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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.

 

 

Dippy on Tour

My sister and my twin nieces (9 years old) were staying with us over half term. To keep them occupied we’d planned to do a couple of things with them. Dragging them geocaching, I mean treasure hunting, didn’t happen, although there was a lot of excitement when it came to hunting out Easter eggs. A planned visited to the Dorset County Museum, which they didn’t know about, to see Dippy the dinosaur did go ahead on a mainly dry if chilly Easter Monday.

Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure is the title of an exhibition touring the UK that is giving the nation the chance to view one of the best known dinosaurs in the country. Dippy the Diplodocus. The cast of the dinosaur has left its home at the Natural History Museum and is visiting a number of locations around the United Kingdom between now and October 2020.

First stop on the tour was Dorchester and the Jurassic Coast.

Although we’ve visited Dorchester a number of times over the years, this was the first time that we have ever visited this particular museum. Having booked tickets for the 2pm slot we were early arriving in Dorchester and so spent a bit of time wandering around.

Bypassing the Tutankhamun exhibition, which we’d never have got my Egyptian mad niece out of, we popped into a couple of shops; including Waterstones where I picked up a copy of Cecil Beaton: Portraits & Profiles. Beaton being a research topic in one of the exercises for Part 3 I thought I’d get a book I’d spotted in Waterstones, Bristol about him. Instead I ended up with this, at first skim through, a fascinating book of his portraits of various people; with his own written descriptions of them. Too late to use for Part 2, but just in time for the formal portrait exercise in Part 3.

Arriving at the museum just before 2pm, our tickets were checked, we were given stickers that would indicate that we had booked to see the rest of the museum as well as Dippy. Seeing the Diplodocus was free but the rest of the museum incurred a charge. Bags examined we made our way up a level to the gallery that surrounded the dinosaur cast.

It was packed.

Being the Easter weekend and also something that a lot of people aren’t going to get a chance to see again on their doorstep, lots of families had made the same decision as us. In fact we bumped into a friend and her family as well as a work colleague and his.

Dippy fills the large, open, two storey gallery in the museum. Its head is at one end, literally only inches from a glass screen where you can take photos of yourself with Dippy as the backdrop. At the other end the tail curves gently in order that it can fit within the area.

Dippy on Tour-6711
It’s behind you!

Dippy on Tour-6712

In work, a few days ago I was chatting with the colleague I’d seen and we found ourselves discussing whether we think the tail had been bent specifically to allow the skeleton to fit within the museum space, or whether it normally bends like that.

Around the gallery are numerous smaller exhibits, mostly fossils but in one cabinet there were a number of preserved birds. Plaques provide copious amounts of information for those that take the time to read them. Whoever curated the exhibition has done an incredible job.

After wandering around the upper gallery we went down to the lower level and were able to get a view of Dippy from underneath. The ground level being a larger area than the gallery it was less crowded and it was possible to get a better view of the Diplodocus skeleton. Around the room were a few more displays, a wooden dinosaur skeleton and a large picture of dinosaurs that you could stand in front of and have your photo taken.

Dippy on Tour-6723

Dippy on Tour-6728
Up Close and Personal

Dippy on Tour-6730

Seeing the remnants of one of these creatures its easy to imagine just how frightening it would be to have come across one in the flesh. Thank goodness they became extinct millions of years ago.

Moving on from the Dippy exhibition we made our way around the rest of the museum.

First stop was a couple of rooms. One contained a display consisting of a farm cart, some hand ploughs and a variety of farm implements. The second room was fitted out like the interior of a late 19th century, early 20th century house with bed, table and various household goods including an early bellows-type vacuum cleaner.

The remainder of the exhibition was on the upper floor of the museum, and we continued after a brief stop in the museum café.

First stop was the Jurassic room where there were more fossils and models of dinosaurs, including a life size fossil Ichthyosaur head and jaws as well as a model of the same as it would have looked in life. Very quickly I found myself left behind by the others.

Lots of families had taken advantage of the Bank Holiday and were visiting the museum, at one point I found myself chatting with a lady about her grandson who she had brought to the museum and who knew everything about dinosaurs that a young child could know, to the point that he corrected his gran when she got things wrong, something she delighted in doing just so he could share his knowledge with her.

The next few sections of the museum were devoted to local artists, poets, a large section about Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Townsend Warner and several other authors. So much to see and read, I could have spent far longer than we had wandering around.

On the walls were a number of photographs from the 19th and early 20th century. Looking at a number of the photographs I found myself thinking about how they would have been taken, photographs of farmhands where they would have had to hold still while performing an action; like winding a handle on a machine, while the photographer took the photograph. Previously I would never have thought about what was involved in capturing images like these. Knowing more about the history of photography has given me a deeper appreciation for how these images were captured.

