Assignment 4: tutor’s feedback and some experiments.

Here it is the feedback from Assignment 4:

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Overall I am happy with the comments and the impression that the images have caused. I am in the process of re-editing some of them and will be shooting in an urban setting next week, trying to include some people on the frame and hopefully getting a variety of colours to add some visual impact.

My tutor has given me a few tasks to take the assignment further and this is the part I enjoy the most from the report. So far, I have been researching the artists mentioned and found them inspiring. Rolf Sachs’ landscapes taken from a train combine the movement captured by using long exposures with interesting distortions produced by the landscape itself: as the train approaches a curve the angle and the motion create an unexpected distortion that makes it difficult to guess how the images are taken. Naoya Hatakeyama’s series called “Slow Glass” depict night scenes seen through a wet glass, accentuating the lines and shapes created by artificial light. The simplicity of the scenes invites to guess what hides behind the “slow glass”, enhancing the interaction between the viewer and the images.

As suggested, I have taken some night photographs using the same technique as for Assignment 4 (with the lemon saver container attached to my 50mm lens). I am extremely surprised with the results so far. I have selected some of the shots and enhanced or altered the original colours to add even more vibrance and dynamism.

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There is an image I took in response of one of Naoya Hatakeyama’s photograph of a McDonalds store, as part of Exercise 5.2 (I will develop this further on the appropriate blog post). This is the image:

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Although I am not planning to include any of these night scenes in the re-worked submission for Assignment 4, I am certainly interested in continuing with the project and add some more images regularly. I somehow feel the style of the images is far from what I usually shoot, specially in the use of colour, but I have found something stimulating that I enjoy doing. The abstraction of the images leaves some room to interpretation although some of them may look like something different. Most of the images were taken by pointing directly to the light source, which brought interesting geometric distortions. However, at the end of the experiment I started shooting pointing away from the light, increasing the exposures to capture a more atmospheric scene (as in the case of the fourth image of a sign on the pavement). This is something I have to try again next time, as I think it is more in the line of my work. I am really excited about this discovery and I can not be more grateful for having a tutor that pushes me to try new things. This assignment has opened my eyes even more to what can be achieved with an open mind. After practising with longer exposures I would also introduce some camera movement to see where this takes me.

I am also looking forward to shoot with a pinhole camera. I believe the idea may resonate with what I am looking to achieve in my photography or it seems adequate at least from theory. I have never tried this technique and I will be hands on it as soon as I move house after the festive period. For now, I have read about the authors suggested by my tutor. Both Alex Yates and Tom Hunter use a pinhole camera to produce some of their images. The way this technique allows Yates to represent natural elements such as fog, lakes and clouds is what I feel attracted to when I see his images. In the same way, the blurred edges and softness achieved by Hunter on his “Prayer Places” series capture my attention and curiosity. The colour quality of these last ones feels precious and the general atmospheric scene wraps you inside it.

We have also discussed the pointers for the next assignment, which has a rather general brief (this makes it even more difficult to choose a subject). I have some ideas in mind and I have welcomed both sources of inspiration suggested by my tutor. First, the blog Plenty of Colour is a good one to keep looking at from time to time. The images and projects presented show striking colour combinations and held a strong visual impact. Again, I am not sure how much I like colour or how could this reflect on my practice, but I have certainly a strange relationship with it. I am synesthetic in a way that words, numbers, shapes, times and other elements have “colour” in my head so I can be easily annoyed by certain colour combinations or the combination of an object with certain shape and certain colour altogether. I do systematically avoid colour in many aspects of my live (clothing, objects I buy, gadgets, decorative elements etc) or stay within a particular colour range in order to don’t feel “disturbed” by this condition (which is a great condition, I would say, I don’t complain!). This is one of the reasons why I feel a bit surprised with the experiment above and the colourful night scenes. The association my brain makes between colours and anything else in the environment make me perceive certain combinations as right or wrong, so the way I read an image has an extra dimension that comes to me spontaneously. I guess I could potentially be using this for an assignment or project one day, but the task of making others understand the feelings synesthesia bring and the way the brain processes these feelings seems a difficult one. There are other aspects of my synesthetic perceptions that could perhaps be easier to explain or represent, such as the shape of certain smells or names.

Another task derived from my research for Assignment 4 is exploring the way Laura Plageman creates her modified landscapes and try to apply a similar technique onto my work. I have started experimenting with this, although it is still early stages but I will be writing about my findings and sharing the results in a separate blog post.


Resources:

(TO DO)

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Assignment 4: Languages of Light. Reflection.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

Overall and in my modest opinion, I believe the resulting set of images for this assignment is interesting from a visual point of view. I find it engaging and intriguing in both narrative and technical approach.

Technically, the decision of using certain camera settings has been done thoughtfully, fulfilling the demands of the assignment and helping to achieve the desired results. With the use of different external aids to create a mysterious landscape, I have shown that I am keen to experiment and develop an initial idea in a creative manner.

The images from the set represent an atypical landscape that brings the viewer into the scene. The mood and aesthetics of each shot encourage the audience to use their imagination and interaction through their own interpretation of the landscape.

