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Monday, May 7

A wider view


Winding Path

UPDATE
After posting this from my PC I checked to see that it looked OK on the iPad and found that the shadows and mid tones on the latter are about a zone lighter than on the PC. Where I'm talking about moody tones, you'll just have to squint or adjust your monitor a little to see what I'm on about. It's too much work redoing all the pics and reformatting the post. I'll try to get my monitor and the iPad in greater agreement for future posts.


If there's a knack to using a wide angle lens, it's making sure you have something filling the foreground. Wide angles make things smaller and if you don't have something dominating the bottom of the frame then chances are the main point of interest will be something very small and insignificant in the middle to far distance.

There are exceptions to this general rule, of course, but failing to get in close to the subject and maximising the apparent expansion of space that occurs as a result is what makes some photographers think they can't use lenses wider than 28mm with any success. The wide angle "look" isn't enjoyed by everyone, however. Ralph Gibson decided early on that whatever style he was going to develop it wasn't going to be the Bill Brandt super wide effect.

Lingering Snow

I mentioned a few posts back that I've taken to going out with an OM1 and 24mm, 50mm and 70-150mm Zuikos in a neat wee Domke satchel-type bag. As a result, I've been using the 24mm more than I've done for a long time.

The Zuiko is that great combination of small, light and sharp so it's a great addition to my walkabout bag. The focal length used to be thought of as the start of the "super wide" range but it's really nothing special at all nowadays with some very wide zooms out there and the likes of 12mm and 15mm lenses having been made by Voigtlander for the Leica in the last few decades.

Broughty Ferry Beach

Still, I find it's just about perfect for the type of photograph I like to take. Anything wider and the distortion effect in the foreground becomes a bit overwhelming in my opinion. It ceases to concern the relationship between the foreground and the background and surrounding space and becomes just about the weird look alone.

Winding Path

My favourite of the shots in this post is the first one. It has what I like in a photograph which is a simplicity without too many distracting shapes, details and tones. There's really just the path, the sky and the grass. The image is a scan of the negative and hasn't had much done to it at all in Photoshop.

I like to use the image editing software to explore the possibilities so that I have some idea of what to do when it comes to the printing stage. I did another version of the photograph where I lightened the path to give the impression of light bouncing off the dampness. It's something that could be done in the darkroom either by dodging under the enlarger or by the use of a bleach on the print.

On one level, it was a more striking image than the one here but it detracted from the subdued bleakness of the scene. Also, the tones here complement each other well so that no single one dominates - they're quite harmonious. With the lightened path, it became all about, well, the lightened path! It upset the balance of the photograph and added a sparkle that was at odds with the sombre mood. Who'd have thought photography could be so complicated?

I asked for a second opinion from Cath having done up the two versions and presented them to her without comment. She preferred the one in this post as well although she couldn't really put her finger on the reason. The other thing that struck me was the influence of the street sign on the horizon near the left hand side of the frame. It may be small but it helps to balance the picture.

An Abrupt End

Lingering Snow

Lingering Snow was taken a couple of months ago when the cold snap we had around here at last started to lift. There's always a pocket of snow that remains in shadowy ditches and stubbornly refuses to move and this was one of those.

It's another pic that caught my eye because of the similarity in texture between the ground and the sky. I normally meter snowy scenes directly from the snow and then open up two stops to place it on zone seven. You have to watch in case the snow causes some under-exposure. The Lingering Snow negative has plenty of detail away from the snow but I chose to give it the moody treatment like this for the same reason I avoided lightening the path in the first photograph. This pic is all about the highlights - the snow and the sky - and "printing down" the rest of the frame is the best way to emphasise this.

Broughty Ferry Beach

Broughty Ferry Beach worked out better than I thought it would. I was shooting into really strong sunlight and was concerned that flare would spoil the shot. Then there was the exposure to work out. How to capture some detail in the sand shadows without blowing out the sky?

The Zuiko did a good job here, I reckon. Yes, there's some flare but rather than spoiling the shot I think it adds to the atmosphere. There were a few strollers out (this one was taken in the evening) so I waited until a couple got themselves into a nice spot where they were adding interest to the empty patch of water at the top left. The building almost right in the middle on the skyline is Broughty Castle.

Menzieshill

An Abrupt End

An Abrupt End is a quirky wee shot that was taken earlier in the same week as Lingering Snow. The building is a little pavilion next to some tennis courts. Someone, maybe a parks department worker, has trundled something across the snow and then apparently vanished into thin air. I like the switch from white tracks on black tarmac to black tracks on white snow. Without the 24mm in the bag I probably wouldn't have bothered to take this photograph - one of the reasons I'm no good as a one-lens photographer.

Menzieshill

A bit of urban grittiness now with Menzieshill. This is a well-used path across a park stretching from one busy road to another. I'd spotted the potential in this shot before and went back to photograph it in the snow because it just didn't do enough for me in the dry. Like Lingering Snow, it's been printed down to emphasise the highlights in the snow and sky.


Broughty Beach 2

Broughty Beach 2

Broughty Beach 2 should probably have been Broughty Beach as I took it five minutes before the into-the-light shot of the castle. Never mind. It shows how low the sun was in the sky at this time of day and is a reminder that I really should look out the lens hood I have for the 24mm. I'm not sure it would have made a huge difference in the later contra jour shot but it wouldn't have harmed it. I'm undecided about this photograph basically because it seems such a hackneyed subject. Probably every photographer who's ever been near a beach in the evening has a taken a similar photograph.