The final part of the museum was dedicated to ancient Britain and the Romans. Again lots of artefacts to look at and information to read. There was even a man and his daughter playing what appeared to be an ancient variant of chess.

I thoroughly enjoyed the visit, there was a lot to see and when I have a bit more time spare I’ll go back and take a more leisurely wander around the museum, and maybe even make a day of it and visit some of the others dotted around the town.

 

 

Michael Wolf

Michael Wolf is a German born photograper and artist who lives and works in Paris and Hong Kong. Born in Muich in 1954, the focus of his work has been mega cities. His work has been exhibited around the world including the venice bienniale.

My Favourite Things

As part of the research for exercise 3.2 Series we were asked to look at Michael Wolf’s My Favourite Things.

In his project My Favourite Things Michael Wolf has captured a number of photographic series that each revolve around a single item. For instance mops, chairs, people, cats, plants, rubber gloves and many more.

Wolf’s work shows that if you just open your eyes to the world around you it is possible to find things to photograph. When you begin to look around, you soon begin to notice things. It’s like when you buy a car, you soon begin to spot other cars like it on the road as you drive about.

The series of images that Wolf groups together also highlights that when you do look at the world around you, it becomes obvious that people put things in the most unusual of places.

Exercise 3.2 Series can be found here.

References

  1. Wikipedia. Michael Wolf Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Wolf_(photographer) [Accessed 19th February 2018]
  2. Michael Wolf My Favourite Things Available at: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#my-favourite-thing-groups-2/1 [Accessed 19th February 2018]

Series

Brief

The purpose of this exercise is to shoot a series of photographs based on a specific subject.

Once the subject has been decide upon then a suitable visual strategy needs to be chosen and the series of photographs taken using this same strategy.

Once the final selection of images have been made they should be printed in a grid or linear series and then people should be asked to comment on them and their responses noted down.

Research

My Favourite Things

As part of the research this exercise we were asked to look at Michael Wolf’s My Favourite Things.

In his project My Favourite Things Michael Wolf has captured a number of photographic series that each revolve around a single item. For instance mops, chairs, people, cats, plants, rubber gloves and many more.

Wolf’s work shows that if you just open your eyes to the world around you it is possible to find things to photograph. When you begin to look around, you soon begin to notice things. It’s like when you buy a car, you soon begin to spot other cars like it on the road as you drive about.

The series of images that Wolf groups together also highlights that when you do look at the world around you, it becomes obvious that people put things in the most unusual of places.

Having looked at Michael Wolf’s My Favourite Things (Wolf) I decided that I would combine this exercise with another interest of mine. Something I’ve not done for a few years, geocaching. However, before I could set about doing that, and also in keeping with the idea that I have to shoot a variety of options, I had the opportunity to take some photos at a workshop I was doing. I’ve therefore ended up with two series – Geocaching and Fire, the latter you can find after the contact sheets for Geocaching.

Geocaching

Overview

One of the country parks near where I live set up a ring of geocaches several years ago for people to try and find as a summer activity. The caches were there about 5 years ago when my son and I got into geocaching. We explored the area and found several of the caches but never finished searching for them.

Finding and photographing the entire series of caches seems like an ideal subject for this exercise.

There are two approaches that could be taken with regards to the visual strategy. The first would be to photograph the location of the cache from a distance. This has the advantage that you wouldn’t be giving away the location of the cache to anyone that happened to be passing by and would be able to find the cache and ensure it was hidden again discretely.

However, the end result would be a series of image of landscape images which would not have an obvious theme.

The second approach would be to photograph the cache up close. This runs the risk of people noticing what you are doing and something happening to the cache after you’d moved on. Also by using a close up approach there is the danger that you don’t have any background to lend any additional context.

The best solution would be to take a variety of photographs (close up and more distant) and then select the best visual strategy when deciding on the final selection.

Below are both the close-up and distance versions of the geocache series.

As caches are, by their nature, designed to be difficult to see. The idea is to make them easy enought to find if you know where to look but difficult enough that they are not going to be found by someone passing by, who may then decided to move the cache or even throw it away completely. As a result some of the distant shots need to be looked at carefully in order to spot the cache, one I don’t think you can actually see the cache, but hey, that’s what I saw when looking for the cache; hint – it’s the one of the ivy covered tree stump. The actual cache is in the close up series.

The cache in the fence post lying on the ground used to be easier; relatively, to find as the post has fallen down since I visited it last. Back then the cache was a piece of paper hidden in a crack in the wood. Now you have to turn to post over to discover it.

Most of the caches here are just big enough to hold a piece of paper for you to write the date and some form of identification on; name, initials, geocaching ID. Others are big enough to contain small items; sharpeners, rubbers, small badges. If you find one of these caches then protocol dictates that if you take something from it, then you replace it with something else.

