Saturday, 16 July 2011

Writing Descriptively Exercise: Describe a photograph

As explained in the previous post outlining the aims of this section of the course, I had to choose one of my own photographs and describe it, following the timeline of conception to completion. Factual information had to be included about the subject and the decisions taken leading up to the making of the picture.

I decided to describe and examine a photograph which was submitted as part of my DPP final portfolio.

Assignment Five for Digital Photographic Practice was the production of a personal project, the scope was broad but I had to be able to fully identify with the topic. The theme -‘A life in my shoes’ the concept - to show places that were significant in my life alongside footwear worn during that precise moment in time. Inspiration was taken from Joy Gregory’s Cinderella Stories, and some Beatles lyrics;

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain

All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all

Joy Gregory photographed places that people dream of visiting, familiar landmarks in the cities of faraway countries. She photographed golden 'Cinderella Shoes' at each location in the style of tourists photographs. Rather than show places I aspired to visit the twist was to photograph places where I has been. Opposed to depicting hopes and dreams the images should evoke memories of what had transpired in the past. Hopefully the images would also resonate with the audience.

Danson Park, Bexley, has a 7.8 hectare lake which balances being nature reserve with having a water sports recreation centre. Originally a private estate,design attributed to Capability Brown, Danson is a haven for wildlife. It holds many memories; firework displays, taking my children to feed the ducks, rowing on the lake, walking around the lake during lunchtimes. The main reason it was chosen however, is the memory of Christmas 2004, spending the afternoon watching the sun set over the lake after the breakdown of my marriage. The boots were what I was wearing on  that muddy winter day.

Subject and location chosen the style/genre had to be considered. The images within the set were autobiographical so opted for a landscape/documentary approach. Location in selected, the time of day had to be considered, which was a moot point really, as sunset was a required element. The immediate problem to contend with was the unsettled weather; lots of rain clouds equaled no sunset on my many attempts to capture one. Even though there was no sunset I still experimented with positions and viewpoint.

A planned photograph, but open to the positioning and exact location, I had to remember to take the boots with me and a black plastic bin bag to lay/kneel on due to the mud around the waters edge.

The park was visited on several occasions with test shots taken from different sides of the lake and with differing viewpoints. I experimented with the boots being in realistic positions on the ground, 'commercial' style shots balanced in trees and at the waters edge silhouetted against the sky. Fortunately the accessibility of the park made it possible to undertake a number of outings.The silhouetted images provided a more dramatic effect especially when at the waters edge.

Test Shots

Test shots with and without flash

The final shot was captured due to remembered advice about looking back. The trek out had so far proved fruitless; cold, windy, really muddy underfoot, with dense cloud cover. Giving up in disgust I trudged back to my car, but in looking back noticed the wind was creating breaks in the cloud, in the distance the breaks were getting bigger. Making my way to the lake as quickly as possible, the boots were set up on the edging, all the time keeping my fingers crossed that they would not fall in. They were positioned to give a clear silhouette against the reflections in the water. Taking out the plastic bag to protect me from the worst of the mud I captured a few frames whilst grovelling on the floor!

Wanting coherence to my portfolio each image within the set was taken with a similar focal length, aperture and low perspective. The low perspective was chosen because the main subject was shoes, and the idea of keeping your feet on the ground, in this particular shot it also enabled the boots to be fully outlined against the water. Wanting a fairly a wide field of view a focal length of 24mm was used. Experimenting with shutter speed, flash and positioning, the final camera settings were F5.6 1/125, ISO 400, @ 24mm which captured the colours of the sunset and the exposure needed to provided the silhouette.

What helps to complete this shot is the geese, thinking they were going to be fed, swimming across the lake towards me. In previous test shots I had captured the ducks and had hoped to do the same, but it is a variable you cannot always rely on. Several shots were taken while waiting for the geese to be framed as I had hoped they would be.

Workflow adopted was:

  • Download from card using Adobe Bridge save using date and unique file name
  • Saved in My Pictures and duplicate to external harddrive
  • Open files in Bridge and select using ratings
  • Final file opened in RAW
  • Adjustments made in RAW to Exposure, blacks.clarity and vibrance
Alterations were then made in Photoshop. The horizon had to be corrected which cropped the frame a little more than I had hoped. To correct this, a duplicate layer was created to extend the frame. Other manipulations were minimal with just a touch of extra contrast and a curves layer added to lighten areas of the water.

The final image was resized according to my requirements either for web or print.The prints were produced using an Epson R285 printer, Epson ink,  and Epson Premium Glossy paper. I chose glossy paper for this project as growing up most of my family snaps were produce on Kodak glossy and it was another link to memories. Using all Epson products, added to monitor calibration, ensured correct colours when printing.

This has proved a useful exercise, showing that the image was thought about and planned it in advance, thinking about the purpose and intended audience, coherence of the portfolio, genre, problems that maybe encountered and ways to solve them. It has made me question choices and ideas, decisions made either in advance or when editing. Not all images are planned in such a way and it has become more apparent that there are areas I need to brush up on, for example understanding more the expected results when using different focal lengths. Also when retrospectively talking about processing I don't always note every decision/ adjustment made, if I do this from now on it can help with taking images in the future. I think I will also look up to see how layers can be put into groups and extend my knowledge of photoshop more especially if I want to play with constructed imagery.

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