Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MS Johanna

My working practice seems to have the construction of an image as an inherent part of it. This picture of the MS Johanna in a gale at high tide wrecked on Hartland Point was constructed from 4 photographic frames taken over a 10 minute period. I made 54 separate RAW images from a fixed camera viewpoint between 09.31 and 09.41 on December 16th 2011. The finished print reflects my memory of the place and of the experience of being there at that time.

The key reason for needing to combine frames for this image has to do with the limitations of the camera. Our eyes instantly focus as we observe a scene so that the foreground, middle and background appear all in focus to us. To achieve this depth of vision I am forced to use a very small aperture in the camera lens and compensate this with a slow shutter speed. But my memory of these terrific waves breaking on the quay is of that frozen moment when they reach their zenith before they come crashing down again. To capture that moment I needed to use a fast shutter speed and compromise that with a wide aperture which made the background, and the all important shipwreck, out-of-focus.

Other reasons for combining frames in this image was the sky which I was able to make more like I saw it by exposing it for less time and making it darker. The aperture in our eyes alters automatically; as we look at something lighter it closes and as I have found in many dark caves the aperture opens and in time the rods in the eye take over from the cones. I also chose a frame where the MS Johanna was both visible and light enough to make out against the background cliffs.

It had always been my intention in the planning of this photograph that it should be a combination of the wind, storm, high tide, waves, the wreck of the Johanna and to include a stretch of the Hartland cliffs as a setting. Although I shot 126 photographs in total within a ½ hour period I had done this with the goal of this one image in mind.

As a comparison I’ve included a picture made last summer of the same shipwreck.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Heavy Weather

I’ve been doing a lot of reading about shipwrecks and lifesaving in preparation to my Graveyard of the Atlantic exhibition this April. This title has become an inspiration to me. The North Devon coast has approximately 10 shipwrecks every mile but most of them don’t stay around for too long. One of the oldest still visible is the Sally of Bristol wrecked in 1769 on the beach at Northam Burrows. But you don’t have to photograph a shipwreck to evoke the Graveyard of the Atlantic. So I’ve been out in all weathers (except sunny and fine) trying to show why this coast got its name.

The photograph above was made in the early morning light, high tide in a gale at Hartland Point in December. The MS Johanna, which was wrecked here 400 metres from the lighthouse (which is behind me) can be seen in the far distance. More details about this image can be found on my blog post MS Johanna. This is not the kind of weather you would want to be out at sea and it is easy to imagine how easily a ship could go down especially in the days before modern navigation; once a sail has been torn or a rudder broken you’re totally at the mercy of the sea. 

Heavy Weather, a new set of images to supplement my cave photographs, will be at Schooners Cafe in Appledore from Saturday 11th February.

I have a new series of photographic workshops starting with an Introduction to Digital Photography on Saturday February 11th. The complete list is as follows:

Photographic Workshops in Devon, Winter 2012
Introduction to digital photography 10am - 5pm - £50
A practical days workshop learning to gain control over your camera, shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash etc, setting it up for optimum quality under any given lighting, and making better pictures through composition. Numbers limited to a hand-full.
Saturday 11th February in Bideford
Saturday 25th February in Barnstaple
Thursday 1st March in South Molton
Thursday 8th March in Bideford

Half Day Intro to digital photography 2.00pm - 4.30pm - £25
A 'sit around the table' workshop to get to know your camera better. You'll learn about shutter speeds, aperture, ISO, flash and setting your camera up for optimum quality.
Wednesday 22nd February in Bideford
Wednesday 14th March in Barnstaple

Painting with Light 6pm - 9.00pm - £25
An evening workshop celebrating the dark nights of the Winter. You'll learn how to make 'long exposure' photographs using coloured lights, flames, sparklers and hand-held flash.

Wednesday 7th March - Northam Burrows (Westward Ho!)

Photographing your own Artwork 10am - 5pm - £50
I have a wealth of knowledge and experience of photographing 2D artwork, jewellery and ceramics and I'm willing to pass this on to artists eager to improve their own image making camera skills. Although this workshop is for a small group (max 5) I also offer it on a 1:1 basis for ½ a day for the same price.
Wednesday 15th February in Bideford

Introduction to Photoshop 10am – 5pm - £50
Opening an image file and adjusting levels, contrast, brightness and colour balance. Rotating, resizing and cropping an image. Placing an image or images into a new file. Using layers and history. Participants will need to be computer literate i.e. use a computer on regular basis and understand the basic controls. Small group (max 4).
Thursday 16th February in Bideford

Intermediate Photoshop 10am – 5pm - £50
Using tools, masks and filters to manipulate your image. Tools used in this session are: marquee, move, lasso, magic wand, eraser, paint bucket, eyedropper, hand and zoom. Making a contact sheet and using batch production. Adding type to your image. Participants will need to be computer literate i.e. use a computer on regular basis and understand the basic controls. Small group (max 4).
Thursday 15th March in Bideford

More Workshops in the Summer:
1 day Workshop: Learning to Look - Theory and Practice
10 week Evening Class: Introduction to Digital Photography

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Stone Hole

The Stone Hole, Woodhouse Eves, Leicstershire

 Over the Christmas break I visited my family in Leicestershire, where I spent the first 20+ years of my life. I love the countryside there. Charnwood Forest is an area where granite sits proudly in outcrops on the surface and there are always plenty of native deciduous trees. There's also lots of hiking opportunities and this snap* was from one of those on Boxing Day.
This cave is a place I know from my childhood. And it's a place my dad knew well as his school and the church where he was a choir boy was minutes away from it. What kind of influence might a place like this have had on my young mind? Looking at it now I was surprised to see such familiar colours from the slate greys to the orange tinge from iron deposits. The shape was also very familiar and this is probably because 'The Stone Hole' was once a mine, and is very similar to ones I have explored at Combe Martin at home in North Devon.
This early 1900's image was found whilst I was trying to find the name of this cave. I was stuck by the fact that it was a commercially available postcard and that there is a group of well dressed people in it. I sometimes feel I was born 100 years too late! I've seen similar Victorian pictures of landscape where people are picnicking, studying, rockpooling and enjoying for it's wildness whereas now those same places are our toilets and rubbish tips.

*for my fine-art images I would take considerable time, use a tripod, shoot sometimes over 100 photographs,  spend hours (possibly days) processing the frames and constructing the image to my memory of the place. This really was a snap-shot with compromises on camera support, iso, aperture etc.