Final Series

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Distance Cache

Cache Up Close

Contact Sheets

Geocaching-1Geocaching-2Geocaching-3Geocaching-4Geocaching-5Geocaching-6

Fire

Overview

I recently had the opportunity to do a fire eating workshop run by Ryan Darling. At the start of the workshop I felt a bit nervous, even when it came to just running the lit fire stick up along the palm of my hand and up and down the length of my forearm. The heat from the stick was too uncomfortable and so I moved it down the arm, a few millimetres above it.

Once we were happy with that, we moved on to fire eating. Starting off with unlit fire sticks we practiced getting the stick into our moves and even “teething”, which is where you bite on the wick of the on the stick. Confident we could do that, the sticks were again lit and we repeated the activity, this time trying to avoid burning our mouths, nose hairs, and anything else that got in the way of the flames.

Since I was taking photos, I couldn’t take any of me, but I do have some taken by someone else that prove that I did the same as everyone else.

After we’d finished that, we had a go at fire transfers, which is where you have two fire sticks, one lit, the other not. You grab the wick of the lit stick in order to get some of the lit fuel on your hand or fingers and quickly grab the unlit stick. If you are quick enough then the stick lights.

The workshop ended with us having a go with a variety of items, fire staffs, fire pois and, my favourite, fire fans.

Final Series

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Contact Sheets

Fire Eating Workshop-1Fire Eating Workshop-2Fire Eating Workshop-3Fire Eating Workshop-4

References

  1. Wolf, M My Favourite Things. Available at: http://photomichaelwolf.com/#my-favourite-thing-groups-2/1 [Accessed 19th February 2018]

Sequence

The brief for this exercise was to make a sequence of photographs.

We were encouraged to place images together either in Photoshop (other photo editing software is available) or as prints. Once we had done this we were asked to notice how one image resonates with another image and how the two combine to produce a new meaning.

If the sequence works better as a slideshow, the use of Powerpoint or something similar was encouraged.


For the exercise I took the brief literally and took a sequence of photographs while performing a task I undertake nearly every morning. The initial photographs are not truly representative but more of a once a month thing, although in this case a combination of not needing to go anywhere over the weekend and also being ill on the Monday pushed things to a bit of an extreme.

In total I took 114 images. The initial edit removed the obviously out of focus images and ones where movement blurred parts of the images. Playing around with the images, I converted them to black and white in order to see what they looked like. Some of the earlier images worked well in black and white, however, the latter ones weren’t as good so I decided that the sequence had to use the colour versions.

Final Sequence

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Contact Sheets

Selected Photos-1Selected Photos-2Selected Photos-3Selected Photos-4Selected Photos-5

 

Searching

Brief

The brief for this exercise was to:

Take a couple of hours or more to wander around. Don’t be shy; you wont be arrested, you’re not breaking the law. Your doing exactly what most photographers do every day. Be intuitive. What do you look at? Photograph that.

Exercise

In the middle of March I was in Cyprus at a week long triathlon training camp. Although training was due to start on the Monday, I flew into the airport outside Paphos on the Saturday evening. Arriving with a day to spare gave me the oportunity to wander around a place I’d never been before with my camera.

I’d been told by the security guard at work that I should pay a visit to the Archaeological Park in order to see the ruins and the Roman mosaics.

The holiday village I was based at was a nice, gentle stroll along the sea front from Paphos harbour and my destination. At a reasonably paced run, it was about 20 minutes door to door. My stroll took me about an hour in conditions far hotter than we’ve experienced in the UK recently.

The walk to and from my accomodation and around the Park took me the bulk of the day and resulted in a lovely sunburn as a souvenir. Note to self. Learn to use suntan lotion. Really learn to use it.

In total I took around 430 photos, certainly enough to work with for this exercise. Loading them into Lightroom the first task was to reduce this to a more manageable number. The first pass through reduced the total to 212.

Going through the resulting photos there are a number of themes that leap out, several of which I’d noted at the time and so deliberately followed through with.

Cyprus has a large population of cats and during the day I came across a number of them on the sea shore and in the Archaeological Park.

Within the Park there was quite a lot of wildlife, birds, two cats, some snails and a lot of lizards.

Walking along the sea shore I noticed a lot of flotsam and jetsam, wood, pieces of rusted metal, a wheel and a lot of plastic bottles. Nearing the end of my walk through the Park I spotted a large number of, what appeared to be, plastic refuse sacks dumped in the grass.

Each of these themes, as well as the walk into Paphos and around the Archaeological Park provide several possible narratives.

One thing I never expected to find was a human/alien hybrid refugee from the film Aliens Resurrection.

Exercise 3.1 - Searching-6548

The full images from each of the narratives are below, including several images that I’ve not included in the grids because WordPress cropped the image.

