Archive for the ‘Stories Behind the Shots’ Category

Over on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/wallartbykpburgess) I’m running the chance to win a whopping 50% off any and all orders from www.kpburgess.com galleries.

All you need do is take a look at the photo, decide on a name that encapsulates what the image says to you, and post that name as a comment on our Facebook page. It’s free to enter, and there’s no registering or sign ups or anything like that.

The winning suggestion not only enjoys 50% off their next order (with no minimum and no maximum), but gets their winning entry along with their name as a credit, posted alongside the image when it goes on sale.

Not enough time to go to our Facebook page right now? Take a look at the photo and get your thinking caps on!

KPB_9191

A set design I’m working on for a forthcoming show requires some hints and suggestions of a rundown part of a generic city in an unspecified decade between 1950 and today. Large panels of 2 metres and above, with photographed close-ups suggesting such worn urbanity are in order, and so gave me the opportunity to shoot some street shots with a very specific brief in mind.

Fire Hydrant and Bright Blue background

Bold colours and simplicity, with a peeling orange and red fire hydrant close-up, set against a brilliant blue painted wall. Hard, functional fittings against eye-catching solid colour.

I will share a few more of the images created to this brief in future posts, but first let’s take a look at the brief itself:

1. Nothing complete. For the stage set, it is important not to allow the perception of attempting to create “doors” or “walls” or any pieces of scenery out of photographs. It must be clear that the intention is to suggest urbanity, and not to recreate it.

2. Grot, grime and decay. Each image should show an angle of urban life that is worn, used, industrial, or downright grubby. Nothing that shows affluence, or the facade of city living.

3. Must be framed in a way that can be cropped to square format without losing the balance or message of the original image. This is to satisfy the technical requirements of fitting the printed panels into the set.

4. Must not be busy. The images must not detract from the action taking place in front of them – simple and bold.

5. Must be acceptable as existing in any developed city. Particularly an American city or Singapore (the two cultures hinted towards in the show). Nothing that pinpoints a particular place.

6. Must be acceptable as existing at any point within the last 50 – 60 years. Nothing that is unique to any particular decade or year.

The image of the Fire Hydrant, added to the sales gallery at www.kpburgess.com satisfies all of these criteria, and in doing so proves that excluding so many elements from a photograph can give a much more powerful, attention grabbing image. I’d love to know what you think – share your thoughts with me, and I’ll share some more images out of the set as well as covering some of my tricks for ensuring super-large, 4 metres squared prints still look awesome.

Taking a look at the most popular shots over the last week, this low-angle shot of a sugar cane carriage on a railway track sits top of the pile at the moment.

Sugar Cane Railway Carriage

A sugar cane car, full of produce, sits on a cane railway track in Queensland, flanked by its neighbouring cane cars.

Story Behind the Shot

Criss-crossing Northern Queensland, Australia, is a network of narrow gauge railway tracks that serve the vast sugar cane plantations in this sticky, humid environment. The railways are clearly king here: even the main road artery in this neck of the woods – the Bruce Highway route 1 – is carved by diagonal and perpendicular railway, slashing its way as it sees fit across the tarmac and bush. Road traffic is at the mercy of the Cane Trains. Sandwiched between the ferocious ocean waves of the Coral Sea and the sudden mountainous folds that keep the outback at bay is territory owned by sugar as far as the land is flat. In every one of the harvest seasons, empty cane carriages are deposited by fields, waiting to be filled with produce before rolling heavily to one of the giant sugar mills nearby to be chopped, boiled and refined into packages big and small for onward sale.

I like the rawness of it all. There is no prettiness here, no neat ordered lines as you would find on a passenger railway, or even a freight railway in a built up area. No sweeping curves to navigate around long-standing buildings or outcrops, no impressive engineering and artistry creating bridges and tunnels to carry the trains smoothly through busy cities. It is the simplest and quickest way of getting cane from point A to point B – raw cane, transported the raw way. I like that the carriage is a dull, dirty kind of mustard yellow – not dissimilar in colour to the cane it carries, and certainly not prettified or scrubbed up for anyone else’s benefit. I like that the cane has just been dumped into the car – no pretty levelling off at the top, no nice lid to keep the contents hidden. The rusty undercarriage is clear, as is the unkempt sidings and rails running alongside. This is functional and minimal.

