Off to Weston we went, aka “Super-Mud”, last meeting and though the skies were lowering the turnout was pretty good and a good time was had by everyone I talked to. What more can you ask for? Well it was Weston Bike Night, organised by the Royal British Legion Riders Branch, and runs every Thursday from May to September. So I hopped on my motorbike and made my quid (£1) donation to the RBL to park on the Marine Parade Lawn and wandered round with my camera, before meeting up with the rest of the club on the beach by the Grand Pier. They had, it turned out, been taking pictures of a convict making his way up the beach, with the express purpose of compositing them into a single photo in post production (Photoshop, Gimp). If you look back through this year’s competition galleries you will get the idea of who and what sort of thing. The sun also made a show right at the end of the day and we were presented with a salmon pink sunset against the grey of the clouds as a finale. Not too shabby.
It is often said, not least by me, that in photography, painting with light, the light is everything. So far so obvious. What we are really saying is that the contrast in any given light situation is everything, as the same subject in different lighting gets a different reaction from its viewer. We are not just talking of low light here, where we have options within the exposure triangle, and in the way the camera works in other ways, but, when the weather is as it was on Weston’s beach and the contrast is low, the temptation is to save it for another day, but we can be missing opportunities. Contrast is what determines how “flat” the light in your image looks. Possibly, most logically, we can see this in monochrome images, but it most definitely applies to colour ones too.
Essentially, contrast comes in two flavours. Thinking of the black and white image and we can imagine the more obvious of these expressed as a tonal range, which we have touched on before. The tonal range is that between (theoretical) absolute black to (theoretical) absolute white which we would affect in post production editing programmes through levels and curves. The second flavour is colour contrast which is about the predominance of a colour in relation to the colours around it.
When we are producing black and white photographs we are really talking producing images constructed of the shades of grey (no tittering at the back). Soft images record little range in those shades, it is all middle and very little of the absolute ends, whereas hard looks stark because we have a band of hard blacks and a band of hard whites and very little in the middle. This is not the same as low key (mostly darker shades of grey surrounded by blacks) and high key images (mostly lighter shades of grey surrounded by whites). The emotional tone that low key images give out tends towards the sombre whereas high keys have a lighter mood, but tonal contrast isn’t just limited to black and white.
Colour, as we have explored before, tends to overwhelm tone when provoking emotion in a viewer, but good tone is a major element in the construction of a colour image too. Because there is more variation in colour, more information to play with, then the possible outcomes are multiplied accordingly. Broadly the more saturated a colour is in relation to the others in the image and relative to its position on the colour wheel. The degree of saturation is also important to colour contrast and that can be affected by exposure (try bracketing a couple of shots by two thirds of a shot and look at them in comparison, warmth, feel/mood can be subtly or not so subtly effected.
Meanwhile, back on the beach at Super-Mud, we are faced with some impressive cloudscapes that are throttling the contrast out of our seascapes, aided and abetted by a distant haze shrouding the South Wales coast. Looking on the (not too) bright side we are not trying to photograph either a black cat in a coal hole or a polar bear in the Arctic). Those both represent zero contrast situations. Give up go home, assuming you survive contact with said cat and/or polar bear. As we are in neither we can do something about our rather dull scene (other than retreat to the pub). All the rules of composition still apply but we are not bereft of options. The exposure triangle was mentioned above and in pushing two of the elements in that, aperture and shutter speed, we could just make a keeper.
Exposure Value Compensation it’s called and it’s that button that allows you to adjust the average that your meter is measuring up or down, usually by up to two or three stops, depending upon what camera you are using. It does not matter whether you are in Shutter or Aperture Priority or shooting in manual (though this is a bit of overkill bearing in mind you already have control of aperture, shutter and ISO in manual mode, but it is possible to employ as another way of under or over exposing from the average). First meter as normal then apply +0.3 ev on the scale. Try again up to a stop, or in the extreme, up to 2 stops or more, basically adding dark. In manual you will possibly be moving in half stop intervals depending on the age of the lens, but most modern ones seem to move in thirds. The same basics apply. Shoot in RAW for the best post production options. What you will do here is affect the colour contrast. Yes the whole image will look progressively darker, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. On the Mini group trip to Weston, where there was a vivid orange sunset, this actually strengthened the composition by allowing the sky and certain reflections to be the focal points against an increasing rich, dark background. Essentially for this technique you are looking to set the narrowest practicable aperture matched with the highest shutter speed you can get a workable image in the light conditions.
Try it next week when we visit Portishead Marina. Dock Gates, 7 pm. See you there.
In the week where the Guardian carries an article on the, probable, opening of the, possibly, world’s largest photo-gallery in Marrakesh, and the unexpected but entirely predictable problems that this has generated (avoidable if someone had bothered to do their homework, or paid someone else to, or maybe it was deliberate) we at Reflex Camera Club stayed a little closer to home and set ourselves up in true Santa-at-the-Mall-in-May spirit for a little Winter Festival commonly known as Christmas (which I understand is in December). Specifically, members were tasked with producing a club Christmas card in an evening. There was, dear reader, some controversy, about which, more later.
