Sunday, July 10, 2011

P7: figures in a landscape

For this project I am starting to investigate the (currently) selected theme for assignment 1, the site of the 1972 Munich Olympics.  The site is an example of a really effective Olympic legacy, each of the venues is still regularly used, although more often for concerts and fairs rather than sports, since the cities football teams moved north to the Allianz Arena. An outcome of this re-use is that there are always people walking around or lunging on the hills that make up the site.  This made for an excellent location for exploring people within a landscape.

The site is about 8km walk from my house, so a good hike through the city.  On the way we passed through the Englischer Garten and I grabbed a few shots of people as we went.  The first shot uses the figure in the top right hand corner to draw the viewers eye into photograph.  This is not a great photo, but a good illustration of using a figure to define a path through the image

The next shot is a more gentle photo of an elderly couple relaxing on a park bench.  In this photo the figures add a sense of scale and ground the photo.

My last image from the park, has a much larger number of participants, in this case the football players serve to add function to the scene.

Having completed the wlak to the park the next task is to climb the small hill south of the stadia.  The grass had been freshly cut in lines that contoured the hill adding an extra visual dimension to the photographs.  In the first a grand parent leads his kids through the newly mown hay, a photograph that could be a country scene is given away by the office block in the background.  This clearly states that we are still in an artificial environment.

The next image contrasts the striping of the grass and the sinuous path leading up the mountain.  The two figures on the bikes add scale and movement, as well as a sense of the effort needed to climb the hill.

The figure in the foreground adds nothing, however, by the time he left the view the cyclists were already gone, so I have resorted to a quick and dirty clone to remove him.  This creates a much better image, although the cyclists are now bulls-eyeing the shot.  A crop could fix this:

Although this is somewhat better from a framing sense, it has lost some of the sense of height that having the different figures in the frame was creating.  I also think that the cyclists are a little too dominant in this image, from a pure landscape point of view, however, they make for an interesting composition for me.  This shot also screams summer, the goal for assignment 1.

An alternative use of people in the frame is to make them the subject of the shot as in the next view, a very simple landscape idea, but again very reminiscent of summer in the city.

Having climbed the hill, there is a spectacular view over the city of Munich, and a great vantage over the the Olympic site.  The next 3 shots all use the tower as the subject, using people in the foreground to add scale,  Each is taken from a very different location, however the rotational symmetry of the tower makes it look the same from all angles.

The high vantage point of the hill offers a variety of ways to isolate people in the landscape, especially using a telephoto, as has been used for the next 3 images.  In the first I tried to compose the swan boat as a point to juxtapose against the people walking along the path, I was too slow, however, I still find this to be an interesting illustration of another element of the use of the Olympic park.

So far I have featured the tower but not the sports stadiums that are the purpose for the park.  This shot down into the athletics stadium and former FC Bayern Muenchen home ground, uses the people in the foreground as scale for the vast size of the building.

My final shot shows another aspect of the Olympic area, its proximity to that other great Munich icon, BMW.  The building in the background is the company HQ built in the form of a 4 cylinder engine.   The cyclists and boat add two bright red points contrasting with the greens and blues of the landscape.

Using people in the landscape is an effective way of adding not only scale, but also adding use of the space.  Provided the figures are large enough their activity adds context to the landscape.

A final comment is about style.  When I looked at these images again, I found that I am still very actively adding punchy contrast and colour into the composition, something I find hard to resist, because I find it very aesthetically pleasing.  I wonder if I have been influenced in my formative years by the display of postcards the decorated my parents kitchen.  My parents lived abroad several times and this resulted in meeting many people from varied places and keeping contact through postcards, usually gaudy bright objects.

A recent article in the Independent brought my attention to this fact and I was quite surprised to find that many of my images had the same colour feel to them:

John Hinde

I am sure several of his postcards were pasted on our kitchen door, slowly inculcating the bright colours into my brain - I am a child of the 60's growing up in the 70's, so bright vivid colour was a strong element in my first 16 years of life.

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