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 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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