About nickandersonphoto

A professional photographer who specialises in gundog images.

Turning my hand to professional photography

I have, in the main, enjoyed the time I have spent studying with the OCA.  I started with the aim of improving my photography to the point where I might be able to turn professional.  It seems that events have overtaken me and my sideline of photographing gundogs for fellow owners has taken up a life of its own!  I now have too much work to be able to devote the time I need to my studies.

As a result I have put my academic work to one side and am continuing to pursue my aim of becoming a full time professional.

My work can currently be found at www.facebook/nickandersonphoto and will soon be available on my website http://nickandersonphoto.smugmug.com/ as well on a new blog http://nickandersonphoto.wordpress.com/Sunset-2839

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Newseum – The Pullitzer Prize Gallery

I was in Washington DC a couple of days ago looking for the National Gallery and the Harry Callahan exhibition and came across the Newseum!  As soon as I spotted their exhibition of Pullitzer Prize winning photographs I knew that I would have to go in to take a look.

The Pullitzer prizes cover 21 categories and winners receives $10,000 and a medal.  The awards were first given 1917 having been established from the estate of Joseph Pullitzer, a wealthy Newspaper owner.  The categories featured were for Spot Photography (Breaking News) and Feature Photography.

The Newseum gallery features the largest collection of Pullitzer prize winning photographs ever assembled and includes video interviews with many of the photographers.

The Newseum itself has 7 levels of galleries and is a stunning glass and stone museum featuring the text of the 1st amendment, that is devoted to current and historical aspects of news and the media.

All around the front of the building are the front pages of daily papers taken from all around America, reminding us of the vast number of publications that are being produced.  They are of great interest to the passing public and always seemed to attract a line of readers taking a look at what was occurring around their country.

The Pullitzer prize gallery was a delightful mix of new, fascinating photographs and old friends that I have seen many times.  I spent much longer than I expected reading the stories behind the photos and watching interviews with the photographers.There were 158 pictures covering the years between 1942 and 2010 and I would love to mention every one but all I am able to cover are those which had a real impact on me.

During the Islamic Revolution that swept Ayatollah Khomeini to power the Revolutionary Guard dispensed their view of ‘justice’ in mock trials.  The sentences passed were quick and brutal.  This photograph was taken by an ‘Unknown’ Iranian news photographer but was released by a UPI staffer and went world wide.  It wasn’t until  2006 did Jahangir Razmi feel safe enough to reveal his name.  Observing the moment of death, particularly when seeing the image in a newspaper on your kitchen table has a shocking effect on us all.  The emotions that they generate have often been the catalyst that brings about change which is why they are often considered so important… right back to the image of the falling soldier taken by Capa in 1936 during the Spanish civil war.

Putting these two images of the flag, ‘Old Glory’ together is deliberate.  The juxtaposition is easy to see with one flag being honoured and cherished, and the other being used as a weapon in an attack of racial hatred.

I think the story of the flag being raised at Iwo Jima is fairly well known although not everyone will realise that it was the second time the task was performed and that the battle for the island continued on for another 31 days.  Thirty two years later Stanley Foreman captured the second image of the flag being used as a weapon by demonstrators in Boston protesting against plans to  bus black children to integrate white schools.  The innocent black man who just happened to be passing was a business man on his way to City Hall.

The emotions that pictures of this quality can evoke is amazing… for me it is one of the enduring merits of still photography.  Whist a motion picture comes and goes, the lasting visual impact of a single image can endure for a lifetime.  Here, both from 1973, the moment of child birth captured by Brian Lanker is contrasted by the well known photograph of ‘Nick’ Ut showing the aftermath of a US napalm attack on a Vietnamese village.  The naked girl, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, whose clothes have been burned from her body runs screaming towards the photographer… she survives and to this day she and the photographer have stayed in touch.  The battered Leica that Nick Ut used that day is also part of the exhibition.

