Some “none course work” images, whilst waiting for feedback on my final assignment.
A thoughtful submission that fulfills the brief. The initial impression of straightforward wildlife photos belies your preparation and attempts to provide an alternative to the typical.
Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
Notes from, and in addition to, our Skype tutorial :
You found the idea of ‘discounting stories’ difficult – we discussed the impossibility of removing narrative from individual and sequenced images.
This pushed you to look at birds – there is no story there, in fact “nothing there”, animals simply feed and look out for danger.
Your process involved you staking out, and waiting for them to come into your plane of vision.
This lack of storytelling, meant that the decisive moment is simply the birds and squirrels doing what they do.
I noted that in your images there is no critique of bird spotting cliches – ‘should there be?’ was the question I asked myself, is it my snobbery about ‘typical’ imagery. Are they in fact ‘work’ photos, evidential images? It brought to mind Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan’s work. Does there need to be something that’s against the typical or is that our prejudice towards this subject matter?
You noted that slowing down the very fast movements of wildlife leads to things that we can’t see with the naked eye.
We discussed how by using animals you were using, in effect, non actors. Despite this they look like staged images, particularly because of the black backdrop.
References – Neeta Madahar, Melanie Stidolph
I brought up the idea of peripataie in David Bate. How a good photo gets the message across. We then discussed the idea of privilege with reference to Cartier-Bresson.
The context is something that has started to interest you, potentially starting from this idea of Cartier Bresson
We discussed Julian Baggini’s Welcome to Everytown, in relation to your location – Baggini spent 6 months in your postcode.
Prints are fine, you used Photobox, and are happy to continue.
We discussed assignment 4. You want to challenge yourself with direction. Look at reference Bettina von Zwehl. Nicholas Nixon, the sisters. Hannah Starkey
Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays Context
With reference to the exercise shots of your dad – Bruce Gilden
Put 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.
We spoke about Sally Mann and your excitement of being inspired by her.
Pointers for the next assignment
You should follow your enthusiasm for light in Sally Mann’s work. I suggest the 2005 Phaidon book on the family.
This exercise was completed at Thrybergh Country Park in Rotherham. I have continued the theme of using a telephoto lens due to the subject being shot (i.e. birds) and also as this added an extra challenge regarding the composition of each image. I have chosen the location and the subject of birds, firstly due to my love of nature, secondly due to the juxtaposition of previous “politically motivated” shots and thirdly due to the fact that this gave me an added challenge when framing what can be quick-moving subjects, into certain areas of my viewfinder. There was no pre-planning with this shoot other than I know I wanted to concentrate on framing within each third, and not on the third.
I wanted to do this following on from the exercise on points, as I wanted to explore this further with shapes and how the frame is affected by subjects close to the edge of the frame (as this is something I do not usually do).
The images are laid out in a logical manner of left to right and top to bottom due to how we read.
I will explore how each image works or does not work underneath the images. What I can say here and now is that I am conscious of a number of points prior to starting my write up and refelction. Firstly, my images are again free of people, which is something I am going to chnage in Project 3 and that I found composing images at the bottom edge of the frame the most uncomortable and the hardest to acheive. I will say more on this when I complete my write up.
I have added the images below, trying to arrange the subject from top left as we read to the bottom right.
Top left third of viewfinder.
The coot was moving away from me as I was shooting, which gave me the opportunity to capture this in the top left third of the frame. The movement of the coot was smooth and steady creating ripples and the feeling of an implied diagonal line from the bottom right hand corner of the frame moving to the top left. The coot is placed too high in the frame and would be better lower down and slightly to the right, actually sitting on the third rather than being in the top left third of the image.
Top middle third of viewfinder.
This image is more of a point than a shape and is sitting far too high in the frame. If I were shooting this for pleasure, given the angle of the bird in the frame, I would alter this significantly. The image is too static and I find it hard to justify why this bird is in that section of the frame. The eye is drawn automatically to the bird as there is a clear contrast to the clear blue background. In saying that, this image does not work for me.
Top right third of viewfinder.
Similar position in relation to the frame with respects to the top left third image. However, with this image there two types of line that guide you through the image to the pigeon. Those being level and diagonal. They give the image a sense of death as does the relatively shallow depth of field created by the distance between the bird and its back ground, given it was shot with an aperture of f/6.3. The placement of the pigeon is too high in the frame and would be better brought down the frame and slightly inset to the left. There is a slight uneasiness about the image due to the placement of the pigeon. However, I feel this is a better image in comparison to the top left third one.
Middle left third of viewfinder.
