I had an eye-opener. Although in the mind a theory, idea or concept can be clear, while creating and selecting it’s easy to stray away from that base without noticing. To make it more specific, part of my selection of pictures for this assignment was based on real life action and not the balance of visual forces.
annotated version assignment notes
Comment [H1]: Referring to my blogpost The Decisive Moment. The Decisive moment is about balance in visual forces. It has to do with the elements of the image. It’s a stylistic choice.
Comment [H5]: Picture EvY 306 – 503/525. The two bully monkeys looking if nobody sees what they are doing, while the victim shouts.
In the option sent to the tutor the visual forces are in balance, but there is a lot of empty space. My worries with cropping are that blurred monkeys in the background will be cut, and I don’t like that. Also I think the space adds to the underhand attitude of the monkeys.
Nevertheless I added a couple thumbnails with different cropping to see if my picture can improve.
I can find myself in the comments on the pictures of the lion and the rodent. For this assignment a re-shoot is obviously out of the question, but I made another selection.
In the case of the rodent I had a picture from the same situation. Interesting is that I have doubted between these two pictures from the moment I shot them. Not only with regards to this assignment, but also in general. With hindsight this is for me a typical example where I went wrong. I selected a picture representing action instead of a picture with the best possible balance of visual forces.
The lion is less a clear example for me. I agree that the picture is too much about the actual action, but there is a balance of visual forces. The way the lion stands, how he puts his force on his legs, that forces to the left comes out in the pictures and is balanced by the that animal. Some imaginary vectors can be drawn and I see a balance of visual forces, maybe not the best possible.
For the lion I selected a completely different situation. Some pictures I choose from
Questions to ask
“Is this image telling me something that I didn’t know?” or “Is this image making me think about something in a way I have not really done before?”
The easy answer is “yes” as wildlife is always surprising me: how they look, what they do, how they survive; the relation with other animals; the attitude the show, etc.. And being in nature makes me humbles and think of my being in the world (in all its multifaceted).
This surprise I try to take along in the selection of pictures as well. For example in many cases a portrait of a bird on a branch doesn’t add much to my collection except in the case of uniqueness, rarity, extreme beauty, etc. The challenge I undertake is to get more active or more surprising pictures, put in different words – and in relation to the in this section asked questions – more and more answers.
What I learned (or was reminded of) per picture:
- Elephants: I was surprised by the combination of force, tenderness and elegance.
- Rodent: What attracted my eye was the combination of colours, although the yellow is not a natural colour, I didn’t expect to find this combination in nature. Added the rodent on its back legs drinking from so high on top of the melon.
- Birds: following each others moves
- Zebras: the beauty of a child being fed.
- Lion: moves its pray to get away from disturbing environmental factors
- Monkeys: They bully and are aware they shouldn’t.
- Antelopes: they do these kicks and jumps without apparent reason
An interesting conclusion I draw myself is that the answers I give are related to what attracted me in the situation in the first place, the reason why I created the photographs.
In my opinion, depending on the purpose of a project, the answers to these questions don’t always have to be new to the photographer. The photographer might already have known the answers, but maybe not his intended public.
I see an added value of these type of questions as selection criteria. I have to formulate my own.
In the context of the assignment my answers to the questions would relate to composition. The decisive moment doesn’t learn me anything about the world, accept for a possible way to capture a split second of it. The act of balancing the visual forces is a style choice. I don’t think that’s the purpose of the question.
I did make my own prints. Therefor I’m happy with the remark “the colour rendering seem pretty much the same in the prints and the digital images you sent as are the brightness and contrast.” I’m very much at the beginning of learning the craft of printing.
The remarks on the use of high gloss paper and borders are noted.
Some remarks with regards to the proposed additional reading:
- https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/dec/23/henri-cartier-bresson-the- decisive-moment-reissued-photography. I read it and I agree for a large part with the writer. I see the decisive moment as method or a style and it says little about the vision of the photographer or the world itself.
- Barthes, R., 1993. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. London: Vintage Classics. Read it a couple of months ago, but it’s a small book to be read multiples times to grasp his ideas to the full. I started this week to read it again. Picking it up again I remember I was a bit disappointed that a large part was about only one photograph of his mother.
- Cotton, C., 2015. Photography is Magic. 1st ed. New York : Aperture. A book to put on my shopping list.
A small selection of another shoot for reworking assignment.
Re-working assignment 2 with special attention to:
- My concept: wide, open and emptiness.
- position horizon and the effect on the picture. I had the tutor’s question in mind: do I shoot clouds with landscape or landscape with clouds?
- Including foreground interest or not, basically an adaption of earlier thoughts of ‘no specific point of focus’
- All compositional elements should enhance the concept of the series.
I still want to do more shoots. For now I only include a comparison of some photos.
Thoughts to brief
The Decisive Moment
The decisive moment is a stylistic choice. Catching the decisive moment in for example wildlife photography creates beautiful pictures. For other types of photography other theories might be better suited.
I traveled alone with a 4×4 Toyata Hilux through Botswana for two weeks. I slept in nature in a tent on the rooftop of the car. Besides pictures I made a video of the experience as well. It was my first video (not counting one from my apartment when I lived in Mumbai).
