Assignment 4 – rainy evening in Maidstone

These images come from an early-evening walk through Maidstone. There had been rain earlier in the day (and there was a shower while I was out on this exercise) so everything was wet and producing reflections.

All images were made with a Pentax K-1 and 24-70 f/2.8 standard zoom, apertures between f/4 and f/8, and mostly at the long end of the zoom range. Exposure was in aperture-priority mode with -1EV compensation. However, when processing the PEF raw files, I found that I was increasing the exposure by about 1 stop. White balance is set to ‘daylight’ (5500K) because that is what the eye/brain defines as white or neutral and it allows the true colour of the artificial light to be seen. Sensitivity is ISO12800.

I shot lot of images (318!) although, I would like to think, not indiscriminately. With the creativity criterion in mind, particularly experimentation, I was looking for as many ‘different’ ideas as possible in the hope of developing one into a series for assessment.

General views did not work for me. Maidstone is not particularly beautiful and most of its lighting is utilitarian, rather than for display. I had hoped for some floodlit night working in the road works, similar to some of Zachmann’s China Nights images, but no luck. There is a possibility of making some traffic-trail images if  I revisit with a tripod.

Here are some more specific ideas. The railway stations are well-lit but, I suspect the resulting images would be short on creativity. The road markings in the car park have some appeal (and I spent time here) and have scope for a series. The public-art illuminated pylon and the light fitting with cobwebs are strictly one-offs.

Shop windows are tempting, particularly unlit windows reflecting the illuminated signs of the shop opposite. However, most displays and lighting have been ‘designed’, so photographing them is really riding on somebody else’s creativity.

This is an idea that I am seriously considering: examining the effect of street lighting on foliage, particularly where the tree has been allowed to engulf the light fitting. Some care is needed to find the right tree and the right viewpoint. I also found that, in a well-lit area, the effect is lost.

Finally, the type of image that I set out to shoot, artificial light sources reflected and showing off the various paving textures in the town. I am influenced by Rut Blees Luxemburg’s Liebeslied series of intimate cityscape details. Her images are very long exposures on large-format film, while mine are typically 1/25s on a digital full-frame sensor, but we do share a preference for showing the true colour of the light. I am not sure that using a tripod and long exposure would make much difference (other than allowing me to use a lower sensitivity and reduce noise levels) except where puddles are deep enough to have ripples.

In shooting this last set of images, I particularly enjoyed the details on the ironwork (gullies and manhole covers etc.) which also act as ‘symmetry breakers’ in the paving patterns.

My final choice will be between street-lit foliage and ironwork in reflective pavings. This will require a second expedition on another rainy night, but this time more focussed.

References

Campany, D. (1999) A conversation between Rut Blees Luxemburg and David Campany 1999 [online] at: http://www.union-gallery.com/content.php?page_id=653 [accessed 18/8/16]

Magnum (2104) China Nights 2005 – Patrick Zachmann [online] at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com [search string omitted for clarity]

Assignment 4 – initial thoughts

We are told to revisit one of exercises 4.2, 4.3 or 4.4 and prepare it for formal assignment submission, with particular reference to meeting the Creativity criteria for assessment.

I have chosen to revisit exercise 4.3, discovering and expressing the beauty of ambient artificial light because I think that is the one most likely to inspire some imagination and invention (and possibly a glimmer of personal voice). Exercise 4.2 leads to some rather ‘samey’ images and is at the mercy of the weather as it develops on the chosen day. Exercise 4.4, studio lighting, is completely under the photographer’s control so there is little scope for an element of surprise leading me in an unexpected direction.

Looking back at my London images (all 160 of them) having completed exercise 4.5,  I realise that they fall short on creativity. All are records of what was in front of the camera from an eye-level pedestrian viewpoint. I will, therefore be making a new set of images.

The new images will be of Maidstone town centre at night. Being only 10 minutes walk from home, it allows me to go out on impulse or to keep an eye on the weather.

Maidstone presents its own challenges, however. I will have to ‘find’ beauty in some rather utilitarian lighting. There is little of the gaudy display lighting that Shintaro has photographed, but I may be able to use working light for a civil engineering project currently in progress around the bridges, emulating Zachmann.

My intention, on my first exploration, will be to combine Luxemburg‘s close-up views with Brassaï‘s reflections in wet pavements. I will be shooting hand-held, for flexibility, exploiting the high ISO sensitivity of the K-1, looking for details of reflections in surfaces and puddles. Once I have located some interesting subjects, I may return with a tripod for long exposures. It will be interesting to see whether I can emulate Luxemburg’s ‘kind of alchemy’.

Square Mile – final selection

These images are (reduced copies of) my final selection for the Square Mile assignment.

My Square Mile is the River Medway where it passes through Maidstone. The area encompasses the riverside paths and four bridges (one rail/foot bridge, two road bridges and a footbridge). Despite unpromising surroundings, a main road on most of one side and a trading estate on most of the other, it is well used as a leisure/recreation area. The river itself is used by pleasure-boaters, rowers and canoeists. The footpaths are used by joggers, anglers, dog walkers, swan-feeders and those just eating their lunches or walking from A to B. I have tried to cover most of the area and most of the activities.

The brief calls for 1500px images, suggesting the size of the old 5×3-inch enprints; I decided to go for a snapshot approach, using a snapshot camera. All photographs are shot on HP5+ film in an Olympus Trip 35.

Square Mile – more contacts

These contacts are the result of three more visits to the riverside; various weather conditions (all sunnier than the first visit) but all around lunchtime. The last visit was a sunny day at half-term so there were a lot more people around.

With a total of 162 images between the two sets of contacts and a brief to produce 6-12 images for the assignment, there are multiple stories to be told. My plan is to select images showing people using or interacting with the space. There are images of a motor launch, rowers (unfortunately, the only canoeist is too small in frame), dog walkers, cyclists, swan/goose feeders, people eating their lunch and people just walking through.

I will need a mix of scales, mostly fairly intimate but building up an overall picture of the space.

Lightroom (OlyTripFeb16-092.tif and 90 others)

Square Mile – first contacts

My first idea for “my” square mile was the shopping streets in the centre of Maidstone, a short walk from home and full of details and people. I never quite got there because I first had to cross the Medway, and found myself spending an hour and two rolls of film there instead.

The area that I have chosen is the Medway as it passes through the centre of Maidstone; there are four bridges and two riverside footpaths, surprisingly well used even on a stormy, cold Saturday in February. There are anglers, joggers, dog walkers and people simply using it as a route from A to B.

Quite a lot of the buildings annoy me, and I think it shows in some of the contacts. There is a semi-floating restaurant barge, which looks like a glorified  Portakabin, stuck right in front of the Archbishops’ Palace and interfering with the view of the historic buildings from across the river, and an appalling Travelodge which is now the most prominent building in the centre of town.

Technical details: These images were shot on HP5+ film in an Olympus Trip 35. The choice of camera was partly influenced by my current year-long project, 12 months – 12 cameras, in which I had selected the Trip for February and partly because my take on the brief is for a snapshot approach, for which the Trip is ideally suited.

Given the weather, this set of images gives a very gloomy impression of my square mile. There will be a second session with sunshine (when that eventually occurs) and my final selection of images will be drawn from both sets.

Contacts (OlyTripFeb16-004.tif and 70 others)