Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Assignment three – Monochrome

For this assignment, I have chosen a narrative theme which documents the removal of a Scots Pine tree from my garden. Its proximity to the house and the increasing severity of winter storms meant that I had to have it removed. Fortunately, my fears were justified as the base of the trunk had started to rot. The tree surgeon told me that in three years it would have become dangerously unstable.
I was recording the event in any case, on video as well as in still photographs but it wasn’t until the weather changed on the second day that I thought that it would make a good monochrome subject, with the poor lighting draining the colour out of the scene. The textures of the foliage, bark, sawn wood and sawdust also lend themselves to monochrome treatment.
The photographs were taken over three days, the first in bright autumn sunshine the remaining two days were wet and overcast.
The nine prints that I have made should be viewed in chronological order and as a start I have laid out this “contact” sheet as a guide. I have asked my tutor to look at this post as the course notes suggest 5-10 prints. Sharon has already seen a tentative idea of the assignment at the Study Group on 19th October 2013.

The prints are read from the top and left to right:


Print 1 (3958)
Print 2 (3949)
Print3 (3954)
Print 3 (3965)
Print 5 (3969)
Print 6 (3970)
Print 7 (3977)
Print 8 (3979)
Print 9 (3982)
My idea is to submit all of these prints as a set. Depending on tutor feedback, there may be less. At the study group last month, I got some good feedback and as a result I changed the way I processed the images in Silver FX Pro2, choosing to adjust only the brightness and contrast, highlight and shadow protection and perhaps apply a colour filter in some cases.
Making these adjustments in the plug-in using Capture NX2 unfortunately does not include the non-destructive element of NX2 itself so it is not possible to review the changes I made to every print, though I did record the following as I was working to give some idea:
Page 3
You can see that I have used various adjustments including control points to modify the brighter parts of the images and various colour filters to change the tones. These are all subjective adjustments, sometimes very subtle and difficult to record on a monitor. For this reason, my next section is about using the proofing tool to match screen output with printed output.
Until now I have used a lab for printing the majority of my assignments but I was disappointed with the results of the first attempt so I have printed the assignment myself. I only have a four colour printer (CMYK) so the range of grey tones may be limited but I think I have done a better job than the lab in this case and a least I can immediately see the results and reprint if necessary. In the past I have been disappointed with inkjet printing but now the technology seems to be improving and I may well invest in a more sophisticated printer as I reach the second level of my degree course.
Capture NX2 has a soft proofing system and I have practised using this for the assignment prints. My basic workflow is this:
  1. Open the .tiff image from the Silver FX2 Pro2 conversion
  2. Duplicate the file and save it as a NEF file (this will record all edits and allow new versions to be made) Add the suffix _print_copy to the file name for reference
  3. Have the two files open in the workspace side by side.
  4. On the print copy, open the soft proof dialogue an apply these settings for paper profile and intent:
5. With Soft Proof on make adjustments to match the print copy as closely as possible
6. Save and print the print copy, checking the colour management dialogue in the print window.
This has resulted in prints closely matching the image on my monitor although I have noticed subtle differences in the print colour depending on the light in which it is viewed and a more noticeable change in the ink colour as the print dries.
Having looked again at the nine prints I have decided to include them all in my submission except for 3954 as 3949 fulfils the same role showing the tree standing in situ. I have renumbered the prints and submitted them to my tutor with a viewing layout sheet:

Reflection on Assignment 3
Demonstration of technical and visual skills: I have shown from this assignment that I can apply the skills I learned from the exercises to produce monochrome images from my digital files and shown skill in their conversion and enhancement to produce interesting images.
Quality of outcomes: I have used my knowledge and experience to conceive this idea and present it in an understandable way. 
Demonstration of creativity: This is a personal project. I have recorded what has happened to a very old tree.  I have lived with it in my garden for 27 years and I wanted to mark its passing.
Context: Earlier in the course I wrote about Ansel Adam’s book “Trees”. I remarked then that I was fortunate to live in an area where I was surrounded by trees. They are a renewable resource but I am aware that they need to be looked after. A living thing that has survived for over 100 years deserves some respect. The woodland of which this tree once formed a part, can be seen in this historic photograph:
Photo of Bordon, 1919 - Francis Frith  (my house was built beyond the trees on the left of this picture)
This assignment has been submitted to my tutor as a set of prints on 20/11/13

