if maybe it isn’t that smooth after all. Although of course, in the most part, it is…

Rough had been going to be a stretch of lumpy, uneven pavement gridded diagonally by the shadows of some railings. Then, one evening on the way home, the road round the corner was closed because of a burst water main. The pipe had been fixed, but the road-surface had not yet been made good. I was five minutes later home than I’d intended.

I like the was the yellow of the tape and the orange of the barriers stand out in the individual pictures as well as adding a further level of clash between the two images.

Still and Moving – ‘Moving’ is the only photograph in the assignment that wasn’t taken ‘for’ it; rather I was taking photographs of people’s reflections in the (rather unusual) puddle and the LOOK RIGHT sign on the road when people started moving through the frame. The effect worked, and I started thinking about a suitable ‘Still’ to pair with it.

‘Still’ is the only image that has been cropped heavily from a landscape formatted photograph. The portrait formatted version had too much foreground and didn’t have and of the cloudy sky; I didn’t like it, but didn’t remember that ‘Moving’ was already set as landscape and, anyway, I thought I was going to use one of the pictures of the couple seated on a bench with a barbecue for ‘still’ (see the contact sheet). This therefore is the only picture I would automatically replace with another if the assignment was going to be printed – there just aren’t enough pixels there to allow a print much larger than 8 inches on its longer side.

High and Low – ‘High’  took 3 goes to get right: the first had loads of reflections on the glass, so I gave up and remembered to bring my circular polariser the next day; then I didn’t have enough time to hang about waiting for someone to pause in the right position at the bottom of the converging lines and the glass awning, far enough from the edge of the frame, then the third day I got it. A good example of taking too many digital photographs, before arriving at one that works. ‘Low’ was relatively easy, once I’d worked out that framing the spire through the trees’ branches gave as good an idea of it being ‘up’ and ‘beyond’.

Also, of course, ‘High’ could be ‘Low’ and ‘Low’ could be ‘High’, but I decided to go with them titled this way round as it then became a reference to the camera’s (or rather my) viewpoint and – as such – could possibly do something to puncture shift puncture the purely literal, realist meaning of the pair of pictures, shifting them from the iconic to the indexical…

Broad and Narrow – I tried a variety of narrow lanes off Oxford Street before deciding that the one used here worked best. To make the space between the two buildings less, I used a 16mm lens, the widest lens used in any of these. Then, realising that ‘Broad; needed some context in the form of something that would express itswideness, I first tried lying under a pylon and shooting up, but it just felt enclosed; then I tried the side-on shot here and liked the way that wires stretch out in a balanced and symmetrical way form the central pylon, puncturing the edges of the frame and giving the idea of the picture being wider than it actually is.

Diagonal and Round – I’d seen the spire in the gap between a cafe’s two spans of awning and thought it would make a good picture. It then took at least 4 goes to get it right. Problems were caused by the way that if sunlight did not directly strike the cloth of the awning, either they were a mucky brown or the sky was completely overexposed; the sun only fell in the right place for an hour or so around lunchtime, and it wasn’t alway sunny at that time – a dull sky still was horribly overexposed. Then, once that was sorted, I discovered that you only got enough spire if you moved back from gap and compressed the image with a long lens. Eventually it was sunny, and I had my 70-300mm zoom with me. It would have been good to have added a tripod into the mix, but that’ll have to be notched up to experience…

It took so many goes to get ‘Diagonal’ right, that when I noticed yesterday that it should have been paired with ‘Round’ rather than ‘Curved’ that my heart sank, but I determined to find a definition of ‘Round’ which would fit Curved. Sorry. Next time RTQ! Also, I like ‘Curved’ – a pleasant and quick break from the stress of the sequence of composition shoot and like the inverted triangle of rhyming blue sky echoing the steeple of All Souls.

