Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Non OCA Photo Projects

In addition to the AoP course I have been working on a few of my own photo projects, which I would like to briefly discuss as they add to my portfolio and influence my participation in the course.  My current problem is that I have so many ongoing ideas/projects I am not sure how to fit them all in.  However, I prefer this situation to a lack of inspiration.

Underwater Books

I just completed a Blurb book following my last 2 week dive trip to the Maldives.  This wasn't a great holiday, the weather was bad all through, we were forced to cancel diving for a couple of days due to the choppy sea.  The island also had a major industrial dispute limiting room service and we even missed our flight home due to a problem with the airport ATC system.  Having said that I got some good images, although far fewer than I hoped.

My goal was to create a set of photo's that really typified the marine life of the Maldives, with a strong focus on illustrating the sheer volume of fish and the dramatic colours.  My personal preference has always been macro imagery typically shooting subjects no more than 5cm long using either a 60mm or 100mm macro lens on an APS-C camera.  On this trip I forced myself out of my comfort zone and tried to image larger subjects and in particular schooling fish.  This meant using either a 10-22mm or 17-40mm zoom lens.  The former is better underwater, but you have to get awfully close to fill the frame.

I worked all of this into the following book using Blurb's 12x12 inch large format.  With 160 pages, high quality paper and postage, these cost around 100 pounds a copy, so I only create 1 at a time.

Following are a few sample images from the book, a mixture of wide angle and fish portraiture:

60mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 100

60mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 100

60mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO 400

17-40mm, 17mm, f/4, 1/125, ISO 100

17-40mm, 17mm, f/4.5, 1/125s, ISO 100

17-40mm, 17mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Having completed this book, I am now working on a retrospective collection looking back at my best images from the past 5 years and presenting them in a series of portraits - planning to give as Christmas gifts.  My tentative title is "AquaChroma".  This has been partially inspired by the colour wheel presented in Johaness Itten's treatise on colour theory.  I am going to try to walk around the colour wheel using highly coloured underwater imagry to complete a spectrum.  Much of my reading at present is about classic photography or portfolios by famous artists such as Annie Liebovitz, Richard Avedon, and Don McCullin.  What they all have in common is a preponderence of B&W imagry, I need colour in my photographic life!


For the last two weeks I have been spending about an hour every two days walking around the neighbourhood taking photos as the trees slowly change colour.  I have also risen early and headed down to the main city park to do a few landscape shots.  There is a small hill, called the Monopteros, which offers great overlooks of Munich.  I plan to pull together the best images and add them to my blog once finished, here is an early sample of a few promising shots:

I also plan to work some of these images into upcoming projects and assignment 2


My final personal project is going to be a long term one that I will work through the winter whenever the weather allows.  I recently sold some shares earned in an employee purchase scheme and used the proceeds to invest in Canons new 24mm tilt shift lens.  I have been fascinated to read about this lens and intrigued about its capabilities.  I have a good lens collection, but nothing that compared with the tilt-shift.  I am planning to build a collection of images of Munichs most impressive architecture.

I took it for a trial run this weekend.  My first impressions are of a difficult but extremely rewarding lens to use.  Each shot needs careful planning:
  1. Camera position must be careful chosen as this is a prime, so fitting the subject into the frame requires much personal movement
  2. Once the view point is good the camera must be perfectly level prior to shooting, a tripod is essentially, but also a hot shoe mounted spirit level is required
  3. Exposure has to be determined before any manipulation of the lens as the tilt/shift mechanism confuses the cameras built in exposure meter.  I have a separate meter, which helped a lot.
  4. Once all this is done, the lens can be shifted to bring the subject into view, preserving the correct perspective. 
  5. Final action is to focus the lens (no autofocus here) and fire the shutter, preferably with a cable release
I really enjoyed this, it seemed to be very reminiscent of the process of photography before the invention of auto everything cameras with megazooms and anti-shake devices.  This process also really slows me down and makes me think very carefully about each exposure, great!

Here are the initial results, I was impressed, I printed some of these as A3's and they look fine.  Some are a little soft, mostly because I was adjusting tilt and shift at the same time, playing with my new toy.  I later learned that architectural shots should be made without any tilt, just with shift.

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