Module 2: Developing confidence

For the preliminary exercise, I went down to a local market place near my home here in Korea. It is a bustling place full of activity, and interesting sights and sounds. As a foreigner in Korea you are usually quite conspicuous especially with a camera. However most people at the market are usually very friendly and happy to be in your photos if you ask nicely for a portrait. I took down a 35mm camera and shot a roll of high speed black and white film. I’ve included the original contact sheet and picked out a couple of favourites from the roll.

D-089

Looking at the sheet I can see how I worked some scenes, and though I was quite happy with some of the moments I captured, I wasn’t overly pleased with the finished photos. I walked around the market with my friend Lisa and we found some interesting spots with interesting light and shadow contrast, and I caught a couple of nice portraits I was happy with. The first portrait below in particular captures the friendly and open personality of the old market ladies. As I practice street photography quite regularly, I am already confident with my camera in public places, but as mentioned in places like the local market I do feel somewhat self conscious at times and it can affect my shooting.

dongbu Market 2

Dongbu3

dongbu Market

So a good first exercise as a warm up for Part 2 of the course, and I am looking forward to the next exercise. I learned that despite my seeming confidence with street photography, I can still feel self conscious photographing strangers!

Module 2: Developing confidence

Notes and Reflections

Design Basics Notes

P.28

Unity

“Unity means that a congruity or agreement exists among the elements in a design; they look as though they belong together, as though some visual connection beyond mere chance has caused them to come together.”

“Another term for the same idea is harmony. If the various elements are not harmonious, if they appear separate or unrelated, your composition falls apart and lacks unity.”

“Unity of design is planned and controlled by the artist. Sometimes it stems naturally from the elements chosen.”

“Another term for design is composition, which implies the same feeling of organization. Just as a composition in a writing class is not merely a haphazard collection of words and punctuation marks, so too a visual composition is not a careless scattering of random items around a format.”

P.30

“An important aspect of visual unity is that the whole must predominate over the parts: you must first see the whole pattern before you notice the individual elements.”

“Each item may have a meaning and certainly add to the total effect, but if the viewer sees merely a collection of bits and pieces, then visual unity doesn’t exist.”

“Do not confuse intellectual unity with visual unity. Visual unity denotes some harmony or agreement between the items that is apparent to the eye.”

“To say that a scrapbook page is unified because of all the items have a common theme (your family, your wedding, your vacation at the beach) is unity of idea – that is, a conceptual unity not observable by the eye. A unifying idea will not necessarily produce a unified visual composition.”

“the need for visual unity does not deny that very often there is also an intellectual pleasure

Emphasis and focal point

P.56/57

“Large pine tree”

“the large pine tree might go unnoticed in a stroll through the neighbourhood.”

“several things contribute to the emphasis on this tree in the photograph: placement near the centre, large size, irregular shape, and dark value against the sky”

“there can be more than one focal point. Sometimes an artwork contains secondary points of emphasis that have less attention value than the focal point.”

“however, the designer must be careful. Several focal points of equal emphasis can turn the design into a three-ring circus in which the viewer does not know where to look first.”

interest is replaced by confusion: When everything is emphasised, nothing is emphasised.”

P.58

“Emphasis by contrast”

“the more complicated the pattern the more necessary or helpful a focal point may become in organising the design.”

as a rule, a focal point results when one element differs from the others. Whatever interrupts an overall feeling or pattern automatically attracts the eye by this difference.”

P.59

“the element that contrasts with, rather than continues, the prevailing design scheme becomes the focal point.”

“colour is often used to achieve emphasis by contrast. A change in colour or a change in brightness can immediately attract our attention.”

P.60

“Emphasis by isolation”

“This is contrast, of course, but it is contrast of placement, not form. In such a case the element need not be any different from the other elements in the work.”

“in neither of these examples is the focal point directly in the centre of the composition. This placement could appear too obvious and contrived. However, it is wise to remember that a focal point placed too close to an edge will tend to pull the viewer’s eye right out of the picture.”

P.64

“One element”

“A specific theme may, at times, call for a dominant, even visually overwhelming focal point. The use of a strong visual emphasis on one element is not unusual.”

“A focal point, however strong, should remain related to and a part of the overall design.”

“in general, the principle of unity and the creation of a harmonious pattern with related elements are more important than the injection of a focal point if this point would jeopardise the design’s unity.”

P.90

“Funeral under Umbrellas is a striking picture. What makes it unusual concerns the principle of balance or distribution of visual weight within a composition.”

