Technology Process Production/Experimentation

This page describes the processes, techniques, technology and materials, I have used in creating my art for the third year of the Art and Design degree. It also reviews the outcomes and lessons learned along the way.

I have also included these topics on my additional pages:

  • Exhibition layout information
  •  Film & Videos
  •  Professional assignments

List of processes used this academic year:

  • Video
  • Digital photography
  • Research
  • Screen printing
  • Darkroom film processing
  • Drawing
  • Book design and publishing
  • Sculpture
  • Text and imagery
  • Flour patterns and face printing
  • Identity workshops
  • Exhibition
  • Model building
  • Mounting and framing

List of techniques used this academic year:

  • Video editing
  • Stop motion
  • Photo editing
  • Prototyping
  • Mind mapping
  • High Dynamic Range (HDR)
  • Tilt shift
  • Black and white photography
  • Colour popping
  • Studio lighting
  • Portraiture
  • Panoramic view
  • Collage

List of technology used this academic year:

  • A1 plotter
  • Windows Laptop
  • Lightbox
  • Computer software
    • Quicktime Pro
    • Adobe Photoshop CS4
    • Adobe Indesign
    • Windows Movie Maker
    • Firefox FTP
    • WordPress
    • Windows Explorer
    • iMindMap5
    • HTML
    • Steinberg Wavelab
    • Movie Director
    • Powerpoint
    • Word
    • Dropbox
    • Photomatix
    • Sketch-up
    • Camera equipment
      • Nikon D80
      • Lumix G3
      • Monopod
      • Tripod
      • Studio lighting

List of materials used this academic year:

Video process

I used video in three pieces of work for this year: A retrospective view, Possessions and The Journey – Holland.

A retrospective view was the first piece of work I delivered in September 2011 leading into my main project: Comfort of Things. It consisted of a series of photographs collated into a stop motion video. The idea was to start this project with my view on an aspect of my life: in this case my identity in relation to rock music. Stop motion was an obvious choice for showing the chronological progress of my musical tastes through time as I could take sets of pictures for each event and then collate them together. Using my Nikon D80 and a tripod, I was able to set up the picture and I also had help on operating the camera and handing me the t-shirts and records etc. I did a test run of about 20 frames which prompted me to be more adventurous which resulted in the moving posters and spinning albums which were actually influenced by Peter Gabriel’s Sledgehammer video directed by Stephen R. Johnson.

The photos were then transferred to my laptop. I manipulated the first few in Photoshop CS4 to include introductory text and then collated them into a video using the Open Sequence function in Quicktime Pro and added some appropriate rock music from a free mp3 music site I had used for a video I created in year 1. I used Steinberg Wavelab to cut the mp3 to fit the video.

This process was similar to the one I used in year 2 for my Clown video. However I had to refer to notes taken in my first year to remember how to FTP the video to the Writtle server and then link it to my blog.

                        

I was very pleased with the final result. If I was to do it again I wouldn’t change the techniques I used but seeing how easy it was to create I think I would be a lot more creative in the content of the video.

The video on Possessions was recorded using the video facility on my Lumix camera. I had been interviewing friends and family, taking notes and photographs of their possessions. Their stories were fascinating so when it came to interviewing my mum I decided to video part of her story to capture the emotion she revealed when talking about her prized possessions.

The result was more pleasing than the photographs because the video added credibility to the stories in that it was being recounted by the actual person rather than translated into text by myself. Proof of this was when I presented my work to the class; I didn’t get much reaction until I showed the video.

The Journey – Holland video was put together in a completely different way. It was videoed by residents of an Outreach hostel I have been working with who went on an exchange trip to Holland. In preparation for the trip I held a workshop at the hostel and discussed themes on what they may wish to record whilst abroad. They came back with over 800 photographs and 12 hours of video footage which I then cut down to about 50 photographs and 4 minutes of video.

Producing the video was technically challenging because I used Windows Movie Maker and Movie Director which I wasn’t too familiar with. I had used Movie Director in my first year so I used it again to review the footage and cut it down to a more manageable size. Then I selected the same photographs as we picked for the book to use in the video and used Windows Movie Maker to stitch it all together because it was easier to add photographs than in Movie Director. I then burnt the final video on to a DVD using Windows Explorer.

