Monday, 31 October 2011

Environment Project: Shooting and Printing

Last week during my days off I took three rolls worth of photographs on my 35mm film camera. These were test shots in a sense but I planned to use these if worse came to worst and they turned out to be very helpful.


A good few of my photos were not exposed correctly on the contact sheet but I could save these when printing individually. However, I looked at the rest I could make out; looking for the best composed and the warm beautiful colours that I could make my prints from to convey the beauty of the scenes.

Then later in the week I went back to the same places, and re-composed my favourite shots out of the 35mm lot. This time I used a 6x9 medium format back on a Wista; 160 ISO medium format film and chose a shallow depth of field for a lot of my chosen shots. I felt that this would be more fitting while showing the beauty of them and create a nice look. However for some I needed to have it all sharp for the scene to be viewed as a whole and really appreciated.

I have chosen to print a series of 3 images. Frames 1, 5 and 6 are the images I have chosen to display as prints for my environment series. However, upon closer inspection I have noticed some faults with the first frame which may have occurred during processing. If I can't print this photograph I will print the second frame instead.

Overall I want my photos to look warm and make people feel good when they see them rather than negative. And rather than find them effective in a haunting way as graveyards and cemeteries are often depicted, find them effectively beautiful and inviting.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Environment Series Research - Simon Ward

Much in the way my idea for my environment series involves portraying the beauty in something usually not associated with that quality, Simon Ward, a fine art contemporary photographer; scans objects taken from graveyards and dead animals to make "aesthetically beautiful and memorable images". I'm not sure whether I personally agree with this comment but I know some people will be able to appreciate the beauty of something in death. I hope through my photographs I can achieve the same.

He also did a project called 'The Guardians' where he collected items from children's graves and scanned them. It is said that "the objects function as an attempt to compensate for the loss by creating something tangible, a receptacle for the placing of memories".

I find Ward's work too controversial for me. I don't agree with the fact he has stolen things from graves where people have lovingly left them in memory just to create scans. I would have much preferred to look at photographs taken of these items in their original environment where no interference has occurred. I wouldn't say his images of his late pet cat are in bad taste but I don't agree with them and I don't feel anything positive while looking at them. I don't particularly think it is a respectful thing to do with a dead animal; especially domesticated.

Simon Ward deals greatly with the theme of death in his work and where the locations of my environmental images holds these connotations too, I do not want to focus on it. I want to show the aesthetic beauty within my locations through capturing them in a way that is overall positive and so that people appreciate the beauty in them rather than what they usually mean.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Still-life Object Production Shoot and Printing


Last week I shot my photograph for my object project. When the day was over I had mixed feelings about how it went. I managed to take and process two photographs and had help with taking two polaroids but didn't have time to process my last two negatives. I put these in my locker over the weekend so I was unaware of how they would turn out.

Two of the photos I'd taken landscape and wasn't keen on the way they looked in that orientation. The other two were portrait and in one of them my object was not straight but luckily I ended up with one I was happy with.

I had a lot of help with my shoot because I was working with ice and water in a glass vase so this immediately made it more difficult. I was also trying to work to a desired lighting effect which had to be particularly catered to. Along the way so many light packs and leads and flashes wouldn't work when I needed them which is what too up so much time.

I ended up taking my first photograph at half past 3, an hour before the processor shut. I was worried I wouldn't be finished in time and would have to do it all over again which I really didn't want to have to do.

I am not very familiar with studio lighting and maybe if I hadn't changed my idea the night before my shoot I would have had time to ask someone about how to light my object how I needed to and be prepared for the day as this is what took so long to do. Before my shoot I'd done two test shoots. One was not a complete still life and the second I just wasn't happy with in general; it didn't work.

My best photograph:

shot at f 8.5
shutter speed 500
power 6 on bron colour pack
used a snoot, soft box and full tough spung
used a horseman and 210mm lens


Today I made my final print of my object photograph. I managed to use only 4/5 sheets of my paper to do this which I was happy about. When I did my step wedge (cyan 0, magenta, 60, yellow 80) it came out very yellow but I went back in to the darkroom and printed another test strip at 22 seconds with +40 yellow and the strip looked great despite making a mistake when exposing it and exposing it for 2.2 seconds and then 22 on top of that when I got confused with the switch which changes the value of the numbers. However, the colours were all neutral as they should have been and it was in focus and exposed perfectly.

