William Eggleston

One of the three recent books that arrived was William Eggleston’s Guide, along with Ansel Adams 400 Photographs and Willam Klein’s ABC.

I have looked and looked again at the images in the book and tried to appreciate their purpose but they do nothing for me, not as individual images or as a whole. I have even gone to the lengths of finding one of his rare public Q&A sessions about his work that is on video. Eggleston seems to have little to say about any of his images and often seemed to be dismissive or worse just get plain cross at what he considers ‘stupid’ questions.

I realise that art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder and subjective. I also realise that I would not like every photographers work that I reviewed, but this is an undertsatement in this case, perhaps I am missing something fundamental and will come to realise I have a lot yet to learn. But I can only give my opinion of now and am surprised at how much I dislike this book. To me this book is like the story of the Emporers Clothes, someone has said it is art and everyone else is afraid to say they are not.

To me there is no redeeming image in the entire book, it is a collection of snaps at best and the shot of the dirty electric oven is the crowning glory. In fact I am so disillusioned with this book and Eggleston’s images that I am not going to talk to a single one. I am surprised that this book has created such a strong reaction with me, I am sure Eggleston is a nice chap and others see great merit in his work. But it’s not for me.

 

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36 Softening Light

This exercise requires the setup a still life shoot and lighting with a ‘naked’ or point light source, then to diffuse the same light and location and compare the results. Equipment used Nikon DSLR, 105mm Macro Lens, Tripod, Nikon Speedlight, diffuser, black backdrop, lighting stands. Processing via Nikon NX2 and DXO.

The subject, a carved wooden statue of a boy and girl sitting, was lit from the about 40 degrees left and down at about a 40 degree angle down, so that there would be an obvious shadow onto the girls face.

Point light source

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As you would expect the point light source produces very defined harsh and dark shadows. The detail of the carving in the wood i.e. surface detail is pronounced.

Diffused light source

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The diffused light source produces a much softer light as you would expect, there are of course still shadows but they are not as harsh as the point source, less defined and not as dark. The surface detail is still visible but less pronounced.

28 Higher and Lower Sensitivity

This exercise requested that we produce 6 shots at normal (100 ISO) and 6 at high (ISO 800) sensitivity. In a situation were the lighting levels were marginal for the normal sensitivity and compare the results.

I chose to document shoppers in the undercover Victoria Market, it was a bright sunny day outside, but the large covered in market area is dark by comparison. For reference the images at 100 ISO are typically shot at 1/10-1/25 sec at f2.8-f4 and those at 800 ISO are typically 1/60-1/200 sec at f2.8-f5.6.

Equipment used Fujifilm Xpro-1, 18-55mm (optical stabiliser turned off) , NX2 and DXO (noise reduction turned off).

Low sensitivity 100 ISO

In this situation the following factors were noted about these images.

Pros

  • Noise levels in the image are very low and enlarged sections of the image show little noise issues.

Cons

  • Camera shake a slower shutter speeds – I had deliberately turned optical stabilisation off.
  • Motion blur on most moving subjects.
  • Only able to use open aperture – Low depth of field.

Images:

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High sensitivity 800 ISO

In this situation the following factors were noted about these images.

Pros

  • Motion blur eliminated or reduced to acceptable limits.
  • Increased depth of field available.

Cons

  • Noise levels in the image are higher and enlarged sections of the image show  noise issues. But as with many of the newer sensors this is not a real issue till 3200 ISO.

Images:

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Even though I chose to use the highest sensitivity setting suggested for the exercise, the noise of the 800 ISO images is not significant even with noise reduction turned off in camera and DXO. Any loss in quality by using a higher ISO was more than compensated for by being able to shoot sharp images and reduce motion blur. It would also enable the use of a longer lens to perhaps gain even more candid shots.

Considering the grain that would appear on an 800 ISO film this noise acceptable, at higher ISO’s though ie 3200 and above the impact of the noise is considerable at which point it does detract/degrade the image. But even then if there is no alternative such as faster lenses, tripod for a static subject or increased lighting, getting the shot is always better than no shot!

