Reflection and demonstration of learning following my tutor feedback

In my tutor feedback, Les has asked my not be too hard on myself and this, sadly is a personal trait that has been with me prior to having the ability to hold a camera. I will however try, going forwards, to keep a little distance in my self-critique, remain reflective and not be overtly self-negative. This is a good point made by Les and one we have discussed over Skype. This will be demonstrated in more depth on my Context and Narrative course.

Be careful when choosing black and white, was another well-made critique. This was discussed at length and also in previous assignments with Les. Les knows I love black and white images (Sally Mann in particular), however on reflection, I have listened and taken on board this feedback. My final selection is in colour, as they were recorded on my sensor.  I agree the colours do show the narrative more clearly, possibly because the lighting was poor in church and partly because this is how we would have seen it with our own eyes. This is something I have discussed in the past with Les and I now get it. With the black and white set, I was trying to show the “truth” of the Liturgy, but colour is unedited and therefore it must be closer to the truth than converted images, which have undergone a transformation process.

I have made my final edit based mainly upon colour and shape, with the final image showing the Metropolitan, as a “real” person and not just a senior member of the Orthodox church.  I feel this adds to the narrative and places him as an individual. This image also enhances the feeling of being there, due to the depth of field and the fact that this is shot over someone’s shoulder.

I have listened and taken on feedback from Les about eye contact, losing impact in the series and affecting the overall feeling of this narrative. I have ensured no images in my final selection have any eye contact with me or the camera. I did not feel this was a problem prior to my tutorial, however on reflection I feel that this is a fair critique and the final edit is now better for it. Any eye contact simply places me in the scene as a photographer with a camera (weapon of intrusion) and loses the impact and feeling that the viewer was there (in the church), rather than the viewer just looking at a photograph.

I have made a further 3 re-edits since my Skype with Les, all of them in colour and I have used prints to do this rather, than on-screen images. This is something I have learned during the course and this type of editing is more beneficial than on-screen editing. The re-edit amounted to a further five hours of work, but this was well spent, not only as the final edit is better than my original, but it has given me further opportunity to practice this art, which is not by any means easy to master.

I have added the original edit and the final edit side by side below, to showcase my final series and to demonstrate my understanding and the progress made, even within the final assignment.

I have also chosen images that are both portrait and landscape, after discussing this with Les. He felt that this would not distract from the narrative. In my first edit, I had purely concentrated on portrait images, as I was under the impression that seriality can only be achieved in one aspect ratio. Examples of mixed ratios can be seen in Sally Mann’s Family Pictures featured on her website. Please refer to http://sallymann.com/selected-works/family-pictures (accessed 23/03/2017).

Please refer to my prints that I have submitted for my assessment, as the images need to be seen in print, in order to gain the optimal viewing experience.

As a postscript to this I have managed to sell over 200 images from the images on my contact sheet, with all the proceeds being generated to the church.

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Assignment four

Welcome to Thornberry Animal Sanctuary and 9 of their soulful dogs

 

Lighting set up

untitled-1-copy

Contact sheets

The chosen ten (part one)

 

The chosen ten (part two)

 

For this Assignment, I have decided to return to Exercise 4.3 and look at the beauty of artificial light. Please note that this assignment does not ask for prints, but I have these on order and will send them to my tutor when they arrive, along with the necessary write ups.

From April or May 2017, I plan to set up my own photography business and one the specialised areas I want to focus on is pets/animals. I have therefore approached a local animal sanctuary to discuss what photography needs they have.  Thornberry Animal Sanctuary, has a range of animals from rabbits, to cats, dogs and some farm-yard stock. They have recently appointed a new fund-raising manager and she is being very proactive. After weeks of discussion around what their needs were, we decided that Thursday 19th January would be an ideal day for the photography. I drew up a simple contract stating I would work for free, retain copyright and could display the images for my own benefit. I also declared the photographs could be used for promotional purposes. This was signed by both parties.