Quality of outcome and demonstration of creativity

This is a set of 8 images that works together as a whole, while each single image tells a story on their own. I feel the interpretation of the brief is satisfactory without being too obvious. The selection of a subject for Excersice 4.2 and its development has followed a natural path of research and experimentation with results that I have found very satisfying. Although the subject chosen is far from innovative, the techniques used and moreover the context in which this theme has been approach demonstrate a good degree of creativity. The images represent the landscape in a non conventional way, as a method to gain the viewers engagement with the set. By presenting intriguing and unexpected photographs the attention is brought to the questions “what am I seeing?” and “how was this photograph taken?”.

Strengths and weaknesses

I would say the main strength of this assignment is its originality and the balance achieved within the series. Aesthetically, the images seem very pleasant and inspiring. The softness and painterly effect achieved by placing a filter on the camera changes the way landscape photography is perceived by the general audience.

It would have been quite easy to take an image of a forest and manipulate it to achieve a similar effect, but I am proud I have managed these results straight from the camera.

I am not great finding weaknesses on my own work, specially because I would not have considered the assignment finished if I would feel something needs improvement, so I would leave this to my tutor to point out.

How could I develop this further in the future

As I have mentioned on the previous blog post, I feel a great affinity with distorted and modified landscapes. I have plans to visit this place many times in the future, as I will be soon moving five minutes away from it and I have already ideas I would like to try here. I have other glass pieces that I have acquired to experiment further with reflection and distortion. The observation and reinterpretation of natural environments stimulates my creativity as it is a landscape in constant change.

Assignment 4: Languages of light. Final submission.

Final images

From the initial 11 images these are the final 8 shots selected for submission.

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The landscapes presented on this series are quite abstract, yet the brighter areas were the light shined through branches and trees are helping defining the silhouettes, giving cues to the viewer on the scene itself. These areas of light are common to all the images of the final selection and it is the reason why the other frames have been discarded. There is a strong correlation between the way light shapes the landscape and the mood that imprints on it. The same element (light) that scares and intrigues at first, becomes the guide in identifying the scene. Its glow represents the experience of being lost and found, being blind but able to find the way.

By looking at the landscape through a textured filter, details get lost. The image softens and there are only two elements left on the frame: light and shapes. the resulting landscape feels unreal. It evokes memories or certain altered state of the mind which makes it difficult to identify the scene. However, it is the presence of daylight what helps the viewer through the sequence and unveils the story behind the images.

The sequence talks about this same journey of discovery. The rhythm progresses from a first visualisation of the woods (their magnificence and power) falling into a stage of inquisition that resolves as the woods give way to more open spaces. Finally the scene is left behind.

Modified landscape

As I progress through this module I am beginning to identify the themes and subjects that recurrently come to my mind when creating and experimenting. Distortion and movement are two areas I feel the urge to explore, as it happens with modified landscape. Artists such as Benoit Paillé (and his impressive series on Alternative Landscapes) and Laura Plageman (Response, Land series are my personal favourite) are inspiring and show two very different ways to alter landscape in a very aesthetic manner, not destructive or intrusive.

Landscape photography is a genre I have not practiced much and my knowledge is limited, however, with this assignment and after identifying a subject that I feel intrigued by I am hoping to take my research further for future projects.

Creativity

It is difficult to assess oneself against the creativity criteria as I find it would be the viewer’s role to identity whether or not the work presented seems original and creative. In my opinion, the amount of experimentation undertaken on this particular assignment has naturally led to a creative piece of work. It has inspired me to continue finding ways to create original images through non-conventional routes, either exploring new techniques or finding overlooked themes and subjects that could become interesting.

Along this journey I have repeated myself several times why not choosing another exercise, go an shoot a few night scenes and get on with it. But one thing I am not is conventional in any way and this is a quality that naturally helps me be creative in my work. It is however something I began to identify since I started the module, and I hope I can push this further with each assignment.

Here there is a link to Excercise 4.5 on creativity for tutors evaluation.


Resources:

Gbuffer.myportfolio.com. (2017). Benoit Paillé. [online] Available at: https://gbuffer.myportfolio.com [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

Photolp.com. (2017). Laura Plageman. [online] Available at: http://www.photolp.com [Accessed 23 Nov. 2017].

Assignment 4: Languages of Light. Development and contact sheets.

Final response to the brief

When I started exploring ways to take Exercise 4.2 further for Assignment 4 I had a very vague idea of how to approach the task. Through the exercise itself and after researching onto artists such as Sally Mann and Eugène Atget, I began shaping an understanding in the use of daylight to create as specific mood and add interest to the scene.

The subject was chosen by carrying over elements that I found interesting from the exercise, such as the landscape (nature, natural elements) and the window (reflection, distortion, a filter between the viewer and reality).

Although the first intention was to bring new elements (reflections, flares, fragmented light) onto the landscape, the final approach changed towards using a foreign element (filters, prisms) to transform the landscape into something else.

Previous tests and thoughts on the brief can be found here and here.

Technical approach

After experimenting with different types of prisms and their effect when placed between the lens and the scene, I have achieved the best results with a textured plastic lid from a lemon saver container. Held over a 50mm lens it gave me the option to move it around in order to alter the detail gained in different areas of the frame.

The camera was handheld at all times. With a focal length of 50mm, I kept a wide aperture throughout the shoot, as I was looking for a soft detail that would create a more intriguing image.

