Enjoy Very Long Exposures With Will Cheung And MPB

Not quite as intended and really in the moment


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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Not quite as intended and really in the moment

6 Nov 2020 8:43AM   Views : 706 Unique : 496


From a question George posed yesterday… He queried why I had chosen the settings I had, as they seemed rather odd. Yes, they are. More about that in a minute…

And I’m going to cite two authorities to justify what I’m going to say. Everyone’s heard of Ansel Adams, and if you’ve read his books, you will know that not everything went to plan all the time. Sone of his great images involved long tales of heroic rescue measures and ‘what ifs’ alongside the explanations of how he’d tailored the negative with care and foresight. Coming back to my 1983 editions of his three classic books (The Camera, The Negative and The Print) I can see that re-reading them will probably pay me dividends.

My own favourite technical writer, the late Barry Thornton, provides even more detail and analysis of how he made individual images in his book Elements – and with a greater sense of the dramatic than Adams, he went into the story behind the picture, as well as the story of the picture. His explanations are clearer, to my mind. The common factor that interests me is not the careful planning and precise choice of materials, but (again) the long way round that the photographer sometimes travels when he makes a mistake.

OK. Here’s the logical explanation of the settings for my portrait of Joely. I wanted a wide aperture, to allow the background to soften behind my model, and so I’d opened the aperture wide. I was working in quite low light, and with a light source that is actually a good deal less bright than it appears to be in images – as distances from the camera vary, so does the exposure.
And I know that my camera gives good results at high ISO settings.


Now, there’s one more factor to take into account here, and that’s the flow – that the process of photographing a model is dynamic, constantly moving. The photographer’s job is not to set up a series of unrelated images one after the other, optimising settings as they go, but it’s about a dynamic relationship between two people with a common goal. In this case, as is often true, two people who have not met until an hour or two before the picture was taken.

In other words, my attention wasn’t on the settings (which I’d set to give me leeway on moving away from the light: though in truth, I reckon I’d gone for my default indoors low light’ setting, and modified a couple of elements that I needed to). The rest is chance…

One other thing, in the interest of truth and accuracy. Whatever impression you may have of me and the way I work, you need to understand that I’m inherently rather lazy and careless. What I do when I get things right is the result of practice, and maybe some innate talent (which is very hard indeed for me to analyse). I take pictures because I enjoy it, and I enjoy it because they work reasonable well, reasonably often. If this sounds arrogant, it’s not meant to be: it’s more an admission of failure, in that I lack the drive and methodical painstakingness that Adams and Thornton had. And that failure can be seen writ large in the untidiness of my office…


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
6 Nov 2020 8:44AM
Models, top to bottom, are Kierra, Kylie Britain and inverse_expression.

Maybe it amounts to me having found a way to take pictures that usually works...
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
6 Nov 2020 6:40PM
Back to the Dalek and the dustbin Smile.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2063 England
6 Nov 2020 8:21PM
Are you suggesting that any of my models resemble a Dalek, Dave? Or, indeed, a dustbin?
mistere Avatar
mistere Plus
10 38 8 England
6 Nov 2020 9:10PM
Not at all. Unless sometime in the past you shot a roll of film on the set of Dr Who. Smile
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 451
7 Nov 2020 2:06AM
Every frame has a story prior its creation. The moment photographed or reworked ate still part of the frame story. Strangely most of my ill fated, less contrast-y frames from my last roll of film were shot under P-Mode according to my notes. Do I love them any less? No.

I know what you mean of workflow. I remember myself ages ago, when cameras had a resolution of 5.1 megapixels, my surprise of being unable to stop photographing a beautiful face, indoors where as I might had finished a roll of 24 exposures I had more than 60+ pictures.Some of them too under wrong white balance as a salute to Picasso's "blue period portraits".

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