Going into Photography

I thought it would be a good idea to introduce this blog by setting my prior knowledge of photography, and what I will be using this blog for.

Prior knowledge

I have worked a lot with film cameras and so have a good understanding of shutter speeds, ISO, aperture etc. and the effect of these on how a film looks, however I have not studied their effect on a still frame in as much detail. I have shot photos on my phone up to this point, mainly for my own desires, never being paid.

The main reason I wanted to take this course was because I have always had an interest in the editing of photos, more of this can be seen on my personal photography blog: https://pugsphotos.wordpress.com/ I have for a while wanted to take better photos for the purpose of making more complex edits in Adobe’s Photoshop and other editing softwares.

I also wanted to have a better knowledge of cameras for the making of films. I have mainly learnt through trial and error up to this point and don’t want to have holes in my knowledge of cameras for filming. If I can make my photos better I will have the ability to make better-looking footage.

Finally, I am a Film Studies student and thusly all of my other modules are theory based, I wanted to make my hobby my elective and so I chose Photography.

Blog Contents:

This blog will cover the following;

as well as be a reflection of the readings each week, how they influenced my photography knowledge, any updates to my ability to take photos and any concerns or issues I face in this module.

Practical knowledge that I will cover:

  • Camera handling – How to hold, and adjust controls, on the move
  • Using camera in M mode
  • Changing shutter speed
  • What shutter speed to select and why. Minimum recommendations
  • Changing aperture
  • What aperture to select and why
  • Manually focusing
  • The impact of shutter speed: motion blur, avoiding shake, jumpology
  • Controlling exposure using shutter speed and aperture
  • Lens angle
  • The effect on Depth of Field of aperture, lens angle, point of focus
  • Depth of field blurring and how to control it
  • Why to change ISO
  • Changing ISO
  • The impact of ISO
  • Auto-focus
  • A mode
  • S mode
  • RAW: why to use it and how
  • RAW editing dialogue
  • The significance of resolution. What is DPI?
  • Photoshop basics
  • Creating a contact sheet in Photoshop
  • Histograms and their uses
  • Data bending
  • Flash basics
  • 3 point lighting basics
  • Search / advanced search / reverse image search
  • Composition principles, rules of three
  • Lighting principles
  • Other design principles

Other updates:

I will also be showing my photographic progression in photo posts, as well as any techniques I will be trying out.

Ideas for my final Project

This was the hardest part of the documentary module I did last term, finding an interesting subject to shoot and adding my personal original take on an old concept. I believe this term however, I have an interesting idea.

My idea

I am going to visualise music. What I mean by this is I am going to attempt to put images to the experience of playing and hearing music, a sort of bridge between audio and visuals. I have played the drums since I was 13 and currently have a show on the radio, this means I will have access to a lot of equipment relating to playing music and enjoying music. I have a number of connections to musical artists and so getting the instruments shan’t be an issue for this project. In addition to this, the documentary I filmed last year was in the GAK (Guitars, Amps & Keyboards) shop in Brighton and so I can easily talk to the owners about shooting in their shop as I already know them.

My current plan of photos 

(This will be subject to change).

  • An around 2-second exposure of a guitar string(s)

I am hoping to capture the vibrational movement of a string and thought a relatively long exposure would be the ideal method to capture vibration without shooting video

  • Paint in an upturned sub-woofer speaker

I have seen this effect in high-speed photography, ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RkLn2gR7SyE and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WKU7gG_ApU ), and thought this was a good way to almost see sound. This I think would make for an interesting image, there are a few issues I may run into however, in trying to shoot this photo (I have listed them below).

  • Rice/sand on a cymbal

For this, I would either upturn a large crash cymbal or use a China cymbal. What I am hoping for is similar to the paint in a sub-woofer idea, that the ‘crash’ would raise the rice or sand leaving it suspended in the air. This would show sound in a photograph.

  • A needle on a vinyl record

For this, I would use a very shallow depth of field and get in really tight, hopefully with a macro lens, so the ridges of the record are seen with the vinyl going out of focus very quickly. This is another aspect to music, the evolution, that fascinates me as I was born in the 90s and have only ever recreationally used records (as weird as that sounds).

  • Meters on a broadcasting unit

This shows the other side to music evolving. I have access to the studio in which I record and broadcast my radio show and I hope this shot would shot how music can be shared with everyone.

  • A deaf person’s hand on a speaker

Years ago a saw a drummer live who was deaf. She felt the vibrations of the drums sitting on stage through her bod and was able to construct songs while not being able to actually hear the music. The performance was inspiring and it shows another way in which music can be enjoyed, another way to ‘listen’ to music even if that person is deaf.

  • A dancer in action

Similar to the deaf person hearing music in a different way, a dancer visualises music through his/her performance. The medium is visual but it is another way for someone to enjoy music.

