Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Corrigenda expressed this idea in the following way:Look critically at the work you did by including what you did’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.OCA, Photography 1: Expressing your Vision, p.104
[27Apr19] I am at a loss to think what to photograph for this. My family do not like being photographed, that cat wouldn't mind, but that is silly. I guess it will have to be something inanimate. Nothing too small as it would not give the opportunity for revelation. Perhaps a cemetery? the first thing that came to mind while writing this paragraph was Marx's tomb (inanimate large and I was shocked at its recent desecration - I am by no means a devotee of Marx, but I enjoy visiting Highgate cemetery and the Marx monument is its highlight).
I will probably not go to Highgate as it is the other side of London, and I would probably tread the familiar path of Marx - Adams - McLaran and Caulfied but a more convenient, unfamiliar cemetery or graveyard is a likely candidate.
I recall that I used to photograph cemeteries quite often in the past days of film, especially in France or Greece.
[11May19] A visit to Nunhead Cemetery is still intended, but not yet achieved. Aware of the passage of time, I visited the nearest graveyard, at the parish church on Eltham High Street.
The venue is disappointing in that while it is poorly maintained (promising in itself as promoting photogenic decay), this results in all but the immediate surroundings of the church being inaccessible to a person of age with a walking stick. With this possibility in mind, and the requirement to produce something "unexpected", I took a pinhole lens which has just arrived and a Lensbaby Velvet 60 which I have not used outdoors before. With two unknown lenses, I bracketed the exposures — only the primary shot is shown in the contact sheets.
The results from the pinhole were rather ordinary, see B1. More experimentation is needed to find the best subject matter and framing. It is probably best used with monochrome and needs +1 stop on standard exposure.
The Lensbaby was an education. Being manual focus, more care needs to be taken at large apertures and at the extreme f/1.6 something strange and delightful happens - see D6. Again this needs more work.
Fig. B1 is the pinhole - as noted, it is functional, but more experimentation is needed. I sought to add to my normal repertoire of headstones and monuments (there are none of the latter accessible at this location) by photographing details and incidental items.
B6 and B7 are the strongest images in the section and will go into the shortlist for a crop.
With C1 and C2 I first saw the effect of the shallow DoF, although this was not a maximum aperture. They also illustrate the importance of care with manual focus.
C3 is an illustration of the state of deterioration at the site: I cannot understand why those connected with the church would not make an effort to reassemble the tomb which is within yards of the church, albeit out of site at the back.
C4 and C5 show a tomb at the side of the church, unusually made of brick and which has aged considerably (there was no indication of the date). I sought to illustrate its proximity to the main road, Eltham Hill, though a wider angle lens would have revealed more of the setting.
C3 and C5 on the shortlist.
The unusual design on the headstone on D1 caught the eye, together with a similar but more weathered stone on the right: none of the inscription remains. D2 is likely to be the shot of choice — as D3 but with shallower DoF and so at first glance the splash of colour at the top of the image could be more flowers rather than pedestrians and traffic on the road a few yards away. The reality is clearly visible in D4 and D7. D6 shows the lens at full aperture, framed as D5 but wide open.
D2 and D4 for the shortlist.
[13May19] This site is much larger, more varied and more easily accessible, nevertheless, I was still surprised by the level of neglect in some places.
I took many more photographs and so I will limit the first cut to, 24, a short roll of 35mm [16May, more like 36 in the end]. I used the usual Fuji 18-135 zoom and the Lensbaby, but not the pinhole lens cap.
[text 16May] The images are shown in the order they were taken. In this first selection, I am looking for (to me) the obvious thing — interesting graves. Interesting, in this context, can mean unusual, idiosyncratic, notably damaged or distressed, or interesting by juxtaposition. In addition to entire graves and tombs, I have photographed details and also tried to capture the dappled light on those under tree cover. F3, F6 and F7 were bracketed because of the lighting.
Some of these were taken with the Lensbaby, notably G1 and G2. G1 is wide open where, it seems, nothing is in focus — I may find a purpose for this effect, but none springs to mind. It remains a fun lens after f/2, nevertheless, as long as I can see well enough to focus manually. Otherwise, there are more details shown here.
On G10, I also took an image of just the figure (see the contact sheets, page 5), but prefer this image showing more, but not all, of the headstone. It makes it clear that this is a grave, but it is not a documentary photograph of a headstone because it is incomplete. I am developing a taste for images that flow over the edge, especially when there is a border to emphasise this effect. In the likely event that this photograph makes the shortlist, a crop will be considered.
H2 is a pleasing composition and it works well in conversion to sepia (an online contest happened to call for three still life objects in sepia.
H4 is the only populated image of the day. I was bracketing this shot and intentionally waited for a rare jogger to pass (contact sheets, page 6). I have not merged the shots yet. [pause to do so, see below].
H7 is a rare exterior view: the site is enclosed by walls and/or trees. H8 is intriguing: it is unclear what the adornment is supposed to represent.
The shortlist demonstrates the range of images created.
F7 is an immense prosaic slab (it is unfortunate that there was no jogger to give a sense of scale) with dappled light
G10 a favourite detail
H2 a juxtaposition
H9 a classic tomb
H10 and 11 evidence of dilapidation and disarray.
And of these, G10 probably remains the favourite.
[16May19] My plan for this exercise began with a memory of photographing Highgate Cemetery in April 2018. I found it interesting to create a contact sheet for that outing. Every photograph was bracketed 3 shots +1 and -1 (the maximum available on a Fuji X100S), but brackets aside, I only took 14 photographs of 4 sites (Marx, Adams, McLaran and Caulfied) and all but one image was a full frame of the subject.
That stands in some contrast to my approach on this exercise where I have taken many more photographs, been selective in the use of bracketing and considerably less than half of the images show a single subject in full.
There are two main reasons for these changes. Firstly the influence of the course which has made me more conscious of the practicalities of the task and more aware of my subjects. The second influence is a recent practice of taking guided walks around London which has taught me to observe objects more closely and to pay closer attention to detail.
In examining my own work, I have found Stephen Shore's The nature of photographs (2007) very useful in providing an analytical framework.
In choosing the best shot, as instructed in the exercise brief, I feel that G10 expresses the subject succinctly. Using Shore's four Depictive aspects of (in my interpretation) composition, frame, time and focus,
The composition shows a strong delineation between subject and background as there are only two planes, each occupying about half of the image with an abrupt, vertical division.
The frame (including my added border) intrudes into the headstone, emphasising its incompleteness, but also implying its continuation.
Timing is not a factor here, but the shutter speed is fast enough to prevent any degradation by movement.
The main subject, the angel, is in sharp focus and the rest of the headstone clearly legible (the image was was shot at f/7.1; 1/450th; ISO 200 in harsh sunlight). The background floor of mown grass with foliage forming a backdrop perhaps a metre behind the headstone is discernible but not sharp enough to become a distraction
Shore, S. (2007) The nature of photographs. 2nd ed. London: Phaidon Press.