 

Ansel Adams

It would be very easy to get wrapped up in the man and write about nothing else. But what could I write that has not already been written about Ansel Adams. His involvement in the Sierra Club, Group f/64 and drafting its manifesto (which his later work contradicts), his books and teaching, but instead I will (try to) focus just a few of his images and talk to those.

As per a previous post on my blog, I had three books arrive on the same day one on Ansel, the others on William Klien and William Eggleston. The book Ansel Adams 400 Photographs is the one that captured my attention from the off and this interest has not stopped. Now that I have had the book few weeks, I have to be honest and now say that I am officially a fan of Ansel Adams, from being aware of his work as a casual passing observer to now seeking out his images even to the point of looking to see where I can go and see an original print. So on to the images:

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Monolith, The Face of the Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California. 1927

Taken in 1927, this is the first image where Adams when interviewed called this his first serious photograph, when he knew what he was doing “I could visualise the image I want, I know my technique, my craft, I can operate the camera use the right filters, exposure and development. And with that whole approach came the zone system.” It is clear that Ansel could recognise the expressive qualities he wished to portray in his images and had the skill to do so. This image was originally taken using a yellow filter, however, not happy with the result Ansel went back and this time used a red filter to enhance the stark rock face and darken the sky even more. This is a very majestic looking photograph, yet the size and placement of the monolith gives an uncomfortable, even menacing aspect to the image.

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Tetons and Snake River, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. 1942

Considered by many to be one of Ansel Adams most famous/popular images. From the dark black through to the bright whites, you can see the zone system at work in the exposure. There are 7 easily identifiable zones here at work and more if you take time to look. Despite his famous quote “The so-called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant and immaterial”, you can clearly see many a play here. The curve of the river and the thirds proportion of the composition for starters.

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Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico. 1941 ‘chance favours the prepared mind’

After an unsuccessful day (by his standards) Ansel was driving home when he came across this scene. Quickly setting-up in the changing light, he was able to make only one exposure before the light changed.  As in all of Ansel’s work the depth of field is considerable in all the images with foreground to background in sharp relief. From his images you can also see that this was not just due to small f stops but also masterful use of the camera movements, such as shift & tilt.

Many of the images where taken at early dawn or dusk, with the shadows bringing the landscape alive, this quality and Ansel’s eye for the correct light is impressive to say the least.

Over the years Ansel (and his assistant) produced many versions of the same prints, either as his darkroom skill improved or as a result of his own personal tastes changing. Often the later images had far harder contrast and often the once light sky’s had turned black. He even had an assistant ‘ink out’ unwanted elements, most notably on ‘Winter Sunrise’ where the initials of the Lone Pine High School are removed from later prints. All clearly at odds with the Group f/64, rather purist manifesto…

Assignment Three – Colour

This assignment is about showing command of colours and being able to show different colours in deliberate relationships. The brief is to take up to sixteen images spread across four categories; Complementary, Similar, Contrasting and Accent.

The images below where taken on two separate trips for this assignment in Melbourne CBD and the surrounding area. One was to the CBD and docklands, the other the CBD and the bay leading from Port Melbourne. Though I know we were able to setup still life images to show our understanding of colour relationships, I have chosen not to do so. Not that I feel is is cheating in anyway, but wanted to set myself the challenge of finding situations in the real world to answer the assignment. This has obviously taken a little longer, and I have had to shoot what I can find to answer each of the four parts of the brief.

At the start I struggled to find subjects to shoot and found the process more difficult than I had for the exercises. But after a few hours, I ‘tuned-in’ to looking for colour and colour relationships as I looked around. On the second trip I had the same issue but it did not last long and soon found myself in the swing of it.

