Monday, 18 May 2015

Some large format images and further ponderings.

These days I find myself taking quite a lot of 'old man with big camera' style photos which is distinctly uncool. I have to apologise but I think I am just naturally uncool anyway.  Thankfully I haven't resorted to wearing a fisherman's hat and three quarter length shorts with sandals, but sometimes I can understand the practicality of it! Not really. However, I do think it's something do with using large format which has negated a lot of the quickfire stuff I used to do. It's either that, or I am just facing my own mortality by taking old man style pictures in old man style places.

A couple years back I used to live way up in the North Downs in real farmland country. These days I am back down on the flats (I am literally a couple miles from the Romney Marsh which is like looking at a naturally formed spirit level) with more civilisation and the landscape doesn't have that same kind of primal and ethereal human touch weirdness to it. Things always looked different, or least they gave off the feeling that they could somehow be viewed differently with a camera, even if physically they stayed the same, or their real life impression suggested otherwise. I don't quite get that same feeling with the things around me at the moment.

I can't put it all down to location as in part I also think I'm working a little against my own instincts a lot of the time. One of the things I notice myself doing, which I shouldn't be, is that when I come across a well lit scene, I can't help but take a very average or basic appropriation of that scene. I suspect this is because I know that I'll be able to get this very pristine negative out of it, and it ends up being like a record or something archival. So in some ways, I feel like i'm photographing because I want to see it as an unencumbered photograph, not as an interesting image. It's a habit I need to break out of and certainly I need to start pushing the boat out a bit more as well as mixing up my techniques a little bit. 

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Photography: Update

I've been a bit lax on the old photography front lately. I suppose I could wait for a sudden burst of inspiration but the best solution is more likely to just take some photographs. I have a slightly new way of developing sheets which I hope will produce more consistent results than what I've been getting so far. The results, as far as consistency goes, seems quite promising, but I'll have to push it a little further to see if it's really working.

I overexposed the sky on this one. It was too pale to begin with but I made it even worse. I'll probably come back to this one when the sky is a bit more workable and hopefully get a better shot.  I like how the tree seems to cut right through the bridge.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

6x6 Untitled on Behance

A new shot, but I thought I'd introduce it by providing a link to the overall project. It's not a project really, but over the last year or two, I've been sporadically taking photographs on an old 1950s Zeiss Ikon Super Ikonta. It's a camera I take out for fun or if I have a spare roll of film handy. I never treat taking photographs with it very seriously, mostly just snapshot-y stuff. I really like the 6x6, square, medium format images it produces, and the photographs just have this old-timey feel which none of my other cameras are quite able to replicate. This is just a collection of some of the better images I've taken with it.  People seem to like them, so I should probably start using it a little bit more!

Monday, 13 April 2015

Photography: Cornwall Squares

A couple more from last summers trip to Cornwall. I didn't use my 6x6 camera all that much since it was proving a little unreliable. I took it down to Land's End, which is quite spectacular but very overphotographed. I avoided taking a picture of 'that sign'.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Photography: Walkabout

The sun is starting to shine! I've had a few leftover rolls of medium format film sitting around for nearly a year now, so I thought i'd start warming up my photographic eye for a hopefully productive spring and summer. I don't have too many specific plans, besides just trying to keep improving and learning. I have some new methods to try out, so there should be lots of photo activity on this here blog in the coming months.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Working with light.

Recently I've been thinking about ways to cross discipline-ise my work so that images and animation can work much harder for me beyond their initial intention. One of the things that I've found with working with animation and short films, is their use beyond just being animation is quite limited, so your work sinks or swims on just a few factors alone. I put together a few test images in readiness of some tests i'll be doing and getting my brain into problem solving mode. Right now i'm just letting some ideas mellow, but along with more traditional work, one of my aims is to explore these ideas a little more.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Photgraphy: Cornwall

Some surreal interpretations of the Cornwall landscape:

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Large Format Photography: Practice makes perfect

Large format has really bought into focus my lack of practical skills when it comes to making a photograph. I use 'making' quite deliberately because more than ever I find myself trying to make photographs rather than shoot and hope for the best.  I think a lot of people survive on instinct, which is fine, but when you only have one fairly expensive shot to work with you really have think much harder about how to get that shot to convey something interesting. Instinct in this instance can only take you so far. If you want to feel like you've never taken a photograph before in your life then you should really get a large format camera. As counterproductive as that might sound, I'm learning far more than I ever did than when using 35mm and 120 film.

