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.
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.
[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.
Shutter speed: 3.2″ (just enough to catch an interesting movement on the book pages)
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.
Shutter speed: 3.2″
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.
Shutter speed: 6″
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.
Shutter speed: 4″
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.
Shutter speed: 6″
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:
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?
Shutter speed: 6″
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.
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.
Badger, G. (2013). The genius of photography. London: Quadrille, p.104.
[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?
Bringing movement into a selection of images taken by Henri Cartier-Bresson: recreating “the moment”.
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.
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:
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)
Image 2 (Selected image IMG_7052)
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)
Cartier-Bresson, H. and Brenson, M. (2006). Henri Cartier-Bresson. London: Thames & Hudson.
Francesca Woodman was a prolific American photographer who died at the early age of 22. Despite this her work is extensive, with over 800 photographs, postcards and notes. Her images, shot in black and white film, are most of the time self-portraits were Woodman explored her body in relation with the frame and the environment. Not interested in represent herself but only using her naked body as a way of expression and as an available subject, her portraits show certain sense of displacement.
It is very characteristic of her images the use of the interior of abandoned houses or the decadent look of her own studio. There is a strong interest in exploring light (available light, a small ray of light coming through a window, a reflexion on a wall, a mirror…) and movement (her body is moving in many if not most of her self-portraits, specially from her early years).
After her death by suicide in 1981, her photographs have been exhibited widely. There is still a debate about whether her death could somehow be anticipated by looking at her work, as the way her blurred body disguises with the environment may suggest some degree of disappearance. When looking at her latest work (the images she took during her studies in Italy in 1977-1978) there is certain refinement that makes her previous images look more experimental. I particularly like the way she poses her hands in some of the photographs she took during these years in Rome, as they seem so expressive. Woodman´s photographs certainly changed in this time but it is difficult to say how this could be read in terms of her autobiography. The references to angels and the darkness that can be perceived in some of the images could be easily connect with her death. This contrasts though with her strong concept of herself as an artist and the fact that she went back to New York in 1978 to pursue a career in the photography industry.
True or not, Woodman found through very innovative imagery and technique the way to impress beyond her time.
– What do the timeframes of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there´s no film in the camera first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognizable images in bright daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.
– Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high p (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view of panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you´ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.
I only own a Minolta Dynax 404si for a couple of weeks so the timing for this exercise was just right as I did not have any film loaded yet. I opened the back of the camera as instructed and pointed at a well illuminated scene, with plenty of sunlight. The shutter speed was so fast that it was difficult to identify what part of the scene I was viewing through it. I pointed at different areas trying to guess what the image was and it was not possible to clearly recognize anything. I recorder a short video of the experience:
For the second part of the exercise I chose the top of a little hill over a pond from where I could get a wide scene with plenty to observe. It happened that after a few attempts taking the camera out, I did not have it with me on the only one day that was not rainy, but I thought I would have a go with my phone as the view was truly beautiful.
From the hill, the first thing that catches the eye is the pond and the birds, some also flying closely. Then, people walking around the area and the first rows of houses; then the view over Edinburgh, the hills and the sky. I would not normally attempt to photograph this view in this time of the day (it was sometime between 10:00 -11:00 am) as the sun comes from the other side of the pond and right into the camera, being the best option to wait till early evening. However, I still tried to observe and wait. I walked back a bit, so the line of trees behind me blocked the light and also became part of the scene, acting like a second frame. My son was running about so I had to move quick and run ahead of him to position myself and shot in the right moment. This is the resulting image:
I like the way the shadows from the trees point into the scene, directing the eye to the action. Also the line of trees on the left, going down towards the city seem to contain the elements into the frame. Although there is little attention to a more distant view, previous observation helped setting the scene and including the main subject into the view with, in my opinion, better results. It seemed easier to decide what to include and what to leave outside the frame and I did not have that feeling of wanting to shoot several times to see what works best on the screen (such a bad habit!). Also being limited to a phone camera made me focus more on observation and my position in relation to the scene, instead of worrying about technical decisions. I found this a very helpful exercise and I have found myself practicing the technique earlier this week when shooting during my holidays with satisfactory results. It makes me think of Henri Cartier-Bresson when he talks about learning how to look and how important observation was in his practice and how right he was.
