ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 49 – THE SHADOWS OF LEAVES


Leaves trailing from a plant pot at The Point, Bristol harbourside; 11 Apr 2004.  

The few green leaves amongst the many leaf shadows on a featureless, bluish ground, are important here – the presence of the colour green definitely enhances the picture. 

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: rotated 90 degrees clockwise; OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 3200 ISO. 

UPDATE: Minimalism, less is more; usually better than a cluttered image – the eye knows more what to look at, rather than being confused by masses of detail.  And quite a shock to see that I took this 17 years ago – I used to stalk around Bristol with this wonderfully compact 21mm lens, looking for simplicity, looking too for abstract compositions.  And I loved push-processing colour slide films (the Provia 400 here is being pushed 3 stops: 400 to 800 to 1600 to 3200), to boost the colours and contrast, and to get more grain, as seen here.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: STILL LIFE 48 – LOOKING AT CHAIRS 2


One of the chairs around the table in what we grandly call our dining room, photographed against a black background.

An image captured on film, years ago, and doubtless with the aid of a tripod.  I used that wonderful and completely gratis illumination, window light, and hung a black sheet behind the chair to completely black out the background – the sheet must have been in shadow, since that no trace of its surface textures can be seen.

A Minimalist image, and so to the mantras – less is more, simple is beautifulsmall is beautiful – all very true, to my mind.  Most of the chair is out of shot, only three, separate elements remain.  This suggests a basic point.  An artist starts with a blank canvas and adds things to it, but a photographer (often) starts with a viewfinder or screen brimming over with stuff >>> now the intention may be to photograph all of the stuff, an entire landscape for example, but in many instances the photographer finds him/herself in a subtractive role, removing some items from the scene by altering the position of the camera and/or doing some post-capture cropping of the image, so that the photograph’s subject assumes greater prominence – as in this shot.  I’ve read that many photographers try to cram too much into their images, so that viewers’ eyes can’t fix onto anything – and because they don’t know where to look, they become visually confused and roam around the image and then out of it – and the appeal of the image suffers accordingly.  We live in an age of I want it all and I want it now!, but maybe I want less than it all! can be ok too.

Technique: F6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 200mm; Fuji Velvia 100 colour slide film rated at 200 ISO; Bristol; 29 Mar 2006.

ARCHIVE STILL LIFE

This is a new category on this blog – Archive Still Life studies.  The Still Life definition will certainly be followed loosely – e.g. some studies may only have been made “still” by the split second opening of the camera’s shutter – and my objective will be to use as many different types / genres of subject matter as possible.  Some images will be Minimalist and, in general, I try to make simpler images, rather than cramming them with visual content.

Some new Still Life studies will (hopefully!) continue to appear.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 94 – SMALL FORT BEHIND THE BEACH (MONO)


World War II pillbox in the sand dunes behind the beach at Sand Bay, north of Weston-super-Mare; March 2007.

Here are the western extremities of the Somerset Levels, where they run down under the waters of the Bristol Channel, near Weston-super-Mare.

The coast and tidal areas at Sand Bay are very flat and there was concern in World War II that this might constitute a viable and relatively undefended invasion area for German forces.  Hence the line of these squat, 70 year old pillboxes – tiny military strongpoints –  that still command wide fields of fire across the totally exposed foreshore from their positions on the tops of the low dunes behind the beach.

The great masses of vegetation in the foreground of the photo contain strong, pale leading lines that direct the eye up the sandy path towards the pillbox, with its two blank “eyes”.  This leading line effect is enhanced by the tall, wind-blasted bush on the skyline, which seems to lean towards the structure.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window – recommended.

Technique: OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 800 ISO; Silver Efex Pro 2, starting at the Push Process N+2 preset.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 22 – MINIMAL NUDE (MONO)


My late cousin was an artist, working with oil paints, and here is a shot of one of his professional models.  I have very Minimalist tastes when it comes to images, which may be why I crop them so tightly, and I love the “less is more” message here.  Here’s what I wrote in the original post:

“There’s a lot of negative (i.e. unfilled) space in this picture, notably the large polygon between the model’s arm and flank; but also the two triangles top and bottom right, which mirror each other, as do the shadowy forearm and upper arm. This negative space is an important component of the picture.

