Collecting • refining the concept

It is interesting to see how my preconceived idea of how I would tackle this assignment has fallen by the wayside in almost all respects. Hoping to extract entire bicycles from their backgrounds with a long lens and wide aperture has proved impossible with the equipment available and calculation suggests that it is impossible (or at least problematic) in any event.

If I want to do a typology of bicycles, I suspect that it would be best achieved by removing a group of bikes to a studio, rather than trying to ‘collect’ them ‘in the wild’ which seems to be the object of this assignment.

I have had some more success in isolating detail features, which has promise for a pictorial panel of prints.

Alternatively, I could ‘collect’ a particular type of feature. I had considered rear hubs and derailleur mechanisms, but these give the image an incomplete look as there is always some drive-chain leading out of frame to the right.

My ‘eureka’ moment was the decision to include complete drive-trains, (front and rear chainwheels, gear mechanisms, pedals and enough rear wheel to make contact with the ground. This places my viewpoint rather further away (about 1.5m) and the depth of field at f/8 (or at f/5.6, which is the best my standard zoom can manage at the 42mm (84mm equivalent) end of its range) is too great too isolate the subject.

I have therefore turned to the short end of my telephoto-zoom, 50mm (100mm equivalent) at f/2.8

This has promise, but I can understand why the Bechers chose to use flat lighting for their typologies. A further tour of the bike parks this evening should yield the images that I need.

Some work will be required in post-processing, to make my intent clear. A reduction to monochrome may be too much (especially as I used a monochrome set for Assignment 1) but a reduction of vibrance, coupled with opening-up the shadows and increasing clarity, gives an interesting look.

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Typology

As it is becoming apparent that my response to Assignment 2 is an example of what the Bechers would call a ‘typology’, it is time to be sure that I understand the meaning of the work. Simply breaking it down into ‘type’ and ‘-ology’ suggests that it is a study of types, but that is too much like folk etymology to serve for academic purposes.

Merriam-Webster give two related definitions (there is also a theological definition relating entities between the Old and New Testaments, which is not relevant):

a system used for putting things into groups according to how they are similar : the study of how things can be divided into different types

study of or analysis or classification based on types or categories

The definitions given by Oxford Dictionaries are similar:

A classification according to general type, especially in archaeology, psychology, or the social sciences

Study or analysis using a classification according to a general type.

So the word can mean either a classification of things according to types or similarities, or a study of such classifications. In my view, the Bechers have appropriated the word and slightly misused it. I would suggest that their overall body of work is a typology, each series or composite is a type and each individual image is an instance of a type.

I was attracted by Bernd Becher’s comment [see MoMA website] that the winding towers in that set “. . . look very similar, and you could think that they came from a production series, like cars. Only when you put them beside each other do you see their individuality.” I hope the same will be applicable to my ‘Collecting’ assignment.

References

Merriam-Webster online dictionary (s.d) [online] at: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/typology (accessed 30 March 2016)

MoMA (s.d) Bernd Becher, Hilla Becher Winding Towers 1966-97 [online] at: http://www.moma.org/collection/works/136060?locale=en (accessed 30 March 2016)

Oxford Dictionaries (s.d) [online] at: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/typology (accessed 30 March 2016)

 

Exercise 2.7 -Wide-angles and deep focus

In this exercise we explore wide lenses and small apertures to produce scenes with deep depth of field. Of the mechanical exercises in Part Two, this is the one I found most difficult because I am uncomfortable with wide angles. I do not particularly like the associated image distortions and I find the backgrounds, although receding, are intrusive because of the difficulty in excluding disturbing elements from the frame.

All of these images were shot using an Olympus E-30, fitted with a 9-18mm wide-angle zoom. The 2.0 crop factor means that the 35mm equivalent zoom range is 18-35mm or ‘very wide’ to ‘short standard’. There is more variation in focal length than Exercise 2.6, where I mostly used 50mm (100mm equivalent) which I find easy to compose with. In most cases, the aperture was set at f/11.