I then had to reduce the size of the video so I could put it on my blog. I did this by compressing the video in Quicktime Pro.

This has been one of the most difficult modules I have had to do on this degree as I had to provide the residents with direction and overcome the technical challenges involved with the different media I was producing. However I am so pleased with the final results and all the hard work has paid off. I am very proud of what the residents have achieved, both with their photography and video skills.

Digital Photography and post-processing

Photography has been a recurring theme throughout the academic year and so there are several similarities between the processes I carried out on each body of photographic work. However during the course of the year I have tried different techniques to challenge myself and improve my knowledge of the camera. I have also been studying for a National Certificate in Photography. This course has improved my knowledge of photography considerably and many of the photographic techniques I have learned, I have applied throughout my degree work.

Most of my photography is subjected to post-processing in Photoshop compared with last year where I did very little. I tend to keep this to a minimum with cropping and balancing levels, however in some of my pieces software like Photoshop has been essential to achieve the required effect.

Looking back over the year I have used software a lot to manipulate my photographs but this is part of my desire to experiment and find ways to present my work in keeping with the task objectives set on this degree course. Going forward I intend to improve on my camera skills so that all the work is done by the camera and I will have little use for Photoshop.

In Memorial – view from a bench I wanted to recreate the view as seen whilst sitting on the memorial benches. I initially tried using a wide angle lens to mimic the range of a human eye but the results were too limiting so I tried panning the field of vision taking photographs that I then merged together in Photoshop to create a panoramic view. My first attempts at this failed because I wasn’t familiar with how the Merge function in Photoshop worked so I went back again and re-took the photographs using a monopod this time so I could rotate the camera on the spot.

I was happy with the results as the panoramic view was something I hadn’t tried before. However I hadn’t exactly managed to recreate the field of vision (the vertical aspect was too narrow), partly because of my inexperience with Merge but also because of the limitations in how Merge worked – it didn’t stitch vertical and horizontal photos simultaneously very well. I did consider using Hugin which is free software and something I used in the past for my Small World photographs but it is complicated to use in comparison to Merge.

Portraiture was a big challenge for me as I hadn’t done it before. I chose to take portraits of the young adults I was working with at the Outreach hostel. I was particularly concerned that these were people who hadn’t had the best start in life so I wanted to produce something that they would find acceptable.  Many of them were not used to having their photograph taken and felt quite uncomfortable so this made it more of a challenge.

I researched the technical aspects of portrait photography and borrowed some lighting, coloured filters and background cloths for the day.  I hadn’t had a chance to practice beforehand so there was an element of trial and error in getting the lighting right.

I also researched portrait artists to understand what made a good portrait and planned what I was going to do on the day. The shoot didn’t go that smoothly at the beginning due to issues with lighting and some of my subjects felt uncomfortable but the planning helped to smooth things over so I was able to operate quickly. This was a valuable lesson because if I hadn’t planned ahead the shoot would have taken longer and my models would have got bored and left.

I initially touched up the photographs in Photoshop – cropping, removing dust and blemishes, adjusting levels. Then I chose to manipulate further some of the portraits for artistic effect such as black and white, split toning and colour balance. I presented the final results to my models and on the whole they were well received.

My favourite portrait was of Jess and Nathan. I had an idea of doing my own version of the picture of Twiggy and David Bowie on the album cover Pin Ups because I have always been fascinated by the differing expressions on their faces. So I asked Jess to look dreamy and Nathan to look to the future. Then in Photoshop I applied a vignette, sharpened the eyes and used dodge and burn to adjust specific highlights and lowlights.

As an initial attempt at portraiture I was pleased with the results. However having completed my National Certificate in Photography I can see there is a lot more I can do to improve to achieve consistently good results.

Another technique I tried for the first time was High Dynamic Range (HDR). I had encounted it in my second year whilst doing some research, but until the Detritus piece I hadn’t found a suitable use for it. HDR is a post-processing effect that is used to overcome the limitations of the camera in producing a more dynamic range of colours visible to the human eye. I applied HDR by taking three identical photographs with different exposures using the bracketing function on the camera and merging them using a software package called Photomatix.