I arrived at Thornberry and was told I would be asked to photograph the range of dogs they currently have up for adoption. I was asked to work in a large kennel area, where the dogs would be presented at one end on a settee and I would be expected to shoot away.

With me I had a couple of studio lights, flashes and a variety of lenses/cameras .  I moved the room around to suit my purpose better, taking into account where I wanted the natural light, in comparison to the artificial light. I was conscious that I did not want too much equipment around the dogs and too much light as I did not want to upset the dogs.

Straight away I moved the settee to one end of the room (See my sketch above) and placed my studio light (with a white umbrella as a diffuser) opposite the window. My plan was to use the flash incorporated in the light, as I had used this many times on my own dog, which had no adverse reaction.

A light meter readings taken at an approximate distance to where the dogs would sit and arrived at an f-stop of f7.1. My maximum shutter speed would be 160, to avoid banding on the images. I would normally like to shoot dogs at 500 shutter speed so I would have to be creative with my images. My ISO was 400, which should give little if no noise.  I used a Nikon D750 and my Nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens for all shots. White balance was set manually to k5950 after originally using my flash setting. My tests shots were downloaded to my laptop and checked for accuracy. Metering was set to Matrix (pattern)

I have submitted a printed series of 10 final images for this assignment, and the linking theme is “adopt me” and dogs, as that is the purpose behind the shoot. The series is spilt into 2 parts, those being portrait and landscape images. The different poses lent themselves better to different formats.

Approximately 200 images were shot and these can be seen on my contact sheets (above). It has been impossible to annotate the sheets directly, due to the size of the images and the number of images taken, hence my write-up will act as my annotation. The final ten images (which are number 1-10 on my blog) were chosen for the following reasons

  1. The sad nature of the posture of the dog and the leading line of his body, drawing you to look at his face and ponder his situation. He has a sad and peaceful quality to me and I can hear him ask for help.
  2. The facial expression of the dog combined with the words on the collar, portrays a form of melancholy acceptance of his current state, but there is a clear quality in the eyes, that say they want to be loved.
  3. This image says I am well-behaved, despite what has happened to me. I will serve you faithfully give you lots of love, but please give me some nice treats from time to time. This image also shows what the kennels are like and how they survive financially. They do their best on the handouts they are given, but dogs should be in a loving home and not a kennel.
  4. This image tells me, I love to play, and this is what dogs do. Don’t expect my toys to last long, but I will reward you with years of love and happiness. It also shows how good Thornberry care for their animals even on limited resources as the dog is very well-groomed and clean.
  5. The dog and the collar are both screaming out for adoption. The friendly nature of the dog comes through via its’ eyes and general behaviour. This also gives you an idea of the kennels and what they are made of, which is juxtaposed to the dog’s demeanour.
  6. This dog says, I have a lot of love to give, nice teeth and I will behave even though I am the biggest dog here. You will also need a big home to keep me in. Again the background places the dog well in his currently predicament.
  7. This subject says, I am a lap dog. I need love and will give it back but remember even the small ones can also give you a nip with crooked teeth.
  8. The background and the collar work well together. The dog appears to be starting to bark his approval of the treats he is going to be given. It also gives you an idea of the size of the dog, with the thickness of his neck and head.
  9. The sadness of the eyes cry out for love and show the pain of his past life. The pink of the dogs left eye (right as you view it) also works well with the pink of the blanket. Again, you can see the walls and the settee which set the scene. The image speaks to me every time I see it, like no other one does. I have a lot of empathy for this dog.
  10. This dog appears to have accepted their fate and appears to be downcast, giving off an air of acceptance melancholy, despite been offset against the light pink background of an old flannelette sheet.