The highlights of the picture mainly form the left hand quarter, which almost meets the illuminated upper arm at the top of the frame. There is quite a powerful feature top right where, moving outwards towards the corner, the deep shadow of the upper arm changes to highlight, and then to the dark background to the shot.”

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: 21/22 Aug 2007; F6 with 24-85 Nikkor lens fitted with a Hoya Softener (A) soft focus filter; Ilford Delta 3200 Professional film.

ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 20 – BIRD RINGER


A german ornithologist extracts birds from mist nets at Ngulia Lodge, Tsavo West National Park, Kenya; November 1979.

In the autumn, millions of small birds migrate from Europe and Russia southwards into Africa to escape the harsh northern winter.  They fly at night for safety, and navigate by the moon and stars. A stream of these nocturnal migrants passes over Tsavo and, on moonless nights in the autumn, they become disorientated when caught in the fog and low cloud that often occurs in this area in the rainy season.

Ngulia Lodge is built high up on a ridge, and it has game viewing lights which are left on all night.  The migrants are attracted by the lights’ glow in the mist, and many tens of thousands of birds can descend on the lodge from out of the murky night skies.

The birds fail to see the very fine mist nets and fly into them, becoming entangled in the fine mesh. They are manually extracted from the nets and ringed (i.e. they have a small, engraved metal ring wrapped around one of their legs). Birds ringed at Ngulia have been found in many areas of eastern Europe and Russia, east to Siberia.

The mist nets’ fine mesh can be seen against the ringer’s red shirt; the bags around his waist contain birds already extracted from the nets and awaiting ringing.  The bird is some kind of warbler – but warbler identification was never one of my strengths!

This is a flash picture, but what did I know about using flash in those far off days?  But, as far as I remember, the OM-2 was unique at that time for setting the duration and intensity of the flash by monitoring the amount of light reaching the film during the flash – to which I can only say “Wow!!!”.  The OM-2 was as wonderful to use as its forebear, the OM-1, but whereas the OM-2 broke down during its use in Kenya, the OM-1 keep going.  I still have both of these two cameras, infected with mould now, in a display cabinet in our living room.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-2 with 50mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film rated at 64 ISO; automatic flash.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 81 – VIEW FROM AN ALLEYWAY


Alleyway in Bruton, Somerset; 14 Dec 2003.  I definitely have a visual fetish for partially obscured cars, there’s just something about pictures like this that really gets to me!  Weird or what?  

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: OM-4 with 21mm Zuiko lens; Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 3200 ISO.



ARCHIVE: LEVELS 86 – REFLECTION IN THE RIVER BESIDE ASHMOOR DROVE (MONO)


Reflection in the river beside Ashmoor Drove, on Ash Moor in the Somerset Levels, southwest of Wells; 7 April 2007.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window recommended.

Technique: F6 with 70-300 Nikkor lens at 85mm; Fuji Sensia 100 colour slide film rated at 125 ISO; converted to mono, and toned, in Silver Efex Pro 2.

UPDATE: I’m an Anglo-Saxon enthusiast – actually I’m interested in the while period from the departure of the Romans from our shores in 410 CE to the Norman invasion in 1066 CE.  A fascinating period of history.  And one which, via the Anglo-Saxons, has led me to Tolkien and thus to The Lord of the Rings >>> and so, in this image, to an Ent, alive and swaying before me!  But whether swaying in a friendly way, or moving in a less friendly or even frenzied way, I cannot be sure.

SOMERSET LEVELS: SOME KEYWORDS

And finally – some keywords that will often be mentioned in this archive series:

Droves:  to avoid crossing other peoples’ land when accessing their own, the farmers constructed a series of tracks, known as droves, between the fields. Some of these droves are now metalled roads and many persist as open tracks – all of which allow wonderfully open access to this countryside.

