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Archive for November, 2010

Assignment No. 9

Diptychs and Triptychs.

Triptych I.

1/40, f-7.1 ~ 1/50, f-7.1 ~ 1/80, f-7.1

Ice cream and the passage of time.  Not really, I’m not that patient – I used a hairdryer to melt the ice cream.  I had a few other photographs, slightly more in focus, that I could have used for the third photograph in this triptych, but I liked that a drip of melting ice cream had been frozen on its way down to the mess on the table top.  The sun actually did come out by the time I got to the melting ice cream picture which I think makes it a little more believable.

Triptych II.

1/80, f-7.1 ~ 1/10, f-5 ~ 1/50, f-5.6 

Cork.  A few different incarnations of cork; the cork oak tree trunk, the making of the wine-cork, and the left-overs.  I wanted to show something that is natural, that is manufactured into something useful, and is recyclable.  The first photograph was taken outdoors, the second in a poorly lit commercial kitchen, and the last on a tabletop bathed in sunlight.  I was able to experiment a little with the White Balance setting for each photograph.  Surprisingly, I found that the photograph of the used corks, in full sun, looked best when the WB was set to the cloudy setting.  Although I am quite pleased with the end results, it looks more like something out of an industry magazine than a fun photography class assignment.

Diptych.

1/400, f-8 ~ 1/200, f-20

Fish scales.  One set of scales are man-made, the other Mother Nature-made.  I love the sculpture of the large mouth bass at the corner of Third and Main at Veteran’s Park.  My photograph of real fish scales is however Atlantic salmon (and is destined to be Saturday night’s dinner.)  The camera picked up quite a bit of the iridescent finish on the fins of the fish sculpture. But my camera lens could not pick up the rainbow of colours, in each individual scale of the real fish skin, that I could see with my naked eye.  Picnik.com also resized my photographs in a way that did not do the sculpture picture justice.  I am however happy with the overall results.

Thoughts and Observations.

I quite liked this assignment, it made me think.  Actually getting the individual components together for the photographs proved to be a little bothersome, but they all came together in the end. 

Metering and bracketing proved to be invaluable for this assignment, (as it has been for the others also), as my photographic subjects kept switching from outdoors to indoors.  I found that changing the shutter speed alone, and keeping the f-stop the same for most of the photographs, worked best for this assignment (especially in the ice cream pics.)  However, that is not truly reflected in my final choice of photographs as my selections were ultimately chosen for other factors such as lighting, colour saturation, and freezing motion.  I did quite a bit of experimenting with different WB and ISO settings and found that the permutations are endless.

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Assignment No. 8

Self Portrait.

I.

1/15, f-32

Girl’s best friend.  I think of myself first and foremost as a dogmum.  Nothing is more fun than wrestling with a wriggling little dog.  I wanted to capture the movement of my furry little friend in this photograph, so I chose a very slow shutter speed.  It was however very sunny, so I had to close the aperture down to almost as small as my camera would allow.

II.

1/40, f-8

“And when it rains on your parade, look up rather than down”.  I decided to liven up a boring, rainy day with some complementary reds and greens (the weather may be grey, but I don’t have to be.).  I was wet and covered in leaves by the time I was finished, so much for my polka dot umbrella, but thank goodness for the remote control shutter release for my camera.

III.

1/15, f-14

A spot of tea in the vineyard.  There is nothing wrong with taking a quick tea and biscuit break whilst prepping the vineyard for harvest.  It was hard to judge the light on this day, it was quite dismal and I was shaded by the height of the vines so I may have over-exposed this photograph a tad.

IV.

1/400, f-5.6

Autumn:  “Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”…and lots of leaves to clean up.  Might as well have some fun with them first.  I decided on a fast shutter speed to freeze the leaves as I threw them up into the air.

V.

1/125, f-5.6

True Brit.  I had to try at least one formal, traditional-ish portrait.  I thought I’d try the Avedon white background!  Of course, I am looking down at the Union Jack and not squarely into the camera…and neither do I have the benefit of marvelous studio lighting (and I’m sans the Avedon mane).  I’m not in the least bit comfortable modelling!

Thoughts and Observations.

This was a very difficult assignment, and I can’t say I particularly like the results.  Trying to come up with novel and inventive ideas that would perhaps say something about me personally was quite distracting.  So was running back and forth to the camera whilst using the self-timer, and trying to keep my hand, and the remote control that was in it, out of my photographs.  With all that going on, I had little time to think about the techniques and rules of composition that I have been shown in class, and I think the photographs suffered.  But, even if I had mastered all the technical stuff, I still don’t think I could ever feel comfortable taking photographs of myself.  This was my least favourite assignment thus far.

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Thomas Patrick John Anson was born in 1939, the son of Viscount Anson and his wife Anne Bowes-Lyon.  He inherited the title of 5th Earl of Lichfield upon his grandfather’s death in 1960.  As a second cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, the Earl of Lichfield was breaking with centuries of tradition by wanting to become a photographer.  One of his relatives described his career choice at the time as being “far worse than an interior decorator, and only marginally better than hairdressing.”  The Earl’s aristocratic upbringing dictated that he follow a certain life-course and being a photographer was not part of the big picture.  Educated at Harrow, he attended Sandhurst Military Academy and went on to join the Grenadier Guards (his father’s old army regiment.)