The subject matter was to do with looking at the impact the environment had on objects and also their re-use. HDR worked particularly well showing erosion and wear and tear, so in my Forgotten series of photos I decided to repeat the effect but be more artistic with it using the Tonal Mapping function on Photomatix. Although I quite liked the results I am not a fan of HDR because I see it used a lot on internet sites like Flickr.

In The Journey – Tilt Shift I tried a new technique that I have seen in several publications and linking this in with my documentary work. There are two ways of doing tilt shift. The first is to use a specialist (and very expensive) tilt shift lens, the second way is to fake the effect in Photoshop. I chose the second. The trick is to take a photo from distance and from an elevated position looking down on an area and then in Photoshop blur the foreground and background. This gives the impression that you are looking at miniatures as in the example below.

Even though it is gimmicky I really enjoyed doing this and will possibly experiment more with it in the future.

I have experimented several times with black and white photography but Clothes we wear was the first time I submitted a whole series of photographs in this way. I achieved the effect by converting the colour images in Photoshop. Contrary to what some may think, the process is quite involved to get realistic results; the desaturate function does not work well enough.

In Beyond Entropy – Part 2 (Reeds) my approach to black and white photography completely changed due to advancements in my understanding of photography. I was more aware of light and contrast as well as composition. I think the results show a maturity that is not present in the earlier ones.

Another technique I used was colour popping which is where you convert a colour photo to black and white but bring back the colour for an object in the picture so it stands out. I did this to good effect on my photograph of the boats at Finsbury Park. This has been one of my most popular photos on Flickr resulting in 3 sales so far.

Research

Practically everything I have done on this degree has involved some form of research. The internet has been a great source for information and my skills in finding information have certainly improved as my familiarity with web browsers like IE and Chrome and search engines like Google and Yahoo have improved. However my primary source of information has been books and journals.

The internet is good for providing an overview of a subject with some detail and also for identifying sources of information such as books but rarely goes into detail and often the detail can be found to be contradicted on other sites or publications. In this situation I tend to believe the printed word as it is more likely that the author has gone to some lengths to ensure accuracy of their work.

Web sites like Wiki are only really useful for the links they provide to further source material and quite often I will end up on Amazon buying a book that Wiki has directed me to. My art library now contains over 100 books.

Artists are also beginning to embrace the digital age by having their own websites so people like Eggleston and Parr are well represented on line. This was useful as I found a lot of information about them for my comparison essay. To organise my research on them I used a trial version of iMindmap5. This allowed me to group information in a mind map which was useful for keeping track on the detail between the artists.

Screen Printing

I had not tried screen printing before when I decided to give it a go and it turned out to be an enjoyable, but long process. This is the process:

The screens had been prepared beforehand and I brought along some acetates with prints on them to try out. The acetate was placed into the print machine with the screen on top, the lid was pulled down over the screen and then the timer was set. Different time settings were tested to see how clearly the print came out which was by trial and error, depending on how clear the original print was.

The print machine sucks itself around the screen creating a vacuum until the time has finished which is set on the dial on the control panel.

The screen is then washed down with cold water to remove the excess adhesive which had been coated onto the screens to begin with and is then left to dry for 12 hours.

This is a picture of what the print looks like before it has been painted over.

Once the screens are dry they can be painted over. The screen is secured with the clamps on the screen table with a sheet of paper underneath. Then paint is applied evenly and where the paint hasn’t stayed on the screen, a pattern should appear underneath.

Unfortunately the pattern didn’t come through the canvas and we could only think that the reason for this must be that the emulsion that was originally painted over the screen was too thick to begin with as there was a good indentation of pattern on the screen. This was disappointing considering the preparation that had taken place.

We did however make a ‘Dark Stack’ which can be used to keep the screens when they are drying off as they have to be kept in a dark environment.

The second attempt in the New Year worked better than the first and this was because the screens where painted with a THIN layer of photo sensitive emulsion, whereas the first time we attempted it the emulsion was too thick which prevented the image from showing through. This is the result:

 

 

Darkroom film processing

I jumped at the chance of being given the opportunity to spend the day developing 35mm film as this was something I hadn’t done before.