Continuous and Intermittent – On the way back to work after lunch one day, I noticed how the ‘give way’ lines at the end of Riding House Street were a lot less regular than most. ‘Intermittent’, I thought and also rather liked the way people looked, crossing the road. After a false start with a pedestrian crossing further down Regent St (on the contact sheet) I settled down and framed up the shot that’s used here and then had a bit of a wait for a single person to walk into the empty space at the left of the frame. I’d intended to do ‘Continuous’ with a bicycle skirting along double yellow lines, but then noticed how nicely continuous the cycle lane edging was where the road ran down hill to the bridge of the Lea that takes you to Clapton. I shot uphill and downhill, and decided that the downhill run worked better with its long inverted V almost as far as the vanishing point, even though it meant that instead of having a cyclist going away meant they were travelling in the same direction as the pedestrian in ‘Intermittent’.

Light&Dark – just the one exposure, properly exposed for both the light and the shaded parts of the image and with a nice variety of shapes created by the battered slats of the venetian blind.

3: Technical

All pictures were taken with a Nikon D50 using a variety of lenses with focal lengths ranging from 16mm to 300mm apart from ‘8: Moving’ which was taken with a FujiFilm x-20. ‘8 Moving’ was cropped to the same 3:2 aspect ratio as the other landscape format pictures. Post processing was carried out in Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 (mainly removing spots caused by my dirty sensor)  and Adobe Lightroom 5.

4: References

All definitions and pronunciations from Oxford Dictionaries

contrasts # 2 – ideas & approach

rejected internal contrast - large and small

rejected internal contrast – large and small

At the start-of-course chat with my tutor, Dave, we talked about putting additional constraints on this exercise, which seemed like a good idea. Thinking later, I also thought it would might also help if I established some extra contrasts between the two pictures of a pair and one way of doing this would be to choose two locations where all the pictures would be taken.

So, one picture of each contrasting pair has been taken in the area around Oxford Circus, representing the area I move in when I am at work and one has been taken in Walthamstow, the area where I live and am not at work. I don’t think it’s made the contrasts any more contrasty, but it did impose a discipline on the exercise and will have had an effect on the subject matter.

Further to this, each pair has one picture taken in landscape format and one in portrait (cropped down to a ratio of 5×4, following the advice on page 15 of The Photographer’s Eye (Freeman, Ilex Press, 2007) that vertically, 3:2 can seem “a bit extreme” due to a tendency to ground the subject nearer the bottom of a frame, regardless of orientation; also, I reckoned that there would be less of an onscreen clash of picture size moving from one image in the pair to the other). This meant that for at least the first picture of each pair, I had to take one in portrait and one landscape.

Lastly, I had hoped to get some sort of further technical contrast between pictures such as one taken with a wide lens and the other with a long lens or one stopped down and the other with the lens open. I didn’t manage to stick to this one for many of the pairs but I didn’t worry too much about it.

Then, to help come up with ideas for the pairs, I made took a library card for each contrast and jotted down ideas for either or both concept, as I thought of them, or saw things which might fit. I tried to use things that already existed rather than needed some degree of setting up, spotting things that illustrated the state I was looking for rather than making something for the effect. Some of the pairs, I rejected outright as I couldn’t get beyond some very obvious idea into something more interesting (sweet and sour was one of these); others went through several iterations of an idea before one came up that stuck and was photographable (many and few started as a busy tube carriage and an almost empty one before I spotted the cluster of 6 “For Sale” signs on my way to the tube; then it took a bit longer to find a single sign somewhere in town) and others moved from one pair to another (the yellow and black hazard tape on the metal floor was originally “intermittent” and only become “smooth” after I’d taken some test shots and seen how the metal reflected the light in a way that suggested a high degree of polish).

Once I had 3 or so of the ideas in place I began taking photographs, getting them onto my laptop and then – usually – doing one or more re-shoots. Very few of the pictures submitted were right first time, or even first shoot, although I think I got a better hit rate as the Assignment progressed and the deadline got closer.

