Category Archives: Ass 1 Preparation

Notes on Infrared and Near-Infrared photography

I wrote about my early explorations into Infrared Photography here https://catherinebanks.wordpress.com/2012/11/28/early-explorations-into-infrared-photography/ (2012, so long ago and in my earliest days as an OCA student!).  On a re-reading I realised that I’d included most of the technical information there, so I ditched the lengthy notes and draft new blog post, so please do read about my early explorations if you’re interested in the process. That post produced quite a lot of comments and very useful discussions on whether infrared photographer should be considered ‘tricksy’. Two of the comments pointed to elements of Infrared that are of particular interest to me at the moment:-

Keith Greenough (OCA graduate) referring to one of my black and white IR images on Flickr and how the pylons stood out strongly:-

….This made me think about whether it might be possible to use IR in a project/assignment to highlight elements within landscapes or urban scenes which would normally be overlooked. The idea would be to make the viewer conscious of these previously unseen elements.
Just a thought…

Norma Bellini (OCA graduate)

….. What is ‘reality’? Is it what we actually see, or what is really there, but we don’t see? If it is the former then ‘reality’ is a variable because we see, and interpret what we see, in different ways. If it is the latter, we are being misled by what our eyes see.

These aspects have been occupying my mind lately in considering ‘The Sublime”, particularly “The Uncanny”.  There are elements in the landscape of our lives that can’t be seen even though they exist; radio and microwaves; feelings and emanations.  How is it that we can walk into a room and sense an atmosphere or feel a cold shiver down our spine before we even know that a place is said to be haunted or that something bad once happened there.  History and memory are layered into our landscapes along with the ravages or depradations of time. Infrared photography could be used as a visual metaphor for these perhaps – just as Richard Mosse used it in his project The Enclave  (2013). Remembering of course that he used a different type of infrared and infrared film (16mm colour infrared film,discontinued film stock developed by the United States military as a reconnaissance tool during the Second World War). This film turned the landscape deep pink and the rebels’ camouflage uniform bright green – making them stand out instead of hidden. As I mentioned in my original blog post there was much debate at the time as to whether this was appropriate.

In his latest project The Castle (2018) Mosse used heat as both metaphor and index by using a military-grade thermal video camera to document refugee camps and staging sites along mass migration routes into the European Union from the Middle East and Central Asia .  Also, in her project Dan le Noir (2017) the photographer Lynda Laird used infrared film to photograph the remnants of Normandy’s bunkers, accompanying these with a diary entry from 6th June 1944 written by Odette Brefort who was a member of the French Resistance . In an interview here   Laird talks about her use of the film and how it fits with her ongoing work concerning memory and a sense of place “trying to look at what’s invisible in a landscape – what you can feel and what you can sense”.

There’s precedent, therefore for my use of infrared, although I won’t be using infrared film but a digital camera converted to use the reflected light from near-infrared. An unprocessed infrared image tends to be brick and cyan but it can be converted to other looks in Photoshop. The images below show original image; conversion using  the channel mixer (plus some work in Nik Silver Efex Pro) and the gradient filter (blue/yellow).

I doubt I would ever use the gradient filter, even though the psychedelic effect is intriguing, but it was interesting to try. The more usual black and white can be very effective but, in the case of this particular Assignment, I intend to use the original red tones because they fit my concept.

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Busch D.D. David Busch’s Digital Infrared Pro Secrets (2007) Boston, MA, Thomson Course Technology

http://www.lyndalaird.com

http://www.richardmosse.com/projects/artist-statement

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A Possibility for Assignment 1

Viewpoint: The Disappointed Sublime

Morley describes the ‘disappointed Sublime” as thwarted transcendence, particularly in relation to mass culture where sublime effects are routinely produced in the form of “consumerist pseudo-sublimity which may often seem to place the sublime beyond the reach of authentic experience.” My own experience has been more than being disappointed in the expectation of wonderful view and awe-inspiring experience but of experiencing the awe and then not feeling anything on a second visit – as happened to me in Venice. There’s also this perceived inability to ‘capture’ the wonder of landscape – indeed how can the gestalt of that experience be conveyed in a 2D print?

