Part three : Traces of Time…
Project 3 : ‘What matters is to look’
This section is all about observational skills and an introduction to the decisive moment.
Brief – Part 1:
What do the time frames of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual film camera, open up the camera back (without film loaded) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.
I couldn’t carry out this exercise immediately when it came up in the course as I did not have access to a manual film camera. In September however, I felt brave enough to make a purchase and am now covering this exercise for my Learning Log.
Obviously I had no idea what I needed to get by way of a manual film camera so I searched Ebay to see what I could find and decided upon a Fujica compact 35 Classic Vintage 1960s 35mm Automatic Retro Film camera for £32.98. I still have no idea what I have bought but it enabled me to carry out this exercise.
I first got myself familiar with the anatomy of the camera. With the lens facing away from me the controls / camera features are (you will not find any technical terms here):
- left side is the back release button – flick it up to release the back. Close the back and it automatically locks;
- on the top left is a circular control which has an arm that lifts up so you can turn a spindle inside the camera. This spindle is what the film spool is loaded onto. To load a film you pull this part up, put the film in and then push it back down;
- on the top right is the shutter release button and the winder. The winder winds the film on to the next frame once the shutter release button has been depressed i.e. an image captured. The shutter release button cannot be pressed twice in one frame;
- back top right there are two reminder dials; the first is set to show the number of exposures your film has and the other to show the ISO of the film;
- on the underneath there is an exposure counter to tell you how many exposures you have taken and a film release button which disengages the winding mechanism to allow the film to be wound back in to the spool ready for processing;
- the lens on the front has three functions; automatic exposure, manual exposure and manual focus. The manual exposure settings allow shutter speed and aperture to be changed. The manual focus has four settings; close up (face), portrait (head and body), groups(multiple subjects) and landscape (off in the distance).
- inside the camera there is a left spindle, film exposure chamber (middle) and a right spindle on which you load the film.
And so back to the exercise in hand:
Note: it’s important not to put your eye right into the camera which is what I tried to do initially (you cannot see anything useful!), instead your eye needs to be further back to allow your eye to focus through the lens. I worked this out by using the camera’s ‘bulb’ setting.
That done I set the camera to the largest aperture f/2.8 and the slowest shutter speed 1/30 sec. I aimed my camera at the windows of my neighbour’s house over the road. They were easily recognisable through the lens when the shutter release was pressed so this was a good start.
I kept the aperture at f/2.8 and moved to a 1/60 sec. shutter speed and found the image was not as easy to see but still recognisable.
Next 1/125 sec. I found I could just still see the windows but had to hold the camera a little further away from my eyes to see anything through the lens.
By 1/250 sec. I was unable to see anything recognisable.
I then moved on to the smallest aperture f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/30 sec. This aperture made it very difficult for anything to be recognisable as the hole to look through was so small. So I decided to conclude this part of the exercise.
I personally found it easy to see a scene with a larger aperture f/2.8 and upto a 1/125 sec shutter speed.
Brief – Part 2:
Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.
I wasn’t really sure what the point of this part of the exercise was; to assess depth of field? or the focus point of my eyes (including peripheral vision) compared to what could be captured by the camera?
I started by looking down at the ramp with its lined textured steel grating. This meant everything further on in the scene was out of focus, in my peripheral vision. My eyes then followed the metal hand rails into the mid-ground.
In the mid-ground a clump of people were pretty easy to see the faces of. Once focused on them though the building in the background and the ramp at my feet became out of focus. This throng of people then led my eye further into the scene.
I became aware of the claustrophobic feeling of the people enclosed either side by the buildings. And that the imposing building of St Paul’s in the distance, appeared to look over the people ho were trailing towards it. When you look at St Paul’s the buildings at the sides are in your peripheral vision and therefore not in focus.
Either way I concluded that a camera can capture a whole scene with a consistent focus, and it is only when a scene is in a photograph (flat 2D form) that your eyes can see the whole scene easily. In reality this is not achievable with your eyes because of your peripheral vision which gives you depth perception and allows us to move around our 3D world. I note that my eyes can detect a wider scene than my camera can.
Here is my image:
This concludes my thoughts on Exercise 3.3.