Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Large Format Photography: Practice makes perfect

Large format has really bought into focus my lack of practical skills when it comes to making a photograph. I use 'making' quite deliberately because more than ever I find myself trying to make photographs rather than shoot and hope for the best.  I think a lot of people survive on instinct, which is fine, but when you only have one fairly expensive shot to work with you really have think much harder about how to get that shot to convey something interesting. Instinct in this instance can only take you so far. If you want to feel like you've never taken a photograph before in your life then you should really get a large format camera. As counterproductive as that might sound, I'm learning far more than I ever did than when using 35mm and 120 film.

I'll start by admitting there's nothing at all spectacular about any of this, but it proved a useful exercise, hence why I'm sharing it.  Before I took the shot, I tried to think about what I wanted the final image to look like. Mostly, I really wanted to capture the light hitting the trees from the side in the late afternoon light, as that being the only interesting thing about this scene felt like a vital element to retain and accentuate. Normally, an average meter reading would of perhaps caused the details of this scene blend into one. To combat this, I purposely underexposed and then overdeveloped the negative which helped accentuate the light hitting the trees without affecting the darker areas too much. 

If you look at the bottom half of this image, it works quite well, but then the top half becomes messy. It's a shame I couldn't bring the sky values down, because that would of balanced out the image. Perhaps if I were to try and get this image again, I'd wait until the sun dropped even further, to accentuate the shadows on the ground and also to try and darken the sky. I'm not sure a stronger colour filter would have worked in this instance as the sky was a very pale blue anyway. I'd say this image is a good example of getting it half right. Not to sound too disparaging as the best thing about working this way is that you really do learn from every image. When working one image at a time, there's nothing lost, only knowledge and experience gained, from taking a weaker photograph.

Large Format Photography: Church Comparison.

I've been experimenting with a new method (new for me that is) of getting correct, but also more artistic exposures when using 4x5 black and white negative film, and early evidence suggests it might be working. Even though the composition is a little off, this is probably one of my best ever images in terms of achieving clear rendition across the whole tonal range. as well as giving the image a little punch without sacrificing detail in shadow and highlight areas. It could do with a little dodging and burning, but for the sake of being able to show an unaltered image I left it as is. Even without any adjustments, you get a nice sense of light and that wouldn't be possible if I simply went with an an exposure based on average readings. The physical scene itself is fairly low contrast and in order to get this image, I had to use a colour filter over the lens and alter development in order to achieve a greater sense of drama and atmosphere.

As a comparison, here's another shot of the same scene in very similar lighting. Looking at it, you'd think I shot this on an overcast day. Being a bit unadventurous, I averaged out the light meter readings, didn't use a colour filter and didn't adjust development. I got reasonable tone, but the final result is very drab and lifeless. I could probably bring it back to life somewhat, but that would take a lot of work! On the other hand, achieving the top image is just a case of inverting the negative and correcting the levels. In analog terms, the top would print very easily, where as the bottom image would take some serious effort to extract something interesting. The main difference is that all the information of the top image is already in the negative, the bottom doesn't have this extra information.

Monday, 16 March 2015

Noye's Fludde on Behance

The complete set of photographs for the Noye's Fludde performances in Amiens and Comberton. More info in the links.

Noye's Fludde at Comberton Village College, March 5th 2015

March 5th at Comberton Village College, located just outside of Cambridge, represented the final set of performances for the ACT collaboration of Benjamin Britten's charming one-act opera, Noye's Fludde. Based off Middle Age texts known as the Chester Mystery Plays, and first performed in 1958, Noye's Fludde is a dramatic retelling of the story of Noah, intended by Britten to be performed by professional and amateur performers as well as school children who make up the ark of animals. As you may well know, Computer Animation Arts and kite-maker, Karl Longbottom produced numerous props for the performance, while costumes were designed and made by the staff and students of Creative Arts For Theatre & Film. Once again the cast and crew were joined by the Orchestre de Picardie and conductor, Arie van Beek.

After the grandeur of the Cirque Jules Verne, the Comberton Village College sports hall provided a much more intimate venue, but no less ideal a space, for a performance Britten's classic opera which feels as lo-fi and is it does grand. With that in mind, the photos I've taken hopefully capture some of that intimacy and sense of collaboration, as Noye's Fludde is not only a theatrical production, but rather a way of bringing together communities to create something a little bit magical.

Animal headdresses designed by Lucy Griffiths.

Light props designed by Tine Bech.

Noye's Fludde director, Amy Lane

Geoffrey Moses as Noye.

Arie van Beek conducts the Orchestre de Picardie.

Star, Moon and Rainbow props designed by Computer Animation Arts and fabricated by Karl Longbottom.

Orchestre de Picardie musical director and chief conductor, Arie van Beek.

Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne, Amiens - 15/01/2015

Photography by Tom Beg

Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Large Format Tests Continue

I'd like to think that I may have mastered this large format business by now but I've only shot a total of 20 shots so far, which is a really small number in the grand scheme of things, considering it probably takes hundreds, if not thousands, to actually achieving a level of competency. Recently I acquired an old analog Pentax Spotmeter V to help me correctly meter scenes for exposure. Ansel Adams used one for his Zone System method of exposure, and it's famous for its high level of accuracy when metering, which he used to spectacular effect. It's a useful tool but I don't quite know how to utilise it to its fullest potential right now. It's another thing to learn but Adams' book, The Negative is very useful for such learning.

On top of all my muddy amateur fumblings and trying not get shot at by angry farmers, I still haven't sorted my development problems so I'm going to have to troubleshoot that problem till I find the 100% foolproof solution. Anyway, here's the latest couple of shots.

I got a lot of glare from the sun on the left and the top right is blotchy because of uneven development. I'll probably give this shot another go at some point. 

This is a interesting one. I used a strong red filter and it bleached out much of the dark texture on the battery, without overexposing it, creating this kind of strange, ghostly effect. I expected a high contrast image but this outcome was unexpected. It's actually given me a couple ideas.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Even More Large Format Tests

This time I got pretty close! Except for one sheet of film which didn't play ball, I got some quite even results. Next time i'm going to try less sheets of film on the holder so that there's more opportunity for fresh developer to circulate around the tank and onto the film. I've done very little tidying up of these two images, so excuse any dusk specks and whatnot.

I took these photos out on an old World War 2 airfield which is now a only a field minus the air and the rubble of some old buildings scattered about. I think there are plans to turn it into a housing estate.

This is the bad sheet, I like the tree though!

Friday, 6 February 2015

Large Format Tests Continued

A gloomy day down on the Kent coast. This time I sorted out the air bubble problem but I'm still having issues with achieving even development across the sky. It's not so noticeable when the sky is overcast and miserable but it's much more evident in images (not shown here) where the sky is a lot more clear. I think I know the solution so hopefully next time I should get it spot on, or close to that!

Friday, 30 January 2015

Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne - In Colour by Tom Beg

The second part of my photographic record of Benjamin Britten's, Noye's Fludde at the Cirque Jules Verne in Amiens. The production was an ACT collaboration combining the talents of many artists and designers across a wide range of disciplines, including work produced by Computer Animation Arts at UCA Rochester.

Click the link below to view the first set of images.