alan frost photography

in monochrome with occasional colour lapses

Posts from the ‘monochrome’ category

“Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” – Henri Cartier-Bresson

 

There are many quotes attributed to Henri Cartier-Bresson, one of them being that – “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept”. With this image I have taken his saying quite literally. To an extreme in fact because there is absolutely nothing sharp or in focus anywhere in the frame. As a consequence this picture is sure to divide opinion.

When I took the shot I quite deliberatly adjusted the focus ring to give me an out of focus image. It was also shot with a wide aperture opening to minimise the depth of field, further ensuring a blurred image. The light was reasonably good and with a maximum shutter speed on my camera of 1/4000th of a second, I had to use a 3 stop ND filter to avoid blown highlights. In processing I added grain, a vignette and split toned the image.

Ignoring the complete lack of any sharpness the viewer can still discern a man, virtually a silhouette, standing on the beach watching his dog standing in the water. The ripples of the sea along the foreshore and the distant land mass on the horizon provide a sense of depth, and the placement of the man and his dog on the intersection of the thirds gives balance to the overall composition. There is also a triangle which is formed from the man’s head, out to the dog and back to the man’s feet.

I know this is what might be described as a ‘marmite’ shot – you either love it or hate it. Or perhaps you simply can’t understand why the photographer couldn’t at the very least focus his camera properly!

So does this image appeal to the viewer or is it quickly rejected for being technically poor because nothing is sharp, even though that was my intention at the outset? Does this very soft image portray a mood or feeling which would be non existent if the image had been sharp from front to back? There are so many questions and in my view there are no right or wrong answers. It’s my creative vision of a simple scene – one man and his dog, alone on the shoreline…..and the rest is down to your interpretation and imagination.

As always your comments and thoughts on this post would be most welcome.

 

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. 

Snowdonia – A new gallery page

It’s hard to believe that three months have passed since I visited Snowdonia. I had a great time and after a lot of processing, curating and ten blog entries later, I have now put together a gallery page of what I consider to be my favourite images. The ones that take me straight back to a particular location. I can remember the time of day, the weather conditions and what I was trying to achieve when I took the shot. The gallery is here.

 

 

Pressing the shutter doesn’t work every time, far from it in fact, and my ‘keeper rate’ is probably no better than 1 in 50, but I am very happy with that. Sometimes the light wouldn’t be right, or the image would be badly composed or out of focus. Inevitably there would be many occasions when I didn’t select the correct camera settings, or quite simply I was trying to take a photograph when a good image never existed in the first place. But that’s the joy of photography.

I believe that each time you press the shutter you should learn something from the experience. That way I learn more from the ones I didn’t get right, as opposed to the ones that eventually find their way to the printer or onto this blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have included some new images in this entry but the gallery itself is made up of 39 photographs, so do click here to visit the Snowdonia Gallery page.

I do hope to have the opportunity to return to Snowdonia later this year. It’s an inspiring and beautiful place for any visitor, let alone a photographer. The changing light and dramatic scenery are very special indeed.

Last but not least I would like to extend a big thank you to fellow WordPress blogger Andy Beal FRPS for organising and hosting an excellent and instructive workshop. To David Mills ARPS for his extensive knowledge of the area, and finally to the other participants for their company and good humour. Together we had a lot of fun and a week of photograph to remember.


If you want to visit any of the previous blog entries I have added all the links below, together with a thumbnail image to whet your appetite.

Llyn Gwynant

Snowdonia – It’s all about the light

Tryfan

Tryfan – a majestic mountain in Snowdonia

Sunlit fern

Creative use of depth of field in Snowdonia

Burning mist

The appeal of ‘light on dark’ in Snowdonia

Early morning in Snowdonia – with or without a tripod?

Old road

The old A5 – Nant Ffrancon valley in Snowdonia

Mist and missing Capel Curig – Happy New Year!

Dinorwic slate quarry – a harsh and inhospitable place.

Cwmorthin slate quarry in Snowdonia – the lower section

Cwmorthin slate quarry in Snowdonia – the upper section

 

 

Trees in the mist – an opportunity taken

It’s not very often that I am out and about with my camera when it’s misty. This may be because we don’t seem to experience these conditions very often. Alternatively it could just be that I am too lazy to get up early enough to take some shots, and before the rising sun has had a chance to mess things up!

 

 

A few days ago we had a lot of rain and after a cold, dry and still night I was hoping that we might get some mist the following morning. We did, and for once I was mentally prepared. My wife and I, together with our dog, went out for a walk and I had my camera. One camera, my Monochrom; just my 50mm Summilux prime lens to keep it simple, and these are the images I was able to make. I hope you like them.

 

 

 

 

 

To view a larger version, just click on an image and it will open in a new window.

Cwmorthin slate quarry in Snowdonia – the upper section

20151031-L1000243

 

My last post gave a description of Cwmorthin slate quarry and included a number of photographs all taken in the lower section of the valley. You can read this entry here. The upper section is reached from the valley by walking up a fairly steep and long path, but it is well worth the effort. Here there are the remains of more buildings, old machinery and large pieces of slate, set into the ground like tombstones; memorials for the miners who once worked here and gave their lives to this dangerous industry.

 

20151031-L1000300

 

20151031-L1000287

 

20151031-L1000264-Edit

 

20151031-L1000279

 

A note about processing – This post and the one before it, have a total of ten images all were taken on the same day in similar light and depict the harsh and rather bleak environment of Cwmorthin slate quarry. When grouping images such as these together, I recognise the importance of consistent processing to produce a harmonious set of images. However these photographs were not all processed at the same time. Some were done many weeks ago, others more recently to complete the set. Initially there was a lack of consistency in my approach. I had not used a particular preset, so I found it more difficult to achieve the look I wanted. Having compared and then tweaked all the images, I finally applied a split tone, as I felt this was warranted. In my view it would add something to the look and feel of the photographs, with the aim of reflecting the atmosphere of the location.