All shots were taken on shutter priority mode. For shooting wildlife this was a risk for me as I normally shoot on aperture priority mode. In a couple of instance where the camera/sensor couldn’t handle the Tv because of lower light conditions it went wrong. I know how the camera reacts in those instances with Av. I made some real fuck ups which are not included in the contact sheets as I made so many pictures and deleted even more.
What maybe also can be seen from the contact sheets is my way of working. I first make a selection and do some post processing on those selected pictures (contrast, saturation, white balance, crop). Pictures not included in that initial selection might still look light or dark, or to yellow because I have my camera standard on daylight preset for white balance.
I’m very content with the outcome. It’s a qualitative and creative series taken under difficult circumstances, from behind the driving wheel of a car. In selection the pictures I aimed for variety as well.
In my opinion the series shows the decisive moments Henri Cartier-Bresson was talking about, but taken out of the context of street photography.
Specific to photos
EvY 301 – 24/525. The reason I picked 24 over 25 is the trunk of the elephant touching the others lip. The decisive moment.
EvY 302 – 117/525. The reason I picked 117 over 116 is that the rodent is eating. The decisive moment. If selecting for another type of series I might take 116.
EvY 303 – 255/525. Balance of visual forces. In picture 255 it comes together, in 254 and 256 the balance is missing.
EvY 304 – 263/525. I choose 263 over 262 for simplicity (of shape and form).
EvY 305 – 407/525. With all the attempts I have included in the contact sheet, I think this choice of picture clearly states the decisive moment.
EvY 306 – 503/525. The two bully monkeys looking if nobody sees what they are doing, while the victim shouts. Visual forces in balance.
EvY 307 – 514/525. The action of the antelope. A decisive moment.
The order of the pictures is aimed to enhance the variety, but by coincidence also chronological.
I have some doubts on the course content and also the received feedback so far. It seems not to be leading to something concrete. It’s too open, nothing is conclusive. I understand that’s the intend of the course. Develop students into self-sufficient, self-thinking, contemporary artists, but I have doubts if it’s the way for me. I feel I don’t need an expensive course or a teacher if the only aim is to let me develop myself and less to teach. I can do and am doing that myself. One thing I currently get from the course is a bit of structure. It forces me to progress by reflecting and consciously look, read and listen.
annotated version assignment notes
Comment [H6]. I choose aperture f/16 for the extended depth of field. For the concept I had in mind I needed depth throughout the picture. I always try to keep my ISO as low as possible to keep the quality as high as possible. Because I shot handheld I increased the ISO to 200 for a workable shutter time and prevent motion unsharpness.
Comment [H7]. I was shooting landscape with clouds. The clouds enforce the landscape. The idea was wide, open, emptiness which refers to the lands. From idea to concept to execution the clouds have become an unmissable element of the photos and the series. It’s part of the concept, partly motivated by the technique, the lens particulars.
I composed by looking how the clouds enforced the landscape, the other way around would have given different compositions.
Comment [H8]. Lines seen through the viewfinder don’t show the same on the picture except when these lines lead the eye into the picture. It’s all about rendering a 3D world on a 2D surface. The lead in lines are a compositional tool to give the idea of depth in a picture.
Comment [H9]. Create some additional photos because I think I can improve the series by composing with the horizon at more similar hight in the pictures. I’ve been back to the location, but didn’t have the right cloud formations. I shot some pictures for another project I started.
After seeing my picture so far the tutor came up with the ideas typology and minimalism. Both are quit interesting ideas.
I recently read a book called “The Politics of Design” by Ruben Pater. According to the leaflet the book explores the cultural and political context of the typography, colours, photography, symbols, and information graphics that we use every day. I can recommend this very easy to read small book. With regards to my photography I think until recently the use of symbolism in my pictures was of an unconscious nature. But now when I shoot for example wildlife, what I aim for is not just a representation of the subject. I’m much more aware of idea, concept, colour theory, symbolic meanings, etc. In my newest project which I started for myself, but surely will use in this course, I am using elements as symbols, even metaphors.
With regards to minimalism I can say I’m very interested in it. I remember an evening in Brazil last year where I photographed an evening long a toothpick in a single light on a smooth surface.
the tutor recommended a couple of links:
I was not unknown to the pictures of Bernd and Hilla Becher. I already knew that I make certain type of pictures, the redbubble blog made me realise that placing those pictures in series typology in them can be seen. I think it is inherent to the fact that my photography started as a companion on my travels and that I had certain interests and a certain idea of what aesthetic pictures were. I ended up with similar subjects, but in different locations. The new project I referred to earlier in this post is partly a step away from that.
Barrett, T., 2011. Criticising Photographs. 5th Edition ed. California: Mayfield Publishing. This book I studied already. When I write a post for the visual research section I actually try to use Barrett’s methodology: describe, interpret, judge. Were the emphasise is on the description as interpretation and judgement I add if I like it and if I can use elements in my own photography.
The other books I’ll put on my list for when I finished the unread ones out of my closet. I already read books like:
- Wells, L. 2015. Photography, a critical introduction. 5th edition
- Trachtenberg, A. 1980. Classic Essays on Photography. 5th edition
- Barthes. 1980. Camera Lucida (translated by Richard Howard)
- Szarkowski, J. 1966. The Photographer’s Eye.
- Sontag, S. 2008. On Photography
The extract from Barthes, R., 1977. Image, Music, Text. London: Fontana. I will study.