Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Assignment 5 feedback and reflection

I am pleased that my tutor liked this assignment:
“This, your final assignment, is a good choice of subject, lots of interesting shapes, plenty of activity and picturesque settings.”
He also gave me feedback on individual images. I will attempt to respond to his critique and maybe explain my thoughts behind  choosing the images I did and where possible, offer alternate or edited images that can be included in my submission for assessment in July.
Cover Illustration – Tutor made the point that this looked like an end rather than a beginning being a sunset. As a first impression this may be correct and I can understand that point of view. However I chose it because of its impact and its simple graphic shapes and colours. As a cover illustration it grabs the attention. I don’t think its position in the story matters at this stage. Ideally I would have used an image of the schooner in full sail but sadly, sea conditions meant this was not possible. (as noted earlier) An editor would no doubt have obtained such an image from a stock library.

Picture 3 – “This one is a bit of a jumble. Perhaps if you had been further back, (can be a problem I know in a confined space) or used a wider angle lens, you could have played around a bit with the composition. Don’t know what to look at really. Part of the problem is that they appear to be looking at something outside the frame, a bit like a football photo without the ball in it if you see what I mean”
To be honest, I couldn’t see a problem with this one. To see what they are looking at just follow the diagonals of the ropes they are holding. Although the pin rail disappears out of the frame, you can infer it from its’  line. What they are doing is “sweating” the ropes i.e. making them as tight as possible  before belaying them on the rail. Here is an alternative but I feel it would lead to too many truncated limbs if I cropped it. I’ll play with it to see if I can make it work.
*4th March – I did a bit of work on this print and will submit the result in response to feedback.

Picture 5. – “ Technically it is fine, good exposure etc. The problem for me is that again they are looking at something but the viewer doesn’t know what, it doesn’t help that they are too near the edge of the frame they are looking at. There should be more space between the direction of their view and the frame edge than behind them.”
Point taken. This was already cropped down from a landscape wide angle shot of the wheelhouse. What I have tried to do is to place it on the right of the double page spread so that the figures are looking across to the view of the sails as they would be in front of them. (see page mock up in the previous post). I wanted to match the late afternoon light as both images were made within minutes of each other. Here are two alternative images I will choose one to submit in response to feedback:
DSC_9457DSC_9714_edit01_web *
*4th March – I selected the second print here as a substitute.
Following eye lines can be problematic in these situations. Subjects are quite often scanning the horizon just “looking out” (it’s part of the job) or watching the results of their efforts hauling on a rope thirty or forty feet above their heads which is impossible to get into shot.

Picture10. - I like the circle and the lines and the viewpoint and the colours. I wouldn’t have chopped his left hand off at the top.
I’m afraid amputation is a risk of spontaneity! This was a grab shot made on the spur of the moment as the captain demonstrated the running rigging. My eye was on what his right had was doing. his left was merely steadying him as he drew. This is the only alternative shot of  the scene and it loses a lot of what the  tutor liked:

Reflection on Assignment 5: Of all of the assignments for this course, I have enjoyed this one the most. I spent two weeks doing two of the three things I enjoy most, photography and sailing. (I also made some movie clips but that’s my next course). As with the exercise I did at the carnival, the most difficult part was selecting the images to include. I am definitely being more selective and have learned to cull images and work with fewer ideas and make sure that the ones I present are as good as I can make them. I hope I did that when I abandoned my attempt to include too much into this photo narrative. From my tutor’s feedback I need to be a little more careful with my composition and try to plan more carefully. In this particular situation I was not always sure what would happen next. I tended to photograph everything that happened when I wasn’t required to partake and constructed a narrative from what I got. I’m not sure this would work if my involvement on the voyage was limited to a day or two.