Tutor feedback on Assignment 3 (24th November 2013)

I was pleased to receive detailed and comprehensive feedback from my tutor. She was positive about the way I had presented it and thought that the images worked well together in black and white. I will re-write the introduction  to the project to make more of the idea of this collection of images as a memoriam to a tree. I was unsure just how much to write as I wanted the images to stand on their own. I will re-edit the group in response to tutor feedback.  Here is an extract of my tutor’s feedback with the issues that I will be addressing in preparation for assessment:

The last picture is great – it’s like the fingerprint of the tree. I almost see that one as sitting slightly aside form the other more chronological set. It could be the picture on the coffin at the funeral! I really liked how you talked about this as ‘ode to a tree’ and TV and the idea of an obituary for the tree really stayed with me. I hoped you would have made more of this, more in it’s contextualization and written introduction. It could have really pushed some creative buttons! (The way you introduced it at OCATV has really stayed with me and for me is the strength of the idea – something you should make more of in your write up / introduction for assessment.) That aside I still think this works as a successful and coherent set of images around an interesting subject matter. I particularly like the first image of the house and the looming tree – somehow the context is very absurd and sets the tone well for the rest of the pictures, which could as easily be set in a forest.

You did well on the edit. There is just enough and not too much information to take us through the journey. Perhaps, arguably you didn’t need both 4 and 5, but that is minor.

Perhaps you could revisit the same picture as the opening image now without the tree and create a bookend effect instead of the empty sky? Just an idea. The empty sky is a nice representation of the clearing though and you may not want to be so obvious – however something within me would like to see and compare the house before and after!

As suggested I will try to write up my book reviews as I go along and make them more detailed.


Editing in preparation for Assessment: I have added more to the introduction as suggested by my tutor and introduced more in the context of my family associations with this area. I have also edited the submission and taken new photographs in response to Sharon’s feedback.

I wanted to mark the passing of this tree with a set of photographs. It seems almost callous to destroy such a large living thing without any record or memorial.  It has stood for about 126 years and survived the 1987 storm when hundreds of trees in the immediate area were devastated. A rare feat of survival for a 100 year old. (I researched Dendrochronology and discovered that counting tree rings is not a particularly accurate way of aging a tree but for these purposes I think it is accurate enough)

Sharon’s remark about the “fingerprint of the tree” and “the photograph on the coffin” got me thinking. The tree surgeon had cut me a thin slice across the trunk very close to the bottom so I counted the tree rings and thought about the significant dates in my family’s  history which were relevant to the tree and where it was (Bordon in Hampshire).

Between 1887 (my estimate of when the tree started growing) and 2013 I could link these events to the tree’s timeline:

1903 – After the Boer War, my Grandfather was posted to nearby Longmoor Ranges with the Royal Engineers where they were building a railway. My Aunt was also born in this year at Whitehill, within a mile of the tree and where my son and his now family live.

1919 – Within a hundred yards, this photograph was taken: Photo of Bordon, 1919 - Francis Frith

1936 - (or thereabouts) My father, newly enlisted into the Grenadier Guards, attended a training Camp at Oxney Farm which is still an Army training area and just a 1.5 mile walk to the northwest.

1986 – The year I moved to Bordon, bought this house and learned about my family connections to the area.

I have made several  changes to the print submissions in response to feedback, removing print 5 and substituting this new print of the house without the tree (taken in December) for Print 7, below.




Here is the final layout for Assessment submission:


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