In our photography we use well established rules to help us compose our images. Although one shouldn’t be too restrained by so called ‘Rules’ they do provide a starting point, when learning, to compose a pleasing image. These compositional rules have been well established for years and been used by artists.
There are also other aspects of fine art that can be helpful in creating a good image with impact. We have discussed in the past how we can use ‘figure to ground’ in photography to make a subject stand out by contrast against the background.
Many Street photographers adjust their exposure value to create dark shadows devoid of any detail which creates a dynamic graphical shape within the image. They may also use direct light to illuminate the main subject within that dark graphical shape.
This method of creating an image with strong contrasts between light and dark is known as Chiaroscuro, an Italian word literary meaning ‘Light-Dark’. In painting it is used to suggest volume and modelling in the subject.
A master of the use of chiaroscuro was the artist Caravaggio. A good example of his is ‘Calling of St Matthew’.
A favourite contemporary artists of mine who also demonstrates a good use of light in their pastel paintings is the Canadian artist Sally Strand.
In her words she explains her use of light within her paintings:
‘I relate to small moments of life that are often overlooked. These moments resonate with me because they are familiar—we see ourselves in them. They sometimes suggest things beyond the obvious. Painting mundane objects or tasks provides me with a challenge to portray the commonplace in a compelling way, to make the usual unusual and worthy of notice. ‘
Having set myself a task of walking the 78 miles of the Capital Ring walk around London over the next year and setting my start point at Hackney Wick I decide it would be a good idea initially to do a walk around the area of the Olympic Park area. I wanted to explore some of the history and industrial heritage of the area. A good precursor for the start of the walk.
The walk of 3 miles started at Pudding Mill lane and followed some of the Greenway running through this part of London. The weather was dry but it had got colder than it had been recently.
Due to engineering works we had to get the train into Liverpool Street, then tube to Bank where we got onto the DLR to Pudding Mill Lane, the start of the walk.
Starting off on a North West direction under the railway we found a great cafe at the Olympic Park and started the day with a bacon bagel and coffee.
From there we followed the Greenway and Victoria Walk North West as far as the crossing of the Lea Navigation.
The Greenway, formerly known as Sewerbank, is following the course of the Northern Outfall Sewer which is part of the London sewage work carried out by Joseph Bazalgette.
Bazalgette built London’s first sewer network in the 19th Century and was responsible for wiping out Cholera in the capital. The sewers took 16 years to build and are still in use today.
Going down on the track to the left before the bridge over the Lea we then took a course South alongside the River Lea Navigation. At this point the sewer crosses the river overhead in an enormous steel construction.
The path was dry and there much to see with boats along the river.
An interesting building across the others side of the river is the Bow Quarter which is the old Bryant and May match factory, redeveloped in the 1980s it is now flats and town houses.
Just before the Bow flyover we had to jiggle round the river at the point where the river splits to travel North East and becomes St Thomas Creek.
Crossing over to the other side of the river we go as far as Three Mill Lane where we cross the river again onto Three Mills Island.
There are references to mills on this site in the Domesday survey of 1086 which is considered to be the earliest record of a mill system in England.
The current mills were bought in 1727 by three local Huguenots. It was a good location for mills with the strong tidal flow giving eight hours of power per tide.
The mills are currently film studios with programs such as Masterchef being filmed there.
Continuing North we travel alongside Three Mills Wall River and stop off at Three Mills Green for a late lunch of sandwiches. East of us across the Prescott Chanel, a tributory of the Three Mills Wall River, are the original and new Abbey Mills sewage pumping stations, something we will be visiting on our next walk.
As we continue North we can see to the West of us Sugar House Island. The Island is named after a striking 19th century five-storey red brick warehouse which still stands on site.
As we arrive at the A118 High Street we cross over to continue our walk back in a Westerly direction to the end at our start point at Pudding Mill Lane DLR station. Before continuing though we stop on the A118 to admire the old Yardley box factory and offices.
Little did I know that within three months we would be all locked down and unable to travel far. Well, that put a stop to my course. I’d gone as far as Martin Parr teaching how to photograph an event only to be at a point where there were no events taking place.
Jump on about 15 months and I had an opportunity to go along to a vintage fair in aid of the Helen Rollason Cancer Charity and photograph the event. The Vintage fair is now in it’s 11th year. I had been involved, along with some other members of our local camera club, in photographing events put on by this charity. This was an ideal opportunity to catch up with my course and make some images of an event and also try to make some money for the charity. We would take the photos and then supply them to the charity so people who attended the event could buy them from the charity web site.
