“Devise a themed assignment on a topic that interests you.”
Introduction and NotesFor this assignment I have chosen to use the landscape of the Pagham Harbour Nature Reserve. My interest in this area extends back to my schooldays and time spent studying the plant species distribution as part of an ‘A’ level Biology project. Within the reserve there is a contrast between the salt marsh that forms the majority of the area and the shingle bank that forms the southern extremity and mouth of the harbour. At first sight, the landscape is fairly uninspiring. It is flat and has no prominent features. However, at this time of year (October) the low sun picks out and highlights a lot of textures in the plants, water, shingle and mud. I wanted to experiment with black and white images to emphasise these textures. Although this was the main theme for the assignment, I did also make other images which may inspire future projects. Neither area is entirely natural, over the centuries, attempts have been made to reclaim the land but the west-east coastal drift and storms over the same period have breached any attempt to close the harbour mouth. The shingle spits at Selsey and Pagham are constantly on the move which changes the landscape over decades rather than centuries. The area is quite large. I started photographing the salt marsh at Sidlesham Quay and then drove to Selsey and walked from the East Beach car park out along the shingle spit to the harbour mouth. I have included some images taken from a series I made in October 2009 at Church Norton as I didn’t have time to return there and re-photograph on this occasion.
I have standard settings for landscape. I adapt these as necessary but these form a checklist with which I start the day:
- Clean the camera and lenses
- Command dial: manual
- Exposure compensation -0.7
- Exposure Meter Matrix
- ISO Select 200
- White Balance Direct Sunlight
- Image Quality NEF + jpg basic
- Image Size Large
- Picture Control Standard
- Active D-lighting Auto
- Colour Space sRGB
- With Tripod: VR – off Hand held: VR –on
- Focusing M/A
- Check lighting, adjust white balance/ISO as required Set ISO to 200 and white balance to direct sunlight.
- Continue with assignment, noting ideas and interpretations I made notes on which areas to concentrate on, where to get the best viewpoints. I also included ideas about how to present the final images to emphasise the contrasts between the shingle bank and the salt marsh. I also recorded a lot of textures and looked for different colours to alleviate the monochromatic feel of the shingle beach.
- Record memory card index and store SD cards securely
- Uploaded my images from two memory cards (263 in total) to View NX2. My folder naming convention is: YYYYMMDD_Location. I then cross reference the location and assignment in my diary. I find this the easiest way to keep track of my image folders when archiving.
- Technical edit. I went through the images in both folders to select those that I like and deselect those that were not technically suitable. For this location, I was taking pictures for more than one theme. I had not decided what form the final project would take at his stage. I labelled each image I had selected with 1
- First Select. Before deciding on which direction I want the project to take, I went through the first select images again to find those that go together. I had four ideas to start, the salt marsh, the shingle bank, a contrast between the two and an essay on the landscapes of the whole reserve.
- Black and white conversion and Second Select. Working through the best images I worked in Capture NX2 to perform any geometric corrections, initial retouching, tone, contrast, and colour correction before converting to black and white using *Silver FX Pro. At this stage I was looking for 6 – 8 images to encompass the whole nature reserve, salt marsh and shingle bank with emphasis on the big sky and textures in the plants, mud and shingle. Using high contrast and high grain structure I was able to exaggerate these textures. The sixteen converted images are labelled 2
- Take a break from editing overnight.
- Save the Second Select black and white images to a Final Select folder. I have eight images to prepare for printing.
- Preparation for printing. I have my assignment images printed onto lustre paper by an online lab, DSCL. In Silver FX Pro, the images are converted from NEF files to TIFF. My next task was to resize my images and convert them to high quality JPEG files. For assessment, I like to have my prints made on A4 with a border. To achieve this I keep the original 4:6 ratio and reduce the image size to 3312 pixels on the long side. In Photoshop I created a new A4 canvas and layered the image centrally leaving a border, wider at the long edges. The resolution was set at 300dpi. Once I have the JPEGs I soft proofed them using the paper profile supplied DSCL. As there was a barely perceptible difference visible on my calibrated monitor I saved and uploaded the files to DSCL’s server for printing.
- Final selection from the prints Having received the prints and looked closely at them I have cut the final selection down to six. Two of the eight images were repeating the textures already shown form a different viewpoint so I have excluded them.
0109: 1/320s f9 40mm ISO 200
1149: 1/80s f22 18mm ISO 200
1207: 1/125s f22 18mm ISO 200
1250: 1/40s f29 35mm ISO 200
1262 1/50s f22 18mm ISO 200
Reflection and self assessment:Did I achieve my objective for the theme of the assignment? I started the assignment with an idea of shapes and textures in the landscape. As I worked both at the location and in the editing the form of the assignment emerged. I have presented six images showing form and texture both in the land and in the sky.
Have I made any changes to my established workflow? This is my sixth assignment for photography and I have worked at them all in a very similar way. As a result of the exercises in this section of the course I have made more use of the grading and filtering tools in my browser to sort images. In the past, I have included assignments as part of other activities i.e. sailing, holidays etc. and taken far too many images. The time limited assignment for exercise 1 was very useful and concentrated my mind. For this assignment I did not have a clear objective at the start of the day which resulted in a massive effort in the edit.
What else have I learned?
- I used this opportunity to process some images into black and white using a fairly sophisticated software. I also have Michael Freeman’s Guide to Black and White Digital Photography and am enjoying experimenting.
- I made the decision to have prints made for this assignment. I prefer the idea that both my tutor and I are looking at the same image presented in a standard way. This worked well for me at assessment for Art of Photography so I shall continue with it where appropriate. Under daylight balanced lighting they do seem to have a slight yellow cast. I will look at my soft proofing again to make sure the paper profile is right.
Assignment 1 – Feedback and reflectionI received very positive feedback from my tutor about my print submission. She liked the quality of the prints, my choice of subject and the effort I had put into the editing, planning and research to produce consistent work. I am pleased that I have progressed in my approach to editing. The feedback I got from my Art of Photography assessment report helped me in this respect. I shall continue to bear it mind as I progress through this course where there seems to be more emphasis on a free hand when choosing topics for assignments.
My tutor would like to see more evidence of background reading and book reviews in my learning log. I have recently finished reading “Art Photography Now” by Susan Bright and will include a review soon. I have read parts of “ The Photograph as Contemporary Art” by Charlotte Cotton and “Photography - a Critical introduction” by Liz Wells. I struggled a little with these two while I was studying TAoP. Perhaps now I’ve have some understanding (albeit very basic) of photographs as art, I will take them up again.
I’ll take a short break from this course for a few weeks while I work on DFP assignment 3. I find that working on one course at a time is more productive.