Equipment used Fuji XE-1, 18-55mm & 55-200mm lenses, Nikon NX2 and DXO for image processing and just before we get into the photographs, here is the colour circle/wheel again as a point of reference for this assignment:

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To be honest  I still found thinking in the terms of this colour wheel a little difficult at times, as I am so used to thinking in terms of lights primary (Red,Green Blue) and secondary (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow) colours. And of course this creates a different colour wheel, at times I found myself making the wrong associations i.e. Red and Yellow next to each other, which of course on the wheel above they are not. Anyway onto the images:

Colour Harmony – complementary colours i.e. colours which face each other across the colour circle

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This appartment blocked spied across the Yarra river, some distance from where I could stand is a great first example for orange and blue complementary colour, even the workers in the adjacent car park have kindly used blue and orange safety netting and orange cones.

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Another image seen from over the river was this green petrol tank parked in front of the red door of an old harbour building. With a larger red door to the right and red garfitti under the jetty. Try as I might I was unable to find an angle which let me exclude the metal fence from the shot, but I like the image none the less.

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Up much closer this time, an abstract close-up of an tiled statue, blue tiles with a yellowish mortar and orange line painted on a raised section slashing diagonally across the image. Remembering the ratios from the previous exercises.

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The bright red frame and green/blue glass reflecting the surroundings in an alleyway,  makes for my last image for complementary colours. This time being very careful to ensure the verticals exactly align to the frame of the image, the structure and the colours making a very strong image.

Colour Harmony – similar colours i.e. those that are near each other on the wheel or in the cool (Violet,Blue,Green) or warm (Red, Orange, Yellow) range of colours.

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Outside one of the cafe’s I came across a bicycle standing against the metal railing, it’s mudguard was orange and the railing yellow, putting the image squarely in the ‘similar colours’ section. Being strong versions of these colours and the black tyre and dark gap also makes for a high contrast image.

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More muted, natural colours now that I have walked south to the beach. With a balance of green and yellow verging on orange in some places. These colours are adjacent to each other on the wheel and seen often in nature, as we do here, making them ‘comfortable’ for us to see together. 

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This image hit the warm colours square on with yellow through to red represented here and the blue tone to the rocky outcrop adding a little contrast as well. There is a rough diagonal split in the image, primarily between the red and the yellow, with a few red accent outcrops of seaweed in the sand to the right.

 

Colour Contrast – one third away from each other on the colour circle i.e red and blue.

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Be prepared! I saw this lady in the red coat walking along the path on the other side of the street, I hoped she would walk in front of this blue window. I did not have time to move so I quickly changed lenses and tracked her walking along, she walked right in front of the window, I pressed the shutter and …. Nothing. In my haste I had not switched the camera back on from changing lenses. About to walk off in shame, I noticed she had gone to the bank till, once finished she headed back in the direction she had come from. With the camera turned on this time I once again waited for the right moment and this was the result (having to side step a truck that had since parked between us).

I could have shot just the window as it was but that would have been like photographing colour swatches. The woman in the red coat in front of the blue window makes the image so much more meaningful for the assignment. Though I was fortunate to get a second chance, I had surprised myself that I was able to see the image I wanted and wait for it to unfold in front of me.

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The ‘shocking red’ of this car park walkway, in bright sun light with a blue sky in the background was to good to pass up. Hidden away in a side street, I first saw a glimpse of the red then as I walked down the alleyway this was there to greet me. The white of the buildings either side also help to make the red look even more bold.

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I knew this shot was waiting for me on the other side of the Yarra having walked past these bikes many times in recent months whilst photographing for this course. The contrast of the blue bicycles and yellow bridge just waiting to be taken. As I approached the sun went behind a large cloud, I still took a couple of shots but the colours and contrast where not quite what I wanted, so I waited until the sun was back in full force to take this final image.

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Whilst waiting for the sun to re-appear for the bycicles above, I went exploring and came across a beaten up yellow forklift in one of the hotel loading bays. The colour attracted me, like a moth to a flame, and as I approached I noticed the red writing on the side which also said red!

