Monthly Archives: July 2016

Assignment 3: Monochrome

Choose a theme or subject that you will conceive, shoot and process in black and white, attempting to bring our the monochrome images qualities of form, tonal contrast and texture, perhaps even experimenting with key.  You should choose between 5 and 10 images.

As previously mentioned I’ve been studying the work of black-and-white photographers whose work predominantly focuses around landscapes. I decided to go with urban landscapes/architecture. I was torn between this and a studio shoot, but wanted to seek out my subjects rather than create them. I wanted scenes that I had to work WITH rather than control.

The whole shoot was shot in RAW – which means I shot in colour, converting it later in post processing. I had several different subjects, so created contact sheets for each to help me whittle down my favourites. I then had to convert my Nikon (NEF) RAW files into TIFF’s (photoshop does not recognise this file format) to begin processing. Once finished, the files were converted to JPEG format, as it reduces the overall file size.

I originally wanted to include a long exposure shot, but was unable to fulfil this as I was missing a vital piece of equipment. However, after some careful research I discovered that you can apply the same kind of effect obtained through long exposure photography using editing software.

Tower Bridge:

Tower Bridge

My tutor had previously mentioned the I tend to crop using ratios of 2:3 or 4:5 so I wanted to experiment with a more ‘cinematic’ crop for the above (16:9) It enhances this type of landscape scene. I was able to add motion to both the water and the sky in the post processing stage to replicate the effects of long exposure. I think this picture works well in black and white. The shape of the iconic bridge pops out from the cloud background very well, while the two black shadows of each tower are reflected in the water, adding depth and shade. I was aware that there is some detail lost to the shadows under the bridge on the far left, but I wanted it to be somewhat sullen and dramatic, with low key and high key points. I used a tripod for this shot as it was essential to remove any possibility of camera shake. I also used a wide angle lens to capture the bridge in it’s entirety.

Reflections:

Lines

Often in black and white photography the subject fills the entire frame, and that was something I was aware of when I found this scene. The abstract feel is actually created by two buildings reflecting the light source coming from above (the middle triangle at the top centre of the image) I was instantly captivated by the multitudes of lines, and the angles at which they criss-cross. The only editing that I wanted to add to this image was to increase the contrast slightly, to really make the black and white tones stand out. I wanted to avoid ‘greys’ as much as possible.

St. Paul’s Cathedral:

St Paul's

When it came to photographing St Paul’s Cathedral I wanted to try to incorporate the vast range of grey shades. I used the rule of thirds for positioning the dome to add to the aesthetic feel. I felt it wasn’t necessary to try to squeeze more of the building in, as the dome and surrounding columns are probably the most significant part of the skyline from where I was shooting from. I especially like the deep shadows captured in-between the columns at the front, and the dark shadow on the right hand side of the dome. It was a fairly clear day, so the sky converted nicely, and the lack of cloud meant there was nothing to distract from the subject.

City Hall Steps:

Stairs

I was aware that for most of my shoot I was looking up, so when I came across these steps I had the opportunity to shoot downwards. Filling the whole frame with the steps implies a sense of continuity. There’s no obvious sign of where the steps start and finish. Technically speaking all I did was darken the shadows and add a bit of contrast – I wanted the steps to have a slightly grungy feel, as they had several different tones and textures (mainly from pollution and wear and tear) but I wanted these tones to be apparent.

The Shard:

Shard

The Shard is one of London’s most recent architectural wonders. It stands so high that unless you are shooting it from very far back, there’s not much else you get into the shot while trying to include most of it! I purposely shot this image when it was cloudy as I didn’t want to repeat the effect that a clear sky had on the St Paul’s image. With the dense cloud present it adds a dramatic feel, and with a slightly longer shutter speed I’ve captured a tiny bit of movement with the clouds. (It was a very windy day which helped) I purposely rotated my camera to produce an interesting angle, that results in the tip of The Shard being just off centre.

