Peter Phillips was our speaker last meeting and he gave us his “Photographic Journey” from aerospace Image Scientist to his post retirement destination of Photographer. Peter gave us a chronological tour through his prints – made a refreshing change to the projected image and of course, takes most of those issues that can arise with the digital projection and colour shift that can occasionally arise. That said I wouldn’t want prints only every week.
Peter is unusual in his route into photography came from the technical side and the art only really appeared as a factor after 40 years at the cutting edge of aerospace imaging. He related his landscape, pattern and street photography images through Joe Cornish’s observations on the inter-relationships of craft, art and soul, all needing to be inherent in a photograph for it to truly work. His approach is very particular. He knows the image he is after, plans for it, I suspect meticulously, invests the time in research and patience in execution then packs his gear away until the next time. This is quite different to the way a lot of people would go about it and opens up an interesting view on our relationship with the camera as an object and as a tool and how we approach photography in general.
Yes the camera is just the means to an end, that end being taking a photograph, but I suspect many people, amateurs at the very least and I suspect quite a few people who get paid to take photographs, also take a pride in ownership. I am not talking about brand obsessed fan boys, but as you get used to your equipments strengths weaknesses and quirks you do forge a working relationship with it, become comfortable with it. This is only a problem when it gets in the way of making the best images you can. For sure, it is the photographer not the camera in the end, but we have all come across people who never seem to quite get beyond the prowess that the tool supposedly confers. The fact that this is not a cheap hobby certainly can add to the mystique of the kit, but to progress you have to get all that in perspective.
So when we take our cameras out, even if it is to get a specific image, most of us still snap away at interesting, vaguely interesting and what-the-hell-did-I-take-that-for? incidences of time, geography and otherwise vague intent. It’s a hobby, it’s done for enjoyment. The single mindedness of just taking the shot, ok from several angles with exposure triangle variations then packing up and going home is something that I bet that most of us in the club lack, at least on any regular basis, but that is just a more ordered way of working. Workflow needs a defined purpose to work otherwise we just end up meandering around in the grand scenery of a general waste of time. Then there is that bit with a fancy title, “Post Production” or at least it is when they do it in the movies, the bit when the actors have finished. We might bump into something useful or interesting but it is unlikely unless we have a definite idea of what the final product looks like. We’ve talked before about how luck falls to the prepared. It certainly helps to have that in your mind when you leave the house. Whether it is the only thing you have when you return is either the way the day was or the whole and only point of the day.
With the details of the craft, the technicalities are constantly changing and challenging, the key is in getting them all in order to form an image with impact. This is the art. The composition element is as much a part of the craft as it is of the art, it is I would venture where the two overlap. The art is created by melding of the craft elements to capture the imagination that sparked the interest in the first place. If missing or poorly executed the story can get lost. You can get all the elements of a picture to line up and be on your way to a great picture but is it one that elevates the imagination captures the attention and makes you pause, even briefly? Are you engaged? If you are not your viewers certainly won’t be, almost can’t be, though the visceral and compelling horrors of a murder scene as an art form may not be the best way to win friends and influence people some haunt the memory, others fade. Yes the subject can have impact but the story is still the thing. We’ve come across the phrase “Technically correct, subject deficient” before so there has to be something else.
Soul, Peter offered, quoting Joe Cornish’s work. Problem with that is it is something beyond the words we can use to define it: “Emotional or intellectual energy or intensity, especially as revealed in a work of art or an artistic performance“. Problem with it is what moves one in say, a landscape, as that was Peter’s starting point, is just a pretty picture to another. Also it is difficult to replicate, even on the same scene, but maybe that is the point. Actually, that is the point or there wouldn’t be a market for prints. This is where the conversation truly gets vague and tends to wander off on its own direction, because we are trying to define the indefinable. We cannot touch it, feel, smell it, see it or hear it but we are affected by it.
Maybe for photographers it is Soul in the Aristotelian sense we are looking for. Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and he defined soul as what makes us human but also as the essence in all living things that let us interact with the world around us. That is what we are trying to capture and the soul in the landscape is really the trigger in ourselves and in at looking at what is vital, essential, the thing that makes us, well, us.
N E X T W E E K
Architecture: Meet at Bath Abbey 19:30 hours. Oh and bring you camera. No event at the school.
Apologies for the gap between posts, hopefully now we are back on track. This week I am going to over two things, not disconnected as it turns out, though through serendipity rather than design. The first is what we discovered about the rules of composition we learned from our Just-For-Fun (non) competitive round on “Geometry”, where the winning image was a light painting, the subject of our most recent practical evening, by Julia Simone. The second was our session this last Thursday on Light Painting.
