Project 2. Lens work.

Do some research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project. 

Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes described in Project 2. Whether or not you had a similar idea when you took this photograph isn´t important: find a photo with a depth of field that fits the code you´ve selected. The ability of photographers to adapt to a range of usages is something we´ll return to later in the course. 

Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you have re-imagined your photograph. 

From the authors mentioned in this section, I have selected two photographers who´s work on landscape photography is radically different.

Firstly, I have researched the work of Kim Kirkpatrick, an American photographer from Washington D.C who produces his images in this same area ( I love how this resonates to the Square Mile assignment).

A very shallow depth of field was used on his early work and shows his intention of capturing the beauty of “unnoticed elements”. With an exquisite care put on composing each image, the soft areas on the background interact with the sharp subject, framing it and enhancing its presence.

Kim Kirkpatrick´s early work
Kim Kirkpatrick´s early work

Looking at his current work, the differences and progression seems to follow a purpose. It feels more personal. His images maintain the same crop and distinctive style and his love for bringing awareness of overlooked objects and scenes is constantly present.

The depth of field looses that extreme level shown on earlier photographs, introducing the viewer to a broader view of the area. Therefore, there is a greater integration of his subjects in their surroundings as opposed as using the background to isolate the focal point of the image.

It presents the viewer with a more realistic idea of what he sees and points at the importance of representing the colours and atmosphere as he perceives them.

There is a particular interest in capturing the landscape in great detail and uses a large format camera for his recent work, taking various minutes to produce an 8 x 10 negative. As Kirkpatrick recognizes himself, his work is not everyones preference and still he shows passion for what he does. I appreciate how warm and personal his work feels to me how carefully crafted despite seeking beauty where others would not see it. Also the not-so-obvious compositions on his most recent photographs and the dedication to a specific story told through images in a specific area makes his work one to admire.

 

The other photographer I would like to comment on is Ansel Adams. Born in San Francisco, California in 1902, he was actively involved in Environmental movements and as Kirkpatrick, his work explores the beauty found in nature through landscape photography.

ansel-adams-landscape-photography-tetons-and-the-snake-river-1942
Ansel Adams.Tetons and the Snake River, 1942

Adams´s  approach and aesthetics are radically different from Kirkpatrick. His landscape style seems aimed to show the greatness of monumental forms of nature, capturing impressive images of waterfalls, mountains, deep valleys and natural parks. His images show either a high or low viewpoint combined with a very deep depth of field: canyons and waterfalls seem to elevate themselves from a ground view showing their magnificence and the horizon expands in front of the eyes when contemplating rivers, valleys and mountains.

His images are distinctive and skillful. It represents the kind of landscape photography that would appeal the public and would be sold on a postcard. However, it feels less personal than Kirkpatrick´s work. Creating the kind of images Adams does would certainly require discipline, knowledge and amazing technical skills, but how challenging is it to look for beauty among beautiful things? In my opinion, Kirkpatrick´s take on the mundane demands a greater consideration of the subject and a different kind of love.

 

My photography archive

I have selected a couple of images from my personal archive to illustrate the two techniques mentioned in the course materials for Project 2:

Image 1 shows a very shallow depth of field. It is not a technique that I would normally choose but it was intentionally chosen in this particular case. This photograph was taken as part of a newborn photoshoot and I wanted to capture the baby features that disappear soon after the first couple of weeks. By using a shallow depth of field these features are made more noticeable, isolating them from the rest of the scene.

Image 2 has a very soft overall feeling, with just a very narrow area of the bird on focus. There was no particular intention in use of depth of field here apart from feeling it was the obvious thing to do in this kind of shot. Now, I would have put more care on getting the whole subject in focus by slightly lowering my aperture or stepping back and recomposing the image.

 

Image 3 and Image 4 show a deeper depth of field. Image 3 was recently taken at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the intention was to capture the whole installation locating it in its surroundings. The depth of field came determined by the focal length used and the distance to my subject rather than by personal election. However, reflecting now on the course materials and my own research, I would have definitely given this mater a thought and use the aperture more carefully to make sure I can capture as much detail as possible from the background.

I had a similar intention on Image 4. As the sun was going down, I wanted to capture the light glowing from behind the houses and somehow integrate the woman on the balcony with the rest of the scene.

 

Resources:

-Kim Kirkpatrick´s Portfolio. Online resource.