When developing photography film the process is the same for black & white and colour processing but the films will use different chemicals. Some tips:

  • The film will be light sensitive and must never be exposed to the light, except during exposure otherwise the film will be totally ruined.
  • The film should be handled carefully, only touching the edges and avoid any finger prints or marks on its surface.

The following equipment is needed:

  • Black nylon pouch with sleeves. This is needed so that all the equipment mentioned can be placed inside, hands put through the sleeves and the process of taking the film apart can begin.
  • Can opener. The 35mm film is in a small canister that needed to be opened with the opener in complete darkness.
  • Scissors. The beginning and end of the photo film will need to be cut.
  • Film reel. These reels can be in either metal or plastic and are used to wrap the film around for development. The correct loading on the film reel will ensure that the film does not touch and the photography film will then be correctly developed.
  • Film tank. After loading the film onto the reel it is loaded into the film tank for the chemicals to process. Make sure the lid is on firmly once firm inside.

How to take the film apart

In complete darkness, use the can opener to open the top of the 35mm film canister and pull out the film from the canister. Carefully handle the photo film by its edges as to not damage the film surface. Then use the scissors to cut off the film leader at the beginning of the roll to flatten the edge. At the end of the roll the film will be attached to the spool and will also need to be cut off. The film will then need to be loaded onto the reel. Once this is done the loaded reel can be placed into the developing tank and make sure that it is tightly closed. Once closed and light tight the film is then ready for processing.

(Picture of film taken apart).

The process for developing is: developer, stop bath, fixer and water bath. All chemicals will have a certain mix of chemicals and water. The chemicals are then added to the development tank and agitated for around 30 seconds and then for about 5 seconds every minute until the development time is finished. After this process the film will no longer be sensitive to light and can be removed. Before the film is finished, it will need to be placed in running water for about 20 minutes to ensure all the chemicals are removed. The film should then be hung to dry in the dark room and kept as straight as possible.

We then did some test shots with the enlarger and timer by cutting pieces of magazine up and placing them on the machine, then exposing them to light at different time settings to see which exposure was the best in turns of lighting. We also used some pre-finished negatives for practise also. These are some of the finished results:

http://www.guidetofilmphotography.com/photography-film-processing.html

Drawing

Every Monday morning was set aside for drawing sessions which were run by a different student each week who decided on the theme. During the course of the year we used various media including pencil, paint, pastels, charcoal, pen on various forms of paper.

My turn to run the session was on 31st October. For this session I wanted the class to draw different parts of a person, swapping at each stage of the process, mixing people’s identities up. I also asked the class to draw ‘a possession that meant a lot to them’, linking this into my Possession piece. With the limited time that we had the class produced some very interesting results.

Book design and publishing

In addition to the DVD I produced for The Journey – Holland, I oversaw the design process for the making up of a book of the trip using images chosen by the residents, making sure that everyone had a photo included in it. I used www.photobook.com which is a site I used last year for producing a book for my 2nd year exhibition piece. It is easy to use with several templates to choose from that can be changed to suit requirements.

When the mock up arrived I had to make a few changes to their work like font styles and sizes and changed a couple of words but on the whole it looked very professional.

Sculpture

As part of my Beyond Entropy theme, I made several sculptures out of plastic bags to demonstrate their re-use otherwise they would have been discarded. I presented the results in Detritus – part 2.

Text and Imagery

I was experimenting with using text and image in my work during a class workshop. I found it much more difficult than I thought I would and ended up with a piece which I wasn’t happy with. It involved cutting up text and images from magazines and putting them together in a collage. I eventually turned to my camera to create a piece of work which was inspired by Magritte’s Pipe picture “this is not a pipe”.

This is my interpretation of using text and imagine in the style of Magritte.

Flour pattern Experiments

With this experiment I was using a variety of personal objects and my face, hands and elbows to get indentations into flour, which created interesting and unusual results. I linked this in with my possessions piece.

