Thursday, 30 August 2012

Postcard from Brittany

En Vacances, en Bretagne, 2012 © Graham Dew
En Vacances, en Bretagne, 2012

Farmers and those in the tourist trade will see it differently, but August is a quiet time of the year as many of us take our summer vacations. For me, the run up to the annual break is always quite manic; covering for people missing from work, making arrangements for the family and a host of things that need to be sorted before the holiday. This year was no exception added to which we had the unique opportunity of visiting and following the Olympics first hand, and I have had very little time for Joined Up Pictures and photography in general. So I’m rather disappointed that I’ve not been able, or had anything worthwhile, to post over the last three weeks. I’m hoping that I will be able to get back to posting a couple of times each week now that September is almost here.

For our break this year we visited Brittany in north west France, and had a very nice holiday,  thank you. I’m afraid that I have little to share photographically; other than these few observations – 

  1. Never take anything bigger than a compact camera when doing any activity like walking or cycling. Carrying a camera bag and lenses is a pain, apart from when specifically taking pictures.
  2. I see the world with shallow depth of field, especially when I am really looking.
  3. I much prefer to photograph the world with shallow depth of field.
  4. I just love that articulated LCD on the back of the G3. It's rare that I want to take a picture at eye level.
  5. Why can’t we have bigger monitors on our camera – as standard or as a plug in extra? Most smartphones are much better in this respect than any cameras.
  6. I really can’t focus that well any more on the LCD of my camera when wearing contact lenses – I must get my eyes checked.
  7. Why can’t we have standardised batteries and chargers? We brought four cameras with us, with four different, incompatible chargers.
  8. The greater the tourist attraction, the less I want to photograph it.
  9. Everyone is a photographer these days.
  10. There are a lot of people out there using very big, very expensive cameras. Bigger than I want, more expensive than I can afford, and that's OK.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Barton Farm Harvest Panograph

After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 1 © Graham Dew 2012
After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 1
One of the joys of multiple-image photography is the many different methods that are available to the artist, from the brilliant picture-on-picture images of John Stezaker to the complex panographs of Mareen Fischinger and the still movies of Noel Myles shot from multiple viewpoints, often over extended periods. Although not essential, it is a good idea to have some idea of how the final image will be built and presented. The major decision is whether or not to create a regular or irregular grid of constituent cells.

For a long time now, I have been attracted to regular grid images, particularly Noel Myles images and Hockney’s early polaroid joiners. I’m interested in the way the grid encourages the eye to scan and rescan the image, building up a visual memory. Noel Myles’ term still movie is very appropriate; viewing a row or column of cells in a regular grid has the effect of viewing a strip of movie film. As Hockney said about his polaroid joiners “... you can go on and on looking at these pictures...” To my eyes, irregular grids do not have such a strong guidance or hold on the eye. The eye will pick out details, but seems to spend much of the time viewing the composite image as a whole. 

Last week when I was out photographing at Barton Farm, I took the opportunity to make both regular grid and irregular grid joiners. I posted the regular grid joiners from this session last week. As I said early, I wanted to concentrate on the details of harvest, primarily the small things left over after the field was cropped. I used the Olympus 45mm lens at shallow depth for most of these pictures so that I could control the primary focus of attention for each constituent cell. 

For the irregular grid, the intention was to have a selection of images that had plenty of overlap for compositing, and that the overall picture would be built up of cells with partial opacity to allow a seep through of information from cell to cell.  Because of this all shots were with the camera set on manual, with an exposure set so as to avoid overexposing highlights (ie the sky). From then, it was a question of taking as many pictures as quickly as possible before the light changed, slowly working along the line of uncut barley, moving a few inches at a time to get a stretched perspective and multiple viewpoints. Photographing up close and at shallow depth of field, I chose different points to focus on to give movement to the eye in the final composite. In all, I took 55 constituent cells, and it would not have harmed to have had more. Having grown up with precious film and manual winder levers, free and easy shooting does not come naturally.

I shot all the images at full resolution in RAW. I knew that this was more resolution than I need, but it is simple to make batch changes to resolution and other image settings in Lightroom, and shooting in RAW gives much more flexibility than shooting in jpeg. The actual composition of the completed image was done in Photoshop, with each cell on a separate layer of about 75% opacity, which allows precise alignment to adjacent cells.

It is not a quick process assembling the final image, which took around three hours in total. I need to get this photo printed reasonably large now so that I can get used to looking at it. My wife said that on screen, the image looks rather like an ordinary photo, and I have to agree. I hope that the printed image reads a bit better.

Friday, 3 August 2012

Back to Joined Up Pictures

After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.3 © Graham Dew 2012
After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.3

It has been some while since I last published any joiners. The problem, as ever, is one of time. To take the photos for a joiner can take a good hour or so, and the managing, editing and composing of the completed image can take an hour or two further. I have a couple of picture sets that have been waiting to be assembled since January. After a tiring day at work I rarely have inclination to spend another couple of hours in front of a computer monitor, and so this work remains unfinished.

I have taken this week off work and had some time to get out and back to what I enjoy doing. A few days ago I cycled over to nearby Barton Farm to take some specifically to make joiner. For some while now I have wanted to make a joiner about the harvest. The wet weather this summer has meant that it has been delayed by some three or four weeks compared to normal years. This gave me some hope that I could photograph a full field, but as I rode up the farm track a tractor and trailer came charging towards me and I know that I was too late. Never mind; it was a lovely warm evening and so time to change plan and see what I could make of the cropped field.

In these pictures I initially wanted to show a few remaining stalks of barley and some wild flowers in a simple still movie type grid, and shot accordingly. All of the constituent cells were taken on my Olympus 45/f1.8 micro fourth thirds lens, at pretty much full aperture. For me, joiners are all about the experience of looking, the sensation of seeing individual components that make up the picture. It seems perfectly natural for some of this to be in focus and other parts not when viewing and this is why I want to photograph with shallow depth of field to reproduce this effect. 

After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.1 © Graham Dew 2012
After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.1

When it came to editing, the transition from remaining plants and cropped stalks looked too severe, so I think the first picture presented here probably works the best. The second and third pictures are included to give you some idea of how the editing process works. These joiners were edited and composited in Lightroom4, which is an efficient and simple way to build a regular joiner, even if it does have some deficiencies. More about that technique in a future post.

After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.2 © Graham Dew 2012
After the Harvest, Barton Farm, version 2.2

It felt good to be out making pictures again, and quickly turning them into finished edits. There has been too much thinking, reading and organising around photography recently, and not enough doing. It’s the pictures that matter.