Working to Limitations

Last February I had to go into hospital for some surgery.  It was supposed to be something minor, which subsequently changed into something rather more than I anticipated.  As a result, it took much longer to get over it, than I originally envisaged.

What I found was that I had, and still have – much less energy than I did, and that standing around for long periods of time leaves me feeling distinctly tired. It would have been so easy to just stop taking photographs and give in to the problem – so what I had to do was shift my thoughts from what I couldn’t do, to what I could do.

For instance, in my last blog post I talked about the Armed Forces weekend in Cleethorpes.  I’d got a pass for the whole event, but in reality I only managed one of the days – fortunately the main day…. and I got some great images.

It’s no good just saying you can’t do something – sometimes you just have to moderate your ambition, and work within your new limitations.

I’m pretty sure that I’ll get over this completely in the next month or two, but in the meantime – I’ll just have to slow down and work one day at a time.

The benefits are that I have to plan more, and can’t just rush out – and the benefits have been noticeable.

Easy Photography?

I was stood in a shop the other day, looking at the pictures they had for sale in there. Some were paintings, some craft, and some photography. The photographs were pleasing images of the Lincolnshire wolds – woodlands, landscapes, and also beach scenes.

A lady stood next to me, humphed slightly, and announced in fairly loud tones, that the photographs were easy – anyone could take them with a decent mobile phone, and she didn’t see quite why they were even for sale, never mind at the price asked.

Part of me wanted to get involved in a conversation, but in the end, she walked away, and I continued to stand and stare, and wondered why people think photography is so simple.

Part of the issue is the preponderance of images that are available on the internet, and on Facebook – mostly, I see very poor ones (I’ve talked about this before) – but mainly it’s the idea, or assumption that the creation of a good photograph is easy, and takes little or no skill to create, but merely the good luck to be in the right place at the right time. It is generally assumed that the glass and body of the camera has all the cleverness built in, and it is thought that actual talent is not needed to make an image the way it is. They think that anyone who can see, with or without glasses, can make the same picture.

The assumption is that photographs can be made without the interference of vision, craft, dedication, repetition or talent of the photographer.

People think that because they own a camera, they are photographers. It’s surely the same principle of – “I bought a new oven, therefore I am a chef”. I see it all the time, the new camera owners who instantly think they can make money from their ‘art’. They don’t need to learn all the nuances of photography – they can put the camera on the green square – full auto, and wonderful pictures will spill out – which they can then overprocess (because they don’t know when to stop, and after all, a great coloured filter will really enhance that shot)….

Do they really think that Ansel Adams got great images of Yosemite every time he got his camera out? Do they really think that Edward Weston’s Pepper number 30 came first time….. no – the clue is in the title…. Pepper number 30 – which means that there were at least 29 others that came before that… and who knows how many afterwards. It just means that Weston thought that number 30 was the best for publishing at that time.

So when I see images on line with wails from photographers who say, “I shot this and no-one has commented… but when I do something different people do” ….. then I say – there might be a reason. Maybe your talent doesn’t lie in that direction, and maybe you go back to what you are good at. Or maybe the shot, though competent, has no soul.

A portrait of a model sat on a wall, can be just that, a person sat on a wall. There’s no story, no soul, no romance….. NO INTENT.

I’ve always found that planned shoots, with a visualised end are successful. The times when I wander out with no idea what to do, usually result in a lot of deleted images (but hey, I had the day out and enjoyed company maybe, or just the good weather).

Ansel Adams reckoned that your first 10,000 pictures are just practice, and you get better after that….. so I’d better get the camera out again……

Enjoy your shooting

 

Musings……..

A few weeks back, I was having a conversation with another photographer about images. A conversation which eventually turned into one about photographic art.

One of the things that we talked about was how can we be honest with ourselves about the images we make. It’s hard to be self critical without being over-critical, and it is somewhat easier to talk about other peoples work when it isn’t our own.

We do look sometimes though at other peoples work and cringe, and they think we don’t understand, and become self-congratulating artists. On the other hand there are photographers whose opening lines are always “I know I can’t do this”, or “You’re a much better photographer than I am”, and “I’ll never be any good”…. what I want to say to those that start off like this is “If you really believe that, then go get another hobby”….. I know you can’t always say that, but I’d really like to.

We have all had conversations with photographers who see no room for improvement in their work. They have the ‘best’ gear, and of course then take the ‘best’ pictures. They will defend their work to the death at the slightest hint of a contrary opinion. Or they will immediately start to explain exactly why the image is not as the viewer would see it. The excuses fly, and our comments become futile.

So, next time you look at someone’s images, why not ask them first if they really want your honest opinion. If they say no, then walk away. If they say yes, then it might be worth asking if they just want you to tell them what you LIKE about the shot, or would they be interested in knowing what you would have done differently.

I am happy to offer my opinions, but that’s all they are. People can accept or reject advice as much as they please, and I want them to know that I won’t be bothered or offended if they take no notice – it is always the author who has the final say, and not the judge.

Failure is just a way of learning what doesn’t work, and I’ve found hundreds, maybe thousands of ways…..