During this exercise, I have become somewhat obsessed by the work of Sally Mann, from a lighting aspect and how she portrays her subjects and their surroundings. There is a complete mystery about her work and beauty that I have not come across before. There is a beauty/essence in the light she works with, especially in the series that concentrate on her family. In saying that, this piece of work has not had any singular influence from Sally Mann apart from the concept of getting faces and bodies to convey some soulful meaning. I have tried to convey some of this in the eyes of each dog (even though they are animals and in colour). The main influence for this work, comes from the lighting I have seen in Yousef Karsh’s work, although I have only seen portraits of famous people. It is the lighting and the eyes from his work that have also influenced this shoot. He uses lighting from the side, creating some shadow, but giving great emphasis to the eyes and how they interrelate to the subject and the background.  I shall develop my Sally Mann interest further as I progress. I don’t want to copy her work, but want to be able to generate the feeling of beauty, simplicity, love, energy, passion, quality and her deep feeling for the subject she photographs.

Imagination

I have developed this shoot from scratch, imagining how I feel, an image for an animal sanctuary should look and what it should portray. I have also thought about what it would be that will make me successful as an artist, and also what the sanctuary and for the wider public will feel when they see these images. I hope in some way the images will assist people in making their choice and het more visitors to the sanctuary and tempt someone to adopt the dogs. Both Sally Mann and Kuresh’s work has had a direct on what and how I have shot, not from a subject point of view, but how I feel I want to portray each subject.

Experimentation

My blog demonstrates how I have played with light and how I have used the to benefit me in this final shoot. This was not simply a one-off but having played with light I knew what I wanted to achieve.

Invention

This is demonstrated by approaching the sanctuary for work and being able to respond to their demands and the surroundings I have worked in for this shoot. I have also been able to work out what would be classed as an acceptable image, given the restraints of working with an unusually slow shutter speed for the subject chosen. I have arranged the room to best suit my purpose and practiced in situ before going live. I have also chosen a subject which is notoriously hard to work with and managed to conjure up some thought-provoking images.

Development of a personal voice

Yes, I have been influenced as mentioned above, but I have not tried to copy any work at all. My photographic voice is now developing, into something that is soft, sympathetic and one, which can use light to benefit the subject on show, rather than just point and click.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assignment three

Please note that this is a print assignment but I have also added my images and write-up here for completeness. My prints will be with my tutor on Thursday 1st December. I have not used a contact sheet for this assignment (even though this is a learning point for me) but I have had 40, 6×4 prints developed, in order for me to spread these out and choose my selects for this assignment. The 40,  have also been submitted with my assignment to show my process of working. My assignment notes are below the following images and will contain my process, the relation to “decisive moment”, referencing which is included in this blog as a separate piece, my own reflection and finally self critique and marking against the assessment criteria.

 

I have a lot of time for the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, who in essence coined the phrase “decisive moment”. However, I feel that he was a very privileged man who had the time and the money to make such wonderful images. He felt that his images were down to luck, geometry and not thinking about how to make a great image.

Geometry in his opinion was more important than light. I disagree with, as photography (translates to, writing with light in Greek) would not exist without light. Light has to be a prime element. I do agree that luck, geometry and therefore composition are very important points in photography, but that they are not the only elements as I will explore.

As a result of my anti-privilege way of thinking and partly out of pure devilment I have decided to question the concept with a series of images, taken from one/two static points, ignoring geometry and concentrating on light, subject, shutter speed, knowledge of the subject and luck. Luck really does help, but there are elements that can be controlled to bring you luck.

There is no story telling behind my set of images, yet there is a seriality about them. I have chosen the images, not because they are all images of birds or squirrels, but because there is something going on in each image.  This assignment and section has all been about shutter speed, whether slow or fast and in this series, I have tried to show and capture what the naked eye cannot generally see.  This is what Muybridge did with his horses.

On the day when the images were shot, I did not plan to use these for my assignment straight away, this evolved after 10-15 minutes of being sat observing the wildlife. I was armed with a 70-200 mm lens, my tripod and a bag of wild bird seed (forcing the issue and not purely relying on luck). Cartier-Bresson felt that if you were looking for a particular shot it would not happen, yet I knew what I was after. I set up camp in front of an old tree stump and scattered the food. This therefore reduced the element of luck.