As I went on, I got better at planning shots and having the right equipment with me for the first go – the early pairs (High and Low, Diagonal and Curved)  went through numerous iterations as I took in a different lens, or a tripod, or a polariser on the next day and the next; for the later ones (Rough and Smooth, Intermittent and Continuous) each picture was taken on shoot one after I had worked out what I needed to fit into my bag before I went out that day. If I can carry this on to the rest of the course I will have gone a long way towards eliminating the  (ultimately) non-productive hours I have spent on this part of the course, easily exceeding the 80 estimated in the introduction…

the frame # 3 – sequence of composition

The Indecisive Moment


Shot on a Sunday when the Walthamstow farmer’s market was taking place in the open space off the high street, by the library.

It was another bright sunny morning and with me was a Nikon D50 with a Nikkor 24mm 1:2.8 manual focus lens. This gave the equivalent angle of vision to a 35mm lens on a full frame camera – plenty wide enough to get near subject in without having to back off too far in the confined spaces between stalls, but not so wide that there was a lot of distortion around the edges. My intention was to take exposure and focus out of the equation by stopping the lens down to F11 and sliding infinity focus to the point between f8 and f11 on the lens’s depth scale. At ISO 200, this gave a useable shutter speed of 1/125th sec, if I exposed to compromise between the need to not overexpose the areas lit by the sun while still getting detail in the shaded areas under the stalls’ awnings.

Also of course, this is the classic formula since the 30s for street photography – fixed focal length 35mm lens set to the hyperfocal values. forcing you to get close to your subjects. I shot 4 sequences at the market. Below are the combined results of the middle two (which in effect ran into one another) with comments.

1 - approaching the market

1 – approaching the market

A reasonable opening – cropped for the header, above – giving a fair idea of the area covered by the market, but nothing special. The two figures moving in towards the stands are ok, but would be much better if the were slightly to the left of the first row of stalls. To get this better, I could have moved off to my left and waited for another couple of people to enter the shot, but didn’t, feeling it would be better to get in closer, rather than spend time getting a more perfect establishing shot.

2: veg stall #1

2: veg stall #1

Moving straight in towards the central stall nearest me, I took this. There is a nice array of shoppers’ faces to the left and centre, but not enough of the two stall-keepers and the fact the bigger of the two is nearer the camera means there’s always the likelihood of him blocking his smaller partner. Also, there isn’t much sense of what they’re selling. I could have gone a bit to the right, but instead went left.

3: veg stall #2

3: veg stall #2

Foregrounded vegetables and almost a nice picture with the shopper making interesting shapes as he reaches for something, while not obscuring the stall-keeper’s expression. And the background is shaded enough to fit the exposure of the people under the awning. So – not bad but, annoyingly, a leaflet pinned to stall’s upright almost does obscure the stall-keeper, and the woman with the blue dress and yellow shoes is neither there nor not there. A bit closer and more angled down from slightly to the left would have cleared the shopkeeper more and removed the woman from the frame. However, it was a fluid moment and didn’t come together like this again.

4: veg stand #3

4: veg stand #3

I skirted round the back of the stand to the other side, getting more of an idea of the produce offered but moving me too far away from the action and interposing the rather annoying and soft flowers in the foreground. The two shoppers and the stall-keepers almost make a nice diamond/square, and the timing of passing over both goods and money almost comes off, but a half step to my left would have been better.

Also, the background (the north side of the High Street) is obviously much, much more strongly lit than the stalls. #3 is definitely better, I think. I took one more shot from the same angle, moving from landscape to portrait (5) but it is no better (though might work cropped square).

6 - phone man #1

6 – phone man #1

I’d been clocked by the people at the stall, and rather than get involved in some form of interaction with them, I turned away to my right and saw this where the man on the phone in the centre and the V-shape of the two angle produce racks caught my eye.

7: phone man #2

7: phone man #2

I pressed on and took 7…

8: phone man #3

8: phone man #3

…moved in closer and – having been spotted and being unable to read whether my taking pictures was viewed as good, bad or neutral because of the man’s sunglasses…

9: phone man #4

9: phone man #4

…I pulled back again. The closer shot with him looking into the lens (8) works best, I think with the awning and the stall forming a rough oval around him.