 

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Paphos Wildlife

 

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Man’s Impact

 

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Walk around Paphos

 

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Circles, Curves and Spirals

 

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Other images

The contact sheets for all of the photo taken for the narrative are below:

Paphos Walk-1Paphos Walk-2Paphos Walk-3Paphos Walk-4Paphos Walk-5Paphos Wildlife-1Paphos Wildlife-2Man's Impact-1Man's Impact-2

Reflection

Having completed the exercise, edited the photos and written everything up, I find myself in an interesting position. What should have been one of the simplest of exercises, go for a wander and take a bunch of photographs, has, for me, been so much more.

Part of the feedback from assignment 2 was that I needed to keep experimenting creatively and shooting a range of options for eaach project/exercise. I feel that with this exercise I’ve achieved that aim. However, having done what was suggested I now find myself wondering how much of what results from that I should be including within my learning log.

By including the three different narratives I’ve ended up including 45 photographs, admittedly some overlap different narratives. The Paphos Walk doesn’t include any of the wildlife images or the images about man’s impact on the environment but it could have as including some of those images would have added to the narrative.

So do I include everything so that my tutor can see that I have taken on board that feedback or do I include part of the work but contact sheets for all of the photographs for all the narratives.

I suppose to answer that I’ll have to see how things pan out during future exercises.

 

15476

First proper day in Paphos, Cyprus.

Walked to and from the archaeological park. Between that and wandering around the place I’ve managed 15476 steps according to my Garmin.

Wandered in along the sea shore. Cyprus is beautiful. And warm, particularly having come from the UK and the weather we’ve had recently. Temperature was 18 degrees this morning and climbed into the 20s.

Managed to take 430 photos which I’ll need to cut down hugely when I get home.

I’ve already noticed 3 themes in the images I’ve captured. Cats, wildlife and man’s impact on his environment.

The camera will probably be left behind during the rest of the week, don’t think there will be a lot of chances to take more photos.

Not sure what the rest of my schedule is going to be like but I know I have an early morning run and a swim session tomorrow.

Did get chatting to a retired photographer who suggested I look up an American photographers and lecturer Eileen Rafferty. Her talks are apparently very interesting and informative.

The Americans

02 -The Americans
Cover of Robert Franks The Americans

Franks (2017), The Americans contains a series of photographs taken in 1955 and 1956 by the photographer.

The edition that I’ve read is very clean in its presentation. The book jacket has not details on the inside and in fact has the familiar photo of a group of people looking out of the window of a trolley bus.

Each photograph is on a single page, with the preceding page containing just the caption of the photo.

The book contains an introduction from the author and poet Jack Kerouac. Not having read anything by Kerouac but looking at his Wikipedia (2018) entry, his introduction seems to exhibit his style, poetic, almost free flowing, off the cusp, written in response to the photographs that follow.

The book is a snapshot of an America that has long gone. A peek back into history and a time where every country, and not just the USA, was rebuilding from a war that had engulfed the world.

The Civil Rights Movement was still in its infancy. Segregation of children by race had been ruled un-constitutional in 1954. In 1955, Emmett Till, a fourteen-year-old African-American from Chicago was lynched for an alleged interaction with a white woman. Later that year and into 1956, Rosa Parks came to prominence when she refused to give up her seat on a bus for a white passenger, which led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

One image that stands out for me is of a coloured woman holding a white baby. The caption reads “Charleston, South Carolina”.

02 - Charleston South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina

An image like that today wouldn’t stand out as much. It could be a woman holding a friend’s baby while they chat on a street? But if looked at in the context of the time then its meaning changes. We can make assumptions about what we’re seeing but without being able to see outside the edges of the frame we cannot completely understand what we are seeing. Although we can be certain that either this photograph was taken from a distance without the subject’s knowledge or that the subject and the parents of the baby must have been aware of what was happening and been happy with it.

In a lot of the photographs the subject seems unaware that their image is being captured. In some of these there are wonderful moments when a person is staring directly at the camera. Letting you know that they are aware of what is happening and almost challenging the viewer by refusing to look away. Some of those gazes are direct and obvious, others, although still direct are not so obvious because of the distance between the person and the camera.

02- Courthouse Square
Courthouse Square, Elizabethville, North Carolina

As an introduction to the work of Robert Franks, I think that The Americans is very good. As a window on American society in the 1950s I think it’s excellent.

References

  1. Frank, R (foreward by Kerouac, J) (2017). The Americans. 11th edition Steidl (ISBN 978-3-86521-584-0)
  2. Wikipedia (2018) Jack Kerouac Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Kerouac [Accessed 4th March 2018]
  3. Wikipedia (2018) Wikipedia (2018) African-American civil rights movement (1954–1968) Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African-American_civil_rights_movement_(1954%E2%80%931968) [Accessed 4th March 2018]