Archive for October, 2013

October 24, 2013

Exercise: Juxtaposition

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Juxtaposition is all about putting objects together to suggest a relationship and its the mainstay of illustration. In this exercise we are encouraged to take a book and create a new cover for it by taking relevant elements of the story and incorporating those together.

I recently read a very silly book called Undead & Unwed. It’s a comedy about a completely handbag & shoe preoccupied young woman called Betsy who gets killed and wakes up, not only undead, but queen of the vampires because for some reason she can walk in the sun. Pride and Prejudice for the new generation? Not. But funny nevertheless. Here is my new cover for it…

Undead & Unwed My New Cover

I choose fake (glow in the dark) fangs (to indicate comedy and vampire), OTT handbag and clearly fake blood. The real cover looks like this where they use ditzy blond doing her make up sitting on a gravestone:
Undead And Unwed Cover

October 23, 2013

Exercise: Symbols

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Following on from yesterdays exercise, this next one (on p178) is more of a thought exercise than a practical one. The idea is to find symbols for a number of supplied concepts here are mine:

  • Growth – eggs, small green shoots, little & large comparisons, children wearing adults cloths & shoes, increasing line graph, seeds, babies
  • Excess – sex, drugs & rock & roll lifestyles, banquets, super drunk people, obesity, exaggerated bling
  • Crime – guns, knives, handcuffs, police badges, mugshots, bloody bodies, chalk outlines, hoodies, balaclavas, swag, being arrested
  • Silence – silencers, headphones, praying, libraries, one finger to lips hush sign
  • Poverty – open hand (begging), 3rd world aid, tramps, people rummaging through bins, soup (kitchen), two cents (have not got two to rub together), the big issue.
October 22, 2013

Exercise: Evidence of Action

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p177 is a challenge to produce one photo in which it can be seen that something has happened. Suggestions included something that might have been broken or emptied. Here I went for something spilled.

Spilt Milk

The project associated with this action is all about illustration, and about how it really comes into its own when the subject is dealing with an abstract idea or concept. I wanted to illustrate the saying “No point crying over split milk”, which is another way of saying accidents happen, or what’s in the past is done and you have to suck it up and deal with the situation. I was going to use real milk but I had the idea to use milk illustration (cut out paper) as stand in. It illustrated my point better using the graphical concept of spilt milk.

The example of illustrating an idea that is given in the exercise is when insurance companies need to advertise. The second part of the exercise was to think of 5 examples of concepts that are regularly depicted in advertising & publicity:

  • Love – advertisers are continually trying to sell using love
  • Wealth – advertisers know that many people want to be rich
  • Faith – all sorts of symbols for this across the different faiths
  • Popularity – advertsiers play with popularity, who’s hot or not, the facebook ‘like’ thumbs up, etc
  • spread bettering – the best one I saw for this was a patched teddybear with a slogan about being stuffed, it made me laugh because many people get caught out spread betting so a company that can help you reap the rewards without so much risk would be worth it.
  • Virus protection – this is a bit like insurance, where they tend to use shields etc as symbols for protection.

There are many photographers who specialise in conceptual photograph, the one who springs to my mind is David Nitsche

David Nitsche

October 21, 2013

Exercise: A Narrative Picture Essay

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The narrative picture essay is a series of images which tell a story. We are all so used to trying to tell a story with one image sometimes we forget that a photo essay might be a more appropriate vehicle for telling the full story. I often do this on my personal blog when I come home from a trip (e.g. Whalesharks in Mexico). If there has been several discreet ‘chapters’ to my the story of my trip I might split them up into several blog posts and over the breadth of the trip across those (for example here, with my Namibia trip).

Image placement ,size and spacing becomes important in a picture essay. The images work differently when placed next to other images than in a standalone post. You can use size and order to emphasise certain aspects and shape the story. Captions are integral to most photo essays, linking the photos together to weave the story and give you greater insight to what is going on. The layout would be different depending on where & how the essay is to be displayed. I construct my blogs around my images but I try and shot my images to be standalone images for the most part. When you shoot for a story you find yourself taking context & linking shots which otherwise you might not take (or if you take them you might not normally choose to display them), but in the context of the story they can become the glue that hold the stand alone images together.

