Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Putting The Subject First

As this course progresses the exercises move from being based on the technical aspects of composition, colour, lighting etc to examining and trying to understand the more challenging aspect of meaning.

The first chapter in Part 5 - Narrative and Illustration - looks at putting the subject first and asks me to compare two images. One where the subject of the image is all important and a second where the subject is secondary to the image taking qualities.

Image 1 - All about the subject
As an example of an image which puts the subject first I have selected
by Tomasz Lazar from Poland which appeared in the World Press Photo Contest 2012  - People in the News. It shows a protester being arrested during demonstrations in New York last year.

First of all I'd like to say that this is my own personal interpretation on "reading" this photograph in relation to this exercise and may bear no relation to the photographers actual intent.

If you knew nothing about this image it would make you ask questions. Where was it taken? When? What does it show? Has the photographer made a conscious decision to shoot in black and white? Why?

Personally I love the photographer's use of black and white for this image. There is a timeless quality to monochrome. In this case there are also no visual clues within the image itself to suggest when it was taken. On first sight it reminded me of protest images taken in the 1960's and 70's. Removing any distracting colour from the scene helps concentrate the viewers attention on the intensity of the protesters expression which is in contrast to the professional tolerance or perhaps indifference of the police officer.

Technically, I couldn't say the image is perfect in every sense. The most important character, the protester, is well framed, exposed, focused etc. but you could also argue there are issues with motion blur and framing. The overall impression I have is of a shot taken quickly in a fast moving environment.

What I think the photographer has done very well is capture the emotion of the scene and as this is the most important aspect of the image any technical "issues" rather than detract from the image actually add weight to it giving it more credence.

In contrast this image by Edward Weston demonstrates the technical qualities of composition, lighting, framing etc.

For me this image is all about the study of shape and form. Getting the technical aspects of taking the picture correct are much more important than the fact the subject of this image is a cabbage leaf. Lighting, style, composition are the important qualities here.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Tutors Feedback - Assignment 4

Assignment 4 - Feedback

My tutor has responded very quickly to my latest assignment despite it being the Christmas holiday period. His comments were brief but I am pleased that he has only suggested a minor adjustment to one image, image 6 - Texture - which he feels has a rather blue colour balance.

Thankfully it is not a case of re-taking the picture only reprocessing and possibly adjusting the white balance in the RAW file. As with the other 3 assignments I have completed I will defer judgement on changing any other images until I have completed the course and reviewed the feedback in preparation for formal assessment.

His closing comments were as follows:
This is an interesting series of pictures that goes beyond what could be a rather academic exercise. You have developed a good understanding of the use of light. Your approach to a subject is quite often innovative, leading to some interesting compositions and ideas. This can only be beneficial in developing your own creative style and in your progress through levels two and three.
As there was no mention of my learning log/blog I assume he either didn't have time to look at it or is satisfied with how it was progressing.

I have a very tight timescale to complete Assignment 5 now as this is due by the end of January or I may have to apply for another extension. Luckily I have been doing some of the reading leading up to this section already. I have bought an excellent book from the Basics creative photography series by AVA Academia called "Context and Narrative" by Maria Short who is a lecturer in photography at the University of Brighton. So far I've only read a few chapters but I can recommend it if you are studying TAOP and especially if your are about to embark on Part 5 of the course - Narrative and Illustration. As far as academic reads go its a very easy read and introduces the subject of narrative and context at a level that I have found very easy to understand. The text is accompanied with images which demonstrate the points raised as well as stimulating further research.

I'm looking forward to getting into a new topic of study and leaving the long hard slog of lighting behind.

Assignment 4 - Applying Lighting Techniques

Assignment 4

For this assignment you must choose an object which is easy to move around and take 8 images each in a different kind of lighting to demonstrate shape, form, texture and colour. You can also photograph the object in any other interesting, unusual or attractive lighting. As with all my other assignments these images have been sent as prints to my tutor with accompanying notes on technique etc.

Image 1 - Shape
Back lighting was used here to define the objects outline.

Black card "stoppers" were placed on either side and above the object to prevent any unwanted reflected or incidental light affecting the scene. By moving the light source closer to or further from the object the contrast in the scene is changed. I have selected an image with a slight vignette which accentuates a subtle change in contrast around the object. This has the effect of making it appear to "glow" and exaggerates the subtle highlights along the curved outer rim of the object.

