My husband Alan Franks and I have begun a new project, The Place of the Poem, and for the first illustrated essay, just published, we went to Dover. Here is a gallery of some of the shots. This was an opportunity to work on landscape and some long-exposure, as well as post-production skills in Photoshop.
With lockdown easing, and having recovered from a serious illness last year that stopped all photography and much else in its tracks, I am at last able to pick up a camera again. I completed year two at Richmond College but after the illness, decided to take time out before proceeding to year three and do an online course instead. A good one to start with seemed to be the 31 Days to Becoming a Better Photographer with the Digital Photography School. This photo, above, was taken at Wraysbury lakes, near Heathrow, for Day One of the course, ‘setting up your camera’.
Day 2 assignment: Take shots in different contexts, including: Outdoors, Indoors in bright light, Indoors in dim light.
I admit it was tempting to use an old photo for part one of this, but I made myself start from scratch with a new idea. Unlike in Australia, where the course’s tutor Jim Hamel is based, and where everyone is talking about spring, here in the UK it is autumn so I was delighted to find some lemon-scented salvia still flowering in our garden. The first picture, the outdoor shot, I used a macro lens. Then I cut the salvia and put it in an Old Albert bone china milk jug, and balanced this on the end of our kitchen table, using a wide aperture (f2) on a 50mm lens and fast shutter speed for shallow depth of field. I was delighted by the unintended bokeh effect. Finally, for the third shot, which I felt was least successful of the three, I brought the jug upstairs to our son’s little studio and used a long exposure and smaller aperture. All were done on ISO 100. I felt the need to play around with flash and tripod, especially for shot 3, but didn’t have the equipment or the know-how to hand at this time.
Electricity and glass can be terrifying and dangerous phenomena. Studio photography is not possible without either. So it is important to know how to use them safely, for legal and personal reasons. The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 covers most of the essentials for professional photographers in the workplace. In photography, questions of adult and child safeguarding must also be born in mind, along with European legislation on privacy. In addition, copyright and plagiarism are other areas of legal expertise with which any aspiring lens person must equip themselves with.
Top of the list are the fire safety arragnements that must cover every indoor place of work and activity. I have done a fire warden course for my employer so have the latest certification. With studio work, it is important to have the special fire extinguishers to hand that apply. Of the 4 standards available, the dry powder and CO2 extinguishers are the ones that must be available in studios. Water must never be used on electrical fires while power is still live.
In the studio itself, there are many potential hazards from tables, chairs, electric cables, unstable tripods and lights, large light filters, overhead beams and rails and so on. Stepladders must be held by a second person whenever someone is on them. All equipment must be understood – how it works, whether it is assembled correctly. Care must be taken in navigating around them and using them. eg No cords must be capable of bringing down a large backdrop on anyone’s head when pulled. For these reasons, it is best not to have spectators or extra people in a studio setting.
In the shoot illustrated here, of flowers, I had to use scissors to cut the stems, and arrange backdrops and lights on slightly shaky. The kinds of tables that collapse if someone sits on them. The scissors were blunt. It is easy to cut oneself when over enthusiastically using blunt scissors. Flowers sometimes have thorns, that can be a hazard also especially if using a model whose skin might suffer from a cut. In addition, one of my models suffered a mild allergic reaction to the pollen in some of the flowers. It is important to consider all such eventualities, and have antihistamine tablets and cream on hand should this occur.
Storage is a must. Equipment must be properly stored and curated, and put away properly after use.
Rubber cables should be used. Plugs must be compatible with equipment. Electrical burning smells, common when spots are in use for a long time, must be investigated and dealt with.
Bulbs must never be touched. Incandescent lights of the kind common in spots get very hot. They can be made unstable by the touch of human flesh and explode. They will also cause burns if touched when hot. Some bulbs contain mercury which is a poison. Great care must be taken to avoid exploding such bulbs.
Explosions can also be caused by plugs being too close to live equipment. A spark can arc over and ignite equipment with catastrophic results.
Sparks can be caused if someone trips over a cable and pulls out a plug by accident, or knocks over equipment, with the same result. Some people recommend rubber gloves and electricity-proof gaffer tape when working in the studio and any long loose cables should be secured safely. Best to avoid extensions at all if possible.
For obvious reasons, then, food and drink should never be in a photo studio.
Be familiar with fuse box and fuse requirements of different plugs and lights.
And also it is advisable to have done a first aid course and have a first aid kit to hand at all times.
Working with Adobe Bridge, Lightroom CC and Photoshop. Practising layers and masking. Here I’ve posted the originals and the processed pix. The creative potential in this is very exciting. Pic 1: View of the City from Bankside near Tate Modern. Pic 2: South Milton Sands in Devon. Pic 3: Abstract photo taken during a London Photographic workshop at Tate Modern. (Note for action: Abstract photography exhibition opens at Tate Modern on May 2.)
