Friday, January 6, 2012

Assignment 3: The Final Cut

I am currently grappling with the problem of trying to select 8 photos from the series of Early Morning visits to the southern area of the Englischer Garten.  To provide context to that problem, here are a few numbers:

  • First Visit: 3rd October 2011
  • Latest Visit: 27th December 2011
  • All photos taken between 7am and 9am
  • Number of Separate Visits: 22
  • Number of Images: 2,730 (October 1,586, November 341, December 903)
  • Number selected for Book/Video: 54
Now I need to get down to 8 photographs.  It was difficult to edit down to 54 for the book, and since then I have had new wintery light that has added to the library.  Clearly I have been editing/selecting following each individual shoot and from this I have 309 first selects!  I have now pulled the set down to 34 and now face the final struggle to move to the final 8.

This does ask questions about my working technique for this assignment versus others.  Previously I have had a clear understanding of what I wanted to achieve and how I planned to achieve it - pretty early on in an assignment I would evolve a concept and then shoot to that concept.  Everything was tightly controlled, down to pre-selection of lenses and lighting conditions for given shots.  With "Transient Light" I have taken a very different approach and one that I feel better suits the subject matter.  Transient Light is as much an emotional response to my earlier work as it is a set of photographs.  Looking back at this course and previous ones my assignments have been very tightly controlled, frequently driven by a strong narrative or visual style.  Transient Light is very much the opposite.

This assignment started as a personal project, a desire to create an individual and different Christmas gift for friends and family.  Somewhat tired with the commercialism of Christmas and the pressure to buy something that would be both individual and something that the recipient actually had any use for,  I wanted to do something very different.  At the time I also wanted to explore some ideas around book creation, so brought the two together into an extended project.  

What was supposed to be a small series of shoots in the Autumn mist extended into a long term study of how the light changes with the months in a small part of the city park.  I quickly found that I was reveling in the soft morning light and began to develop a strong affinity to this small patch of ground and the people who criss-crossed it every morning.  By shooting in the same small space I was able to concentrate more on the light than the composition - only a finite number compositional designs could work and so enabled focus on time and light.  Many times I spent an hour simply walking in a large lazy circle watching the shadows develop, waiting for the sun to cross the tree line.  Although each visit lasted for about 90 minutes, the peak lighting would last for no more than a few minutes.

Weeks turned into months and the project continued to build, Summer became Autumn and then Winter took hold.  The trees changed from Green to Gold and then to skeletal forms.  As the trees changed the city began to become visible in the images.  The mist from the Eisbach peaked in late October, but made occasional reappearances.  The place was the same, the angles did not change, but the light continually evolved.  I could not plan these shoots, I simply tried to judge when the weather would be good for both the sun and the mist, headed to the park in near darkness and then waited to see if I would be lucky.  My previous working practice could not work, this was an exercise in planned serendipity.

The result is a very large number of images all exploring early morning light in a small space.  The question I now face is how to turn this body of work into 8 images "which all address, in different ways, a common theme".  The problem word in this assignment brief is "different", how different?  I cannot submit a set of images that have no thematic or visual continuity, it goes against everything I feel for my photography, however, I must be careful not to submit a set of images that are too similar.  I have less variety than I had hoped for, largely due to the very warm weather we have enjoyed, ice and snow are still rare at this moment. I do not want to wait any longer to submit, this could extend almost indefinitely (and will - I have no plan to stop this project).

Another question is the theme, I started with Transient Light, but in reality have only considered a very specific form of transient light, the movement of dawn light.  Others exist, storms, sunsets, immediately come to mind, although the latter is simply a reverse of the former, with an admittedly different colour palette.  .  At some point I have to stop, now is that time, my deadline is approaching and soon my job will start eating my free time once more.  

My first question for submission is whether to change the title, technically this set is "Dawn Light", a special case of "Transient Light".  Currently I will continue with the more lyrical sounding Transient Light, but this is still an important issue to resolve, the title will set an expectation in the set of images.

The question now is how to go from the 34 final images to the 8?  First of all I must decide what the 8 different "Transient Light" cases are going to be.  Looking through the images and grouping them visually I have come to the following 8 "Transient Lights":
  1. Pre-dawn Mist:  Almost white ghostly forms
  2. Brighter Mist: Colour begins to emerge and definition improves
  3. Sun starts to warms the mist - golden glow
  4. The contrast greatly increases and people enter the frame
  5. Sun gets high enough that rays start to appear in the mist
  6. Light under trees
  7. Sun starts to warm the trees or buildings
  8. Bright sky just before dawn, reflected in water
  9. Sun star as it breaks through or above the trees
  10. Reveal shot showing the end of the process
OK, that is 10, but that starts to illustrate the problem I have. However, now that I have a working framework within which to set the images I can start a step-wise refinement of the selection process.  I will continue to Blog my thoughts as I step through this process.

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