1991 sees Greg Marinovicvh in Soweto, South Africa when he stumbles on a gun fight between supporters of the ANC.  A Zulu man is accused of being an Inkatha spy and is murdered during a brutal attack and Marinovich captures the awful event.  I find the task faced by news photographers in situations like this to be too enormous to imagine.  How to keep your wits about yourself when all rules of humanity have been suspended is a remarkable thing.

A much more introspective image taken by Paul Vathis shows Kennedy and Eisenhower deep in thought as they confer following the disastrous attempted invasion of Cuba by the USA, the Bay of Pigs.  The press photographers had been told to stop working but Vathis grabbed this image through the legs of a Secret Service man.  The image is beautifully composed despite being taken on the fly.

Watching the linesmen repair high voltage cables after a failure, Rocco Morabito sees one of them fall after being electrocuted.  His friend attempts to resuscitate him whilst he hangs from his harness.  Morabito takes a couple of frames and then dashes off to phone an ambulance.  When he returns he takes the winning shot and prays for the injured man.  The shout comes down, “He’s breathing!”

With 158 remarkable images to view I could have written so much more but all I have room for is a few of those which caught my eye and my imagination.  I left this exhibition with a mix of emotions, horror, excitement, awe and sober introspection.  I hugely admire the professional and amateur photographers who have managed to capture the moment that defines a year by winning this prestigious award… let alone those who win it twice!  The quality of the photographs, often taken in very arduous and emotional circumstances is quite remarkable and I am truly humbled.

There is so much more to see in this museum, I look forward to an opportunity to visit again.

Stalled!

I reckon to have been making fairly good progress with my current work but seem to have stalled.  Firstly I received my feedback on Assignment 1 and have been feeling a bit thoughtful about that.  Secondly I have been surprised by the deadline for the March formal assessment of my ‘The Art of Photography’ (TAoP) module that I completed at the end of last year.  I rushed to get off a paper guide on how to access my on-line work which I hope will have arrived in time.

My assignment feedback has reminded me that there is a lot of ancillary work that needs to be done as well as just shooting the photographs and I have been skimping on that.  Perhaps it was because I treated the assignment an a glorified exercise on workflow as it was the third similar task in a row… perhaps also I didn’t give it my best attention as it isn’t even formally assessed with the rest of the work in this module.  Either way I need to go back and improve the ‘mouth music’ a bit or no one will know what I was thinking when I shot it all.

I have also had some informal comments on my TAoP layouts from an assessor.  Apparently it is easy to loose marks when it is hard to locate important work, particularly relating our tutor’s feedback and to our ‘before and after’ thought processes concerning our assignments.  It was suggested that my workbook/blog isn’t the place for these comments and that they should be placed with the assignment itself… which in my case is on my assignment web site.  A bit late for that now and it will make me rethink my layout in the future.

What I have done is go back through my TAoP blog and add additional labels to assist in navigating the site which will hopefully aid the assessors which is all I can do at this stage but I wish that this sort of thing received wider circulation as it would have altered the way I set things up more than 2 years ago!

Vivian Maier

I wrote about this remarkable photographer,  the amazing story of her life and subsequent discovery in my TAoP blog here – Vivian Maier.  Her popularity has continued to grow and, like many photographers interested in street photography, I continue to look out for examples of her work.

The discoverer of her negatives, John Maloof, has published a selection of her work in a volume which is reviewed in foto8 here.  The first print was out in November and was sold out very quickly, copies going for several hundred US$.  Although still an expensive hardback I can’t wait to get a chance to look through a copy and will be keeping my eyes open for one the next time I get to New York.

Exposure explained

I have recently been a little vocal about some of the limitations of our study notes but there is no point floundering in ignorance.  I have discovered Michael Freeman’s book Perfect Exposure which amplifies and makes clear the concepts and exercises that I have been puzzling over.  I was a little disappointed that this book wasn’t listed in the Reading and Resource Appendix of our notes as a suggestion for further reading as it would appear that it is the basis for some of our notes.  Certainly, the book describes in much more detail the technical and practical aspects of exposure, noise, hightlight clipping, rolloff and scene dynamic range than the course material does.