The original Christmas card, at least as far as the UK (and the world) is concerned, was introduced in 1843 at the cost of 1 shilling (5p to you non duo-decimalists), which was rather pricey at £4.28 in today’s coin (that might make me look like a cheapskate, but then I am). The average retail cost of a card in 2013 was £1.44 (4d in 1843 money) according to the Greetings Card Association (Yes, there is one). The original run of 1,000 cards was followed by another of 1,050 and the ones he didn’t use Henry Cole sold at a profit. He sold them all. Today Christmas is worth £130 million in card sales, according to the GCA. The original card was also controversial, for its depiction of alcohol, but it was a sell out. One of the 18 or so thought to remain in existence was sold in 2010 for $7,500. One of our cards (which went to a tie break on a show of hands) was controversial for its more, to use a period allusion, Scrooge-like qualities (which was also alluded to in another entry with the greeting, “Bah Humbug”, I’m beginning to think that the Xmas spirit maybe a little thin this year – we will find out on the 18th December which is our Club Christmas night). In the end we decided on a more traditional offering from Roy Williams (Photography), Myk Garton (Editing) and Alec Williams (Executive Producer).
Henry Cole, the man in too much of a hurry to write to all his friends and relatives in the first place, engaged the artist JC Horsley to illustrate his innovation. That, and a DPS article this week, set me to thinking about the relationship between art and photography (writing a blog will do that to you). There does seem to be a tension between the states of “Photographer” and “Artist”. As touched on in last week’s blog, the same rules and guides apply to painters creating an image as photographers. The term “Creative” as a profession is somewhere in the middle of this. Creative, as a description of an economic sector is worth, according to the UK Treasury, £8,000,000 per hour to the UK economy. Artists, the people who create the work, form a substantial part of this but not the only part. There is a further tension between the art itself and the industry around it that makes for its consumption.
Yet there is still a cachet around the status of artist – I bet your unmade bed made less at auction than Tracy Emin’s depiction of depression – that is part of the process of selling it, regardless of the message that you were trying to get across. Exclusivity, being the owner of that Van Gogh or that Rubens or anything else creatively produced, is also a driver, not least of market value – but once a photograph is published on line anyone can consume it (as opposed to own. Or steal). Possibly this makes photographers artisans, but in a week where “snobbery” undid three establishment figures (I am thinking Andrew Mitchell, Emily Thornberry, and David Mellor) one needs to be mindful of being “All the gear and no idea”. Maybe, after all, it isn’t anything but a sterile argument, as entertainingly exposed by Richard Thripp (do take some time to read the comments under his post, they do rather prove his point).
The number of photography books both about and using it (e.g. fashion) you will find in bookshop certainly underline the point that this is a visual medium that isn’t going to go away. The craft of art is there, but some think that because the process doesn’t involve fine motor-skills with a sharpened stick dipped in something then you’re not an artist. David Hockney is less of an artist for using a camera among his tools? Around about here we mostly get into a Vicky Pollard style argument. What seems to get neglected is the argument “Does it matter if it is/is not art”? Let me pose one half of an answer. No, because, if taken seriously, any artistic endeavour is about making it as best you can and next time better. The tools don’t make the art the artist does. Photography is a representative art. The camera is a tool, the image a story. A canvas, paint and brushes are tools, the image a story. The infamous bed and detritus so many berate Ms. Emin about are the tools for her to tell a (personally painful) story.
This brings me back to the news story I started with, the planned gallery in Marrakech. There are enough problems surrounding photography, even in the UK, especially street photography, however, one of the points made in the article is about the behaviour of so many people (tourists) towards the locals and a disregard of the traditions and culture they are snapping away at. Start from a point of respect and you learn a lot more. Both sides in the photography is/isn’t art take note.
Feel free to agree/disagree with me via the comments section on the club blog page.
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
See Myk or contact him via the club Facebook Page.
UPCOMING AT THE CLUB
December 4th – Capturing Stunning B&W images plus Post Production Tips from basics to more advanced from Mr Mark Stone. Kindly take a few minutes to peruse https://www.flickr.com/photos/mark-stone/ and contact Mark via the club Facebook page with one you want to know more about.
December 11th – The second round of this year’s Reflex Open Competition (ROC) will be judged tonight.
December 18th – Christmas social evening. To quote Mark S:
” Thursday 18th December is our Christmas Social. We’re planning on doing an American Supper style evening which means we’d like you to bring some food & drink. So that you don’t all bring in a pack of Scotch Eggs we’ve created a list that will be on the sign in desk each week up until the 18th. If you’d like to take a look at what is on the list just peek at the PDF attached to this post.
It’s no good saying on here what you are planning on bringing you need to sign your name (in legible writing) next to the items on the list at the club meetings”. The List is via the link below. ‘Nuff said.