Photo Impressionism – Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about my re-discovery of multiple exposure images.

Since then, I’ve worked on a good number of new photographs using this style, and a refined viewpoint.  I’m also starting to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.

My starting point was the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and his impressionistic painting “Sea and Rain” – The dreamy effect of the lone man, walking along a foggy beach was remincent of views I see fairly regularly along the East Coast of England. It was paintings similar to this that encouraged me on my way to try and re-create photographically this style of art.

There is a book that I’m keen to get a copy of – it’s entitled “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874″ and includes the beautiful mid-19th century photography of Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and others.  The Normandy Coast is where Whistler spent time painting, and it is also the time when painters and photographers were trying to capture motion.  Whistler was trying to move away from conventional art, and experimenting with a softer style.

In the time following the invention of photography, there was controversy about whether art could be photographic, or whether photographs were merely recording a scene.  I would say that the photograph of the French Fleet, Cherbourg, taken by Gustave Le Gray in 1858, shows great artistic quality.

Screenshot 2018-04-25 10.04.32

So photography became the ‘new painting’. Did photography influence the painters, or did the painters influence the photography…….?  I don’t know the answer..

A trip to the Science and Media Museum in Bradford revealed images by Frank Eugene (whom I remember from my college days) who scratched his negatives, to give a softer feel.  As far as I know, no-one before him had tried this, and even the ‘purists’ of the day were said to admire his work.

Screenshot 2018-04-25 09.48.41

Nude Man by Frank Eugene

Eugene was one of the founding members of “The Linked Ring” – Also known as “The Brotherhood of the Ring”, a photographic society created to propose and defend that photography was just as much an art as it was a science.

You can access the Linked Ring exhibition catalogues HERE (It can take a while to load even with a fast internet connection, so be careful) – Sadly the photographs themselves are not reproduced, but you can access all the Salon members, and search for their photography.  You can also see many adverts for the various processing labs, and cameras that were available in 1903.

I did try searching for some of the images in the catalogue but without success.

So – to go back to the start, you can find more of my impressionistic images on Flickr, by checking the link on the right hand side of the blog, I do hope you enjoy them.

More to come on this topic.

 

Photo Impressionism

About six or so months ago, I rediscovered multiple exposure photography.

A good number of years ago, I was taking the ocassional multi exposure image, and putting them together in post production.  Once I got a Canon that could do them in-camera, I added a few more.  Time ticked on, and I was working for clients, and I didn’t have much time to make images for myself, and the experiment got put on the back burner….

Then towards the end of 2017, I was admiring the work of a Candadian photographer who was creating very impressionistic photographs using multi exposures.  He was not doing them in camera, as each image he created was using upwards of 30 exposures.  He said he’d been influenced by a photographer called Freeman Patterson – and after a short time, I was able to get hold of a book Freeman had written, called Photo Impressionism, and the Subjective Image.

Whilst the publication is quite an old one, and refers entirely to shooting with film, the actual process was easily translated into the digital world.  He talked a lot about shooting images that only gave an impression of the whole, and in the use of shapes and lines, focused entirely on texture, and the nature of the surfaces.

Absorbed in the book, and tracing other photographers who were working the same way – I started to look at how these fascinating images were actually created.

It involved a lot of research, and tracking down different methods of working within Photoshop.  Eventually though, I was able to work out how to align layers of images, and how to blend them together to give the kind of result I was looking for.

Once I fully understand how the layer stacking affects the final images, I’ll write a full blog piece.  In the meantime I’m looking at shooting all sorts of things, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Tree

This is one of the first images I made using this multi shot technique. It uses around 40 images – stacked and blended to give the impression of the tree in front of a building.  I’m working on refining the technique, and this next image is one of the town of Louth in Lincolnshire.  It’s the indoor market hall tower clock, on a busy Maundy Thursday, and a shot I shall try again on an even busier market day.  A mere 17 images this time….

Tree

The more images used, the finer the final image becomes, so somewhere in between there must be an optimum number of pictures to use.   I tried one larger image with nearly 70 images, but it did not seem to be so successful.   I have seen one photographer use this technique though with over 200 layers.   I can’t imagine how big the final file would be.

I have uploaded a number of images onto my Flickr page (see the link to the right of the blog), and more are on my website

http://www.dseddonphoto.co.uk/multi_exposure

I’ll keep working………..

Double Exposures !

There’s an old adage that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  This runs true in all sorts of ways.  We’ve all made mistakes with people, at job interviews, with good friends, and sometimes you get the chance to go back and fix your mistakes – but not always.

I think it’s similar to when you make photographs – but you do usually have two chances.  Once when you take it, and once when you edit it.  There’s also the time when you take something, bring it home, and surprise even yourself.  You haven’t seen what you’ve got at the time you took it.  Whether it be because you didn’t look at the image on the back of the camera, or because you just didn’t  ‘see’ it.

So the second chance comes into play.  You didn’t just randomly delete it whilst you were out (NEVER delete anything whilst you’re out!), and now you can edit.

