Assessment criteria – Quality

Look again at the assessment criteria and you’ll see that the descriptors for ‘Quality of outcome’ seem to cover a lot of ground. As mentioned previously, Expressing your Vision aims to explore the ideas behind the techniques, and ‘communication of ideas’ is one of the descriptors for this criterion.
What is a ‘good idea’? Probably a good idea shouldn’t be too obvious or derivative. Maybe, in the final analysis, you only need one good idea to sustain a whole career in photography (Project 3 is about one such idea). Whichever way you see it, the communication of ideas will become more and more central to your work as you progress through Levels 2 and 3 of the degree programme.
One of the ways to communicate discernment and the development of your ideas is through the contact sheet. A digital contact sheet is just thumbnails of a sequence of shots, of course, but the important thing is that it’s an unedited sequence. Including an unedited sequence will allow your tutor to see and comment upon your selection process, which is an important part of the creative process as Boris Groys explains:

At least since Duchamp, it has been the case that selecting an artwork is the same as creating an artwork. That, of course, does not mean that all art since then has become readymade art. It does mean, however, that the creative act has become the act of selection. (Groys, 2013, p.93)

The editing process is probably at least 50% of the work of being a photographer, and what you find interesting in an image will evolve over your working life, so make a practice of keeping rather than deleting your outtakes.
You should annotate your contact sheets. As a minimum, indicate your ‘selects’, together with relevant shooting data and brief observations. This will add significant value to a contact sheet.
‘Quality’ also covers the presentation of your digital and print submissions. For a guide to the submission of digital files please read ‘Preparing Digital Image Files’ on the student website: tutor_reports_and_assessment.pdf
The assignment for Part Three is a print assignment. This will give your tutor the opportunity to feedback to you on print quality in plenty of time before assessment.

Exercise 3.1

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject. Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.

In my first attempt at capturing a ‘Frozen’ moment I have realised I could have done with an extra pair of hands. I tried to use what was immediately available so I sourced items from the kitchen, I had previously taken some images a few weeks earlier , before building work began in my home, and I have noticed the new images have a lot of grain. I am wondering if it is the fast shutter and high ISO to blame or dust in my camera?

Below is a selection of images taken at 1/8000, the fastest shutter setting on my camera it would seem.

Flicking the pages of a book was really simple but I think the fast shutter speed adds nothing to the image as the frozen pages of the book are not something we do not usually see with our own eyes. These were taken with the camera held in my right hand whilst I flicked through with my left.

The sieved flour worked really well, I think this would look great with a dark background to contrast with the white of the flour but overall I am pleased with how these first attempts came out. Luckily I had a tripod to steady the camera but I still had to both sieve the flour and push the shutter button so it was a bit of a juggle.

The food colouring in the water also looked good and provided interesting images, in the last of these images you can even see the black coloured droplets being added in mid-air. I also used the tripod to steady these shots.

The ripples of milk in the red bowl looks interesting and the ones taken afterwards using a steel funnel look very abstract. I had more hope for the water droplets but I think I need more contrast for these to work effectively although I have captured the odd crown and droplet, I also think the grain on the images does not help with these. These were all taken hand-held.

The eggs were a challenge, I got to a total of three broken eggs before I admitted slight defeat (I may re-visit this), in these images the best I captured was the egg in mid-air rather than on contact. Again I used the tripod so that I could free up one hand to drop the eggs.

I also experimented with a variety of fast shutter speeds to see if there were better selections to be found than simply the fastest.

I think the above images show that the ‘fastest’ shutter speed is not always necessary in capturing a ‘Frozen’ moment, similar images have been achieved by a reduced shutter speed which has in turn reduced the ISO. I think it depends on the speed of the subject matter as the how fast the shutter needs to capture the moment. A speeding bullet would need a super fast shutter speed and super fast reactions whereas falling flour is at a much slower speed so does not require such a fast shutter to capture the same motion.

I really like the abstract quality to some of these images.

I have continued to research the ‘frozen’ moment and in doing so I came across the work of Corrie White, Her water drop images are other worldly and mesmerizing. In an article written by Jonathan Petre for the Mail on Sunday (10 Dec 2011, accessed 09.03.17) Corrie White eludes to her use of ‘the time machine’. The time machine is an electronic device which is a timer linked to the camera, this can be purchased with liquid release valves and other such devices to trigger a camera or flash. It is a bit too costly for me to obtain to experiment with but interestingly I did gain a tip which I will try out. Using milk, particularly coloured milk seems to yield better results and also adding Xanthan gum as a thickening agent to the water or I presume the milk too. I have also discovered that using a flash is hugely important to the final result, my flash never fired. No surprise really after learning that Edgerton invented the electronic flash!

So my plan is to take a short trip to Sainsbury’s to grab some milk and some xanthan gum, I plan to rig up a zip lock bag with a small hole to free up my hands. I also think I need to experiment with taking the pictures in a darkened room and I am considering if I need to count the seconds between the release of the drop to it landing so I can set a time delay on my camera. I am hopeful that it might help me to capture the correct moment that the droplets hits the water below? I could also experiment with adding colour via backgrounds as well as food colouring ,perhaps adding glycerine or soap to the water to get a variety of results. Who knew that this research would lead me to look into molecular chemistry!

I revisited this armed with Xanthan gum and a flash gun! I was able to control the flow of drops much better by using a Ziploc bag filled with liquid in which I poked a pin hole. This meant I was able to count the seconds between drops. I set up the flash in a darkened room and was elated when I first started capturing drop images. Sadly this elation turned to frustration when I discovered my memory card had corrupted and I lost all the images I had taken. I set up another rushed attempt in a different location but the images were once again blurred as I didn’t have the luxury of the darkened room and flash. It was a learning curve for me which I found interesting, but it was a learning curve in self-control and discipline. I don’t think this type of photography will be my forte and I imagine I would end up throwing my equipment out of the nearest window in frustration!

My rushed return attempt setup in my rather bright kitchen!

The results:

Adding the gum definitely helped as did controlling the flow, I would just need to work on the lighting set up and making sure my second memory card was set up as a back-up!