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 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.

 

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line.

The following images are taken at f/8 aperture and 17mm focal length.

To explore perspective, I started with these three photographs of a row of chairs. I maintained the camera settings for the three shots and I only changed my position in relation to the scene. The first image achieves a better depth as the line described by the chairs creates a more accentuated perspective. The size of the chairs decrease as they leave the image towards the top right corner at the time that the eye follows this line and the attention focuses on the blue and red points in the distance.

On the second image, the sense of perspective is poor and it is more difficult to follow the lines.  On the third image, I positioned myself closer to the chairs. Although the distortion produced by the wide lense is more evident here, the perspective improves if compared with the second image. Again, the “point” created by the red car at the distance helps guide the eye towards the top right corner.

The same parameters were set to produce the three images below:

On the first two images both the frame and the distance of the camera to the object change. On the first image, the lines described by the fence give a good sense of perspective, accentuated by both bottom and top parallel lines of the fence that crosses the image in the middle. On the second image, the camera is positioned closer to the object in a way that the top of the fence disappears from the frame, loosing depth overall. For the third image, I turned around and photographed the fence from the other side. Again the parallel lines bring that depth back, aided by the other lines on the image (the white material and the shadows on the pavement).

For the third set of images, I chose to photograph a handrail, as I thought it could be interesting to see the effects on a more obvious line. Camera settings remain the same as in the previous shots. The first image here reminds me of the first image with the chairs. The perspective is evident and there is a clear line that leads the eye to a point in the distance, where the sunlight brightens the floor. For the second image, the camera has moved closer to the handrail giving a greater distortion and a clear view of the stairs, which enhance the perspective. The lines described by both sides of the stairs running along the wall contribute to this effect. On the last image, I moved the frame to the right in a way that one of the sides of the wall disappears from the scene. Again, the sense of depth decreases overall even thought the line described by the handrail in this case creates a clear perspective effect.

As a conclusion I would say that even though a wide lens provides a greater depth when working with perspective, there are many variations that can affect this effect such as distance of the camera to the object, height of the camera in relation to the lines that create the perspective and the inclusion/exclusion of other elements in the image that can aid achieving a more dramatic illusion.

Exercise 1.2. Point

In this exercise we are asked to evaluate a series of images where a single point is placed in different parts of the frame and in relationship to it.

I have to say I had to read the brief 20 times and I am still unsure on what to do or how.

I found a ball of paper in the street and choose it as my point. I planned to take shots of the paper ball placed in different areas and after that, another series where the point would be placed in relationship to the frame, but I found that, as I tried to change the position of the point within the image maintaining the overall composition, this was always in relationship to the frame. In other worlds, I could not place the point in a place where it would not feel related to the frame without compromising the composition of the final image. Like this, I did not manage to place the point or compose “freely” and the variations were minimal.

These are the images of the point:

In my opinion, the strong visual lines of the stairs were leading the composition but still the point felt very noticeable. When overlooking the frame and placing the point elsewhere, it becomes disruptive, however adding an element of interest.

On Image 2, despite the perspective lines drawn by the stairs, my eyes keep jumping up to the point. I traced the images to explore where my eyes focused the attention:

On Image 3, the point is situated off centre to the right and on the way of line followed by the eyes; it does not disrupt too much but still feels as a foreign element. It is interesting how in Image 1 the ball sits on the same position to the left as Image 3 but the variation on the frame makes the point belong to the composition. On Image 4, my eye want to follow the edge of the stairs up but there is an inevitable stop at the point which diverts its route.

As suggested, I have traced also some images from magazines to see more clearly how each image has a different rhythm:

point scans

This said, I think the eye can be drawn to a particular part of the image with the help of the lines described by certain elements or a sequence of elements that creates imaginary lines. The first image has almost a symmetrical composition and the eye runs smoothly over the picture from left to right. On the second image, the first focal point is determined by a higher exposure of the man, with the elements crossing the image both up and down and side to side balancing the composition. Even though it has a busy background and neutral colour palette, the eye finds it easy to navigate through the key elements of the photograph. On the third image, attention is drawn to the face of the man and follows the lines down his body to his hands, so the box of apples becomes the second important element to focus on. Again, the tree on the background does not distract the attention. Besides, it frames the subject and puts him into context at the time that forces the eye to go back to the man´s face.

László Moholy-Nagy (1895-1946)

Self Portrait, 1918
Self Portrait, 1918

Born in Hungary in 1895, this polifacetic artist became an important figure of the German art school Bauhaus, where he was a professor. Moholy explored a number of art disciplines (including Architecture, Graphic design, Painting, Filmmaking, Sculpture, Photography and Writing) from a very innovative perspective, integrating new technologies and experimenting with materials with the aim of creating “useful art”.

He claimed Photography as the medium of the future and experimented with the various ways images can be perceived, evolving hand by hand with new techniques. Like this, he worked with light sensitive paper to create images following the principles of Photography but omitting the use of the camera itself. These “photograms” are intriguing. The way common objects are rendered against the photosensitive paper creates silhouettes that remind me of radiographies, however projecting the outside form rather than the inside of the object.

 

His graphic design style has a remarkable influence from Constructivism and Cubism, showing geometric and abstract work also characteristic of his school. This interest in shapes and lines reflects also in his photographs.

 

In them, Moholy plays with unusual view points and cropping. He presents lines and shapes as an integrated part of our surroundings and creates interesting compositions with a clever use of empty space and shadows. As a result, I find his images are strong, aesthetically pleasant and have a very modern approach.

 

I personally like the way he integrated typography in his designs and how his bold graphic pieces relate to his photographic work. Also the architectural references throughout his Photography and use of perspective and lines are a great source of inspiration for my Assignment 2.

 

Resources:

Exercise 1.1

The intention of this exercise is to note how the same scene shot twice or more within seconds apart is recorded by the camera and how there are always small variations in the exposure, meaning that not only things change around us constantly but also the camera is a very sensitive instrument that is affected by these subtle changes.

These variations can be seen on the histogram, which records the exposure of a single image. With the camera on auto mode, I took three photographs of the same scene, waiting two seconds in between shoots. I was holding the camera myself and the light was coming in through the window on the left:

First thing that can be noticed in these images is that the frame changes slightly in every sequence. This happens because I was not completely still while pressing the shutter, but it could also have happened if the subject on the picture would have moved.

The second thing that calls my attention is that the exposure on the first image is noticeably different from the other two images. The sequence was shot in the early evening so there was a strong light filtering through the window, which could have been easily altered by anyone walking on the street or a bird blocking the light during images 2 and 3 (so the camera compensated with a higher exposure) or a car passing by and reflecting light back during image 1 (so the sensor interpreted there was too much light on the scene hence the lower exposure). Or even just the fact that the frame is different in every shoot could have caused that as the inclusion/exclusion of more or less background (either the fair wall or the dark headboard on the right) would give a different read for the exposure.

As the exercise suggests, I tried one of the variations and repeated the sequence with the camera mounted on a tripod. I didn’t change the light conditions and took every image two seconds apart once again:

Once again, the three histograms are giving a different exposure.

As I was still operating the shutter myself and not using any remote device, a small variation between the frames can still be noted, but this does not make the histograms more alike than with the first set of images.

We can surely conclude that there is not such a thing as two identical images as light changes constantly for multiple reasons and actual cameras are very sensitive to these changes.