During this enforced period of domicile incarceration, we have the opportunity to do things that in normal times we may not have the time or inclination to do.
I do read a lot anyway, but I have been probably reading a bit more now during the lockdown. If I read novels, they are usually purchased and downloaded on to my Kindle, but any photography books I normally buy as print so that I enjoy the photographs that they obviously contain.
One book that I have been reading for some time now is “1001 Photographs You Must see before you Die”. It charts exceptional photographs from the 1820s to the 2010s. It is a small but thick (960 pages) and weighty tome. The quality of the reproduced photographs is very reasonable, although they are small because of the book size.
With each image, there is some information about the photographer and how and why they took the photograph.
The way I use this book, and I only suggest it as a method to you, is to read and look at three to four photographs per day. What I do then is to look up the photographer on the internet and then also try and find a larger representation of the photograph in the book to look at it more closely. I have found this beneficial in several ways.
Finding out more about the particular photographer
Finding out more information on the photograph itself
Researching more into the events surrounding the photographer and image.
It has made me appreciate the process that went into the taking of the photograph.
Amazon at present has the book on sale for £20. A bargain I think.
I have three photographs this week that were taken at the very atmospheric Magpie Mine in Derbyshire. This former lead mine is one of the most famous lead mines in the area as it is the only one that has a significant part of its buildings still standing.
The mine was first recorded in 1795 although the workings are almost certainly a lot older. It finally ceased operations in 1958.
It’s an excellent location to get atmospheric photographs and on the day that these photographs were taken 18 months ago in September, it was freezing cold with icy drizzle and a wind that cut like a razor.
I have just been up there again and this time the shoot was ended after a couple of hours because of driving snow and that same vicious wind. The snow storm could be seen coming through the hills until it rolled up over the mine and there is nowhere to shelter at the mine at all. Ensure that you look at the weather before you visit.
All these images were taken with a Nikon D800 and a Nikkor 50mm f/1.8 lens.
Atmospheric photographs can be obtained using monochrome at the mine. If the right sky and clouds can be obtained then the remains of the chimneys and buildings give a really dramatic style to the images. Burning in the clouds during processing to emphasise their swirling around the hills of Derbyshire and the mine adds to the feeling of desolation and isolation.
The colour photograph was one of the first I processed using the Dehaze filter in Lightroom CC on the sky. For a few minutes, the sun leaked through the clouds and shone its light on the mine. I processed the image to emphasise this and I liked the way the filter had picked out colours in the clouds. Not one to use for every image, but I think it worked on this one.
So you have taken your picture, you’ve downloaded it to your computer and you have processed it. Once you are happy with it, you’re going to upload it to social media, or even get it printed and exhibited.
Your work of art is now available for the world to look at, they admire it, they like it and they look down at the text underneath and see that the photograph that you’ve spent time taking and processing is called “DSC 0098763”. That’s a bit of let-down isn’t it? Wouldn’t the image be more complete with a title? If you go to the Louvre and see the famous picture painted by Leonardo, you would be shocked if on the little plaque underneath were written just a series of numbers.
I believe that the title is part of the picture. It can give the viewer that little push needed to immerse themselves in your creation. It can be as simple as just the location of the image or a more involved title, either would be better than just the original camera file name.
So if we want to name our pictures how do we chose the title, a title that appeals to the viewer, helps them assimilate the photograph and is a perfect addition to the art itself?
There is a very good article here by famous photographer John Paul Caponigro about how to go about giving your photographs titles.
This is a great article highlighting the skills of the technicians who worked on some of the most famous photographs ever taken. You can see the annotations made on the test prints of the images telling the technician how long to burn-in or dodge certain parts of the image so that the photographer can get the tonal effect he/she wants on the photograph.
This is very similar to the contrast grading process I use when working on my black and white prints in that I envisage how much i need to burn or dodge parts of the image. On particularly difficult images, I have even duplicated the photo layer in Photoshop and marked up section on the image and how I would like them to appear.
I’m sitting here at my desk currently going through RAW images that I took in June 2014 and wondering why on earth I took them. I know at the time I saw something that I thought was worthwhile recording and then working on, but looking at some of them now I can’t for the life of me think why.
I am unfortunately still a good six months behind with processing my photographs. My time doing University work a couple of years ago really put a stop to processing my own images. I was still taking lots as well as those for the course, but I just didn’t have time to finish my own work off. So I continued to take photographs and cataloguing them in Lightroom, backing them up but not processing them as I was still processing those from months before. So they have built up as this mass of images catalogued into shoots, that all should have a raisons d’être. But some of them are bland, un-creative strangers to me.
