Note to Assessors
This PDF document are my notes made along my journey with EYV and are handwritten. I apologise for the handwriting but please bear in mind that I have difficulty with fine motor skills and my writing can be difficult to read.
I will divided each section under each assignment but these are my notes, thoughts, ideas and sketches for all assignments and exercises. I also make notes using audio note taker via a dictaphone and I have not worked out how to convert those notes to a durable format in which they can be read, so these are not my complete notes but form a percentage of them.
My tutor advised me to add them digitally to my blog.
Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.
Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.
Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.
I chose to use a kitchen cheese grater as it’s used daily by my carer and caught my eye on the kitchen draining board. It’s bright green plastic handle contrast against the bright chrome. When I googled images of a cheese grater I found a repeat of the same type of product photography with clean backgrounds or with food in the frame.
There were a few images that emulated glass buildings in particular The Shard, London. It was interesting that there was very little deviation from an upright position or even close up detailed photography. They were also predominantly colour photographs. During my research I looked at the work of Ernst Hass. My research can be found here.
Ernst Hass said, “Color does not mean black and white plus color. Nor is black and white just a picture without color. Each needs a different awareness in seeing and, because of this, a different discipline. The decisive moments in black and white and color are not identical.” (‘Portraits & Stills | Ernst Haas’, no date).
I agree with Hass that both black and white and colour needs an awareness in seeing. If I were to recreate a product photograph my approach would be totally different to black and white. The grater when it was drying in natural light had little interest other than a shiny object discarded until it was either to be put away or reused. However, once I placed the grater onto my desk and illuminated it with a desk lamp it took on a life of its own. The various patterns not only shone through the various hole sizes; but became a three-dimensional building almost like looking through office windows with the view obscured. The various objects on my desk reflected on the chrome took on distorted reflections rather like the mirrors you would find at the funfair or pier making you look tall, fat, thin or short.
I decided to photograph the grater in black and white rather than colour and would use a 50mm lens with a wide aperture to give a shallow depth of field and place it onto a piece of black mount board with a single light source (an angle poise desk lamp). I also wanted to use a piece of black Perspex to reflect the grater giving the illusion of it being on water.
Throughout the unit we are asked to experiment with ideas and creativity. I accept that this exercise does not necessarily need to be creative or to experiment with ideas but merely to compare how my final image differs from that of a google image. However, I try to be creative with every exercise and perhaps this is my downfall and why it seems to take me three times longer to complete each exercise. I did think about approaching this in the style of Bill Brandt but realised that I am limited with my accessibility to a willing model and this would delay my progression through the unit. I have decided that this idea will keep for now.
‘Portraits & Stills | Ernst Haas’ (no date). Available at: http://ernst-haas.com/portraits-and-stills/(Accessed: 12 April 2018).
Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.
Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.
Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash) and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.
Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.
I have been saving a lovely, curved beech leaf that fell in the Autumn, all be it a little worse for wear than when it fell from the tree in the garden.
I’m perhaps fortunate to have a small studio equipped with various modifiers, flash heads and backdrops to create several setups and experiment with direction and colour of light for this exercise.
I utilised my angled desk lamp fitted with a daylight crafting bulb at 6,500K and the use of window providing natural daylight.
So, I started with the most complex of the setups and assembled two flash heads, one fitted with a beauty dish and honeycomb grid as my main light source. My second head, the fill light was a small gridded strip box, which I flagged the lower half. This prevented the amount of light being output across the lower half of the black infinity curve I had created using a piece of black material. The Beauty Dish created a narrow pool of light, focalised onto the subject rather than a soft light; which would have been produced from say a square softbox. I fitted the stripbox with an egg crate again to produce a controllable beam of light. All of the three setups I used a handheld lightmeter and 18% grey card to set my white balance in camera.
I kept the focal length and distance constant for the three types of lighting although I had to adjust the ISO for the natural daylight example. This was primarily because of the incident light falling from the window to the subject was quite low. However, this produced a rather delicate result.