Research point Watch the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’, 2001) available in five parts on YouTube: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL707C8F898605E0BF Write a personal response to the film in the contextual section of your learning log, taking care to reference properly any quotations you use (300–500 words).
Whenever you read or watch something, get into the habit of putting anything you take directly from the source in quotation marks and note down full bibliographic details. If you do this, you won’t have to spend ages hunting for half-remembered references later – and you won’t inadvertently plagiarise someone else’s work. Always use Harvard referencing; print out the study guide on the student website and keep this to hand.
Be very careful about what you put on your blog. Take a moment now to read what the OCA learning blog study guide says about copyright law and fair use or fair dealing.
In this documentary, Cartier-Bresson introduces himself through significant moments of his life, such as anecdotes of his upbringing and how he was made prisoner during the war.
When talking about his process on taking photographs, Cartier-Bresson alludes to the “sense of geometry”, putting form first. It is the most distinctive characteristic of his images; a strong visual impact achieved through careful visualization and composition, where a constant search for the aesthetically pleasant combination of lines and shapes seems to obsess him. “I look, I look. It´s an obsession” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2001), he says, and suggests using classic painting as a reference to learn how to look.
This obsession for the perfect shot, is widely explained later on the documentary, when he talks about the time he spent in the far East. Cartier-Bresson documented his life over three years there through many photographs but he was not interested in the results. His obsession was catching that moment, taking that shot.
According to him, it is not only enough with being receptive and look for the decisive moment, but there is also an element of chance which creates the relationship between the elements of the picture. It is being at the right moment, on the right place with open eyes and looking for the right composition.
I personally love the moment of Cartier-Bresson handling roughly the pages of what I believe it´s an archival copy of his work, while looking for wrongly composed photographs. In the end he says: “I am very honored that you have this one (the book) but get rid of the bad ones” (Henri Cartier-Bresson, 2001).
Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function or another technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the shots) to your learning log.
For this exercise I resolved to take some photographs of my always-on-the-move toddler using low shutter speed and a hand held camera. It was a surprise for me that I actually liked the pictures, as my initial though was that I would end up using a tripod. Somehow, the movement of the subject (my son) and the blurred background (created by my hand shaking during exposure) work together, with very dynamic images as a result.
Here are the contact sheets:
All images are taken on TV mode (Shutter speed priority) at ISO100, with wide focal lengths (between 17mm to 23mm), and apertures adjusted according to the exposure. The exposure time varies from 1″ to 2″. As the subject was moving fairly quickly and disappearing from the frame before even the shutter closed, I found that exposures of 1″ worked best in this case. Images such as 6672, 6686 or 6692 (exposed for 2″) show the subject almost disappearing and living a ghost-like trail rather than recording a sequenced movement, as shown on 6671, 6713 or 6714 (1″ exposure). In the image 6685, my son pulled the curtain and then let go, so the blurred captured on camera is that of the curtain falling back, which I found interesting.
I also tried to capture the movement of a spinning object (images 6700 to 6708) with very abstract and painterly effects. There are some images where I tried to hold the camera still during the exposure (6678 for example) so mainly the subject appeared blurred. However, and although I love the effect on image 6679 (as the subject is moving but the movement it is somehow contained in one spot), I find that the blurred environment gives another dimension to the final images. As I said, it does not work for all the shots. Also images 6702 and 6703, where the spinning object is captured on the floor, I feel that the stillness of the highchair legs and woodwork helps with the concept of movement and takes some weight away from the abstraction of the red toy.
Here are some of the images with specific shooting data:
I generally like these images better than the ones from Exercise 3.1 in which we were asked to freeze movement. I will take this into account when shooting for Assignment 3.
Do your own research into some of the artists discussed on Project 2.
I found this section of Part 3 very enjoyable and most of the photographers mentioned on the course materials have simply amazed me. I will write about the artists who’s work I feel is more inspirational.