The Earl at his ancestral home, Shugborough Hall

An avid photographer even in his school days, he would charge nine pence to school leavers for taking their portraits with a very basic Kodak camera.  Whilst in the Grenadier Guards he set up his first darkroom in his London flat.  On leaving the Grenadier Guards in 1962 he found employment as a photographic assistant to two photographers, Dmitri Kasterine and Michael Wallis, who encouraged the young Earl, whilst in their employ, to venture out and find photography assignments for himself.

Red-twigged lime, Shugborough Hall

The English capital, dubbed ‘Swinging London’ by Time magazine in 1966, was a city in the midst of a great social revolution.  However, photography was hardly a profession for the great, unwashed masses; since its inception as an art form, photography had been restricted to those who belonged to a wealthier class – Diane Arbus, Cecil Beaton, and Henri Cartier-Bresson.  But now there existed working-class-photography-heroes such as David Bailey, Terence Donovan, and Terry O’Neill.  The Earl’s decision to work under the name of Patrick Lichfield was a small act of class disobedience and a calculated attempt to defy class boundaries and put himself more in tune with the new counter-culture of which, amongst others, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were the principal players.

Bailey, Donovan & Lichfield

Lichfield himself said that his privileged background “probably closed as many doors as it opened.  It’s usually a disadvantage to be a peer if you have a profession.  People don’t take you seriously.”  Even his friend and fellow photographer O’Neill believed that Lichfield’s “posh background could have worked against him because he was friends with all the salt-of-the-earth photographers…but didn’t have the same accent.”  In reality, being of the aristocracy proved not to be the handicap Lichfield believed it would be, as his society connections gave him unprecedented access to the well-heeled like no other photographer before him.

Lichfield in Swinging London

In a career that spanned five decades, Lichfield became famous for his work for Vogue magazine, as a photographic-chronicler of the swinging sixties, as a royal photographer, and as the creative force behind the glossy and exotic Unipart calendar for 17 successive years.  As well as editorial photography, he worked on advertising commissions for the fashion and pharmaceutical industries.  Perhaps the height of his creativity though, was in documenting the places and faces of swinging London and high society, capturing for posterity specific moments in history, a cultural archive to be enjoyed by all.

Lichfield's iconic photograph of Marsha Hunt

Personally, I think it is in his portrait work that the Earl of Lichfield excelled.  Lichfield’s expertise at relaxing his photographic subjects and capturing them at their most attractive is well documented.  Actress Joanne Lumley described sitting for Lichfield as “easy-peasy, quickly over, fun and games.”  And Baroness Thatcher, of who Lichfield took a series of photographs for her 80th birthday said,  “Patrick was not only one of the most talented and professional of photographers, he was also an absolute delight to sit for.  Always courteous and considerate, he had a rare skill which is sadly gone.”  In his book, Lichfield on Photography he recounts that once , to put his subjects at ease, he went as far as “sacrificing his dignity” by feigning falling off his chair.  The caper had its desired effect:  it elicited a candid reaction, whilst photographing the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, when Lichfield thought the entire shoot was all but lost.

The Windsors.

It was Lichfield’s great skill at setting up a situation and creating a genial atmosphere for his subjects that made the art of portraiture appear so seamless.  Lichfield stressed that a good portrait photographer understood composition, the importance of controlling light and shade, and how to manage the model warning that it took more than just technique to capture the perfect moment.  “Remember that the person you are photographing is 50% of the portrait and you are the other 50%.”  He also could not stress enough the importance of reconnoitering the location of a sitting, or ‘recce’ as he liked to call it, to assess the conditions pertaining to the surroundings, ambience and the available light.  In mastering your technique he believed you were able to be at your most creative.

Mick & Bianca Jagger. St. Tropez, 1971

Patrick Lichfield’s camera lens caught on film the moment that his good friend Bianca De Marcias tamed her Rolling Stone by wedding him.  He also documented the fairy tale wedding of a princess to her prince charming.  (Unfortunately, his camera lens was unable to see into the Princess of Wales’s future and her tragic death as she fled the intrusive camera lenses of paparazzi photographers.)

The Princess of Wales with her bridesmaids.

Whilst Lichfield’s aristocratic connections may have helped launch his career, it was his versatility, professionalism, and talent that sustained him in a career lasting more than 40 years.  “I don’t think old photographers retire…they just go out of focus” he once mused.  The 5th Earl of Lichfield died on 11th November 2005.  Fortunately, his extraordinary body of work remains, for us all to enjoy, and it is still very much in focus. 

Cecil Beaton, 1968

Cecil Beaton is captured readying an exhibition of his own work at the National Portrait Gallery in London.  I love the symmetry in this photograph, the composition, the lighting, the shadow the ladder is casting.  Beaton is photographed in black and white, against his own black and white photographs.  This giant of portraiture and fashion photography looks small and almost insignificant against his massive body of work.  The essence of a portrait photographer is captured by a portrait photographer.

 
 

Feliks Topolski, 1969

 

A photographic portrait of the portrait painter: art imitating art.  Topolski is photographed waving a flashlight, Lichfield said the idea was to create a pattern in light that would match the painter’s idiosyncratic brush strokes.  This is a very effective photograph – the simplicity of the artist’s clothes and the minamilistic background and props, there are no distractions.  I can appreciate how still Topolski must  have had to keep his head, whilst waving his arm, for what must have been a relatively long exposure time.  This photograph would not have worked in colour.

To see more photographs by Patrick Lichfield, I would recommend you visit;

http://www.chrisbeetles.com/gallery/exhibition_detail.php?id=1002

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