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For this shot I’ve walked all the way back into the docklands and looking again in one of the areas which has a lot of cafe’s, this sign printed on the glass and the blue chairs behind jumped out at me as a great colour contrast. Making my final shot for this section.

Colour Accent – small area of colour against a larger area

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Looking up onto the sky scrapers of the CBD I noticed yet another tower going up, this red worker lift making a great contrasting colour accent in the blue sky. Placing the red lift bottom right giving a large expanse of blue to the rest of the image.

 

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There’s a good reason why they use yellow buoys in blue water, you can see them for miles due to the contrast. Plus of course it makes for a good contrasting accent in this image with the blue water and sky and the small lone yellow accent from the buoy.

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A discarded red plastic bottle top pressed into the yellow sand, though these colours are considered contrasting, because they both live on the ‘warm’ side of the wheel they are more harmonious than the first blue / red accent image at the start of this section. 

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On the waters edge where the sand is wet, it takes on a stronger yellow hue, verging on orange in the darker grains of sand. There are a number of colours going on here with the predominate being yellow and small blue accents from the shells.

Reflection

Looking back at the assignment and images I have taken, this was not an easy assignment to fulfil. Trying to find strong images with the right colour combinations without a single ‘staged’ image was not easy and of course some work better than others. However overall I am pleased with the outcome and that I succeeded in my own challenge of no still life shots or filters. As with the previous two assignments I find myself thinking differently again about what I am looking for in an image. My approach becomes ever more planned and focused and I am now very critical of what I see in the viewfinder, slowing myself down when events permit, before I press the shutter release. Previously I had relied on my natural ability to recognise a good photo opportunity, now I am able to see more of those opportunities but also have a structure to the approach and more control.

Doing this course remotely without the ability to meet fellow students periodically can make for a rather lonely experience. But I find the blogging quite cathartic (in the hope that someone reads it!) and the tutor feedback ever more important to spur me on..

Assignment 2 Feedback – Elements of Design

What follows are my tutors feedback on my Assignment 2. All my comments are in blue italics. Though I have not agreed with all of the feedback, it is great to get critical assessment of your work, thats is what this is all about after all…

Overall Comments

At first look your submission seems to have a good range of images with plenty of supporting text.

Feedback on assignment Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

Single point.

You have shown an image with a large area of blank space, and in the lower left of the shot you have your point of interest. The blank space is fine, in fact it is essential to this kind of shot, but the figures are the thing that the eye goes to first. Bearing in mind that the title is ‘Single point’ I think that two figures are not quite what is required. I would also suggest that making the important part of the shot even smaller would emphasise the operative word ‘point’ better, so zooming out more (if the location allows) would be the recommended approach.

I disagree with these comments and have looked at others work and comments to validate my view. The size of the point in the image is appropriate and there are many examples of others work where there multiple smaller elements making up the single point in the image.

Two points.

I think that your two points work well here, and I notice that there is a balance with the two white tower things in the top right of the shot. I have included a crop here to show how that balance could be presented in a way that minimizes distractions and improves proportion.

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I have cropped the image so that the space above, and to the right of the white things is roughly the same as that to the left and below the buoys in the lower left of the shot.

I agree with this comment this works much better. I have without realising it constrained myself to more conventional image ratios for a long time, being so used to producing work for ‘standard’ print sizes. See re-cropped image below.

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Several points in a deliberate shape.

Your written section explaining this shot draws attention away from the shapes of the figures and points to the positioning of the sunflowers as the main interest.

Would you say though, that these sunflowers were ‘several points in a deliberate shape’, or several points in an accidental shape? I think probably the latter.

I’m also a bit bothered by the fact that you have cut them all off at the ankles.

I agree this is the weakest image by far in the set and below is a re-submitted image, replacing the original.

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The above image was taken during the same trip for the original assignment images. In hindsight I have no idea why I did not use this image in the first place, it was marked-up and sent to the blog.

Combination of vertical and horizontal lines.

