Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Portfolio: First Thoughts

Reading ahead and picking up on the experience of others doing the course, I realise that an important decision is approaching and one that needs to be considered before the summer starts to cross into autumn.  This decision is the scene to chose for my portfolio photographs spanning the 4 seasons.  The brief calls for 4 identically framed shots of the same location representing each of the seasons.

As of today, I have not really worked out my approach to the course, in the sense of where on the continuum between conservative and radical I want to sit.  Already decided is that my response will be an urban one, but that still offers many different choices as I proceed.  A city such as Munich offers many different faces, from Baroque palaces to heavy industry, via huge housing estates and futuristic sports stadiums.  The mode of photography also asks questions, use of Black and White, representational style, level of social commentary, degree of abstraction, and so on.  All of these contribute to what might be termed a personal style, something I have yet to evolve.  Currently my work is highly varied in subject and form.

The reason that I ask these questions now is that I am about to start a small series of work that will span the 12 months of this course, a year during which I expect my personal understanding of the theme of Landscape will evolve, even change completely.  The problem I face is that the subject I start this project with might be very different from what I would want to have done by the end of the project.  One way of managing this might be to approach several subjects with differening themes.  Perhaps, a scenic view, a grand building, a tightly framed landscape detail; all of these could work.

However, one choice already jumps out and this is the Englischer Garten (Munich's main park) as the subject for the 4 photographs.  It offers some key advantages:

  1. Large numbers of deciduous trees whose colour will dramatically shift through the year
  2. An interesting skyline rising above the trees at the park edges
  3. A well used space, there are people in the park throughout the day (and night)
  4. A few vantage points offering a clear view into the park
  5. Easy accessibility for me, it is only 30 minutes walk from my home
I have used the park many times as a location for previous courses particularly during TAOP and DPP, so am quite familiar with it.  The vantage point I favor is the Monopteros, a greek styled temple sitting on a small hill in the southern section of the park.  From this hill, looking southwest is a fabulous vista incorporating all of the elements I discussed above

I took the above shot last night at around 8pm, hence the long shadows and I am the first to admit this is not a good photograph, however, it illustrates well the potential.  For this shot I used a 100mm prime (an f/2.8 Macro), due to having previously shot the same view using the long end of my 24-105mm zoom.  Compare this summer shot with an 8am in late October, where the dew has turned the grass slightly bluish.

In winter, we can pretty much guarantee snow cover for a few weeks at least, this was taken at 7:30am in mid-January.  The overcast sky is still  reflecting the orange light of the street lights in this just after dawn photograph

A half hour later on the same morning, the sky had brightened enough to remove the orange caste.

I do not consider any of these photographs good enough to include in my portfolio, however, all have a common thread of including a person walking along the foreground path, adding scale and some movement to the images.  What I also like about this sequence is the fact that each image has a distinct colour key, from green, through blue-greeen, via orange and finally to a cold bluey-white.  This clearly has potential to be photographed many times, building a pattern of the changing time of year.  I also know precisely the spot from which to take the photograph and using a 100mm prime can be pretty sure to be able to replicate the view quite accurately.

The open question is whether this is adventurous enough, or indeed whether it is even necessary to be adventurous in this particular case.  The view is very carefully constructed, the park is called the "English Gardens" because it was built in the manner of an English country estate, the vista above is very precisely manufactured for its depth and harmony.  That should make for good "landscape" imagery, with variety delivered through the actions of people in the foreground and the light of the city in the background..

I end this blog on a sad note, when I compared my most recent photograph with those taken during the past two years, I realized that several of the foreground trees had been removed, I suspect there may be a disease problem in the park.

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