The time of the day chosen was mid day. I have tested the light at this time of the day since I started shooting for the assignment, as Atget did on his garden series. However and since its almost winter, the days are shorter now and the sun was not at its highest despite the time but I found this translated in an even more mysterious mood, specially when the light filters through the trees in the woods.

The day was bright during the last shooting, with some clouds slightly filtering the light so there is an added softness to the landscape.

First images: The contact sheets

These are the contact sheets from the last shooting for Assignment 4. Once I realised I had found the way to create the mood I was looking for, I took also shots of the scenes without the plastic filter so I could have evidence of where the distorted images came from and what the exact effect of the filter was. Due to the uneven surface of the filter, the resulting images varied according to the way I would hold the plastic lid against the lens, capturing more or less detail in certain areas of the frame, hence the repetition of some shots.

Selected images

Marked on the contact sheets above and after slight corrections of contrast and exposure, these are the images I have picked as a first selection:

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I am currently in the process of reducing this selection to anything between 6 and 9 final images.

Assignment 4: Languages of light. Further experiments.

Last two months have been a period of lack of time and inspiration due to personal commitments which had me confined between home and work but still I have managed to explore the ideas for this assignment a bit further.

First, I wanted to explore reflexion and the possibilities of creating images that would resemble the double exposure technique using a triangular prism. The prism can be seen on the images as it was simply held in front of the lens, creating areas of reflected images from behind, above and under me. The possibilities are endless, as it allows to introduce new elements on the image by changing the viewpoint, the position of the prism or my own position in relation to the landscape. Here are the contact sheets:

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I find a great resemblance between  IMG_8348 and those than can be achieved with the Supersampler camera, which takes four images on the same negative. Here is a sample of an image captured by myself with this camera:

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At this point I still could not visualise the way to take this assignment forward. Using the same triangular prism, I took another series of images using the same technique but positioning the prism in a different direction so the lens would be looking into what is reflected on the prism’s surface and combining the image with a capture from the surroundings. These are the contact sheets:

 

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I find the images of the trees quite intriguing and enjoy the way the colours of the spectrum can be identified. The resulting landscapes are dreamy and I can perceive a sense of uncertainty: what am I seeing? is it a real image? There is an evident distortion that may suggest these images are part of someone else’s perception, maybe someone who can’t see clear or who’s consciousness is compromised. The more I observe these images, the more I see them as representations of a parallel world or reflections of thoughts that somehow tell a story or potentially could end up telling one. By converting the images into black and white, the lack of colour information makes these perceptions stronger by impeding the viewer to guess how the image could have been taken so nurturing that idea of reflected thoughts or unknown and sublime places.

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Assignment 3 REWORKED and tutor´s feedback

Overall, the feedback on Assignment 3 was very positive. I am happy and relieved to see I have managed to express my understanding of the Decisive Moment and that my work is seen as creative and innovative.

Here there is a link to my tutor´s feedback and the reworked images below:

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I have been asked to reshoot three of the images so the frame would not be so tight (Images 2, 4 and 5), also having both Henri Cartier-Bresson and Francesca Woodman in mind. Considering the space available for shooting this was an issue, as for two of the images I did not have enough room to move the camera back or the background would become distractive if shooting with a wider focal length. I also had concerns about how the final series would look if half of the images turned to be too different from the original photographs I tried to emulate and how this would be perceived by the viewer without access to the notes and process. My perception at this point was that my tutor wanted me to take this assignment a step forward and so I felt this was also necessary, specially if a new aesthetic approach was to be introduced.

Therefore, I resolved to reshoot all the images, opening the scene and thinking of the relationship between the subject and the frame as shown through Francesca Woodman´s work (as my tutor pointed out on verbal feedback). Still, my idea was to keep distinctive elements from the first submission on each image to provide not just a sense of continuity but also contributing to the overall composition. As in the first attempt, I kept an eye on geometry and the balance between black and white areas.

To start with, I thought of Woodman´s indoor photographs so partially emptied a room and used it as a stage for all the images. It is a very small room so creating a set of different images was an exciting challenge.

Generally, I enjoyed the freedom of creating my own photographs rather than reproducing others´in a literal way. I drew a quick sketch of how the new scenes could be approached and composed but I looked mainly at the original images for inspiration while shooting.

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Overall, I find the new set of images more successful as they don’t only reflect my thoughts on the Decisive Moment but also feel more like my own work. Reworking the assignment has also teach me to look further, even when an image can be considered done there is always room for development or at least to ask yourself the question “could have I done it differently?” and explore all possibilities.

These are the reworked images, compared with the ones submitted earlier, contact sheets and exif data:

Image 1

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Although this was the easiest image to emulate at first, it has been the most difficult to reshoot. Initially, I wanted to keep the element of the book and the movement of the pages. This was the result:

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Somehow I thought the composition and approach were weak and it did not tell anything new that would justify a reshoot. Analyzing the elements on it I realized the book was not relevant; it didn’t add to the composition. The original title of Henri Cartier-Bresson “Martine´s legs” gave me the clue to change the focus onto the legs so my aim here was to find a way to create and interesting composition introducing movement in a different way. I played with the idea of taking my shoe off and realized long exposure allowed me to have one shoe on and off in the same frame, so I shot until I was happy with the effect and the position of the elements on the image. This is probably the image that most reminded me of Francesca Woodman. It is the last I shot and I feel I was very much involved with the creative process here, not thinking too much on the outcome but enjoying the process instead.

