Friday, May 28, 2010

Project 67

Hmm, last Project in the course!

"Rain" - There are many different ways of portraying rain:

1. The threat of rain: dark storm clouds on the horizon
2. Actual rain: falling, perhaps using a long exposure
3. The impact of rain: as it splashes into the ground
4. The evidence of rain: drops on a window, a rainbow

My goal in approaching this project was to avoid photographing actual rain, but to suggest rain.  My first thought was a pair of muddy shoes dropped on dirty and wet newspaper, however, I changed my mind.  just after a re3cent rain storm I was walking past some ground covering plants with large fleshy leaves.  The leaves were covered in water drops.  Looking closely I could see that the leaves were covered in fine hairs on which the water was able to collect and form droplets.

Recently I have been doing a lot of Macro studies of plants that I found in the garden, so this fitted well with my current activities.  I gathered a few of the leaves and arranged them on my table.  A water spray created the necessary "rain" and I mounted a 100mm Macro lens on my camera.  What I wanted from this shot was a suggestion of rain in an extreme close up of the leaf that was quite abstract.

The following were all ideas around this theme:

For my chosen single image I cropped in very closely on a single leaf with just the center of the image fully in focus

Canon EOS 5D MkII, 100mm, f/8, 1/125s, ISO 100

Well that's it, all I now need to do is to finalize my Assignment 5:)

Project 66

For this project I have decided to go down the route of the still life, over which I have more control and also reflecting the recent poor weather.  I am also continuing the sub theme of Scuba diving and underwater photography that I am returning to for some of the projects in Section 7 and which will form the basis of my final assignment.

Thus my goal is to create a still life combining several elements that would make up a book cover for Underwater Photography.  The elements in my still life are a combination of diving equipment and an SLR camera - the juxtaposition being that these objects do not traditionally mix well, salt water will destroy almost any electronic device - I have killed two cameras this way.

The set up for the lighting is my pair of 400W monblocks, one reflecting off the ceiling, the other more or less straight on to the composition.  I adjusted the intensity to provide an f-stop of around f/16 to ensure that everything would be in focus.  The drawback was that this threw the background cloth into focus and I had to get creative about hiding it.  I started with a 24-105mm zoom, but switched to my 85mm f/1.8 as this provided the framing I needed and better colour/sharpness.

My first attempt was to use a pair of fins as the background with a camera and regulator (aqualung) as the foreground:

This did not work in several different ways, the fins are so large compared to the other items that they were difficult to manage in the composition.  I then moved to using a wetsuit as the background and added a yellow mask to the setup

This was better, but the chopped off name of the wetsuit manufacturer, Camaro, was distracting

Including the complete logo created a problem that there was now too much negative space in the upper part of the image.  As this was designed to be a book cover illustration some negative space is needed for the title, but not this much.

In my next attempt I moved to a portrait setting and tried to remove the logo

Boring, another try provided the following

This I liked, the yellow hose adds a lead line, there is plenty of space for a title and the composition is reasonably balanced.  I thought to stop at this stage, but concluded that the camera is not prominent enough, it is fading into the black background.

I also did not really like the mask, the regulator and hose provided the flash of colour I wanted, the yellow on the mask was too different in tone.  I removed this and moved back to a landscape framing;

This image is without the wetsuit as a background, the lack of smoothness in the backing cloth is distracting.  However, I like the repetition of the circular elements and the greater visibility of the camera through the "Canon" logo. Next try was to put the wetsuit back:

I actually like the addition of the yellow in the suit, but it removes any possibility for titling, so next attempt was to get the yellow lower in the frame

Whilst this is better, I now find the yellow in the suit to be distracting and having a brighter background than foreground is unsettling in the image

In my next and final image I have retained some of the yellow in the suit, but positioned in a way that it better harmonizes with the yellow hose.  I have also pulled the viewpoint down and gotten a little closer.  What I have done is to create a diagonal with the camera cap and regulators, with a Triangle of black to enable the addition of the book title:

Canon EOS 5D MkII, 85mm, f/11, 1/125s, ISO 100

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Project 65

Concepts and Symbols


  • Plant Shoot: Photograph a shoot just breaking through the earth, accentuating the green coloring to emphasize new growth
  • Two Siblings: Standing side by side with their backs against a wall two similarly dressed siblings of the same sex, but very differing heights would suggest growth.  The shot should be as simple as possible making the difference in growth the key point in the image
  • Skyscraper: Shot from the very bottom directly upwards a tall building can suggest growth
  • Cup or Glass: Filling a cup or glass until it visibly overflows.  This would require careful lighting
  • Pile of Money or Jewelry: Still life composition isolating the subject against a black background
  • Bottles: The excess of drinking could be suggested by arranging several empty booze bottles preferably in a gutter
  • Car: In these times, a shot of an expensive luxury car in front of a bank would work.  A forced perspective using a wide angle at very close range to over emphasize the size of the car would accentuate the effect
  • Broken Window: Shot late in the day or in very low light, a broken window suggests evidence of crime
  • Barred Window: Positioning a person in orange clothing looking disconsolately through the bars would suggest the consequence of crime
  • Handcuffs: Simply arranged with a black background
  • Police: Taking care not to fall foul of any new laws constraining freedom to photograph, an image of a policeman walking the beat suggests crime, although this may be better for security from crime
  • Nuns/monks: An image of a Nuns or Monks walking in a cloister
  • Library: An image of people studying in a library
  • Speak no evil: A simple portrait of someone standing face on to the camera with their hand over their mouth
  • Bell: Somewhat comprised, but a photo from below a bell, but with the clapper wrapped in cotton wool suggests silence
  • Down and Out: The simplest shot would be of someone sleeping rough or begging - preferably looking disheveled.  Would be careful to ask and offer the price of a cup of tea for their help.
  • Derelict Housing: or even poor quality social housing.  A shot of a house with furniture on the front lawn is a common American symbol of poverty - tricky to find and care needed
  • Documents: A P45 or Pink slip convey impending poverty - still life
  • Piggy Bank: A smashed piggy bank with a few coins next to it - still life

Project 64

After dwelling on this brief for a while I decided to take advantage of a happy co-incidence between my wife baking a birthday cake for her sister and myself working up some Macro imagery of plants from our garden.

This meant that I had my studio set up for close up photography and possession of some interesting objects to photograph.  As a result the "action", I am illustrating is the baking of a cake.  To keep the composition simple I kept the composition simple, sprinkling some flour on a bread board and then arranging a broken egg shell and the parts of a cake mixer:

EOS 5D Mk II, 100mm Macro, f/6.7, 1/125s, ISO 100

Lighting was provided by a pair of 400J mono-blocks in soft boxes.  I aimed one to bounce of a white ceiling providing a soft fill light and the other to the left of the composition as a main light.  The key photographic question then was composition and arrangement.  I have tried to have a strong diagonal together with the softer repetition of the egg shell, the low depth of field combined with extreme close up helping.

The selected photo was one of a sequence I created using a variety of angles and slight variations on the composition.  As I had dusted the board with flour moving the objects around too much created distracting lines in the flour.

Top down simple angle, felt this was too obvious

This was better, but I wanted more emphasis on the shiny metal of the mixer blades

Moving to the other side, this composition lacked any dynamic, but started my thoughts around how the final view would look emphasizing the blades

Dropping down and getting closer the image starts to get more interesting, but the out of focus foreground and poor background made this a reject

Getting in a little closer this was a close candidate, but the eggs are not so obvious and I felt this to be too abstract

Monday, May 17, 2010

Project 63

Having decided that I cannot wait to photograph the Oktoberfest and accompanying parades for this project I had to come up with an alternative subject for a narrative essay.  The solution was to create a set of images narrating a day diving during my recent holiday in North Sulawesi, Indonesia.

