1.11: Capturing stillness and movement

Choose a subject that includes both stillness and movement. Create a series from a
variety of different instances of this subject.
When you’re assessing your photographs, try not to think in terms of what is ‘photogenic’ in the usual sense of the word. Go beyond that. Ask yourself if your photographs communicate what you intended: stillness and movement peacefulness and energy.
Do your photographs communicate any other ideas? In other words, are they symbolic or metaphorical? This capacity to take something unintentional and make something out of it is a sign that you’re developing as a photographer.

Still at Hermitage Basin, the water was partly frozen over, and a flock of seagulls were making the most of the opportunity to stand around and argue over scraps of food.

There was stillness – the frozen stillness of the water, the motionless gulls standing hunched against the cold.

There was movement – the rush of the fountain water, the sudden swoop of a landing gull, the flurry of motion when a piece of bread was thrown onto the ice, the acrobatic fight for possession.

 

Reflections on the photographs

I had not brought my tripod, so was hand-holding the camera and resting it on the railings, changing from slow to fast shutter speed as events played out.

I was pleased with the results, despite realising I would have been better to use a tripod. I think the unpredictability of the gulls lent itself to the handheld approach and I think some of the unintentional camera movement has added to the blur effect in the slower speed shots, which I really like.

I think if I was looking for a symbolic or metaphorical angle then there is something there about stoic waiting turning into chaotic conflict, but that might be a little too anthropomorphic. There is also a feeling of slightly hallucinogenic confusion in the blurred images that I also quite like.

1.11 Research Point: Toshio Shibata

These are the first two screenshots of a Google image search for Toshio Shibata. After doing the search, before I began looking at individual images I was struck by the themes that emerged from seeing the thumbnails laid out like this.

  • triangles
  • red/Green
  • resh and latticework
  • diagonal bisecting lines
  • interlocking shapes
  • slowed-down falling water
  • vertiginous perspective

There are some very strong repeated ideas emerging here – it was an interesting way to look at a single photographers work.

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Looking at some of the images more closely, I really liked the juxtaposition of slowed-down soft misty water against monumental, solid, immovable concrete dams – it makes for thought-provoking contrast. The water becomes almost like a silky veil draped across the solid concrete.

1.10: Shutter Speed

Make a series of experiments bracketing only the shutter speed, for example by
using1/250th sec, then 1/60th sec, 1/15th sec, etc. You’ll go from freezing movement to blurring movement.
Think about interesting moving subjects and note down some ideas: people, nature,
machines, etc. Note the most effective ways you could photograph them: by panning the camera with a moving object or by holding the camera still.

It’s been hard to get out and about in the recent weather apocalypse, and too cold to spend hours outside waiting for things to whizz by at a useful speed, so I ended up visiting Hermitage Basin, a small enclosed body of water near Tower Bridge and very local to where I live in Wapping. I have spent many hours there, admiring the waterlilies in summer, watching the resident heron fishing from his platform, and enjoying the endless bread fights between the ducks, swans, moorhens and gulls that frequent the place.

There is a fountain in the middle of the basin (to keep the water fresh and oxygenated I presume) and I used this for some work on shutter speed. I used shutter priority mode and went to the extremes of fast and slow shutter speed the light conditions would allow, with the aperture changing accordingly.

Fast Shutter: f/5.4 1/1000 sec           Slow Shutter f/20 1/8 sec

You can clearly see the droplets of water in image one, and the water is nicely misty and ethereal in image two.

Notes and ideas on moving subjects.

I had done some thinking about what I could photograph for this exercise, and had thought of the following:

  • A busy car-park
  • people getting on and off a bus
  • traffic from a high vantage point
  • Clipper boats on the Thames
  • snow falling (I tried this but the snow was too fine to show up well against the sky)
  • a tap running
  • reeds/wheat blowing in the wind

In the end the weather restricted me as I wanted to get this section done and get on with the first Assignment.

1.9 revisited: Basilico inspiration

So, after looking at lots of work by Gabriele Basilico I wanted to revisit Exercise 1.9: Soft Light Landscape and today found myself in the perfect spot (Trinity Buoy Wharf on the Thames) on a grey day for a little urban archaeology!

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I like this one in quite a contrasty black and white, I have darkened the shadows and increased the clarity and sharpness to draw out the shapes and textures.

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Basilico did some work in colour towards the end of his career, and I loved the mixed up colours of the cranes – like someone had put them together with Lego!

 

1:9 Research Point – Gabriele Basilico

“Research point – Diffused light

To prepare for the next exercise, look online at the cityscapes of Gabriele Basilico. Notice the smooth quality of light, the sense of space and the way architecture seems more like sculpture, with its shape and form emphasised.”

Obituary from the Guardian

I had never come across Gabriele Basilico before this course, which is a shame, as I really like his work. The Guardian obituary gives a really good insight into the way his work developed through his life, and how similar themes emerged.

“According to the photographer and writer Italo Zannier, Basilico’s place in 20th-century Italian photography was assured by his style of “1930s sophistication”, his “controlled and knowing metaphysical tension” and his achievement in “combining a postmodernist taste for peripheral architecture with an archaeological approach … documented in an intense chiaroscuro”. Although Basilico latterly explored colour and digital photography, his lifelong passion was for often ominous shades of black and white and the use of classic cameras, particularly his large-format Rolleiflex.”

I like the reference to archaeology in the quote from the obituary above, it really describes his work, the sense of emptiness – as though people once inhabited the places but are now long gone. This is particularly poignant in relation to his images of Beirut after its destruction, and he remarked upon it himself after his first visit there:

“It seemed to me some people had just left and others were about to return. All in all, the situation seemed almost normal – the city had just entered a long period of waiting.”

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Beirut, Libano, 1991. (Gabriele Basilico)

I also noticed that many of his images are defined by a strong line – either diagonal or horizontal that breaks the image up into abstract spaces. There are also lots of edges and corners – a coastline, the edge of a building, a railway track, rooftops. Another compositional theme is symmetry. This careful delineation of spaces in his work is part of his own definition of his work as  “a measurer of space

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Finally some of Basilico’s smaller scale images are also defined by a sense of people who have just disappeared. Compare his lovely image of a bicycle in a doorway with Bresson’s famous Hyéres, France 1932 where the cyclist is very much present…

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Hyéres, France 1932: H Cartier-Bresson
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Novi, 1970s: G. Basilico

I shall definitely follow up this photographer, as his themes and style resonate with some of the things I am hoping to achieve in my own photographs.

1.9: Soft Light Landscape – part 2

Although facing east, the sky was also beautiful at sunset, and I spend two evening freezing on the deck trying to capture the subtle colour bands of blue and pink.

The LR edit again reveals more details in the midtones that bring the colours alive. I also added more contrast to make the grey metal rig black, and this version ‘feels’much more like what I saw…

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1.9: Soft light Landscape – part 1

A friend and I went to the Suffolk Coast for a few days, and the light was, as always, fantastic. Our little lodge faced due East, out over the sea, and I broke the habit of a lifetime and managed to get up for sunrise one morning! The low cloud meant we didn’t see the sun for an hour or so but the sky was spectacular.

I processed in LR, adjusting the level sliders to reveal the colour in the foreground add some contrast to the sky. The second image evokes the real view much more than the first, and I was pleased to find the amount of information hidden in the shadows.

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