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ISO: 100, 8″, f/22, 17mm.

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[Image selected: 8157]

 

Image 2

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This is one of the images that needed reshooting. I kept the element of the cup to help me come up with a movement that would feel natural and coherent. It was the first image to be reworked so I was not completely sure about what I wanted to achieve visually, so tried different poses taking the original pose as a starting point.

The elements on the background (armchair and light stand with soft-box) are accidental as that is the original place they have in that particular room. I wanted to maintain a homey feeling, thinking of Henri Cartier-Bresson´s wife relaxing on their coach. I chose that corner as the armchair is a small version of the coach I used on the original submission. The light added some interest and as Martine was a photographer herself, it is a nice element to keep in what pretends to represent a photograph taken at home.

The movement is fluid and so it is the general feel of the image. Again, the freedom of composing my own way helped me to achieve the shot and gave me also more confidence since I could explore different possibilities.

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ISO: 100, 4″, f/22, 29mm.

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[Image selected: 8056]

 

Image 3

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Funeral of a Kabuki actor was one of the hardest images to emulate. For this second attempt, I thought of simplifying the scene to a minimum while keeping a fair amount of movement. The result seems a bit inconclusive and open to interpretation on what this moment is about.

The backdrop and stand have two purposes: firstly, I wanted a black background to match the original and secondly, both elements resemble the flag that divides the original image by Henri Cartier-Bresson, which was missing on my first approach. I looked for contrast so kept my clothes white, which remind me of the handkerchiefs on the left image and also helps introducing a bigger sense of movement.

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ISO: 100, 6″, f/22, 24mm

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[Image selected: 8117]

 

Image 4

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This was my favourite image from the original submission so it hurt a bit when I knew I was to reshoot it.

I put the camera outside the room so the door frame and part of the wall and a table appear on the left side of the image. This locates the subject and adds some additional framing; I think it makes the image more interesting, as if someone would be spying from outside the scene. Initially, I shot on the same dark suit as on the picture of the left but I wanted to catch the light from the window to create lighter areas. The element of the box was discarded as again, it wasn’t relevant. I see this new image as the one that connects Image 1 and Image 6.

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ISO: 100, 6″, f/22, 21mm

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[Selected image: 8127]

 

Image 5

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The only elements I kept from the first attempt here are the position of the arms and the look into the camera. This was another favourite that needed to be reshot. I still prefer the first version but not within the new series. However, I feel this image is more personal.

It is a very simple photograph but I believe effective. I looked for triangles in the composition to match the position of the arms and the lines of the wall and skirting board to direct the eyes into the subject. The idea of the Decisive Moment comes to me here as I image the scene as a portrait (rather than a self-portrait). I picture the photographer´s approach to his or her sitter: when to shoot? Which moment would represent better the subject? Is it about the pose or about the mood of the sitter? Or is it about the overall feeling of the image (composition, expression, contrast, theme…?).

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ISO: 100, 6″, f/32, 32mm.

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[Selected image: 8084]

 

Image 6

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I did not know hot to reinterpret this photograph until I started shooting. Keeping the shapes created by the position of arms and legs was a must so I focused on that. To connect both before and after versions, I brought the two black chairs into the scene and experimented from there.

I see lots of elements of duality in this photograph. The two chairs, two people, two bits of curtain. The window slightly open, letting fresh air come in and the subject suffocating with the curtain around the head. It could be interesting to know what others think about this. It was not something intentional but I can see some concept there when looking at the image.

As a quirky detail, my phone sits on the window sill with the original images opened on the screen, as a little reference/secret. I see this image as a continuation of Image 5 on the series.

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ISO: 100, 10″, f/22, 17mm.

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[Selected image: 8144]


 

As part of the changes suggested by my tutor, I had to come up with a title for the series that would define “the moment”. As I mentioned on my first impressions blog post, it was my intention to “fragment” the Decisive Moment, yet my tutor does not see the series as Fragmented or Indecisive Moments, but more like “Tentative Moments”.

I have been looking for a word that would define define my approach to the Decisive Moment. I considered how long exposures and movement have resulted in a series that record action by freezing every stage of it. Each of these images tells a story by offering a wider view of the moment: showing how it started, how it finished and what happened in between, even though the other of these stages is subjective. It is not possible to state how long the action lasted by only looking at the images. I therefore thought a good name for these photographs would be “Indefinite Moments“.

[Indefinite: lasting for an unknown length of time.]

I have also come up with the decision of changing the order of the images, taking into account the new connections I perceive between them. This would be the “Indefinite Moment” sequence:

Assignment 4: Languages of light. Preparation for assignment.

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time. 
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you´ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your “process” (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you´ve developed the exercise in order to meet the description of the Creativity criteria. Write 500-1000 words.
  • Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor´s comments.

 

First impressions and introduction to the subject

I have chosen Exercise 4.2 (daylight) to be prepared for formal assignment. The reason for this is that after considering the three different exercises I found daylight the most revealing and complex, also the most difficult to control as it is in constant change.

After researching about photographers Sally Mann and Eugène Atget, I resolved to shoot some elements of nature (not necessarily landscape) as it is a subject that resonates with my practice. I have found inspiration on Atget´s botanical photographs to start with, as well as the atmospheric landscapes of Sally Mann. An element that came up from Exercise 4.2 was the reflection on the bottom of the frame, which I found interesting and something that could be introduced in the final images. I also wanted to connect the exercise and the assignment by choosing a similar subject.