I found an online resource to draw my lighting plans which I have attached to the learning log.
The Studio lighting produced a balanced, detailed still life image with a punchy contrast. By being able to control the lighting, direction and power of each head gave various results. I was able to fine tune it unlike the light bulb.
So how did this compare to exercises 4.2 and 4.3?
Quite simply, I was able to use a grey card to create a custom white balance and using colour calibration card to produce an exact reproduction of the colour cast using flash photography. Rather than mixed artificial light complicating the white balance. This was very specific way of photographing a subject almost clinical in its approach and nothing was left to chance. The end result in my case a highly detailed crisp, which is rich in colour with shadow and contrast exactly where I wanted it. By using flash I was able to exaggerate the texture, shadows and highlights evenly with a relatively shallow depth of field. My final choosen photograph produced a technically perfect and balanced photograph.
In my next attempt I used my desk lamp, which is fitted with a 6,500K daylight bulb. By using a single lamp source, the direction of the lamp restricted how the light could fall or strike the leaf. It tried to be as creative as I could but felt rather restricted and somewhat frustrated with the end result.
I tried to position the lamp over the 10 exposures and moved the leaf into various positions in an attempt to cast varying areas of shadow. This proved difficult and although it changed the angles and shadows the length and depth didn’t seem to change that much. It was not as crisp as my previous set using flash photography and lacked strength or control over the flash heads. Whilst I accept that I could have experimented with reflectors this would have perhaps given a little fill to the shadows but I question how successful this would have been. Perhaps this is something I should revisit.
In my opinion though the final result was simple and subtle with shadows falling minimally producing a low-key photograph.
So how did this compare to exercises 4.2 and 4.3?
In the case of exercise 4.2 there is no comparison that could be made. However, with the case of 4.3, this light was artificial but had a specific wavelength, which replicated daylight. Using a single light source and having some control helped with both outcome and avoided mixing light sources confusing my white balance.
I then moved the setup to within five feet of a small kitchen window. The daylight in the mid-afternoon was dull and overcast ideal for this task. The incident light falling onto the leaf was very low even if I moved the subject even closer to the window. The ISO increased to 3200 even with a wide aperture of f4.5 maintaining a shutter speed of 1/125th as I had done for the other two light sources.
But I think on reflection gave the most natural of all the results because the light flooded through the translucent leaf. It managed to cast even and long shadows across the black velvet. The detail was sharp and allowed the magic of the shadows across the underside of the veins to look like peaks and troughs.
So how did this compare to exercises 4.2 and 4.3?
Well, this was the opposite of the previous lighting setup and gave a lovely result, which I could easily see have differing results had I left the leaf in situ throughout the day and taken a shot for example every hour.
Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.
For this exercise I went to Canterbury Cathedral as it has a mix of both artificial and natural daylight both inside and outside.
I started inside the main part of the Cathedral where the light is predominately artificial lighting, which illuminates the ceiling. I took two handheld shots and set the White Balance (WB) to Auto. As I was shooting in RAW I knew that during post production I could, if I wanted to correct the white balance. I reviewed DSC_5827 and 28 and noticed how the second image moved into the blue spectrum rather than a daylight spectrum in the first shot.
I think that the reason for this could have been the stained glass in the distance confusing the camera. Although, the stone is much, much more cold and clinical and enhances the carving and flaking stone. It makes the whole Cathedral feel cold and uninviting. Whereas, in the first shot it feels homely and inviting. The oak takes on warm look but somehow feels false and more reflective in the second shot.
Overall, I have to admit that I personally prefer the colder second shot as it reflects the interior and realistic of its grand interior.
The interior posed the usual problem of accessibility and I found myself at one point locked into a corridor leading to some steps. So, I took a couple of shots from the artificial lights above into the daylight beyond. I admit that the first exposure was over-exposed but again gave a cool blue tinge to the bricks and stonework. Once I had managed to free myself I went outside to the cloisters, which are light but have openings of daylight between each section.