All images were shot at ISO200 with aperture-priority evaluative metering.  This has led to some significant exposure variations within sequences, depending on the amount of sky included in frame. All images were shot in RAW and exported unedited (apart from resizing) from Lightroom.

Sequence 1 shows a recently-cleared piece of woodland. After the first two images, I adopted a lower viewpoint switching between foreground stumps and between portrait and landscape formats. The portrait shots emphasise depth but I found the arrangement of stumps became rather linear. In both selected images, the stumps form a zigzag leading into the frame, the top of which is held-in by a dark line at the base of the trees behind.

Sequence 2 is in a bike-park. The first four images are at various focal lengths between 12mm (24mm) and 18mm (36mm), after which I settled on 9mm (18mm) and varied my viewpoint. In this case, higher viewpoints (above handlebar level) gave a more extensive view and better sense of space. One problem is the pink bike at the left of foreground, which is intrusive when broken by the image frame.

In sequence 3, I was initially interested in the lifering and the rowing boat. Then the silver birch suggested itself as a third element.

Again, I present some non-sequence images that I was happy with.

Exercise 2.6 – Shallow DoF and composed bokeh

This exercise explores wide apertures, coupled with long focal lengths and close viewpoints to produce images with shallow depth of field. So far, so easy, but we also have to compose the bokeh rather than ignoring it.

Common technical details: all images are shot with an Olympus E-30, having a crop factor of 2.0. The indoor bowls images are at ISO2000, all others are ISO100. Metering is aperture-priority automatic.

All images were shot in RAW and exported unedited (apart from resizing) from Lightroom.

50mm (100mm equivalent) wide open at f/2.8, shutter speeds automatically set between 1/60 and 1/125. My selection is the final image. If I were editing in Lightroom, I would crop to eliminate some negative space at the right, open the shadows a little and set a post-crop vignette to ‘hold in’ the frame edges.

50mm (100mm equivalent) wide open at f/2.8, shutter speeds automatically set between 1/250 and 1/400.

50mm (100mm equivalent) wide open at f/2.8, shutter speeds automatically set between 1/100 and 1/160.

A few more selected images from the exercise:

Exercise 2.5 -focus flipping

I was pleased to find this scene because the two images tell a story. However, I have to confess that the story is a falsehood – the tree-trail in the background is not the treasure trail referred to on the sign.

Technical details: Olympus E-30, 50mm (100mm equivalent) focal length, 1/60 at f/2.8, shot in RAW and exported unedited (apart from resizing) from Lightroom.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In the upper image, the eye first lands on the signpost pictogram, from where it could move in either direction. The natural reading direction (Western convention, left to right) of the white text leads us into the bokeh, where there are interesting but indistinct shapes and we drift back toward the sharp area.

In the lower image, we go first to the background elements (in my case, the group of tyres) and explore them. The lightest area is the lettering on the signboard, so we visit but are led back into the sharp area by the pictogram.

In each case, we go first to (and spend more time in) the sharp areas. In both cases, the feeling is that the signboard is foreground, but the tree structures appear as subject rather than background in the lower image.

This direction of attention by differential focusing is a device used in film, most obviously in a two-shot conversation to direct attention to the speaker.

Exercise 2.4 – Mugshot

This image was shot with an Olympus E-30 and 50-150mm (100-300mm equivalent) f/2.8-3.5 telephoto zoom lens. Settings, ISO100, 50mm (100mm equivalent) focal length, aperture-priority automatic at f/2.8. Shutter speed was 1/50 second. Minor tweaking in Lightroom, including a -13 post-crop vignette.

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The eyes are near the horizontal centre-line. The left eye is almost dead-centre and our first point of focus. The right eye is somewhere near the third-line. Mostly, the eye is held by the model’s gaze; the out-of-focus background directs us back to the in-focus face and the stray wisps of hair accentuate the difference between subject and bokeh.