-Gazzette.net Archive. Karen Schaffer, June 13, 2001. Photographer trespasses into our real world. Online resource.

-The Ansel Adams Gallery. Online resource.

– Gerry Badger, 2007. The Genius of Photography. How photography has changed our lives. Quadrille publishing Limited, p. 134-135.

Exercise 2.7

Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you´ll be working with slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable surface to prevent “camera shake” at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

 

I have encountered various problems during this exercise. Firstly, I did not have a tripod or a place to rest the camera, so I had to bring the ISO up quite high and the noise on some images is evident. Secondly, it was very windy and also the light was harsh, with big contrast between light and dark areas. I also made a mistake and shoot at an aperture of f/16 which made me need that high ISO when I could have probably get everything in focus at f/11 and gain some speed.

Here is a sequence I took exploring deep depth of field and a brief explanation about the settings:

 

Image 1: I started off setting my camera to f/16, ISO 400, shooting with a 17mm focal length. This gave me a reading of 1/13s on camera, far to slow without using a tripod. I also felt the image was overexposed and I felt frustrated as I could have compensated that in manual mode and get some more speed. I took the shot anyway, as I think it is good for learning purposes. As I said, I did not think of opening a bit more till f/11 or more to compensate the lack of speed and decided to raise the ISO up to 1000.

Image 2: I did not gain much speed by pushing the ISO up. Not only 1/20s wasn’t enough to get a sharp handheld shot but also the wind was too strong and there was no way the leaves where going to look in focus.

Image 3: Using the same settings as for Image 2, I got a better speed as there was more available light, but still not enough to compensate the movement of the leaves.

Image 4: I moved to another area without changing the settings. At ISO 1000 and with a good section of the image in shadow, the amount of noise is evident.

Image 5: Considering the noise in the previous shot, I changed the ISO again down to 400.  There was an even distribution of light in the overall scene so this shot was successful with the parameters chosen.

Image 6: I continued to shoot in a darker area again but as I did not expect the logs to move, I kept ISO in 400. The shutter speed is not great but still manageable at 17mm. I was again in an area of strong highlights and shadows so I had to wait for the moment when the light was not so bright before taking the shot.

Image 7: To finish, I took this shot to show a deep depth of field where the three elements at the front, middle and back planes are in focus.

Exercise 2.6

Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

Following with the exercises of Part 2, I set my camera on Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture to the widest I could in order to get the shallower depth of field possible.

Sequence details:

Focal lenght: 50mm

f/2.8

ISO 320

Here are some unedited shots:

Most of the images show a very shallow depth of field, except Image 6, where I was not shooting as close to the subject. There is evident depth if looking at the top left corner behind the car but a shorter distance between the lens and the wheel would have worked better for the purpose.

On Image 5 I was focusing on the middle of the branch so both the front and the background show a shallow depth of field.

Image 2 is the most extreme example from the sequence, as there is only one petal of the middle flower in focus and everything else is out of focus. It was very windy and the flower on the right was closer to the lens, which did not help much. Also the camera was giving the lowest shutter speed but still enough to get the focus right.

I have found myself very limited using the aperture priority mode and Image 4 is an example of my struggle. The sunlight was falling on the flower on the right which I was focusing on and the camera was overcompensating this by lowering the exposure so much that the flower looks almost in shadow. Here is the same image with a quick basic exposure correction in Photoshop:

shallow rep

Exercise 2.4

With a wide aperture, place your subject at some distance of a simple background and take a portrait situating the camera at one and a half meters away from the subject. Use a  moderately long focal length such as a 100mm on a full-frame camera (65mm for crop sensor).

 

2.4 portrait
A patient husband

 

 

Shot details:

f/2.8

1/500s

ISO 320

Focal length: 50mm on crop sensor (as this is my longest)

 

 

Exercise 2.2 and 2.3

Select your longer focal length and compose a portrait shot tightly within the frame in front of a background with depth. Take a photograph.

Take a second portrait using your shortest focal length, moving towards the subject till you fill the frame.

The background should show different elements between the two images, but the subject remains almost unaltered.

Since my only zoom lens is a 17-50mm, this exercise has been challenging and the purpose of it does not show with these focal lengths.