As it was a vintage event I also thought it a good opportunity to try out a recently acquired vintage camera. A Mamiya C330 ‘Professional f’ twin lens reflex (TLR) which was produced from 1969 and using Kodak Ektar 100 colour film. Maybe the colour film was a bit recent for some of the eras portrayed at the event but I was anticipating some colour in the attire and the classic cars on display. I wasn’t disappointed!
There were also may vintage cars and motorbikes on show.
I had anticipated there being a few old vintage cars around at the event and had thoughts of trying to get some close up views of the colourful cars. With the Mamiya TLR you have to allow for parralax error because the image taking lens is below the viewing lens. When you get up close the image taken isn’t quite the same as that which you are viewing. The Mamiya C330 gets round that by having a line move down the viewfinder showing the top of the image that is captured. It seems to work very well as I got the shots I was after.
After getting through a couple of rolls of colour film I tried out the camera with some black and white film. I used Ilford fP4+ which I was able to process myself at home.
A great day out with many photo opportunities. Think I’ll have to go back next year.
For this series I used my 35mm Olympus OM2n and 50mm lens. The film was Ilford FP4 developed in Ilford ID11 developer for 11 minutes @20 deg C.
The negatives were scanned to digital copies on my Epson F3200 film scanner and finally finished with some post processing using Affinity Photo.
Anglesey Abbey located in the village of Lode in Cambridgeshire is a favourite location of mine for some photography. The present property which is now owned by the National Trust was built on the remains of a priory which was demolished during the days of the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536.
I’ve been there a few times as i like the fact that not only is there the house itself to photograph but many statues around the grounds.
The house is a Jacobean style mansion built around 1600. Owners throughout the centuries include Thomas Hobson and his parker descendants and the last private owner was Lord Fairhaven who lived in the house from 1926 to 1966. Fairhaven made extensive additions to the house to accommodate his collection of furniture and objets d’art. He also had the grounds landscaped. When Fairhaven died he left the house and it’s contents to the National Trust.
Pre-visualisation is a big word but it basically means seeing the image before you’ve even seen the image.
In Street photography you can often be bombarded with visual stimulus. So, to prevent being overwhelmed when presented with potential subjects, especially in places such as markets, it is a good idea to have in your mind the type of subject you are looking for.
On a recent trip into London I had planned on photographing around The Barbican. I particularly like the Brutalist style of architecture and it’s gritty concrete facades and dynamic shapes. So the obvious choice for me was to take a film camera loaded with black and white film to capture the tones and textures of the buildings.
I was however aware that the walk from Liverpool Street station to the Barbican was to take me through areas of contemporary steel and glass architecture. So, I also had it mind to capture some images using shop fronts and reflections in colour. So, with this in mind I also packed my little Sony RX100 camera.
The first thing that drew my eye was the advertising board inside this shopfront window. I wanted to capture someone in red in front and as luck would have it, this lady was some distance away. I just had to wait for her to position herself in front of the window. As often is the case, she was meandering around whilst talking on the phone. So it was just a case of waiting for her to arrive where I wanted her with the girl on the hoarding looking down on her.
Whilst in the Barbican I saw this blue coloured vent tube and the fact that the distant windows were also of a blue tint. I could have just taken the shot without anyone but I had a visual idea that the image would look so much better with someone wearing blue also in the shot. It was a lucky day for me as I stood there for a while and then the lady in blue just came along to look at the sign and the image was made. I could have made the image without the person but that is an image that I could repeat on another day as the vent tube and windows are always there. It’s the human element in a matching colour that makes it unique.
So, instead of just wandering the streets snapping away at uninteresting street scenes without anything much happening try pre-visualising. Use the mind’s eye and form an idea of what it is you’re trying to achieve then look out for how those elements and wait for it all to come together.
How to create a PDI multi-image document for something like a triptych.
With Affinity Photo open – Click on File – New
Dialogue box opens – Click on ‘My Presets’ so we can save our document for later use.
Under ‘Layout’ on the right set document units to ‘Pixels’ .
To create a landscape document set width to 1600pixels and height to 1200pixels. Make sure you have the orientation set to ‘Landscape’.
If you want a portrait format you can just click on orientation ‘Portrait’
If you want a square format then just change the 1600pixels to 1200pixels.
Colour format: RGB/8
Colour Profile: sRGB
Before you go any further you can click on ‘+Custom’ at the top and it will save these settings under ‘My Presets’ for later use. If you right click in the preset you’ve just created you can rename it.
Click on: ‘Create’
We now have a document of the size open with a white background.
Changing background colour.
At this point you can change the colour of the background. I like to use a 30% grey background.