 I arrived at my final 7 images by having 40 images printed in 6×4 format and spreading them on my work desk, to assist my choice for the seven below.

  1. The Robin.
    • The decisive moment in this image is the way the beak is open and the tongue can be seen. This would not normally be seen with the eye. The lighting also assists the image as it sits well against a dark background. This was planned due to my position and is present in all of the images.
  2. Female Chaffinch.
    • On this occasion the bird was eating and the food can be clearly seen in its’ mouth, with seed dropping and highlighted against the background.
  3. Great Tit.
    • The decisive moment comes from the spread of plumage rather than the fact the bird is eating. Both sides of its’ wings are shown, along with different feather structures. The line of the wings and tail feathers draw you in to it feeding.
  4. Great Tit.
    • Showing wing structure and movement due to the shutter speed used. It captures the tail feathers. This is well lit against the background and on close inspection you can see the feed falling from it towards the stump.
  5. Nuthatch.
    • Will it or won’t it attempt to eat the big peanut? I like the lines of the bird in this image flowing diagonally from right to left. The seed forms the decisive moment, as the bird is just about to eat this and is in alignment with its’ beak.
  6. Female Chaffinch and Grey Squirrel.
    • The chaffinch slams on the brakes having just seen the squirrel jump on to the stump and start eating. This shot contains some “luck” and is a clear decisive moment, more in line with the Cartier-Bresson theory, but this is also still partly manufactured by me. One animal is frozen in time, the other is moving at pace. Your eyes move between two points of the interest.
  7. Grey Squirrel.
    • The decisive moment here is not the fact the it is eating; it relates to the leaf/foliage caught in its’ whiskers and the shape of the nut being devoured.

 

Self-critique and self-scoring against the assessment criteria

  • Demonstration of technical and visual skills.

    • My images show use of freezing time and allowing it to flow, creating movement where necessary. On reflection in certain images I may have been wiser to use a slower shutter speed (if possible) to increase depth of field, as in image 3 as this would have been better if the whole bird had been in focus. This may have resulted in lost impact yet increasing ISO would have degraded the images too much. I would score myself 20/40 for this part.
  • Quality of outcome.
    • The prints are adequate, but I do not feel that they are of great quality. In respect of my images, I set out to question the theory and I feel that I have produced a set of images that contain decisive moments, but they also prove that light and planning can play important parts in photography. 10/20 scored.
  • Demonstration of creativity.
    • Whilst each image has been shot in the same location, on the same day and I have fixed my camera to a couple of spots, I have used creativity to entice the birds and have planned and thought about how to make a set of images that question the thoughts of Cartier-Bresson. 8/20 scored.
  • Context.

    • During this section I have carried out extensive research including reading a number of books, but where I feel am falling short is my critical thinking. Critiquing is not something I am familiar with and I am struggling with the terminology relating to this. 10/20 scored.

 

Assignment Two Feedback

Overall Comments

A thoughtful submission that fulfills the brief.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

 Notes from, and in addition to, our Skype tutorial :

We discussed how you have acted like a flaneur in making this work. Its worth checking out the book Psychogeography, plenty of references in it to the history of this ‘way of seeing’.

Sad to hear that permission to photograph was denied at LUFC.

Interesting that it was no problem to photograph at Sheffield station – we discussed the idea of privilege.

You have used a variety of vantage points, and this has still managed to retain a coherence, possibly due to them being the same viewpoints we would expect to find on a similar commute.

Your edit is arranged in an order that would make sense as a story of the journey.

You were also asking yourself ‘what is a crowd’? Looking for some purpose, an order, a seriality. This is really interesting, starting from a definition, from a commonly understood place is useful when attempting a critique.

To create images of interest you attempted a ‘frame within a frame’.

We discussed your bridge image using punctum and studium. It adhered to one of Barthes’ ideas in that, what the photographer intended is not necessarily what arrests the viewer’s attention. The side-lit woman in the middle ground for you and the clasped hands of the woman in the foreground for me.

