Project 36 - defining a style - Joel Meyerowitz

Meyerowitz is best known for his New York street photography, where he worked alongside Winogrand. In the late 70s he began to explore colour and experimented with large format. His seminal work 'Cape Light' is illustrative of this change in style. The images are still and serene - contrasting greatly with the rough and tumble of his street photography. The concentration is on the colour of light and atmosphere. The work has a romantic quality and shows a great sensitivity to changing light conditions particularly around twilight. His subjects vary from buildings to people to seascapes. The Bay/Sky Provincetown series in which he explores changing light conditions on the same landscape are particularly intriguing. Here is an example with delicately contrasting blues and yellows.

Project 36 - defining a style - John Davies

This is the first of four posts where I will present a brief synopsis of the style of four landscape photographers as part of Project 36 - defining a style. This post is about British photographer John Davies.

John Davies is a British photographer who specialises on urban landscapes. He shows urban development through a multi-layered perspective. His images usually taken from a high vantage point reveal the history of the area by including buildings/structures from different eras. His compositions are classically framed and perspective is finely controlled through the movements of his large format camera. His photographs appear understated, allowing the viewer to make his/her own judgments. He accompanies his photographs with text to direct the reading of his images. His work has been recording Britain's transition from the industrial to the post industrial. This is a photograph from 'Cities on the Edge'. It shows how Liverpool's historic waterfront has been transformed by modern development.


project 25 - shooting the moon

This is a catch up post. I have been waiting for some time to complete the projects involving shooting the moon and capturing images by the light of the moon. What this exercise has shown me is that the moon can  be elusive. Clearly the full moon is the ideal circumstance for maximum illumination and this follows a monthly cycle. It is often the case that the weather - clouds - intervene to obscure the moon at the time it is full. So it is essential to plan ahead and previsualise images so that when the conditions are right one can  go straight for the anticipated shot.

Last night I took a few shots directly of the full moon. I have some large scottish pines in my garden and my hope was that I would include these in the shot to provide foreground interest. I set my camera up with a long lens - 35mm equivalient of 450mm. I started with an exposure of f/8 at 1/250 as recommended in the course notes. The result was very dark. This was probably because there was some light cloud cover obscuring the moon. It was very surprising how much this reduced the exposure. My best image needed a  full five stops more - f/8 at 1/8. Here is the shot.

I was pleased that the surface detail on the moon is visible. Craters can be seen on the outer profile. Sadly the pine trees are lost in the shadows. From this I learned that the foreground interest needs some illumination if it is to be captured - like the image of Tower Bridge in the notes. I hope to be able to take a few more shots over the next few days but the weather forecast is cloudy - as I said shooting the moon is illusive!


Project 35 - polarising filter

The second project dealing with filters concerned the use of polarising filters. The idea was to explore the effects of shooting with a filter using both a standard lens and a wide angled lens.

I took some shots on the seafront at Puerto del Carmen in Lanzarote. Here is the two shots with the standard lens - the first is with the filter adjusted to show more detail in the sky, the second is with the filter rotated to reduce the polarising effect.

It can be clearly seen that with the polariser the sky and the sea are a deeper blue as the reflections have been reduced. The cloud definiton is also much more distinct. The poloariser is clearly demonstrated as a great way of adding depth and saturation to colours in a scene.

Using a wide angled lens with the polariser was the next objective. Here is my image:

The lens used was a 28mm lens which is not superwide. Nevertheless one can see some lightening of the  blue of the sky towards the right of the image. With more extreme wide angles this might become more pronounced and means that a polariser must be used with care with wider angled lenses to avoid creating  uneven and hence unreal skies.

The final test was to explore how a polariser can be used to reduce glare from the reflections from a water surface. For this I used a rock pool as my subject. The first image shows the rock pool with no polariser.

This image is clearly very high contrast with specular highlights in the water and no detail of what is below the surface. The extreme highlights in the water have also thrown the rocks around the pool into shadow. Now with the polariser the scene is transformed.

The scene is transformed. It almost looks as if there is no water pool. The contrast is much reduced. The lesson is clear that the polariser can be used to effectively reduce glare from the surface of water and reveal what is in the water but care needs to be used to ensure that the presence of the water is still clear.


Projects 34 & 35 - Filters

These projects are about using filters to enhance contrast and colour within an image. The filters under study are Neutral Density Graduated filters (which can be used to darken the part of the frame to reduce contrast) and polarising filters (which can be used to reduce glare and deepen colours).

The first set of images were taken to test out the use of ND Grad filters. In fact I have been using these filters for about 18 months now and they are excellent for reducing contrast in order to retain either shadow or highlight detail. I have not however made a systematic comparison of using these filters with different lenses and f stops.

The first three images compare a scene at Famara Beach in Lanzarote  - the sky was overcast with cloud detail visible . Image one is wide open no filter, the second is wide open using a 0.6 Graduated filter and the third is stopped down with the filter.

