Counselling – Camera – Photography as Mindfulness – To Give Up on Photography Would Be to Give Up on Life

I didn’t go outside before I got my camera. My anxiety was so high that I couldn’t. I didn’t talk with people. I stayed home – afraid.

I got a camera as a reason to go out. 10 minutes lead to half an hour, which lead to an hour, and now I can shoot an event, approach a homeless person, talk with them an ask to take their photo. I can even approach a shopping centre manager and ask to photo in their premises – on a good day.

Most days I struggle to get out for an hour as my anxiety is so high, and even on a day when I can mindfully observe anxiety I struggle. Often anxiety turns into paranoia and then I know I’m being followed.

Today was my day for counselling, and I struggle for two or three days afterwards. So I take my camera. I took a few photos for a series I’m making on mental illness and mental health – There is a difference. It was also an opportunity to begin to create a series for exercise 1.9 Soft Light Landscape.

Photography gets me so focused on the moment, the presence of being a creator and director, that I lose the image of a paranoid and anxious person. What is self if everything is transitory and impermanent?

I won’t go out tomorrow. I don’t go out the day after counselling, I stay at home as I don’t feel safe with intense feelings.

Tomorrow is my Lightroom day, and I will be developing some macro photography. Developing my photography is also an exercise in mindfulness. It takes me over and requires my full attention, it becomes a safety release valve. To give up on photography would be an act of self harm. It would be to give up on living, to give up on me.

Projects – Mental Illness/Mental Health – Social Control and the Media – Consent

I have now begun to take a series of images for one of my sociology projects on mental illness and mental health, and on the final stages of planning for my sociology project on social control and the media. I start my creative process through my daily practice of meditation where I get inspirational ideas. This leads to development of ideas and then I leave it alone. Over a period of weeks other thoughts and ideas add to and alter my original idea. I discuss my ideas with a friend then turn the idea into a plan using ITEP mapping and sketching. The planning and sketching have become more important recently with studying Foundations in Photography with the Open College of the Arts.

I have two series of images where I need to have involvement with the public. I believe that consent is important where an individual is the main focal point of the photographs.  These two series I cannot do without public involvement and I get very anxious about asking people. However, I wish to develop as a photographer and artist so I will accept the anxiety is there, welcome it, observe it mindfully, and step into the role of photographer and director.

Picture Analysis – Toshio Shibata; 2007; Red Bridge, Okawa

Brief:-

  1. Take a close look at the photograph above. What do you see? Write a visual description using short phrases and keywords. Describe the objects you see, their shapes, colour and tones, the direction of lines. There’s a picture to analyse in each part of this course. Always start your analysis by describing what you see.
  2. What took your attention first? And where did your eyes move to after that?
  3. A picture can have many subjects, but what’s the main subject? Apart from the objects depicted, does the photo have a metaphorical subject?
  4. Describe the quality of the light and shadow. Note the atmosphere or mood of the picture.
  5. Look carefully at the composition, the way the different shapes, lines and tones are arranged within the frame. Make a small sketch with notes explaining the composition. Do the lines or shapes have a particular direction? Note these down on your sketch.
  6. What does the title tell you?
  7. Name every object, that is every ‘thing’ that’s in the picture.
  8. Is what you’re seeing and what you’re describing the same thing? Or is there something you think you ‘know’ intuitively? Make a distinction between what you can see and what you’re guessing, feeling or intuiting.
  9. What is your felt or personal response to the photograph? This is your experience of it.

Red Bridge Okawa

Toshio Shibata; 2007; Red Bridge, Okawa

Initial Thoughts:- Leading lines, diagonals, light through bridge, imposing bridge, into source of light, light from top left, lighting looks wrong on right sides of bridge structure? HDR of bridge? Lightroom exposure mask? reflections from bright path, hint of trees/forest, physical journey through the bridge, emotional journey into the unknown as the bridge path goes into the trees/representing a journey into the soul, light rays from sun, good exposure and composition leads through the physical structure, a gentle but firm opening that leads to the emotional journey.

