By writing my recent progress report, I became aware of how little practical activity I’d achieved so far in 2016: a creative year, but I also remembered later that I’d taken some night photographs in Edinburgh recently that I didn’t publish here. For some reason, WordPress always reports an error every time I try to upload a photo from this shoot, but I’ll keep trying.
St Andrews Square was host to an installation by Groupe LAPS called Keyframes. It’s worth following the link to see other versions of this installation. But better still, go and see the installation in situ, it’s there in Edinburgh until 28th March 2016. Each stick figure lights in turn, giving the impression of movement, thussuccessfully combining static sculpture with animation, which, together with the soundtrack, made it an impressive piece.
And following that discovery, I went out on another night photography expedition, and I’m working my way through the resulting images this weekend, so I will post the results soon.
We’re over half-way through February, so it seems high time for a progress report on 2016: a creative year, so I’ll take a brief look at each area:
I’ve attended all four sessions of the Duxford community music group in the first half of the spring term, and the list of pieces to practice has grown each week. During this current half-term break, I’m concentrating on Frere Jaques, Everything Stops For Tea, Messing About on the River, 12 Bar Blues, and Brain Damage (yes, the Pink Floyd track from Dark Side of the Moon). It’s good to have a variety of numbers to focus on, but this has distracted me from following the programme of exercises in Ukulele Aerobics by Johnson Chad.
On a more practical and slightly more public note, I’ve accepted an offer from one of the volunteers in the Cambourne Timebank scheme to help me develop my ukulele and guitar playing. We’ve provisionally arranged to hold our first session one evening this week.
The nights are still long so it’s a good time of year for low-light photography, but, although it’s been a relatively mild winter so far, I find it too cold to go out taking photographs without a specific event to reach, so I keep postponing my tentatively-planned expeditions. I got as far as buying two small torches for light painting but haven’t used them yet. Instead, I’ve read two of my photography books on using off-camera flash guns: Studio Lighting Unplugged by Rod and Robin Deutschman and Speedliter’s Handbook by Syl Arena. Yes, I know that reading about something isn’t the same as actually doing it, but I’ve hardly used my flash gun and feel very unprepared to start using this versatile piece of equipment without a lot of guided practice and experiment.
I seem to be bombarded with ideas for coding projects. Everywhere I go, I want to create a code version. The latest two ideas are: a drawing programme with a kaleidoscope feature, based on an exhibit at the Camera Obscura World of Illusions in Edinburgh that Mandy and I visited last week. Mandy found it very therapeutic, so a browser-based sketch written in p5.js seemed a perfect way to create one for her.
The second recent idea is a representation of a visual metaphor used in The Brain with Brian Eagleman, a documentary series currently showing on BBC. The metaphor was to illustrate the impact of multiple minute differences, and consisted of a box with several rows of mousetraps, each primed with a table tennis ball. Brian dropped another table tennis ball into the box which triggered a mousetrap into releasing its ball which then flew up then landed on another trap which then released its ball. Within seconds the box was full of colliding balls all landing on traps and releasing yet more balls. It seemed a perfect opportunity for some OOPs coding, but I’m daunted by the idea of trying to simulate the physics of spinning balls. This calls for a simplification.
Drawing and painting
No activity to report.
I’ve offered to help Laura, the organiser of Cambourne Timebank to set up a website for the scheme, and to illustrate the scheme by taking photographs and editing a video of activities.
In conclusion, I have achieved little finished output for the first seven weeks of 2016, but I have plenty of material to work on in the coming weeks. To keep myself on track, I need a thorough review and overhaul of my Trello board dedicated to 2016: a creative year.
I’m giving 2016 a theme: a creative year. My focus for the year is to: develop creative skills.
I’n recent months, I’ve posted the results of my night photography expeditions, and I plan to continue these, branching into experiments with light painting. In addition to photography, I’m keen to extend my ukulele playing, and I’ve arranged to start in a community music workshop that meets on Saturday mornings in Duxford. I’m also looking at other creative skills: drawing, painting and coding.
Prompted by a post on the Trello blog, I’ve created a Trello board for specific goals and tasks to help me focus on developing these creative skills.