About three weeks ago, I think it was, Amateur Photographer quoted Bill Brandt (1904-1983) thus: “Photography is not a sport. It has no rules. Everything should be dared and tried”. Our meeting on 6th November was an open non-competition, that is to say that the members voted on photographs inspired by “Geometry” submitted by the membership “Just for fun”, but it doesn’t count towards the Reflex Open Competition (ROC). Quite a bit was dared and tried, nature, landscape, macro, light painting and there was enough to keep both Ye Acolytes of Photoshop and the Get It Right In The Camera-istas happy, with plenty in between. It certainly was an enjoyable evening and good to see how many people put entries in. More the merrier! Special club thanks to Mark S. and Mark O. for making this happen on the evening and it was followed by a selection of the WCPF travelling exhibition images for some additional inspiration.
Geometry – basically the arrangement of points, lines, surfaces and space – in composition is far from new, of course. Much, much older than photography. What we are really talking about, pictorially, is the relationships between form, shapes and space as we interpret, capture and refine it. Basically features or points in an image that form squares, rectangles, circles, arches, polygons and or triangles. Spotting these is a good start in the following winners entries:
1st: “Alien Shapes” – Julia Simone.
2nd: “Over Head” Louise James.
3rd “Red Ball” Roy Williams.
It is, of course, not the fall of light that allows us to see the arrangement of forms, but how that light is reflected. Without reflection we could see nothing, it is how we see the world. Within that world repetition is probably the first geometric form we think of and gives a sense of stability to an image and a set of sign posts for the eye to follow in a structured sort of way. Our brains like structure and order because that way they can assess the environment for dangers more easily. A similar effect can be made through gradation either in size of objects or colour. Contrast is a form of rhythm all of its own and for many forms the attraction of black and white where distracting colours are leached out of the equation.
Then there are the composition rules of: thirds, fifths and sevenths; the “Golden” or “Fibonacci ratio”, (or even the Rule of Thirds v Golden Ratio); of leading lines, illusions of depth and perspective (eight kinds) sometimes forced by choice of angles and colour (also). These get included or become part of the armoury with practice, sometimes consciously through research, sometimes, maybe most of the time, through seeing and copying them in the works of others either consciously or otherwise. These are the things which we interpret, capture and refine in the space in which they exist. Or we arrange them.
Our light painting adventure, for which thanks to Myk in the woods and Kev and Rich back in the hall – and a big club thank you to them all for making this work – also illustrated these things, “The Rules of Composition“. The bonus with this type of photography, is that the amount of light and the source of light are added in with a higher amount of control than normal. Look at it this way. When we take our camera out in the daylight we mainly constrict the light through aperture, speed, sensitivity to light of the processor or film, or we boost certain aspects according to our concept of composition. In its simplest form light painting – the origin of the word photography is the Greek for Light drawing or painting – we are starting with dark and controlling the amount of light we put into an image, using the longer exposure times to allow for movement and blur which become light trails and patterns. The essentials are pretty basic, but as with any art form, mastery is something else. The big bonus is you get something special from the beginning.
With bigger subjects, or those where we want to isolate a subject and surround it with dark, we can light in part or as a whole or both in series using a single light source if we so wish. Of course it can get as complicated as you like.
Perhaps the most obvious defining characteristic of light painting is the high contrast of the images it produces. Those images need not be complicated to construct, though the level of complexity, layers and so on is really an individual choice and prevailed upon by individual tastes. The contrast is usually, but not always, on a scale that fades to black, so brightly lit subjects will “Pop”. The key, though, is the long exposure and the bright light source. All you need is a camera that has some form of manual control (preferably with a bulb setting that will hold the shutter open as long as the shutter button is depressed) a steady place to mount a camera (tripod would be ideal), a torch and a subject. Oh, and a willingness to experiment. Give it a go. It’s fun, relatively easy and you get some interesting results.
From Mr M. Garton of this Parish
WOODLAND PHOTOGRAPHY DAY
Over the Christmas/New Year holiday period we are holding a Woodland Photography Day.
We’ll be spending a day photographing models (both male and female) in woodland settings
We’ll meet up at 9:30am and start shooting by 10am. The plan is to use one location up until 12:30pm and then the 2nd location until 3pm or later depending on conditions.
Any questions, please ask Myk either at the club or via the club Facebook Page.
OLD REDCLIFFIANS LADIES RUGBY TEAM
Need some publicity photographs. A non-paying gig, but something worthwhile for the community if anyone is interested. Ruth Doyle has the details.
UPCOMING AT THE CLUB
November 27th – Bring laptop (+USB) and your selected images for the MAKE A XMAS CARD event! Short presentation followed by a practical. The best one will be sent out as the club card this year!
December 4th – Capturing Stunning B&W images plus Post Production Tips from basics to more advanced from Mr Mark Stone.
December 11th – The second round of this year’s Reflex Open Competition (ROC) will be judged tonight. Get your entries in now!