I’m a methodical person, so it would go against my nature to immediately work on those images I took, for example, yesterday. I feel if I started doing that then the images from months ago will probably never get processed. There are however exceptions.For example, I have been involved in a book project with other photographers based around the title, ‘The Journey’, so these particular images had to be worked on out of sync as it were. My camera club projects also need to be submitted on time, so they also get completed immediately, but the rest must wait until I can get to them.
So I plod on, and I’m getting up to date, but I just wish I knew why the hell I took that picture of the stupid tree against the sky?
It’s just so rubbish.
Below is a picture I took at Charlecote Park on 14 June last year that I have just finished. It’s strange how some photographs can take you right back to the moment you pressed the shutter. I had just taken some images of a herd of deer beneath a tree and turned around to see the light falling on this bench. I remember thinking “oooh I like that”, and taking the photograph.
Sometimes you just have bite the bullet and go for something even if you think that you have no chance in succeeding. It’s a moral fibre building exercise right?
I have been subscribed to the excellent Black + White Photography magazine for the last three years.
It’s a superb showcase of monochrome photography in all its forms – digital and wet darkroom, film and digital media. The articles are informative and within the magazine’s pages you can see some of the best exponents of black and white photography, as well as some of the new, up-and-coming masters. They have some of the best photographers and wet and digital darkroom specialists write for them each month. I defy anyone who has read any of Tim Clinch’s articles, not to look forward to the next month’s offering. The man is not only an expert in his field but completely entertaining.The magazine itself is beautifully presented with superb reproductions of the photographs rendered on its quality-paper pages. Like other photography publications, it runs projects for its readers each month which serves to inspire them to look that little bit deeper into their photographic vision and to then send their images to the magazine with the chance of winning a prize.
Month after month I have looked at the superb monochrome images that have been entered into the various projects and I have always felt that my own images were found wanting – they could never hope to match those heights of skill and vision that are represented in the pages of the magazine.
Well, a couple of months ago I must have had an confidence aberration because I placed some images on a disk and sent them to the magazine, entered into their ‘Photo Project 4 – The Journey’. I had built a portfolio of the images I had taken in Italy whilst on a tour of the Lake Garda and Dolomites area and I was quite pleased with them. In my own mind I was aspiring to place myself on the same creative and technical footing as those excellent photographers who had succeeded in the projects before and I had no doubt that my photographs wouldn’t be used, but for me it was a big enough step just to send them to the magazine.
You can imagine my shock then when I heard from the editor, Elizabeth Roberts, advising me that I had actually won the May Photo Project award. Three of my images were to be printed in a two page spread. To say I was pleased is an understatement. It’s always nice of course to hear from family and photographic friends when they like your work – it is certainly most satisfying, but to be complemented by people who see excellent images every day of the week is just mind-blowing.
Whilst just getting my images printed in the magazine was prize enough, I had also won £100 worth of goods from Hahnemuhle Fine Art who supply exhibition quality photographic papers. I don’t print my own images, but I have, over the last two years, thought about starting. It is the logical conclusion to the taking and processing of your own photographs. However the last couple of years has also seen me change from Olympus to Nikon cameras, and so all available funds were diverted onto that course of action. Now that those major investments have ended for the time being, the winning of the Hahnemuhle materials has made me think anew about printing my own images. To that end I have decided to invest in a printer, probably the Epson R3000 because of its monochrome reproduction and I will start the no-doubt initially frustrating steps of printing my own photographs.
I am really looking forward to getting started.
If you want to have a look ta the images that appeared in the magazine, they are numbered 19565, 19678 and 20151 within my portfolio here
The photographic group I belong to, S13, have just published a book entitled ‘Over time’
It examines the passage of time through the personal vision of the photographers. The images are a personal reflection of the topic, but the photographs are such that they can serve as a catalyst for people to examine their own feelings about the inexorable march of time in their own lives.
One of my favourite blogs is that written by David DuChemin. He is a great writer and, in my humble opinion, a fantastic photographer.
At present he is in the Maasai Mara in Kenya (I’m not jealous – honest), and he has taken mirror-less cameras with him, and he says that this has made him feel…
‘ Free from the pressure I feel when lugging around my large lenses and pro-bodies.’
On a comment he posted on his facebook page he said that the more that we have to buy the new cameras and lenses the less chance we have as photographers to master our tools.
His latest blog entitled ‘Towards Mastery. Again.’ is a discussion on the perceived belief that the acquisition of newer gear will make us better photographers.
Please read it, it is an excellent thought provoking piece.