City Hall:

City Hall

For this shot I wanted to include a fair bit of foreground and background. By shooting just above the railing on the far left I’ve created a forced perspective where the railing appears much bigger than it’s actual size. Your eye follows it along to City Hall, an oddly shaped building – my favourite part being the ‘lightening bolt’ that is visible just left of the centre of the image. The shiny railing running parallel to the main railing adds texture, and is contrasting to the dull matted effect of the bigger railing. I was tempted to edit the lone bystander out of the shot, but in the end I think his presence doesn’t detract from the photo. Editing wise, I didn’t feel I needed to do too much, I just corrected the brightness slightly as it was a very overcast day.

The London Eye:

Eye

What I really like about this shot is that it plays a little trick with the eye (or mine, anyway) It’s hard to process if it is moving up, or down. I think this is because I’ve only captured a section of it. It’s such a London icon now that I didn’t want to incorporate it in all it’s glory. I wanted to capture the strong lines of its mechanics which resemble bicycle spokes, and the individual pods.

Mirrors:

Reflection

This is a very simplistic shot, but I loved how the windows reflected the sky and clouds so vividly.  Simplicity seems to be very effective when shooting in black-and-white, as the ‘Steps’ image also demonstrates. I like the strong lines, especially the line at the top of the building. Had the cloud not have been present this image would not have worked half as well. The moodiness of the sky is enhanced by it being reflected, and not only visible in the small proportion of sky in the image. Editing wise i’ve hardly done anything, as I captured it just how I wanted it to be.

Big Ben:

Big Ben

I felt I had to include London’s most photographed architectural landmark. While I noticed many people trying to photograph Big Ben along side the Houses Of Parliament I wanted to just get Big Ben (mainly due to there being huge renovations on parts, with unsightly scaffolding that I felt would ruin the photo) Much like the ‘Shard’ picture I’ve gone for an unusual camera angle. Again, I’ve chosen a very simplistic approach with one subject, and one point of focus. I think this is more achievable with black and white photography, as you cannot process the colours just the subjects and textures in there entirety. I Blurred the sky a little, to add a sense of melancholy.

Up and Up:

:Up

This is probably my favourite photo of this selection. It has an abstract edge which I feel works so well in black-and-white. The building on the left had an interesting staggered effect to it’s windows and was very dark and sombre, The triangular gap on the right removes any sense of symmetry and breaks the shot up. The bright sky is a great contrast to the building, and I especially like the subtle reflection off the windows at the top of the right hand building. It almost create a vignette effect. I didn’t alter much in the processing stage, mainly brightening the sky so it worked as a strong contrast to the black tones of the building on the left. I wanted to keep the buildings on the right grey to add depth.

Conclusion:

First off I really enjoyed this assignment. I realised very early on that I was looking for lines, overlapping structures, textures, and shadows. My subject was not necessarily a subject per say, rather an amalgamation of angles and lines. With black and white photography the subject can also be an everyday object that one might not consider interesting enough to produce a photograph, i.e steps. Filling the frame with certain subjects can work to the photographers advantage, as it creates pattern and continuity. Removing colour from any picture makes the viewer focus predominantly on everything BUT colour – shadows, shape, form, texture and depth.

I had chosen one of the busiest parts of London. My subjects worked very well, but trying to eliminate people from my shots where necessary did prove to be somewhat difficult. I could have changed my location to a quieter part of town and looked for interesting object to photograph as well. However, I feel I have produced some great shots of some of the most famous building to date today.

 

Research: HDR to B&W…

I previously voiced my opinion on HDR (high dynamic range) photography on here, stating that done subtly I like it, but done too much and it can start to look too contrasty and cartoon-like. (Click here for the post)

I wondered, however, how HDR shots would look when converted into black-and-white. I was especially intrigued to see the effects of the sky and clouds. The expansive range must add a significant amount of depth and tone.

