Week Four Reflections

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Let me start by answering some specific questions from the presentations of Week 4. I should note upfront that reading Vilém Flusser‘s book has really helped add to my understanding of why Gary set things out this way.

Presentation 1: Outwit

  • Thinking on your practice, what are the apparatus and programmes you are using and how are you outwitting them?

The shoot from last weekend’s ‘People’s Vote March’ exemplifies a typical workflow. The images were taken with one of my Leicas – in this case, the Leica SL with 24-90mm zoom, as that is ideal for reportage work. It is the only zoom I have used with image quality (IQ) virtually indistinguishable from prime lenses. I did shoot single spot autofocus, and centre weighted metering, which I have learnt to trust in this kind of environment. In poor light (not applicable that day), I will switch to spot metering.I never use the SL on any kind of matrix metering, and hardly ever on Continuous Focus.

Files were then transferred from the SD card directly into my NAS storage system, and backed up, twice. Next step is importation into Lightroom, with keywords, and catalogued  within my current file system. A few ‘standard’ adjustments were then made across the set, for clarity and vibrance, and then individual adjustments, such as cropping. I tend to leave the format as the sensor size. The resulting images are exported to a standard jpg size, and then uploaded onto my online photo site, which serves both as showcase and personal archive. The client wanted the files via DropBox, both as HiRes and LoRes, so that was the final step.

An I outwitting the camera with this process? Only in minor ways, adjusting exposures as I take images, on manual control. Outwitting Lightroom, I am afraid not, other than having my own workflow to follow. I did later experiment with manipulating the images in different ways.

  • Do you privilege the lens, the digital sensor or the camera manufacturers in any particular way?

I know my equipment pretty well, and this was not an experimental shoot, but rather straight reportage. I trust the camera to deliver on Aperture Control, and in these outdoor situations I trust the Auto White Balance. I manually set ISO to be sure I have a high enough shutter speeds to capture movement in the crowds. To take close-in shots of the speakers, I positioned myself at the front early, and pre-tested all camera settings by shooting the microphone. Then it was a matter of zooming, EV override and shutter timing.

I am not sure is this is privileging, but I do trust the Leica sensor to deliver accurate colour, and the lens to capture images with both sharpness and pleasing bokeh. I tend to shoot more wide open than not, so this is a robust setup for this particular task.

  • And if you prefer to keep your process a black box, what would be the context and motivations for doing so and are there responsibilities associated with that?

I don’t think this is applicable. I grew up in an era of full manual photography (and printing) and I think those disciplines still stick with me as I manage apparatus that, despite its price, can be shot on ‘idiot mode’. I occasionally will use the Leica Q that way, in big crowds – but rarely. I like to exhibit some control, as I invariably shoot manual focus with this camera, treating it more like a Leica M rangefinder than the SL or a compact ‘point and shoot’.

Presentation 2: Smuggle

  • In your chosen apparatus, can anything be said to be smuggled by you or by anyone else and are you resisting something, if so, what is expected of you?

I think there is limited ‘smuggling’ going on in this situation. I am trusting the apparatus, focusing more on the scene in front of me. In composing, I very consciously move the focus point, and I tend to use the EV override in almost every sequence to make the light ‘do what I would like it to do’.

Perhaps the main ‘smuggling’ that is going on is my choice of subject. I favour candid, street portraits, and close-ups of signs and detail.

Presentation 3: Force

  • Do you consider yourself to be forcing the camera in any way?

As above, in the sense off controlling what is otherwise a fully automatic system, yes, I ‘force’ it. But I am also trusting it to deliver.

  • Can you consider yourself free from your apparatus?

Hardly. I am lucky to have used many kinds of cameras and lenses over the year, and the cost of the Leica is well known. So I am rather tied these days to Leica, both film and digital. I still use my Nikon system in certain situations (studio work, in particular). But I love available light, and the superb glass in the wide aperture lenses support this approach. Excellent dynamic range on the digital sensors, even with non-class leading megapixel counts, deliver files which are a joy to process and tightly crop, if necessary.

I used to always want the ‘last and greatest’, tending to be an early adopter. My go-to ‘travel/street’ camera is the Leica Q, now three years old, and I can’t see that changing for a while (until maybe the Q 2).

Stepping back, though, I use an iPhone to take images every day, and enjoy the combination of freedom to shoot whatever you like, with a reasonably assured promise of quality results.

  • Moreover, are you aware of the consequences of your practice upon you, your peers, and the history of the medium?

I think I can situate my practice reasonably well historically. But, I am acutely aware that I may be ‘stuck’ in that history, versus my peers. I think I could easily fall into the ‘he’s a safe photographer’ category, when viewed by peers, and that’s a big motivation for me to be on this program!

Presentation 4: Turn away

  • So, how can we continue to look away from the camera and its apparatus?

One of the highlights of this program so far has been the examination of non-traditional image making – and that in turn has motivated me to re-examine my earlier work as a painter. In many of my recent posts, I have been experimenting with different approaches – e.g. collage, glitching, mixing graphic and sound files, digital artwork, sun prints and so forth. I expect this to not only continue but broaden in scope.

  • Would you consider putting your camera down and looking elsewhere?

Possibly – but not on this program. I am tempted to start painting again, though …

Think about:

  • The relationship between you and your chosen apparatus.
  • At which point responsibility becomes a consideration in your approach.
  • Whether another photographer can do what you do, and whether you could be more original.
  • How you are not just another “button-pusher”.

Weekly Reflections:

  • Your experience of the week’s activities and any feedback received.

I am loving it, though hugely challenged. It is a bit of a conundrum, in that I am really enjoying opening up to new ways of making images and displaying / distributing them .. yet it makes me wonder whether I am good enough to do it.

I also continue to feel blessed with the Cromarty Cohort. A group of honest, no-nonsense, yet caring people who also happen to be very creative photographers.

I have been getting helpful and encouraging feedback from both peers and tutors – but my biggest critic remains me.

And I have exactly the same organisational critique of Gary’s module that I had of Jesse’s. Both leave it too late to explain what we need to get done in the module. Hearing in Week Five that we have to do a book, exhibition, workshop … well, grown ups can cope with knowing that up front, and actually it would lead to better results.

  • Any reconsiderations to the core methodology of your project, and thoughts on the forms your project / photographs could potentially take moving forward?

Yes. I am already considering how to think about any final public show as an installation and and experience, rather than a photo exhibition.

And I am also working through how to use different image making techniques to embolden my ‘traces’ research.


Header – Glitched: Took an image from last weekend’s shoot, loaded it as a RAW file in open source Audacity audio software, glitched the track with a bit of reverb and echo applied in different sections – then exported as a RAW file with JPG filetype. Mac Preview will open it, though Photoshop won’t. Used Skitch to screen grab and save as a normal JPG.

Glitching instructions here

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