 

I actually went out into the Red Sea with the express intention of creating a photobook of my trip (for Solo photo book month). I had been to the Red Sea before, on the same boats in fact. So I knew what to expect. The types of shots to prepare for and most importantly I knew I wanted a photo book at the end of it. I found myself planning out the main story and then shooting to it rather than just my usual ‘street’ photography style of shoot what is interesting at the time. It was quite a challenge, the aim is to create 35 photos (or more) and text (if you want to) and put them in a PDF photobook all within 31 days! Also, because I’d planned it upfront, I was able to quiz my boat-mates throughout the week for some quotes on what they thought of the Red Sea to appear in my book.

The SoFoBoMo site (which has closed down now) had a size restriction on the file so I didn’t bother trying to print it because it’d look very crap. It’s been optimised for screen viewing and compressed to within an inch of its life to get it down to under 7mb. I was on a PC when I edited (not my Mac) so I used Microsoft publisher to layout which was pretty easy to use. I published to pdf but there wasn’t really any options on the pdf (security or document properties or anything) so I downloaded a free trial version of Adobe Acrobat 9 to edit my pdf properties. It was a very enjoyable process.

Here is my eBook.

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October 16, 2013

Everybody Street… a new documentary about street photography

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Really enjoyed this trailer for the forthcoming documentary on street photography

See it directly on Vimeo here.

“Everybody Street” illuminates the lives and work of New York’s iconic street photographers and the incomparable city that has inspired them for decades. The documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City, and captures the visceral rush, singular perseverance and at times immediate danger customary to these artists.

Featuring: Bruce Davidson , Elliott Erwitt, Jill Freedman, Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Rebecca Lepkoff, Mary Ellen Mark, Jeff Mermelstein, Clayton Patterson, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper, and Boogie, with Max Kozloff and Luc Sante.

October 7, 2013

Book Review: The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes: Creative Applications of Small Flashes (Voices That Matter) by Joe McNally This one isn’t technically on the reading list but was recommended to me. You know it’s going to be an interesting read when you learn something new in the first 12 pages. The HSD, unlike the other flash books recommended in the course notes is not a manual on how to shoot flash – Joe even states that on the into page xiii – This Is Not The Manual. This is a book you can sit down with in the train or with a cup of coffee and read like a normal person. And just who is Joe McNally, well as a National Geographic, Time, & Life photographer and internationally acclaimed American Photographer he knows a heck of a lot more about different light situations than I ever will. 😉

“Light is quicksilver. Magic. It is here, then it is there. Then it is gone.”

Its basically a book filled with different lighting examples and the stories of how they were shot, this makes it sound pretty dull but I found it really interesting to read. I tried to make notes on it as I went along so I would be able to refer back to my book review when I needed to look stuff up for reference (hence the page numbers throughout the review).

The introduction is all about the nuts & bolts of what Joe uses and why. What was the thing I learnt in the first 12 pages? Well, on p11-12 he is explaining the importance of EV. Mostly when I’m using my camera for underwater work it’s in manual mode, since my flashes are all manual so was my camera (this however may change now with my new Olympus set up), I rarely use Aperture priority so didnt have to understand this EV thing. EV is exposure compensation. In Aperture mode you are selecting the aperture and letting the camera select your other settings but what if you wanted it slightly darker or lighter than the camera suggests? That’s where EV comes in. You can compensate for the extra brightness or darkness you want.

Bright backgrounds will silhouette your subjects, hence you know to program in some plus exposure in order to brighten things for them. (p11)

Flash has independent EV controls because the camera EV is scene wide, a global input, which is both available light and flashlight. So if you dialled in some over exposure to the camera you have dialled in the over exposure to the flash too which would need to be corrected or the whole scene would just be darker than you anted (assuming we’re using TTL, which is sort of automatic mode for flash).

Upfront he lays out the very basic settings he usually uses and the reasons why. The book is very Nikon-centric but I’m sure it’ll translate into Olympus (or anything else) once you understand the gist. After twenty or so pages you might start to tired if the witty americanisms but push on because the content is worth it. He writes in a conversational tone but somehow gets the facts over. I found the little section on rear curtain sync (and why not to use red eye pre-flashes) on p14 interesting because I did have mine set to rear curtain but was finding the recycle time too long for the tiny hotshoe flash which my strobes optically slave from, I now have it on 1/64s power – more experimentation needed I think.

There is a section at the start on flash concepts which clearly lays out the terms Joe uses throughout the book, eg TTL (through the lens metering), CLS (creative lighting system – this is Nikons name for it) etc. He talks a lot about zooming the flash (so that your flash coverage is edge to edge even when you zoom in your lenses). I must remember to check out this feature if I purchase a topside flash, it seems important throughout the book (introduced on p22). There is an interesting introduction section on gear, gels, light modifiers etc that had me reaching for google to check out extra info on them. Given the price on some of this stuff, I think careful consideration on exactly what you might need and what might be DIY’d will be in order. Given that he isnt saying you need any of this stuff, he’s just explaining what things are that he uses so when he talks about them later in the book you arn’t left scratching your head wondering what he’s on about.