Rhynes: the fields are bounded by water-filled ditches – which both drain the ground and act as stock barriers. Hence strange landscapes – where fields appear quite unbounded, except for a gate with a short length of fencing on either side of it, where a bridge crosses the water-filled boundary ditch to provide access the field.  These small wet ditches communicate with larger rhynes (“reen” as in Doreen), which in turn flow into larger drains, e.g. the North and South Drains in the Brue Valley. All of these waterways are manmade and, by intricate series of pumping stations and flood gates, all of them have their water levels controlled by local farmers, internal drainage boards or the Environment Agency.

Pollarded Willows: the banks of the rhynes were often planted with Willow trees, both to help strengthen the banks and also to show the courses of roads and tracks during floods. These Willows are often pollarded, i.e. their upper branches are cut off, which results in distinctively broad and dense heads to the trees. Pollarding keeps trees to a required height, while ensuring a steady supply of wood – more important in the past than now – for fires, thatching spars, fencing and so on.



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 14 – WOMAN WITH HER EYES CLOSED (MONO)


 

Woman with her eyes closed; 21 Aug 2007.

This is part of a much larger negative – another product, I suppose, of my tendency for getting in close!

Trying to make it at least one step removed from a straight mono photograph, I’ve reduced sharpness and introduced a digital tone.

Click onto the image to open a larger version in a separate window.

Technique: F6 with 24-85 Nikkor lens; Ilford Delta 3200 Professional black and white film rated at 3200 ISO;  scanned into digital and manipulated with Silver Efex Pro 2.

UPDATE:  well, 14 years ago, and using fast, black and white film in the last Nikon SLR, the F6.  That was a really excellent camera, but the appearance of Nikon’s D700 DSLR seemed to promise equal things and – having been a confirmed film fan – I changed to digital and have never looked back.  I am extremely grateful for the enhanced creative potential that digital provides, and astonished at the pace at which the technology has progressed, especially with regard to sensors.



ARCHIVE: LOOKING AT CARS 79 – WET AFTERNOON, GOING HOME


Going home from work.  Sitting glumly on a bus near Bristol’s Temple Meads railway station, while the rain streamed down and the dull winter’s afternoon grew ever duller.  It was sometime in February 2006, and the day had nothing in mind other than to expire gratefully, unremembered, into the darkness and anonymity of a wet night.

But I do remember this afternoon clearly – mainly thanks to this photo I suppose.  I was sitting in my favourite seat, right up in the front on the upper deck of the bus, but even that could not dispel the feelings of drabness and gloom brought on by the cold and damp weather – and, let’s face it, no approach to Temple Meads station passes through any of Bristol’s more attractive quarters.

The bus in front is covered is a vast green advert for Asda supermarkets, and to the right of it, alone on a traffic island, is a derelict hotel.   The red lights bring a touch of colour to the otherwise drab scene, and the rain spattered window recalls my feeling at that moment of wanting to be anywhere else in the world but stuck on this damned bus!

Click onto the image to see a larger version of all this dreadfulness in a separate window.

Technique: Olympus XA2 with Fuji Provia 400 colour slide film rated at 800 ISO – and fellow passengers all too audibly wondering what the hell this fat weirdo was doing taking pictures from a bus on a rainy day …



ARCHIVE: PEOPLE 12 – HOUSE ON A FARM


 

House on a farm near Akala, in the far west of Kenya; April 1979.

These are Luo people who live in the immensely fertile far west of Kenya, not far from Lake Victoria – a vast body of water that supplies them with vast quantities of fish, and with frequent thunder storms which keep their land totally green.

The structure consists of mud walls, above which a conical thatched roof is mounted on a great mass of wooden poles.  There is quite a gap between the roof and the walls but, in this hot, equatorial area, cold weather is not an issue.  This hut has at least two rooms: the doorway to a second room is to the left of the people.  The mud walls have decorations drawn straight onto them, and there is an oil lamp hanging up.  Notice how everything, including the chest of drawers and some of the pictures hanging on the walls, has cloth covers.

Food and water are not an issue for these people, they live in a wonderfully fecund landscape.  But there are diseases – it was here that malaria first got its claws into me, despite my using nets and prophylactics.

Click onto the image to see a slightly enlarged version – recommended.

Technique: OM-1 with 28mm Zuiko lens; Agfa CT18 colour slide film, rated at 64 ISO.



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