I have tried to create some depth with this image even though I have taken this shot almost in the same plane as the cafe, which will create a flat image. I have tried to create some tension in the image by using the reflection of the lake’s surroundings, to create an unusual juxtaposition. Reflecting on this image I am now wondering what my subject was as this is not immediately apparent. To explain, it was the tree in the left had window as this is breaking out of the horizon to stand out. has this image worked, for me yes, but not in the way I intended. It is an unusual image for me and works well in colour. I like the differences between the shading and the lighting and how this has made other people think. I am not sure how the placement of the subject has affected this image as I feel the subject has become lost.
Centre of viewfinder.
The most static of positions. I like this image purely on a personal note as you can clearly see the coot’s neck and head refracted under water. This refraction along with the ripples and splashing do give the image a sense of movement and the eyes are somewhat guided by the reeds which are blurred in the foreground. If the coot was captured slightly higher in the frame and to the left this would be a better place. Perhaps this is my favourite image, even if the placement is not ideal.
Middle right third of viewfinder.
Too close to the edge of the frame, giving an air of unease. If this were moved slightly to the left, giving more clear water in front of the coot it would be easier on the eye. You are drawn to the coot by the ripples and the lighting that is falling on the bird. My eyes move from bottom left of the frame into the subject.
Bottom left third of viewfinder.
The bottom of the wing is perhaps too close to the bottom of the frame, however the space in front of the gull allows you understand that bird can move through the space of the frame and is doing what gulls do, flying. The cloud adds some context and the gull and the cloud sit well against the dark blue of the sky, in the top right hand corner. Positionally this can be improved as described above, but I do feel this image works.
Bottom middle third of viewfinder.
The tufted duck has been placed in a part of the frame that I do not use for my subjects frequently and this framing has made me think. Does the image work? Yes, but only just. Framing in uncomfortable but is just about acceptable due to the cross diagonal lines that are create by the wind rippling the like, contrasted with the circular ripples created by the duck itself. The image does make me a little uneasy due to the placement as this has created illusion of the lake not being flat and this is something that I could not justify, other than in a framing exercise.
Bottom right third of viewfinder.
The diving cormorant. I’m not sure there is a point to this image, other than guessing what it is. The framing is not the best, too wide on both right hand axis of the frame and I am not happy with it at all. However, I have decided to leave it in to highlight my mistakes and to show over time an improvement in framing and composition. I suppose it does get you thinking and that’s what an image should do. Personally I would not spend too much time thinking about this, as I would have moved on! The worst image of the set for me.
Trying to make sense out of chaos
Thoughts and reflections.
I have been shooting in P mode for this exercise and knew I needed quick shutter speeds. Automatic ISO has also been used, which is very unusual for me. The contact sheet above uses a section of images, some that I used in the viewfinder exercises above and some that I did not use. I have tried to make the images work as a set. They are uncaptioned as some of the images are ambiguous and this would detract from the image and feeling I have tried to capture. One thing I have learned from studying other peoples’ work, books and online, is that there is no right or wrong way of framing. Sometimes your framing will need more justification than others, but when you press the shutter, you are capturing a moment of history from your perspective and from your opinion. Opinions cannot be wrong, as who is to say they have the correct opinion. What is clear is that some images will work better than others. Images should make you think. Images can be enjoyed or loathed. In saying that there are general guidelines as to how framing, perspective, subject lighting etc. can work and there are numerous books written on the subject, telling you what is correct or otherwise. Sometimes a non-guideline correct image can work as in my image below. Yes, the pigeon’s head is too high in the frame but for me the bird is watching something just out of shot and will fly off at any time, so is the framing wrong?
Having reflected on Project 2, I now have a greater understanding of framing and the effect this can have on the image, from creating static images, ones that have a dynamic tension and ones that need more justification.
I am not happy with chasing birds as my subject for this exercise and looking back I would have preferred to have looked at a more street photography based. However, there is a concept behind my work here and that is my love of nature. Have the exercises made me a better photographer? The short answer to that will be that time will only show this. However, I now have more understanding of how to convey, without words what I am wanting to, and how to get the on-looker engaged. I have read numerous books, by such people as Michael Freeman, Tom Ang et al, but the book that has generated more food for thought was “Ways of Seeing” by Tom Berger. This is a series of essays, sometimes of images only. The book gets youth think of images and what they portray and as it starts off “Seeing comes before words”. Please see my reference list for all points of research I have used, which have been manifold for this set of exercises.
I also need to employ my wide angle lens more appropriately!!
Please watch this space as I apply what I have learned and let’s see how my creativity and photography improves.