Cream, curved, diagonal line of path from bottom left through the centre of the image, leading to the background. Repeated red diagonals of bridge structure, repeated lines, rectangles and boxes of bridge, dark background hints of mystery, Trees in background with rays of sun lighting them from top left background, triangular shadow of bridge, dominant highlights and midtones, bright, sunny, cheerful, title says the photo is about the bridge and does not refer to the emotional journey that I see, reflections of light from the path, lighting looks wrong on some parts of the bridge structure (too well lit on some of the uprights on the side that is receiving no sunlight, some of the oranges should be reds or at least darker orange, a hint of road hidden in the trees on the left and right hand side of the image. Front lit image that hasn’t been rendered void by going into silhouette, demonstrates some post processing which has been done effectively. Has not removed dirt, tarnish and stain so the bridge structures look natural.

References
Toshio Shibata; 2007; Red Bridge, Okawa; in Robert Enoch; 2017; Foundations in Photography; Open College of the Arts; Barnsley; P42

Exersize 1.7 – Evaluating Your Photographs

I have previously used my student blog to describe my process of evaluating my photography. Although in that post I was referring to the process that I use to evaluate enent photography, the same applies to all of my photographs.

“My process.

Evaluate photos on my camera – delete blurred, poor composition, partial shots (half a car), distractions, blurred sponsorship (I email and twitter participants and sponsors to promote my work).

Evaluate photos on Microsoft photo viewer. Same process as above but can check clarity and composition in closer detail.

Categorise photos into folders, in this instance, cars, sponsors, event.

Remove duplicates and keep the best overall, subject, composition, technical (Tudor method of evaluating photos –  https://youtu.be/WYcokY2Pgjk  – Christian Tudor http://academy-of-photography.com).” Richard Keys; 2017; Evaluating Event Photography – My Process; https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/evaluating-event-photography-my-process/ (accessed on 04/07/2017)

In the above quote I talk about removing photographs with “blurred sponsorship” as the original post was in relation to event photography. However the same process is followed in regard to any brief that I follow. That may be in relation to a Foundations in Photography exercise or on any project that I am personally undertaking.

There are also many occasions that I develop a photo in Lightroom or Photoshop, then return to it a day or two later and then delete the photo. An image that I initially liked, may not fit in with what I wanted to create, once I have had time to return to it. I believe it’s too easy to retain images, because of the investment that I have made when creating photography. This is certainly something that I am getting better at. I understand the investment. I do not go and take a photo. I get an idea, I consider why that idea is important to me, what I want to represent. I may then make a formal or informal plan (photographic brief) of how I am going to achieve the result that I want. Then I go out with the intent of creating the image or series of images, and of course these may not be successful so I go out again and either reshoot from the same place, or go somewhere else, depending upon what I have learned from the mistakes of the first shoot.

I have improved my workflow as I have developed as a photographer, and often the time involved in evaluating my photography is longer than in taking and planning photographs, especially when it is event photography and I have made lots of images. I do get frustrated when I need to go and reshoot for a project that I am working on, and when I have developed an image and then do not think it is suitable for the brief. I would rather get it wrong and learn from my mistakes, than present an underpar image.

References

Keys R; 2017; Evaluating Event Photography – My Process; https://photosociology.wordpress.com/2017/06/12/evaluating-event-photography-my-process/ (accessed (04/07/2017)

Tudor C; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WYcokY2Pgjk (accessed 04/07/2017) also http://academy-of-photography.com

 

Exercise 1.8 – Bracketing Exposure

Brief:- Put your camera on a tripod or stable surface. Set to manual mode. Make a photo of anything you like at the optimum exposure according to the light meter reading. Now deliberately under-expose by one f-stop or by reducing shutter speed (e.g. 1/30th sec to 1/60th sec). Take another shot, underexposing by an f-stop. Now take a shot over-exposing from the initial optimum exposure by one f-stop or increasing the shutter speed. Take another shot over-exposing one stop further. Upload these photos to your computer to view them better.