I'll start by admitting there's nothing at all spectacular about any of this, but it proved a useful exercise, hence why I'm sharing it.  Before I took the shot, I tried to think about what I wanted the final image to look like. Mostly, I really wanted to capture the light hitting the trees from the side in the late afternoon light, as that being the only interesting thing about this scene felt like a vital element to retain and accentuate. Normally, an average meter reading would of perhaps caused the details of this scene blend into one. To combat this, I purposely underexposed and then overdeveloped the negative which helped accentuate the light hitting the trees without affecting the darker areas too much. 

If you look at the bottom half of this image, it works quite well, but then the top half becomes messy. It's a shame I couldn't bring the sky values down, because that would of balanced out the image. Perhaps if I were to try and get this image again, I'd wait until the sun dropped even further, to accentuate the shadows on the ground and also to try and darken the sky. I'm not sure a stronger colour filter would have worked in this instance as the sky was a very pale blue anyway. I'd say this image is a good example of getting it half right. Not to sound too disparaging as the best thing about working this way is that you really do learn from every image. When working one image at a time, there's nothing lost, only knowledge and experience gained, from taking a weaker photograph.

Large Format Photography: Church Comparison.

I've been experimenting with a new method (new for me that is) of getting correct, but also more artistic exposures when using 4x5 black and white negative film, and early evidence suggests it might be working. Even though the composition is a little off, this is probably one of my best ever images in terms of achieving clear rendition across the whole tonal range. as well as giving the image a little punch without sacrificing detail in shadow and highlight areas. It could do with a little dodging and burning, but for the sake of being able to show an unaltered image I left it as is. Even without any adjustments, you get a nice sense of light and that wouldn't be possible if I simply went with an an exposure based on average readings. The physical scene itself is fairly low contrast and in order to get this image, I had to use a colour filter over the lens and alter development in order to achieve a greater sense of drama and atmosphere.

As a comparison, here's another shot of the same scene in very similar lighting. Looking at it, you'd think I shot this on an overcast day. Being a bit unadventurous, I averaged out the light meter readings, didn't use a colour filter and didn't adjust development. I got reasonable tone, but the final result is very drab and lifeless. I could probably bring it back to life somewhat, but that would take a lot of work! On the other hand, achieving the top image is just a case of inverting the negative and correcting the levels. In analog terms, the top would print very easily, where as the bottom image would take some serious effort to extract something interesting. The main difference is that all the information of the top image is already in the negative, the bottom doesn't have this extra information.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Noye's Fludde on Behance

The complete set of photographs for the Noye's Fludde performances in Amiens and Comberton. More info in the links.

Noye's Fludde at Comberton Village College, March 5th 2015

March 5th at Comberton Village College, located just outside of Cambridge, represented the final set of performances for the ACT collaboration of Benjamin Britten's charming one-act opera, Noye's Fludde. Based off Middle Age texts known as the Chester Mystery Plays, and first performed in 1958, Noye's Fludde is a dramatic retelling of the story of Noah, intended by Britten to be performed by professional and amateur performers as well as school children who make up the ark of animals. As you may well know, Computer Animation Arts and kite-maker, Karl Longbottom produced numerous props for the performance, while costumes were designed and made by the staff and students of Creative Arts For Theatre & Film. Once again the cast and crew were joined by the Orchestre de Picardie and conductor, Arie van Beek.

After the grandeur of the Cirque Jules Verne, the Comberton Village College sports hall provided a much more intimate venue, but no less ideal a space, for a performance Britten's classic opera which feels as lo-fi and is it does grand. With that in mind, the photos I've taken hopefully capture some of that intimacy and sense of collaboration, as Noye's Fludde is not only a theatrical production, but rather a way of bringing together communities to create something a little bit magical.

Animal headdresses designed by Lucy Griffiths.

Light props designed by Tine Bech.

Noye's Fludde director, Amy Lane

Geoffrey Moses as Noye.

Arie van Beek conducts the Orchestre de Picardie.

Star, Moon and Rainbow props designed by Computer Animation Arts and fabricated by Karl Longbottom.

Orchestre de Picardie musical director and chief conductor, Arie van Beek.

Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne, Amiens - 15/01/2015

Photography by Tom Beg