  • An open piano

This is my least favourite idea in the series so I will probably not use it even if I shoot the photo but I felt it a good idea to include in this list as it shows my thought process. There are a few reasons I do not like this idea;

  1. It came to me immediately, this does not make the idea bad in itself but I feel as if it is underdeveloped
  2. I have defiantly seen this photo before, I think one of the reasons I thought of it so fast is that It is a shot I commonly associate with musical photography
  3. I don’t have direct access to a large stringed grand piano
  4. I don’t know how to make the photo artistic, I cannot think of an easy way to layer in added meaning to a shot I feel has been done 1000 times or more

Issues I may run into

The main issue I would run into I think would be the paint in the subwoofer of a speaker. The rest of the photos are attainable, some will require a little more research. But the paint in the speaker would require me to take the front off of a speaker, large enough to create an effect with the paint, which would break the speaker. I do have some speakers large enough but they come at considerable cost. The only way I could get this photo is either spending the money or seeing if acquaintances have an old speaker with a sub-woofer large enough to create this effect, which they would not mind me breaking.

A lot of these photos can be shot in a studio where I would have full access to the light source and can shoot at my leisure. The photograph of the record and of the audio levels however, both need to be shot in the radio studio where this equipment is and so light may be an issue for these shots. There is no natural light in the studio as with all audio recording booths, and the studio is small. This means bringing in lights may be an issue. I shouldn’t need a lot of light however as I will be using a very shallow depth of field for each shot.

The only other issue that I can see so far for my photos is that I do not know any dancers since I have moved. Either I will meet a dancer or group of dancers and take their photos, or I shall get a non-dancing friend and attempt to capture any grace they may have, in a photo.

First Photos

I think it would be a good activity, and an interesting visual aid, to regularly upload my photos throughout the module to note my progression.

My first lesson;

A lot of these images are just terrible, even for somebody starting photography, but I think it is important to see progression with both photos I think look good and photos I know are not. All of these photos show my progression as a photographer and seeing the various effects of each technique helped inform me of the correct settings to use when taking photos. Taking all sorts of photos is important as it let me know where some features should be used, i.e the different settings needed for indoor VS outdoor photographs.

Later we went into a studio where light could be controlled and used long exposures to see how light can be gained from a pitch dark room with a long enough exposure (letting in light onto the sensor for longer). The images from this were not taken on my camera as a longer exposer requires more time, and everyone wanted to have the photo, but I can explain the experiment.

With all the lights off, we set the camera to an exposure period of 15 seconds. Then we used the lights on out phones to write, the long exposure shows every frame captured in that exposure in one image. I have done this before with sparklers and do have this image.

Long exposure test

This is the effect that was created.

Week 1 Reading

Each week there is reading to be done to follow on from the first lesson, and prepare us for the next. As this is the first lesson, there is reading to be done going into photography as well as reading to be prepared for next lesson, this may be a longer reading log post than most.

Photography Loading: John Ingledew

This is the introduction to Ingledew’s 2005 book ‘Photography‘ in which he covers the basics as in introduction to photography. This is a good book for me, I know a little about photography but could know more, for example, what specific aspects are called and how to analyze/read a photo.

Ingledew opens by discussing why photography is important as a medium saying, anyone can take photos with his or her own artistic take on their photos. He also stresses how photography can tell long stories in just a few images. One key point Ingledew hits on in his opening statements is that a photographer should not be limited by their equipment, good photography comes from creativity and how one uses what they have. This is almost reassuring to me as I do not have a budget for this project. I have the camera from the university and a tripod but for instance, accessing an area to take a better photo may not be possible as I do not have money to spend. This is were creativity must come into my work, to overcome one of the many issues I will have in shooting my final project.

After this Ingledew talks about why we like photos, what about them is interesting to people. I have learned a little about why audience’s enjoy films and viewing curtain clips but photos is another medium altogether. One reason Ingledew hits on is that photography is a method of containing a moment, saving a memory. Recalling a person or a time now has a visual aid. It is also a way to see what a place was like without being there, for instance I’ve never been to the Olympics, but I’ve seen thousands of photos from there.

The Photograph: Graham Clarke

Chapter 2 How Do We Read a Photograph?

“That reading (any reading) involves a series of problematic, ambiguous, and often contradictory meanings and relationships between the reader and the image” pp.27

I have studied modern media as well as films so I do have an ability to analyze an image. I have also studied literature up to ‘Advanced level’ in school so going into this piece of reading, I feel I am not fully out of my depth. The first thing I would say to someone analyzing a still from a [fictional] film is that nothing is done accidentally, the mise-en-scéne is constructed with everything in mind, and Clarke touches on this first,

“the photograph is itself the product of a photographer.
It is always the reflection of a specific point of view, be it
aesthetic, polemical, political, or ideological. One never ‘takes’
a photograph in any passive sense. To ‘take’ is active.” pp.29

This is also a factor in literature, a good author will never mention something unless they have a specific outcome in mind, to foreshadow, to make the reader feel something etc. I’m assuming this is the same in photography.

