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Creating Assignment 5

I arranged with our Vicar to take the photos on Sunday, October 17, which was also a convenient day for my two models.  After the last service the church would be free and I would not be in anyone’s way or be interfering with church services.  I made sure all batteries were fully charged, and I made up the light-boxes in preparation for a quick set-up.  I always take photos in RAW and having experimented at home with both lighting and white balance I decided to manually set the white balance on my camera to the lowest colour temperature for maximum effect (2500K).

The equipment for the shoot consisted of:  Nikon D800e, 24-120mm f/4 zoom lens, Tripod, Sekonda lightmeter, Pocket Wizard TT1 and AC3 controller mounted to the camera, 3 x Nikon speedlights controlled by 3 x TT5 Pocket Wizards, 1 x amber gel, 1 x red gel, 1 x dish reflector, 1 x 120 x 40 long rectangular soft-box, 1 x large square soft-box, 3 light stands with tilting brackets, 1 x large black flag / reflector.

Props:  ‘No Pets’ sign (sticker mounted on a white board and stuck to the wall by the door using double sided sticky pads.  My pet dog Honey on her lead, walking stick to imply their journey.

Costume: Business suit for Ann-Marie, County suit for Graham.

The lights were configured as follows:

In side the church I set up a speedlight with a TT5, gelled red and a reflector dish attached then mounted this assembly to light stand and positioned behind my female model (Ann-Marie) at head height in order to create the red rim-lighting.  I then used a speedlight with a TT5 and an amber gel with the 120 x 40 soft-box to illuminate the whole body length of Ann-Marie.

As the weather was overcast, I needed to use the large soft-box un-gelled to illuminate my second model (Graham) with my dog (Honey).  This was fitted to a light stand and stood to the left of the camera above the height of Graham and angled down.

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This test shot illustrated my lighting and you can just see the edge of the rectangular soft-box top right corner of the door above and behind Ann-Marie.

However, the shoot didn’t start as planned.  The Vicar was not around as I later discovered that he had gone away with his wife as it was her Birthday and he hadn’t mentioned my photo shoot to anyone.  I was able to arrange for a volunteer to return to the church after lunch to open it up for me for my photography; but the next problem was when I returned at the appointed time and the church was opened for me we could not find a key to the Choir Vestry (the door I had chosen for the shoot) so I had to use an alternative door that was accessible which was a fire-door on the side of the church.  This presented two new problems firstly I was exposed to the wind which was a little gusty and behind this door which was close to the alter an large stage was set up for the 11am services with musical instruments.  The door wouldn’t stay open and we had to find something to wedge it open that I later had to remove in Photoshop.  The door itself was a fire-door and again these handles would have to be erased and the background behind Ann-Marie would also need altering in Photoshop.

On setting up the lighting I managed to drop an expensive Nikon speedlight on to the stone floor, luckily it still worked but something appears to be loose inside; so I will no doubt have to send it off to Nikon for servicing.  My wife had to hold the large soft-box to stop it from being blown over and Honey was naturally restless.  The other problem was that the speedlights needed lite to recycle; so didn’t always fire with each shot taken.  This is where more expensive studio lights prove superior but at this moment in time I can not justify the investment.

I directed Ann-Marie to stand just inside the church door with the rectangular soft-box directly opposite her and the red gelled light hidden behind her head and holding up her hand to indicate the signal to stop and then to waggle her finger to convey the same message.  I also directed Graham to for two types of pose the first look thoughtfully at the dog and the second to be looking towards Ann-Marie for comparison.  I had to make various adjustments to positioning of the two soft-boxes and power output which eat into the time. We were only able to work for two hours before the weather threatened rain and we had to stop and I was feeling a little frustrated and low as I felt that I hadn’t been able to find the picture.

On returning home I transferred the photos to my computer but then left it for a couple of days before properly looking through them in Lightroom.  When I returned to my work I found that I had taken 290 photos and after spending some time comparing the images I was able to select a six images that I felt that I could merge together to make one suitable picture.

I then selected which images would be suitable for Graham and Honey and which would be suitable for Ann-Marie, I then made the appropriate adjustments in Lightroom to enhance the cold or warmth make any-other fine adjustments before exporting to Photoshop.  In Photoshop I then had to remove the unwanted artifacts from the pictures such as the item used to wedge the door open the fire-door handles and the staging behind Ann-Marie.  When the images were sufficiently ‘cleaned-up’ I merged the two to create my final picture.  As it happened only one image of Graham with only one image of Ann-Marie worked as suitable matches, due to the positioning of Graham and where Ann-Marie was looking; but I had what I was originally looking for which was a moment of decision from the Traveller as the doorman is advising him that he must enter alone.  I was pleased that this image also provided a great expression from Honey as she looks back at Graham.

 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/125, f/5, ISO 125, WB 2500K.  Adjusted in Lightroom.

24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/125, f/5, ISO 125, WB 2500K.  Adjusted in Lightroom.

