Sunday, July 17, 2011

Assignment 1: Visit 1

Having completed an exploratory foray into the Olympic Park and Village, yesterday was my first opportunity to return with the intent to start capturing images that might make it into the final selection.  Thematically I am set on developing the idea of Legacy in the context of the 1972 Olympics, the challenge now remains to capture that within my photographs, but at the same time express the sense of the season, Summer.

The season now becomes my greatest challenge, summer is passing by and my weekend diary is beginning to fill up with demands upon my time that will preclude taking photographs.  This is compounded by the fact that recently the workload associated with my "day job" has dramatically increased, now over 60 hours a week.  My original intent had been to visit the Olympic Park in the mornings or evenings, right now, unless I am prepared to shoot at night this is not going to happen. So, apart from a need to work quickly, the questions remains of how to represent summer in the Park and Village.  The first approach is to take advantage of the activity that summer creates, the park is a magnet for people to visit and simply enjoy the scenery.  The park is also a major event location, concerts, exhibitions, and festivals all take place there, the trick is to avoid my work crossing over into Social Documentary.  I need to include people in my work, but as a decoration for the landscape, not as the subject of the images.  A further indicator of summer is the luxuriance of vegetation, in particular the dark green of the trees as opposed to the bright greens of spring or the colours of autumn.  Finally summer has a particular light characteristic, the sun is very strong and when directly overhead casts strong black shadows.  Even when low in the sky the shadows are still very strong and clearly delineated.

To succeed in this assignment I need to take care of the activity of people in my images, the richness of the vegetation and the strong light - these are the elements that will speak of summer.

Technically starting to take images that may make it into my final set means a change in equipment, dropping the versatility of the zoom for the quality and control of the prime lens.  For this study I carried a 24mm TS-E, and 35mm and 100mm prime.  I did not use a tripod, I currently prefer to work hand held and the light is strong enough to support f/11 at handheld shutter speeds.  This brought challenges in using a perspective control lens, however, in my previous blog entry I described how I overcame this by using a different focusing screen in my camera.  I used a pol filter for the 35/100mm lenses, the 24mm does not need one!

With this lens kit, I had a number of goals in mind, the focus of the visit was going to be a look at the shape and form of the buildings in the location.  The 24mm would allow close ups of the structures without distortion, whilst the 35mm has a view very similar to the human eye and great for more intimate landscapes.  Finally the image stabilized 100mm is a good focal length to isolate subjects and create compression in images using juxtaposition. In retrospect the 100mm was at times too long or too short, at the wider angles primes are fine, at longer focal lengths I think I would be better with my 70-300 zoom.

My first goal was to start thinking about how to convey the size of the hill in order to create a sense of the amount of misery that went into its construction.  This proved difficult and is going to take more thought.  I took the following with my 100mm at an intersection, trying to keep the street sign in view together with the hill

This did not work, the hill is not large enough in the frame, nor can its true scope really be seen.  If I am going to frame the hill in this way I need to be closer and it needs to be take far more of the real estate of the image.  An alternate approach could be to image the hill from itself, using perspective to convey its size.  The following two photographs are attempts at this

The hill, apart from its own legacy, is a fantastic viewpoint for imaging other elements of the Olympic Park.  In the following photographs I attempt to repeat the curved form of the stadium roof within the lead into the stadium.  In the first two photos I am too long, whilst in the third too wide,  I need a focal length of around 70mm to pull this off, maybe 85mm.  as a result I do not think these worked, but they are in the right direction.

Stepping away from the hill I tried to capture the form of the tent like stadiums in the context of the rest of the park, the second image, adds a nice red spot as a small boat crosses the foreground:

Due to a motor racing event in the main stadium I was not able to access the areas I wanted within the stadium, so was not able to complete any close ups of the architecture as planned.  The following image is a landscape of mountains created by the roofs of stadiums, not a good angle, but a concept that I think I can develop.

The stressed steel cables that support the roofs are also interesting objects, this is one of the main support points for the stadium

Whilst visually interesting I am not sure if these capture the essence of the location that I want my set to convey.  Turning away from the park, another element of the legacy I want to bring across is that of industry and in particular Munich's most famous company BMW.  This is the BMW museum and HQ taken from a bridge spanning the adjacent highway.  Both of these photographs are very much architecture driven, but I believe such an image can hold its own within the set I am creating.  They both have a post card quality, both in colour and composition.  I have a book of 60's and 70's German postcards that very much match this look - I really like it, although others may not

Stepping down into the Student housing element of the Olympic Village, I started by trying to create some landscape images that place the area within its own context, showing how the smaller student houses sit in a depression surrounded on the North by the high rise apartments. In the first photograph I have very deliberately dropped away the foreground, in the latter I have emphasized it.  This creates a very different sense of space, the first is quite claustrophobic, the second open and more inviting.  The third is a compromise.  This will take some thought and the final approach will need to balance with the rest of the set.

The next few photographs look at the structure of the student village from the level of the buildings, contrasting the flat concrete with the bright colours of the imagery the students are encouraged to paint on their homes and the flowers planted along the streets.

Ultimately, though, the attraction of this space is not the colour but the structure.  The following set are an exploration of the geometry of the village and contrast open spaces with the tight confines of the alleys between the rows of buildings.

Finally I stepped out of the student village into the main residential area, at first walking around the fringe of the buildings an area much less well groomed than the streets within the complex:

The following photograph considers a further form of legacy within this environment, the omnipresent recycling bins that can be found across Germany.

Within the main complex of flats, I am always drawn to the strange coloured piping acting as guides from one place to another.  The flat hard shadows are the only indicator of summer, the clear blue sky could be winter, so I need to take care in how I present these images.

Geometry is present everywhere, shapes collide and merge with one another, I just love this place, although I am not sure I would choose to live there.

My final shot is a diversion into B&W.  This is a definitely a location that would be wonderfully captured in monochrome, however, I want to work in colour and am not prepared to mix my imagery at this stage.  Still, this photograph works well without colour, the strong contrast is supported in B&W, colour would be hopeless.

I cannot say yet whether I have captured anything that will stick through the development of this assignment, however, this activity has helped to frame my ideas and a shot list is beginning to form in my mind.  Too early to write it down.

I am continually drawn to strong contrast and vibrant colour, it creates a very distinct look to the photographs, post card art perhaps.  This troubles me, most photographic art seems to use a very muted pallet, I even like much of it, but for my own work I am drawn to colour.  Much of modern photography still dwells on the derelict or dispossessed, perhaps somber colour works better with such subjects.  I want this study to convey a bright good future, a positive legacy of the games.  Maybe for my next assignment I will go dark, who knows.

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