(Personal objects)

The pictures were created by placing flour on top of a lightbox and then move the flour to form shapes such as the hand and face photos below. Technically the lighting was a major part of this experiment as I discovered that depending on where I placed the light, it changed the composition of the pattern and by moving the light around the pattern, the shadows would change their direction and either expand or go to the point where they would disappear completely. I was also surprised by the fact that the lines on my hands and the hairs on the face picture where picked up especially well.

Identity workshops

I ran a couple of workshops with the residents of the Outreach hostel on identity. I prepared for this by putting together PowerPoint presentations.  I sourced pictures through the use of internet and used some of my own photos.  I had to make sure the pictures related to the residents ie. of their age group to keep their attention.  I also used magazines to give examples of portraiture and other artists that did portraits. I think the PowerPoint was concise and to the point as I had learnt from presentations in my 2nd year and also previous visits to the hostel had revealed that the residents’ attention span was limited.

I set the residents some challenges in taking photographs for me and the photos I received back I had to link together in a collage in Photoshop and then resize it for use on to the Furtherfield website. I then had to load the image onto the website and write a piece to explain the concept behind the work.   http://www.furtherfield.org/your-art/different-backgrounds-photography-workshop

Exhibition

This exhibition is the final piece for my degree.  My main piece is Sudden Departure and for this I am updating the process as I go along.

Layout designs for exhibition

As my main medium is photography I want to use this for the main theme of the exhibition and so I started by looking at ways in which other artists/photographers displayed their work.

Ive been looking at Fiona Tan who uses images from albums that she has chosen to display on walls and also books. These both function in varying ways and she uses a different set of images for both. With the wall piece the viewer can go up very close and look at one picture and then step back and view a multitude of photos, but with the book you turn the page and can only ever view two pages at one time.

Her books have a strict format, 3 chapters (portraits, home and nature) and a set number of pages. With my ‘Journey’ work I could possibly consider using this format as I will be picking from a vast amount of pictures/videos that have been taken by other people.

http://www.photonet.org.uk/index.php?pid=599

“As the third of our Soho Projects, Fiona Tan has been commissioned to make London the focus of the fifth and final instalment of her Vox Populi series.

Following her work in Norway, Sydney, Tokyo and Switzerland, Tan is now using the photograph albums of Londoners. By loaning their albums, the contributors have given the artist unique access to domestic imagery that ranges from the celebratory to the mundane.

The artist is selecting up to 300 images from these albums to be scanned. These will become a wall-based installation to be exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, as well as an artist’s publication – including a text by Brian Dillon – to be co-published by The Photographers’ Gallery and Book Works.

This work will present a collective image of London, calling into question how we choose to represent ourselves, and how we consume the representation of each other.

Amsterdam based Fiona Tan (b. 1966) creates skilfully crafted, moving and intensely human works through expanded film and video installations, exploring history and time and our place within them. www.fionatan.nl

Some really interesting layouts

Room Layout ideas

Another possibility is to incorporate the themes of my major project ‘The Comfort of Things’ and create a room installation. The room installation will be a replica of my ‘sudden departure’ piece.

The themes I have worked on have been closely linked together and within the room I will recreate some of these themes:

The room will be centred around ‘Entropy within possessions’ (sudden departure) a person suddenly leaving the stability of their surroundings, leaving their possessions behind.

‘Possessions’ (things that have meaning to people)

‘Left behind’ (represent a small part of a person’s life that have been either left intentionally or discarded and they may come back again to collect it). Whilst on my travels, I love to capture the poetic moment of silence and loneliness whilst studying an item in front of me, until maybe someone will come back for that item and time begins again).

With this work I am demonstrating the impermanence of the environment in which we live. By recreating the family member’s living space (using actual items of their furniture) and replacing possessions with photographs to represent the fact that photographs live on but the environment in which people live can change. The picture below is an example of how it could look replacing the cup with a photograph of the cup.

From my observations of the photograph I took, the background doesn’t exactly match, but as it isn’t the actual room and I am creating my interpretation of the living space, then in my mind it doesn’t have to be exact.

The wall objects will also be replaced but will be on a type of platform to make them stand out from the wall for example, the lights shown below.

The actual photograph of the room took many shots to get exactly how I wanted it to look. This was the shot I decided to use for my experimentation and I kept in the TV and chair at this point.

