Constable Shoot 4

My latest photoshoot for my final major project was a bit of a disaster. I went over to Flatford early one morning to have another go at the Boat Building image and also the View on the Stour near Dedham. It was a lovely clear morning that could have done with a few more clouds in the sky to add interest to my photos but with limited days available to me and several rainy days that had already prevented me from photographing I couldn’t be too fussy.

I had a book of Constable’s paintings with me and used that to help me set the tripod and camera in the right place. I followed all my usual steps and took around 30 photos for the first panorama.

I then moved on and used the book again to set up for the second panorama. Again I took around 40 photographs.

People were beginning to arrive and get in the way of my shots so I packed up and headed home again. I stopped off in East Bergholt and took a couple of photographs around the village which I’ve used to illustrate an earlier post describing Constable’s Biography.

Sadly when I tried to download the memory card onto my laptop I found that several of the images ‘could not be found’ and others could not be joined together in a panorama. I have put this down to a corrupted memory card. It was a bit frustrating but I have managed to salvage a couple of photographs.

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Boat Building 2 rows of 10 photographs

I’m reasonably happy with this image. I like that you can see the boat rests in the dock. I had been a few days earlier and there was still water in the bottom as they had only recently begun to drain it.

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I still haven’t found a good sized copy of Constable’s Boat building painting but I have quickly dropped the image I do have on top of my panorama so that you can see how it would look.

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View on the Stour near Dedham 1 row of 14 photographs

For the View on the Stour photograph the sun was casting very strong shadows and had the photos been able to merge successfully I would have needed to edit my own shadow out in the lower part of the shot. A visit later in the day would have been better but then I would have struggled with people in the shot.

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Again, I’ve quickly dropped a copy of the painting onto the panorama. It won’t line up precisely as this part of the river was altered when the second lock was installed just to the left of the photograph.

I’m happier with this image and  think I might be able to work on this photograph and possibly use this in my final exhibition.

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Final Major Project Reflection 16

I haven’t written a reflection recently, preferring instead to include my thoughts in my blog posts. However, as my tutor is keen for me to include my personal experiences I thought I would share with you my experiences of visiting a couple of galleries in London last week.

I have been promising to go to London and visit the galleries that hold Constable paintings for several weeks or even months now and last week was when I actually went.

I was staying in Essex and caught a train into Liverpool Street that arrived around 10:00. It was quite empty but there was a man on the seat in front of me that that kept sniffing and slurping his drink and then there was a man next to me across the aisle who was also sniffing and blowing his nose. It was a bit annoying and did make me feel a bit sick but I am a woman of patience, little did I know that this was the start of a very testing day.

On arriving at Liverpool Street I chose to get the tube over to South Kensington where I could begin at the V&A and then walk back across London to the Tate Britain and then the National Gallery. I won’t mention the large school party that tried to get on the tube and exit at the same station as me, they were only mildly frustrating as they took up the whole platform and waited on the exit stairs for everyone to gather together.

I’ve not been to the V&A before and was blown away by the scale of the museum and the size of some of the exhibits. They are beautifully laid out and there is a wonderful range of items on display. With no time to spare I headed straight for the paintings area and the two galleries that hold the Constable paintings. As far as I could tell, the two galleries that hold the Constable paintings were the only two galleries in the whole museum that were closed! Only in England does a flagship museum choose to change the lightbulbs in the middle of a busy Easter school holiday! I asked the man atop of the cherry picker if they were going to to reopen the galleries and he very politely said that they would only be an hour. Not a problem I had seen some very interesting exhibits on my way and would be pleased to go back and view them in more detail.

After pootling around the theatrical exhibit and taking in some lovely Beatrix Potter illustrated letters I went back to the painting area. The workmen were still busy and as there was a sign that said if I needed any help would I please speak to a member of staff, I spoke to a member of staff. Her initial response was “Its nothing to do with me, you need to ask the contractors!” I gave her a ‘look,’ to which she responded “Alright. I’ll go and ask them.”

It turned out that they had been asked to do another piece of work and were going to be another hour. They did concede that they would reopen the second gallery but needed to keep the first gallery closed for safety reasons. I asked the member of staff if it would be possible to let me into this first gallery for a few minutes to view Constable’s Hay Wain sketch and the Salisbury Cathedral painting for a few minutes before they began work again to which she responded “You can see them from here.” I was several metres away behind a rope and at 90 degrees to most of the paintings. I began to explain that I was only in London for the day, I wouldn’t be able to get back again for some time and that I was interested in Constable for my degree course to which she replied “There is some of his paintings in the other gallery, you can go and look in there…” By this time I was more than a bit peeved and couldn’t bring myself to give her another ‘look.’ Instead I simply pointed and said “But it is the Hay Wain sketch I particularly need to see.” She responded by helpfully pointing out “Well you’ll just have to wait then.”

