Tag Archives: Lightroom

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.

Langford’s Basic Photography, 10th Edition.

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I first read this book when I was a teenager studying photography for an O-level.  I have been reading through it again and although much in the book I already know, it does no harm to re-cap on previously learned knowledge to both freshen up my memory and  discover additional information that that I previously didn’t take in at the time.  This edition was published in 2015 and refers to new features in Photoshop, Photoshop Cloud and Lightroom.

More importantly for me, this new edition has two very good chapters for digital workflow and Photoshop which I found very useful and helpful and good referral material for the future.  One very valuable piece of advice was to set up the colour spacing in Adobe RAW and Lightroom; so that all future photos that are imported are correctly set for the appropriate colour spacing for print and can then be later down graded for screen use if necessary.  This insures that valuable information on the original RAW file is not automatically thrown away before you even get started and can future proof your images.  Although the chapter on Photoshop is not a training manual in itself, it covers enough to get you started.

This book also covers working with and developing film and I may refer back to those chapters at a later date.  I still have much of my old darkroom equipment although I haven’t used it in over 30 years.

There is also a very useful chapter at the back on presentation of your final work, which I am sure will be valuable referral resource later in my degree course when I am required to produce work for assessment to exhibition standard.

No matter how experienced you think you are, I would always recommend that you have this book on your book-shelf anyway.

Exercise, Project 3- Street Photography

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In this exercise I am tasked to take 30 colour images and 30 black-and-white images in a street photography style and then comment on the two formats.  I prepared my shoot by first making a list in a small note-book of ideas for composition which helped motivate and provide aims and objectives.  I set about altering the settings in my camera for JPEG and familiarizing the setting between monochrome and colour.  I altered ISO settings from auto to manual throughout the shoot and I did the same for white balance and the shooting modes (manual, aperture-priority, shutter-priority).  I used just one lens a 24-120mm zoom f/4, hand-held, no flash.

Street photography

I am using a DSLR and would normally take my pictures in RAW and process them through Lightroom.  However, for this exercise I feel that to do this properly I must work as if I have only colour or black-and-white film in my camera.  Moreover, it would add to the challenge if I limit my shots to 36 each, the most from a reel of 35mm film.  So for this exercise I set my camera to JPEG, Fine, and made 36 images set to Monochrome and 36 images set to Colour – Vivid.

I find working with a DSLR on the street to be very awkward.  The camera is heavy and bulky and it is difficult to take candid shots because as soon as you lift the camera to your eye people become aware of you.  Moreover, I had an incident when a busy-body manager from the local Mall came out and tried to interfere with me working outside in the street but he backed down immediately when I told him that I knew my law.  I am sure that if I was using a smaller camera or a mobile-phone I would have been left alone and ironically would probably have been able to work in the Mall without anyone taking any notice.

Black and white

Out of 36 shots some I duplicated to get the correct exposure and some didn’t come out as I was experimenting with times exposures.

Colour

As with the black and white images, I made some duplicates to try to improve on the colour or composition.  I would have liked to have been able to have taken some of my colour images inside my local Shopping Mall to make use of the white balance feature for lighting effects but I was told that I wasn’t permitted to use my camera inside the Mall.

My preference has to be monochrome, I personally found this a more challenging and rewarding medium for this project.

Remaining monochrome images that made up my 36 image limit.

Remaining colour images taken that made up my 36 image limit.

Exercise, project 5, it’s a fake!

In this exercise, my task is to create a fake documentary photograph.  An example of what now has become a very famous if not iconic phoney is that of the Tony Blair selfie, see  http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2013/oct/15/tony-blair-selfie-photo-op-imperial-war-museum

In order to conduct this exercise I first decided that rather than simply find pictures off the internet and blending them into a montage it would be fun to take a number of photos and create my own ‘constructed narrative’.

I first put down some ideas on paper, Ideas

from these I sketched out a couple of ideas, Sketches

I then chose from the sketches my preferred idea and as it was a single image I wrote out a rough storyboard.

Storyboard

I then set about preparing my set.  De-cluttering my kitchen, selecting various clothes to wear, additional lighting from a speedlite in a softbox and camera set on to a tripod.

I took a separate light meter reading using a handheld lightmeter that can measure ‘incident’ from flash and ambient to choose a setting for my speedlight and camera to give 30% from the speed light to keep a natural look.  Camera was set to manual, JPEG normal, W.B. – Sunny, ISO-250. 1/20sec, f/6.3.  Speedlight was connected via a Pocket Wizard and positioned left of camera approx. 45 degrees from subjects and I made some notes.  Storyboard

I usually photograph in RAW and use Lightroom to finish off; but as this was a montage I decided to let the camera save me the work and produce lower res imaged to work with.

I then loaded all these shots in to Adobe Photoshop Cloud and starting with the empty table and the background I loaded each image in turn using Open, select image to open and opening, Ctrl A, Ctrl C, Ctrl W, Ctrl V to add each image and create layers.  Then imaging if you will that the image with the empty table is at the bottom of the pile of layers, starting from the top layer and working down I then used the eraser tool to erase all the surrounding area around the subject or subjects introduced to the empty table until I had cleaned each up to only show the subject.  This I did by clicking on the eye symbol for all the layers I was not working on so when I used the eraser tool I was left with a chequerboard background.  When I had cleaned up all the layers except the last when I turned the eye symbols back on for each layer the subjects in each layer all started to appear on to the final untouched background layer.  Some final erasing in some small areas tidied up the full image.  I then flattened all the layers and resaved a JPEG version.

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A documentary picture documenting Shaun brainstorms ideas for a documentary picture for his exercise.

On Being a Photographer by David Hurn & Bill Jay

I have very recently read a very good book titled On Being a Photographer – A Practical Guide. Published by LensWork Publishing.

The book is mainly a conversation between David Hurn and Bill Jay. Bill Jay sets out the argument as to what are the qualities and characteristics for a professional photographer and producing quality work.

David Hurn is a world class professional photographer who was a member of the elite photographers cooperative, Magnum Photos Inc. and has also lectured at Gwent College amongst his many achievements. Bill Jay a good friend and colleague is an author and editor.

This book is not a technical book on how to compose, expose, light or frame but covers basic fundamental principles of how to get started on deciding what you want to photograph and why. An explanation of what a reportage photographer is and has good tips on selecting subject to photograph and creating photo essays.

This book has helped me to rethink my approach to creating photographs and has helped me with ideas of how to formulate ideas which up to now has been my biggest stumbling block.

The book was first published in 1997 and digital cameras were still very new and photo editing software still in it’s infancy; so much is discussed refereeing to film cameras and there is a section on contact printing which is pretty much no longer relevant. However, Adobe Lightroom uses a type on contact print display when you now down load your photos which offers a similar opportunity to review your photos and select those wanted for further processing and also offers an easier method of filing. with similar ideas of marking pictures as David Hurn uses.

David Hurn’s negative comments regarding the internet potentially offering new photographers opportunities to get noticed was very true, although he could not have foreseen the social-networks and sites like Flickr, etc. He could clearly see that already by 1997 there were so many websites and many thousands more joining all the time that any photographer simply believing that creating a website and adding photos to it would make them famous was at best naïve.

A good read not too intellectual and I would recommend this book to both students and hobbyist alike.