Some technical and artistic notes

I wanted to provide a single clear subject that captured the raw functionality of the ‘blood vessels’ of Northern Queensland, and loved the pale browns and yellows of the recently harvested cane. When driving past this train of carriages that seemed to be painted in the same rough and ready ‘cane colour scheme’, I wanted to create the uncluttered, single-subject image, but also be aware that this is one long network: a rail system that snakes from one plantation to another; from one mill to another; from one community to another. This network is the circulatory system of a huge area of Queensland, and that sinewy outstretching feel should not be discounted in the name of creating a ‘clean’ shot. It was important to include hints of the neighbouring carriages when framing the shot. They allude to continuity, to the long stretching veins of the cane industry, without drawing focus from the dirty rough colours and lines of the single cane car. The inclusion of the foreground rails reinforce this notion of never-ending networks – and highlight the raw untidiness of the bush around the train. A wide angle was used to distort the rails – a similar image with level, flat, parallel lines did not make the grade simply because it appeared too contrived; too perfect, for this whole area of Australia.

What do you see? Rough and rural, or an unclean inefficiency? Remind you of something else?

Sea shells close up

A close-up of a dark grey scallop shell amongst smaller white shells, on a beach of shells in Eastern Tasmania.

This close-up image of a scallop shell sat amongst countless others on a beach in Tasmania is currently leading the view stats over on the Flickr feed.

This beach was simply amazing. The entire beach was made of shells. And it was a big beach – with shell dunes, shell ridges, wet shells and dry shells all sweeping round in a shell bay. It was a surprise to see no sand or pebbles beneath the billions upon billions of shells. And the best bit? Like most Australian beaches, there was no-one else on it!

If you want to hang this image in your space, and be inspired by the natural coastal scenery, and the connotations of space, calm, fresh air and solitude that it brings, head on over to the Wall Art website to place an order. Use the code 25launch before September ends to enjoy a generous 25% discount.

Thanks for looking!

I took a look at the views on my Flickr photographs the other day, and saw that this shot was particularly popular:

Cold, cramped space in the roof void of St Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The main dome of St Peter’s Basilica – an imposing landmark on the skyline of Rome – is actually composed of two domes: one inside the other. The cavity between the Catholic Church’s public image and its inner workings is a cold, shadowy and cramped space.

Although shot and digitally developed in full colour, there is a naturally occurring grey-blue tint amongst the shadows that give an almost monochrome feel to this shot.

The Story Behind the Shot

The Catholic Church is an immensely huge institution, with over 1 billion followers worldwide. At its headquarters in the Vatican City in Rome, Italy, the Basilica at St Peter’s Square forms the focal point for worship, pilgrimage and sightseeing. At the top of this sacred building is an enormous dome, visible across Rome as the centre of Roman Catholicism.

After a long, meandering hour or so up from the sprawling piazza at its base, I climbed through the tight walls at the edge of the dome (‘cupola’ in Italian) to find myself amongst the mosaics and frescoes that make up the fine artistic interior. A quick skirt around the edge of this very high vantage point – overlooking the main altar and entrance to the tomb of St Peter – and I was back inside the dark, twisting interior of the main cupola.

Dark, narrow, twisting staircase inside the bowels of the Vatican

The twisting, dark staircase that winds up through the narrow void towards the top of the main dome at St Peter’s Basilica.

As the dome reached its apex, the passageways became ever more horizontal, diagonal and cramped. Eventually, just before I emerged onto the roof of this Roman landmark, I came upon the sight of the wooden bars at the top of this post. This cold, cramped space fills the void between the inner dome that contains the frescoes and mosaics inside the Church, and the separate outer dome that projects the status of the organisation upon the outside world.

What this shot says to me

The imaginary lines formed by the tops and bottoms of the wooden bars lead the eye naturally through the image and around the curve of the dome, through the blue space before disappearing in an apparent infinity. The infinite coldness, and the prison-like claustrophobia of the bars add to the darkness around the image’s borders to create a sense of the inhospitable workings of the Church – in much contrast to the opulent interior and grand exterior image of the institution. Given recent controversies with the Catholic Church, I am quite intrigued by how the underbelly of the Church’s central headquarters can be a direct representation of the murky world that sometimes pokes through the slick public image. The bright circles of the skylights offer a useful shape that draws the eye in at a glance, as well as offering the only light in the image.