Due to the narrow passage and unable to stop people walking into the tripod in the dim light I moved to a more open area of the cloisters. However, the eight shots I took the WB changed and produced some mixed results. I found this challenging as my WB swung from one extreme to another. I had to increase the ISO to increase for the low light levels. The results are grainy images with some being rather blue and others yellow.
The shaded corridor and the light streaming into the cloister adversely affected my White Balance in the final set of shots. If felt this light was more atmospheric giving an impression of passing time with the worn flag stones and brittle masonry. I was perhaps fortunate to find a priest in moments of contemplation as he walked along the cloister; as he if he was looking for divine inspiration. The sunlight was weak and produced minimal shadows, which I would have expected to see on a brighter day. But I could imagine how this would have looked centuries ago with the light creating a dreamy feel.
In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.
Joe Cornish in first light and landscape photographers art he writes “first, light. Everything else follows, the light is the language of photography as well as its raw material. As a poet uses words, so photographer uses light.” I think he really encapsulates what light actually is in a paragraph in the beginning of my rather prized signed copy.
“When I plan to take pictures, it is planning for light, and when I take my pictures I seek to capture its essence. While often news first light – dawn – I also work in the fading light-dusk. Sometimes even work in the middle of the day, as is but will reveal. For the title is really about priorities. First? Light!”
Sally Mann describes the quality of light in the late afternoon as being layered, complex and mysterious. Personally, light is light in my opinion or it’s more about the quality of that light, the composition and in context in which it is photographed; it either makes or breaks a photograph.
Joe Cornish, has himself photographed Roseberry Topping near to his home and appears no less than 5 times in his book ‘First Light’. I am particularly fond of a local nature reserve at Harty Ferry, Oare, Faversham. I frequently return to the same location at the foreshore in order to constantly document the ever-changing light and seasons and how this impacts on the final result. (Cornish and Waite, 2002)
Fay Godwin, has also photographed Harty Ferry, Oare in her book, ‘The Saxon Shore Way from Gravesend to Rye’. I have included a photograph taken from the same perspective to compare against her monochrome on page 69 of the book. (Sillitoe and Godwin, 1983). Godwin’s photograph is rather flat in the sky juxtaposed against the incoming tide creating reflections and movement. Whereas, mine is the reverse.
Sally Mann, compares a light in the North and that of the South as complete opposites and how the light differs from season to season. My home faces directly north and south in a think it’s fair to say that most people agree that the light in a home or room facing south is far brighter than a room facing north.
I find it quite difficult to get up quite early in the morning primarily because of the medication I take overnight. However, I found myself awake quite early in the morning just before sunrise on a cold, misty morning.
When I woke it was still in the blue hour. I looked from my kitchen facing North and took a rather shaky and slightly out of focus shot. I decided to change my position and move to the front of my house. I knew that the sunrise would cross the front and into the lane, road and fields beyond. On reflection and researching this exercise I looked at Mann’s work and the series Southern Landscapes (32 images). I was struck by the similarity to my rather shaky, grainy and accidental capture of the passing plane high in the atmosphere. It seem to have some elements and slight resemblance to Mann’s vague, grainy, mystical work. (‘Sally Mann’, no date)
I took a series of images from various directions as the sunrise began to develop across the landscape. The sky was partially cloudy although not enough to obscure the brightening sun.
I would describe the light initially was quite dull and flat slowly but as the sun warmed the tones across the clouds began to brighten into a subtle magenta hue.
At 07.48 I started my series of photographs. I handheld the camera rather than fixing on one position as the sky developed I was ale to face the sunrise to the East. In the space of 8 minutes the warmth of oranges and yellows grew across the horizon.
The car headlights blurred as they drove past me at speed leaving small light trails in the fog adding some kind of mystery amongst the bustle of the morning; in the lane opposite objects slowly began to appear.