When I came to print next, I changed it so it was exposed for 22 seconds but did not alter any colour levels. The loss of 2.2 seconds made my whole image too green so I had to -5 magenta.

Not long after this I managed to print my image at f32, for 24.2 seconds, at cyan 0, magenta 75 and yellow 100. This is my final print which I am very pleased with:

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Reflection on darkroom practice - Colour Printing

Today I successfully completed my colour printing induction. I was a bit nervous and apprehensive about it beforehand because I thought it would be really difficult due to the darkness. However, when in there it's different.

As I did in the black and white printing induction I made some mistakes in this one during printing. I opened my lens to see my projection through the enlarger and to focus my negative but then when I came to do a test strip I ruined two by forgetting to close the lens down to f32 so the strips came out black. I also struggled to cut nicely sized test strips in the darkroom as a couple of times they felt big enough before I cut the paper but then turned out too thin.

After I'd got this out of the way I successfully made 5 test strips; adjusting my magenta and yellow levels along the way by using the filter kit to help me decide how and in what amount. I found this helpful to have at hand.

When I got to my 5th test strip I decided this was the one to go with but when I did a print it came out with the colour of my previous strip despite having changed nothing. This was strange, but I changed my numbers again and got my desired colour. The negative I was working with was taken with hard side lighting so it was a difficult one to work with but I got there in the end.

I ended up making 3 whole prints after my test strips because of the strange colour alteration that occurred and they all came out of the machine wonky because the slots in my easel I lined my paper up to were loose and moved around when I tried to line it up. This was annoying because there was no way I could fix it and couldn't see which position on the easel was right in the darkroom.

However, I am happy with the colour of my final print.

0    - cyan
49  - magenta
62  - yellow
f 32
8 seconds

Monday, 17 October 2011

Multiple/series of Environment Photographs

Other than the pastiche which we are required to first complete for the Environment Project, we have also been asked as part of the course to take a set of (at least 3) photographs "based upon [my] personal conceptual approach to representing the landscape."

Since my personal approach to representing the landscape is to portray it at it's best, my idea is to display the juxtaposition between the beauty of graveyards and cemeteries and their not so beautiful connotations. I want to demonstrate the beautiful side to this sorrowful subject and in a way, make it a positive thing or at least allow people to perceive it in this way because this is what I strive for in my photography: finding beauty.

I thought to make this series personal I would visit cemeteries and burial sites where someone I know resides. This ties me emotionally to these places and therefore to this series. Perhaps for this reason I will be encouraged even more than usual to be conscientious. I have plans in the near future to visit some places where family and friends of family are buried.

We have been given a choice to use colour or black and white. In my opinion this topic best suits black and white and is usually depicted in these colours due to the theme of death tired to it. However, to get across what I want in my photograph and show the beauty in the landscapes, I will use colour.

I have never really focused on this topic of landscapes before but I do have a couple of cemeteries in my area. These are some photographs I have taken of them in the past:

Before visiting the places I intend to take my photographs I plan to revisit the cemeteries nearby and get a good feel for my subjects, but look at them in the right context. This way I will be more likely to achieve my aim because I'll be better prepared. I will also practice taking (and maybe editing) the photographs in colour which I am familiar already with.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Object Tutorial Outcome + Test Shot

Following my object tutorial earlier in the week, my tutor suggested my still life be an allegory of causes of Global Warming meaning the melting ice cubes would make up one part of my still life rather than be the focus of it.

My still life will represent 'Global Warming and Humanities Effect on the Earth'.

I now want to incorporate other aspects of this social issue into my still life. I've decided to use the following objects to represent these different elements:

  • melting ice cubes - melting ice caps
  • burning incense - pollution (smoke and C02)
  • a toilet roll rube - recycling (and to look like a chimney for the incense/smoke)
  • an oil can leaking - fossil fuels and oil spills
I also want to somehow represent deforestation which I believe is a large part of Global Warming so should definitely be considered in the still life.

Background, location and lighting
I have decided to shoot my objects on a blue reflective surface (to represent the sea and emphasise the objects). To do this for my test shot I used two sheets of blue textured paper, scrunched up and flattened out again to give it a more crinkled effect, laid side by side under a thin sheet of clear acetate. I have determined that to gain a clear and effective contrast with the smoke and the backdrop, the backdrop needs to be dark so I have chosen black. I used side lighting for the reflections and for the smoke. It looks powerful and enigmatic which I think fits the photograph.