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I was so cheesed off at that response that I stormed out of the museum. I say that I stormed out, it is such a big museum and I didn’t know the way out. It took me about 10 or 15 minutes to finally make my dramatic exit!

I don’t really know that part of London very well but when I saw a familiar fast food logo I thought I would drown my sorrows in a burger, fries and diet coke. I dutifully queued at the quick service till only to have four or five very tall international teenage boys push in front of me. I resisted the urge to point out that that is not the way to queue and instead moved across to a ‘slow’ till.

As I had been marching down Kensington High Street I had passed Holy Trinity Church, Brompton which advertised that it had a cafe. After my burger I thought I would go back to the church and sit in the cafe while I waited for the workmen in the V&A to finish. The cafe is advertised as being open from 11:00 to 16:00 on a Thursday so I was surprised to see, after walking down quite a long drive, that there was a notice on the door saying ‘reopens at 2pm.’ Only in England would a cafe be shut at lunchtime!

It was a beautiful day and the church has a lovely garden so I consoled myself by sitting in the sun for half an hour.

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Back in the V&A the workmen had gone and I was able to get a good look at the paintings but time was pressing on and although I now didn’t have time for the Tate Britain I could still visit the National Gallery if I walked quickly.

I walked down Kensington High Street, along Hyde Park and over towards Buckingham Palace, along the Mall and into Trafalgar Square.

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The National Gallery was heaving and not a pleasant place to be. The final painting of the Hay Wain is there and I was interested to watch several people pointing it out and talking about it. My Mum rang me while I was in there so I tried to escape quite quickly but again couldn’t find my way out and had to ask a member of staff how to get out!

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I headed back along the Embankment to Liverpool Street and as I approached I rang my brother and asked what train he planned to get home. He was already on the train, the front coach on platform 12. I had 10 minutes so I ran across the concourse to platform 12 and down all eight coaches to try and find him but he wasn’t there. I rang him again only for him to double check and let me know that he was actually on platform 11. This was not just across the platform but back up the eight coaches to the ticket barrier and then all the way down another eight coaches to the front of the next train. Just as I jumped onboard the signal went and we pulled away as I was sitting down.

I had arranged to meet someone briefly at Ipswich station to collect something before returning to Colchester and eventually home on the Clacton line. As I was at the front of the train with my brother for his stop, I was the wrong end for a quick getaway at Ipswich and found myself running along the platform, back up the eight coaches and over the bridge just as they were announcing that the next train to Colchester was the next train at platform 2. I dashed out of the station met my friend, grabbed what I needed, ran back into the station and straight onto the train.

At Colchester I was again the wrong end of the train and with just three or four minutes to spare ran back up the platform, along all eight coaches, then past the shops and onto the Clacton line train where I finally fell exhausted into a seat. Joy of Joys, when I arrived at my final station I got off the train at exactly the right place to leave the station without having to take a step further than I needed to!

Throughout this traumatic day I did in fact learn something! I was struck by Constable’s love of his local countryside and how he sketched and painted whatever was around him, wherever he was, rejecting the popular mountainous landscapes of his predecessors preferring instead to paint ordinary life. Perhaps, alongside my panoramas of Constable’s landscapes I should include a panorama of one of my local landscapes?

Constable Shoot 3

It was far too dull and overcast in Flatford this weekend for me to take the shots I needed for my Final Major Project so instead I tagged along on one of the guided tours, learning about Constable and taking a few photos as I went.

Firstly these are a few photos of Flatford Mill, the visitor’s centre and Valley Farm. I took all of these photographs with a 50mm prime lens which gives roughly a view the width that you might see with your eye.

Like with my panoramas, I have converted the photographs to black and white to give them a timeless feel that reflects the timelessness of the scenery and I have boosted the contrast to give them a stronger, tougher, more industrial feel that matches the weather and the fact that these were once industrial buildings.

I also took a few photos of Mark, the National Trust tour guide and the party of Londoners that he was showing around. It was a blustery day, the wind had a nasty bite to it and at the beginning of the tour the party looked cold, fed up and really not very interested but despite this being the first tour of the season our guide’s passion had everyone hooked. We soon forgot about the cold and were gripped by the rebellious young Constable who shunned his father’s business in order to become a painter and also the love story of Constable and his wife Maria Elizabeth Bicknell which led to a dramatic transformation in painting style after Maria died.

Here I have left the photos in colour so that I can experiment with a new Lightroom plug-in by Athentech called Perfect Exposure that was recommended on the Photofocus blog. Although exposure can be tweaked in Lightroom, the blog claims that Perfect Exposure can do it better and in just one click. I’m pleased with the results and it is very straight forward to use although when you have a batch of photos you need to export them to Perfect Exposure before making that ‘one click’ so I’m not sure that the claim of ease and speed is quite as suggested!

