alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘black and white’ category

Roses by the window – inspired by Josef Sudek

Recently I came across an image I had taken back in 2014 of a bunch of roses in a vase. They were on a window sill with rain drops on the window glass. I remember taking the shot with a large aperture opening to give me a narrow depth of field. Only one rose is truly in focus, so the overall effect is quite soft, but this works for me.

 

Roses by the window

 

When making this image I was reminded and influenced by the work by Josef Sudek. I particularly enjoy and admire his photography and his creative use of light in an image. A Czech photographer, he was born in 1896 and spent most of his life in Prague. He died in 1976. A year or so ago I was given a book of his work called ‘ Josef Sudek – Legacy of a Deeper Vision’. A beautifully produced book with many fine plates of his photography. (See a picture of the front cover below).

 

 

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I was first drawn to his work when I saw his pictures of St Vitus Cathedral in Prague and later I enjoyed a series of photographs taken from the inside his studio which he called ‘The Window of my Atelier’. Condensation on the inside of the window or rain drops on the outside would often be a feature of this work. He would also make images of simple objects he had in his studio, an empty glass, an egg or a small vase of flowers. They were sometimes placed on a window sill and making the most of the light he would produce some very effective and almost ‘poetic’ photographs. He unquestionably made the best use of his immediate surroundings.

I have included a pictures of a couple of plates from the book, by way of examples of his work.

 

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I seem to be spending a fair amount of time at the moment considering a variety of projects which I think could prove interesting. I already have my Churches Project underway and this will continue, but there are a number of others that could well occupy my time in the months ahead. As part of this period of consideration and planning, I like to study the work of other artists and photographers. This can be beneficial in a number of ways. It can certainly inspire, influence and be thought provoking; all of which can only aid creativity and help define the path ahead.

From all of this it would appear my approach to photography is going through a contemplative stage. I believe it’s all part of an ongoing process which aids the development of your own style and vision. What might be a good idea today, is often challenged by a counter thought the next – and so the process unfolds until the original concept is either scrapped or possibly pursued to a conclusion. With nothing decided it can be a little frustrating at times, particularly when the outlook is less than clear, but ultimately I think the results of this planning stage will prove rewarding.

You can see more of Sudek’s photographs by clicking on this link to my Pinterest board of his work

Out of the shadow – seizing the moment

Out of the shadow

Out of the shadow

 

I don’t regard myself as a street photographer but I do think of myself as an opportunist. With only my iPhone to hand, I was out and about and spotted the stark contrast between what I considered to be an interesting wall, with its mixture of windows and drain pipes, and the deep shadow cast by a building on my side of the road. I found it appealing but the missing ingredient was a person walking in front of the partly obscured window. I didn’t have to wait very long before a woman approached the scene, pulling a shopping trolley and with her head well wrapped in a head scarf. iPhone at the ready and the shot was taken.

The image was processed in Silver Efex Pro. I further accentuated the shadow, added some grain, and a border which I very rarely do, but I felt it suited this particular photograph.

An iPhone is a great street camera. Everyone these days seems to have a mobile phone in their hand on an almost permanent basis and if they aren’t looking at the screen, you know it will not be very long before they next do so. In essence they are totally unobtrusive and nobody knows you are taking a photograph with a smartphone because they are so prolific. They are virtually silent in operation and you could just as easily be texting your best friend and not taking a photograph at all.

So whilst for me a phone will never replace my camera, they do allow you to seize the moment when the opportunity presents itself.

‘If music be the food of love’ – The Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia

 

Earlier this year I joined a local Art Society as both my wife and I are interested in most forms of art, in fact anything of a creative nature. At the first meeting I attended I was approached by the Secretary of the Society and was asked if I would be willing to photograph a concert by the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia. She is one of the musicians and had heard I was a photographer. It was to take place at The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Rowner, Gosport on Valentines Day. They needed to update their website with new some new images, so I happily volunteered my services. I had not attempted anything like this before but I am always up for a challenge!

 

 

I didn’t quite know what to expect but I was informed that I could take photographs during the rehearsal as well as during the concert itself. I would though need to be very quiet and discreet, so as not to distract the musicians and more importantly the paying audience.

