Assignment 3. The decisive moment- a not so decisive idea…

Get out of your comfort zone, and use colour! One of the challenges issued to me for my next assignment.

I go to a fair number of gigs over the course of a year, and have tried to take photographs which capture something of the performance. I’m just your average punter with a Sigma 60mm f/2.8 DN prime lens which doesn’t look too obtrusive, and I don’t use flash, instead trying to use the stage lighting to best effect. This means that I need to get pretty close to the stage. I tend to convert to black and white, partly because I live in hope of coming close to what I think is the definitive rock image…Pennie Smith’s cover shot for “London Calling”, by the Clash, and partly because in my view, the colours used in stage lighting  tend to detract from the image.

So what I normally end up with is this….

The Damned @ Portsmouth Pyramids, December 1, 2016. (40th Anniversary Tour…and yes I did see them 39 years ago too!)

So, maybe there’s some value in turning the camera on the audience instead? Not sure whether these work , or indeed whether I’m going to pursue this further, but I came up with a few interesting shots, although quite honestly, I was more interested in watching the Damned, and its somewhat difficult to be in the middle of it, and keep any sort of focus…but I did leave everything in colour, and the only editing was to crop to 10×8 dimensions. Probably works as a tiled mosaic, and I’ve got a few more gigs in the pipeline before the next assignment is due, might be onto something… probably just need to go to gigs of bands I don’t like…!

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Assignment 1: The Square Mile. Final Selection

So a return to Eastney Point and the notion of sea defences begins to exercise my mind. Portsmouth is ringed by a series of forts, built on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom, after concerns about the strength of the French Navy. Considered of questionable military value they were criticised because by the time they were completed, any threat had passed, and because the technology of the guns had become out-of-date. They were the most costly and extensive system of fixed defences undertaken in Britain in peacetime.

On the foreshore near one of these forts, Fort Cumberland, are a number of additional structures dating from the mid 1920s, collectively known as Fraser Range, which specialised in training naval gunnery personnel. Now derelict, fenced off, and with a surprisingly large hole in the fence…

A defence system, increasingly defenceless, at the mercy of the sea, obsolescence, and the hand of others. So maybe there’s the story that my earlier sortie had failed to unearth.

Part I: The Sea

Brickwork... John Callaway [2016]

Brickwork… John Callaway [2016]

Beach... John Callaway [2016]

Beach… John Callaway [2016]

Fence... John Callaway [2016]

Fence… John Callaway [2016]

 Part II: Obsolescence

Broken.... John Callaway [2016]

Broken…. John Callaway [2016]

281.... John Callaway [2016]

281…. John Callaway [2016]

Slow... John Callaway [2016]

Slow… John Callaway [2016]

Part III: The Hands Of Others

Corridor... John Callaway [2016]

Corridor… John Callaway [2016]

Handle This.... John Callaway [2016]

Handle This…. John Callaway [2016]

Fused... John Callaway [2016]

Fused… John Callaway [2016]

 

Assignment 1: The Square Mile-Initial thoughts

Portsmouth has been my home town for some 30 years. One of the most densely populated cities in Europe, it is an island (Portsea) within an island (Great Britain). Pompey has the sea coursing through her veins. Maritime history is writ large in the guise of HMS Victory, Admiral Nelson and Henry VIII’s flagship the Mary Rose. Today it remains the home of the Royal Navy as well as being both a commercial and cross-channel ferry port.

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

Vintage Poster Advertising Southern Electric Railways by Kenneth Shoesmith

The city wears its history with pride, and attracts a considerable number of visitors. Yet even in such a compact city, where certain landmarks loom large, there are still one or two less visited margins that are off the beaten track. Places where the history is neither polished nor themed, but where it is slowly falling into disuse and disrepair. Locations that still after 30 years, keep drawing me back.

Danger..... John Callaway [2016]

Danger….. John Callaway [2016]

And so emerged the plan to go to Eastney Point and just see what happened…

Below are a few of the first sortie. I think they give something of a sense of the place, and few of my favourite themes were in there: open water: emptiness: rust: graffiti and symbols (locks, ropes and objects that are ambiguous in their use and purpose).