Reflection on The Art of Photography Course: There is no doubt that I have learned a lot from this course as I expected that I would. I have a better knowledge of how to use my digital SLR, mainly because I have used it so much in such a short space of time. I now look for shapes and lines when framing my images and I am more aware of the use of colour in composition. I hope that I am able to interpret what is required from a brief although I am still aware of my somewhat conservative attitude towards photography.
I hope that by studying Digital Film Production Creative Concepts I may be able to loosen up a bit by experimenting with a medium in which I don’t have years of bad habits to unlearn. I’ll put my  DSLR away for a while and embrace something new that will enable me to be creative in a different way.
Richard Down 29th February 2012

Monday, 20 February 2012

Assignment 5–Applying the techniques of narrative and illustration: continued

Update 19th February
Selection of Images for Assignment 5
With so many images to choose from and with such diverse topics to be included, I have decided to narrow the topic of the photo essay/narrative to my time on board the ship and the activities involved with sailing her around the Cape Verde Islands.
Posted below are the images I have included in the narrative which were not in my last post.
9740: 1/800s f7.1 ISO200 70mm (cropped) **
When at anchor, the crew run a regular dinghy service to and from the shore.

9569: 1/200s f7.1 ISO200 18mm (cropped) **
Captain Laurens explains the running rigging for the topsail yards.

9961: 1/500s f11 ISO400 34mm **
The island of Sal appears on the starboard bow.

9984: 1/250s f9 ISO400 28mm **
The permanent crew for the Oosterschelde voyage CV6 January 2012
** Images selected for my essay

The photographic layout and narrative

The thirteen images I have selected for the narrative/essay needed to be laid out and related to one another. The images are grouped with a specific theme or group of related activities on each page and will provide a narrative when read as a whole. I have added captions to these mock ups to expand on the titles I have given each spread. Each image (apart from the cover) represents a double page spread but saving them as JPEGs has done something strange to the page numbering but they are in the order of viewing in the table below, left to right.
Clicking on the thumbnails below will open a new window to show a larger image.
Conclusion: As the final assignment for the Art of Photography Course this has been an immensely challenging task to complete but very enjoyable none the less. I think I have answered my tutor’s critique of some of my work in previous assignments. There are only two images here that do not contain people and the narrative includes the teamwork and cooperation required to sail this historic ship. I would like to thank the permanent crew and my fellow guest crew members for their understanding – while I was making photos, they were doing the work! 
I made enough images to complete three different essays and I was struggling to find ways of introducing the people and landscapes of the Cape Verde Islands but with a limit of 12 images I decided to keep it simple and concentrate on the sailing of the ship. The brief indicates that these images should be part of an article. I hope that I have kept the captions sufficiently brief and that the pictures themselves tell a story.
I still have to go back through my learning log and tidy it up and add some notes on the books I have read. I have applied for assessment in July and have most of my images printed ready for submission. I will submit these 13 images to my tutor this week.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Assignment 5–Applying the techniques of narrative and illustration

Brief: To imagine you are illustrating a story for a magazine with a cover illustration and between 6 and 12 images on inside pages. Write captions to explain and link each picture. Use the techniques of illustration for the cover page and those of narrative for the picture essay.
For this assignment I have chosen to illustrate a sailing trip on board  the three masted Dutch topsail schooner “Oosterschelde” around the Cape Verde islands in January – February 2012. At the time of writing, (24th January) I am just putting down ideas about which aspects of the trip to include or highlight. It will last from 24th January until the 4th of February, leaving from and returning to the island of Sal. The voyage will include visits to maybe 5 or 6 of the 10 islands and 5 islets over the 11 days. The actual route will depend on the weather. There are several aspects that can be included:
  • The time line of the voyage itself.
  • The interaction of the crew. Made up from permanent ship’s crew, experienced and less experienced guest crew, there is a very steep learning curve and a great sense of achievement to be gained from sailing a traditional vessel.
  • The experience of living on board ship in close confines with other people.
  • The graphic qualities of  the schooner itself, 19th century technology, rope, canvas, wood, steel and brass.
  • The ports and islands visited on the trip including the local people and landscapes.
Update on 30th January
The trip is going well and I have edited an  image for the illustration cover picture.
9672: 1/4000s f14 ISO800 200mm **
Oosterschelde in Mindelo Harbour, Sao Vicente, Cape Verde
Update on 2nd February
As the trip draws to an end and we have a slack day in Boa Vista with overcast skies and rain, I have started to assess the images I have made so far to construct a narrative about the whole experience of sailing a 94 year old Dutch schooner around the Cape Verde Islands. My first decision was to use image 9672 above as the cover page for the article. I would liked to have used a photograph of the ship in full sail but having discussed the possibility with the captain, the wind conditions have not enabled us to launch and recover the ship’s inflatable safely, whilst under sail.
From the bulleted list above, I have selected to illustrate the crew at work, some of the places visited, the local people and aspects of the ship. With a couple of days left, if  there is anything I am missing I will have a chance to re-shoot.
I have chosen and captioned these images to illustrate life on board the ship. With so many images  to choose from, they won’t all make the cut.
9456: 1/100s f5 ISO400 18mm (cropped) **
Three hundred and twenty tonnes in your hands!. Geert takes a turn on the helm as the sun sets on the first day. Steering with the compass, the wind and the waves needs a lot of concentration and takes some time to master..