Go to the tab ‘Colour’ on the right and click on ‘Greyscale’
Move the slider to 30 for a 30% greyscale or any other shade you wish to use.
Using the ‘Flood Fill’ tool click on the background and you should now have a 30% greyscale background ready to place your photos on.
Click on ‘File’ – ‘Place’ and chose an image from wherever you have stored your images.
Click and drag on the image background you have created and this will place the first image. Don’t worry too much about the size and position of the image as this can be adjusted once all images are on your background.
Make sure at this stage that you have the ‘snapping’ set to on at the top as this is useful in aligning the images once you’ve placed them on the background. You can move the images to the edge of the background and pick up the centre snap shown as a green line that pops up or move them near the other images to use the alignment of edges snap shown as a red line. You can click on each image and resize and reposition as required until you have the final setup.
You can also place text on your final layout by using the ‘Text Frame’ tool. Text can also be aligned by using the same snap alignment tools.
Text type size etc. can be changed by clicking on font et at the top of the page.
Saving the multi-image document.
Once satisfied then click on ‘File’ ‘Export’ and save your completed multi-image document to wherever you wish to save it.
As well as exporting to an image file of the type of your choice you can also save the file as an affinity file type .afphoto so that you can edit it further later.
When I retired four years ago I decided to get back into more serious photography as a means of having an interest that I could pursue.
I joined the local photography club and started entering competitions. This was using a modern digital camera. However, I started seeing some good old film 35mm cameras on ebay which piqued my interest in maybe getting back and doing some retro film photography.
So, two years ago I started using old cameras and developing my own black and white films. The negatives would then be scanned to digital copies for use on social media etc.
That then, of course, led me to thinking that wouldn’t it be nice to get back to some old retro printing in the darkroom using traditional silver gelatin printing methods.
I had semi converted our loft in our house to a craft room 10 years ago. I had redirected the electrical wiring and extended lighting and power circuitry. Flooring was the next thing to go down followed by rooflights and insulating between the rafters. We are fortunate that our house has quite a high ridge line so the loft has a high area in the centre without having to disturb the main load bearing structure.
I was also able to create workbench areas constructed off the load bearing trusses down each side of the roof. I was aware that I couldn’t put a lot of load on the roof structure so the way I had done it meant that it could never be used as a proper room and heavy things such as furniture couldn’t be put up there. It was though adequate to allow use for crafts as nothing I was using was heavy.
The room as it was converted was great as a craft room but we never really used it as such as we realized that as we are still capable of going out we would rather be out and about than stuck up in the loft doing crafts. For me the plan was to do model making and for Liz it was bead and card making.
So, we were quite happy to let things go and spend our time going out and the craft room didn’t really get used. Then, along came Covid 19 and we had a lot of spare time on our hands.
So, jump to 9 months ago and my current interest in doing some photographic printing. The first thing I had to do was to make some blackout curtains for the Velux windows. The windows which were a big advantage for craft work were something I could do without in a darkroom where you have to work only with a red safelight.
So, some material purchased from ebay along with self-adhesive velcro and I’d made the blackout blinds for the windows.
Next thing was the equipment required to produce prints from negatives. I used to do photographic printing as a teenager and had kept all the equipment, the enlarger, developing trays, safelight etc but here’s the cruck, when I was going to convert the loft I had decided I wasn’t going to use that anymore in the digital age so had chucked it in the council tip. I had tried giving it away but no one wanted it. At that point everyone thought that film photography had died.
Fortunately for me, 10 years later a fellow member of my photography club was clearing out his garage and wanted to just get rid of all the kit to do printing. It was actually better kit than I had before as that was purchased when I was a penniless teenager rather than a penniless pensioner.
So, next stage was to get all the kit up and running. It hadn’t been used for a while and some of the electronic things didn’t seem to work any more. So things like the enlarger timer were taken out of line and replaced with an ordinary in-line torpedo switch and the timing done with a mechanical timer.
In an ideal world a darkroom should have a wet area but for my room I had to make do with using a couple of the large plastic darkroom trays that I had acquired to wash the prints. All used chemicals and dirty water goes into a bucket and is carried down to the bathroom for disposal.
All set up and ready to go and an order sent off to Ilford Photo for some paper developing chemicals and Kentmere VC Select 10” x 8” silver gelatin paper. I setup an oil filled radiator in the loft. Although the heat from the house would rise up through the open loft door I did need to make sure that the temperature in the room was maintained at around 20 deg C. so additional heating was required.
I had been running out of subjects to photograph but fortunately the Henry Moore Gardens in Perry Green had decided to stay open in December so thought that would make a good subject for some film photography.