 

 

I very much enjoy listening to classical music, particularly when it is heard live in a church building with wonderful acoustics. I do though have to admit that I am rather ignorant of orchestras and their musical instruments, so I was rather surprised to find such a variety of recorders being played. They included, Sopranino – Descants I and II, Trebles I and II, Tenors I and II, Basses I and II, Great Basses and Contrabasses. In total the Sinfonia had thirty two musicians who were all led by Christopher Burgess the Musical Director.

 

 

They played music by Gustav Holst, Giovanni Gabrielli, Manning Sherwin, Edvard Greig and other composers. The sound was very special but it was almost impossible to fully appreciate the music and concentrate on taking photographs at the same time.

 

 

This is just a small selection of the photographs I took that afternoon. I wanted to capture not just the musicians, but also a sense of the place in which the music was being played. I was asked to provide both colour and black and white versions of each image. However for the purposes of this entry I have processed the photographs slightly differently to those I provided. This is my personal interpretation of the concert, whereas the monochrome images they were given had no toning, and were straight black and white conversions.

 

 

I very much enjoyed the experience and trust I have captured something of the musicians, the venue and the event itself. For more information about the Hampshire Recorder Sinfonia please visit their website by clicking here.

 

 

Do click on any of the pictures to see a larger version which will open in a new window.

An eye for detail – just one reason why I love the Leica Monochrom

I have now been using a Leica M Monochrom for eighteen months or so and there are many reasons why I have grown to love this camera. It was a fairly steep learning curve switching to a camera which has no colour sensor – each pixel only records luminance resulting in a black and white file with any number of shades of grey in between.

The fact it is rangefinder with its split frame manual focusing mechanism was an added hurdle for me to get over. Initially it was difficult enough to focus a still subject let alone a moving one, as is the case here. Even more challenging when using the 50mm Summilux f1.4 nearly wide open. The depth of field is so narrow I would be the first to say that a little bit of lady luck is required to get the main subject of the picture in sharp focus. When it happens though, you can jump for joy because the level of detail captured is quite extraordinary.

I very much doubt this image would win any prizes and I have used it simply to illustrate a particular point; and that is quite simply the level of detail or resolution captured by this camera.

For reference the final image (at the bottom of this post) is a fairly mild square crop of the original RAW file which has been processed in Lightroom 5. There are some adjustments but principally the addition of contrast, clarity and a tone for effect, but no sharpening. I repeat no sharpening.

The original image is shown below with just the processing applied and no crop.

 

Un-cropped image

 

Next is a much more detailed crop. You can now see the exceptional level of detail captured by the Leica Monochrom.

 

A tight crop

 

If you are yet to be impressed, below is an even tighter crop. The number of eyelashes can almost be counted and if you look closely veins are visible in the eye itself. If nothing else this image confirms my good fortune when I focused on the eye.

 

An even tighter crop

 

And by way of a reminder the final image which is how I imagined the picture might look when I pressed the shutter. I knew I wanted the eye to be at the centre of the viewers attention, but the photograph also needed to include part of the leather harness to add context and another element of interest. The harness also confirms you are looking at the horse’s head in profile and not straight on.

 

The finished photograph

 

As I said at the outset there are many reasons why I love this camera. It can be a frustrating and quirky tool at times, but get to know its ways, and I defy any photographer not to be impressed by the quality of file it can deliver when coupled with an equally exceptional fast Leica lens. It has a purity and a simplicity to its operation which places the photographer in complete control. You need to consider every step, every setting but the rewards are more than worthwhile.

I would strongly urge you to click on each image to view a larger version. This post is all about ‘detail’ and it’s only by looking at a bigger version that you will truly appreciate the output of the Leica Monochrom. 

Land sailor at East Head

Land sailor

 

In my last post ‘Low tide at East Head’ I included a variety coastal images – I guess they were the ones I anticipated I might be taking before I left home and set off for the coast. What I didn’t envisage capturing was this shot of a land sailor backlit by the late afternoon sun. The sand flats at East Head provide large areas of beach ideal for this exhilarating sport. There wasn’t much wind, just enough to move the craft from east to west along the shoreline and back again. I had to take a number of shots to make sure that I had the sail  in line with setting sun, throwing the sailor into silhouette.

Do click on the image to view a larger and therefore more detailed version. This will open in a new window.