This Japanese artist (1948) asked himself one day about the possibility of capturing a whole movie into one image. His curiosity took him to a cheap cinema in New York where he set up a large format camera on a tripod and, using an exposure duration as long as the film projected, he began his series “Theatres“. Sugimoto´s work shows a collection of black and white photographs of old movie palaces, drive-ins and abandoned theaters with a beautiful white glow emerging from the screens; work that he has been developing for decades.
Wesely (Munich, 1963) uses even longer exposures that Sugimoto on his “Theatres” series. Using a pinhole camera, his images capture time in a way that all environmental and human activity is recorded in one single frame, with exposures that last up to three years in time. His photographs on urban development (such as the construction of The Museum of Modern Art in New York or the renovation of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin) , capture not only the process but also the shifts in light and the sun trajectory over time.
Born in 1958 in Colorado, this early deceased conceptual artist used long exposures and movement as part of some of her photographs. Mainly shooting self-portraits, Woodman produced a large number of photographs during her short life (she committed suicide at the age of 22) and her work has been widely recognized and exhibited after her death. With a focus on exploration of the relationship between the environment and the human body, she uses her own self as a readily available subject to create intriguing images, often with a sense of displacement (using movement, wearing old garments, decadent scenarios…). I have purchased the book Francesca Woodman, by Chris Townsend but it hasn’t arrived yet. I will most probably right a review or a dedicated research post about this artist, as some of her shoots remind me of early images I took when I was a teenager and doing a lot of self-portraiture, so felt the need of seeing printed work from her.
Using fast shutter speeds try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject. Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.
My first task on this exercise was to identify my subject, as I realized not every movement that is frozen in a photograph would be perceived that way. For example, I can wave my hand and take a shot with high shutter speed and the hand will look still but no one apart from me could now if the hand was moving in that particular moment or it was just static in front the camera.
I was motivated to try something with water and also use flash, thinking this would ease the process. It did not only make everything complicated but it also took a good couple of hours and the results are far worse than I expected.
I tried to capture the water coming out from a small syringe that I was operating while pressing the shutter. I used a strobe unit on one side, at variable speeds through the shoot, a black chair that worked as a background and my camera mounted on a tripod. First, I had to figure out the parameters to take this shot in Shutter Priority Mode, which I have never used before when using strobes. I also attempted the same shot using manual mode, with better results.
This is the contact sheet with a selection of images, as I had too many and I did not catch the water coming out of the syringe in all of them:
For the last two images shown above, I used the modeling lamp as my only source of light, taking away a lot of the hassel from flash synchronization but the white balance achieved by the camera was not so accurate, hence the yellowish tint to the syringe.
Here there are some of the images and technical specifications:
On Shutter Priority mode (TV), ISO had to be pushed up to get the shot. Like this, there is a lot of noise on the first three images, where ISO is maintained at 5000-6400. I have managed to freeze the movement of the water. This can be appreciated specially on the last bit of water coming out from the syringe, as it was coming out in a more fluid manner.
While using Manual mode (M), I found that regarding the intensity of the flash and the distance between this and the subject, I could not shoot at a higher speed than f/250, as when changing to f/320 I could already see the second shutter blind closing on the right. It is not very noticeable as the background is black but it is definitely there. As ISO was kept on 100, the last three images show no noise and are more appealing. I had also the freedom to choose an aperture that made it easier to focus the shot.
Here there is another contact sheet of the images I took using fast shutter speed with available light:
With the shutter speed set to 1/1600, I only varied the ISO here. I will comment on the red ball images only, as I did not like the first idea with the wooden animals thrown in the air. As I was using the light coming through the conservatory roof and windows, the exposure changed quite dramatically from one moment to the other. Like this, images from IMG_6791 to IMG_6809 are shot with ISO640 and changed to ISO 160 from then. Some of these last images are underexposed as a result of this but as the light kept changing quite noticeably I thought I would rather recover an underexposed than a blown up shot. The aperture varied in every shoot and I used a focal length of 28mm.