Exercise 3.3

I have not done part one of this exercise as I don’t own or have access to a manual film camera.

For part two, I decided to walk to ‘Manton Pit Top’… the landscaped remains of what was the slag heap at Manton Colliery in Worksop. It’s the highest vantage point around here… and in truth, the only publicly accessible spot with any kind of view that I can think of in this area.

Having said that, while walking there, I happened upon this spot where the view is quite good given the surroundings. I took in the scene, and as luck would have it… the traffic was doing other than just moving in a slow procession of tedium. I could really have done with a tighter shot at this moment, but as a 24mm prime was on the camera, that’s what I had to go with.

Image #1

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Cropping the image produced this… not sure if it’s more interesting or not really.

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It’s by no means an interesting picture, but really, sticking to the conditions of the exercise, in this town… you’re not going to get an interesting picture. The next image will rather prove my point.

 

Image #2

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So I climbed to the top of the ‘pit top’ and took in the view. With binoculars or a telephoto lens, some parts can be quite scenic. With this 24mm lens… not so much.

On looking directly ahead, I was aware of the parallel lines running through the scene in one direction, and  thought of Rhein II by Andreas Gursky https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhein_II (though this lacks the purity of that image, not to mention having entirely the opposite purpose).

There was not a lot of movement to take in, and none at all up close, as the nature of the setting dictated that anything near me was not going to move much.

On paying attention to the traffic on the road, I took the shot as a white van became parallel with the white dome at the sewage works in the background.

Conclusion

I understand that the purpose of this exercise was to practice awareness of one’s surroundings… of ‘looking’…. so that you can recognise a ‘moment’… and be prepared to photograph it. However, I found that the requirement of finding a high vantage point hindered me in achieving this goal. It was a distraction, and upon reaching such a vantage point, I found being there to be even more detrimental to the exercise.

Truth be told… when I… to coin a Worzel Gummidge phrase… ‘have my photographers head on’… I see and experience the world in a different way. I’m constantly ‘looking’. It’s a very pleasing state of awareness. This exercise broke me out of that entirely, and the only reason I wouldn’t say the trip was a complete waste of my time was because I used the walk to explore some locations I’d not been before, and took some photos that were unconnected to the exercise, but that I was reasonably pleased with.

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Exercise 3.2(c)

Another demonstration of the use of shutter speed when representing movement.

In a darkish room, I played a vinyl record (Bowie At The Beeb… disk 2, if you’re interested) and placed a small finger puppet on the centre of the LP. I then focused on this puppet with the camera set (initially) to shutter priority mode. I tried different shutter speeds.

After this I set to fully manual mode and played around a bit.

Image #1

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“Hi mum!”

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Even at f2.8 with ISO 3200, at 1/20th of a second this is underexposed. It was the slowest setting I could actually make the finger puppet visible. For a faster shutter speed, you’d need a flash.

 

Image #2

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“Weeeeee!”

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Slowing things down to 1/8th of a second. Motion blur is very evident, while things are a bit brighter. Still requires ISO 3200 which results in an unpleasantly noisy image.

 

Image #3

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“Aaaaagh!”

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1/4 second. Brighter, very blurred, and still needing high ISO.

 

Image #4

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“Please….. make it stop!”

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At 30 seconds, the tone arm is also showing motion blur.

 

Image #5

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“Oh my God, I’m gonna be sick!”

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At this point I switched to manual mode and stopped down to f11 and set ISO 100. I then began flicking a torch across the finger puppet, to try and capture sharp(ish) ‘ghosts’ as it went round. I failed.

 

Image #6

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“WAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!”

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Now I tried just flicking the torch across the finger puppet while it was in just one part of the rotation.

 

Image #7

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“Dammit… I’m calling my union. I didn’t sign up for this!”

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For this shot, I just swiped the light from the torch across the record once, as quickly as I could, trying to time it so that the finger puppet was facing the camera.

Exercise 3.2(b)

The Blurry Man

I find myself inspired by the work of Francesca Woodman. http://www.tate.org.uk/art/artworks/woodman-space-providence-rhode-island-1975-1978-ar00350

The way she used long exposures to blur the movement of her body, produces images that I find fascinating.