When I took the shot below – I was playing with the double exposure function of the camera… We were in a shopping centre, and security was popping around – you all know what it’s like – I’m on private property doing something that security doesn’t like or allow – anyway, so I was sneaking photographs.  Camera low down – and just shooting what ever took my fancy.

When I got home, I had this….

DSCF6130

Unlooked for and unplanned.  I had no idea what I had.

Most of what I took I deleted, but this is the one I liked the best.  Keep shooting.

To Like or Not to Like, that is the question..

DSED5726

Every now and again someone will ask me “where did you take that picture?”  It’s usually easy for me to tell them,  as I can remember most locations.  However, sometimes I’m asked “WHY did you take that picture?”

The image above generated this second question.  It was taken on the beach, close to West Kirby, and the chap had been wind surfing.  The dog had been bounding around on the beach, and this was the greeting the owner got when he sat down.  I was just taken by the moment shared between man and dog.

What’s interesting, is that the next person to look at this shot might say that it doesn’t do anything for them.  They may not like the composition, or the colours, or the expression….

This is the point – there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way – it’s all to do with how the viewer has been educated by books, art, and photography.  It’s about how they have been ‘judged’ in the past on their own work.  It is also to do with how much influence an individual has had in their photographic journey.

If you are constantly told that the photographic rules have to be followed, and that deviation means it’s wrong – then it’s possible that the photographer will not be as creative.

You need to know the basic rules, yes, but you also need to be aware that it is OK to break them when YOU want to.

Your own views will be constantly changing, provided you are open to change. And the truth of the matter is that you have only one person to please that really matters……. YOURSELF.

 

Lightwaves – Salford Quays – Humans Being Digital

On Friday – December 15th, four of us went to Salford Quays, to attend Lightwaves, on Salford Quays, hosted by Quays Culture.

We were able to meet with the Creative Director, Lucy Dusgate, and talk to her about this years show. (Image by Keith Balcombe)

We discussed the latest commission “I forgot to say”……

International novelist, University of Salford Chancellor and Scotland’s national poet, Jackie Kay has produced a brand new, large-scale commission neon word sign, which spans 15 metres in length across the Plaza outside The Lowry.  Jackie Kay was invited to choose a sentence that for her sums up this year.  The neon (LED) word art spells out ‘I Forgot To Say,’ with the latter, ‘To Say’, illuminating and increasing in intensity and colour when audiences leave their messages..…..  In response to the messages left, Jackie Kay will produce a brand new poem in early 2018.

You can find information about this poem by clicking HERE

Planning for these events, starts at least 18 months in advance, and the build can take up to six months.  The exhibits have to be weather proof, and be able to withstand winds up to 45mph, as it can be pretty windy on the Quays.

Lucy, who works part time for Quays Culture, has a lot of support from both full, and part time staff – one of whom deals just with all the administration.

We asked Lucy about the selection of artists to display their work on the Quays.  She explained that she keeps an eye on the artistic processes, and when she sees work that she thinks will fit, she will approach the artist directly.  She is also aware of upcoming emerging UK talent, and will encourage those to apply to have their work displayed.

This year, the Danish artist Tom Dekyzere is displaying some of his work.  You can find more information about Tom by clicking HERE

His installation on the Quays, a dynamic waterside sculpture will translate soundwaves from beneath the River Irwell into lightwaves.

Tom Dekyvere explores the deeper layers of reality and mind. Just as the alchemists of former times probing for unexpected connections, in search of the boundaries between nature and technology, between man and robot, between dead and living matter.

With over 400,000 people attending the Quays last winter – Lucy hopes that this will be exceeded this year.

The other section of the display is entitled “Humans Being Digital”, an exhibition which ends in February 2018.  Thom Kubli brings his piece Black Hole Horizon – which illustrates sound in the form of bubbles.


This is what Thom’s website has to say about the installation

“What kind of relations exists between oscillating air, black holes and soap bubbles? What effect does the sound of horns have on the human psyche and why is it present in various creation myths? What impact does gravity have on our collective consciousness? Where do spectacle and contemplation meet?

The installation Black Hole Horizon is a cosmological experimental setup, a meditation about a spectacular machine that transforms sound into three-dimensional objects and that keeps the space in steady transformation.

The nucleus of Black Hole Horizon is the development of an instrument that is operated by compressed air and that resembles a ship’s horn. With the sounding of each tone, a huge soap bubble emerges from the horn. It grows while the tone sounds, peels off the horn, lingers through the exhibition space and finally bursts at an erratic position within the room.”

Heart, Brain and Lungs by Pascal Haudressy are screen-based pieces that encourage you to think about your own bodies…


Finally, Nye Thompson uses CCTV footage to create a curious environment that asks questions about technology and privacy, contributing a sense of anxiety to an exhibition of many emotions.

humansbeingdigital artists: U_Joo and Limhee Young; Max Dovey; Thom Kubli; Nye Thompson; Thomson and Craighead; Mary Maggic; Mango Chijo Tree and The Jayder; Pascal Haudressy; Libby Heaney and Felix Luque Sanchez.

If you get a chance to visit, entry is free.

Lightwaves ends on December 17th, and Humans Being Digital Ends February 2018.