This is a good shot for the title. I like the idea that your composition should be symmetrical, with the horizon going across the centre. Unfortunately your slightly wonky building takes the edge off what could be a strong shot. You mention using correction in DXO afterwards, and I can only assume that you have uploaded the uncorrected version by mistake, because this is not vertical. Shooting a tall building at this distance should not cause any distortions in the verticals, so the only thing you had to do was get the camera level here. One other point: you may want to re read your text and to a little bit of tidying up, it seems a little disjointed.

The original image has a slight divergence on the left side of the building only visible due to the proximity of the image border. But it wasn’t perfect, so I have re-submitted the corrected image below. Interestingly I had to place the correction lines in slightly wrong places in DXO to achieve the perfect result. Also the text has been tidied up.

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Diagonals.

You have used a unique subject matter to illustrate diagonals, showing the side-on view of a hoop shape. This shows good observation and a way of looking at things beyond the obvious.

Curves.

This is an excellent shot. You have combined a great location with perfect lens choice and taken an ideal viewpoint to emphasise the curves. I can’t suggest any improvements to this image.

Distinct, even if irregular shapes.

Another strong shot. The irregular shapes in the sculpture are a perfect choice for the title. The inclusion of the building in the background works as a counterpoint, and offers scale and pattern. I think I would have taken a slight step to my left if I was shooting this, then the building would show a bit more behind the left hand side of the sculpture.

Implied triangles.

This shot doesn’t really work for me, there are five cars within the frame and no obvious triangle shape amongst them. The three lightest colours attract the eye first, and they are arranged in a vague curve. There is more of an implied triangle in the handrail and grill in the bottom left of the shot.

On reflection I agree that the image needed to be cropped differently for it to work. I have re-cropped the original, deliberately keeping the edges tight to the cars, which I think now works far better than the original submission.

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The shot of the metal stones has a better arrangement, the largest, foreground stone is a little too close to the right hand side of the frame though, and this is slightly uncomfortable.

I thought the close to the edge composition brought a little tension to the image but now I have also freed myself from my 3:2 ratio only images here’s my updated version.

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Rhythm.

The shot of the huge chevrons is an excellent one for rhythm. They attract the eye due to the brightness and the scale.

Pattern.

I really like this shot of the structure in the ceiling. You have got it very symmetrical, even though you could not get directly underneath it, and each side of the shot balances well with the other. The uneven colours and brightnesses of each window add interest and variety within the regular structure.

Learnings.

Your comments about how you noticed things to photograph and how you made yourself work harder at it, show your commitment to the work. I can see from your images that you are looking and thinking about your shots and this has paid off. I have been critical of your shots here, but that is my job. You are a competent photographer and you are well on your way to having a strong body of work.

Overall, a good submission with some strong images and good observations. I would like to see more evidence that you are looking at other photographers work, and perhaps even some critical assessment by you of general photography which might see everyday in magazines and on advertising billboards. This would show that you are thinking beyond just the competent use of your camera.

These are appearing in my ‘photographers work’ and ‘extra curricular’ categories

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New books arrived today…

OK so finally trying to get into other photographers work, I have gone old school, meaning that I have bought books, rather than just look at images over the internet. The images online have helped me choose who to look at, but I want good quality images to review and asses not some low res pixelated copy on the net. So to the books that arrived today are Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, William Klien:ABC and William Eggleston’s Guide.

Ansel Adams 400 Photographs – the one which attracted me right out of the box, a photographer who’s work I have been aware of but never really looked at in detail..but the book I have not put down since it arrived. The book, the writing, the images are just fantastic. I love the graphic quality of black and white, but combined with the majesty of the mountain scenes and the composition of the images are just incredible. If you’re looking for a photographer to review, a good book, or just want to see what truly good Black and White photography looks like, then this has to be top of your list..

I will of course come back around to talk about Ansel’s work in some more detail in due course. As for the two Bills I’ll come back to those at another time…I need to go back to ‘Ansel Adams 400 Photographs’