First, I compared two images from Atget with two of a similar subject from my personal archive, and noted down the differences that I perceived make his images interesting as opposed as mine. This helped me see how the use of light in Atget´s photographs is not only enhancing the subject but also creating a layered background that contributes to a more dynamic image.

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Experimenting with refraction

I recently bought a set of defective optical glass prisms and a triangular prism to experiment with distortion and light refraction. I started exploring the different effects that could be achieved in camera by holding the prisms close to the lens and the results are quite interesting. The options are limitless, which appeals to me. This technique could introduce something new to the assignment in the way daylight can be manipulated, creating surreal images. I did some research on light refraction to understand how light travels and found the connection between the theory and Tacita Dean’s “green ray”, which I find it’s fascinating. In the sample images below, the reflection of the window on my sitter’s face evokes memories or thoughts, as if the camera would be reading into his mind and exposing the information.

 

Another curious fact about this is that the raw file shows the colours of the refracted light differently than the final images without manipulation. On screen preview of the RAW file, the light looks pink throughout and after opening the file and saving it as JPG there are different colours of the spectrum that can be seen. This still remains a mystery to me, as I haven’t found a reason for it. Below there are two screen grabs from images Flat prism 3 (on the right) and Flat prism 5. 

I am now looking at ways to integrate the effect of the prisms with my chosen subject (nature, trees, plants etc).

 

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Experimenting with daylight

  • Test images (part 1)

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To take my comparision on Atget´s photographs further, I took some snaps of interesting trees/bushes at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh (which is probably my favourite place on Earth) to get my thoughts going. I was after some “portraits” of natural elements to observe what light conditions cold bring to the image in terms of the overall look of the subject within the scene. It is difficult to isolate a tree from a background of trees and I found that the direction and quality of the light is key here. The images above were shot at midday so the light was falling flat on the trees that were completely exposed to it and the resulting image was not interesting enough and the subject did not stand out. However, when shooting a shrub that was shadowed by taller trees, the filtered light coming from the top was helping in revealing its shape and also creating a layered composition.

  • Test images (part 2)

On a second visit, I explored light in a different way, drawing from what I had observed on the first time. I used a compact camera on aperture priority mode. I shot the trees and bushes by pointing with the camera slightly down, pressing the shutter half way to focus and hold the metering and then recomposing by including a part of the sky on the frame. By doing this, I wanted to trick the meter and overexpose the image to “burn” the sky and create a more atmospheric scene. I also experimented shooting against the light but trying not to get it right in camera. As a result, some images have a faded flare on them, like a blue- ish reflection, which appeared mainly when direct sun light was filtered through the top branches of the trees. This flare gives a very mystic effect that feels almost like a “presence”.

Looking at the sky on some of these images I think of Sugimoto´s “Theaters” series and the overexposed screens. I find it fascinating how I can appreciate something like an overexposed photograph in some way now. Before, I would have seen this as a mistake and discard the shot straight away, without thinking of a possible meaning or use.


I am still unsure about which direction my assignment will take, since I need to experiment further. I somehow feel the urge to include a human element in this assignment as I would like to tell a story that works as an allegory to light from both the visual and conceptual points of view. I would like to use a strong natural light in my images and due to bad weather this will be impossible for a while, so I am still developing the ideas I have gathered in this post and I am hoping to find the right moment to continue testing a bit further before I decide on how to approach the assignment.

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Assignment 3: Reflection.

Check your work against assessment criteria for this course before you send it to your tutor. Make some notes in your learning log about how well you believe your work meets each criterion.

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

The work presented has a strong compositional drive and the approach taken on the brief has an implied interest in producing a visual response in the viewer. The technique used (low shutter speed) has been explored during Part 3 through research of other artists and on the exercises, and it is a crucial element for the production of the final images. Observation prior to shooting has been essential, as the work emulates Henri Cartier-Bresson´s images to decompose the Decisive Moment.

Quality of outcome

The final images and conclusion show a broad understanding on the theory of the Decisive Moment and I have worked my way towards exploring the term as I was creating more images, reflecting widely on the purpose of each of them and their aim within the assignment.

Overall, I am satisfied with the outcome and how it communicates my idea of the Decisive Moment.

Demonstration of creativity

Having to change the initial plan of shooting with a model and turning the project into a self-portraiture series has pushed me to find the way to communicate my ideas in a creative manner while dealing with many difficulties in achieving the shot I wanted. Somehow, I feel that these images are a continuation of what I started in Assignment 2 (experimenting with movement and portrait) which it´s something that really intrigues me and would like to continue exploring in different ways. I have perceived a big change in how I approach photography since I started working on research before and during projects while also shooting subjects that I like. My aim is to develop my own voice as I progress through the module by merging my interests, new knowledge and influences. I think these are early days still and I have a long way to go yet in finding my voice but I can already see all the benefits this course is bringing to my thinking process.

Context

Since I had the last tutor feedback chat and read through the brief of Assignment 3, the thought of producing a good set of images while reflecting on the Decisive Moment has obsessed me a little. The aim was to challenge the theory but how? I spent a lot of time asking myself about its meaning and wondering what would work and how it could be somehow “fragmented”.