But what was the narrative? I wasn’t unhappy with the  photos, but  a further visit seemed to beckon…

To see EXIF data, click on each of the images above..

The Distorting Lens. Exercise 2.1

“Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of…shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint” [Expressing Your Vision: P40] 

Exif Data: Camera Sony Α6000 : ISO 200 : Aperture f 5.6

Harts Farm I     : Shutter Speed 1/1600 : Focal Length 16mm
Harts Farm II   : Shutter Speed 1/640   : Focal Length 33mm
Harts Farm III  : Shutter Speed 1/800   : Focal Length 50mm

Not much to add to this, beyond confirming that the ‘perspective geometry’ of all three shots remains the same. The camera is not a DSLR, but a mirrorless camera, so the image that is closest to the perspective distortion of human vision is Harts Farm II at a focal length of 33mm.

From an ‘interest’ point of view, I think that Harts Farm II is the most balanced image. The reeds in the foreground are not overly distracting, the other components of the image seem somehow more proportionate to each other, and there’s not an over preponderance of sky or river. But hey, beauty is in the eye of the beholder… 😉

Exercise 1.3 : Review & Observations

In the photographs of the jetty used in 1.3 (1) , (below) there is a clear line for the viewer to follow which naturally leads them out of the frame. The choice of the jetty was an attempt (of sorts) to provide a metaphor. In the same way as the jetty directs the viewers eye along its structure, so too does the jetty itself mirror the journey from land out to sea.

The use of the lines informed by the architecture of the forts in 1.3 (2) below seeks to give the sense that the picture is only part of a much bigger whole.  Although I clearly had choice over what was contained within each of the photographs , the jetty images were dependent upon me ensuring that the entire seaward end of the structure remained in view. With the brickwork I was able to select aspects of the wall which could form a complete image in their own right, without needing to show the entirety of the fort.

Cropping vs framing:

Framing is the act of using the parameters of the lens as an indicator of what will appear in the final image. Naturally there are still creative choices to be made by the photographer as they compose the image.

Cropping is the act of removing elements of the photograph which detract from the overall image, in order to strengthen the final image. (The creative choice still rests with the photographer, as final arbiter of the editing process).

Kite. Ijmuiden aan Zee , NL. John Callaway [2016]

Kite. Ijmuiden aan Zee , NL. John Callaway [2016]

Beached... John Callaway [2016]

Beached… John Callaway [2016]

As an illustration, the two images above are cropped versions of the original photographs (below) taken in response to the brief for 1.3(1). I think that the image of the beach huts is much stronger in the cropped version, although I think the kite flyer on the beach image works equally as well both cropped and un-cropped because of the  windblown sand in the foreground.

 

 

 

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line

“Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more abstract compositions.”

Early evening walk around a couple of the Palmerston Forts built during the Victorian period on the recommendations of the 1860 Royal Commission on the Defence of the United Kingdom.

The works were also known as Palmerston’s Follies, partly because the first ones, around Portsmouth, had their main armament facing inland to protect Portsmouth from a land-based attack, which gave the impression that they faced the wrong way to defend from a French attack. Also because they were considered of questionable military value. The images above are from the inward facing walls of Forts Widley and Fort Purbrook.

I like the  abstract quality of the brickwork and slowly decaying windows and iron work and thought it would be a good source of a flattened image because of the large expanse of brickwork.

Wasn’t expecting the dog, but quite liked its juxtaposition with the CCTV camera!

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line

“Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wide- angle lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to the line”.

Langstone Harbour. John Callaway [2016]

Langstone Harbour. John Callaway [2016]

Living by the sea, I wanted to try and use the projection of a jetty as a means of creating a sense of depth. There is a large expanse of blue sea and sky in each photograph. The aim was therefore to use the jetty as both the focal point and the sign post into the distance.

I think that both photographs do this quite well, although the second image (below) is a far stronger image, as there are less distractions. I think that the shingle and metal objects in the foreground of the image above still make an interesting photograph, but at the expense of drawing the viewer fully into the picture.

Jetty. John Callaway [2016]

Jetty. John Callaway [2016]