Another aspect of analyzing an image is to not just look for what is there but also what is not. And how does this affect the reading of this image? Its important to ‘trust your gut’. Then you will know what you think should be there and locate it. This is one of the hardest parts of analyzing anything.

A key part of analyzing (reading) an image or any piece of media is looking at it in context. Clarke talks about this discussing Diane Arbus’ photo Identical Twins, “Every photograph is not only surrounded by a historical, aesthetic, and cultural frame of reference but also by an entire invisible set of relationships and meanings relating to the photographer and the point at which the image was made” pp. 30. A photograph is always a reflection of the photographer.

Clarke moves on to discuss some aspects of photographic analysis I have already studied, denotations and connotations. This is what you physically see, and what meaning it carries, respectively. (In film I would use signifier and signified instead but with the same meanings). This is were the deeper meanings come from.

Finally, he comes on to talk about all the aspects of a photo that can change meaning, composition, light, frame size etc. but after that, he goes on to quite an interesting point about an American photographer, American Lee Friedlander whos photographs are deliberately difficult to read. This is his own style of photography which creates the specific effect that he desires.


Insperational photographers and images

My interest in photography began in the editing of photos and I hope learning more about cameras, how they work and how to take better photos would be a good way for me to learn how to make a better edit. Because my interest in photography comes from editing photos, my inspirational photos have been edited to some degree, I will specify for each photo if it is a RAW or if the photo has been edited in some way.

I am going to show four different photographers and what I like about them and then focus on two.

Cisco Giestas

Cisco Giestas

This was a photo edited by a French man named Cisco Giestas. It is what is known as a double exposure which means it is a photo within a photo. The snowy tree landscape shot blends into the shot of a wolf standing in the snow. Both photos have to be linked by a theme, in this case, cold as they both contain snow and a white base colour scheme is adhered to by each image. This editing technique showcases an interesting way of looking at each image, but can also postulate a further meaning. In this case ‘what the wolf is made of’. The natural beauty of the location is only seen because the wolf is made of it which shows the wolfs environment, but on a deeper level his home. It shows even animals are made and sustained by the environment they live in.

Sara Shakeel

Sara Shakeel

This was done by Sara Shakeel as a series of images empowering women. This series consisted of Shakeel covering over stretch marks with glitter and sparkling diamonds, a very simple edited, but the implications are fascinating to me. In an age where stretch marks are considered ‘ugly’ and most advertisements and magazines are editing them out, this edit does the opposite, it highlights the natural outcome of growth in women (I say in women as she only edited women for this project, I am aware both men and women get stretch marks but men are not scrutinised for them in the way women are). This series empowers women by showing they are beautiful and that the media that would say otherwise are wrong. She posted all the images online and the series blew up and shows a step forward for female empowerment through her innovative ideas in photography and editing. This is an example of using editing to make an image which just using a camera could not achieve, this is also a reason I am interested in photography.

Peter McKinnon

Peter McKinnon

Peter McKinnon’s photos have always had a natural beauty to me. The way he uses colour in his photos makes them stand out and emphasise the beauty of whatever he is shooting. Colour has always fascinated me in photos and Mckinnon uses a duo-tone technique to make his photos burst, in this photo the red and grey/black are used to show the coldness of the city and highlight the beauty of life against the cold. (I have not studied how to read a photograph yet and so can only comment on what I already know). The composition of this image is also used to focus the photo on the tram. Obviously, the tram is symmetrical in this image, but the tram tracks and power lines in this image also draw focus toward the tram. The depth of field is also perfect with a slight blur around the outside of the tram.

Peter McKinnon 2

Again McKinnon uses colour as a method of enhancing his photos, not exaggerating them beyond realism, but making the colours burst. This photo accents the blue in his tattoos in the foreground and the blue in the blurred background. The focus is another reason I like this photographers work. The depth of field is very short, just the subjects left arm and head are in focus, the rock in the foreground and right arm and rest of the background are out of focus.

Peter McKinnon Collection

Kevin Cobos

Kevin Cobos

Kevin Cobos is a freelance photographer out of Chicago with a website, http://www.kevo28.com/ and does all sorts of photography. Although he photographs a range of subjects, one consistency in his work that I particularly find interesting to look at is the uniformity he displays in all things.

This image could show a jumble of houses with no coordination but the low to high-key light from bottom to top as well as the edges of the building being left out create the houses own form of conformity and beauty.

Kevin Cobos 2

This shot IS just a lot of trees but the uniformity of the trees creates an interesting image to look at. The green of the trees gets deeper and richer as the image goes from top to bottom.