The representation of movement is something which interests me, though unlike Woodman, and indeed, diverging from the point of this exercise somewhat, my real interest is in representing the movement of objects, or people, not through space, but through time.

Using the methods demonstrated by Woodman can achieve this objective, though whether a casual viewer would appreciate the fact that time rather than movement is the subject here, I can’t say.

All of this is working towards a larger objective, of which I have hinted previously, but still have not spoken yet. Patience please. I’m not quite there yet.

So… here’s what I did today.

With my camera set on a tripod in the garden, pointing towards the garden shed, where we have assorted furniture and garden objects effectively abandoned (we’ll hire a skip at some point, but for now, this is where they rest). It looks deliberately arranged, but it’s just how things have been dumped over time.

Despite the requirement of the exercise to use shutter priority mode, I had my camera set to full manual. I couldn’t achieve the effect I wanted otherwise.

I placed an adjustable neutral density filter on the lens, set an initial aperture of f22, ISO of 100, and a shutter speed of 30 seconds.

Next I focused on the chair, set a 2 second timer, pressed the shutter release and ran to stand behind the chair.

For the 30 seconds that the shutter was open, I… well… I jiggled… I suppose you could call it. I stood and fidgeted. Not moving a great distance in any one direction, but trying to make sure no part of my body remained still.

I used various aperture settings, with various ND filter settings and various shutter speeds…. with varying results.

What I discovered is, when it comes to adjustable ND filters, you get what you pay for. Mine was very cheap, and frankly, it’s quite rubbish. When adjusted to extreme settings, it doesn’t darken the frame evenly, rather, it darkens a cross shape across the middle of the frame, leaving the corners overexposed.

This forced me to opt for a tighter aperture setting than I really wanted… though it also caused me to try some extreme processing of the RAW files, just to see what could be done to recover lost detail. Some of the results are… interesting.

So, here we go….

Image #1

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Concept:   

As you can see… I am there…. but I am not. I’m not going anywhere. Was I there once? Am I there now? Will I be there in the future?

Maybe all of these things… at the same time.

If, as humans tend to perceive it, time is linear, then I was there.

If however, everything that was, is, and will be, all exists… at once… that all of time exists in one big…. thing…. and we simply don’t have the ability to perceive it… then in that image… it doesn’t matter if I was, am, or will be standing there. I am simply standing there. The blur, caused by movement through space… and through time…. is what I’m using to suggest this.

 

Technical:

Now, moving away from the interpretation of the image, and back to the technical aspects, I wasn’t entirely happy with using a tight aperture. While there is a certain atmosphere created by this setting, I didn’t really want the buildings in the background to be in such sharp focus, so I tried opening up the aperture.

This is where things started to go away from what I had in mind.

 

Image #2

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At f22, with the ND filter darkened by a couple of f-stops, what I saw on the screen was what I got when I took a photo. Unfortunately, this didn’t hold true at f2.8.

The results were massively overexposed, and while I was able to recover some detail from the RAW files in post, enough to create an interesting image, this is not what I wanted.

 

Image #3

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Darkening the filter, I discovered the flaw in it’s function, creating a dark cross across the frame, while leaving the corners overexposed, so I stopped down to f5 instead.

The corners are still overexposed, while the buildings in the background remain sharper than I would like them.

 

Image #4

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Playing around with the fill light, contrast and vibrancy in post created some very odd effects.

 

 

Image #5

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I tried reducing the exposure time, and it’s getting there, but here you can see the dark cross created by the filter.

 

 

Image #6

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Exposure is down to 20 seconds. Still getting a nice blur on the figure, but the dark cross is still evident, with the corners overexposed. Compensating for vignetting in post fixes this a little, but the upper left is still not acceptable.

 

Image #7

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Extreme adjustment of levels on the previous image produced something scary. It’s not what I set out to achieve but I like this!

 

Image #8

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Probably as near to what I’d intended as I’m going to get it with this filter. The exposure is quite short, while the aperture is quite tight. The upper left is still overexposed while the buildings aren’t as blurred as I want them. Also, unfortunately, there was a spot of fluff on the filter and it’s caught the light here, creating a faint flare like effect on the right of the image.