“You can’t possess a landscape and you can’t possess a place” – I identified with this statement  in an interview in Lens Culture  with Ana Samoylova   an artist who is interested in how we process and internalize images. She describes how she had never visited America before moving there so her main visuals of it came from photographers like Ansel Adams. When she visited Yosemite she was shocked because she had imagined ‘grand, high-contrast, black and white mountains, but what you see is more like Stephen Shore or a Roger Minick photo’. Photographs of places like Yosemite, ‘start to repeat each other’s compositions, which solidifies an idea of the place in your mind, even if it doesn’t actually look that way in person’. In her series “Landscape Sublime”  Samoylova builds a new landscape constructed through her own experience, using fragments of unfamiliar photographs to construct abstract sculptures which glow with colour and light. Interestingly, she also describes being in Provence recently which was so beautiful that she couldn’t distance herself enough from the pleasure of the experience, “So I ended up with a bunch of postcard-like pictures of lavender fields that simply fall short of transcribing the dizzying aroma of the humble little flowers, the buzzing of bees, or the fading amber sun”. So reassuring for me thought that even an experienced professional photographer can fall into the same trap!

“Viewpoint”

This project began when I paid closer attention to a signpost in the woods pointing the way to ‘Viewpoint’. I’ve already written here about my original thoughts on assignment 1 and the beginning dialogue with my tutor.

Here is an early contact sheet of some of the original photographs:-

A bright day with pale sky over darker, dappled woods – a challenging dynamic range.  Two ladies agreed to maintain their pose as they and I were looking for a viewpoint. The viewpoint bench was installed at the beginning of last year at a time when the foliage had been trimmed so there was a view of the grounds of the private golf club below. Now the foliage has grown back and the view is of wispy shrubs in the foreground.  My first idea was to have a large print of what could, hopefully, be considered a ‘sublime’ image so on my next visit I took an A2 size piece of card to see if there was a way I could fasten a print with string and clips. However, the shrubby foliage was too weak for this.  The ground directly in front is rocky, uneven and variously sloping as well so not entirely suitable for some kind of frame (especially bearing in mind my previous ‘accident’ in our garden with the backdrop frame.

The next idea was to use a Claude Mirror . This type of mirror is more identified with the Picturesque Movement, but I was at a stage where I was prepared to compromise.

You can certainly see the form/structure of the trees but it really is too dark.  I could just have well as used my variable ND filter over my lens again even though that wouldn’t have brought my hand into the frame.

I also tried a prism which gave some interesting results and almost-rainbows. I used a touch of high-pass filter with a soft-light layer adjustment to add more punch but, again, I was disappointed with the results.

 

My next thought was to provide my viewer with a different ‘viewpoint’ through composite layers. At first I attempted to do this including my spectator but it proved too complicated for me at this stage so I concentrated on introducing just a different view using images of waterfalls. For this I used a blended image created to balance out the high-dynamic range on a summer’s day in the wood.

 

A dramatic Alaskan waterfall:-

 

 

The more sedate Cascade in nearby Windsor Great Park here in the UK.

It was at this point that I decided to get in touch with my tutor to give her an update on my (non) progress because I didn’t feel as if I was getting anywhere. Encouraged by her suggestions I decided to change tack, as suggested and see if I could discover more ‘interrupted’ viewpoints and/or viewers with the thought that Windsor Great Park might provide inspiration.

I couldn’t believe it! I know it’s been hot, but it had rained recently. The Virginia Water Lake is still there but the Cascade was dry.

 

I thought I’d try the Roman Ruins instead.  I’ve only been there once before and was amazed at the gall of ‘stealing’ from antiquity and not only that but mixing the remains in with stones from elsewhere. Completely fabricated just to provide a ‘picturesque view’.  Why should that bother me though – we’re always making something out of nothing to provide spectacle and entertainment.

 

 

With hope in my heart, and after some more rain, I went back to the Cascade a couple of weeks later. Still dry!

 

My final attempt was to create a ‘little planet’

web.V.Water.littleplanet

Interim Hiatus

I am still interested in the idea of ‘back’ portraits within landscape but there needs to be more to them – a closer view, something more enmeshed.  I do feel inhibited about taking such photographs – it seems sneaky somehow and I felt better about it at the beginning when I actually asked someone if they could stay in place so I could take a photograph.  That could well be a good way forward for me as and when I’ve devised a more complete strategy.  This won’t be for Assignment 1 though as I need to get this completed as soon as possible. My fail-safe has been to begin another project on an entirely different subject which doesn’t depend on the weather or people.