10: phone man #5

10: phone man #5

The man finished his call and began to move away; I moved closer again and quite like the abstract planes of the over-exposed background, the array of veg and the flatness of the awning in the top left and centre, framing the three people in the bottom left of the frame. If the aluminium pole wasn’t hiding the bearded man, and the woman wasn’t leaning out of the left of the frame, it might be quite a nice picture. Half a step left?

No! – I had already noticed the jam and chutney stall in the background, and had moved off to the right and gone around the stall to get closer. If the aluminium pole wasn’t hiding the bearded man, and the woman wasn’t leaning out of the left of the frame, it might be quite a nice picture. Half a step left? No! – I had already noticed the jam and chutney stall in the background, and had moved off to the right and gone around the stall to get closer.

11: chutney #1

11: chutney #1

I took this. It’s got good clean edges and the various planes as you move away from the camera are broken enough by the numerous rectangles formed by awnings, signs and other stuff to let your eye settle on the grounp of people – 2 adults, two children and the stall-keeper – with the interaction between the keeper and the boy on the right centring the group and giving the picture obvious narrative possibility. But other than squares and rectangles, there’s nothing going on in the left half of the picture. I stepped in and round…

…and someone pushed a pushchair in from the left of the frame. I tried to compensate and 16 almost works, but the hand coming in from the left holding the pushchair distracts from everyone else’s focus on the central area of the frame.

16: chutney #5

15: chutney #5

I stepped back. Again this works, I think, with the slightly off centre grouping of red or crimson people and objects surrounded by blues and whites is quite pleasing, and would probably become more so with a slight crop to remove some of the seated people to the left and to move the main stall more off centre. I stepped back in closer, and it all fell to pieces somewhat (16).

And then – 17-20 – I moved round to the side to try and get something of everyone’s faces; it sort of worked but there was a gulf between the stall-keeper and the shoppers if the picture was portrait (although I quite like the jam-bottles) and when I tried landscape – 21 – it’s a bit better, but not lots better. Tilting down a bit might have helped here.

22: chutney #

22: chutney # 12

I went round towards the back of the stall and took this before realising the whole sequence had probably peaked somewhere between 11 and 15. Admitting this, I explained what I was doing to the stall-keeper, took a conventional portrait of the stall-keeper and left….

24: the stall-holder

24: the stall-holder

All in all then, not the best day’s shooting I’ve ever had (If I’d been Garry Winogrand, this would probably have been one of the films that wouldn’t have got developed; and I’m sure Cartier-Bresson had days when only thin boys jumped over unreflective puddles behind the Gare Saint Lazare…). Some of the results – particularly with a couple of slight crops – are ok, I suppose. I don’t think I ever came particularly close to seizing a decisive moment (and the continually changing relationships between numerous people make this harder of course), but possibly with the object of the exercise being to document the moving into position as well as the final “good” composition, that was never going to happen here.

“Good” photography was made harder by the preserve stand’s awning casting a very persistant reddish cast on everything; I’ve included some pictures as shot and some at least partially colour-corrected.

I think it is a good exercise to have done and a better one to have thought about, but the thing I always find nerve-wracking about taking pictures in public places – the spoken or unspoken negotiation that goes on between you and the strangers in your pictures – was made worse by the need to document getting into postion as this removed the ability to get in place and then take one, or two quick shots before moving away. I felt very uncomfortable and – by the time I’d gone to a nearby pub to review what I’d done over a soda and lime – I was quite drained by the experience.

the frame # 1 – fitting the frame to the subject

panorama from tyre yard set

I intended to use a corner shop with an awning and a display of fruit and veg outside for this, but on my way back from taking the movement pictures by the Lea, I noticed a tyre sales yard by the side of the road with a wild array of signage and – remembering that I’d never managed to take a satisfactory picture of it in the 4 years or so I’ve been passing – thought I’d give it a try.

tyre yard 1

Picture 1: without taking too much time over it…

I quite like this – there’s an organised chaos feel to the site and the markings on the road begin to converge on the entrance (something that could be pointed up a bit by shooting from a higher vantage point, somewhere to the right of where I was standing); the sky is a nice blue (contrasting with the yellow signs and barrier). It works as a record of a place, and you can see how the signs all are focussed on passing trade in cars.

