352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Test-Shoot Two (“Middle-of-the-Road” Compositional Technique with the Mamiya 7)

Whilst on my third trip up to the Lake District (please see the blog post entitled “Third Trip to the Lake District (Friday 13th February – Sunday 15th February 2015)”), although I had decided to create my path images using the “middle-of-the-road” technique (as this is a technique that I have always been interested in, and also feel that it greatly symbolizes the idea of travelling towards the past (through the use of memories)), I soon realized that I hadn’t actually decided upon the horizontal composition of the images (i.e. the amount of path to be included in the photograph). As I want to create a photographic collection for my FMP, and feel that this selection of images should be consistent in their compositional styles, I therefore decided to undergo a test shoot with the Mamiya 7 (on Thursday 5th March 2015), in order to help me decide on the final, uniformed composition to use for the following trip. (Which also allows me to make the most of my time when I can’t make it to my ideal locations – as suggested by Anthony Luvera in the Formative Feedback Session, please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Lecture 7 (Formative Feedback Review)”). Below you will be able to find notes about the test shoot (including equipment and the methodology), followed by any after-thoughts I had about the compositions I experimented with:

 


 

Equipment:

  • Canon 5D Mk II
  • Tamron SP10-24mm (wide angle) lens
  • Mamiya 7
  • Mamiya 7 80mm lens
  • Ilford FP4 (ISO 125)
  • Tripod
  • Sekonic L-308S Flashmate (light meter)

 


 

Methodology:

This section includes bullet-pointed information regarding the methodology I undertook during the compositional test shoot. (Please note, any information provided in italics indicates extended notes, brief thoughts, and reflections on the technique it accompanies).

  • For this test shoot, I decided to use the same strategy I use during my “official” photo shoots in the Lake District
    • This is because, as I have used it before, I feel that this technique is very successful, and it also allows me to practice this method before my next trip to the Lake District
    • Just as a reminder, I use the light meter to gain an idea of the settings I needs to use, then move on to shooting on the Canon 5D Mk II (to see if the suggested settings need adjusting slightly, whilst also creating “back-up” digital images), before finalizing my “official” shot on the Mamiya 7
  • Similar to the first test shoot (please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Test-Shoot One (The Mamiya RB67, Mamiya 7 and Canon 5D Mk II, Blurring and Double-Exposures)”), although I am shooting my final images using colour film, as you will see below, I actually decided to shoot with Black and White film for the test shoot
    • This was because, as the project is self-budgeted, I made use of the resources I already had and therefore used up some of the Black and White film I owned
    • Also, as this test shoot is based primarily on the composition of the images (rather than the aesthetic features regarding colour and tone, for example) the use of Black and White film didn’t hinder this process of experimentation
    • However, with this being said, the type of Black and White film that I used had an ISO of 125 (rather than the 400 that I am used to shooting on) and, unfortunately, the Canon 5D Mk II wasn’t actually able to go down to this low ISO setting
      • Although this offered me a slight problem, it simply meant that I had to trust the light meter settings (which are usually right in the first place), and, as you will see below, there was only one group of images that appeared slightly under-exposed because of it
  •  When it came to experimenting with the composition of the images, I ended up trialing three different shots in three different locations (simply because the Mamiya 7 allowed 10 exposures, so I dedicated 9 to the testing and left one just in case)
    • Within these three test shots, I placed the Mamiya 7 in the centre of the path to gain the “middle-of-the-road” aesthetic
      • Which, as suggested in my third trip to the Lake District (please see the blog post “Third Trip to the Lake District (Friday 13th February – Sunday 15th February 2015)”) will, from now on, require the use of measuring equipment to measure the central position in which I should place the lens of the Mamiya (rather than the Mamiya body)
    • I then simply changed the positioning of the horizon (or where the path disappeared out of view) to allow more or less of the path to be featured within the image
    • As I was using the Mamiya 7, however, I soon realized that I didn’t have the usual “rule of thirds” grid square to work with (that is usually found on digital cameras), and so I decided that, to make sure the composition of the images were consistent, that I had to work with what the Mamiya 7 offered me: the focusing (ghost image) square
    • I therefore lined up the horizon within each of the shots in relation to the focusing square – in other words, the three shots are as follows:
      • Shot One – the horizon (or where the path disappears from view) was situated to run across the middle of the focusing square
      • Shot Two – the horizon (or where the path disappears from view) lined up with the top edge of the focusing square
      • Shot Three – the horizon (or where the path disappears from view) lined up with the bottom edge of the focusing square
  • In relation to the three locations that I decided to shoot in, I thought it would be a good idea to try and experiment with photographing a variety of paths (that differ in terms of their elevation and curvature)
    • This is because I could therefore experience similar challenges and problems that I may encounter within the Lake District with the range of different paths I will most likely need to photograph
    • However, when experiencing these different paths, I soon found that it was rather difficult to create the correct composition when the paths curved
      • This is because, although I was standing in the centre of path, if I was stood on the curve of the path it made it look as though I wasn’t in the middle, greatly affecting the whole idea of the “middle-of-the-road” aesthetic
      • With this being said, I soon realized that I could solve this problem, and still create “middle-of-the-road” images, by either moving a couple of paces ahead (so that I wasn’t standing on the curve of the path), or by simply adjusting the position of the Mamiya 7 to face the direction in which the curve was heading – it just simply took more time to contemplate
  •  Similar to the previous test shoot (as already stated, please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Test-Shoot One (The Mamiya RB67, Mamiya 7 and Canon 5D Mk II, Blurring and Double-Exposures)”), for the developing and editing of the images I created during this test shoot, I developed the black and white film in the developer machine before scanning them in using the Hasselblad scanner we have at university
    • Once I had scanned these images in, I therefore decided to undergo the same technique of editing that I have applied to the Mamiya 7 shots I have captured on the previous two trips to the Lake District (straightening, cropping, inverting, and automatically adjusting the tone, contrast and levels – obviously not the colour as they are black and white images) in order to create a more consistent experiment