Once you set one of these puppies off, light goes everywhere. It’s up to you to tell it where to go. (p27)

Joe goes into quite a bit about colour, specifically balancing the colour of the flash (which is usually neutral white daylight) with whatever the available light happens to be. This is going to come in handing during the end of Section 4 of the course. On pretty much every photo he examines he explains which colour gel he put over his flash & why which I found really useful.

Light can be hard, soft, wrapping, harsh, slashing, sumptuous, glowing, ethereal, muddy, muted, brash, poppy, brassy, contrasty, clean, open – it’s a little nuts. (p38)

I found the explanation of how Joe shot an image of a Tanzanian woman (below) on p56-57 really interesting – balancing the natural (harsh) window light with his flash. He makes the point that straight flash would destroy the mood and atmosphere of the scene, the lighting from the window reminds me of the “cathedral” lighting I often see in caves, shipwrecks and under jetties.
Joe McNally p56

On p61-67 Joe goes through a couple of the pitfalls of on camera flash and iTTL (intelligent through the lens), and gives a good explanation of EV, gels & colours, again explaining that he adds a CTO gel to warm up that flashlight and he moves the flash off to onside, right near the subject to produce a more flattering light. On p70 & 71 he talks about adding Magenta filters to the lens to offset the overall greenish tone to a city night scene but then having to green-up his flash with filters to offset the magenta filter and blend the light with the available light (in digital you can just use the fluorescent white-balance instead of the magenta lens filter). One great effect this has is the dusky sunset gets more magenta – which made it look even better. On p83-85 Joe goes over why you might use fill-in flash, what exactly it is, and how such small nuances may effect the mood and story of a photo.

You know why they call it “fill”? ‘Cause the glass is already just about full. All you have to do is pour a little more in. (p84)

And what, pray, is a Lastolite All-In-One umbrella? Being new to topside flash I’m amazed by the variety of accessories and lighting modifiers. On p96 Joe goes through why he was using this umbrella and its various features to shoot a girl in a hoodie at twilight. He goes further with teh accessories on p98 where he basically overpowers the natural light with flash to recreate the sunset!

The ballerina photo on p102 is a really nice example of using shadows of things that are between the light and the subject to tell a better story in the photo.

The smaller the light source relative to the subject, and the farther away it is, the sharper and harder the shadows will be. (p104)

He gets serious with lighting delicate hospital moments (and how to over come the banks of hospital overhead florescent with a Lumiquest 80-20 attachment) on p109 and p130.

The moment is more important than the light. (p110)

The next few sections cover topics such as light texture (lacey light to get that net curtain effect), working without strobes and introducing them slowing in an on-site scenario (although most of us wouldn’t get to document behind the scenes at NASA), various times when putting the lighting outside the windows creates great effects, lighting on water in just a plastic bag – eek, mixing neon, flash and tungsten light sources and some other interesting stuff.

Seedy motels mack of illicit liaisons, last stands, one-night stands, and desperate deeds done in the dark. Great photographic fodder. (p153)

On page 155 he goes into lighting without messing up the atmosphere of the scene as it stands. Increasing the punch and depth of the shadows by zooming the light through old dirty windows seems to be a favorite technique that he uses again and again.

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I want to get this posted up for my tutor to see what I have so far, so I’m leaving this unfinished to come back & edit to when I’ve finished reading… to be continued.

October 7, 2013

Assignment 4: Applying lighting techniques

by Suzy Walker-Toye

For this assignment the task was to apply different lighting techniques to one object to emphasise Shape, form, texture & colour. Click on the small images below to enter the gallery view.

I’ve put my critical review & thoughts into my learning log pdf part 4.

Here are two bonus photos which didn’t quite match the rest of the set but which I also liked…

This could be an alternative for Texture:
Bonus 1

This could be an alternative for Form:
Bonus 2

October 3, 2013

Book Review: Light Science Magic

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

This is Nice simple introduction to lighting principles. I like the way they don’t try and narrow it down to using flashes and get too bogged down in the equipment right out of the gate. That is often off-putting to a beginner like me, when you pick up a book about lighting & flash. However here, they acknowledge that the same principles apply whether you are using the sun & clouds, desk lamps & DIY diffusers or high-end studio lighting. They are teaching the physics behind it (but in a practical and useful manner whatever your equipment).