References – Phillip-Lorca diCorcia, Beat Strueli, Paul Graham

You understood that the assignment was about a concern with aperture, forcing you to observe, being intuitive, having your antennae out – I think you have been successful here

The final image in the series is pushing the envelope of the definition ‘crowd’. It was a conscious decision on your part to attempt social commentary. You are to be commended for trying to use camera and technique to get create a political meaning for the work.

In attempting a narrative, perhaps the weakest image in the series is the first. Looking at the series purely aesthetically I would aim to tie red into this first shot – and leave an absence of red in the last as a prompt to encourage viewers to look further.

Take confidence from having moved out of your comfort zone and challenged yourself in making images of people..

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context

 With reference to the exercise shots of your dad – Bruce Gilden

Pu some of your thoughts on books you have read in your blog.

Suggested reading/viewing Context

 Keep up with the books! See one reference above.

 Pointers for the next assignment

For assignment 3 I suggest; keep it critical.

Assignment Two

Three’s A Crowd? 

Brie

Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing:

  • Crowds
  • Views
  • Heads

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.

Crowds make a great subject for photography, not least because they are so contemporary. A city rush hour is a good place to start but events also offer great opportunities to photograph the crowd rather than the event. The foreshortened perspective of the telephoto lens will compress a crowd, fitting more bodies into the frame, but it can also be used to pick out an individual person. A wide-angle lens can capture dynamic shots from within the action. I have chosen to concentrate on crowds. 

What is a crowd and how is this linked to photography?  

  • A crowd is a gathering of people, large or small, in a certain place at a certain time. A photograph is an image taken at a certain place at a certain time.
  • Crowds are not there forever, but they gather and disperse. Photos are there in their entirety, they do not disperse and do not gather. They are created in an instant (usually).
  • Crowds can be read. Photographs can be read. They are both a sort of language.
  • Crowds can be large or small. Photographs also come in different sizes.
  • Both can show emotion, be violent, appreciative, sad, ecstatic etc.
  • Both can be colourful.
  • Crowds have a purpose. All photographs have a purpose too, at the time of taking, as this is why the photographer takes the shot.
  • Crowds and photos tell a story.
  • Both form opinion of the participant.
  • Crowds are not conformed by shape; photography is made “in frame”.
  • Crowds can be planned and controlled, as can photos.
  • Both can be policed and subject to censorship.
  • Crowds are managed, photographs are composed.
  • Both involve people and are world-wide.
  • People in a crowd can stand out from the crowd and so can images stand out too.
  • It is my intention to bring this link together, showing some of the main characteristics of both. I have not just simply shot a large group of people.  I have tried to tell the story of the crowd by using the different techniques learned.

The shoot was not planned. I headed off to Sheffield in search of a crowd as my home town is somewhat of a ghost town. I did not have a theme, just the words “crowds” to play with.

I have used a number of different techniques I have learned so far. This is also the first set of images that contain people. None of the images are captioned, with the exception of the basic Exif data, as I want the spectator to think about each image and what it means. They are also ambiguous.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

I have used a selection of apertures ranging from f2.8 to f11. My place for the crowd was Sheffield train station and I tried to encompass the surroundings into the image where possible, giving the crowd context. All of the images were hand-held shots and shots and decisions were made in an instant.

Image 1 starts with how crowds gather at the station, as the crowd begin buying their tickets.  The aperture used keeps the majority of the image sharp and the angle of the shot with the lines of the floor and ticket machines take you down the line.

Image 2 was designed to show the frustration people feel with waiting for trains. I have kept the background of the line and surrounding station in focus to place the crowd. I have also tried to concentrate on the faces of the passengers as they wait.

Image 3 uses diagonals to draw you through the image. The aperture keeps the main players in the image in clear focus as it does the train. Due to shooting in Aperture mode there is no direct control over shutter speed, so you have to compromise at times.

Image 4 shows the crowd in the background and also how people can stand out from the crowd. (literally). Due to the aperture used the main crowd in the background can be seen.