9451: 1/500s f11 ISO200 18mm **
Sails set, heading 208°. On a broad reach to Tarrafal, Santiago with the outer jib, topsails, course and schooner set on the foremast and the mainsail and main gaff topsail set on the mainmast. Speed about 7.5 knots.

9533 1/200s f7.1 ISO 400 55mm
Crew member Ben shows how to splice a rope end.

9542 1/60s f4 ISO400 22mm
Anouk and Ulricke repair a sail.

9559 1/400s f10 ISO 200 18mm **
Climbing the ratlines to release the topsails from the yards.

9564 1/640s f6.3 ISO200 120mm
Anouk and Job working aloft on the lower topsail yard.

9695: 1/640s f5.6 ISO200 200mm **
Leo releasing the gaskets on the topsail yard.
9698 1/250s f9 ISO 200 18mm **
The deck from the foremast platform showing the schooner and mainsails.

9709: 1/320s f9 ISO200 18mm **

Leaving Sao Vicente astern as we make our way to Sao Nicholau.

Update on 4th February
Looking at the pictures above, There is nothing there that shows the sheer hard work of  hoisting and trimming the sails on a ship that has no winches or mechanical aids (other than pulley blocks). Yesterday I kept my eye open for an image that would show this. This one works well I think:
9907: 1/250s f8 ISO400 48mm **
Bracing the yards. Once the topsails have been released from the yards, a lot of hard hauling is required to turn or “brace” them on the masts. Once that is done, the buntlines and clewlines are released to unfurl the sails. 19th century technology relies on muscle power and a few pulley blocks. There is not a winch in sight (the anchor excepted).

There was also another sail repair going on this time with more detail.
9968: 1/1000s f8 ISO400 75mm **
Anouk repairs the mizzen sail.

9968: 1/320s f9 ISO200 18mm
The Oosterschelde docked in Mindelo Sao Vicente for bunkering (taking on fuel). I was able to use  juxtaposition to contrast more traditional and modern cargo ships separated by over 90 years of history.

9594: 1/250s f5 ISO200 82mm
Fish sellers, Mindelo Sao Vicente.

9490: 1/125s f22 ISO200 18mm
Santiago: The view from Serra Malagueta towards Assomada and Pico do Santo Antonio.

9675: 1/125s f5.6 ISO800 130mm
February is Carnival time in Mindelo – fundraising can seem intimidating but a few Escudos resulted in a great image! Many Cape Verdeans celebrate their African heritage in their musical style and rhythms.

9749: 1/200s f7.1 ISO200 18mm (cropped)
Cleaning fish – Tarrafal Harbour, Sao Nicholau.

9828: 1/320s f9 ISO800 18mm
Playing Oril, an incomprehensible game with pebbles and holes. Vila Ribeira Brava, Sao Nicholau.

9779: 1/80s f4.8 ISO200 60mm
Water and wind blown erosion of volcanic sediments, west coast of Sao Nicholau.

9th February 2012
As I work through the many images that I have taken during the trip, I realise that I am going to have to work hard during the editing process. I wanted to include all aspects of the trip but I need to be able to emphasise what the trip meant to me.
**  Images which were selected for my final essay/narrative.