Indesign

I printed out the sheets of the window to scale using Indesign which was a package I hadn’t used before and was given an introduction into how to use it. I also looked at http://www.Adobe.com who give online tutorials of how to use this package. The window had to be divided into 3 so that the whole photo could be fitted together afterwards and it had to be of the correct size which was a full size replica.

I then fitted the ‘fake’ room together. I took the following photos to get a feel of what the outcome would be. The photos I took actually looked like I was sitting in a ‘real’ room. The effect I created came out better than I anticipated.

It is important to experiment with this type of work beforehand by recreating the room at full size, as its too much of a risk to just recreate the room a week before the exhibition and expect it all to work out. I was happy with the way this looked but I didn’t get the angle of the photographic shots quite right. I took the photo from my height whereas I should have bent down to take the shot.

I have now reshot the window scene at the correct angle and also taken out the TV and chair within the photograph by use of manipulation within photoshop. This took me nearly a week to do as I am relatively an amateur a photoshop so had to work slowly and accurately to archive the desired effect.

With the side wall above I had to Photoshop out the lighting and pictures as I wanted to put these back into the scene as photographs. There was one slight problem though, the sheet was coming out of the printer too dark and however much I adjusted it, the light would not alter and I guess this was to do with the shadows hitting the wall on the day I took the picture and the vast size of the shot and the further the zoom in on a shot the more pixelated it becomes. I therefore decided that I would use some of the original wallpaper from the actual house I was recreating.

I also wanted to recreate the objects within this scene as their actual size so I took the slipper’s and book of the person whom I am basing this on and have recreated them in the actual size of the object using photography. What I did find with this though is that I had to really think about backgrounds and had to take another picture of the college floor as that will be the floor I am using on the night of the installation.

Mock up for Exhibition (Mini Room)
I needed to establish how my work will look at the exhibition and so I decided to do a mini mock up of what I had in my head. I reproduced the exact pictures that I was going to use in miniature and then took photographs at different angles.

My exhibition will consist of:

A room installation;

Photographs; (photographs /room installation will be linked)

Outreach Work

Mike Nelson has also used room recreation for his work. He creates installations with a convincing fictional world, but they then re-emerge into reality.

Coral Reef – Mike Nelson

http://www.tate.org.uk/servlet/CollectionDisplays?venueid=1&roomid=6275

Further Developments:

I have now taken a picture of all the images I am going to use in the installation. These took quite a few takes though as I had to adjust sizes and camera angels. What I have produced isn’t perfect, but I am not trying to produce an exact replica of the room. It is my interpretation of it.

Creation of Exhibition

First stage of construction:  Errecting boards to form shape of layout.

Second stage:  Painting (6 hours of work) 2 coats given, Day 1

Third Stage:  Construction of Room, Day 2

Unfortunatley I had major problems with the construction of the sheets as one of them had printed about a 1/2 an inch out which wasn’t noticeable when I checked it after it had been printed, and so, I therefore had to cut through the sheet and re-adjust it which was extremely time consuming.  The cutting process demanded accuracy as there was only once chance to get the resizing correct.  The result from this is that I will have to buy some coving and skirting to finish off the picture.

The board has also been put up from the Outreach work.

Stage 4:  (Picture Construction) Day 3

I arranged the pictures in various different formats before settling with this combination.  This was also tricky and time consuming to do as I wanted the measurements to be exact.  I have framed and mounted all the photographs myself using the same frames for consistency.

Day 5:

All the photographs are now up on the walls.

The living room is taking shape.

The coving was the main problem today as it kept falling down, but once the coving and skirting were erected it really finished the room off well.

I also came up with the idea of getting a light which was very similar to the one that the ‘old man’ had and as I couldn’t link this to the power I decided to get battery LED lights to place inside the shades which worked really well to create the illusion that the lights are working.

Final day preparation:

The ‘Trip to Holland’ piece is ready.  Originally I wanted to use a plinth to display the work but after discussion with tutors I decided that a table would be a better solution, used as a desk, so that people can take a leisurely look at the book and watch the video at eye level.

The room’Sudden Departure’  is complete:

‘Detritus’ photographs are all hung and spot lighted.

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