Whilst I have been using Ilford black and white films by preference I’d also been trying out using some unusual film. One such was Rollei Retro 400s which is actually a film originally produced in Belgium for aerial surveillance (more on that subject in another post). It is what is termed as super panchromatic and is sensitive to more of the red spectrum. I thought it would suit the subject of Henry Moore sculptures very well with it’s increased contrast.
My first trials were to actually test the effectiveness of my blackout arrangements. I set everything up and placed a coin on some photographic paper with all lights including the red safelight off for 20 minutes. Developing this showed no witness of the coin on the paper so that proved the blackout arrangements were OK.
Next test was with the previous arrangement but this time with the red safelight on. This proved that the safelight itself was effective in not fogging the paper.
I was using multigrade paper so set the colour head settings on the enlarger to give a grade 2 mid range contrast and my first set of prints were just to do a couple of test strips. First set 5 seconds apart to get the ball park figure then another set 2 seconds apart. I also established that the photos of the Henry Moore sculptures looked better with a bit more contrast so reset the colour head settings to give a grade 3 paper.
I did some 8” x 10” prints and were very pleased with the results. Unlike when trying to print using an inkjet printer the black were actually a warm tone black rather than a blue hue as produced by the inkjet.
I have also recently processed the higher contrast Rollei Retro 400s film and produced some prints from those which I’ve been very pleased with.
Next stage in my lockdown crafts is to mount and frame some of the photos. I think a set of three framed Henry Moore prints would look good on the wall.
My latest project whilst in lockdown is to increase the contrast of my black and white film photos. I’ve been reading about various new 35mm films that have come on the market that were designed for uses such as aerial surveillance or use in ATM machines. Even some that emulate the old black and white film stock produced for the movies in Germany. Many of these films are 2 to 3 times the price of my regular black and white films such as Ilford HP5+ or Fomapan 400.
This got me to thinking though that maybe I could emulate some of these films by using my regular film stock and altering exposure and development to increase contrast.
For a given film and developer the variables are duration of development, Temperature of developer and agitation. Activity (whether the solution is used more than once) can also be a variable but for these tests I’ve used one shot methods. Increasing development time increases both the density and the contrast of the negative image but also increases the speed of the film and the granularity of the image.
My test is carried out using a pair of my Olympus OM40s loaded with Ilford HP5+. I also used another roll in my Ricoh KR10 Super which I intended to shoot at box speed but then alter the agitation of the tank from 10 seconds each minute to 30 seconds each minute to see how that effects the final outcome.
The Olympus camera exposure meters are set to the normal ‘off film’ setting for centre biased exposure. One camera will be shot using an E.V. of minus 2 to enhance depth of the shadow areas. This gives an effective film speed of 1600 ISO. This film will then be developed in Ilford ID11 diluted 1+1 for the regular time plus 20% to enhance the contrast. This will give me a development time of 15.5 minutes. The second camera is set to an E.V. of zero and the development time in ID11 diluted at 1+1 will be the regular 13 minutes.
The Ricoh was set to 400 ISO and the dilution was 1+3 to improve sharpness and also agitated 30 seconds every minute. This in contrast to 10 seconds every minute which is my normal method.
Maybe semi-stand development might be the answer, but that’s another test for another day.
My first test day was carried out during a walk through Marks Hall Arboretum. I thought trees would make a reasonable subject during these times when my ability to get into London for some architecture is limited. The day was a bit overcast so I thought this might show up better any increased contrast.
The test using the Ricoh was conducted on a bright and sunny day taking photographs of a church and a local wood.
In part Two I’ll be looking at the results and comparing the photographs!
An interesting trip out a while ago with my favourite retro camera of the moment, the Asahi Pentax Spotmatic SPII. We drove up into Suffolk to the end of the promontory where Felixstowe Docks are located. There is an old Fort called Landguard Fort built in the 1500s originally but the present construction dates much later. Being an overcast day and the Fort a very grey concrete construction I thought it would make an ideal subject for black and white film. So, I loaded up with a 36 exp roll of Ilford HP5+ and put a spare in my bag. I took my 55mm f1.8 and my 105mm f2.8 Takumar lenses fitted with a yellow filter for an added bit of contrast.
I love this old camera. It seems to fit my hand so well and I like the weight of it which has a feel of quality. The shutter sound too sounds really great and makes you feel you have an instrument of quality in your hands. The Takumar lenses are brilliant as is the Zeiss 29mm one.
It was a rather grey and overcast day so it was a little difficult in places accommodating the low light levels but all in all I was very pleased with the results.