“Photographers and artists have always found inspiration in their immediate location. There is a concept within Welsh culture called Y Filltir Sgwar (The Square Mile), described above by Professor Mike Pearson. Use the theme of The Square Mile as a starting point for your first assignment.
“Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings.”
First impressions of the brief:
For the last thirty years I have lived less than five minutes walk from Doffcocker Lodge, a local nature reserve. When I started the Drawing Outside part of Drawing 1 that was where I headed for many sketches. When I took part in a Facebook drawing challenge in February that was where I went for several daily drawings. When we have a heavy fall of snow in winter no need to guess where I go with my camera. So the basic subject for this assignment was obvious to me, although I was puzzled by the suggestion of trying to push myself out of my comfort zone regarding subject. Surely the assignment is based where you are clearly most comfortable, isn’t it? I would have to keep the need for a variety of subject matter in mind during the assignment.
Practitioners and their work
I tried to look at all the suggested photographers (though there were three dead links). Most I did not feel the slightest influence from. Tina Barney ‘began photographing what [she] knew’ which is what this assignment is about. However, I have no wish to produce work like ‘Jill and Polly in the Bathroom’. If I want to see things like this I can look at Instagram, and as for four-by-five-foot prints …
The only photographer whose name I knew was Tom Hunter and that was based on one of his photographs in the National Gallery. Looking at the link given in The Book, I did not find a bad photograph in the works shown. I particularly liked his update of Andrew Wyeth’s painting of Christina’s World.
I really like Tom Hunter’s work and I can see my referring to it at an appropriate time, but I do not feel it is an influence on my work for this assignment.
The only other professional photographer whose work might influence my assignment was J H Engström and his shots from high vantage points. However, there would be no such opportunity at Doffcocker Lodge. It could be considered for other cityscapes though.
The similar high vantage point photography of John Davies was discussed in the excellent video about OCA student Peter Mansell. However I was lost when photographs of bathrooms were classed as landscape photography. I clearly have a lot to learn on this course. I really liked the work of the other OCA student, Jodie Taylor. Her work would certainly have influenced my assignment if I had chosen to go down the nostalgia route.
I had originally intended taking the shots during the day on Sunday but when I came down very early (8.30 on a Sunday is very early!) to get the paper I noticed it was very misty. I remembered getting a phone shot once of mist on the Lodge while taking my son’s dog for a walk. I grabbed my camera and left the Management in bed with the paper and headed out.
I am not aware of using any particular technical approach. I took all the photographs on the Program setting of my Canon 1100D. This was sufficient to blur the background for the cobweb photographs so I did not need to use a wide aperture setting. In the same way, I used my normal lens (Sigma 18-200mm) for the feather and the fungi rather than a special macro lens. The first photograph was taken just before 9 am and the last just before 11 am – a little later than the Golden Hours of the two hours just after dawn, but much better than later.
I am a believer in the philosophy that a photographer’s most important piece of equipment is their legs. I tried to change position between every shot.
Compositionally I tried to put significant points on the intersection of thirds or, if possible on the Golden Ratio. I also like very low ‘Dutch Golden Age’ horizons with big skies.
Most of the selected photographs have had a bit of Autolevel and very little else. I had to crop the warbler simply because of size and distance. The goose stretching its wings had to be straightened significantly.
The strengths and weaknesses of particular photographs.
1 Doffcocker Lodge.
This was the first of two ‘establishing’ shots I took. I thought the signboard on the right would be a distraction and I framed the second version to exclude it. However, it gives a pleasing frame for the distant view of the lodge.
2 An Early Morning Stretch.
I was about to take a shot of another goose when this one left the water and stretched its wings. I took a quick shot which had to be straightened up significantly in Photoshop. I considered ‘cleaning’ the water of feathers but decided against this.
3 Me and My Shadow.
I took several of the geese. This was about the most successful one due to the similar poses.
4 The Jogger.
There were very few people around which was unusual. Two joggers went past a couple of times. This shot has been cropped slightly but his spine is on the Golden Ratio (as checked with PhiMatrix). The edge of the path leads into the photograph while the bush on the right acts as a stop for the path. I felt it important to include ‘people’ shots in the selection.
5 and 6 Autumn Cobweb 1 and 2.
Cobweb 1 I knew was good when I took it. However, I now feel I should have stood on my toes and shot down slightly as the dark area at the top, even though it is out of focus, is still a distraction. In the same way I think a slight desaturation of the purple flower on the left of Cobweb 2 might help.
7 I may be small but I’m still a fun guy!
Trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and trying to get variety, I went under the trees looking for a sun dappled leaf covered floor. I didn’t get the shots I hoped for but did spot some fungi, then some more, then still more. The floor was covered in them. It just needed something like this assignment for me to find them.
As well as looking down, I also looked up and liked the patterns of the leaves against the sky. I’m not convinced that the different leaves in the bottom left hand corner work. I was tempted to Photoshop the leaves black but decided to stop at Autolevel.
9 Warble Warble.
I took two shots of this warbler more in hope than anything. I’m pleased they came out well though I had to crop the original photograph a lot.
10 Any food by any chance?
There were three ducks, which I photographed in different combinations as they paddled towards me in the hope I had some food for them. This single duck worked the best, particularly with the wake forming a leading line to the duck (which is on the Golden Ratio).
11 Strolling Hand in Hand
This older couple came past hand in hand. One of the ideas behind this assignment was that it was an area with which I was familiar. I knew there were gaps in the vegetation along the causeway and I framed my shot and just waited until they were in the right position. Unfortunately this shot (along with others not selected) suggest a technical problem with my lens which may have to be repaired. The focus in the area around the couple is acceptable but the trees at the top are blurred.
12 The Big Sky
I have loved Golden Age Dutch painting for a long time. They often have very low horizons and dramatic skies. This is one of my staple shots, but I wanted to include it. It also seemed an appropriate photograph to end the set.
The strengths and weaknesses of the project as a whole.
I wanted to convey the peacefulness of Doffcocker Lodge early on a Sunday morning in September. I think I have achieved this. While there is variety in the subject matter, I think they all have a certain tranquillity – even the jogger, surrounded by vegetation.
Thoughts on how this project could develop in the future
I already have a similar set of photographs from a snowy day some years ago. It would be interesting to record the place at other times of the year and in different conditions.
This is the full length (1500 word) version of my analysis. I was obliged to cut it to one third its length for my tutor. I would prefer him to read this full version!
I also had to send six contact sheets for all the photographs I took (213). Here is the contact sheet for the ‘long list’ of 34 from which I chose the above twelve: