Friday, 7 September 2012

Landscape 2 visits Oz

Last year we went to Switzerland for the summer and I took a summary of the exercises with me to help me find lots of interesting subjects for them. I determined not to do that this year as on reflection I feel the holiday shots eventually came to dominate my whole approach to the course – not least because they stopped me working through the exercises in a roughly linear way. However, I’d be fibbing if I suggested that while I was shooting away on this year’s holiday that I didn’t think about the exercises, so I thought I’d capture the best of those here. Another thing I’ve not done is trawl through the 1400 or so photos I brought back from Melbourne/Perth for images that would meet the needs of exercises I’ve yet to attempt – that just feels like cheating, and effectively removes any chance I have of developing as I work through the course.
A couple of Horizontal vs verticals (project 2) to kick off then:
Eureka Skydeck from Federation Square, Melbourne (i)          Eureka Skydeck from Federation Square, Melbourne (ii)
Both these shots were taken from the same seat at a coffee shop in Federation Square in the centre of Melbourne, and both were originally taken at the same focal length. With a subject as obviously vertical as the one of the tallest residential buildings in the world (and one of only 7 buildings with more than 90 storeys) you might expect that vertical framing was the obvious option, but at this distance I think the foreground is somewhat distracting. I acknowledge that I could perhaps have chosen an angle that did not include all the cafe clutter, but this is a holiday photo and I was trying to capture a sense of being there as well.  Whatever, I much prefer the horizontal composition where I have removed the street level clutter by framing and used the canopies to provide some further internal framing (they also served to blot out some of the very bright clouds and so reduce overall contrast). I also think the red/blue contrast adds something of a warm feel of the image.
Next up in this project set are two shots of Wadjemup Lighthouse on Rottnest Island – both taken at the same exposure.
Wadjemup Lighthouse, Rottnest Island, Perth (i)           Wadjemup Lighthouse, Rottnest Island, Perth (ii)
They both suffer a bit from dramatically receding verticals which were difficult to avoid because the lighthouse was on the top of a steep hill, which meant I had to angle the camera upwards quite strongly. I wanted the large bush in both so I had to step back a bit for the vertical shot, which made the verticals worse – as a result I again prefer the horizontal format despite the verticality of the prime subject. As an aside exposure was also a bit of a trick given that I had a brilliant white subject in full early pm sunlight.
Finally by way of complete contrast a pair of shots taken at Waratah Bay where the vertical component is entirely natural – a dramatic rainbow:
Rainbow over Waratah Bay, Victoria (i)        Rainbow over Waratah Bay, Victoria (ii)
This time I’m clear that I prefer the vertical composition as the horizontal version loses some of the drama by reducing the overall size of the coloured section which is the focus of the image.
Moving on to one of my favourite formats – the panorama (projects 3 and 4). The Eureka Skydeck offered an un-missable opportunity for this shot of Melbourne, built from 3 horizontal 4:3 format shots at the 14mm end of my standard zoom (28mm equiv), and covering a horizontal angle of about 120 degrees.
Melbourne from the Eureka Skydeck
I particularly like the contrast between the cathedral and the surrounding buildings and the sudden transition from the low-rise of the suburbs to the high-rise of the business district. A similar transition can be seen in these iconic (or is that cliched) shots of Perth taken from the Kaarta Gar Lookout in Kings Park. The first of these is a four shot panorama (again using horizontal 4:3 format shots) covering around 100 degrees, the second is a crop from my 7mm wide angle which I tried to get as close to the collage version as I could in terms of composition so that i could compare them directly.
Perth at night from the Kaarta Garup Lookout

Perth by night (ii)
A close inspection reveals that the collage version is slightly more ‘natural’ in terms of perspective – the large building on the left in particular is distorted in the 7mm version, and more of the foreground is included (not all of which is down to the crop). These were challenging shots because I didn’t have a tripod or a bean bag, and the fence I was using to rest the camera on was subject to erratic vibrations from the other people admiring the view. I rested the camera on folded scarf to try to minimise some of these, and overall I’m quite pleased with the result – although for the highest quality a tripod is clearly an essential. I have one more shot in the series from nearly the same viewpoint which also addresses Project 7 – Figures in Landscape.
Perth from Kaarta Gar lookout
This is another shot at 7mm which tends to increase the apparent distance of the city from the viewpoint – the distortion can be seen in the two figures on the right – but their addition adds a human touch to an otherwise impersonal shot. Even though they are tucked away in the bottom corner attention is drawn to them by the fence line, and then the tendency is to follow their eyeline to the distant city. I’m not quite sure how well this works as a composition – I can’t help feeling that despite their small size the figures are too dominant.
As we left the viewpoint we got a variety of other views of the city through the foreground planting which provided opportunities for a range of additional compositions (Project 5: Interacting subjects and Project 6: Different framing).
Perth from near Kings Park      Perth from near Kings Park
The second of these two shows very well how moving a couple of hundred yards can provide a very different feel to essentially the same view. The characteristic grey-green of Australian foliage combines with the colour of the sky and buildings to provide a cool feel to the image, and the contrast between the foreground and the background is very marked. It begins to get close to my feelings about Perth being a very modern city simply dropped into an alien Australian environment. On a related theme of interacting subjects and different framing cities give plenty of opportunities for this – as these shots of the Bank West tower in Perth and the Eureka Skydeck in Melbourne show.
Perth: Bank West Tower from corner of Hay and William Streets       Perth: Corner of Hay and William Streets (i)
Eureka Skydeck from Riverside Quay     Melbourne: Eureka Skydeck with Old Sandridge Rail Bridge in foreground     Melbourne: Eureka Skydeck from South Bank of the Yarra
Each of these has a different feel, presenting the subject in a different light, and they also make significant use of converging verticals to establish an effect. (Project 8 Using Perspective). As a final shot in this post I thought I’d add another shot from the Skydeck which stands the idea of receding verticals on its head – literally. In this last shot taking looking down from the top of the tower the verticals recede to the bottom of the picture, giving a real sense of vertigo and height to the image. It’s interesting how this seems more natuiral looking down than it does looking up.
Looking down from the Eureka Skydeck, Melbourne

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