The test shoot
The process of taking a test shot of my still life was frustrating. A couple of things went wrong but now I know how to do a better test shoot next time.

  • I'm going to use more paper and more acetate to cover a wider surface. This will allow me to be further away from my subjects to include more in my photograph while not having any original surface area exposed.
  • I will have a larger backdrop in the studio which will help with the above.
  • Having a larger surface area covered with the reflective surface will also means none of the water will be able to leak onto the paper as it did during the test shoot.
  • In my next photo I will have all the objects to finish my still life.
Another major aspect of my final image is that I need a large depth of field. Everything in my still life has an equal role. Much is the case of some of Thomas Struth's older work where everything in his images is sharp. I need to reciprocate this in my own.

Camera: Nikon D90

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Researching Thomas Struth

Some of Thomas Struth's photographs really appeal to me visually. Perhaps the sharp, striking black and white structures of the cityscapes and scenes seemingly devoid of life are what makes them eye catching and engage me as a viewer. It seems he photographs a few different subjects but sticks to only these - jungle-like scenes, black and white streets, and groups of people. 

My impression of Struth's city scenes majorly contradicts thoughts about his shots of people: "he captures people observing and therefore we connect with people and places he portrays". It is known that through photographs he attempts to show the relationship between people and their modern day environment. In some it seems there is no relationship.

These photos are part of his earlier work where he has drawn great influence from Bernd and Hilla Becher in the typographical sense. A difference I notice is that I see some emotion in Struth's work, even if only slight, and The Becher's weren't interested in that aspect at all.

A technical choice Struth uses for his photographs is not focussing on and drawing attention to a certain part of the photograph. This causes a large depth of field; everything is sharp and nothing is blurred.

"His work is a sensitive and ample vision of reality without artificial techniques which would divert viewers from the real meaning that the photograph has to communicate."

This analysis relates his simple way of taking photographs to how he wants people to read them simply; read what they are communicating without unnecessary distractions to "divert viewers from the real meaning". The use of the lexis "has to communicate" in particular proves the photograph is making a point. Struth wants to get this point across in his photographs easily. As the saying goes: what you see is what you get. It is a recording of reality.

My favourite photograph of the three is the first. It is the most interesting in my opinion and really attracts my attention. The contrast probably contributes to this which the last photo is somewhat lacking and it seems flatter in general in comparison. Compositionally I can really appreciate the symmetry. Although it's not perfect it seems better this way - much more natural. Complete symmetry would transform the photographs notion - it would seem less realistic and Struth is telling a story through it's theoretical simplicity. There is still a sense of real balance and the proportional lines and textures all make the photograph really nice to look at and explore. How the car draws you in, manages not to through off the balance and doesn't detract from the rest of the photograph is really effective and in my eyes, makes the image very successful. I like the sense of desertion and how the image seems devoid of life or at least like time has stopped (the stationary car waiting at the stop sign) but not in an eerie or uncomfortable way. It just seems calm.

There are some obvious similarities which each of the three photograph's of Struth's share; some of which I have mentioned already. These are:
  • the large depth of fields to cause everything to have equal rights within the images
  • the proportional lines and accurately portrayed structure of the buildings
  • the flat and uninteresting sky (similar to the Becher's work)
  • and most of all, the streets fading into the distance drawing your eyes with them - the dominating sense of perspective

Monday, 10 October 2011

Developments on Object Project

My initial idea for the object part of my 'Body and Object' project is Global Warming. It is a constantly occurring social issue so I thought this would be perfect for the project and I think I can easily put my opinion across though it.

First I was trying to think of objects that could portray the simple problem of Global Warming and that people looking at my photograph would be able to draw links between. I imagined using a bicycle wheel propped up against a large bottle of water but then struggled to think of anything else significant I could use in my still life image.

I also thought about setting up my still life on and with backdrop rolls of blue and green as these are Earthly colours. However, I didn't want it to make my photograph look unprofessional; especially using two different colours. If I was to set objects up with these colours they may not be able to be portrayed as nicely with the colours as they would with black and white backdrops.

