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Introduction

A bit about my photography and me

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I have been interested in photography for a number of years. Until last year I used my camera on Auto. I hesitated to use any of the other modes because I didn’t understand them.

Last year I stepped outside my comfort zone and took an evening class in photography which challenged me to produce a set of 6 photos on a theme, mine was dance. At the end of the course a selection of the images I produced were included in the college end of year show, along with a couple of the other students on the course.

At the start of this year I returned to college and took a further evening class on black and white film development.

Both courses increased my enthusiasm for photography and pushed me to explore what I was able to do.

MDG_1076
Interaction with the audience, Hoots n Hooters, 37 Club, Puriton Somerset – 8th April 2017 (Nikon D7200 ISO 6400 1/30 sec, f/1.8 50mm)

I considered doing A Level Photography at the local college but it’s during the day time so would mean juggling work. Then I discovered the OCA and gave serious thought to doing a photography degree. It’s still what I would like to do but discovering the Foundation course gave me the chance to try out studying again and see how I get on. With luck at the end of the course I’ll be ready to go on and do a degree.

 

Thoughtful Snowy
Thoughtful Snowy (Nikon D7200 ISO 400, 1/640 sec , f/2.8, 40mm)

 

I have plenty of subjects that are willing to let me take their photos and I live in Somerset so have a lot of wonderful countryside to explore with my camera.

Camera equipment wise, I have a Nikon D7200 with a number of lenses, and a Nikomat EL 35m which I’m still getting used to; the set of photos I had developed from it had some flaws which might be due to the cameras age and condition. I also have an electronic flash, some filters, tripods and a monopod. Oh, and last year I had a portable camera studio set up for my birthday.

So to end who am I?

Well I’m a 50 year old married woman with a grown up son, who has terminal cancer. He is my inspiration in life. I work full time as a computer consultant, photography is one of my main creative outlets; that and the occasional bit of writing and dancing (burlesque and hopefully soon pole). Being able to photograph my friends who dance, and even other performers, to a high standard is one of the places I want to get with my photography.

 

 

Denis Darzacq

Denis Darzacq is a French photographer born in Paris. He graduated from the French National School for Decorative Artts in 1986 at which point he started his career in photography.

Darzacq has published several books of his work and has exhibited extensively in his home country and around the world [Reference 1].

Part 1 – Project 3: Stillness and movement

Exercise 1.12: Smash!

As part of the exercise Smash! we were asked to research the work of Denis Darzacq. HIs works Hyper [Reference 2] and Act involve freezing motion.

In Hyper he has captured people who appear to be levitating within the aisles of a hypermarket. None of the individuals are being held up by any means. The motion of each has been frozen by the camera to give the impression that they are levitating.

Some of the images appear quite simple in that Darzacq has captured a person while they were moving in a somewhat ordinary manner. Other images give the impression that the photographer has caught the action at a fortuitous moment, as in the image of the young woman diving through the air; has she tripped perhaps?

Other images have a much stranger tone, for instance where people are hanging in the air, their bodies in strange positions, or appear to be being pulled backwards through the air or even where they look to be walking on air.

Capturing images like this must have taken a lot of planning for what must have required taking a great number of shots to get that single image each time.

Pursuading people to throw themselves to the ground in a hypermarket aisle must have taken a lot of work. I’m pretty sure that most people I know certainly wouldn’t do that.

From looking at Darzacq’s work it is obvious that capturing action in a reall impresssive way takes a lot of thought, effort and persistence. Attempting to smash eggs to get that one singular image that stands out certainly means brweaking more than a dozen.

 

References

  1. Laurence Miller Gallery. Denis Darzacq. Available at: http://www.laurencemillergallery.com/artists/denis-darzacq. Accessed: 20th October 2017.
  2. Lensculture. Hyper. Available at: https://www.lensculture.com/articles/denis-darzacq-hyper Accessed: 20th October 2017.

Richard Avedon

Richard Avedon was born in May 1923 in New York City. He died in October 2004 and is known for his portrait and fashion photography [Reference 1 and Reference 4].

A foundation set up in his name houses his work and equipment. It is possible to visit but only by appointment [Reference 2].

Born to a Jewish family his mother encouraged his interest in fashion and art. His interest in photography began when he joined the Young Men’s Hebrew Association camera club at th eage of 12.

An article by Cathy Horyn in the New York Times provides additional analysis of Avedon and his work [Reference 3].

In 1942, Avedon joined the US Merchant Marine and served as a Photographer’s Mate. It was during his time taking identity photographs that he realised he was becoming a photographer.