After finishing my work I am still a little concerned about how my reflection on the Decisive Moment would be understood as my writing skills are not so good and the meaning can be easily misinterpreted because of my poor grammar. However, I know my concepts and thinking are clear and I have reflected widely on the matter, specially through observation.

Perhaps I should work more on my Learning Log as I do research many artists that are not mentioned on the course materials, and find the time to include them on the blog. I have been considering scanning some pages of the many notebooks/sketchbooks where I normally write/reflect on. I do need paper and ink to organize my ideas but these notes are often messy, illegible and quite random so I feel a bit concerned about showing them. However, I think it could enhance my learning experience if I would compromise and include them on my log as this would encourage me to keep my annotations tidier.

This, together with finding someone to read proof my entries, could definitely help my work look more professional and better organized.


 

Strengths and weaknesses

Generally and reading through the first impressions on the brief I posted earlier, I have managed to overcome all foreseeable problems that I expected facing. The series works well and the prints follow a clear theme. I decided to keep the overall look neat by shooting black and white, horizontal images and focus in portraiture.

Despite this, I perceive a difference between the first three images and the three following. As I was progressing on the series and reflecting on the Decisive Moment, my approach was evolving. Like this, I feel the first three images are less meaningful to me while the concept was richer towards the end. This could be seen as something that did not work so well, however, I am happy I can identify it and judge my work in this way. It makes me aware that the deeper the understanding/experimentation on a subject, the better results can be obtained.

How could I develop this further in the future

It could be interesting observing the Decisive Moment through Street Photography. Trying to stage Henri Cartier-Bresson´s images was helpful for my practice even though I did not choose to replicate those photographs of him that are more immediately connected to the Decisive Moment. I consider Street Photography a difficult discipline as I like control and I tend to choose predictable subjects to work with so this would challenge me in many ways.

 

Assingment 3: The Decisive Moment. Final Images and Conclusion.

[Contact sheets and development of the assignment can be found here]

 


 

Here there are the six final images for Assignment 3 (with a little description of each shot) and a final conclusion about the project.

Image 1

foto1_web

Shutter speed: 3.2″ (just enough to catch an interesting movement on the book pages)

Aperture: f/29

ISO: 100

Focal length: 21mm


I chose to begin with this image of Martine Franck´s legs as I thought it would be the easiest to get started and achieve a successful composition. It is also an image where the concept of the Decisive Moment is clear in relation with the geometry and not so much with action, as it depicts a moment of relaxation where there is not much happening. The composition is not affected by the movement of the pages on the book as the main lines are drawn by the position of the legs and the shapes created on the background.

 

Image 2

foto2_web

Shutter speed: 3.2″

Aperture: f/10

ISO: 100

Focal length: 26mm


This image seems like the continuation of the previous one despite the years that separate the originals. It is another relaxed moment where body positioning and the horizontal lines of the background create a well balanced, informal portrait. I do feel more attracted to Cartier-Bresson´s portraits than to his street photography, and I have found many images that I did not see before while doing my research for the project, mainly of family and friends (most of them artists), and there is a great feeling of complicity, specially in the ones of his wife, Martine Franck.

In this image, I have tried to recreate the movement that I feel could have happened in that moment, so she drinks from her cup while staring at something, probably aware but not really concerned about the camera. Any of these little moments caught here with the long exposure would, in my opinion, have made a Decisive Moment. It gives me the impression that Cartier-Bresson saw the shot while observing his wife and felt the urge to frame it.

 

Image 3

foto3_web

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/11

ISO: 100

Focal length: 32mm


This photograph is composed from two different shots since it was very complicated to expose myself correctly in five different positions. I used a black backdrop and planed the movements to achieve a similar composition. I tried to focus on the white areas of the original image (faces, handkerchief, arms) and their proportions within the frame. Even though the white belt and the flag with the inscription are missing, I think the essence of the original image is there. With five (possibly more) people moving in front of him, there is no way Henri Cartier-Bresson could have predict how the final image would look like. He could only observe the scene and guess when to shoot.

I set my shutter speed to 6 seconds as the first part of the image required three movements and like this, I could count 2 seconds for each position and give enough exposure time to record myself neatly at each stage. As it can be noted on the contact sheets, there was a moment when the available light dropped and the camera calculated a lower aperture with a darker image as a result. I did not like the way the light turned out then, so I changed to manual mode and used the settings from the beginning and keeping the 6 seconds exposure. I kept the same settings for the second image to can merge both images without major adjustments.

 

Foto 4

tofo4_300_small

Shutter speed: 4″

Aperture: f/25

ISO: 100

Focal length: 24mm


I have chosen this image because I like Cartier-Bresson´s photographs where people are framed tightly. I tried to keep the lines and mood of the original, despite being shot indoors and from a slightly higher viewpoint. I could not use the shutter release cable so I set up a 10 seconds delay instead. It took a while to find the correct composition. Working on this image made me wonder what Cartier-Bresson captured here: wether the man was aware of his presence and covered his face to not be seen or if he was simply resting and protecting his eyes from the sun. It represents another moment where observation and body positioning created the Decisive Moment.

