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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.

 

 

Some initial ideas for Responding to a Theme

Lunch by the sea
Lunch by the Sea

Last summer I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the 4th assignment in the course. The theme was man’s impact on the environment and with that in mind I took some photos while out walking near the sea while we were in Norfolk.

I don’t think that the photos meet the brief for a still life, however, they did give help me refine some ideas around what I wanted to do.

Although my original intention to collect some of the things that people leave on a beach and use them to make a still life didn’t happen, it’s amazing how clean beaches can be at the end of the season, during a recent run in the countryside I noticed so much rubbish that people just abandon. Looking at some of the items it’s not people accidentally dropping things, it’s people deliberately throwing them from vehicles.

So the next time I go out that way for a run will be with a rucsack and some gloves to collect the more interesting items that I can then use to make some still lifes from.

Presence/absence

Brief

When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.
Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express
something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis.
• Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things
around without getting into trouble!
• Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you.
• Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.
• Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another
photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be
anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a
particular tree in a landscape.
• Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool
or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has
been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.
• Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the
image below, it may not need it.

Final Images

exercise4.12presenceabsence-9419exercise4.12presenceabsence-9421exercise4.12presenceabsence-9441exercise4.12presenceabsence-9457

At New Year we were in the Cotswolds visiting my in-laws. While we were there some squirrels had been playing in the trees in the garden. I popped out with my camera to take some photos of one of them high in the trees. While I was doing that my gaze wandered around the garden. It is somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time when we’ve stayed with my sister-in-law, playing with the children or just chilling out.

Looking around I saw many of the things that the kids and I had played with over the years. I found myself thinking that these were great examples of presence and absence. The swings and slides, the abandoned football, the trampoline covered with branches, placed in front of the goal. The bikes leaning against the house.

All things that were once used by the kids when they were little but now abandoned, never to be used again.

I know that this doesn’t exactly fit the exercise brief but I do feel that it highlights presence and absence.

Contact Sheets

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Clouds

Alfred Stieglitz produced a series of photographs called Equivalents. This was a series of images of clouds as observed from his studio.

As part of Exercise 4.11 Emulation, I decided to try and do my own version of Equivalents.

Working through this mini-project gave me an appreciation for the wonder of clouds and our skies, and how they can look depending on the time of day and the weather conditions.

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Emulation

Brief

Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online).
If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes.
Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you:
• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)
• the composition or design
• the subject
• the concept
• the photographer’s viewpoint
• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.
When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need:
• equipment
• location
• models.
When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.
Tanya Ahmed’s photographs from the series East 100th Street show the influence of American street photographers like Bruce Davidson and Garry Winogrand, but they are  also very much her own.

Research

Adam Fuss / Tanya Ahmed

Adam Fuss’s work, artnet (2018), builds on Man Ray’s work, producing some very artistic results. Some of the effects seem to be a lot more complicated that Man Ray’s original rayographs and without knowing that they were photograms could easily be taken for photographs taking using a camera.

Ahmed (s.d) has a similar look to Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street series, Magnum Photos (2014), but there are clearly differences. Davidson’s images have a darker feel to them, even the ones of people, whereas Ahmed’s photos are much brighter, especially the ones of people. What I get from her photos is a sense of a place where people are happier, of a place that has seen improvements.

Davidson’s images leave me with the impression of an area that is more run down, and whose people are surviving more than prospering.

Irving Penn – Frozen Foods

Penn produced a number of still life images. Irving Penn (s.d) shows examples of these, including Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. I’d come across a variation of this in Hacking (2015), this version being minus the string beans.

Penn’s images were made at a time when we weren’t inundated with plastic packaging so I decided that I wanted to recreate the images both with and without the packaging.

Considering the bullet points in the brief for this exercise concerning what appeals to me about this photograph:

• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)

The colours in Penn’s photograph range from muted greens through to bright oranges. The mix of colours contrast with each other but also provide a link, for instance the blueberry and yellow corn when combined link tho the green beans and asparugus.

The reflection in the surface is not immediately noticeable but when seen can’t be ignored.

The lighting has been done in a way that provides shadows between each of the blocks of fruit and vegetables, giving a sense of depth to what could otherwise have been a very flat image.

• the composition or design

I like the way that the different shapes of the fruit and vegetables have been pulled together by making square blocks, but throughout the image there is the circular theme within each of the different items. The carrots positioned end on so that they appear as round item, the larger circles of the raspberries; which then carry that circular theme down into each individual raspberry. Even the asparagus tips have that theme at their ends.

• the subject

Fruit and vegetables are such a simple subject, one that

• the concept

The concept is a really simple one. Take some fruit and vegetables and stack them on top of each other. No fancy backdrops, just let the items speak for themselves, their colours, their textures.

But make them into small bricks and stack them on top of each other.

Such an image could be used in different way. The blocks are reminiscent of a child’s building bricks, and in a similar way to how a child might build something with their bricks, these blocks can build up a healthy diet.  This would work for both children and adults.

• the photographer’s viewpoint

Penn has captured the blocks straight on. Although this could easily have led to a very flat image, the use of light and shadow provides and indication of depth.

• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.

Penn has constructed the image in such a way that the differing shapes within it draw you deeper and deeper into it. The big square blocks stacked on each other, then the smaller rounder shapes drawing you to the finer detail such as the textures on the carrots and asparagus. There is so much to see within the image, regardless of where the eye first alights.