Being naturally shy and retiring, I've always had a bit of a problem photographing in public and there were quite a lot of people milling around this scene. I feel self-conscious - a bit of a plonker would be another way to put it - standing on the street with a camera in hand. However, I'm gradually getting to grips with it thanks to a mantra I've started chanting inwardly to myself. Full of Buddhist mysticism, it goes like this, "I don't give a shit". Works for me.

Road to the Coast

Road to the Coast

Finally, Road to the Coast, a pic that you'll possibly agree bears a striking resemblance composition-wise to some others in this post. What can I say? It's how I see the world through a wide angle lens. With lenses from 35mm to 135mm I tend to shoot with the camera in landscape format but with the wider lenses I seem to see a lot of vertical compositions as is the case with all except the first one in this post - and I've got a vertical version of it as well.

Road to the Coast was taken in North-East Fife on a chilly day when there was some ice on the puddles. Thankfully, after a cold winter and equally cold spring we're at last beginning to feel the weather taking a turn for the better. There's even some blossom on the orchard trees in the Carse. Time to get the Rollei SL66E out for some fun.

13 comments :

right-writes said...

Some nice snaps Bruce, the most important thing about these ultra-wide angles is keeping them level or the distortion goes through the roof.

Regardless, there is one great thing about the cold weather, if the sun dares to show its face it leaves long shadows and thst makes for plenty of expression for the shooter to capitalise on.

And what else would you be doin' anyway?

Bruce Robbins said...

Quite right. There's nothing I'd rather be doing than being out and about with a camera almost regardless of the weather. In fact, I had a plan to fit a clamp to the shaft of a golf umbrella and attach a compact camera to it so I could go out in the pouring rain. Must revive that one!

Dave Jenkins said...

These are all good, although I consider "Lingering Snow" much the best and like "Winding Path" least.

It's true that "Broughty Beach 2 has been done before, in fact I've shot several versions of that myself, mostly at Tybee Beach, Georgia (US). But your version stands out as especially well seen.

Cyclops Fotoman said...

My favourite is Broughty Beach 2. I've seen lots of photos like this, but most of them are horizontal. Also, your composition and micro-composition are perfect, which is rare. What's more, these days people do the scene in colour, at sunset, with the contrast and saturation turned up to 11. Hurts the eyes.
-Marcus

Herman Sheephouse said...

These are all very fine Bruce - can't pick a fave though I do like the Broughty 1 one and also the glow on the building in lovely, sunny Menzieshill.
Actually, looking at them again, I'll agree with Cyclops, your composition is spot on . . . bring on the SL66!

MartyNL said...

Another vote for Broughty Beach 2. I also don't think it's about whether a photo has been done before or not, it's whether it has been done well or not. And there are just too many good things about the photograph to write about and that make it transcend from a cliché to a classic.

You and your photography have an excellent affinity for the coast.

Bruce Robbins said...

It's great getting feedback like this in the comments. Different opinions make me think more about the photographs and challenge my own views which is often a good thing. Thanks to everyone.

Martyn Lacey said...

Broughty Ferry Beach for me.....the tracks lead you right to the scene where the strollers are to become a feature. Works for me, not only did you take on the sun but presented the photo in portrait mode.
I fear something abominable has happened to the parks department worker in an abrupt end....has anyone seen him since?
As usual, an interesting bunch of scenes captured well Bruce.

DavidM said...

Well, I have to disagree with some.
I really like the curved path, a beautifully simple composition. When you look closely, it's the tiny bright spot near the horizon showing that the path continues to places unknown that makes it. Try covering it up and you'll see. Even the photographer may not have noticed it at the clicking moment.
This doesn't mean the other images are not excellent. The tyre marks, changing from black on white to white on black is a lovely piece of observation of a short-lived moment.

Bruce Robbins said...

Good spot on the distant bit of path, David. I did see it at the taking stage but, as you suspected, didn't appreciate its significance to the photo until you mentioned it. Sometimes the smallest details make a difference out of all proportion to their size. I felt the road sign to the left was like that, too.

DevidM said...

Yes, the tiny road sign too. I wonder if the eye is somehow faster than the brain on these occasions. The picture of the snowy tracks is helped by the two vertical marks on the hut behind. It would have been easy and natural to have stood a bit closer and pointed the camera down at the tracks themselves to make something more abstract. Perhaps you did.

Bruce Robbins said...

I didn't - but I'm now wishing I had! There was definitely an interesting abstract there and I missed it. I have a problem with photography and it's maybe a left brain/right brain thing. If I'm consciously thinking about the image in front of me then I tend to be a bit robotic. It seems to work better if I'm in left brain mode and just "feeling" the shot. Viewing them in a detached attitude you're able to make some very insightful points. Did I think of some of these points at the clicking time? Not consciously, but unconsciously? I must see something that makes me want to take the photograph and yet what you say normally comes as a surprise. That's the case with the potential abstraction in An Abrupt End. I'm going to torture the scan in Photoshop to force the abstract out of it just to see.

I've also stopped looking for abstractions a little. I like the way Ray Moore seemed to draw back from the scene to include more of the surrounding environment - it's the "sense of place", I suppose. I've been trying to incorporate that idea, especially out in the Carse for obvious reasons. Fay Godwin also took some interesting photographs where the subject was very small in the frame. St Thomas a' Becket church and the standing stone at Dunino spring to mind.

Perhaps we can collaborate? I'll shoot stuff on the 24mm, send it to you and you can do the cropping. :)

DavidM said...

For drastic cropping, you might need to use 120 film, of course. Yes, I like to see a gentle crop. It seems to be the converse of the very macho "...if your pictures aren't good enough you're not close enough..." school of composition. Good advice for a war photographer, where the inclination must always be to photograph from as far away as possible.
I think the difference is between saying: "Look at this here." and "This is what it was like to be here." Dunno – might have to polish that up a bit.