 

Image 5

foto5_web

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/18

ISO: 100

Focal length: 44mm


I had my doubts when selecting the final photograph from this sequence. There is another shot that I think replicates better the composition of the original image but I feel that the one above reflects better how I imagine that moment happened. I imagine Martine Franck looking at the camera at some point while enjoying a quiet moment at home. This was my approach in representing the movement (and hence the moment) here: I gave myself 6 seconds during which, using the position from the original image as a starting point, I would just act “normal”. So, I was experimenting with moving my eyes across the scene through the window on my right, turning my head to the camera and accommodating myself on the bed. I wanted to capture what I imagined she would have been doing.

The image I think has a better composition is the following:

IMG_7220_peke

I am still wondering if I should take the second option, as it seems to match better with the rest of the images on the serie. However, I find this shot feels more posed and less natural, which crashes with my idea of how the Decisive Moment is represented here. On the other hand, the first is maybe the one image of the project that will recreate an “Indecisive Moment” by showing how a slight change when composing an image (and therefore, a change in the overall shapes and geometry of the photograph) can potentially make the photographer “miss” that Decisive Moment.

At this point of the Assignment, I notice that the process of planning, creating and selecting the right image is getting more complex as I dig into the concepts and compare the different situations in which the original photographs were taken.

I have been wondering about the idea of what exactly makes the Decisive Moment. It seems to me that Henri Cartier-Bresson was exclusively thinking of the aesthetic aspect of the image and its composition. However, when looking at his portraits there seems to be something else. Does the subject or the relationship between the subject and the photographer matter in the Decisive Moment? As he mentions on the documentary L´amour tout court in 2001, part of his technique when photographing other artists in their environment is to talk about anything so they relax and forget about the shooting that is about to happen. Was he entertaining his subjects in a way they would become another element of the image allowing him to compose the shot without much interference? Till what extent was it important for him to capture the real self of the subject? Was it all about making them unaware of his camera to give that sense of relaxation and normality and how does this relate to the Decisive Moment within his body of work?

 

Image 6

foto6_web

 

Shutter speed: 6″

Aperture: f/32

ISO: 100

Focal length: 31mm


This is not an image I have planned to replicate from the beginning but it caught my attention while searching for inspiration. Both women seem to pose for the camera but still their posture is very loose and natural and reminds me of classic paintings. Their limbs create a composition that I feel attracted to and I also liked the way their shoulder touch and the positioning of their hands.  They don´t look impressed by the presence of the camera, which tells me that the photographer was not intimidating them or the women did not see him as an intruder. The composition achieved here by Cartier-Bresson is sublime, with both girls describing opposing triangles (did Cartier-Bresson staged this or did he “see” it happening and captured “the moment“?) and their bodies framed tighlty so all the attention falls on them and not even the busy background distracts from them.

I have tried many options to get this image done. Initially I thought of using a 10 seconds exposure so I would have time to move from one chair to another, but the image was a bit overexposed. The clear background did not help much with this issue, so I dimmed the light with a curtain and tried shooting with 6 and 8 seconds shutter speeds instead, which worked better. I particularly like the messy background: the backdrop visibly hanging from the stand, the edges of it poking on both sides. Even though these elements don´t appear in the original, I would like to keep them as a point of interest. The image quality of some areas on this photograph reminds me of film (the legs and arms of the figure on the left). Unfortunately, I could not replicate the direction of the lights from Cartier-Bresson´s image, as I had only one window on the left.


Conclusion

Exploring the Decisive Moment has made me reflect on what I learnt through the previous course materials: the constant changes in light, the importance of the viewpoint and perspective, the frame, the movement that can be perceived in a scene by close observation, the way our eye reads a photograph… All these factors are affecting the composition (shadows sharpen or disappear creating shapes or defining them, a new element appears in the frame, our attention can jump from one subject/area to another with the smallest change). While trying to emulate the Decisive Moment through Henri Cartier-Bresson´s photographs, I found these concepts played a big part in the planning and execution process. That makes me think of the Decisive Moment as the moment when all these key factors converge at once capturing a precise scene that is aesthetically  perfect yet, there is still something else to it that I can´t define. It is rather the subject or the particular instant that is caught on camera that makes every element work together. As Gerry Badger comments on the Decisive Moment, it can be better understood as “the moment when form and content come together to produce an image in which the formal, emotional, poetic and intellectual elements have substance” (G. Badger, 2007)

On the other hand, and specially looking at my final images, I would say that one same scenario could provide different moments that could be considered “decisive”: the only common element is that the main factors that make the photograph stay constant. Since time is recorded as movement and movement would potentially change the composition of the image, it can be said that the greatest the movement (or the length of time), the greatest the chance the Decisive Moment is missed if not shot as it happens.

In my opinion, the presence or absence of action affects the Decisive Moment from behind the camera. Since the only person who sees the shot from that specific point of view at that specific time is the photographer himself, the fact of missing the moment can only be attributed to the capacity of the photographer to observe and identify when to shoot. Failure in identifying “the moment” would not make him miss the shot as he never observed it so, did it ever happen? This makes me think of other two factors that are equally important in the Decisive Moment: the ability of the photographer to look and the luck of being in the right moment in the right place. Just as Henri Cartier-Bresson said, it is about learning how to look and being receptive.

