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 2.6

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.