The biggest challenge I found was that it was very difficult to photograph an activity that you yourself are participating in.  Diving is a technical activity and requires careful preparation prior to going into the water.  Balancing getting my kit together and getting an SLR in underwater housing onto a boat without damage, with taking photographs of the process was difficult.  The final challenge is that salt water and electronics do not mix and a wet dive boat and wet photographer can terminate a photo session quite quickly.  The lesson here is to either be the subject or the photographer, not both!

However, I persevered and have generated a set of images mixing above and below water photographs.  All images were taken using a Canon EOS 40D, one maintained purely as an underwater camera.  The above water images are taken with a 15-85mm or 70-200mm zoom, all of the underwater shots are taken with a 10-22mm zoom.  On this trip most of the underwater wildlifewas macro sized and so I only took my wide angle zoom out on one day, limiting the number of shots I could take.

Every diving day starts with checking out your boat on the daily dive schedule and then getting a briefing from one of the dive masters.
Fortunately much of the heavy lifting is done for you, staff working at a dive base get a lot of exercise hauling tanks back and forth

They even put your gear together and place it onto the boat, all you need do is turn up wearing your wet suit

However, care should be taken to make sure that nothing has crawled into your dive gear, finding this guy inside your regulator would be a shock and a mouthful

The dive boats in this part of the world are large and comfortable, this one even has a working toilet (makes a change from using the big one over the side).

As the boats are quite large entry into the water is via the "giant Stride" method we all learn in training: "Heidi makes final checks before jumping"

Perfect split leg style, clearly remembering her training well.  Note that she is carefully hanging onto her mask, regulator, and hair clip, all of which can be ripped free by the impact with the water

Following impact a mass of bubbles hides all but her spare regulator ("Octopus")

Finally we get down to depth where final adjustments to equipment can be made in amongst the soft coral

The dive guides in Indonesia are all very experienced and the ratio of divers to guides is no more than 4:1, meaning that everyone gets personal attention.  Note the long stick in the guides right hand, useful for pointing, managing buoyancy and prodding various invertebrates into good locations for photographers

Arriving back at the surface the boat will quickly come and pick you up whilst offering an unusual perspective for a photo.  A good aspect of North Sulawesi is the large number of dive sites and limited number of dive bases, meaning limited boat traffic, although it is always wise to careful look for local fishing boats - the most dangerous aspect of diving is surfacing, propeller blades are very unforgiving

My final job of the day is to unload, recharge and clean my camera in the well appointed camera room

Heidi's last job of the day is a cocktail in the pool, at which a small bar appears magically after all dives for the day are finished

All that is left is to turn around and enjoy the sunset over a beer or two

This was not a sequence that readily made for a mix of photo sizes, however, I made up the following composites of the pre-dive images and the "jump".

This is a small subset of around 5,000 photographs that I took on this trip, 3,500 of which were underwater.  I will use a different set to work up the  images for assignment 5.  I also made up a 12x12" book of the complete travel and had it printed by Blurb.  This combines about 300 images in a mixture of image sizes from 12x24 inches to 3 x 5.  Perhaps this is the best Photo Narrative I can present at this time.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Project 62 - The Photographs

Going through the many 1000's of photos that I have taken at the Oktoberfest over the years, I have chosen 15 that I think illustrate well the many aspects of the event and could be combined to form a narrative

First of all I start with the parade and a candid shot of a pair of soldiers waiting to march

Also waiting for the starting gun are the heavy horses that will pull the drays

Many of the drays have space for guests

But more traditionally it is the waitresses who will spend the next two weeks serving at the Fest that ride on the drays

From the many small towns and villages of Bavaria marching bands come to take part in the parade

Once at the Wiesn the sheer size and scope of it is huge

Fair ground rides colour the night sky

However, the real action takes place inside the huge tents

Where after a few beers the action gets going

Although for some it can get a bit much

Fueling this level of drunkenness requires a lot of glasses

and if people are wise much food