Saturday, June 30, 2012

Portfolio: Finalizing and Printing

After some insightful feedback from my tutor I have decided to swap out the spring set for a new one, abandoning the pink trees in favour of a slightly more muted evocation of the season at the Olympiagelande.  I now have my final portfolio and spent the afternoon today printing them for assessment.

The portfolio has been a laborious, but valuable piece of work, I have spent many weekends in all sorts of weather, from minus 15 to plus 30, exploring the shape and form of the landscape of the Olympic Park.  I treated it as a natural follow on from Assignment 1, but limited the scope to a much smaller section of the landscape.  With the exception of 1 photograph out of the 12, all are taken in and around the stadiums and in particular the hill. This enabled me to paint a broader picture of this man made topogography, revealing more of its form but also its use.   

With spring I have tried to capture that time when the trees are just budding, when blossom still  hangs in the trees, and people start to emerge to enjoy the finer weather.  Summer in the park brings a series of weekend events ranging from the Waterski competition I have captured to motor racing in the main stadium.  Autumn brought the colour change and with it a fall in temperature reflected in the heavier clothing worn by the diners in the third shot.  Finally mid-winter saw temperatures drop to minus 15 and the landscape carpeted in frost and snow.  The first winter image also brought an opportunity to show the proximity of the hill to the city.

In the other park, the Englischer Garten, location for my 4 identical shots of the seasons, I still struggle with the summer image, the fierce sun makes for a rather washed out look, however, that really is what summer looks like here.  Without the sun there would be no people and no photo.

Here is the portfolio in completion, with the 3 new spring images

My final act in working on my portfolio is to print it.  It is only until I print an image that I can genuinely say I have a photograph and one that works.  Printing is a minefield, however, one I can now navigate with confidence.  Calibration of my monitor and the correct printing profiles have enabled me to pretty much guarantee that what I see on the screen ends up on the paper.  Given that I can manage the colour the remaining question is what paper.  I am printing everything for Landscape to A3 format as I want to ensure that the images carry the weight that I want.  For Social Documentary I may opt for A4 as that may be more appropriate for the subject, however, right now I want big, but not huge prints.  During the course I have used two different papers, Ilford Gallerie Smooth Pearl and Epson Matte - Heavyweight.  For Assignment 1 I wanted a semi gloss finish that would capture the detail of the Olympic landscape, as a result I have used the same for the portfolio for consistency.  For Assignment 2 and 3 I used the Matte paper.  The Matte paper handles the dense blacks I wanted for the B&W imagery of assignment 2, but also provided a soft finish for the muted early morning images in assignment 3.

I hope the assessors appreciate that I am trying to use the paper most appropriate to the subject matter, even thought that means changing the medium during the course.

The final question in the printing process is how to manage the placement of the photograph on the sheet.  I no longer crop images to fit the paper, I accept that my photo might not have even margins.  I also do not crop the paper physically to fit the image, this would make assessment painful as each sheet of paper might be a different size.

My strategy is to export the image from Lightroom as a 16bit Tiff (100MB file) and then create a "printable" image in Photoshop.  What I mean by printable is that I make a few late adjustments to levels and then add a white border around the photo with exactly the mm dimensions of an A3 sheet of paper, namely 410 x 297 mm.  I want a 2cm margin around the photo for handling (4cm has been suggested, but I think this too big).  First I change the image size so that the photo is 38cm wide on the longest dimension.  I then add a 2cm white border around the photo using the canvas size tool.  The final processing stage for a 3:2 aspect ratio image is to add a further 4 mm margin to the bottom of the image.  This shifts the photo up a little placing the images center of gravity slightly higher on the page, a visual trick to add weight to the image that is strongly suggested by several OCA tutors.  With the 2:1 ratio images this is slightly more difficult, I add 2cm either side and then 4cm at the top of the image.  This means that there is a 6.7cm margin on the bottom, perhaps too much, although I like the result so am sticking with it for the time being:

Not the easiest or cheapest way to present my work, but I am very happy with the results, the Epson R3000 is a very good printer and I think capable of producing gallery quality work, although my printing skills are probably no where near that level yet.  I need to do some more. research about ink jet fine art printing before I move to stage 3

P41: grain

Grain in film is frequently referred to with the same reverence as it is in antique furniture, a property that conveys character and a sense of age.  It is the latter element that steers me away from its use in my work, working digitally I want to embrace the capabilities of my medium and not emulate an older technology.  Whilst grain is an accepted and much loved part of photography, I am sure many photographers of 50 years ago would have sold their soul for a film that could handle ISO1600 without graining, something that is rapidly becoming a standard for the very latest digital sensors.