I had the initial purpose of challenging the Decisive Moment through presenting lengthy exposures with subjects in movement, thinking that this could lead me to prove Cartier-Bresson´s vision wrong or at least not so true for every type of shot. It happens that the more I have been reflecting on the Decisive Moment, the more I believe that he was right. The difference here is that I can see now the concept with different eyes: now I understand it better. “I look, I look. It´s and obsession” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2001). He knew how much he could miss by not looking.

 

 


References

Badger, G. (2013). The genius of photography. London: Quadrille, p.104.

‘L’amour du court’ parts 1-5, 2001 YouTube video, added by Rangefindergeneral [Online]. Available at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF(Accessed 08 September 2017).

Assingment 3: The Decisive Moment. Development and contact sheets.

[First impressions on the brief can be found here]


 

The aim on this series is to explore the idea of the Decisive Moment through Henri Cartier-Bresson´s photographs. I asked myself:

  • How long does a moment last?
  • Can the Decisive Moment be staged and still be as successful?
  • What chances a photographer has to capture the Decisive Moment?

 

How:

  1. Bringing movement into a selection of images taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson: recreating “the moment”.
  2. Looking to replicate what makes a photograph for Cartier-Bresson: geometry and careful composition.

On my previous assignment feedback, my tutor encourage me to try to emulate photographs that I feel attracted to so I am bringing this into my Decisive Moment project. It is something that has made me more aware of the importance of the viewpoint in terms of creating a better composition. It is amazing how an image can change only by changing the position of the camera slightly and this is something I might have overlooked in the past, focusing mainly on the frame when composing a shot.

 

Initial response to the brief and how my ideas developed

My original plan was finding a model who would like to pose for me and recreate HCB´s images in a very abstract way, giving all the attention to the composition and using long exposure to record movement. Since I could not find anyone willing to do this, I decided to shoot myself and emulate the photographs in a more literal way. I did not want to focus on “copying” every element from the originals. Instead, and taking into account that the final images would be converted to black and white, I focused on colour blocking. For this, I looked at the composition of each image and identified the main black, grey and white areas. I also looked at the position of the subjects and the lines created by their limbs and body, as well as background lines that would direct my eye through the image.

I printed some of the photographs I thought would work and identified the elements that, for me, make the Decisive Moment on each of them.

Later, I would discard some (I opted to keep all horizontal so the final series would look more cohesive and other images like “Mexico, 1934” was discarded as it already has movement on it). I have finally added other images as the project developed, as I was feeling there were other shots I would feel closer to my style/preference.

These are the scans of the initially planed images:

The decision of how to introduce movement on each image was taken individually. I would imagine the situation of each shot and guess how subjects would be doing at that moment, so the movement would be naturally integrated. In the images with more than one subject, the movement from one position to another tries to depict the sequence with the “chances” of capturing moving groups of people within the frame and pretend to reflect on the multiple possibilities one moment can represent for the photographer.

All images are taken indoors (mainly in my living room) using elements readily available. I have particularly enjoyed the process of planning which objects/garments would work best for each image as well as looking for the angles/areas of the room that would work best each time. I have also used available light overall.

Regardless of myself being the sitter for the series, I do not see the final images as self portraits. This is something I have been thinking about that reminds me of what Francesca Woodman said about her own work and the reason why she was using self-portraiture: she was available. I feel her images also influenced my series in this way and also with the use of movement, which is something I have been exploring recently in my photography and still see so much potential for experimentation there.

 

Technical approach

Each image been shot differently however, always prioritizing my need of slow shutter speed to record movement. Using shutter priority mode, I varied the length of the exposure according to the effect needed and the amount of time required to replicate the movement myself.

Rather than sticking to a 35mm focal length (which would have made sense while emulating Cartier-Bresson´s images), I varied it according to the space available for composing the image so this number it is not really relevant. There are a couple of images I noted to be shot with a wide angle but I finally did not select them for shooting.

I used my camera mounted on a tripod with a 17-50mm lens and shutter release cable for some of the images. Others are taken with a 2 or 10 seconds delay, depending on my pose/distance from the camera.

 

Selection of images to replicate in movement

After lots of changes, these are the final images I picked from Henri Cartier-Bresson:

Image 1: Martine´s legs, 1967

Image 2: Martine Franck, 1975

Image 3: Funeral of a kabuki actor, Tokyo, 1965

Image 4: Spain, 1933

Image 5: Martine Franck, 1985

Image 6: Prostitutes, Alicante, Spain, 1933

 

First images: The contact sheets

This has happened to be quite a long project since my initial plan was to shoot all 6 images in one day and it has turned to be a weeks worth of work. Some of the shots were easy but most were tiring and hard to get right. These are the contact sheets:

Image 1 (Selected image IMG_7041)

Hoja de contacto-001

 

Image 2 (Selected image IMG_7052)

Hoja de contacto-001

Image 3 (Selected image IMG_7092+IMG_7099)

Image 4 (Selected image IMG_7144)

Image 5 (Selected image IMG_ 7205 or IMG_7220)

 

Image 6 (Selected image IMG_7247)

 

 


Resources

Cartier-Bresson, H. and Brenson, M. (2006). Henri Cartier-Bresson. London: Thames & Hudson.

Magnum Photos. (2017). Henri Cartier-Bresson • Photographer Profile • Magnum Photos. [online] Available at: https://www.magnumphotos.com/photographer/henri-cartier-bresson/ [Accessed 8 Sep. 2017].