Without a film camera to explore this concept with I had to rely on my eyes to investigate this aspect of the project. Images online of a camera with the back open show a very small actual distance where the shutter is open to take in the expanse of the lenses view.
Using my eye as the viewfinder I experimented with changing the period of time that I kept my eyes open to take in a scene. The eye immediately absorbs the tiny focus object within the ‘frame’. It is the areas around this that take longer to digest. This is also affected by the position within the eye’s ‘frame’ ie in the foreground, background or to the side. The brain is also then making decisions as to which aspect of the ‘frame’ to absorb first etc.
Exploring a viewpoint
Using my eyes to explore a frame again – I chose the viewpoint from my bedroom window as it offers a high pov and a range of levels.
Going through the process of taking in each aspect of the window view, the closest object is the fencing and the bins at the bottom of the frame. Next my eye drifts to the rotting apples on the trees in the garden behind mine. This is followed by the sheds and walls of the houses backing on to mine. Finally the horizon takes in the rooftops and chimneys. Taking in the whole picture brings to light the different textures in the brickwork, fencing and trees. The similarity in tones is then apparent in contrast to the brightness of the sky. Another aspect that comes to light when inspecting the whole frame is the geometric qualities apparent.
I used the Canon 5D mkii with the 28mm fixed lens to capture the frame.
Using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another technique inspired the the suggested artists to research, try to record the trace of movement within the frame’
‘While some photographers try to resolve the problem of capturing movement within a still image by freezing it, others prefer to leave a trace of movement within the frame’
This is a process that I am fascinated by, but as yet have found difficult to execute with any pleasing aesthetic outcomes. Spending a lot of my photography time shooting gigs I have to shoot movement in low light and my objective is usually partly to achieve a sharp image. I would like to be able to use the effect of movement within the frame without taking away from the identity of the performer.
I began by looking at the work of Robert Frank. Frank was a photographer and film maker known for his ‘outsiders view’ of American life. This particular shot, taken in a Detroit assembly plant, uses the ‘blur’ within the frame particularly well to convey the sense of tireless, repetitive motions within a workplace. The lowlight also works well in suggesting a repressive mood within the environment.
The work that really appealed to me at the research stage was the ultra long exposure from Sugimoto and Wesely.
Hiroshi Sugimoto produced many long exposure seascapes that create an almost eerie, abstract result. Often using timings of two to three hours, the effect is a response to Sugimoto’s influence of the Sunrise and Sunset at Praiano by Sol LeWitt. His most compelling work for me is his ‘Theatres’ series. Here he sets up his camera in an empty movie theatre, opens the shutter as the movie begins and keeps it open for the duration of the film. Again the use of the long exposure creates a dark, eerie atmosphere.
Hiroshi Sugimoto – ‘Theatres’
Of all the artists I looked at for this project I think it is the work of Michael Wesely that I was most drawn to. Using exposures as long as two to three years at times his experimentation created something very individual and surreal. Concentrating on architecture, his images show the ever changing nature of urban environment, with ‘ghosts’ of various buildings portrayed within each frame.
Michael Wesely – MOMA
I wanted to attempt to create the eerie atmosphere with some long duration night shots on my local common – focusing on the trees. My inspiration here was the work of Pierre Pellegrini. His long exposure tree landscapes have an ethereal vibe within an acutely minimalist frame.
My Long Exposure Experiments
My first attempts did not create the desired effect. I was hoping to have a sharp image of the trees and blurs in the background from the traffic. Without access to a remote timer I was unable to keep the camera still enough for the shutter duration I required. The movement within the frame is caused partly by the camera movement in the foreground and the light trails from the cars in the background. I like the slight bokeh effect caused by the out of focus lights.
I went on to use a tried and tested approach with long exposure to create light trails from the traffic going at speed. This always takes a little trial and error, but I was pleased with the clarity of the static objects in contrast to the ‘invisible cars’ leaving there lights as they disappeared. I used the bulb setting with low iso and tried to incorporate as many different coloured lights within the frame.
Continuing with the light trails theme, my attempt to create an elongated bus within the frame worked well through the trial and error process again. A little disappointed that the silhouetted woman isn’t sharper, again I think this is down to camera shake and the setting being on manual focus as the trees are also slightly blurred.
I wanted my next experiment to be a little more abstract. Working in daylight the tricky part was to ensure there wasn’t too much light coming in to eradicate the figures in the image. I wanted to merge the moving crowds so that they would appear as one object, but still show the movement within the frame. This works better in black and white as there is less distinction between individuals. Although I do like the contrasting colours in the second shot. Again I would have liked a sharper background to contrast with the movement within the frame. This was taken without a tripod so camera shake was an issue.
There is a pleasure and beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening. It had to do, rather, with seeing the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement. (Szarkowski, 2007. p.5)
Use fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject. Depending on available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.
My first investigation was inspired by the ever apparent presence of pigeons in my little home town of London. Fascinated by the variety of plumage patterns and the intricacy of detail in the feather structures, I attempted to capture some of these aspects in the ‘frozen moments’ of flight.
I am always drawn to London’s massive pigeon population – nature happening in front of our urban eyes. So I decided to try and capture some moments in flight using the same fast shutter speed approach. I am pleased with the detail in the wings but would like to have sharpened up more of the detail.
My next source of inspiration was via the concept of Harold Edgerton’s Milk Drop Coronet I decided to explore water for my first experiments. This isn’t something I’ve done before so I was very much out of my comfort zone. The first problem I encountered was the practicalities of setting up a shot. Working inside initially I had to set up a good speed water drop, into a vessel that would allow a good colour contrast and with an effective light source.