What are your thoughts on the shot? Can you see the leading lines (actually, both shots used in this post make use of this technique)? Would the use of more saturated colours, or even a clearer lean towards monochrome have affected your interpretation of the image? Let me know your thoughts!

 

Rows of Stone Men

An art installation at the Gallery of New South Wales depicts rows of stone figures marching onwards.

Our 10,000th image view last week! This came from a visit to the art gallery in Sydney, Australia. There was a room full of these life size stone statues – all naked – and all carrying bundled children. The room was lit in subdued, soft lighting from above only, and isolated to small pools which then reflected off the glossy floor – making the act of taking this photograph very tricky. In fact, I had been carrying round an 18-200 zoom lens for versatility in tight corners and for getting intricate details, but that only stopped down as far as 3.5-5.6 (higher number = smaller aperture = less light getting through = slower shutter speed needed/higher iso = camera shake/digital noise). When I saw this dark room with these imposing statues laid out in rows and columns (see this photo for a slightly wider view of this) I just had to capture the atmosphere. I had to go back to the bag check area and sign out my bag, rummage around for a fast 50mm lens (f1.4) that did away with my ability to grab the wide scene, but let in enough light to really do this soft scene justice. The fixed lens also forced me to be particular about the shot – they are great for forcing you to think about things!

The artwork had particular meaning to the original artist, and it had an impact on me too. But what does this image say to you?

Snow on Roof at Sunset

A roof-side view of the setting sun, with perfectly smooth snow sitting in the foreground of the roof.

Why am I posting a picture of a snow-covered roof in August, when it’s 32 degrees centigrade outside? Firstly, it’s because I long for the cool touch of snow and ice, and secondly; it’s snowing somewhere in the world right now.

Thirdly, this photo was recently ‘faved’ on our Flickr feed, and so I thought I’d give a little background on how the shot came about and was put together.

Story behind the shot

It had been snowing in this little corner of Lancashire, UK, for about a week. Being a semi-rural area, the landscapes were simply stunning under endless blankets of white carpet, which rolled and bumped with the steep valley and vanishing foothills. I took heaps of shots of snowy fields, snowy trees and snowy sheep – some of which made the grade for the Wall Art collection at kpburgess.com¬†– but I wanted a different angle on the pretty snowscape. Our house in Lancashire is an old stone terrace with fields front and back, and the loft has been converted into a bedroom, with a wide opening window in the roof – perfect for poking your head out like a meerkat from the middle of the roof. And so when I opened the window to have an unobstructed view of the snowy hills behind the house (and covered the carpet and bed in snow), I caught this angle by accident really, and was drawn to the perfection of the snow: level, even, crisp, with the low sun catching individual crystals of snow, transforming them into diamonds upon the tiles. Once I’d seen it, I had to get the camera and make the shot work, technically.

Getting the shot right

Shooting into the sun can be tricky. Your camera’s light meter will be overwhelmed and may result in a shot exposed for the sun, leaving everything else in the frame in complete darkness with no detail visible. There are two ways round this, but by far the easiest way is to ensure you are ‘metering’ for the area of detail you want exposed correctly. DSLR cameras have a little metering switch. On the Nikon, this is a little 3-way switch on the back (on most, near the viewfinder at the top), with 3 little symbols.

Centre-Weighted Metering

The setting with a little white dot with brackets around it will meter weighted to the centre of the frame – meaning whatever is in the middle is what your camera thinks you want exposed correctly, with other parts of the frame not completely ignored, but given less attention. The weighting is roughly 75% to 25% in favour of the centre area, whose size you can usually change.

Matrix (or whole-frame) Metering

The dot inside a rectangle refers to Matrix metering, which (simply put) tries to meter correctly for the whole frame by analysing everything and comparing it to a database of images Рpretty useless in this kind of shot, where you have massive dynamic range (big differences in brightness within the frame).

