Thursday, June 16, 2011

P2: horizontal vs vertical

For this and the previous post I am pulling photographs made during an exploratory bike ride to the North Eastern fringes of Munich, an area where industry and city apartment blocks meet the farmland surrounding the city.  I had a very specific goal in mind when heading out to this area, that was to have a close look at the Heizkraftwerk Nord, a power station that dominates the northeastern skyline.  This is a modern facility partly burning coal, but mostly domestic waste to produce electricity and heating water.  In Munich many homes do not have their own boilers, they receive hot water directly from this and other power stations, my own house being one of them.  The emissions are very well filtered, making this a very green energy source, utilizing what would otherwise be land fill to produce energy for the city.

Apart from its green credentials this is also an interesting object in the landscape and called for closer attention from my camera.  When I got there I started off by taking a straightforward reference image, illustrating both the power station and the rail network that delivers its fuel:

Samsung NX100, 20mm, f/5.6, 1/125s, ISO100
(For this image I have provided the exif data, but will generally not do so, unless there is a specific need to discuss the shooting parameters.  For this project all shots were taken with the NX100 and either a 20 or 30mm prime lens)

This scene called out for a portrait approach, the railway lines feeding into the power station in the background, immediately highlighting the fact that I have the opposite problem to that suggested in the text, I am prone to look for scenes that work with a portrait framing.  I like the sense of depth that the portrait format gives to an picture, the ability to include multiple layers of information from foreground to background.  I sometimes have to really force myself to work in landscape.  This has been detrimental to some of my images, I do need to actively consider how I frame photographs and also to consider how I might crop the image later in editing, I often use square framing as an example.

In an attempt to get closer to the power station I followed a bike trail that paralleled the railway heading East.  This brought me into a strange place, a modern low rise housing development sitting in a small depression, bordered in the South by the power station, in the North by a container park and in the East by the railway lines.  Access to the housing estate was to the West and this was then up against the River Isar.  Traveling a little further East led to open farmland and the Bavarian countryside, the subject for Project 1.  The screenshot below shows how these areas relate to each other.

  Red - Container Park
  Blue - Housing Estate
  Red - Power Station

I have always been fascinated by maps, Google Earth simply amazes me and I plan to use this tool to connect my photography to the local geography.  I feel it is important to relate imagery to location, especially in the case of landscape. I want my photographs to be read in the context of where they were created. As I progress through the course I will clearly indicate where photographs are taken using smaller maps and then associate each project to a larger map of the city.

As can be seen in the annotated photograph above the housing estate on Neubruchstrasse is sandwiched between industrialized areas.  This juxtaposition offered good photographic potential, I intend to exploit it fully.  On arriving in the estate I took the following two photographs standing in exactly the same spot, the first North facing the second South:

Both photographs juxtapose scenes of domestic living with the starkness of industry, in particular the child on the swings in the shadow of the massive power plant.  In this case I use the term shadow figuratively, however, as the plant is due South on a sunny day it literally overshadows the housing estate.  Moving around to the East there is a wide expanse of overgrown wasteland.  The following photograph was taken looking back at the housing estate and the container terminal.

The goal of this Project is more than simply exploring a location, it is to consider framing possibilities in Landscape images.  Turning my camera on the side, I reframed my first housing photo using the lead in line of the pathway between the houses.  In this case the photograph is lacking any foreground detail to answer the question of why I selected such a framing.

Landscape format offers the ability to present subjects that sit alongside each other, and permits the creation of strong perspectives when using a wide angle lens such as below (20mm, 30mm FFE).  I have tried with this shot to portray a street flanked on one side by apartments on the other by the container park, it does not work due to the greenery, perhaps this would be better show in the winter.

Taken from roughly the same location, I have pivoted to shoot South rather than West (the grey sky made direction of little import from a lighting consideration).  Using a vertical framing I have been able to juxtapose the flats with the chimneys of the power station.  The chimneys call for a vertical framing, however, this framing also creates a sense of depth in the image.

Moving my location I looked for a few shots that would clearly allow a simple comparison between horizontal and vertical framing.  The first pair try to incorporate the reflection of the power station chimneys in the rain puddle.  The horizontal shot, enables me to include the housing estate, however, the chimneys are cut off in both the background and foreground.  The vertical framing loses the juxtaposition, but gains the ability to see the complete chimney in the puddle informing the viewer of the height of the chimney without actually showing it, making the crop at the top of the frame work better.

With the next pair I have tried to get down low and push some colour into what was a drizzly drab day.  Once gain the vertical framing suits this close up view as it better sustains the verticality of the chimneys

A second photograph taken slightly further away from the chimneys has a better composition, no cropping of the power station and a group of plants that superimpose well with the background.

Another vertical shot was suggested by the nfo-Cente...

I finish with another pair of horizontal/vertical compositions

In both cases, the horizontal framing permits greater context within the photograph, there is more to read in the frame.  However, I still find the vertical presentation better suits the subject matter, enabling me to juxtapose the dereliction of the foreground subject matter with the clean industrial background.

Both framings have merit and convey different messages.  I find that the horizontal frame is better for informing the viewer and works well to establish location and relationships between objects, vertical framing works better in creating conflict between foreground and background, there is more drama in these shots.  Admittedly, the power station calls for vertical framing, however, the containers have a strong horizontal symmetry, but still work well in a vertical frame.

In Project 1 I further emphasized my fascination with horizontal linear symmetries, lines of trees, grass, woods, sky, railways lines...  Here I have effectively turned that on its side and found translational symmetries, comparing chimneys with plant stalks or using reflections.  I also find that I am drawn to bleak landscapes, derelict spaces, and skies with limited contrast or colour.  This is by no means a conclusion of intent at this stage, rather an attempt to develop ideas that will lead to personal style.

A key question that I face  is to what degree I should experiment with multiple styles as I have done in the Level 1 courses.  Should I already be starting to work towards a recognizable style of my own?  The subject of Landscape is vast, there are very many genres, styles, subjects to consider.  I am starting to struggle with the question of whether I should complete this course as a study of the city or extend it to include the landscape surrounding the city.  Without question is the fact that urban landscape will lie at the heart of my work, the question is how far to extend that landscape beyond the city boundaries.  Currently I am using the Projects to explore some of these ideas, Projects 1 and 2 were very much edge of the city locations, exploring the boundary between the urban and rural environments.  However, as I head towards the first Assignment, a decision will need to be made.  My goal in all of these courses is to progressively build skill and understanding, if my work is too broad I will not achieve the level I aspire to.  In particular I look towards Assignments 4 and 5, the study and style of a Landscape photographer, select Ansel Adams and City landscape might be a challenge (although maybe not, his style and working model would fit well to Architectural studies).  With those thoughts I finish this project and start looking for masking tape to modify my camera into a panoramic device, bizarre...

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