Don McCullin exhibition

I went to view the Don McCullin exhibition at the Tate. It includes images from a wide range of conflicts around the world as well as the UK. It also includes some landscapes taken near to where he lives.

Don McCullin is a British photographer who is known for his images from different conflicts around the world. He mainly worked for the Sunday Times. His images show the realities of these conflicts and can be difficult to look at with images from places such as Biafra, Vietnam and the Congo as well as the conflict in Northern Ireland. During his travels, he has been injured as well as having his camera nearly destroyed with a bullet that was meant for him! He used both a Rollicord camera during the 1960’s changing to a Nikon 35mm F camera, developing his own images in the dark room.

Although his images are harrowing to look at, I found them to be interesting as they tell a story that you might not necessarily see or hear about in everyday news. They show the human side of the conflicts, the suffering and horrific injuries that the people receive whilst being caught up in the wars that affect their countries. Although McCullin received press passes to photograph some of these conflicts, he put himself in danger for others, paying for himself to travel to to where the danger was. I’m not sure this was the best way to work but bringing the images back shows the world the true horror of what happens in war and includes not just soldiers but innocent citizens of these countries including children.

Along with his war photography images, the exhibition shows his magazine spreads, as well as landscapes taken in Somerset. This exhibition shows the scope of McCullins work and how he has managed to adapt to the situations he is placed in and still get the most incredible shots especially as he uses film which can be seen as a hard medium to work with. It has definitely encouraged to use the film camera more when I go out to different places.

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Using a Mamiya 7 film camera

After using the fuji rangefinder for another project last year,(see previous blog posts) I decided to try out the Mamiya 7 rangefinder camera. Although similar to the fuji (takes 120 film and have to focus using a circular spot when looking through the viewfinder), it is a square format camera. I wasn’t keen on this camera as found it to be more fiddly to use than the range finder but does produce decent images.

After developing the film, I looked at ways to transfer my images onto the computer. In the past, I have scanned the images and wanted to try a different approach. Placing the negatives on a light box with the camera on a tripod enabled us to take a picture of the negative. The downside to this method is that the negatives are not necessarily completely flat so the images are distorted.

The image was then transferred onto the computer into the camera raw programme. This is where we changed it from a negative to a positive image as well as adjusting the highlights and shadows.

The final image. Although the exposure and focus of the image are correct, I am not happy with the composition. my main focus was the use of a different camera.

I enjoy using film and keeping up the skills that I have learnt especially in the dark room. It is one aspect of photography that I would like to keep exploring, eventually printing out my images using the darkroom instead of using the computer and photoshop.

Photoshop techniques

Photoshop is an editing programme used by photographers to create and edit their images using different tools. It can also be used to create other effects using images. It is a programme that I am not confident in but am slowly learning to use the different tools to create and edit my own images. Over the past year, I have attempted different techniques using photoshop including colour shift, double exposure, duotone and poster making, each with varying degree of success. It will be something that I will continue to work on to enable me to understand and use photoshop with ease.

colour shift

double exposure

duotone

making a poster

Final images

These are the final images for my project. I feel that they have turned out well even though I struggled with the off camera flash. I chose to use black and white as I feel that it creates more of an atmosphere as well as a timeless look for the images that were once produced with film. I also feel that b & w can emphasise the subject as well as the contrasts and tones within the image. Although the main subject of each image is the tree, the background of each one shows how they are placed with the surroundings of the park that they are in. My pictures also link well to the photographers such as Todd Hido who I have researched. I have found that they link through intertextuality – looking at absence through presence which is knowing that people have been at a place through the objects (such as posts, a litter bin or footsteps in the mud) they have left but they are not actually in the image itself. They also link well to the work of Carleton Watkins due to the way the images are composed.

Abney Park Cheadle.
Lighting diagram for image 1

Image 1 -Abney Park

I placed the flash gun at the base of the tree. This is because I wanted the light to be the same on the whole of the tree as most of the sunlight was focused on the top of the tree and the bottom was very dark and in shadow. I chose this tree as I like the way it looked as a composition with the pond and trees meeting up behind it which lead you to focus on the main tree which is at the front of the image.

Abney Park, Cheadle

Image 2 – Abney Park

Another pond in Abney Park. The branches round the edge of the image lead your eyes into looking at the objects that are lying in the water. The light was placed on the edge of the pond, lighting up the water which was hidden under the branches of the tree line above the pond.