Although a complete silhouette would have demonstrated "shape" just as well the subtle light leaking into the shadows around the object gives further visual clues. This changes the image from a 2 dimensional silhouette to an image which is 3 dimensional and has more depth.
Shape 1

Image 2 - Shape
By using the sun as a light source and side lighting the object its shadow demonstrates shape but in a completely different manner.
Shape 2

Lighting to demonstrate form
In order to demonstrate form in an object variations of light and shade are required. This gives an object a 3 dimensional appearance. The position of any light source will have an effect on the degree to which form is revealed as will the strength of the light source. Lighting which is too direct will produce very strong highlights and shadows which may reduce the appearance of subtle contours likewise lighting which is too soft or diffuse will produce flat results and reduced contrast.

The following 2 images demonstrate the use of lighting to show form.

Image 3 - Form
In the first of the two images the object is lit at a 45 degree angle to the side and slightly in front. A black reflector is placed opposite the light source to block reflected light and help deepen the shadows.

Form 1

Image 4 - Form
In this instance the object was placed on a sheet of black perspex and lit at a 45 degree angle from above and slightly behind. This achieved the required reflection on the perspex and was quite straightforward. Achieving the correct angle of view with the camera to capture the reflection required a little experimentation but eventually produced an image which I am happy also demonstrates the objects form.

Form 2

Image 5 - Colour


Image 6 - Texture
The aim here is to accentuate the objects texture with directional lighting immediately above and at a very shallow angle.

Due to the fact that the object is curved it has been difficult to demonstrate the texture as well as I would have liked. Where the light strikes the top of the object the texture is less obvious. Also towards the bottom of the image the shadows are more pronounced, however reflecting any light back onto the object reduces the appearance of the texture. After a few further attempts I have been unable to find a better way to light the object to show its texture, however I feel this is more to do with the choice of subject then my understanding of lighting techniques.

Image 7
This image is one of the two to be taken in a lighting style of my choice. I have seen photographic images which attempt to emulate the style of lighting used in old masters paintings and thought it would be interesting to try my own version here. An example of the lighting/painting style I am referring to can be seen in Vincent Van Gogh - Still life with Bible.

Still Life with Bible, 1885 (oil on canvas) by Gogh, Vincent van (1853 - 1890)
Courtesy of Bridgeman Education Library 
My attempt at a similar style involved creating a high contrast scene with just a hint of detail in the dark shadows around the frame. 

Image 8
The final image in the series.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Assignment 4 - completed.

Assignment 4 is complete and has been posted to my tutor. There's no point in me telling you how late it is or why.  If  you've read any of my previous posts you'll know I have only managed to send in an assignment on time once. The reasons for them being late or should I say excuses have been varied. 

Section 4 of TAOP course is very long and it takes a while to go through the various exercises. Not only are there quite a few exercises but some require particular lighting styles e.g. lighting from dawn till dusk which slows things down a bit.

In general this section of the course has been the most enlightening for me (no pun intended) - especially learning new techniques for lighting tricky objects like glass. The recommended text "Light, Science and Magic - An introduction to photographic lighting" has been invaluable and I'm sure I will return to it many times for reference. 

I feel like I went back to school to study science in this module, especially when reading through the required text, but it has been useful to refresh my knowledge of the physics of light. Lighting can make or break an image. It elevates something ordinary to something extraordinary. Sometimes a photographer gets lucky and great lighting presents itself when out taking pictures but even then you need to know how to make best use of it to create the best possible image. Artificial lighting also needs to be manipulated to create the best effect. 

In terms of the images for the assignment I had my usual quandary about which "object" I should use. I initially thought of staying away from some sort of still life set up as this was the easier option and had made a few experimental images using my daughter and studio lighting instead. A few of these images can be seen in the previous post. Looking at other students work showed that many had also created some sort of still life which was another reason I wanted to do something a little different.

In the end I happened to come across a comment made by an OCA tutor (not my own) on the OCA student site which referred to this assignment and stated that it should be possible to complete it within a morning. Really? I'm obviously putting way too much thought into it. So I went back to my original idea. As the assignments make up 70% of the mark given overall I would have thought a little more work than that was required. However elaborate or more inventive set ups take more time.

Aside from the exercises and assignment in this section I have been studying or reading about other photographers work constantly, either in books/magazines, at exhibitions or on line. Unfortunately not a lot of this other work makes it into my learning log/blog which is something I must remedy before I apply for formal assessment. I do feel however that I am beginning to look at images with a more considered eye and trying to "deconstruct" the images not only in terms of lighting or composition but also in terms of any meaning or emotional intent.

The images I have produced for this assignment are competent but not very creative or in any way developing an individual style. Not that I am aware of anyway. It will be interesting to see if my tutor thinks I am making any progress.