As i’m not a huge fan of HDR I don’t have many images in my archive (this is something I will experiment with though) so here’s several examples that popped up on Google search.

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I think black and white HDR, even when done to a moderately high extent, is actually a great creative tool in adding layers and tones to black-and-white photography. There were a few examples that appeared a little ‘over done’ and had that unrealistic feel to it, but on the whole I quite like it.

An HDR black-and-white image that really caught my eye while researching comes from photographer John Hobson: (http://johnhobsonphotography.com/category/hdr/)

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I love the dramatic, ominous mood he’s created using HDR, especially how it’s effected the sky. This is definitely a tool I’ll be keeping in mind for black-and-white photography, and I may even attempt to include a bracketed shot in my upcoming assignment.

 

Assignment 3: Preparation Part 2

Almost immediately into this assignment i’ve hit a hurdle… After researching long exposure shots i’ve realised that to get the desired shot i’ve imagined I am unfortunately missing a vital part of equipment. A neutral density filter.

While long exposure shots can be relatively easy to accomplish at night time (you can use most lenses, but a tripod is vital), it’s a very different story when it comes to daytime. This is perhaps a rookie error on my behalf, as we have learnt that a slower shutter speed results in a longer time period for the light to hit the sensor, often resulting in over exposed shots.

Shooting the scene I want to shoot in bright daylight without a neutral density filter is going to produce severely over exposed images.

It’s not a huge problem however, it just means that for this assignment I will not be including the long exposure shot I’d hoped for. I could shoot at night, but for this assignment I don’t feel I’d get the right kind of image that represents  ‘monochrome’ as night shoots would not include so many shades of grey, but mainly strong blacks and street lighting.

What I especially like about a long exposure shot is that in some cases you can eliminate people/traffic from the photo (if the exposure is long enough) resulting in eerie deserted scenes.

So, first on my list for new equipment will be a variable neutral density filter, so I can experiment with daytime long exposures.

Assignment 3: Preparation

After studying the work of Michael Kenna especially, I want to experiment with long exposure photography. I’ve decided that I will attempt to incorporate at least one long exposure shot in my assessment.

We’ve learnt throughout this part of the course that the key to monochrome photography concentrates on shape, form and texture predominantly. I’ve decided on an architectural theme as I think there’s a lot of scope for producing interesting photographs, and it allows for a great range of subjects. I will try to ignore colour as best as I can when viewing possible objects, although it is worth being aware of how colours convert to black-and-white, and also the control over altering the hues later on in post processing. I’m mainly looking for interesting shapes and varying textures. I’m not too concerned with different weather conditions as I think the weather could work to my advantage. Heavy clouds will add a dramatic mood, as will rain (although i’m hoping it won’t) and a clear sky can often convert in an interesting way – it can provide great contrast for the object itself.

We’ve not studied long exposure in depth at this stage, but we’ve touched on the different effects resulting from altering shutter speed. I’m aiming to shoot RAW and in manual mode to grant me full control over my Nikon.

As with every photographic task I’ve taken all the necessary steps for carrying out an organised and well structured shoot, as we studied earlier in the Part 1: Workflow.

 

Photographer: Michael Kenna

I’ve recently discovered the work of English photographer Michael Kenna. Like Ansel Adams, the majority of his portfolio is landscapes. Kenna is known for producing exposures of up to 10 hours, usually at dawn or at night  – which produce silky, soft looking images – a contrast from the stark dramatic images previously researched on Adams. His images that incorporate water are often long exposure shots which is a technique used to remove the movement of ripples and waves; creating soft, smooth water, it almost looks like mist.

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Kenna also uses water as a reflective tool which adds symmetry to his images. Something I feel works extremely well in black-and-white.

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Safdar Jang, Study 1, Delhi, India, 2006

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Lijiang+River,+Study+7,+Guilin,+China,+2006

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Having experimented with the starker, more dramatic black-and-white effects, i’d like to try and create softer images in the style of Kenna.