Assignment 1: The Square Mile, brief and preliminary ideas


Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile? Use this as an opportunity to take as fresh and experimental look at your surroundins. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you. You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further (Welsh cultural concept translated as “The Square Mile” meaning an intimate connection between people and their childhood ‘home’ surroundings);

6-12 thematically linked shots taken within a square mile of my abode; capturing my style, personality, and with a touch of experimentation; with some brief comments about why and how each picture was done, and a 500 word mini essay covering the processes and thoughts behind the project’s outcome and further development. The photos should compliment each other and collectively comunicate my idea(s). This should also be used as a way of introducing yourself to the tutor.


Preliminary Ideas

1) Use first letter of each word in the title of the task; worked ok at first but got a little complicated due to me flaffing around with contorted tenuous connections (contrived even; managed to hone it down to simple word connections like THE: Toast Hot Eat, but that felt ever so silly. Why? Well, as I said above, I felt that that was just me looking into it too much and maybe not letting the ideas flow out; thinking it over too much – trying to be clever. Not sure.
Scrapped anyway.
Remembering what the rubic said about keeping it simple (but pushing yourself in a new direction?)

Have no idea how to pronounce “Y FILLTER SGWAR”, however “Why filter a square?” popped into my head and I went with the idea of photographing different squares with/without the use of filters (added by me physically and also digitally in post). Quirky and sweet, I thought. I haven’t totally let this idea go just yet and have made some sketches in my notebook. I really like the idea of juxtoposing (had to use it!) language with image and I believe that this could be developed into a fairly effective idea. Would like to get this into a large composition made up of square crops which would form a large square in itself.

3) One day in the Life of Kev
So, here, I am thinking about creating a photo sequence of moments throughout a typical day in the life of me. I am SO original. Would like to add some arty archi-abtract stuff and macros (totally me) which should be tastefully and hopefully smoothly intergrated into a cohesive, relevant whole.
Hopefully.I am also (thinking of the above “try sth new” bit) hoping to put some more spontaneous shots in; something I don’t do so much with the more archi-abtract shadows and graphic world I live in so often, so looking to develop that idea; some happy spontaneities; happenstance without being totally irrelevant to the brief/task/objectives.



Pre-task observations based on Idea 3 above:  A Day in The Life

Moping around the house doing household chores struck me as a ridiculously bland idea to try and capture. However, on second thoughts it seems like a perfect introduction to me, myself and my photography, apart from the fact that it fits the criteria of “trying something new” and not “sticking with what you think you are most successful at” too, as well as being something with which the viewer (at least from a western perspective) should hopefully be able to feel involved in, and relate to on a personal level.

Would like to give this mini project a weird crescendo colour effect [sic] – I’m thinking starting off with BW emphasizing the fact that I am still half asleep and then slowly (exponentially?) growing in vibrancy. Seems to be ok so far… No, not actually going to go with the faded shot to full colour. It’s one or the other for me: B/W or colour.
Yep, I’m going with the colour (although I am looking forward to seeing how it looks in BW too). I am also thinking that this would be more striking visually using a square crop on the final shots and then presenting them (printed) in a large square composition. Yeah, ok, I do seem ever so slightly biased towards the divine equilateral and equiangular parallelagram. Is that a hindrance? A limitation? Would be with any landscape shots I include here, or rather, could be, I suppose. Maybe I should stop thinking of the purely compositional aspect of my photography?
I am getting a distinctly cramped or claustrophobic feel from these preliminary shots, should I try a nice wide angle (which I haven’t really got) for the night shot (shot 10)? Open the view outwards a little?
That will be difficult as I would like to use prime lenses with this as I want an intimate shallow DoF to focus on the subject selected in each photo: I want the subject to emphasize itself (and its presupposed intimacy with the viewer) as the stroyteller within each photo.



Equipment used

Olympus OM-D E-M10 (MkI)
Olympus Zuiko 50mm F/1.8 (with OM-M4/3 adaptor; Eq 100m)
Olympus 14-42mm (28-85mm Eq) and 40-150mm zooms (80-300mm Eq)
Fujian 25mm F/1.4 with C-mount to M4/3 adaptor



Preliminary shots and commentary



Toast at 08.03. (1/80 sec at F/1.8, ISO 250, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)

Nice morning light on the kitchen table, thought that it would look good through the Olympus 50mm (100mm on the E-M10), thanks to the shallow DoF. I think it does. (Would really like to use a blurry half asleep shot here…nice macro even?)


Shaver (1/13 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 1000, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)

Nice tidy shot of the lead hanging down from the plug in the socket: practical, slightly rigid (tight?) framing. Didn’t really like the wonkier (more natural?) version as it seemed too sloppy on my part (and was underexposed); Maybe what I should go with seeing as this is supposed to be slightly experimental, right? Maybe.
Maybe not.