I followed the brief as outlined, but have arranged the photos from under exposed to correctly exposed and then over exposed. For most series I took five images. I will begin with my favourite series.

Exp 5

I do not like photographing in churches, as the light meter on my camera does not work properly when I am shooting in higher ISO settings. I initially tated with an ISO of 800, but with the light setting showig the correct exposure, the image was over exposed. So I dropped down to ISO 640, and underexposed by 2 stops. I was using a tripod, my camera set to spot metering, and white balance to cloudy, and apature at f10. The focal point was the stained glass window. The initial photo was taken at 1/60sec and the final image at 0.5sec.

It is really apparent that there are details in the highlights on the first image, and the colours can be made out in the stained glass window with hardly any light or detail in the shadow. The final image has detail in the shadow and is correctly exposed for the areas nearer to the camera and the ceiling, but the rest of the image is over exposed, the window highlights have some clipping and that creates flare on the stained glass.

I have then opened the images in lightroom and combined them to make an HDR image, with auto tone, removed chromatic abberation and enabled profile corrections. Finally I used the vertical transform to correct the uprights. I have not made an HDR image before so I am really pleased with the result.

HDR From EXP Comp (1 of 1)-2

Learning:- buy a remote trigger so that I do not have blurring from the movement of pressing the button, and shoot in MUP (mirror up).

The second series was taken the same way but without a tripod.

EXP 6

Image 1 – f5 1/10sec- Image 5 – f5 0.4sec – all images ISO 800.

HDR From EXP Comp (1 of 1)

The HDR image is of poor qaulity, I was not using a tripod, so the lights are blurred. I had the ISO to high for this series.

Here are the other series that I made for this exercise.

EXP 3

ISO 400, f9, Image 1 – 1/8sec – Image 5 – 0.5sec

EXP 1

ISO 200, f13, Image 1 – 1/160sec – Image 5 – 1/50sec

Exp 2

ISO 200, f13, Image 1 – 1/500sec – Image 5 – 1/125sec

Exp 4

ISO 100, f9, Image 1 – 1/200sec – Image 3 – 1/25sec

EXP 7

ISO 500, f5, Image 1 – 1/20sec – Image 5 – 1/5sec

The key learning for me has been to ensure that I use a tripod wherever possible. I do not always take one with me and I need to do this more often. I could increase the ISO and use faster shutter speeds so that I reduce handshake, but that does not work when bracketing exposure. For bracketing images, where the focus is to take the same photo with different exposures, a tripod is a must. The point of bracketing exposures is so that you can review the detail in the highlights and shadows in different images, and then develop them from the photo that has the detail in the area that you wish for it to be. Bracketed exposure also leaves the ability to create HDR images, where you can retain detail and smooth exposure through the whole of the image, and again, to do so a tripod is required. Increasing the ISO for a single where exposure compensation is not required, can be useful to use a faster shutter speed and eliminate vibration, but increasing the ISO means that the sensor has increased sensitivity to noise, so grain will be increased.

I am very pleased with the HDR image of the church – but I must use a remote shutter release.

Royal Leisure – Nonsense

What is the life if full of care

The Queen she wears no underwear

No time stand beneath the boughs

While Charlie stops to talk with cows

No time to see when woods we pass

Where Harry grows his hemp and grass

No time to see in broad daylight

The Duke and Duchess have a fight

No time to turn at beauties glance

Look out, Phillips in his lovers stance

No time to wait till his mouth can

Offend the race of everyman

A poor life this is full of care

The Queen she wears no underwear

Trent Parke – Exercise 1.6 – Light and Shadow

Before you start this exercise, have a look at the work of Trent Parke.

Trent Park

Not all, but a lot of Trent Parke’s photography is in black and white, and this is certainly a good way to reinforce highlts and shadows, but it is also a good way to demonstrate perspective and depth. I found that many of Parke’s photos have a mood attatched to them which is emphasied in monochrome. His Dream/Life series has a morose and rather depressing feel in many of the images, although there are some with a more warming feel.