From these six images only two worked together.

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Planning my assignment 5

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When researching for my last assignment I read ‘One Way Street’ a selection of essays by Walter Benjamin and I read an essay about Franz Kafka, an author I had not come across before and I made a mental note to lookout for his work.  My Tutor picked-up on my comments in my blog and recommended that I read some of his works a.  Therefore I decided to read his works looking for ideas for my next assignment.  To get myself started I made notes on the oxford dictionaries meaning for ‘context’ ‘narrative’ and the suggested rules.  As I read his works, I took notes in order to help me find some mental visions that might be turned in to physical pictures.  admittance-to-the-law

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I have read through from cover to cover ‘The Essential Kafa’ and I have been inspired by a parable type story in the novel ‘The Trial’.   This short story is about a country gentleman who seeks access to the law, but the man is told by the doorman that he can not grant him access.  The country gentleman decides to wait until the doorman is given permission to grant him access, he waits all his life only to learn at the moment of death that the door was exclusively for him.  However, this story led me to another similar story that I thought might make a stronger narrative in one picture.

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A man and his dog  a-man-and-his-dog-were-walking-along-a-road

This story was used in a T.V. episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’, ‘The Hunt’,  first broadcast: January 26, 1962, Created by Rod Serling.  I am unable to find a reliable source that can confirm the original author of this story.  Some internet sources suggest that it is an old religious tale by an unknown however, Earl Hamner Jr.  an American television writer and producer is credited for the story of ‘The Hunt’ in The Twilight Zone therefore I assume that the story is his.  The gist of the story is that a man is on a road to Heaven and he is accompanied by his best friend which is his dog.  Along the way he comes to a gate with a man standing by it, the Traveller asks the man where they are and the ‘Gateman’ informs him he is at the gates of Heaven; but when the man tries to enter with his dog he is told that dogs are not allowed and the Traveller is forced to decide between entering the gates or staying with his best friend.

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I believe that this story has a stronger narrative to produce as a single photo.  My idea is an image of the Traveller looking down at his dog as the Doorman or Gatekeeper tells him no dogs.  Also I can use this scene as a metaphor to modern society and how our capitalist life style sometimes tests our moral metal.  The Traveller is faced with a dilemma, should he be selfish and enter the gates alone for the imagined paradise beyond or stay outside keeping company with his best friend and putting his friend first.  I believe that we are currently living in a very selfish world and that this test is being applied in one way or another every day; so I think this story is very relevant to our current life-styles.

For the location, I think that my local Anglican Church is perfect.

My first thought were the gates to the church but this would present problems of traffic, pedestrians and a difficult background; so a doorway is a better choice and the arched style ideal for the implied idea of a Holly entrance.  Choosing a doorway eliminates the problems of traffic, pedestrians background and allows me to move my camera further away if required.  I shall mount the camera to a tripod for better composition control and if I need to resort to Photoshop i can easily merge more images together.

My ideal location is the Choir Vestry doorway, my wife sings in the choir and I have spoken to the Vicar who is happy to allow me to use it as my location.  I have a Labrador dog and a friend who has modeled for me before who can play the Traveller and a friend of my wife’s is happy to model as ‘Lucifer’.  My thoughts for the Devil is a very pretty smartly dressed young lady, to represent the metaphor for temptation.  She will be lit by a speedlight with an amber gel in a soft-box to give her warmth and another speedlight located directly behind her with a red gel in a large reflector dish to create a red rim-lighting / halo to suggest the source of the heat and a hint of danger.  The traveller and dog will be lit by either natural day light or another speedlite (un-gelled) for daylight white balance.  The camera will be set to tungsten or similar to trick the camera to create a cold look to the Traveller and dog.  The Traveller and dog are between worlds and this region of space I imagine to be cold. Hell on the other hand is hot and should reflect this by using the corrective gel to alter the white balance for my Devil.  By taking advantage of the white balance I can create a division between the worlds outside the door and that of inside and this warm contrast to the overall cold image will act as my punctum to the picture.

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As you can see, I made sketches and drew a couple of storyboards to help me with ideas.

Research Point – Gregory Crewdson

Fascinating documentary following the work of Gregory Crewdsen as he prepares and takes the photos of his cinematic scale images using cinematic-lights a film-crew of up to 60, professional actors, cranes, assistance from police and fire departments, closure of streets exactly as a scene from a movie would be organized, staged and shot only instead of a cinematic movie camera Crewdson uses a large-format still camera.  He will then take the best examples and merge them together in Photoshop collage them in to one final perfect image.

Do I think there is more to this work than aesthetic beauty?

yes, I find his images both beautiful and disturbing, as I believe, is his intention in order to create an interesting and engaging narrative.

Do I think Crewdson succeeds in making his work ‘psychological’?  What does this mean?

Yes, I do.  His pictures are almost dream like, the scenes are very surreal.  They encourage the audience to wonder what is happening? what has just happened? what is about to happen?  They are like that moment in a dream that is taking that turn in to the nightmare.  This touches on our own imagination, our own fears, our own anxieties.

