The Photographic Philosopher and the Alleyway
I have called this photograph "The Alleyway" and in many respects, it represents my style, my philosophy...
It might or it might not be my best image, but I have been thinking a lot about "The Alleyway". I tell myself that it truly represents what I think I am becoming as a photographer and digital artist. I argue that I am trying to challenge preconceptions of "pure-play" photography being the only way to go. I am challenging the static norms of photography: one view, tack sharp, perfectly exposed. You know the sort of thing: bird on a stick, perfect landscape, squared-off architectural shot. I admire people who do that, I simply do not want to... I want something much more creative.
So early in my creative journey, I started to play with the idea that I could merge three or more, sometimes up to 20 photographs, to create an image. That the light was mine to mould and shape to the design I had in my mind. I was, and remain, enchanted by low light environments, like my images of London buses and tube trains, and of course this Alleyway.
So I was delighted to come across the renowned photographer Pep Ventosa and his 360 degree photographs (I prefer them to the ones on his website where he creates an image from the same perspective using many different photographs). In a sense it was a validation that someone else was already out there playing with similar ideas. But I struggle to find opportunities to do a Pep Ventosa 360 degree photograph, because of the lack of objects that allow you to make that full rotation - perhaps there is just more space in the United States!
So there I am in Chester last week, we had driven in especially to see the lights after dark. Alright - we had driven in specifically so that I could photograph the lights after dark... and out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of some lights in an alleyway. For those of you that know the City, you will know the "Rows", the two levels of shops. As quick as my gammy knees would allow, I was up those steps and starting to capture the light in the alleyway: tight white brick walls, opening up to bright lit shops, restaurants and bars with people wandering along, others catching a last drink before going home. Sandstone paving slabs worn smooth and glistening in the damp, reflecting the lights strung up above.
Five sets of five exposures later and we walk through the alleyway to the other way and I turn around and fire off three more sets of five exposures. Why five? Why three? Why not four and four, or five and five? Who knows? There was no great plan at that stage, apart from the fact that I did envisage two images.
And then we got home - after a long drive from Chester via the Cotswolds to drop my mother off with my sister - and I started to process the photographs. Given the light all of the photographs were HDR ready. When shooting for HDR, I always shoot five images, -2.0, -1.0, 0.0, +1.0, +2.0. I had over 200 exposures in groups of five, so I merged them in Lightroom - disaster: Lightroom is useless at merging low light HDR's. So I went back to merging them in Photoshop.
And then I came across the 40 exposures from this particular alleyway. Still undecided, I processed them all at the same time so that I had eight HDR images ready to play. And then I found myself pulling them all in on top of the first. With liberal dollops of Topaz and Aurora, as well as Camera Raw and all the tricks of bending light to your will, I eventually came up with "Alleyway". And I almost felt that I had come home: not only was this my increasingly standard fare, it was also taking photographs from two ends of the alleyway.
How often can you recall the exact nature of a street scene when you have gone home and reflected on your day? I think you remember impressions, light, dark, movement. Often your memory doesn't even allow you to recall which end of the street you were standing, it merges it all into an impression in your mind's eye, an impression that you are never, ever able to recreate when you visit again. And that, by serendipity, is what I think I have finally created with "Alleyway". Who knows which end I was standing? Who else was there? What they were doing? But we can all imagine a light-filled, bustling alleyway with early Christmas revellers, and lights to help the festive mood.
And that, dear friends, is enough reflection for a Christmas Eve!
Have a great Christmas wherever you are!
No comments posted.