Final Images

Not So Frozen Foods

Exercise 4.11 - Emulation-8804

The variety of different styles of packaging made capturing an image of everything still within it’s packaging a challenge. I eventually achieved this by attaching string to each of the containers which were then cellotaped to a cupboard and each container allowed to hang in such as way that it rested upon the ones below it. Even so, this was wasn’t a simple task with different containers swinging loose at some point. the final image was processed to remove signs of the strings.

Frozen Foods

Exercise 4.11 Emulation-8831

Having tried capturing each item in its plastic container I decided to try and replicate the original image in a much closer way. The vegetables were blanched before they and the fruit were placed in suitable containers and then put in the freezer.

The challenge with the above was to remove each item from its container get it so that it would rest on another item and then take the photos before the ice that was holding them together melted.

Exercise 4.11 Emulation-8851

In the final image above I decided that I wanted to include the packaging once again so that there was a contrast to how I see the time that Penn’s image was taken, compared to our current times.

References

  1. Magnum Photos (2014) Bruce Davidson – East 100th Street Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3RP0468 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  2. Ahmed, T. (s.d) East 100th Street Available at: http://tanyaahmed.com/east-100th-street/ [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  3. Cheim & Read (2018). Adam Fuss Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Photogram-Adam-Fuss/dp/0965728013 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  4. Adamson Gallery (s.d) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.adamsongallery.com/artists/adam-fuss [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  5. artnet (2018) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/adam-fuss/ [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  6. Penn, I. (s.d.) Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. At: https://www.irvingpenn.org/still-life/ (Accessed on 13 August 2018)
  7. Hacking, J ()2015) Lives of The Great Photographers. 1st edt. London: Thames & Hudson

Contact Sheets

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The Final Journey

Shortly after Rhys passed away in 2017 I begun a project with the intention to tell the story of his last months, through pictures and words. The words being written as if Rhys was telling his own story.

Although most of the photos I wanted to use existed there were a couple that I didn’t have.

One photo I wanted was of a CT scanner or a MRI, it was to accompany the part of the story where we found out about the tumours in Rhys brain. The ones that would signal the end of active treatment and the beginning of palliative.

I was never able to get that photo and so one day I decided to use a photo I’ve used here, the one of the white toy bear staring out a window.

The other photo I wanted to get was of one of one of the alocal ambulances. I finally managed to do that yesterday. With some minor editing I included that in the document I’d put together in Publisher.

The end result of the project can be found in the PDF below. Apologies for the size it’s about 30Mb.

the final journey

Re-emerging

I’ve not been doing much with the course for a good number of months now.

Last year I set out to do a number of running and triathlon events. I managed to complete the London Marathon, not in my best ever time but it was the hottest race day they had on record.

My first triathlon of the year, and one of the ones I had set as a must do, ended early on when I crashed my bike about 7 miles into the bike course. Although my injury wasn’t that bad and I could have been patched up, the only way to get medical attention was to return to the race headquarters, which put paid to my day.

From there things got worse, I struggled to find the motivation to train, and spiralled downwards.

In the end, days before my second must do race, I went to my GP and asked for help. In return for anti-depressants I handed over a large number of painkillers I’d collected to use to end my life. I also went to the hospice where my son Rhys had passed away and asked for bereavement counselling, something I’d denied I need since he died.

That point was a wake-up call and I finally accepted that I’d tried to do too much, put too much pressure on myself. Partly as a way to hide away from the loss of someone who was my whole world.

I decided that I needed to take a huge step back and just focus on a couple of things for a while so with the OCA’s agreement I took a break from my studies.

In the autumn I signed up with a triathlon coach who is linked to the tri club I’m a member of and, with him and another coach’s help, have been focussing on training for a long term objective and something I promised Rhys before he died.

In March I’ll be returning to Cyprus and the triathlon training camp I went to last year. At the end of that week I’ll be taking part in a middle distance (or half Ironman) triathlon at Ayia Napa. During the rest of the year I’ll be racing another 3 middle distance triathlons (Ironman 70.3 Finland, Immortal Half: Stourhead and The Woburner).

Next year I’ll be racing both the Outlaw Half middle distance races in Nottingham and Holkham and then stepping up to long distance (full  Ironman) and racing The Outlaw.

It’s taken me a while to get into the swing of training, this week was the first time I’ve completed every single planned session. The coming months are going to see my training workload increasing as I get closer to my A races for the year but I’m at that point where I feel I can get back into my photography and start working towards finishing the course.

Happy New Year to everyone, and it’s good to be back.

Repetition

Brief

Repetition of one image or very similar images, whether exactly the same or with slight
differences in exposure, crop or image quality, elicits an inquisitive eye. Repetition
emphasises the sameness and yet paradoxically indicates a difference. Andy Warhol used this strategy in his screenprints and photographs. In the image below, do you notice how the dog’s ‘stare’ becomes more insistent through repetition?
1. Make a still life set-up of your choice, but you can use any subject.
2. Try to emphasise your subject with the use of light.
3. Aim to make around 20 photographs.
4. Choose the best shot and process it to your liking.
5. Now create a presentation of that one photograph that involves six to eight copies.
Make some notes on the overall effect.

Final Image

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Windmill
Windmill

I recently put a toy windmill in our garden. On the weekend there was just enough wind to start it spinning so I set the camera to a long-ish shutter speed and took a photo of it. The colours have been enhanced slightly but I loved the effect.

Other Images

I also took a few other photos and used them for this exercise.

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Spots
Spots
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Deer
Oh Deer
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Jess
Jess
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Charlotte
Charlotte

Contact Sheets

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Contact Sheets