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!


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.


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.”

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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…

Hyéres, France 1932: H Cartier-Bresson
2018-03-03 08.39.56 pm
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…


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.


1.8: Bracketing exposures

This was an interesting exercise to do at the coast with a  big empty sky and a dark foreground, as the differences show up really well – the overexposed image has lost all detail in the sky, which I can’t get back in Lightroom. The underexposed image is much more usable, as all the detail is there but it is very noisy, with visible grain even when the exposure is increased in Lightroom.

Picture Analysis: Red Bridge, Okawa

2018-01-20 01.36.44 am.png

Visual Description
The image shows a red metal bridge against a green background of trees and foliage. The bridge is in the centre of the image and takes up the full height. The bridge is made from triangles of red and orange metal, creating a long prism shape, At the bottom is a roadway, with yellow railings. The railings form a regular grid of small rectangles. The road emerges from the bottom left corner of the image. It runs diagonally across the bottom quarter. The colours of the bridge and roadway are clear and vibrant. The green of the forest background is hazy and faded. The bridge sees to emerge out of the forest in 3D, coming toward the viewer.
The red structure took my attention first, as the colour and shape is strong. The 3D effect of the bridge coming out of the image is startling and draws the eye across the bridge to the background. The viewer travels along the road.
Light and Shadow
The light is coming from the top left corner. The bridge and roadway are strongly lit, with the underside in shadow. The triangle shape of the red girders has made a shadow on the background. The strong sunlight has made the background hazy and fuzzy.
The photo has strong diagonal lines. The main line of the road draws the eye across the image and up and down the triangle shapes of the structure
Subject and Themes

I think the subject of the photo is the bridge.
The absence of any people or traffic gives the image a slightly sinister feeling. It makes the picture about the structure and shape rather than the bridge as a useful object that does a job. The roadway seems to go nowhere, suddenly disappearing into the forest, which is quite surreal.
Personal Response
I find the image slightly surreal. I like the strong diagonal lines and the way they direct the eye around the photo. I find the way the bridge seems to disappear into the wall of forest unsettling, and initially I struggled a bit to ard to extract meaning, to do the ‘right’ thing for the exercise. Hopefully, I will get better at this bit!

Paper.OCA COURSE.1.png

1.7: Evaluating Your Photos

Evaluating your own photographs is a key skill to develop during this course. It’s your conscious awareness of visual problems that will help you to avoid them and to make better photos as a result.
Here’s a list of questions to help you assess your photographs.”

  • What is the subject?
  • Is the subject clearly visible or is it obscured?
  • What’s behind the subject? Is it distracting?
  • Does the composition have any other major distractions?
  • Is the subject in or out of focus?
  • Is the image well exposed?
  • What is the contrast like?
  • Is the colour balance the way you remember it?

I use Lightroom for both workflow organisation (and it’s taken a few years to be able to feel OK about calling it a workflow!) and image editing. I have started trying to keep the following regime.

  • Upload photos from a shoot/trip/event to a dated folder inside a themed folder – eg Walks, Holidays etc
  • Review the images initially one by one and flag ones I instantly like
  • Look at the flagged photos in more detail, and colour code ones that I want to work on further
  • Number code edits that I want to export and publish on Flickr etc and export to a folder inside the original dated folder called edits

I think the best way to illustrate the evaluation process for the Light and Shadow photos is to look at some of the light and shadow photos that didn’t work and explore some of my reasons for rejecting them. I was going for a clean, graphic, abstract feel to these images, with line, shape, pattern and contrast as the main ‘subject’. This meant that the successful images would need to have clean lines, good contrast, and interesting shapes to avoid being boring.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.