As a bonus it has a sort of American feel, somehow which works with subject matter. Next, I crossed the road to get closer and took the next in the series.

tyre yard 2

Picture 2: more care taken to fill the frame to the edges.

There is a lot more to look at here somehow: the various lines make it difficult for your eye to settle comfortably, and you scan over the image taking in details – the text on the signs, the two stacks of painted TYRES, the railings and the vanishing point off implied off to the right contrasting with the flatness of the hoardings. I had a couple of goes at this, mainly trying to get the right balance between the bollard at the bottom right and the top of the white hoarding. I’m not sure why I didn’t take half a step back to get slightly more room for the bollard, but I didn’t; possibly I was slightly too concerned about filling the frame right to the edges; possibly I didn’t want to step backwards off the pavement into the path of a car…

tyre yard 3

Picture 3: a detail

Next, a detail. I took two closeups of a stack of tyres with ‘tyres’ painted onto it. Which of the two to choose?

The first had more sky in it and some space at the top or the bottom of the stack, but the curve at the top was burnt out in a way that wasn’t pleasant.

This one isn;t overexposed anywhere and has a simple reduced range of colours with grey white and black predominating and the blue outline matching the blue of the sky. Also the repetition with the second stack in the background works with the whole. This, therefore becomes the one to go with.

tyre yard 4

Picture 4: in its environment

Lastly, there was only the wider shot, showing the tyre yard in context. I could have gone a bit wider with this, but I quite like the road and the traffic giving a bit more of a sense of the passing trade the signs are there to alert and also of the drainage channel leading to the reservoirs further up the Lea Valley at the bottom right. The colours are nice again as well.

I made two crops from this one as well: a panoramic cut from the left of the main, yellow sign to the right edge of the frame, emphasising the relationship between the road and the site and between cars and the need for tyres – used as a header for this post – and a square crop of the signs and a bit of contrasting greenery.

It might have been an idea to include more of the road and the traffic in the original, uncropped photograph, as this would have allowed a more balanced panorama, but overall, I am quite happy with the exercise, not disliking any of the pictures.

getting to know your camera # 4

Photographing Movement – Stationary Camera With A Variety of Shutter Speeds

man on a velocipede

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/8th sec

Joggers, cyclists and dog walkers are found in abundance in the parkland that stretches down the Lea Valley from Tottenham Hale to the Lea Bridge Road. It seemed a good choice for the exercises featuring movement at varying shutter speeds. For the series taken with a fixed camera, I set up a Nikon D50 low on a tripod, pointing up the long stroke of a T-junction. The camera was triggered using an infrared remote. I used a 50mm lens, capable of stopping down to f22 as this would give me the widest possible range of slow speeds on what was a very bright day to be using a camera with a lowest ISO of 200. The resulting shots cover a range from 1/8th of a second to 1/400th of a second.

1/8th sec – runner
runner 1/8th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/8th sec

Almost melts into the air, leaving an elongated series of brushstroke-like traces as he goes. good for a highly abstracted sense of movement. His grounded foot remains stationary for the time the shutter is open (and will only begin to move as his trailing leg moves past it and the heel starts to rise) meaning that the Nike swoosh on his running shoe is the only fully identifiable part of him.

1/15th sec – runner
runner 1/15th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/15th sec

A more identifiably human presence – you can tell that a man in a yellow top and black shorts, wearing sunglasses has looked to his left as he passes the camera. He has been caught at a different point in his stride from the previous shot and his grounded foot has started to move although his trailing leg is less elongated. Against a more neutral background I think this would work nicely.

1/30th sec – Runners
runners - 1/30th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/30th sec

Neither figure is as pleasingly caught and blurred as in the previous shot, but the leading woman is the better of the two as she is further from the point where the two legs and arms cross the body rather than stretching out in front and behind. Gauging a shutter speed appropriate for the speed of movement is important, but so is timing relative to the stage of the action photographed.