Juanita and I went on a beginner’s night-time photography class through London Photographic on Meet-Up. We started at Bankside near Tate Modern and moved up the river, finishing at Tower Bridge as the sun finally set. Experimenting with long exposures, ND filter, white balance, light trails. (I put two of these photos on Unsplash)
Painting with light in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern. Theme work on light, reflections, shadows. The Turbine Hall is currently occupied by the Danish collective Superflex. A giant playground, for photographers as well as grown-up kids! Intense spotlights create strong shadows from the swings, and also provide pportunities to ‘paint with light’. The giant mirror ball swinging overhead the stripes carpet works with light balance effects, exposure compensation, zoom and distorted reflection. (I’m one of the dots in the middle of the first and last photos, lying on the floor, shooting up!) Even ordinary fluorescent lights offer similar creative opportunities. Working with shadows, exposure compensation of +2 achieved the best results. The mirror ball was ‘blue’ with negative and automatic WB, ‘orange’ with 0 ev and fluorescent WB. To achieve the light effects, I didn’t move the lights – I moved the camera. 3″ exposure and the smallest aperture (16) my 50mm prime lens can achieve.
Below: Practising with depth of field, composition (leading lines, rule of thirds etc), reflections, balance in the permanent exhibits on the fourth and second floors of Tate Modern
An evening walk around the Serpentine in Hyde Park. I waited for a day when a good sunset beckoned to go into London to catch Henry Moore’s famous arch on the Serpentine, taking it from both sides of the river as the evening drew to a close, along with the fountains at the western end. This week in class we were practising aperture priority – so with A priority and manual ISO, we can relax and rely on the camera to adjust shutter speed itself. Aperture priority is the only setting where exposure compensation works, and I shot most of these on -2 to enhance colour depth without darkening them too much as the light faded. This was necessary as I was shooting into the sun. I changed aperture for different depth of field, and took most of these on mid-range aperture apart from the water fountains on 1.4. The beauty of the sculpture also gave an opportunity to practise framing, while the fountains and the conveniently arranged seagulls and swan allowed experiments with balance and composition. I liked using the shadow from the sculpture to do an artistic selfie!
St Dunstan-in-the-East, London. I’ve always wanted to photograph this church, built in 1100, burned in the Great Fire in 1666 then wrecked in WWII. Instead of being rebuilt, it was turned into a public garden. Looking through the gothic tracery to the west just after sunrise in the east, the sun catches the burnished top of the famous Monument. Looking south through the ruins, there is the Shard. And to the West looks the new ‘Walkie Talkie’ building. I find this church and its setting very evocative. This was the perfect place to experiment with framing, setting the old ruins off against the new and modern at sunrise. There were many opportunities to use leading lines to point towards the architectural contrasts. And while in real life the new buildings overshadow the old, from within the ruins of the past it was possible to make the old dominant, using the rule of thirds to give counter-intuitive historical perspective. Thus the shard is framed in the eastern third of one window, the top of Monument shines through another as testament to this past, and wide-angle perspective makes the tower look dominant over the Walkie Talkie. I used a combination of a prime 50mm lens on f1.4 and a wide-angle lens 16-85mm, ISO 100, and experimented with different exposure compensation from -5 to 0. Mainly settled for -2. Polarising filter.
Chiswick House. Mainly a chance to experiment with leading lines and some landscape composition and to try different ISO on the waterfall using prime 50mm lens at f1.4. Sense of moving water at speed at f16 ISO100, f1.4 made water appear still because of the faster shutter speed required of the wider aperture. Higher f-stops for greater depth of field in the landscape shots.
Puffing Billy, the first steam locomotive, in the Science Museum. Used prime 50mm lens F1.4 for close ups and shallow depth of field, and wide angle with polarising filter to capture the whole engine. Tried positioning the static engine using rule of thirds to try and achieve sense of motion, of it moving out of the picture. Used leading lines to give a sense of dynamic, and historical as well as literal perspective. Mainly -2 exposure compensation to bring out the colours in the metal. Some framing opportunities provided by the metal work eg wheels. ISO 100.
Sunset on the River Thames towpath between Kew Gardens and Richmond. Wide angle/zoom lens 3.5-22. This was experimenting with different exposure compensation and Fstops to increase the quality of the colour. More orange look achieved with F5.6 at -2. Blue is brought out more by F3.5 at -2. Also experimenting with rule of thirds and the placement of the horizon at the top or bottom third, thereby emphasising either the sky or the reflections on the river. The curve of the river presented natural leading lines to exploit. A great opportunity arose to frame the sun itself in a heart-shape among the trees on the river bank. It is fantastic how golden clouds naturally seem to obey the golden rule.
The beautiful Stefan Sobel guitar owned by Alan Franks. I experimented with depth of field at F1.4, focussing on different parts of the guitar neck, the frets and strings, using the lovely gentle natural light of an early February morning and switching off all artificial light in the room. (Check out Alan’s music here the latest album here.)
Week 2: Aperture – size and number, shutter speed – time – shorter – longer. Home work: Depth of Field exercise. Depth of field = zone of relative sharpness. F1.4 to create large aperture and therefore shallow depth of field = soft background. On fourth pic, contrasted with third pic by focusing on different leaf. Experimented with better effect by ensuring background at distance from subject. Used low apertures to isolate subject from background.
RACC Level One Photography Course Week 1: Lecture, Demonstration, Practical exercise with cameras, Focal length , Jargon terminology. Homework: Don’t zoom exercise. So need to get closer with camera. Use for landscape, interiors, group pix, event photography, story-telling photo journalism. Camera – Nikon D5200 with Sigma lens 3.5-6.8 to max 22. Pix taken on 3.5, no zoom.