It’s not quite slit scan, but while I photographed the village duck pond on my way home from my most recent night photography expedition, I tried zooming in/out while I held the shutter open:
Thanks to the distractions of Christmas and New Year, it’s taken me a while to process the photos I took of the Christmas fun fair on Parker’s Piece, but here they are:
In my recent expedition on Sunday evening, I deliberately avoided photographing the front elevations of famous buildings, but in doing so, I’ve got a series of more or less anonymous shots that leave me feeling underwhelmed. That’s a shame because I enjoyed the experience and I intend to repeat it but there are lessons to be learned for next time (see below).
- Be ready to pack everything away discretely so I can nip into a pub to use the toilet.
- Take an umbrella to hold over the camera.
- Shallow depth of field doesn’t look good in low-light images, so use a narrow aperture.
- Take the flash gun and long cable for off-camera fill-in lighting.
- Take a torch to experiment with light-painting.
- Take more time – don’t be in a hurry to get home (see point one).
- In the darker areas, keep the shutter open on Bulb setting, and try longer exposures.
- Experiment with photographing people.
Sunday evening is still a good time to take photographs in Cambridge after dark, but because the sun set so much earlier than on my last foray, there were a lot more people in the streets. That’s not a problem, but I found myself taking a lot of shots from a low viewpoint, with my tripod set as low as it goes, so I had to keep a look out for people coming round street corners and potentially tripping over me or the tripod. Still, it meant that I chatted briefly to a few people and, by sticking mainly to the streets, rather than the river, there was more available light on this expedition, so my longest exposure was 30 seconds compared to eight minutes last time. I tried a variety of apertures this time, to see how a short depth of field looks in low light photographs, and the wider apertures, of course, reduced the exposure times. The whole trip, taking about sixty shots, was over in three hours and that was mainly because I covered a lot of streets.
I managed to take all of the shots that I’d planned, but I suspect, without having seen the others yet, that the unplanned shots are more interesting. A session of downloading and processing in Lightroom beckons.
Continuing the theme of low-light photography, I cycled to the next village to take some shots of poppies at twilight.
I’ve imported my Cambridge After Dark photos to Lightroom and processed them as required, which wasn’t much, mainly slight adjustments to the exposure, and selected a few for publishing:
That was a fun expedition, and the start I’m sure of a new hobby.
Well, that was an unexpectedly stimulating and enjoyable evening taking photographs in Cambridge. I think I feel a new project emerging: Cambridge After Dark. I’ve not downloaded the images yet so it’s too early to evaluate this initial outing. But this was only ever going to be a trial run to learn from.
So, what did I learn?
- I enjoyed it so much that I already consider it a success.
- I already knew that automatic focus doesn’t work in the dark and it’s hard to focus manually in the dark, so I shot at f22 to maximise focal length. My first few shots on AV mode were probably too dark, so I switched to bulb setting on manual mode and kept increasing the exposure times, until my final shot was 10 minutes.
- I arrived in town almost exactly at sunset, so the sky was still pale. I like the contrast with dark buildings lit by artificial light.
- Soon after I arrived, I startled a heron when I crossed a narrow wooden bridge over a stream in Newnham. It flew towards the mill pond where I saw it lurking a few minutes later in the shadows by the weir. I’ll be ready for it next time.
- There’s a shot I want to get on my next expedition of a line of gargoyle head water spouts silhouetted against the sky in Trinity Street. I think I’ll need the 300mm lens.
- I’d intended to park in The Backs but the parking bays were full. It turned out there was an open air choral concert by the river in the grounds of Trinity College. I stumbled across it by accident, catching the final few minutes. The sounds were beautiful, especially in the disappearing light, a magical experience, made even better by its unexpectedness. You won’t discover experiences like that without getting out there.
- To prevent people from accidentally bumping my tripod while the shutter was open, I stood close beside it protectively.
- I should take a back pack next time, to carry extra items, such as a jersey taken off because I was warmer than expected. Refreshments would be a good idea.
- I enjoyed it so much that I’m finding it hard to sleep tonight. Unfortunately I’m at work tomorrow. I’d much prefer a lie-in followed by a session of downloading photographs for import into Lightroom. It would be better if I could rearrange my work schedule for next time.
And that’s all for now. What more will I learn when I’ve seen the photographs?
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