Line of Descent

Winter and shorter hours of daylight brings benefits, one is more time indoors to catch up on some long overdue processing, particularly B&W conversions.

The three images in this post go back quite a few years, two of them to 2013 and one even further to 2010. They all show the line of descent off the Weissmies, a popular 4000 metre peak above the Saas valley in the Valais Alps. All three images were taken with a telephoto lens from Hohsaas, easily reached by uplifts from Saas Grund.

In the Alps, black and white photography simplifies the mountain-scape and climbers are reduced to mere dots in the vastness of the mountains. Click on the images to see an enlargement to discover the mountaineers.

The route takes a dramatic line through an area of ice cliffs and crevasses before reaching a lower plateau.

Once on the lower plateau, the route skirts a heavily crevassed area to reach rocks (out of picture, leftwards) and the point at which rope and crampons can be removed and the remaining descent then continues on easy rocky paths.



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Three plus one

The floor will do nicely as a place to chill out, take a break, talk with friends. The floor is free, you don’t have to buy a drink or food to use this space. This is Tate Britain in London – the vast central space where often there are major installations but at other times it is just a space to relax in. No-one is going to ask you to get up and move on.

I spotted this little group of young people. Two in deep conversation, and two additional peripheral figures. They may be all part of a larger group: some choosing to chat, others preferring to be quietly by themselves, or elsewhere in the gallery.

I was attracted by the ‘arrangement’. A triangle of figures, plus one – that ‘one’ facing away. The composition creates an inevitable tension; it asks questions with no definitive answer.

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Beach Walkers

Autumn has occupied my attention for several weeks to the exclusion of other images. It’s time to change the genre. Today’s image goes back a few weeks to a beautiful day when we went back to Littlehampton on the south coast, with lunch in the East beach Cafe

The tide was out, and there were people on the beach, simply walking, in groups. I took a few shots as a I walked parallel to them. Shooting groups is never easy – trying to avoid overlapping figures, people with oddly placed legs or absent arms. This image got most things right and it had something extra – a figure going the wrong way!

Does that interloper add something or should he/she be cloned out? There are arguments either way but on balance I think that extra figure adds a tension to the image the is beneficial. What do you think? Do add a comment.

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Autumn is now just about over, a few reluctant leaves cling to the trees, but the vast majority are grounded. Some rest delicately, easily lifted into the air by the lightest of breezes. Others, wet and limp, hug the ground seemingly glued to it – their flying days over.

This is the last of this series of images from my heads-down perusal of this year’s leaf litter. There have been days when seeking out compositions among the fallen has been easy, and days when I have struggled to make sense of the decaying litter.

Any challenge or project that we set ourselves pays dividends. We discover a new focus for our Eye; we find compositions in places that previously we might have thought were not photogenic; and our creativity is stirred. And we learn something new – we never stop learning on our individual visual journeys. If I was to attempt to single out one thing that I have learnt this autumn, I think it would be that slowing down brings its own rewards. I have been always been an opportunist, alert to my surrounding environment, and quick to shoot. Slowing down has been difficult for me, but it’s a modus operandi that I will practice more in future.

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Another image in this series about leaf litter. If you are new to this series, click on Home in the menu and scroll down to see previous entries.

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We will remember them

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Strolling around with a camera, on the look-out for the next image to capture, I enjoy the challenge of attempting something different. These are often experimental ideas. The results commonly end up being deleted back home, but there is sometimes that single image that grabs my intention.

The image above was the result of panning during exposure (1/8sec, F10, ISO100). A quick  vertical movement. I shot about a dozen, this is the one I saved, the rest were rubbish. There was something right about this; the panning had a clean vertical movement, there were streaks of golden light, it felt ‘magical’ somehow. I’ve done very little in processing except adjust curves and levels, and use Topaz/Clean/Curly Smooth. Click to see an enlargement.

The second image (below) was a shot taken locally looking up into the bare canopy; searching for the right composition, the right array of branches. Back home it was an OK image, but there was nothing special about it, and even reducing it to a pure silhouette didn’t get my pulse going. So I did what I occasionally do to B&W images (my idea of computer doodling, best expressed as ‘I wonder what will happen if I try this’): I solarized it.

Solarization first came into prominence in the 1930s with the work of Man Ray. In those days it was the result of briefly flashing the darkroom light on while developing a print. It reversed some tones, and created lines (the Mackie line) between areas of high contrast. The results were very unpredictable. In my experience, I experimented with this process using inter-negatives in the film era.

In the digital era, all you have to do is ‘click’ Solarize (if using Photoshop you will find this in Filter/Stylize/Solarize). The result will initially disappoint but the next step is to adjust levels and you will have an image with rich blacks and bright whites. There is an alternative method. In Photoshop, open Curves, click on the Drawing icon to the left of the window, Shift-Click bottom left corner of the curve window, repeat Shift/Click middle top, and again bottom right corner. You will now have created an inverted ‘V’ shaped curve. Job done. Voila, as the French would say.

And that is it. Simple to execute and occasionally you get an image that inspires. It’s the Mackie line that makes this print – as if hoar-frost has picked out every line of the tree and its branches. A complete transformation. Try it sometime.

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