In 1944 he left the Merchant Marine and found work as a photographer under the guidance of Alexey Brodovitch, the art director for Harper’s Bazaar.

Although famed for his fashion  work this allowed him to explore his cultural, political and personal interests. He is particulary remembered for his photographs of civil right activist and Vietnam War protesters.


Part 2 – Project 1: Activity, depth and distance

Exercise 2.2: People and Activity

Looking at Avedon’s work his images have a tendency to draw individuals out of the the background. At the Ploughing Championships I’m sure that there will be opportunities to capture images that draw individuals out of the background. Reducing the depth of field to blur backgrounds and highlight particular individuals will definitely be something that I could do.

References

  1. Wikipedia. Richard Avedon. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Avedon  Accessed: 18th October 2017.
  2. The Richard Avedon Foundation. Available at: https://www.avedonfoundation.org/ Accessed: 18th October 2017.
  3. Horyn, C. How Avedon Blurred His Own Image Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/14/fashion/14AVEDON.html Accessed: 18th October 2017
  4. Richard Avedon – Photographer Available at: https://www.biography.com/people/richard-avedon-9193034. Accessed: 18th October 2017

Robert Frank

Robert Frank is a Swiss-American who was born in 1924 [Reference 1]. He is best known for his work “The Americans” [Reference 2].

Born in Switzerland he emigrated to the United States in 1947 and became a fashion photographer.

Frank has produced a dozen books of his work and has exhibited around the world.

Robert Frank has travelled the world and while doing so been written about in some of the most well-known magazines [Reference 3, 4 and 5]. He is one of the most influential photographers of the twentieth century.

Project 1: Activity, depth and distance

Exercise 2.2: People and Activity

Frank’s “The Americans” provides a lot of images of people going about their activities. The images being black and white removes a lot of distraction allowing the majority of the individuals to blend into the background with those that the viewer is drawn to standing out.

The use of black and white is something to explore as part of Exercise 2.2 once the final selection of photographs has been decided upon, however, it is possible that some of the images could benefit from the removal of colour.

In addition to Frank’s work being in black and white “The Americans” also contains a mix of photographs where people are caught on camera without their knowledge as well as being aware of the presence of Frank. The former is something I find appealing as that is when I feel people reveal more about themselves than when they know that you are photographing themselves and close down so that you only see what they are prepared to let you see.

Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is a masterclass in the type of images that Street Photography can produce, regardless of whether the subjects are aware or unaware of the presence of a photographer.

 

References

  1. Wikipedia. Robert Frank. Available at:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Frank Accessed: 18th October 2017.
  2. Frank, R (foreward by Kerouac, J). The Americans. Steidl. Published 2017 (elveneth edition). ISBN 978-3-86521-584-0.
  3. Vanty Fair. Robert Frank’s Unsentimental Journey. Available at: https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2008/04/frank200804  Accessed: 18th October 2017.
  4. International Center of Photography. Robert Frank. Available at: https://www.icp.org/browse/archive/constituents/robert-frank?all/all/all/all/0 Accessed: 18th October 2017.
  5. O’Hagan, S. Robert Frank at 90: the photographer who revealed America won’t look back. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/nov/07/robert-frank-americans-photography-influence-shadows Accessed: 18th October 2017.

People and Activity – Final Images and Reflection

For Exercise 2.5 we had to photgraph an event and then work through a process by which we eliminated photographs in stages using the 100/50/25/10 process. This means that during the first pass through the images you’ve captured you reject 50% of them, the second pass through removes another 50%; leaving you with 25% of the original number. The final pass reduces the number that you will work with to 10% of the original number.

In my case I took 340 photos at the British National Ploughing Chnampionships at Bishops Lydeard in Somerset on the 15th October 2017. The event over two days but I went on the second day.

The event is run by the Society of Ploughmen and this is the 67th championships.

The images that I rejected I felt didn’t really have an interesting enough subject, were too cluttered, the subject was too distant or it wasn’t clear what the subject was.

The  photos I selected I feel show the wide range of ploughing that was being demonstrated during the day, from horse drawn ploughs all the way to modern tractor ploughing.

The photos all contain a mix of machines, animals and people.

When I went into this activity it was with the work of Martin Parr in mind, particularly one of his images which had a group of people queuing outside a marqee at a garden party. The image of the burger van with people queuing is my attempt at something similar as are images of people stood watching ploughing as well as looking at pieces of farm machinery.

As far as possible the photographs were taken at f11 in order to give the best depth of field, although I did vary this and went to both f2.8 and f28 and above for some shots.

