Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The one hour challenge

Having a couple of hours spare I thought I'd set myself an exercise. Take a camera and one lens to the local wood for one hour and try to make six pictures on a theme in one format. I also wanted to try and make pictures which would work best as small prints. This is partly a reaction to my growing belief that 'art' photography has to be done using large format, film cameras to make large prints.

This seems strange because the arts usually reject heritage and push the boundaries of what can be done with the latest technology, yet in photography art is being associated with craft. The antithesis of the fashion is therefore to make small prints from digital files. I suppose I really should have used a smartphone - except my mobile phone is just a phone...

As it turned out there was a little more than an hour between the first and last frames I shot - my excuse is that I got distracted by watching a flock of fieldfares and redwings feeding in a frershly ploughed field and a sparrowhawk which flew close by me and perched in a nearby tree.

The pictures I had in mind were what I call 'smallscapes' they're not landscapes and they're not macro shots, they're close ups of small details placed in their surroundings. Or they are when they are done right. The easy way to have done this exercise would have been to use a wide aperture and shoot hand-held. However I wanted to do it the hard way using a tripod and stopping down the lens. This brought in a problem of slow shutter speeds on a windy day.

Another limitation I set myself was to make all the pictures in portrait orientation. This was because it gave me an idea for presenting a similar, but more considered, series as six small prints in one mount which would be more compact than doing them in landscape format. It's also more of a challenge shooting in portrait orientation in 3:2 ratio.

Things set off well and progressively went downhill. I like the first picture best of all. I'm not sure if I ran out of ideas, or began looking for the same picture over and again. Perhaps the time limit got to me. I know I left one location before I had got what I wanted from it, and at least one of the shots is a bit lazy.

It was yet another day of sunshine deserting me when I got to the wood and making a brief return shortly before my time was up. Given more time in different light I think a set of six reasonable images could be found in one day.

Even so I left the wood having discovered another potential subject in mind. So the hour wasn't wasted at all. Back home I made six 5x7 prints which made me realise that what I am aiming at is even smaller than that. Possibly small enough to fit four prints on one 5x7 sheet of paper. Certainly two.


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