 


 

Test Shoot Photos:

Location 1:

Location 2:

Location 3:

 


 

After-Thoughts and Reflection:

Once I had developed, scanned, and edited the photographs from the shoot, I then spent time reviewing them to allow me to decide on the technique that I feel is more appropriate (as well as the one that I prefer) for my FMP. Looking back over the three types of horizontal composition, I soon realized that I preferred the compositional aesthetics of the “middle” technique (where the horizon of the path disappears from view across the middle of the focusing square). This is because, (including inspiration from the research I undertook regarding Paul Graham’s “Hypermetropia” – please see the blog post “352MC Professional Photographic Practice – Photographic Research”) I think that it creates a balanced perspective between both the path AND the landscape (rather than focusing more on one of the features over the other, thus equalizing their importance within my project – the path was used to trigger the memories of my Grandpa, and the landscape was a shared interested between Grandpa and I which inspired the creation of the project), whilst also still symbolizing the idea of travelling to a particular destination (the past) through it’s composition.

(As also suggested within my research into Paul Graham’s “Hypermetropia”, as this technique balances the inclusion of both the land and the sky (that is often associated with dreams, the mythical, and the free), this could not only highlight the landscape that I have travelled on, but it could also symbolize the dreamlike and psychological state the landscape creates within me by triggering the recollection of my personal past memories.)

To understand this main concept fully, I will now explain to you my reasoning behind discarding the other two horizontal compositions (“top” and “bottom”). Looking at the images that lined up the horizon (or where the path disappeared) to the top edge of the focusing square, I feel that these images focused too much on the path, slightly overshadowing the surrounding landscapes. Now, although I do want the path to be a major feature within the image (as it enhances the reconnecting and memory aspects of the project due to the fact that it is these paths that I walked with my Grandpa that triggers personal memories of him), I also want the landscapes to be a main feature within the images as well (as the landscape offers one of the reasons behind the creation of this project, and I want to be able to provide the viewers with enough visual information regarding the landscape that meant so much to the both of us). Taking this idea into account, the opposite can therefore be said about the images that lined up the horizon (or where the path disappeared) to the bottom edge of the focusing square (it focuses too much on the landscape which slightly overshadows the importance of the path).

After completing this compositional test shoot, and reflecting on the images that I have created, I have therefore decided to use the “middle” horizontal technique (due to reasons stated above) for the “middle-of-the-road” images I will be creating on future trips to the Lake District.

In regards to the methodology of creating these middle, “middle-of-the-road” compositions, I will also need to remember the suggestion I made above regarding the photographing of curved paths (where I can move a couple of paces ahead (so that I’m standing on the curve of the path), or simply adjust the position of the Mamiya 7 to face the direction in which the curve was heading), as well as the use of a measuring device (most likely a measuring tape) to make sure that the lens of the Mamiya 7 (rather than the camera body) is in the centre of the path.

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