Category: ASSIGNMENT 1

Square Mile Revisited – Gara’s Round: A Guide for Dogs

Further to my last post on the Square Mile assignment, coming back to the trough in the original final set, the thought is growing that it might be enlightening to reshoot the walk again from the viewpoint of the dog, about a foot off the ground.  Not good for my back perhaps but  thought provoking!  It was certainly a more enjoyable shoot, leading to some puzzled looks from neighbours and particular interest from one very curious black lab! As at least an experiment here are some trial shots to see if the concept could work – a contact sheet with all of the shots and a final set of six images.

This set does not by any means cover the whole walk, indeed no more than about a third, but nevertheless enough to give a flavour.

Dogs see the world differently from humans and while we evidently know quite a lot about how dogs see we do not know exactly what they actually see.  What I have therefore done with this set is to give an impression of what it seems to me their world might look like.

Four aspects of dog vision are important here.  They have a wider field of vision, about 250 degrees, as opposed to 190 for us.  Their binocular overlap is though much more limited at just 75 degrees, and for most dogs their visual acuity is limited to no more than 20 feet.  Also, whilst they do not as popularly thought see only in black and white, they are nevertheless effectively red/green colour-blind.  (See, for example, www.servicedogcentral.org/content/node/391.)

I estimate that dogs’ binocular overlap equates roughly to a lens set at 28mm focal length.  I did not feel though that this gives a result that is sufficiently different from what the human eye would see.  Therefore, allowing for dogs’ generally wider field of vision, I have taken the shots at 18mm, allowing the wide angle and low view point to create a more “alien” view.

To reflect the lesser acuity I have gone for a shallow depth of field, setting aperture at f/4.  This is probably an exaggeration but again helps to make more of a contrast with human sight.

To deal with the limited colour vision I have simply reduced the red and green colour saturation to zero in Photoshop.  The overall effect is much greyer than is natural to us, and what appears green is effectively no more than the combination of yellow and blue light, which dogs apparently see particularly well.

(All shots were taken in Aperture Priority, ISO 100, AWB set for daylight.)

Does it work?  Yes, I think so.  My tutor has encouraged me to be more adventurous with camera angles and I hope this goes at least some way towards that!  Certainly the more radical points of view make for images that are striking and that I feel are capable of standing in their own right divorced from the set as a whole.

I chose this particular set because of the specific impact that I feel each has.  I could though easily have chosen a different group of images that would have been equally as valid and worthy of being put forward to represent the whole.

Whereas the original set was designed to act as a visual guide through the walk what I wanted to do this time is to focus mostly on points of interest to a dog – all places that my dog pays particular attention to.  The verticals are all significant for reasons I am sure I do not need to spell out!  This focus does make it harder to establish the route and a sense of progression visually but there are still hints of that, it is just that the next stopping sites along the route are less immediately obvious.  To create the same sense of continuity as with the human eye view it would be necessary to take significantly more photos, probably every few metres.

The only thing that is missing, and is of course all the more important from a canine point of view, is scent and have no idea how it might be possible photographically to even start to represent that sense!

 

Square Mile Revisited

Having received feedback from my tutor I am revisiting certain aspects of this project.  I am still happy with the outcome so far but there are a number of other possibilities that are worth exploring  before moving on.

Flow

One of the things I was keen to achieve was a sense of continuity throughout the images so that each contains within it the location from which the next shot was taken.  What I want to do now is look again at the final fifty images and put together another final set that works with this particular approach.  Obviously they cannot show the full walk but can at least lead through a short part of it.

The walk and nothing but the walk

One approach that I explicitly rejected from the outset was to include any views along the walk that did not lead the viewer through it.  I feared they would act as distractions.  (Indeed some of the original shots were rejected from the final set because they did not keep up the momentum or flow of the walk and could even create some confusion about the way to go next.)  Nevertheless, slightly perversely, I did include  a shot of the water trough from which my dog, Gara, habitually drinks when out on this walk, justifying the decision to do so on the basis of its significance to him.  Having achieved the primary aim of the project I do now think that this might well be an approach that is worth opening up and examining further.  Two particular strategies occur to me now.

One, that I have already thought about as a possibility, is to include other sites off the line of the walk itself that in some way noteworthy or which catch the eye.  This is perhaps something to come back to later.

The other would be to explore a whole different set of camera angles.  The only shot in the final set that deviates significantly from this is “Old Ridley”.  I should explain that this was largely accidental.  The angle of this shot was dictated partly by an awkward turning but more by the location and height of the sun.  The view that I really wanted, a more straightforward and direct view, would have necessitated shooting directly into the sun and would have been very difficult to pull off.  Because of time constraints, as this point is at the furthest extent of the walk, I did not get back to reshoot in different light conditions that might have made my primary aim easier.  Despite not fitting completely with the approach for all the other shots I nevertheless decided to include this one as it is in itself a striking shot, and more mundanely, is an important waypoint along the route.   Taking this further though it might be interesting to approach certain parts of the route again but from differing camera angles.  I will address this in a separate post.