Spot Metering

The third option on the metering switch, and the winner for the snowy roof shot, is the lonely dot. This dot setting denotes spot metering, and means that whatever is in the small AF square in the viewfinder (which can be moved around on DSLRs) is what the meter reports exposure for. Put the square on the bit that needs correct exposure, or focus and lock exposure on that bit and then recompose the shot, and you should be fine. It isn’t just DSLRs that have the ability to expose on a particular part of the frame – even the iPhone camera is able to expose on wherever you tap – if you tap and hold it will lock that exposure setting and let you move to reframe the shot. Magic.

The final piece of advice, or rambling – depending on your viewpoint, is to say that this shot came about as an alternative to the usual snow landscape shots you get. With anything – not just snow – there’s nothing wrong in taking what might seem like standard shots. But please do try to get a different perspective on something. This could be simply kneeling down, lying down, or standing on a chair. Or, like here, sticking your head out of a roof window. It might not work, but more often than not it gives something quite interesting.

Surfer Looks On In Envy

A surfer in a wet suit, carrying a surfboard, runs toward the water as he watches fellow surfers ride impressive waves off shore.

The most vIewed Image of the last few days is…

So from time to time – as often as I can – I will poll my photo views on Flickr, and give some background info on the most viewed shot of the last week or few days. Today, such a look at the stats shows that ‘Surfer Looks On In Envy’ is getting a lot of hits. Now this actually comes as a surprise for me, as I had only taken this image off sale from kpburgess.com a few days ago as I thought it wasn’t good enough to be displayed. I’ll tell you why in a moment, but first – the story behind the shot:

Cape Bridgewater Beach

I’d been driving for a few hours on the coastal road between Adelaide and Melbourne, in Southern Australia – before it comes to the official ‘Great Ocean Road’. This road is stunning. This whole coastline is stunning actually, and I’d managed to get quite a few decent images before the tedium of inland roads behind a tractor took over. When the tractor finally pulled off the road into a field, the crest of a hill appeared in front of me. As I very quickly reached the top of the hill, one of the most spectacularly beautiful scenic sights unravelled before my eyes. A deep and endless blue sea stretched towards me from a clear but distant horizon, wrapping itself around unfolding green-topped craggy rocks. In between two of these rocky headland points, a stunningly beautiful golden sand beach swept across the landscape, offering a great contrast between the deep blue and the luscious greens.

The huge, empty expanse of fine sand, blue sea and sky, and approaching wispy cirrus cloud at Cape Bridgewater, Australia, was a real tonic after hours of driving.

I drove down to the beach and found it almost completely empty. That’s the thing that gets me most about Australia: they are blessed with not just one beach that is amongst the world’s best looking, but thousands. Thousands and thousands of huge, golden fine-sand beaches that seem to cover 99% of the vast continent’s coastline. And 99% of these have nobody on them. There were so many of these really pretty beaches that I had all to myself.

Cape Bridgewater beach wasn’t entirely all mine that day. There were a smattering of surfers in the water, and one more on the beach, sat on the sand struggling to pull his wetsuit on. I watched him looking forlornly out at the waves, feeling every missed ride, as he bumbled and fumbled to get himself out there as fast as he could. After one failed attempt to run towards the water without his board, I snapped him on his second attempt, managing to capture him looking out to see another surfer getting the waves he was missing, as he ran out to enter the water away from the submerged rocks.

Why I took the photo off display

There are many basic “rules” in photography. None of these “rules” are really rules – they are merely guidelines. But one of them is that objects in the foreground shouldn’t be out of focus, as it distracts the eye. I’ll paste the photo here again, so you can see what I’m talking about without having to scroll up and down:

Surfer Looks On In Envy

A surfer in a wet suit, carrying a surfboard, runs toward the water as he watches fellow surfers ride impressive waves off shore.

My decision at the time was to highlight what the surfer was looking at, so the breaking wave and second surfer riding that wave, is in focus (and further highlighted by the sun making it the brightest part of the image, thus further drawing in the eye). I could have used a smaller aperture (bigger f-stop) to increase the depth of field and have them both in focus, but this would have slowed down the shutter speed so much that the main surfer’s motion blur would have been so much so that he’d have morphed into an unidentifiable splodge of ink.

So my reason for writing off this image is the foreground main object being distractingly out of focus. I was then pretty surprised for this image to get as many views as it did, leaving me asking the question: am I being too rigid with these “rules” of photography?

I’d love to know your thoughts on it!