I am happy to admit that the texture of an original print looked at close in a gallery is wonderful, but then again I also appreciate the superbly clean images that others produce.  My whole approach to photography is to reduce noise which is essentially what grain is, even if of chemical origin, it is essentially the limit of resolution of a particular technology.

Working this assignment I have taken a series of images from ISO200-6400 on my Fujifilm X100 a good low light camera.  I took the photos on a local road in fairly rainy dull conditions, ideal for looking at noise in an image:

Complete image at ISO 200

100% crop at ISO 200

ISO 400

ISO 800

ISO 1600

ISO 3200

ISO 6400

The images have been imported into Lightroom and converted to B&W, but with no other processing.  Up to ISO 800 there is little change in the texture of the image, at 1600 and 3200 I still have an image that could be rescued digitally and used up to around A4.  At 1600 the noise is very visible, but also not necessarily unpleasant.  I have then taken the ISO 200 original and introduced grain into the image using Lightroom:

100% crop of digital grain

The artificially induced grain has a more pleasant look than the very specally ISO 6400 shot and so if I wanted this look I would not shoot at ISO6400 to get the effect.  But I do ask why would I want to anyway.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Assignment 5: Working the set

Since my last post I have spent hours sitting in front of Lightroom, flicking images back and forth, trying to decide upon a meaningful set that I can submit.  My problem, as usual, is too many photographs.

I can see a visual style emerging in the photos that I prefer, very square carefully managed symmetrical images, but occasionally broken up with something offering a different perspective or disorder.  Even once I have a set I like I am then confronted with the challenge of sequencing a process that will help to build a narrative to accompany the photographs.  I have now realized that whilst the photos must be sequenced the absolute order is not critical, each individual photo has its own story, whilst the set as a whole makes a statement.  

Here is what I currently have


The door opens into the set of images, it is the way into the Innenhof.  I then end with a photograph of a poster informing the neighborhood that this Innenhof will be demolished to make way for a wonderful new development, signifying the impermanence of these spaces.  In between there are loosely linked pairs of photographs.  I keep trying to pull away from the idea of sequencing in pairs, but it is too compelling to me and I think I will go with it for now.  I am waiting on some feedback from my tutor concering the overall theme, before I finally commit to the submission set.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Assignment 5: First 12 photos

This set of images is not intended as a final set or even as the direction it will eventually take.  I have selected 12 images from my first 3 shoots to demonstrate to myself that there is sufficient variety and narrative potential within the subject.

 Not a shot that I am likely to use, but an important element in why I chose this subject.  This is where I live about 4 doors down in the triangular row houses that were built in the center of this Innenhof.

 Just around the corner from my green and pleasant Innenhof is this bleak and forbidding space.  It is scheduled for a major rebuild, sad in a way as this is a good example of post war building.

 A key feature of most Innenhofs is provision of play areas for the local kids, an Innenhof is a very social space.

This almost Zen like garden provides a place for quiet reflection.  Some Innenhofs can be very elegant, clearly contrasting the grim space above.

 Whilst I have previously stated that I do not want to feature the people of these spaces, this was irresistible.

 I sincerely hope they never repaint these garage doors.

 Here there has been a major renovation creating an oddly colourful space.  As  a fellow student pointed out this is quite reminiscent of Op Art or even some Abstract Expressionism.

The engineering of an Innenhof can be quite elaborate, here a two story car park has been dug into the center of the Innenhof during a rebuild.  This very modern space is flanked on each corner by massive concrete WW2 flak towers.  Strange place, Munich.

I love this space, a maze of small gardens was filled with furniture and BBQ stations.  This is a place that looks fun to live in.  A green contrast to the more stark concrete filled spaces.

OK, this was weird, a table tennis table in what looked like an old "water feature" with a monkey statue overlooking the scene.  In the opposite direction was the same scene but this time the statue was a large dog.
In this Innehof someone has a small business running an Outlet store for climbing gear.  Closer in to the city many of the Innenhofs have business uses, often containing restaurants or cafes.

Finally not all are in pristine shape this space smelled as badly as it looked, however, a rebuild is clearly in process.  I am guessing the neighbours really do not want any intrusion with this 4m high chain link fence.

With these 12 images I have confidence that over the next few weeks I can build a good set of images that illustrate a subject I feel an affinity to.