Dustpan and Brush
 (1/25sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)

Did a couple of shots of this one; firstly focused on the handle, but found it to be too lost in the bokeh, so to speak; preferred the shot focused on the base of the pan (and broom head) as it captures the whole point of the shot which, for me, was showing that I was routinely cleaning up as part of the theme I had selected. Liked the broom head angle bringing some dynamics into the shot, and challenging the strong curve of the blue pan; the blurred handle made this less of a claustrophobic shot: a little splash of blur to spoil the red and blue dominance here, I reckon. (PS Life is colourful but often dirty too?)



 (1/6 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm F/2.8 with Raynox 250
Macroscopic lens)

With the Raynox handheld in front of the 50mm Olympus (stopped down slightly to compensate for the Raynox which adds more than enough DoF/blur) we can obtain a nice crisp macro. By leaning the camera on some book and clothes to stabilize it I then positioned the macro lens in front of the camera and hoped for the best.
Clean up followed by a browse. A beautifully curvaceous everyday object. One of our many modern day Gods (probably deserves some research and its own project?). Also like the gunk build up inside the mouse grip, more dirt.



          Studying (1/200 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm F/1.8)

Had wanted to choose the wider angle for this one as I wanted to get more contextual information within the shot. However, I actually didn’t: preferred to kep the shallow depth of field once again. I find this shot different to those I usually do (therefore challenging and new?), as  it seems  – what I would call – dull. That is surely something I need to understand better: what constitutes a “dull” photo? Dull compared to what? Does it communicate what I was trying to communicate anyway whether it fits my aesthetic criteria or not?



      Hanging Out (1/500 sec at at F/11, ISO 1000, Olympus M 40-150mm at 66mm)

However sad this may actually sound, I do find some great shots when on the balcony with the clothes horse. This shot seemed to line up nicely which I was putting the washing away. The text, the lines, the peg, the red, and that gorgeous sun. Not sure about the sickly red though…



OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    Shopping (1/1600 sec at at F/11, ISO 1000, Olympus M 40-150mm at 92mm)

What am I trying to say here (or with any of my more abstract square crops)? I like the way the arrows almost contradict each other by my zooming in and cropping out any other contextual clues; also think that the two coloured segments add structure to the shot too (and support to the arrows?). I’ve done pictures like this for years, and I still haven’t got bored of doing them yet. And why should I? With these shots I seem to find them everywhere but often don’t always have a camera with me to snap them up. But I do try to make a mental note or jot down in my notebooks (or in a book cover which is so much harder to relocate later!) and then go back to try and capture it. The harsh Mediterranean light works so well for these shots (although this particular part of the morning the light was softer thanks to cloud cover). Maybe try at bright crisp morning shot with the long shadows also playing a part in this?



Zooming Through Some Books (
1/500 sec at at F/10, ISO 100, Olympus M 14-42mm)

I have seen this zooming in effect on Flickr but had never tried it until now. To be honest it took a a few attempts to get the shot stable and reasonably balanced in terms of lines. I think it works. Something I definitely would like to try out again (My subconscious need to read quickly, (poorly) seeping out into my photography with this shot?) I brought the ISO down as I used the flash and wanted detail in amongst the blur.

Student(s)  (1/80 sec at at F/1.8, ISO 500, Olympus 50mm)

I tried to get a candid shot of my students at work, although that really wasn’t as easy as I had hoped. I had tried with different lenses, but again went for the isolating power of the prime lens at a wide aperture.



Night Light (0.8 sec at about F/4-5,6 (it’s clickless), ISO 400, Fujian 25mm F/1,4)
My idea was to shoot things I usually see on my walk home after work. using a longer shutter time again here and a little bit of luck, I got the disired, tired, falling, and going home mood that I had wanted. I stopped down with the 25mm to try and get some sharper detail, and lowered the ISO to 400 to help with that.


I think this project has helped me hone some observational skills that I may have taken for granted in the past. Instead of just snapping up a shot thanks to some kinesthetic cross-wiring or whatever, I feel that actually thinking about why and what I am doing by composing these shots, and what I understand to be my message and the consequences/effects that this will have on the viewers, has really opened my eyes to the hidden beauty of vision; the ever so complex phenomena of perception that we use daily so seemingly flippantly and apparently without awareness, really is the very essence of just about everything we do with photography.
Furthermore, by attempting some new techniques, such as zooming in with a slower shutter speed (Zooming Through Some Books), and less dynamic abstract shots (Studying, and Shaver), and semi improvised, spontaneous shots (Hanging Out, and  Shopping), I feel that I have reminded myself to rethink the easy instant click of just pressing down the shutter release; there’s always more to everything when you look below the surface (and I don’t believe, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, that we do so at our own peril).



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