ISO-wise, my initial photographs were taken at ISO 3200 because I’d not reset my camera after the last time I’d taken some pictures while away for a few days. Note to self, reset camera ISO to 400 after using it. Using a high ISO probably added a bit more noise to the images than I would like but it wasn’t overly noticeable when I looked at the images. After realising what the camera was set to I reset the ISO to 400 for the final shots of the day. The benefit of the high ISO was that I could use a very shutter speed, keeping the exposure time short.

Reflecting on the actual event (British National Ploughing Championships) the number of people that were wandering around with cameras made it so much easier to take photographs because, in addition to taking photo themselves, people were used to seeing others taking photographs. In fact on numerous occasions someone would notice me taking a photo as they walked into the shot, would stop and then apologise because they thought they had got in the way. On these occasions I’d respond with something along the lines of “it’s ok, I’m doing a photography assignment and don’t mind if you happen to get in the shot”. Interestingly not once did anyone show any sign of concern that their picture had been taken, a sign that we are so used to people taking photographs that we don’t think too much about the reason someone is taking pictures that might include us.

The slideshow below includes the 34 photos that made up my final selection. Each have been edited in Lightroom to adjust exposure, highlights, shadows and white balance. None of the images have been cropped as I felt I manage to get what I wanted in camera.

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Some of the photos I selected because they appealed to me in specific ways.

People and Activity-4287

I saw this lady and her dog as I was sitting eating a cheeseburger, bought from the same burger van I photographed. She’d wandered over to the edge of the field and sat down on the grass to have a rest.

Editing the photo I decided to use one of Lightroom’s Vignette presets which I think gives a nice effect.

People and Activity-4180People and Activity-4177

This dog was absolutely amazing and his behaviour was pointed out to me by someone else. Of all the shots that I took of it, this is the one that either wasn’t showing it’s rear or had it’s face obscured by the rope the farmer is holding.

Every time the farm went up or down the field the dog would run alongside in the furrow that had been ploughed. In this case following along behind but on the return down the field running down the same furrow it had just run up. It was amusing watching it’s behaviour.

In the first photo I managed to catch it when it stopped for a rest, during post production I applied Lightroom’s Vignette preset to soften the edges of the image.

People and Activity-4308People and Activity-4311People and Activity-4316People and Activity-4322

The above images have also had Hue and Saturation adjusted to increase the look of the colours, paticularly the yellows and reds.

I chose these images because they tell a particular story.

As we were making our way back from having grabbed something to eat I spotted this competitor working his way up the field. Towards the top of the area he was ploughing he stopped and got out of his tractor.

As I watched him walk back down the area he’d just ploughed, the competitive nature of some of the competitors and how important it was for them to achieve the best they could became apparent.

As walked he scanned the area he’d ploughed and pausing stooped to remove some stones from the ground. He then proceeded back up the field to his tractor examining the furrows he’d just ploughed.

Reaching the tractor he began examining the plough and then took a tape measure out of his pocket and began measuring the width of the furrows. He then began to measure different parts of the plough while making adjustments via various levers.

It as fascinating watching him and even after he’d turned around and was ready to plough another furrow I found myself watching as he made further adjustments to the plough via levers on the back of the tractor. It wasn’t until he was absolutely sure that everything was set up the way he wanted it that he began to work his way back down the field.

Going into the event I had a number of ideas about images I wanted to capture and I believe I did that. However, watching the farmer being so meticulous over the setup of his plough provided a set of images that could be used to tell a particualr story about the event, and not one that I considered before I started. I think that this highlights that when photographing an event, even if we prepare for it and have expectations of what we are trying to achieve, we have to be on the look out for opportunities to capture images that tell a story.

 

An Identi-kit Portrait

For exercise 2.5 we were asked to take portraits of two but ideally four people. The images were then to be folded (or cut) in such a way that you had a forehead, eyes, nose and mouth seperately.

The idea was to then take an element of each and combine them to make an ‘identi-kit’ face.

I made use of my two neices who are twins, but not of the identical kind. Both of the girls were photographed twice to give me four photographs.

The initial portraits were cropped in Photoshop and then, after playing around with a tube format and finding that it didn’t quite work because to get the different features on different sides of the tube meant some sides were smaller than others and so when combined left gaps, I cut the photos into strips with each strip containing the relevant facial feature.

Above is the original four photos that I used (Lottie top Jess bottom).

\Below are the cut up and reassembled photos.