 

Exercise 1.7: Assignment Preparation

extract from an email to my tutor of 1stAugust

“So far as Assignment 1 is concerned I may have gone off on a tangent – I’m not sure. What happened is that, as I was out in our local small wood I really took notice of one of the signposts that has recently been erected there.  One of its arms points towards “Viewpoint” so I followed it with more intention than I have before.  When I arrived at the “Viewpoint” it struck me that, although it has two benches for spectators the only view is of some shrubs because there has been so much growth there in recent months.  A stranger I met kindly agreed to sit on the bench with her back to me, to admire the ‘view’ although I may direct my husband to photograph me.

To date I have attempted to provide a view in several ways, including compositing other views within it – ones taken by myself in the past – and views I considered at the time to be beautiful or sublime. I can analyse these because I actually follow the view that the Sublime is an emotional response on the whole, is in the eyes of the beholder and so difficult to evoke.  I have also acquired a Claude mirror and experimented with this – which was a failure – and used a prism to see if I could provide a rainbow.  The prism didn’t provide a rainbow because it’s difficult to get a clear view of sky and the sun does not shine directly on that location at the times of day I have visited.  However, it provided some interesting photographs.  I have also been thinking about some kind of video of a Google Earth view of this landscape or creating a video to evoke the slight giddiness/vertigo which can be experienced when riding in a hot air balloon. Something I experienced a few years ago over the Valley of the Queens in Egypt.

Having written all this I’m now wondering whether I’m flogging a dead horse and sticking too closely to an idea.  On the other hand, I’m certainly exploring the concepts of Beauty and the Sublime.  Please let me know what you think and whether you think I should continue along these lines or not.”

Extract from my tutor’s  reply of 3rdAugust

“That’s a lot of ideas! Which is great, but I can imagine quite overwhelming!
I think the ‘view’ image you talk about is interesting… the ideas of manufactured beauty spots or viewpoints that are then ironically overgrown… might be difficult to get source a few of these to make a series of obscure portraits (or back portraits), although if you can, it could be a neat submission.
Whilst coming from different ideas, your description made me think of these works:
Lauren Jury (now Aldridge) http://www.source.ie/graduate/2008/newportart/jurlau/jurlau1.xml#pagedown (these are self-portraits)

Helen Sear – works Inside the View and Beyond the View http://www.helensear.com/works (albeit close ups, and photomontage, the compositional elements of the figure looking out at the landscape is more what I was comparing here) There’s good reading on Helen Sear.

I am less interested in the Google Earth idea as expressed in this email, but that’s my personal opinion. If the prism images have created a coherent set of images that you are pleased with technically, whilst not exactly what you were hoping for, they potentially could provide a solid basis for the A1 submission….
It really depends on what you would prefer, I would urge you not to worry too much about the first assignment if it is hindering your progress, if you make sure you reflect on your decision making process and ideas then it gives us plenty to discuss in feedback.”

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I looked at the work of Lauren Jury/Aldridge on the Source website which I found very appealing.  Square images of a small, lone feminine figure in the landscape; looking up into or searching amongst very tall trees, with the red of her jacket singling her out for attention – film I think.   Unfortunately the website link on Source no longer works, although I found a little more here 

The colour red or orangey-red clothes seems to be used quite often in photographs of women in the landscape. During Context & Narrative I looked at the work of Susan Trangmar  In her series “Untitled Landscapes” (1985) a woman gazes into the landscape with her back to it, which encourages us to think we are looking at it through her eyes at the same time as she obstructs our view. I’ve alsopreviously written about Elina Brotherus and her similar approach here.

(Google image search screenshot. 12.09.2018)

Helen Sears is one of my favourite photographers. She puts us “Inside the View”  (2004-2008) here and also in her video work such as “Company of Trees” with the girl in the red dress

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/128667308″>Company of Trees 2015</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user40407595″>Helen Sear</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

I’m presuming using red is to link us with the story of Red Riding Hood. Also, of course, If we have red blue and green we have primary colours and RGB colours. Red, particularly an orange-red is like Autumn – ripeness, almost past its peak, the colour of change into Winter. Green leaves also reflect near-infrared light – the light which is just beyond our vision. I’m pleased my tutor reminded me of Helen Sears because she has been very much in the back of my mind for her approach to landscape photography and her video work.

I have been searching for more ‘back’ views and viewpoints to photograph, albeit pretty unsuccessfully so more to come – including y concurrent search for that which we cannot see with our naked eye.