I sometimes get worried about the grain in my photography, but many of Parke’s images have grain, which I find adds texture and does not take away from his photography at all.

First thoughts on Dream/Life:- Perspective, Depth, Activity, Grain, Silhouette, Evening, Autumn, Winter, Joyless.

Parke 1

Trent Parke; 1997; AUSTRALIA. Sydney; Dream/Life series; https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&VP3=CMS3#/CMS3&ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&POPUPIID=29YL53FJQU03&POPUPPN=19  (Accessed 30/06/2017)

Context, perspective, timing, height, smallness. The timing of this decisive moment is excellent and I expect Parke had planned this image so that he got the right time of day when the sun would shine between the two skyscrapers. He may also have had to return to the scene so that he would get the person running past the highlight between the shadows.

Parke 2

Trent Parke; 1998; AUSTRALIA. Sydney. Summer rain; Dream/Life series; https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&VP3=CMS3#/CMS3&ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&POPUPIID=29YL53ZKONE7&POPUPPN=3 (Accessed 30/06/2017)

Viewer, leading lines, hesitation, autumn, winter, despondent. That could be me in the photo, or any viewer, although I am sure that the reaction that I had to this photo is based upon my dislike of getting wet. The man has a shirt on, probable after work, on his way home. The emotional impact of this photo is more important for me that Parke’s technical ability, and that demonstrates how good this photo really is. I am studying photography and my aim is to evaluate this photo so that I can improve my own photography, and yet the evaluation is rendered secondary.

The man in the left, the leading lines taking the eye across the road to the silhouettes walking away, through the heavy rain. The quick shutter speed that catches each drop of rain, and again, the hesitation to step into the rain. Excellent composition.

 

Parke 3

Trent Parke; 1999; AUSTRALIA. Sydney; Dream/Life series; https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&VP3=CMS3#/CMS3&ERID=24KL534BCY&VF=MAGO31_10_VForm&POPUPIID=29YL53ZKZ0OX&POPUPPN=23; (Accessed on 30/06/2017)

Battlefield, war, space, silhouette, detail in the highlights, use of caption. All of the photography that I have seen from Parke on magnum has a caption, and it works for this image. It does not work on all of them though, or at least I question whether it is necessary on them. From my perspective the captions in Parke’s photography on magnum do not add to the photo, especially as my mind will focus on the words first and then at the image. It detracts from my ability to respond to the photo from my own perspective. Once I have read the caption I am asked to view the image from Parke’s perspective, and then try and stay with the photo long enough to become immersed in it. Parke’s photography does not have the caption added on in-public and this works better.

I certainly prefer the style of Benjamin Lowy in Iraq Perspectives (2011), where there is only a brief caption at the beginning of the book and none with the photographs. Benjamin invites the viewer to immerse themselves in his photography and to dare to relate.

First thoughts on Dream/Life:- Perspective, Depth, Activity, Grain, Silhouette, Evening, Autumn, Winter, Joyless.

First thoughts on The Seventh Wave:- Movement, Fine Detail, Ethereal, People.

First thoughts on The Seventh Wave:- Shadows of People in highlights, Dodge, Burn, Perspective.

References

Benjamin Lowy; 2011; Iraq Perspectives; Duke University Press; Durham

http://in-public.com/photographers/trent-parke/

https://pro.magnumphotos.com/

Exercise 1.6 Light and Shadow

Brief

Make a series of photographic studies of light and shadow. Use your spot meter to expose the highlights correctly, but make the shadows dark. Use the edges and corners of your frame to create dramatic compositions. You’ll need to shoot many exposures for this project, perhaps more than you’re accustomed to taking. Be observant and go out specifically with taking pictures in mind.  Notice: Sunday streaming in through windows, the way trees cast their shadows, patches of light cast through trees and shrubs, angular shadows cast across city streets.

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