1/60th sec – runner
runner 1/60th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/60th sec

He is crossing into the frame around the corner, rather than parallel to the plane of the sensor and so his relative movement is therefore less, and the effect is simply that he is out of focus. This creates a slightly troubling effect given that there are objects both behind him and between him and the camera that are firmly in focus. Given that his feet are both off the ground, this particular shot might have worked better with a much shorter exposure leaving him hanging frozen in mid air…

1/125th sec – walker
woman walking, 1/250th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/250th sec

She is moving more slowly than he is but like the runner above she is simply a bit soft within a sharp frame. Presumably she has covered a similar distance relative to the camera plane. The timing of the exposure relative to her movement is nice however – she is obviously mid stride.

1/250th sec – walker with dog
walking man and dog 1/250th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/250th sec

Pretty much frozen, apart from the dog’s front-left paw. Not bad.

1/400th sec – walker with dog
man and dog walking, 1/400th sec

Nikkor 1/1.8:50 AF-D; f22; 1/400th sec

Frozen, but not as nicely timed as the previous shot; the man’s okay but the dog’s legs are a bit of a mess in timing terms.


Different speeds of movement will require different exposure times to get the desired effect. Similarly, different directions of travel relative to the camera will effect the impression of movement. Timing the shot relative to the stage the subject’s movement has reached is also important. There is an area between extreme motion blur and frozen that is less successful than either extreme, for movement involving legs at any rate. In every new situation, you will probably need to experiment a bit before you determine where the sweet spots are, based on time, direction of movement and the desired effect. I suspect it would be good to revisit Muybridge’s work

The last 3 pictures feature a couple and their labrador who wondered what I was doing and then – after I explained – offered to do the last few passes, saving me some time waiting for someone to turn up naturally. Thank you, anonymous couple – I realise I should probably have got their names, and let them know somewhere where they would be able to see the pictures, like here!

getting to know your camera # 1 – focal length and angle of view

A straightforward exercise and something I’m surprised I’ve never actually done before. For it I used my Nikon D50 body, Nikkor AF-D 35-70mm f2.8 zoom at both ends of its range and a Zenitar 16mm f2.8 to give a final, wider version of the view. I was interested to see that – when looking through the viewfinder with the other eye open – sizes didn’t match at a focal length of 35mm (the normal/50mm equivalent for my camera’s sensor) but did when the lens was zoomed in to about 50mm. While the angle of view was correct for the 35/50 equivalency, optically the perceived size was correct only with a tighter focal length. Presumably this means that my “sensor size” (the retina of my eye) is closer to the frame size of 35mm film and while it is seeing a narrower angle through the viewfinder (approximating to a 75mm lens on a film camera) the visible size of the objects seen remains the same. Certainly, a couple of days later, trying a 50mm lens on a film SLR, it was still the 50mm lens that gave the same perceived size in both eyes. Now, it would be worth trying this with a medium format SLR and a 50mm lens, just to check whether a 50mm lens – acting as a wide-angle this time – would show objects the same size in the viewfinder as they appear through the other eye in reality.

Anyway, here is a composite of the three shots I took, with the tighter angled pictures scaled down to the equivalent size in the widest and then pasted over the original with the frame’s edges outlined:


When I returned with 3 A4 printouts, I was just able to get my hands far enough away from my face for the 70mm picture to match the size of the original, the 35mm picture was ‘right’ with a slightly obtuse angling of my elbows and the 16mm picture would have needed to be too close to my face for me to focus.

Of course, I forgot to take a tape measure with me, but – back home with a ruler and relying on muscle memory, or whatever it’s called – I was able to estimate the distance at which the prints matched up in size to the view as being 70cm for the tightest and 35cm for the middle one. The widest was impossible to gauge, but it seemed to be almost right when the paper was around 10cm from my face; from the other two, it presumably would have been about 16cm given that (for an A4 print) focal length in mm equals arm’s length in cm…