I have added the sequence to the log in addition I took the opportunity to take a sequence on an overcast flat shadowed afternoon. In contrast to the damp, foggy morning the cap stones on the wall are featureless slabs dividing the render and gentle greens and browns in the lane.
Contrary to the wet glistening concrete in the morning sequence. They (concrete slabs) were almost shimmering with a tinge of orange from the headlights. The concrete comes alive showing all the impressions of the casting. I reflected on the work of Michael Schmidt, who won the 2014 Prix Pictet for his series, Lebensmittel, an epic exploration of the global food industry. Schmidt worked for over five decades describing himself as a ‘blind alley photographer’. He produced black and white photographs but said that they were varying degrees of grey. He said: “For me, black and white are always the darkest grey and the lightest grey.” Eschewing colour was a way, for him, to make what he called “neutral” photographs that would not be “emotionally distracting” to the viewer. (O’Hagan, 2014)
I began to wonder what effect this would have if I changed the photograph taken in the early morning to black and white or as Schmidt says degrees of grey. Immediately it lost a sense of time of day as the visual clues as to the time of day had disappeared. But changing it to a monochrome photograph enhanced the concrete and made it the focus. I admit that I used the leading lines of the road, wall and tree line to draw the viewer to the vanishing point; however, it certainly enhanced the image in my opinion.
I ended the sequence with the sunset, which was far from disappointing on a cold winter’s day. The sun sank slowly across the cricket pitch and filtered through the tree line on the lane opposite. The glow from the sunset bounced across the dappled clouds reflecting the oranges and blues. I think that because of the cloud cover the shadows had been eliminated but the patterns in the sky were breath taking. I decided to focus on the clouds directly above me and take several photographs with the telegraphs dividing the image into segments.
I converted one photograph to black and white and enhanced the contrast and edited the global highlights, shadows, white and blacks. The solid wires really seemed to create layers in the clouds above.
Cornish, J. and Waite, C. (2002) First light: a landscape photographer’s art. London: Argentum.
O’Hagan, S. (2014) Michael Schmidt obituary, the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/may/28/michael-schmidt (Accessed: 21 February 2018).
‘Sally Mann’ (no date). Available at: http://sallymann.com/selected-works/southern-landscapes (Accessed: 21 February 2018).
Sillitoe, A. and Godwin, F. (1983) The Saxon shore way: from Gravesend to Rye. London: Hutchinson.
Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.
You might be surprised to see that the histograms for each of the frames – black, grey and white – are the same. If there’s not much tonal variation within the frame you’ll see a narrow spike at the mid-tone; if there is tonal variation (such as detail) you’ll see a more gentle curve. If you find the tone curve isn’t centered on the mid-tone, make sure that you have your exposure compensation set to zero. You may see an unpleasant colour cast if you’re shooting under artificial light, in which case you can repeat the exercise using your monochrome setting (a light meter is sensitive to brightness, not to colour).
This simple exercise exposes the obvious flaw in calibrating the camera’s light meter to the mid-tone. The meter can’t know that a night scene is dark or a snow scene is light so it averages each exposure around the mid-tone and hopes for the best. But why can’t the camera just measure the light as it is? The reason is that a camera measures reflected light – the light reflected from the subject, not incident light – the light falling on the subject. To measure the incident light you’d have to walk over to the subject and hold an incident light meter (a hand-held meter) pointing back towards the camera, which isn’t always practical. If you did that each of the tones would be exposed correctly because the auto or semi-auto modes wouldn’t try to compensate for the specific brightness of the subject.
I took two pieces of mount card and my 18% Grey Card; placed them into daylight just outside my front door against a wall and used the auto setting (P Mode) and added the results of each histogram to my learning log.
Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid- tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.
I placed the same mount board in the same location as the previous exercise and using manual setting keeping the aperture at f8 and ISO 400 I was able to control the light meter by adjusting the shutter speed. The screenshots of the histograms have been added to the learning log.
I noticed far more control using manual mode.