Identi-kit Portrait-4032Identi-kit Portrait-4033Identi-kit Portrait-4034Identi-kit Portrait-4035Identi-kit Portrait-4036Identi-kit Portrait-4037Identi-kit Portrait-4039Identi-kit Portrait-4040

The thing I found really interesting about this activity was that despite the fact that the twins are not identical when it came to  combining the photos, as long as used Jess’ eyes and chin the result even with Lottie’s nose and forehead, looked like Jess. When I used Lottie’s eyes and mouth an swapped the forehead and nose for Jess’s there was a lot more variation in the result.

Despite not being identical it would seem that both Charlotte and Jess have very similar foreheads and noses.

 

The Two-Dimensional Plane

The task for this exercise was to analyse and annotate a photo that had a number of subjects at the same approximate distance from the camera, for instance the interior of a room.

Study the image carefully.

What catches your attention first?

The first item that caught my attention was the the sack in the centre of the photo with the writing on.

Where do your eyes go next?

The next place that my eyes get drawn to are the boards with the hooks and pieces of ironmongery at either side of the sack, from there the eye is draw to the various billhooks hanging on the rails behind the sack.

Are there things on the edge of the picture that distract you?

On the right hand side of the photo is a lorry and part of a stand. On the left hand side is part of a trolley or plough.

Does you gaze remain in the frame or is something pulling it out of the frame?

The truck on the right hand side of the photo draws your gaze out of the frame in that direction. In addition there is a rope barrier in from of the display. At the right hand side the rope loops back on itself. If the eye follows the rope from the left side of the frame then it gets lead back to the left side of the frame and then out of the picture.

If the rope on the left hand side had looped back in the same manner as on the right hand side then the viewers attention could have been drawn into the image and pulled around in a circular direction as the sacks in the centre of the photo can draw the viewers eye upwards, the rails either side with the billhooks hanging from them draw the attention in either direction to the boards from which the hooks and ironmongery hang, which draws the eye back to the rope once again.

Divide the frame? Where does the main subject lie? On one of the four points of the ‘golden section’? In the centre? On on of the four quadrants?

Depending on what the viewer takes as the main subject then it’s position does vary.

If the viewer takes the sack containing the pig fattening nuts as the main subject then this lies in the centre of the image. If, however, the viewer sees either of the boards to the sides as the main subject then these fall on the lower two points of the ‘golden section’. Personally I see the sack as the main subject and this is in the centre of the image.


The final part of the exercise was to mark the dominant shapes and groups of objects on the photo, to note when objects intersect of obscure wah other and to mark the main tonal and colour areas.

The Two Dimensional Plane - with annotation

As can be seen from the photo several object intersect each other, for instance the fork intersects with the billhooks hanging from the right hand rack, the rope runs across the front of the interecting with every item at the bottom of the frame.

The main tonal colour is brown. The sack and straw provide the bulk of the color in the iamge. The white of the caravan in the background and the green tarpaulin on the truck do provide a bit of relief from the brown.


This exercise was quite interesting as it highlights how important it is to be aware of what will be within a photo when you are taking it. Composing the image correctly to avoid distractions, to ensure the main subject is in the area that you want and that objects you want to be seen are not obscured by other items. Also it is important to be aware of elements that may draw the viewer out of your image as well as how you want the viewers eye to move around your photo.

 

 

 

 

Depth: Foreground, mid-ground, background

Exercise 2.3 required us to take three images from the ‘People and activity’ project and in each photo identify the foreground, mid-ground and background by drawing lines around them.

The definitions provided for each were:

  • Foreground is usually within a few metres of the photographer.
  • Mid-ground is in between distinct foreground and background. Soe photos don’t have a middle-ground, like Blossfeldt’s studies.
  • Backgrounds can be anything from distant buildings to th esky or just a white backdrop.

The following three photos were taken at the British National Ploughing Championships and I believe have defined foreground, mid-ground and background as annotated on each.

Depth-4287 with annotation

In the above image the woman and dog are the subject and are therefore prime candidates for being the mid-ground of the image.  The background contains the lorry, people sitting on the ground and the distance landscape. The foreground is the nearby grass.

Depth-4347 with annotations

In the photo above the family and signs are the subject and become the midground of the image. The people in the distance, the ploughed field, tractors and the distant trees, hills and sky fill the background. The foreground becomes everything closer to the camera that the dogs’ shadows.

Depth-4359 with annotations

In the above photo the mid-ground and background were easy to determine. The tractor, plough, driver and judge are the subject and provide an indication of where the mid-ground is. The background is the distant people and parts of the ploughed field. The foreground, however, became a bit more arbitrary as there is quite a distance from the camera to the subject of the photo.