Languages of Light

Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission.

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  •  Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.

Include a link (or scanned pages) to Exercise 4.5 in your learning log for your tutor’s comments.

I had several ideas for this assignment. I thought about re-visiting Exercise 2.3 to show some further examples of music photography with artificial light at the same venue but a different musical group. I’d been disappointed with how Exercise 4.2 had turned out with the light not varying enough throughout the day, so I considered photographing the deer at Wollaton Park (which I used for Exercise 2.6) but once I started working again, finding time to re-visit at different times of the day to capture the varying light became difficult.

Then, one morning on my drive to work, I noticed the outline of some church ruins through the trees. On Googling the site, I found out the ruins were of Old Annesley Church. The church was built in 1356 and fell into disrepair after its use was discontinued in 1942. The church is Grade 1 listed and an Ancient Monument.

Images I found of the ruins online all looked flat and uninteresting – how one would expect a stock image of the site to look. I was keen to take on board the observations of the coursebook in that we have an expectation of how a subject should be photographed and creativity comes from looking beyond the obvious. Whilst I couldn’t do as Chris Steele Perkins did with his photographs of Mount Fuji as the background to everyday events, I was keen to photograph the ruins and the grounds in a more original way.

Whilst on a mound by the side of a busy road, the site is desolate and its remoteness attracts antisocial behaviour. On my visits I was alone, it was drizzling with rain and I found the site creepy and I didn’t want to stay there too long.

I took my Canon 5D Mkiii and a Canon 16-35mm 2.8 lens. I knew the site was relatively small and I wanted to capture as wide an image as I could of the ruins. My first visit was around 1pm on a Sunday in February and the light was as bright as it was likely to become. As recognised by Eugène Atget, there’s a greater quality to the light at this time of day and minimal shadow. I took a variety of shots at eye-level and crouching to get different perspectives.

On returning at 5pm, I just caught the final light of the day – however, a bit too late to catch the ‘golden hour’ of light. I didn’t take many images as the light was dropping very fast and I was already having to use a high ISO to capture anything.

I didn’t get to return to the site for the early morning shots for a few weeks, but I eventually got to the site on a non-raining day at 7.45am. The sun was low causing a lot of glare.

Due to being alone at the site on each occasion, none of my images contain any people. The absence of the presence of humans in the shots adds to the desolate nature of the depiction of the site.

Whilst the photos weren’t taken chronologically on the same day, for the purposes of presentation, I’ve put them in chronological order – starting with early morning, going through to nightfall in order to tell a story of entering the grounds to leaving later in the day.

karen_stephaniewebb_329a2438

Image 1-Entering the graveyard. Focal length 35mm, f/5.6, 1/50s, ISO 400

Here the rising sunlight throws a beam of light down the path toward the entrance. The image was composed so that the curve of the railing and the steps leads towards the light. The light reflects off the railing and the damp steps highlighting the curve further whilst the treads with no light on them are a black. The light falling on the snowdrops towards the top left of the image creates a white line in front of the trees and gravestones in the background.

Karen_StephanieWebb_329A2428.jpg

Image 2: New life. Focal length 35mm, f/4.5, 1/50s, ISO 400

Daffodil bulbs are sprouting showing that even amongst the deserted grounds, new life grows year after year. A close, low perspective allows the daffodil leaves and immediate foreground to be in focus whilst the gravestones, tree and church wall in the back ground are out of focus – almost as if they’re incidental to the photograph. The shot has been cropped so that the daffodils are seen in the bottom right of the image initially before the eye is drawn to the distant shadows in the bright light

annesley1pm_stephaniewebb_329a2147

Image 3. Only moss grows on the old church walls. Focal length 35mm, f/2.8, 1/400s, ISO 160

Here a dead weed growing from a crack in the church wall is composed as centre of the shot – its wispy skeleton leaves in focus (as is the moss on the upper part of the wall) whilst the evergreen trees and window shapes in the distance are out of focus. A similar weed creeps into shot from the right-hand side.

annesley1pm_stephaniewebb_329a2162Image 4: Light from both sides. Focal length 35mm, f/2.8, 1/200s, ISO 160

This old window frame with its missing stained glass and broken shaping has the light from outside shining from behind the leaves from the tree, and light from behind me illuminating the decaying internal wall in a way that would not have been possible when the church had a roof. The shot is composed with the window centred to highlight the in-pouring light.

annesley5pm_stephaniewebb_329a2235

Image 5 Desolate grounds. Focal length 16mm, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 6400

Here as dusk heads toward darkness, the gravestones are hard to make out and it’s only the trees and the church ruins which are obvious to he viewer. The photo is composed so that the tree is centre of the image as if its ‘arms’ are outstretched beckoning the viewer forward through the spooky abandoned graveyard.

annesley5pm_stephaniewebb_329a2251

Image 6: Sihouettes at dusk. Focal length 35mm, f/2.8, 1/80s, ISO 6400

This image is taken from below the wall boundary of the grounds. The shape of the cross memorial stone, together with that of the gravestones, the church ruins and the tree create a beautiful silhouette against the blue light. The tree’s overhanging branches looking as if they’re protecting the ruins from further decay.

The series of shots achieves the objective of demonstrating how the light differs and changes the appearance of the site through the day. The theme of how nature continues to grow around the decaying man-made ruins creates a sub-story. The combination of different shooting heights (below site level, crouching and at eye-level) and different focal lengths used in the shots show the site from less usual angles. The composition (and cropping) of the final shots has been considered in order to add interest by best framing of the subject matter, with the available light being exploited to frame or highlight the subject matter and its immediate and distant surroundings.

I considered converting the shots to black and white to give a harsher look to them, however, colour helps to demonstrate the effects of the rising and falling light throughout the day as well as helping to accentuate the interaction between nature and the ruins.

Contact Sheets 7:45am

Contact Sheets 1pm

Contact Sheets 5pm

 

References

http://southwellchurches.nottingham.ac.uk/annesley-old-church/hintro.php [last accessed: 29/09/2017]

http://www.chrissteeleperkins.com/books/fuji.html [last accessed: 29/09/2017]

 

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