Assignment One – Progress and selection

I have been scuppered by the weather today – after a glorious weekend, my allocated shooting day is overcast and totally unsuitable for striking views for my assignment. As I have a busy few weeks ahead that leaves me with the images I have already taken from which to choose my assignment. I may be able to sneak one final shoot in the week before my assignment is due, but I can’t count on that being a nice day either!

My images have focused on benches at (or very near to) marked viewpoints. This hasn’t been as straightforward as I expected – in some cases there was no bench and I had to walk a little way along a ridge to find one. In other cases the bench was in a position where I couldn’t get behind it to take a decent picture. The contact sheet for Otford Mount below is a good example of this, and I didn’t come away with a single image that I am happy with.

contact sheet otford mount

That has left me with only five suitable viewpoints: Toys Hill, Octavia’s Hill, Beachy Head, and two in Ashdown Forest. The assignment specifies 6 images, but rather than submit one that I am unhappy with from Otford Mount, I would prefer to submit 5 with the intention of adding a sixth as and when I get an opportunity to get to another viewpoint (I have exhausted all those close to my home!)

The contact sheet for Toys Hill and Octavia’s Hill was included on my last post here. Contact sheets for Beachy Head and Ashdown Forest are below:

contact sheet beachy head

contact sheet ashdown forest

I have selected final images with the intention of placing the bench in a location which obscures the view but doesn’t cut it off entirely, and in which the bench is clearly the subject of the image. I considered selecting images which were near identical (for example directly behind the bench) but I felt that this looked like I was inviting direct comparison of the benches which is not the point. Having variations in composition means that the images aren’t set out for comparison but rather for cumulative impact. In any event, the consistency between the images is gained later through re-photographing in a frame.

Having selected my five images I set about trying to photograph them in a frame. My plan had been to use a white wall, but experimenting around the house I preferred a sky blue wall as it hints at the sky all around, but in a very contrived and constructed way. It almost adds to the feel that the real landscape is “trapped” within the madmade. I spent hours trying to eliminate all shadows and reflections from the images, but with only one flash gun it proved pretty much impossible. I ended up tweaking my set-up until I had a small shadow in the bottom right, which I quite like because it grounds the image in reality.

On the whole I am pleased with the final effect – the framing gives the images a sense of importance, and the landscape itself has become tertiary to both the frame and the bench. The original brief was to photograph beauty, and the neat framing of these images responds to traditional concepts of beauty as symmetry and order. The benches in the sunshine similarly have a sense of calm and comfort which could be described as beautiful. Yet the images are lacking any sense of engagement with the landscape, even at the level of an interested gaze; we gaze not at the landscape but at the framed images.

There are some flaws in these images – one is a bit soft, another is very slightly wonky, and if/when I get an opportunity I will reshoot to remedy these issues. If I have chance I would also like to reshoot the Toys Hill image to get a bit closer to the bench (this was my test shoot and my ideas weren’t fully formed). Finally I need to decide on how to present these images to my tutor, and whether there is any particular order in which they should be shown. These are my final decisions before I submit the work to my tutor in a couple of weeks time.

I have asked the Ordnance Survey for information on how these viewpoints were designated, but as yet I haven’t had a response and I don’t hold out a great deal of hope of ever getting one. Although that information isn’t necessary for appreciation of these images, I would like to know for my own interest and it would provide interesting background to present alongside the images.

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