This is the photograph I took at 50mm filling the frame with the subject:

50mm
50mm

And this one the image at 17mm, walking towards the subject to fill up the frame again:

17mm
17mm

As my shortest focal length is very wide, the distortion on both background and subject is remarkable. At 17mm and in order to take a portrait filling the frame, the camera needs to be too close to the subject. In this case, the subject is taller than me so when shooting from so close, my viewpoint respect of the subject changed, affecting the image dramatically. It almost feels like two portraits of two different people when looking at his face features.

This is the reason why I have put together Exercise 2.2 and Exercise 2.3.

[Exercise 2.3 consists in changing to a lower viewpoint from Exercise 2.2 to appreciate this distorsion].

Exercise 2.1

Find a scene with depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of shots at different focal lengths without changing the viewpoint.

Specifications of the shoot:

Lense: 17-50 mm on crop sensor DSLR.

Mode: Aperture Priority.

f/8

1/1000s (except for the widest focal length, 1/800s)

ISO 320

 

As the viewpoint is maintained throughout the sequence, there is no apparent change on the individual elements on the images, with only the fence on the left getting some distortion at the widest focal length and also increasing the illusion of depth.

I would say the closest image to a natural angle of view would be somewhere in between the 25mm and 35mm shot.

 

Exercise 1.4. Frame

For this exercise we are asked to use the viewfinder grid of our camera and take a number of shots composing only for each section, then evaluate the image as a whole. The first problem I faced in this exercise is that my viewfinder looks like this:

viewfinder 7D

Since trying to compose an image for the given sections on this grid seemed not right to me, I decided to disable the option on camera and try to imagine the viewfinder separated in four sections.

I started shooting four different images, one for each section:

Composition 1: I was composing for the top right section of the viewfinder. The door on the image was closed and it was just a matter of luck that the girl opened it when I took the shot. I generally like the composition, although without the detail of the door it would have been very plain and most of the space in the frame would have been wasted.

Composition 2: I was looking to compose here for the top left of the image when the girls from Costa (I believe) appeared taking out the rubbish so I moved instinctively to catch at least one of them on that spot. Again, as the second girl enters the frame from the right, it gives the image some balance. Otherwise, there would again be a problem with so much empty space and also a person leaving the frame with no story behind.

Composition 3: I was composing for the bottom left section here. It turned out terrible wrong as the focus is on the people on the background and not on the planter, as I intended. Other than that, the frame seems ok to me, with enough elements (lines, perspective) and there is a little story going on there with the people (turists, peharps?) looking at the castle.

Composition 4: I was composing for the top left section again, focusing on the row of chairs, as I was looking for some element which would not look static on the composition. I composed for this section again as I was not sure about the image of the Costa girls. Overall I feel that the interesting points on the frame are all on the same section (the chairs, the bar, the view) while the rest of the image does not tell much. There is no sense of movement or direction and I see Composition 2 a lot more interesting.

Composition 5: I was composing for the bottom right section. I saw three people pushing these metal trolleys on my direction so run towards them to position myself behind and try to catch them on that bottom corner. Luckily I managed to get the last one into the frame and although I had to compose very fast I am happy with the result. Looking at the composition of the image, there is not much going on on the left side but the lines on the glass windows and the slight perspective of the tiles on the ground give a sense of direction and rhythm.

I also wanted to try shooting the same scene positioning a subject on the four different sections to see how this affects the frame.

I shot these images with a 50mm prime lense, at f/8, using the face of the cat as a reference point.

I would say that, comparing the different frames, both Caption 3 and Caption 4 seem more coherent. Since the subject is lying down and in a horizontal position, it feels more natural that it is placed on the horizontal bottom part of the frame. Helps the eye rest and observe the scene in the way that is presented: as a peaceful relaxing image. On the other hand, Caption 1 and Caption 2 are not balanced and the cat seems to float over the scene. From the four images, I would say that Caption 4 presents a better composition as it is equilibrated and also shows a better focus on the subject, filling the frame with meaningful content.

To finish with this exercise, we have to select 6 to 8 of the images from Part 1 that we believe could work together as a series and create a contact sheet like document. These are the images I have picked:

contact sheet

On Thomas Ruff´s JPEGs series.

Thomas Ruff is a German photographer born in 1958. For his series called JPEGs he created compressed enlargements of images gathered on the internet, exploring the form in which photographs are stored and reproduced in the digital era.

We are asked to read two reviews of his work and write a short essay on the opinion of both authors (David Campany and Joerg Colberg).

Thomas Ruff, 2009. Ed. Aperture.