Image 5 would have the majority of players in focus if they were still. The train is pretty much in focus and so are the reflections. However, I wanted to create some idea of movement, yet keep the lady at the front of the image as the main player.

Image 6 has people beginning to exit the station. The light was just right to capture the lady in the top left third. With a large aperture I tried to make her stand out from the crowd and the relatively slow shutter speed has created some motion blur.

Image 7 is of the crowd dispersing. It shows also how some people do not belong to the “in crowd” and how people just ignore those less fortunate. I have tried to keep the majority of this image in focus but use the wall and the paving to lead the viewer to the man begging, with his cap in front of him. The behaviour of the 2 teenagers is completely contrasted to that of the beggar.

Quality of outcome

I am happy with how the story unfolds and I have tried to think outside of the box, by not simply photographing a crowd, but I have tried to apply some creativity to the brief. I could have used more images of crowds, but I did not feel this set needed further images.

Demonstration of creativity

I have shown what crowds are, how people stand out from the crowd and how some less fortunate do not belong to the “in crowd”. The images have been shot from different angles. Head height, on stair cases, from the floor and sat on a wall. I have stood back from the crowd and also been in the thick of things. I have continued with my theme of not being afraid to make a “political” point, by including the poor man begging in the last image.

Context

On reflection, I may have been better shooting a few more images, further showing “crowds” but I did not want to detract from my story. One aspect I would have liked to incorporate more into my story was the use of wider apertures (smaller f stops) having looked at and enjoyed Gianluca Cosci’s work, but I felt too worried about losing my background and placement. This use of small apertures may have helped create a bit more tension and mystery in some of the images. I could have been more varied in my use of lenses but I was shooting in the instant.

 

 

All this for 20 minutes re-edit

I have re-edited my original shoot following feedback from my tutor and a great amount of self-reflection and studying of other works of a similar nature. These will be posted and referenced separately.

  • I have decided to keep them images as colour images, as this gives an “as is” feel. This is a real issue and it therefore deserves reality, not desaturation.
  • I have also been and discussed the issue with a local councillor to gain a further insight into HS2/Bramley, as I had not previously researched the issue as this was a spontaneous shoot. My name has now been put forward to help promote this cause and I will be photographing a march on the 8th October.
  • Captions have been removed, as looking at other people’s work e.g. Karen Knorr and her Belgravia set, I feel the captions in this shoot will not add anything. I want to get people thinking and adding captions closes down the viewers mind as there may be an element of ambiguity in the images.
  • There are a number of new shots in the set, that I have used towards the end of the set which include people. This makes the issue personal and it also shows the viewer that Bramley is not dead, but will fight on. It was felt the cemetery image was too final and added too much doom and gloom to the overall fight that Bramley is faced with.

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Assignment One, Self Reflection Against Assessment Criteria

I have never completed such an exercise before so I have decided to give this a go blind. I have not looked at other students’ blogs etc. as I want gain my tutor Les’s feelings and I will then modify accordingly and learn from my mistakes. I have decided to give myself a mark to see if this will correspond to any given by my tutor.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

As this is my first assignment my technical and visual skills whilst being acceptable fall well short of where I need to be. I chose to shoot at the wrong time of day for a start, which has had an impact on shutter speeds and ISOs and also on the method of metering making this harder for me due to the bright sun light. This point has been noted to self. I also had to think on my feet and the order I shot the images in, was not the final order I had in my mind. I would give myself 15 marks out of 40.

Quality of Outcome

I believe my 12 images tell the story but they are devoid of people, which was intentional. On reflection, including more people may have added to the mood of the piece. I would give myself 9 out of 20.

Demonstration of Creativity

A number of my images are on the same theme i.e. what may disappear from Bramley?  Here I could have substituted the odd vista for images the showcased people. I would give myself 8 out of 20.

Context

This was too spontaneous but I had completed plenty of research prior to shooting so I had a good idea what I wanted to convey. I would myself 6 out of 20.

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When Bramley dies, can the last person close the door.