With everything that I was previously dismissing as ‘too hard’ now explained, I realise that many of the limitations of our course notes are down to the efforts made to précis them from a much clearer and more detailed source.  The same was true of parts of The Art of Photography where I and several other students found that reading Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye gave us the understanding we needed to get past areas of the course notes that were far from clear.

I think that any conscientious student, keen to learn and fill in the gaps in their understanding would be happy to resort to extra curricular reading but not in order to make sense of core knowledge.  In this area, our course study material should be adequate… its not like we have them as a back up to a lecture or class where we can listen to and question a tutor.  They are the bedrock of our efforts to comprehend and learn and should fulfil all our needs.  In this respect they are, at the moment, lacking.

So, what of Perfect Exposure?  The book is brilliant.  Far from being too deep or technical, I am finding that it is really hitting the spot to satisfy my need for a full and clear explanation of the problems associated with digital imaging.  I would go as far as to suggest that it becomes required reading for any student of DPP.  The only drawback I have found is that having purchased it as a Kindle digital ebook I would have been better off waiting for a paper copy which has many advantages over the iPad version… quicker to access, find sections, leaf through etc.

Exercise: Your camera’s dynamic range

I have been going on about this exercise in various forums and now have to write about it.  I am going to give it my best shot but I am still not sure of the correct interpretation of the notes.

This exercise gives us a practical and empirical way to discover the dynamic range of our own cameras.

In order to do this we need a subject that itself covers the entire range of light from bright white to dark shadow.  It is suggested that we place a piece of white card into the image to get the bright end of the scale but since I was shooting a white building it that was not required.  Having shot the photograph, exposure reading were required from a few areas, in particular the lightest and darkest areas with a few in between.

My image is below:

The image has the exposure readings from my notes appended and it can be seen that from the brightest area, the white columns to the darkest area, a black window in hard shadow, there is a difference of 8 stops.  Whilst the measurements I took may seem a bit random and it might have been easier sticking to one aperture and showing the change in speed it doesn’t invalidate the readings.  I used a simple on-line calculator to input the various exposure settings and get the stop differences (rounded to the nearest whole number).

So from this example it would seem that the dynamic range of my camera is 8 stops… a little low for a high end SLR (Canon 5DII) so I must examine why.  My thoughts are that although the building is a bright white it isn’t pure white and the stone is matt which will reduce its light reflecting quality; this would probably be worth 1 stop of light value.  In addition, there weren’t any truly black areas as even a black window in shadow is going to receive reflected light from the surrounds and the shiny ground and this would be worth 1 more stop of light.  In the dark areas I had no difficult in raising the brightness to examine the detail which makes me think that I wasn’t completely at the limits of the available dynamic range.

Having a rant!

Perhaps I got out of the wrong side of my bed this morning.

This is a degree course isn’t it?  Our tutors are all well above our level of skills and academic achievement and the author of our notes is presumably more than a level or two above that?

Then why the hell don’t the notes make sense?

This really gets me down.

I previously bleated to my fellow students that I couldn’t understand the exercise ‘Sensor linear capture’ because when the notes said that the tones were squashed right on the histogram, mine where squashed left.  And when the notes said ‘brighter’ my efforts became darker!  Well I was told by my tutor and several other students that the notes were wrong in this case!  Wrong!  You bet… 180º out you mean.  I’m sorry Captain Scott, we have been going North instead of South so no wonder the Norwegians beat us to the pole!

Now I am faced with paragraphs of gobble-de-gook in the exercise ‘Your camera’s dynamic range’ and I am spending more time trying to sort it out than the whole exercise should take!

Of course I might be wrong and I might have to take it all back when someone sensible explains it all to me but in the mean time I want to shout from the roof tops, “Who wrote this, who proofed this and did anyone actually try these exercises out for real before they were palmed off on us?”