Bruntwood Park

Image 3 – Bruntwood Park

It was a gloomy day when I took this image. I liked the way the trees lined up. The darkness of the trees in the background make the trees stand out more with the light enhancing them more. Although there is nobody present, there are signs that people have been there due to the posts seen on the left of the image. The flash gun was placed on the grass in front of the first tree. I wanted to use it to lighten up the whole picture.

Bruntwood Park

Image 4 – Bruntwood Park

I chose this tree as I liked the structure of the branches and how they lead you into the big open space behind it. It is one of many trees that line the road through the park that lead you to the main activity areas (including a cafe ,play area and hotel) that everyone tends to go to whilst visiting Bruntwood. I placed the flash gun just to the left of the tree, pointing at the branches and used as a fill in light.

Hall Street Park, Cheadle

Image 5 – Hall Street Park

I tried to take this at different angles and found this looked better as an image as the trees were more symmetrical and the background less distracting. The flash gun was placed in front of the tree in the middle, lighting up the trunk of the tree. I found that this shows off the textures of the tree trunk.

Mobile phone vs camera images

The above 4 images were taken on my mobile phone whilst out taking pictures for the project. I took them as test shots before using my camera along with the off camera flash. I feel that the camera on the phone has captured the images well, picking up the highlights and shadows in the places that I wanted and also feel that the compositions in each image work well together.

These images are taken from the same place but with my camera. I don’t feel that they worked as well as the top images. I couldn’t seem to get the compositions or lighting as I wanted them.

Using a camera phone is a good way to take test shots when looking for places to take images but they can be seen as taking the easy way out as it takes the photos automatically. Camera phones are fairly sophisticated and have options to be used on different modes for use at different times such as slo mo, night time, panoramic as well as pro mode. Using a DSLR takes more effort and knowledge to obtain the images that you want.

Test shoot

These are my images from a test shoot. I wanted to look at different green spaces and have an idea of which images looked good and worked together. Although I feel that these images would work together, they are not what I wanted to show in a photograph. I started off wanting to have objects amongst the trees to show what was going on in the green spaces I have chosen and to show where people had been in an obvious way (such as showing buildings, built walls and bridges) without them actually appearing in the image itself. After taking these images, I decided to focus more on the trees, showing where they were in context to the area and green space they were in whilst also showing where people have been involved in the green space (such as footprints, posts and a the odd litter bin).

Proposal shoot 1

This is from a practice shoot using a flash gun. I am inexperienced when using it so not sure about settings when I have it with me. As you can see from the images, the flash is very apparent , overexposed in certain areas and does not enhance the subject or the lighting of it. I need to expose my images properly when using the flash gun as I want to use it to fill in the light rather than highlight certain areas of my subject.

I then chose to focus on just one object to try out the exposure levels with the flash gun. As you can see, after a few attempts, the exposure is exactly what I want to achieve in my final images – to use the flash gun to fill in the light to make the image look balanced. The first image is over exposed so too much light has been used. The exposure is better in the second image but still a little over exposed. The third image, although looks under exposed, is actually the colour of the brick on the building so feel that the flash gun exposure is correct.

Chris Steele Perkins

Chris Steele Perkins is a British photographer born in 1947 in Rangoon,Burma. He has been a Magnum photographer since 1979 and is best known for his images of Africa, Afghanistan, UK and Japan which explore the lives and cultures of people and how they cope with situations such as poverty and war.

‘A place in the Country’ explores the cycle of life at the Holkham estate in Norfolk and were taken over a year.

‘Fuji’ explores life around Mount Fuji in Japan. It looks at the diverse life that surrounds the iconic mountain from the woodcutters to sports teams and tourists as well as the traditional activities that take place.

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Todd Hido

Todd Hido is an American photographer and artist based in San Francisco. His work involves images of housing in both urban and suburban settings across the USA. He then started to include people in his images. In 2018, Hido released ‘Bright Black World’, his first work outside of the USA which focused on environmental issues.

These images are from his series ‘A Road Divided’ which was published in 2010. The images look at the natural beauty of the landscape and although free of people, they show that humans are around as objects such as telephone poles, houses and roads are seen. Taken through the car window as he travels on long car journeys on lonely roads on the outskirts of cities, Hido has used the wind shield as an extra lens.

I like his work as shows the natural landscapes which look untouched. I find his images atmospheric with the window (plus the raindrops and mist on it) only adding to a simple but effective look.