In David Campany´s view, Ruff´s series offers both aesthetic and intellectual pleasures, seeing each of the images unique but only in comparison with the others on the series. He also appreciates a connection between the way pixels are shown on JPEGs and a grid-like compositions on other artist´s work such as Andy Warhol´s screenprints or the geometric sculptures of Donald Judd. Moreover, he comments on how Ruff may have collected his images (mainly from the internet and his own), comparing the way photographs are digitalized and stored nowadays with the new concept of photography archives.

Campany sees an intention on Ruff´s work to contain the unpredictable (smoke, water, fire…) within the coldness and patterned repetition of the pixel, and identifies certain irony in how the use of the pixel is enhanced in the series while the pixel itself holds a negative value as opposed as the grain had in film photography.

On the other hand, Colberg does not appreciate any intention on Ruff´s JPEGs rather than the obvious representation of the digital format and the changing role of photography. He sees the beauty in the images but considers the concept behind them is poor, and even points out that the large scale used by Ruff to exhibit his work at the Zwirner Gallery is more a matter of business than an attempt to communicate or engage with the viewer.

Overall, JPEGs is a controversial piece. At the time that I consider the work meaningful for the author and can see his intention to communicate the idea of new concepts and changes in photography, I also see a point on Colberg´s opinion. A first look at the series made me think of images from the very first webcams and digital cameras. Nowadays, technology has improved in a way it seemed imaginable then and the concept of the pixel has a weaker presence. In some way, Ruff´s work is a journey back to that time when pixelated images where not only found online but also produced by our own cameras and also printed that way, showing the grid Campany seems to appreciate so much.

 

Resources:

David Campany, 2008. Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel. Ian Magazine, no2, 2008.

Joerg Colberg, 2009. Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. Contientious, archives, 17th April, 2009.

Tate museum, Art and Artists Archive, online resource.

 

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line.

For this exercise we are asked to study the line while avoiding perspective and creating abstract images.

After doing some research on the work of László Moholy-Nagy last week, I was looking for some inspiration around my city so I could take some photographs based on his imagery. I discovered not only that Edinburgh has an incredible lack of modern architecture but also that there are not many places from where a picture can be taken from a certain height and pointing down, perpendicular to the subject, which was my main idea. This said, I looked for other options.

These are my images:

Abstract 1 and 2: Looking for some resemblance on Moholy´s work, I came across this carpark ticket machine. Shot from the front, it describes a clear rectangular shape and I like the color blocking effect in contrast with the rest of the scene. On Abstract 1 (19mm focal length), the arrow on the right reminds me of the elements Moholy uses in his designs. All together with the horizontal and vertical lines of the wall creates a flat, geometric illusion, however spoilt by the reflection of pedestrians, buildings and trees on the glass (and myself!). Abstract 2 was taken with a focal length of 45mm from the same position, minimizing the impact of the reflections on the picture and creating a more abstract image by cropping the machine, so it is not a recognizable object anymore.

Abstract 3 and 4: These two images where taken at the entrance of an office building where a handrail was throwing shadow on the pavement. It was a harsh midday light with a dramatic effect. Although perspective is present, I think the combination of circles and the multiple diagonals together with a close frame gives a nice abstract composition.

Abstract 5: I took this image from the only high point where I could shoot down and get some sort of geometric composition. The diagonals from the glass rooftop guide the eye across the photograph at the time that the curved lines from the steps redirects the attention onto the subject sitting on the bottom right. Again, I find the colour and reflection on the glass distractive so I have created a black and white version to enhance the lines on the image:

looking downb&w

 

Overall, I think this second version reflects better the aim of the exercise. Also the black and white image feels more connected to Moholy´s work.

 

Abstract 6 is an image I took as a reminder of  Alfred Stieglitz´s “Equivalent” series, mentioned on the course materials. I found his images intriguing as it is said there is a sense of cropped view rather than a composed scene. I believe there is a careful composition behind his series of clouds as I have chosen the portion and framing of the stairs myself on Abstract 6. This fact is evident for me as the author of the image but it is difficult to determine till what extent the viewer could have this same perception or it would appear as a random or inexistent composition. Research in this matter could lead to interesting findings and theories so I am living my thoughts here for future development.

Resources

-American Art @ The Phillips Collection, on Alfred Stieglitz Equivalent (Series), 1925-1931. Web resource

– Photography 1: Expressing Your Vision, Course Materials. Part One, p 27. Open College of the Arts.