Friday, 25 November 2011

My eyes have been opened

Although I drive past the newly opened Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool on a fairly regular basis I never seem to have the time to stop and call in. Today I made time. The space is disappointingly small. Not cramped, just small. I suppose this reflects on the consideration that is given to photography in general. It's a nice space nonetheless. The lack of space limits the number of prints that can be displayed, which is a shame.

Although I had primarily gone along to see the Chris Steele-Perkins show it was the Mitch Epstein photographs that I took most away from. The Steele-Perkins photographs were all pretty familiar. Seeing them printed large and framed behind glass added nothing to the experience of looking at them in books or even on a monitor. If anything the glass made viewing them more difficult and to my eyes, even close up, the prints were nothing startling. The Epsteins were a different matter.

Being stuck behind glass was still troublesome for viewing the pictures, reflections are the problem. What I wasn't prepared for was how the scale affects how the pictures act on you. I've always been well aware that an image's size has an effect on how it is perceived, and that looking at prints in books isn't always the same as seeing the real thing. In the case of the Steele-Perkins prints they were not much larger than they can appear in books. Certainly not large enough to make a difference. Seeing a photograph at a size that fills an A4 page is one thing, but seeing the same photograph printed at six feet across (or thereabouts) is another experience altogether.

What seeing these very large prints did for me was explain the benefit of large format film. At something like A3 the level of detail that can be revealed from any size negative or digital file is limited. At six feet across small elements in a large scene can be revealed. It is this level of detail that sometimes attracts the photographer's eye. By standing close to the print this detail is revealed, by stepping back the full composition is revealed - yet the mind retains the information from the closer viewing. The overall impact is much different to seeing the same image printed small.

My two favourite prints from the American Power exhibition were the Hoover dam picture and the Martha Murphy and Charlie Biggs double portrait. Both benefit from being viewed large to show. The former as it reveals the intricacies of the power lines and so forth, the latter because it allows you to examine the items in front of the pair, and the tattoo on Charlie's arm. I had never understood the point of making very large photographic prints prior to seeing these. I left the exhibition contemplating how not only the aspect ratio of a format can affect the photographs you take, but also the scale of the negative (or sensor) and the size to which the final print can successfully be made. My eyes had been opened to alternative photographic ways of looking and seeing.

Restricted to an APS size digital sensor I tried making some photographs that suited it as I made my way back to the car park.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Colour or not

I only managed to get out with my new toy late on, with half an hour of light left, so I switched to black and white mode to concentrate on silhouette and texture. Had I had more time I'm sure I would have found some more successful pictures. When I came to look at the shots on the PC this first one seemed to work better in colour. I think this is because the cool blue adds to the wintry feel, and the limited palette retains the graphic nature of the shot.

On the other hand the second shot works better in monochrome because colour doesn't get in the way. Why I took the shot of waste polystyrene in a drainage channel I'm not sure. I don't think I was making an environmentalist comment, what attracted my was the curve the flat white shards make and the contrast of natural and man-made textures. So maybe there is an environmental subtext to the main visual one even though I saw it originally as shape and texture. It was a bugger keeping my feet out of the frame at 14mm!

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Who needs 'protection' filters?

Work has been getting in the way of 'serious' photography of late. Well, work and fishing have. The fishing has seen more messing around with fill and balanced flash. Some results better than others. Also some playing with ideas for future adverts which has resulted in one shot that, when flipped, makes a nice background image to fit my existing text layout. This was taken handheld, manually focused with my 150mm macro lens. I find the lens pretty useful in non-macro mode when fishing - so it serves two purposes. Angling atmosphere shots are all fine and dandy, but I could do with catching some fish to shoot their portraits and get some abstracty texture pictures of scales and eyes and things.

Other than that my photographic opportunities have been thin. The 'studio' still not being ready and my trips to town scant I've been pretty much restricted to taking shots from home. So the theme has been 'modern landscape'. I find it quite rewarding to make pictures without leaving the confines of my property. And surprising that there is a variety of pictures to be made.

The topic of filters for protection hasn't been aired on Talk Photography for a while. I might bring it to the fore for a chuckle after today's event. How I managed to drop my D90 onto my slate fireplace, albeit from a less than two feet, I really don't know. It just slipped from my grasp and landed with a horrible crunching and cracking sound. I fully expected it to be dead. All that appears to have happened is that the filter ring got a severe denting and the filter glass cracked.

There's a slight chip in the plastic of the lens barrel, but very superficial. There were a few small shards between filter and front element, but no damage to the element itself. That seems to be it. The camera appears to function normally and the lens autofocuses. It took a bit of effort, and some cycle inner tube to provide extra grip, but the filter came off okay and a replacement has been bought and fitted.

I can't say for sure what would have happened had the filter not been in place, but the threaded part of the lens barrel would certainly have taken the brunt of the fall and suffered far more damage than it has done. They seem to build  Nikon's tough. For all the plastic construction this one has already survived sliding off the passenger seat of my car when I braked suddenly, and mysteriously rolling itself off the sofa. I'm sure I'll manage to kill it eventually!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Studio shooting

Winter is here so it's time to start messing around indoors with the flash guns. I'm planning to sort out a better space and backdrops but for now I'm using some wrinkled A2 paper on a piece of plywood as a table top. So far I have invested in a couple of lighting stands, and some modifiers are on the shopping list.

Here's the result of a short play session using the camera's flash to trigger to more strobes either side. Nothing fancy as yet. The B+W conversion is to give a vintage look to the old reel.