There is though a feeling of ‘otherness’ and the blur on the figure is very much still what I wanted.

 

Conclusion

This is heading in the direction I want to go. It says part of the thing that I want to say.

Must get a better ND filter. Hopefully a very dark non-adjustable one will do the trick…. though I’m not sure how dark they actually make them.

 

Exercise 3.2(a)

Trying out the technique demonstrated in the intro of Christopher Doyle in the opening scene of Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MH38QAN80vs

This is really just a first attempt, to work out how to make the method work.

I using a 24mm prime lens, I set the camera to shutter priority mode, with a shutter speed of 1/8th of a second. I set for continuous shooting mode, saving files as 1920 x 1280 jpegs.

Next I sat in my office chair, focused on the door handle, started continuous shooting, and rotated myself in the chair through 360 degrees, and only stopped shooting when I returned to my starting point.

I then loaded all of the resulting images into Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum. My camera has a continuous stills shooting speed of 3 images per second, so I imported 3 images into each second of the timeline in the editing suite and then rendered the series as an mp4 video file. The audio was added just to demonstrate the shooting speed of the camera as it captured individual images.

Contact Sheet

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Obviously, this is just a proof of concept, done just to find out if I could actually do it at all. I intend to create something a bit more watchable later in the week.

Exercise 3.1

‘Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment in 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 Zarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your shooting process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.’

The following were taken in Sheffield on a dull day, using a Canon 24mm (pancake) prime lens, with the camera set to shutter priority mode, and handheld for all shots.

Image #1

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Trying to freeze the movement in what was very poor light proved difficult. I got close to it here, but it’s not quite there. I don’t care much for the compromise settled on by shutter priority mode when choosing ISO and aperture settings. It’s neither one thing or the other in terms of depth of field, and all of the shots in the series were underexposed, requiring some tinkering with the raw files in post.

 

Image #2

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Still underexposed, and not really fast enough when looking at the fountain, but I love the part where the water is spilling of the edge of the raised circle. You can really see the form and shape of the water… like some kind of clear slow moving jelly.

 

Image #3

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I upped the shutter speed to 1/1000th of a second.  It helped, a bit.  With the poor light, the feeling in these images came out more moody than joyous, which is what I would have preferred.  Saying that, they probably fit my character better 😉

I’m constantly fascinated by this curved steel wall, with the water coming over it. I don’t actually know what word I’d use to describe the movement of the water. It doesn’t ‘pour’… it’s not a ‘torrent’… but it’s not ‘seeping’ or ‘trickling’ either.

‘Controlled and understated flow of wetness’…. or something.

 

Image #4

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It shimmers. That’s what it does.

If you ever go to Sheffield by train, you will see it, as it’s right outside the station. For a big chunk of steel, it’s a thing of beauty.

 

Image #5

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The composition is fairly ‘meh’, but I like how you can see the form of the water. The free falling part is like a sheet of rippled glass that’s frayed and torn at the edges and then shatters as it hits the steps, into a frothing falling mass.

 

Image #6

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Starting to get the hang of it now. This, and the next two images, definitely deserve looking at in the 1500 x 1000 versions. While the lower areas of the fountain are a mess of movement, the tops are well defined, and you can see their form in that frozen moment.

 

Image #7

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All that’s missing here is the champagne corks (and decent light). A celebration of gushing exuberance, caught in an instant.

 

Image #8

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Getting in close, and trying not to get the camera wet (it’s not waterproof). When looking at the large version of this image, you can really see the form of the water, and get an impression of the energy in the scene. It was quite exhilarating. I chose not to correct the slightly off kilter nature of the shot, as it adds a kind of giddy sensation that goes well with the subject matter.

 

I’ve concluded that it pays to use a lens that’s capable of wide apertures when shooting like this in poor light. Trying to use my 18-55 kit lens on this shoot would have been hopeless.  The Canon 24mm pancake I was using here was completely new to me (bought specifically for this exercise), and I took quite a few shots with it after I’d completed taking shots for this series. I have to say, it’s produces very pleasing results, and between it and my ‘nifty fifty’, my kit lense probably isn’t going to see much more use.