All for one or one for all?

I have observed that I feel the photos chosen for the final set work better as a set than as individual images.  Are there though any that I would say do stand alone?  “Old Ridley”, on reflection, does.  What others?  Here are some thoughts:

 

On reflection it seems to me that a further selection of images such as the one above could also easily stand as a set representing the project as a whole.  Although it does not create the same sense of flow as the original set it nevertheless does, I feel, have a certain consistency and can still give a sense of the walk as a whole, albeit perhaps a more impressionistic one.  No doubt different criteria could be applied to photos within the original full set to give yet more, equally valid, impressions of aspects of the whole walk.  Similarly I think I could put together other sets of images that do in fact have some merit in their own right and that my initial judgment was perhaps a little too harsh.

Assignment One: Square Mile – Final set and reflection

Too many photos!

I have now sorted and organised a set of images to represent my walk.  Somewhat alarmingly I find that this takes up fifty photos (an average of one every hundred feet or so!), all of which are in the following contact sheets:

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At one level this is clearly too much but the number is perhaps inevitable given what I wanted to achieve.  To be able to represent the entirety of the chosen walk, and bearing in mind it is a mile or so long, it needs a significant number of pictures in order to make it flow.  Apart from what I might call the ‘vignettes’ (for example the street signs) each image contains within it the point from which the next shot was taken.  This creates a thread that runs through the whole set and binds it together.  Whilst it is not virtual reality this seems to me to make the set more immersive  and to lead your eye, and perhaps your mind’s eye, through the walk.  The photos effectively act as a map or a guide with which you could find your way if you were physically present.

This number is though clearly far too big to fit the brief and the requirement for a set of six to twelve images.  Distilling this full set down to a more acceptable size has been quite difficult.  It is particularly hard to maintain the sense of flow and coherence that the full set offers.  Nevertheless the final eleven that I have chosen do still, I think, give some sense of the character of the walk:

Well Road

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Batt House Road

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The lower ford

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Out of the valley

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Old Ridley

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Ridley Old Hall

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Into the woods

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The 1928 bridge

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The bottom of the Scaur

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Up the Scaur

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Home

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Final reflection

To an extent I feel that the project has been a success.  Taken individually I do not think that there are any great photographs in their own right.  However as a group I feel they do succeed in portraying the walk.  What I think has been particularly important in this regard is the use of leading lines to draw you into the frame and on to the next waypoint.  Fortunately the roads, paths, fences, hedges and walls have made this relatively easy.

Would I do anything differently if I approached this project again?  Having made such a full set, probably yes.  I would perhaps concentrate on just a few elements of the walk to bring out its particular characteristics and ‘flavour’, rather than trying to be comprehensive and literal.  One of the things that this set lacks is the surrounding scenery and topography (to avoid distraction from the primary aim of the set) but there are places along the walk that could be of interest in their own right, such as the burn that crosses the road a couple of times and a number of old buildings (including a water-mill that possibly dates back to the seventeenth century).

There are of course also lots of other ways I could depict my Square Mile but for now I am reasonably happy with what I have achieved with this particular project.

Assignment One: Square Mile – First images & contact sheets

Following my last post I have now processed and sorted all of the photos that I took for this assignment.  In all I took more than 150 shots – it is amazing how they mount up – over the three shoots.  A few images were taken before the main shoot to try to capture the road directly in front of my house without neighbours’ parked cars.  As it turned out the road was in any event clear on the day of the main shoot so these earlier shots were not in the end needed.  In any event, because of significantly different light conditions compared with the day of the main shoot I would not be using any of these images in any event as they do not fit in with the rest.

As explained in the last post a few of the pictures from the main shoot were reshot later on the same day to taken advantage of more suitable light conditions.  By and large these have worked and will be used in the final set.

A handful of pictures I have rejected out of hand as they were clearly mistakes, mostly taken with the wrong focal length – 18mm which is the widest setting on my standard zoom lens, obviously as a result of having failed to check the setting before shooting!  I have otherwise sorted out those shot at 35mm from those at 50mm and complied two sets of contact sheets.  As I surmised in my last post the 35mm set do not really add anything so I will not be using them in the final set.  I nevertheless include them for now for the sake of completeness.

For now I have not processed any of the photographs through any of the programs I sometimes use (Digital Camera Raw, Photoshop, and DxO Optics Pro) so they are still “warts and all”.  Generally speaking, other than cropping to tighten and tidy up an image, adjusting White Balance, or dealing with any serious over- or under-exposure, I prefer not to manipulate images using these programs.  As far as possible I just try to get everything right in camera from the outset.

Unfortunately I have been having problems with Photoshop in producing the contact sheets.  For some reason the program has become unreliably unstable and has resulted, for some reason, in the contact sheets coming out a bit disordered, so the images do not always appear either in the order they were shot nor in the order I want them to be in in order to show the sequence of the walk (this is though something that I can fix for the final set where getting the sequence right is crucial).

35mm contact sheets:

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50mm contact sheets:

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