The idea I really want to work with is melting ice on a reflective surface. I think melting ice would look really interesting in a photograph, and obviously, it relates to the biggest issue of Global Warming - the melting ice caps. I don't think this is too cryptic an idea either which I'm pleased about. The reflective surface the ice would be melting on would be simply to emphasise the effect of the ice melting in the photograph but could also represent the sea in it's reflective appearance. To really reflect the sea I could use something reflective which is blue - this would make it more realistic and relative and also add some colour to the photograph.

This is the idea I really want to work on and develop further if I can. I plan to find something to base the ice on by the end of this week and also have done a test shot to see if it works as a photograph.

Reflection on Processing - B&W and colour

Before learning how to print, I was shown how to process my negatives (of which I have learnt how to do 35mm, medium format and large format now).

I was given a proper induction on the medium format which seems to be the hardest of the three. This was the first format of film I processed. I had someone in the darkroom to help me and they were definitely needed. I took the sticker off my roll of film before I entered the dark room and I was glad I did this because it wasn't an easy job. When I got into the room it was hard to place myself. I was confused where I was facing and when it came to finding the bin I struggled and then thought it was the paper I was holding while looking for it but I had the film in my hand.

I hole punched the end of the film easily enough and putting the feeder on the end was easy but it was a bit of a struggle to take the tape off the end of the roll because I was trying to be careful. Putting the film in the machine was also simple enough when I knew where it had to go and to put the rest of the roll on the velvet patch while it was waiting to be pulled in.

My negatives came out great. The exposure looked good on all of them excluding one which was quite bright and each was in focus. Despite having some trouble in the darkroom because it was my first time I think I can do it again next time with some confidence.

Since then I have developed my own rolls of 35mm film (colour) which I find a little tricky and have had help with but hope next time I can do it on my own. Most recently I have processed large format film which I find is the easiest and fastest.

Reflection on darkroom practice - B&W Printing

Last week (Thursday the 6th) I had my black and white printing induction. I found I was given all of the information sufficient for doing my first print in the talk we had. It helped slightly that I had previously seen printing done before but I was a bit apprehensive having never done it myself.

We each made a contact sheet of our negatives. Well I had mine done for me for the example but I'm confident I can do it myself next time. Then I chose the best photo from the 12 I took in the studio. All I was really looking for was good lighting and as few dust spots as I could see because the composition of all of the images was exactly the same which is something I wished I'd done differently - moved my subject around during the shoot to make it more interesting for printing and choosing negatives to print. I'd managed to take all of my photos in focus so I didn't have to worry about that aspect while choosing: only while in the darkroom.

I made some big errors during the printing which I have definitely learnt from:

  • The first thing I did was print my first print upside down because my neg was in the clamp the wrong way round so I took it out and spun it for my next print. I wasn't aware I'd done it wrong because I didn't think how you put the neg in affected the print specifically.
  • I fogged some of my paper with test strips of the same paper while it was in my box and had big black squares appear on my test prints. This taught me to be more careful with my paper and not have even one sheet out of the black packet while in the box.
  • I also exposed my paper to the focus light while trying to do my test prints. It seems an obvious thing to get wrong after being told about exposing our paper to light but it didn't register it was wrong because it looks like a different kind of light and still in the darkroom. This is definitely a mistake I won't make again and feel silly for having done.
I'm glad these things happened in a way because now I'll remember every time I come to print again and be extra careful in these areas.

At the end of it, my print of my studio shot was approved and I thought it was a brilliant first attempt at printing for me. I then successfully made another test strip and print by myself to prove I could make a print on my own.

I ended up with the following prints (excluding test strips):

  • first print: 10 second exposure on gradient 2 (upside down and slightly wonky
  • second print: 10 second exposure on gradient 2; 5 second exposure on gradient 5 on top (better; more contrast)
  • third print: 10 second exposure on gradient 2; 5 second exposure on gradient 5 on top; covered kettle with my hand during another 5 second exposure on gradient 5 on top of that. (fingers visible)
  • fourth print: 10 second exposure on gradient 2; 5 second exposure on gradient 5 on top; covered kettle with my hand during another 5 second exposure on gradient 5 on top of that. (same contrast in shadows as third print but more detail and less blacks on subject - desired effect)

I was proud of my finished print and I learned a lot from the induction having made all the mistakes which I have now got out the way. I think next time will be a more enjoyable experience because I now know what I am doing in the darkroom.