What is your main goal when making pictures?  Do you think there’s anything wrong with making beauty your main goal?  Why or why not?

My main goal is to make interesting pictures, if the subject matter is beauty then that is what I want to create, if the subject matter is not then I want to make the image suitable for the subject with a choice of composition that holds the audience at least for a little while.  I do not think that there is anything wrong in making beautiful pictures; but it can become a little dull and boring if we can not vary the subject matter and produce images that offer some kind of narrative or symbiotic meaning that can engage, challenge and even entertain the audience in some way.

I like Crewdson’s pictures they may not be as subtle as Wall or DiCorcia but they are very well made and they can appeal to a public that doesn’t have to first have an acquired taste or understanding of art to appreciate the picture that they are viewing.

 

 

Working log-1 for Assignment Three – My father’s character assessment

For this assignment, I am tasked to create a photo or photos that are of a self-portraiture nature.  The brief is fairly loose; but I have had an idea that I first checked with my Tutor to be sure that it would be acceptable.

My idea is to explore the question of my identity,  how is my identity seen from other peoples perspective?

I have asked a couple of close friends and family to write a frank and honest assessment of my character and from these assessments I will extract ideas for creating images that represent Shaun Mullins as regarded by others.

My first assessment is from my father, Barrie Mullins.

Dads Character Statement

Having been given my character assessment from my father, I started to jot down some thoughts and ideas.   Having read it through several times I divided the text into subject matter to develop.

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With these thoughts I narrowed it down to three subjects to use from my father’s assessment and began to think about what each can represent.

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And looked again at the text and how my chosen subjects are used in context to my fathers narrative.

‘High ability’ (“when he wishes to exercise it.”)

‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’

‘A man that one would trust’

I now began to sketch and jot down ideas.

I made the decision to work in black-and-white for this assignment and as these are ‘self-portraits,  I felt that it was more appropriate and perhaps stronger for the composition if the are all framed in a portrait format.

My first attempt was for ‘High ability’ with an idea that immediately came to me and I quickly made it without bothering to sketch it first.

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However, I felt that it didn’t link to my father’s text, nor was it strong enough symbolically.  I also decided that I want to make self-portrait styled pictures that only imply my presence with at most say only a hand, a shadow or just a part of my body, etc.

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This was my next attempt; but I still felt that it didn’t convey the message of ‘High ability’.  Moreover, perhaps even my father’s face was not necessary either.  I moved on to another shot I had properly planned with a sketch.

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This shot is for the last image, ‘A man that one would trust’.  My father is 87 and I thought about how this suggestion of trust could be manifested in an image linking my father and it occurred to me that giving my father a helping hand might work and this is the image I had in mind and I think it works.

My next image that I took was another attempt at ‘High ability’

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However, I felt that this image still wasn’t strong enough and my wife didn’t like it either although she felt that the image of Sir Edmond Hillary conquering Everest was a strong symbol; so I had to organize a re-shoot with my father.  Unfortunately, despite his keenness to help, his patience is very short and due to his age he tires very easily and quickly; so he was quit challenging to work with, particularly when some of the shots I needed were challenging to make particularly as I had restricted myself to a portrait format.

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During this same shoot, I also attempted to get an image for ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’.  But again I felt that this just didn’t work.

On our next session together I had re-planned and the results for the two needed images I believe are now much stronger and meet the requirements that I was looking for.

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This image is to represent ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’ and I felt I needed to contrast praise with denial / refusal and I had the idea of simply my father clapping and with myself holding out my hands asking him to stop.  I really only wanted the hands to symbolism the sentiment, this proved more tricky that first thought and when I tried to sketch my mental idea I struggled.  I turned to my camera and fitting it to my tripod and tethering to a computer to see what the camera was seeing I tried different ways of composing the image.  In the end I decided to lay the camera of the ground looking up whilst still tethered to my lap-top in order to see and compose and take the picture.  With my father this still took over an hour to do and in the end I had to merge two photos together in Photoshop to get the desired combined poses in one image.  My kitchen skylight worked to provide a nice blank background with a faint cross which is the frame of the pyramid skylight that also is a nice subtle addition to the image.  Also, my fathers hands in the act of applauding with my own hands out stretched to ask him to stop appears to mimic the faint cross in the skylight.

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By the time I had made some useful images for ‘He appears to denigrate any achievements’ my father was very tired; but my last image was fairly straightforward and easy to make as I could hold the camera in my hand and take the shot over my father’s shoulder for this image of my father holding a photo of Sir Edmond Hillary with my British and American Private Pilot’s Licences that he refers to in his assessment.

I now believe that I have three images that now work and link effectively to my fathers text creating a visual narrative.  One or two of my images may be considered strong enough to stand alone; but they all clearly gain strength as a visual narrative when seen together and are linked to the text.

I have decided to only use the second and third images in my final presentation.