For me personally I found this book very useful because I have only used flashes underwater (where the physics is a little different due to the water column, depth away from the sun, particles in the water catching the light (backscatter) and a host of other factors). On those flashes (two Inon z240 strobes), they come with two types of diffusers (but I have only ever used one set) and I have DIY red gel filters so that I get nice blue backgrounds. Colour drop off due to depth & distance is not an issue on land of course. When I shoot on land I use desk lamps for macro with official diffusers (just a little DIY tracing paper). Quite often I use shiny surfaces as backdrops so the explanations in this book will help me to master the glare and reflections to achieve the photos that I want rather than my previous trial and error approach. I’d recommending reading this straight away if you are doing this course and not waiting for section 4 (the lighting section).

They go through examples of photographing things and what sort of set ups would work and why. Such as photographing artwork & other flat surfaces (great for OCA students)! Also, shiny surfaces such as metal, transparent objects like glasses (the subject I found most useful considering my first assignment ideas) and photos that would need a mixture of surfaces catered for. Also, chapters on lighting people with one or more lights. Also, lighting for difficult extremes such as black on black or white on white.

I’d recommend this as a must read to anyone new to lighting or someone who’d only read lighting books that explained the who & what but didn’t get around to the why. This is a nice companion to the course and I’d say the most practically useful book so far. It’s also nicely laid out for reference, I shall be dipping back into this as a reference for years to come I expect.

October 3, 2013

Exercise: Shiny Surfaces

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p163 is about taking photos of reflective surfaces. The instructions were a bit weird, take a shiny object to lay flat and photograph & light from from above. Then take a cone of tracing paper to put over the lens and the object (but not in the photo) to stop the shiny object from reflecting everything about. Right, so I duely got about a spoon and gave it ago. However I couldn’t get the tracing paper cone big enough or stiff enough to stay in place over the spoon out of shot. Finally after getting very irritated with such a silly request I managed to (sort of) do it with a five pence piece. The first photo is the 5p just lit with a bare desk lamp. The second 5p is lit with the silly cone of shame over (see the little set up shot).

5p bare light
5p under the cone
5p Setup tracing paper cone

What we’re actually seeing here is that in the first shot the light is not in the family of angles that would be a direct reflection on the 5p. Chapter 6 of the Light, Science and Magic book (see my bookshelf) explains this very well. In the ‘under the cone’ shot the 5p is reflecting its surroundings (the cone). This is actually better demonstrated in my next set of images, which dont use a cone but a light tent (better, more stable version of the cone).

 
 
 
 

Setup 1
 
  
 

The first image is just the two bare lights. You can see it reflects its surroundings completely.
Photo with Setup 1

Setup 2
I thought to soften the light with diffusers but you can see the brown cardboard in the left hand cup and my arm reaching out to hold the second diffuser in both the larger cups.
photo with setup 2

This was the same set up as before but I moved the diffusers closer to the cups, you see its removed the brown colours in the left hand cup because the centre of the diffuser is now firmly in the family of angles which the cup directly reflects. But you can still see me and the rest of the surround reflected.

Photo with setup 3

Setup 3

To fix that you need the whole object surrounded (like with the cone) so we can use a light tent. You can still see me and the camera in the opening from the tent though.

 
Photo from setup 4

Setup 5

The light tent comes with a little front piece with a slit in it for just such an occasion which attaches with velcro. This allows you to just poke the camera lens through the opening to minimise as much of the direct reflections as possible. Obviously we cannot not have the lens there, if we don’t point the camera at the object we don’t get a photo, but we’ve done what we can. I guess if you wanted too, at this point you could just clone that out in photoshop to tidy it up a bit.

Photo from setup 5

Setup 6

The reason I took this last photo, is I thought that the left hand cup was a bit bright, so I re-angled the lamp outside of the tent a bit more to my liking.

Photo from setup 6

In truth I prefer the wider angle of the first few photos, and the light tent with the front open, if you were to just make the opening black to remove the reflection of camera & me then it would look better I think than the weird frontage that the front flap reflection gives.

 

October 2, 2013

Exercise: Concentrating Light

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Danbo in spotliht

If you only want light to fall on part of the scene you can create a snoot or some other way to confine the light. That is what the exercise on p162 is all about. Here I took my desk lamp shade off and replaced it with a piece of rolled up black card to create a spotlight.

Setup Spotlight Setup normal light

Danbo in normal light

Purse in normal light

Purse in spotlight

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