“The diagonal sweep of the funeral procession is subtly balanced  by the driving rain that follows the other diagonal. The effect seems natural and unposed. The result looks like many of the photographs we might see in newspapers or magazines.”

P.242

Value Pattern

“In describing paintings or designs, we speak often of their value pattern. This term refers to the arrangement and the amount of variation in light and dark, independent of the colours used.”

P.243

“When value contrast is minimised and all the values are within a limited range with only small variation, the result is a restrained, subtle effect. The impression is one of understatement, whether the value range is dominated by lights or darks.”

P.246

“One of the most important uses of gradations of dark and light is to suggest volume or space.”

“A drawing using only line is very effective in showing shapes. By varying the weight of the line, an artist may imply dimension or solidity, but the effect is subtle. When areas of dark and light are added, we being to feel the three dimensional quality of forms.”

“On a two-dimensional piece of paper or canvas, an illusion of space is desired – and perhaps not just the roundness of a head but a whole scene receding far into the distance.”

“Here again the use of value can be an effective tool of the artist. High value contrast seems to come forward, to be actually closer, whereas areas of lesser contrast recede or stay back, suggesting distance.”

“An illusion of great depth is thus created by manipulating the various values. This technique does reproduce what our eyes see: Far off images visually become greyer and less distinct as the distance increases. In art, this called aerial, or atmospheric perspective.”

Notes and Reflections

Assignment one: A portrait

WendyTriX1

For this portrait, I aimed to achieve a rougher and more imperfect feel for the finished image. As I wanted to create the impression of vulnerability on the part of the subject, I felt a less technically perfect image would suit this concept. Furthermore, the use of high speed film with high grain – from push processing the film – adds to the feeling of fragility and vulnerability of the image in general. I shot this image outside but in the shadows out of direct sunlight to attain an even exposure on the subject.

For the concept I was going for, I positioned the model’s hands in a clasped pose to perhaps express a relaxed inner self, but I think the aesthetic retains a certain amount of ambiguity – the pose could also be indicative of an inner toil. The placing of the elements in the frame I feel are consistent with this. I used a very shallow depth of field with the focus on the eye. I believed that by retaining the focus on the eye, the viewer would be able to perceive a clear anchor point away from the distractions of the hands and hair (although the hair in the immediate vicinity of the eye is in focus by virtue of being within the focal plane). The anchor point of the eye also retains a clear point for the eye and allows the viewer to consider the model’s expression.

A relatively neutral expression but looking down away from the camera is consistent with the concept of reflection and inner drama in the subject, eliciting from the viewer a potential range of emotions or reactions. Although I aimed at a stripped down simplistic look, I feel that the image could be further simplified to create a more effective connection to the viewer. A different outfit for the subject could have helped with this. I might also have positioned the hands differently, or shot from a lower angle so the viewer could have seen more of the subject’s face. Also the angle serves to emphasise the hands a bit too much, despite being out of focus. Therefore given a second chance to take this shot, I would have corrected the angle slightly and perhaps dropped the hands away from the face.

Wendy12

In the above shot I once again used high speed black and white film, but selected a low contrast 3200 Ilford film. Contrary to what I was expecting on the day, we had a bright sunlight to work with but in the late afternoon so it was certainly workable. Even so I was forced to pull the processing by one stop in order to get a proper exposure. This is also helped in attaining an even more low contrast look which is what I was aiming for with this portrait.

I knew for this particular shot I wanted a different look to the previous black and white shot. The aesthetic I was going for was a softer, perhaps dreamier feel. In line with this look I adjusted my composition and overall, I think the format and processing I selected in tandem with the composition was successful in achieving what I set out to do.

To get the softer look that I wanted, in conjunction with the film format I shot the subject through a window pane. This adds to the somewhat dreamy aesthetic of the image. I positioned the subject’s face in the upper third of the frame to make sure the viewer’s attention was not pulled away by background elements. Her t-shirt motif does act as a competing point of attention, especially with the subject seemingly looking down towards it in apparent contemplation. The highlights that permeate across the frame (particularly at the top) add interest to the corners and sides.