Using the filter clearly brings out the detail of the cloud formations, but it also in this case reduces the overall contrast. With a cloudy sky this has resulted in a very flat image using the filter. In this situation there are clearly pros and cons of using a filter as the contrast range was workable without the filter - something to think about when on location - I have noticed that the contrast range of some of my shots when using filters has been very compressed.

I looked at a detail of these images to find out if stopping down made the edge of the graduated filter more visible with the greater depth of field created by stopping down. These are the comparisons. Wide open is the first and stopped down is the second...

Frankly I can see no difference in these two and I have been told that this is most likely to be the case if one uses high quality filters. My filters are Lee Filters which have the reputation of being the best around....good idea to buy the best filters it seems.

I also made some comparisons in different light conditions. These shots were taken at Famara in Lanzarote - this time looking inland towards the mountains and an old building. A large part of the sky was very featureless. The first image is without a filter and the second is with.

In this case the filter has revealed some texture in the clouds which works well but once again the contrast is lowered and I am not sure I like this.

The next two shots were taken into a sunset with some blue sky and cumulus clouds. Again the shot without the filter is presented first.

In this situation with a much higher contrast ratio between sky and land the filter has worked really well. The sky is well exposed and shadow detail is still visible in the foreground wall and beach - the lesson from this seems to be that I need to establish what the contrast ratio is first and then decide when to use a filter...previsualisation seems to be the key. When in doubt I might also shoot with and without a filter to create options for later processing.

The final test I made was to see whether the ND Grads worked as well with a medium telephoto. These two images show a comparison taken with a lens of 90mm (35mm equivalent). The first without a filter and the second without.

I could not see any deterioration in performance with the longer lens and the filter has worked well in this situation to hold back the sky and reveal shadow detail in the wall in the foreground.

So the key lessons for using Graduated ND filters are to use high quality filters, in overcast conditions to consider what is more important - highlight detail or higher contrast, to bracket exposures when not sure to provide options in post processing.

I will post my findings on polarising filters in a separate post in the next few days.


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About Me

I have been taking photographs since I was young boy some 45 years ago, but only seriously since 2005 when I enrolled to study at the Open College of the Arts. I am working towards a BA in Photography. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society. This log record details of my projects and assignments during my studies. It also records ideas, work by other artists/photographers, notes on books/websites/exhibitions, influences, discoveries, thoughts, research findings and observations as I work through my courses. You can contact me at keith.greenough@btinternet.com or simply leave a comment on one of my posts.

Landscape Photography Bibliography

  • Andrea G Stillman (2007), Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Andy Grundberg (1999), Crisis of the Real, Aperture Foundation New York
  • Ansel Adams (2007), Examples The Making of 40 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Ben Maddow(1989), Edward Weston, His Life, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Charlie Waite (1989), Scottish Islands, Constable London
  • Charlie Waite (1992), The Making of Landscape Photographs, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (1999), Seeing Landscapes, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (2002), In My Minds Eye, Photographers Institute Press East Sussex UK
  • Charlie Waite (2005), Landscape, Collins and Brown London
  • Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas(2009), Finding the Picture, Envisage Books London
  • David Noton (2008), PHOTOGRAPY ESSENTIALS: WAITING FOR THE LIGHT, David & Charles PLC, London
  • Fay Godwin(1985), Land, William Heinemann London
  • Fay Godwin(1990), Our Forbidden Land, Jonathan Cape London
  • Fay Godwin(1998), Glassworks & Secret Lives, Stella Press East Sussex UK
  • Fay Godwin(2001), Landmarks, Dewi Lewis Publishing Stockport UK
  • Galen Rowell (1995), Mountain Light, Sierra Club Books San Francisco USA
  • Galen Rowell (2001), Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Norton & co New York USA
  • Galen Rowell (2002),Galen Rowell's Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, University of California Press USA
  • Harry Callaghan (1993), Ansell Adams in Color, Little Brown New York USA
  • Hunter, Biver & Fuqua(2007), Light Science & Magic, Elsevier Oxford UK
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2006), Working the Light, Argentum London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2007), Developing Style and Vision, Argentum London
  • Joel Meyerowitz (2002), Cape Light, Little Brown and Company New York USA
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book 2 Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book I Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John Szarkowski (1981), American Landscapes, The Museum of Modern Art New York USA
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 01 (2007), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 02 (2008), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 03 (2009), AA Publishing
  • Liz Wells (1996), Photography:A Critical Introduction, Routledge Oxon
  • Liz Wells (2003), The Photography Reader, Routledge Oxon
  • Marc Garanger (1989), Louisiane, Kodak
  • Robert Adams (1996), Beauty in Photography, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Robert Adams et al (2009), New Topographics, Steidl Germany
  • Stephen Shaw (2004), Uncommon Places The Complete Works, Thames and Hudson, London
  • Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin Books London
  • Terence Pitts (2008), Edward Weston (Icons Series), Taschen
  • TPOTY Awards (2010), TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR Journey Three, Travel Photographer of the Year Suffolk UK