Finally, because it is Easter and supposed to be the beginning of Spring I took a few photos of the season. Although not directly related to my Final Major Project, Constable would have sketched details like this before including them in a larger image.

Mr and Mrs Marwood

Last week I had the pleasure of photographing the wedding of the new Mr and Mrs Marwood. It was a small registry office wedding surrounded by friends and family.

I began at the brides home, followed her to the registry office and then continued on to the reception venue. We took the ‘official photos’ outside but it was a bitterly cold day and I had to work very quickly so that the wedding party didn’t freeze.

It was a lovely day and I have included here a few of my favourite photographs of the day.

Thankfully Mr and Mrs Marwood are very happy with their photos.

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After a week of terrible weather in Essex I was beginning to think I wouldn’t be able to get my camera out at all. Thankfully in the morning of the last day I was there the sun came out briefly and I dashed over to Dedham.

Although it was sunny it was bitterly cold, very windy and a weekday so I knew there would be few, if any, walkers or tourists around for me to include in the photos to give a modern day feel to them so I treated my time at Flatford as another test for some panoramas.

I started by setting my tripod up in front of the Haywain scene. My mind really wasn’t on what I was doing and it took a few sweeps of my camera before I was able to focus and count the number of photos I was taking for each panorama. At one point I was completely distracted by a fat Robin who hopped out of the hedge I was standing in front of and started scrabbling around my feet and turning over the dirt I had moved when setting up my tripod.

I eventually tried a couple of different focal lengths and two lenses but this panorama of three rows of eight photographs is my preferred.

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Back on the laptop I used Photoshop to merge a copy of Constable’s Haywain on top of my photograph and reduced the opacity so that some of the photograph is still visible beneath.

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The painting image that I have used is very low resolution and cannot be used for printing but on a screen I think it gives a really good illustration of how the landscape has and hasn’t changed.

I moved on to the scene of Constable’s Boat Building. By now I was in full swing and only needed to try a couple of different focal lengths in order to get what I wanted. In the end, this one of three rows of nine photographs is the one I prefer although I haven’t quite approached it from the right angle. I don’t have a decent copy of Constable’s Boat Building but from the images I have seen in the books I think I need to stand about a foot or two to the left to get it perfectly right.

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Finally I moved on to the scene of Constable’s Flatford Mill. Again I only needed to try a couple of versions before I was satisfied. This version has three rows of eight photographs.

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As with The Haywain I used Photoshop to overlay a copy of the painting onto the photograph. I think the Stour changed route slightly when a new lock was installed in 1838, just over 60 years after Constable was born, and this is why the towpaths are going at such different angles.

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I chose to only take three of the scenes on this occasion, I wanted to know that I was getting these right before I moved on to take any more.

I think I will include a copy of the original painting overlayed on my photograph. I want it to be blended in well and a low 30% or 40% opacity so that viewers can see both the painting and the detail in the photograph below. I think this will give the painting context in the wider scene. Then if I keep the photograph black and white and the painting in colour, it should create a nice effect and add to the timeless nature of the countryside.

I have also decided to only use my digital camera for this project. I will ‘play’ further with the Rangefinder but I am pleased with the results of the digital panoramas and will stick with them.

I’ve included a gallery of all of the above images so that they can be viewed larger and in more detail.

 

Irene Kung

My tutor suggested I check out Irene Kung, a Swiss photographer who photographs during the day time but in post processing transforms her images into haunting night time scenes that are often described as dreamlike but I think are more reminiscent of horror films or nightmares.

Talking about her process, Kung says “Each photo follows its own course, but in general the starting shot has to engage me in the way I spoke of earlier, as well as have the right light. In post-production I use Photoshop, exacerbating light through contrast. Then I eliminate what I’m not interested in to concentrate on the subject: I let it inspire me in a process that can be very time-consuming, but fascinating. What really counts is the final image you obtain, not what tools you use.”

I thought this short video was a good introduction to Irene Kung and her work.

As well as these photographs of buildings, Kung has collections of images depicting trees and animals.

I find Kung’s work interesting and like the way that she isolates the object that she wants to focus on but I don’t think I want to do that to my images for this particular project. I find it interesting that she converts the sky and the space around the object to black. This gives her images an unexpected and eerie feel.

I have chosen to produce my final works in black and white because I think it highlights the detail in the scene much more clearly than in colour and Kung’s photographs certainly emphasise the detail in the building, tree or animal that she has photographed.

I wonder what Kung would do with a photograph of Lincoln Cathedral or how she would edit a photograph of Constable’s Haywain?

References:

http://www.lanciatrendvisions.com/en/article/light-in-the-darkness-interview-with-photographer-irene-kung