In regards to the subject’s expression, especially with her not looking directly at the camera, the viewer is again met with a somewhat ambiguous portrait. Looking down towards the t-shirt motif add to the visual interest. The soft, dreamy look creates the sense of a dream or nightmare, depending on how the viewer chooses to interpret. In the context of this assignment, I feel I might have altered the expression and positioning of the arms and hands. It is quite similar to the previous image in the mood it creates, and if I was to do this again I might have experimented with the positioning of the hands. For example I might have placed the hands on the window pane or upon the lower body. I feel this might have added a bit of variety to the series of images selected for this assignment, and also a bit more interest to the shot as a standalone.

WendyVelvia

For this image I took the subject into a local park to take advantage of the ‘golden hour’ daylight still available on the day’s shooting. I found a secluded spot with shade and a nice background of autumnal leaves. I selected some Velvia colour film as I have felt this film produces natural looking skin tones and makes colours pop. As I originally intended to shoot a natural more conventional portrait I thought this would be the best film to achieve this. However, the shoot evolved slightly as I went along and the final image was a bit different from what I had set out to do.

I wanted to get a conventional portrait to begin with so tried several different poses for the subject and more light hearted expressions. However before the shoot I had been researching portrait composition and centred subject compositions. I had also been looking at portraits which utilised the centred eye concept and felt that the compositions I had been looking had strong designs that utilised both framing and subject expression to create powerful images. Therefore I decided to try this myself and centred the eye and subject in the middle of the frame, but retained plenty of the out of focus background areas. I feel the centring of the eye (in tandem with the subject’s expression) creates a strong connection between the subject and viewer. The viewer’s attention is strongly focused on the centred eye and the intensity of the subject’s expression. I also selected a very shallow depth of field to strengthen the subject’s isolation from the background areas.

As I mentioned, I did experiment with more conventional poses and expressions to being with. The reason I selected this image for submission was because I preferred the less conventional composition and expression. Given the context and location the viewer might have expected something more candid and light hearted, however the subject is fixing the camera with quite an intense expression, and so this perhaps subverts what the viewer might have been expecting to see in this context. If I was try this again, I might have got closer to the subject to eliminate some of the background areas as I feel they are a touch too prominent. Of course I could have done this by cropping in post production, but I feel this is something I should have got right in camera.

Wendy6

For this image, I intended to utilize window light for pleasant, natural looking skin tones. The concept was somewhat neutral, as I intended to practice my exposure and composition using this kind of light. Once again, I used black and white film this time a slower speed film with a finer grain but enough to retain a “retro” feel.

I positioned the subject on a chair a few meters from big windows inside a museum. I had her sitting facing slightly away from me with her head facing the camera directly. In post-production I decided to crop the scan to square to eliminate background areas as I felt these were a bit too prominent and somewhat distracting. The portrait orientation also serves to strengthen the subject within the frame. I asked for the subject to look directly in the camera with a neutral expression. The gaze of the subject is quite intense and draws the viewer into the shot. Given the chance to take this shot again I might have got closer to the subject, as this would have eliminated the background areas and perhaps highlighted the subject’s expression.

DoubleXWendy

This image is again different from the rest of the series I selected to submit. Me and the subject were outside the museum we were visiting and I noticed her reflection in the windows. I asked her to look into the windows whilst I shot her reflection. I used a roll of colour film for this shot and as I began the roll I decided that the reflection shots I was taking were going to be missing something. I therefore decided to rewind the roll and lay over second exposures over the portraits for an interesting effect. I shot the roll later that day, shooting textures on walls, floors, windows and anything that I thought might add an interesting texture to a portrait photo. This was quite an imprecise exercise and left a lot up to chance, but when the roll came back from the lab I had some very interesting photos.

As mentioned I had the subject gaze at her reflection in the window and asked for a sensual expression. I positioned the subject on the left hand side of the frame. The second exposure are wooden floor panels I shot in a café later that day. I find it lines up very nicely with the subject, eliminating much of the detail in her face except for her mouth. The portrait is still expressive even with only this detail showing, and I like the diagonal lines the second exposure adds to the frame. To me it feels almost three dimensional, as the diagonal on the right appears to be coming from behind the subject’s head. I cropped in on the right slightly to eliminate unnecessary detail there.

If I was to do a double exposure portrait again, I would perhaps use a camera that allowed me to rewind the film immediately so I could better align my two exposures. The method I used of shooting 6 frames, rewinding the roll, picking the film leader out, and then starting again leaves a lot up to chance. The element of luck is fun, but I do think it takes some control away from the end concept you want to achieve. A digital camera with multiple exposure function would also be another solution to this problem, as it would give you even better flexibility in aligning two or even three exposures.

 

Assignment one: A portrait