In the past few weeks my day job has included photographing everything from a lecture on disability rights, the launch of a new department, the restoration of an old grammar school as lab space, the demolition and beginnings of construction of a student’s union building, a series of lectures at the National Museum of Wales on the role of galleries and curators in art with the excellent Turner Prize winner Mark Wallinger, visits by an Indian University and two Chinese Universities, a screening of a new film on Ivor Novello, foundation art students painting a 30ft long panorama in the Autumn sunshine, a class of primary school kids learning to make air powered rockets, a dress rehersal of Grand Guignol and much more, plus I’ve had swine flu. So all in all I’ve been a busy boy! Especially as I’ve been alone while my colleague, Mike recovers from two fractures to his shoulder and three broken ribs after coming off his motorbike.
They were all great fun but one of the major projects I’ve been working on has had a profound effect on my photography and me. I’ve been working on illustrating a catalogue of paintings for an exhibition by 86-year-old Joan Baker, who was an art teacher at the old Cardiff School of art for 45 years. Technically it is quite complex, first photograph the paintings in the studio, setting the camera to render as accurately as possible with manual white balance and carefully chosen exposures. Then shipping those paintings through to my office where I can view them in daylight and tweaking the colour balance in RAW on the screen. Modern digital cameras don’t always capture the subtlety of colour and tone all that accurately, so it needed the human touch to improve on the machine.
I guess unless you study art or are a painter yourself, we tend to miss many of the subtle nuances of light and shade, colour and texture. What is fascinating for me is that many of her works featured the Glamorgan Heritage Coast; somewhere many of you will know is a frequent feature of my landscape photography. Twiddling the hue sliders I could almost feel how she mixed the colours on her palette and truly grasp her representation of light. It's given me a renewed faith in colour again and a renewed delight in the subtle nuances of light. It has also caused me to return to the coast, this is my first visit to Dunraven Bay, Southerndown for nearly a year.
I find it fascinating that even after 4 or 5 years of photographing this place I can still find new and inspiring subjects at which to point my camera, the sea worn contours of this cup shaped rock particularly delighted me. There are just so many variables in light, weather and tides, that it is never the same twice. A fairly big storm was forecast for the following day, so although the wind was light, the breakers came streaming in one after another with barely a break. The sea foretelling the weather long before the sky and here was rendered almost completely white by the 10 second exposure (it’s a vertorama so the exif details have only preserved the shorter exposure for the sky). To produce the feeling of light I used a polariser in reverse to normal, revealing the reflections in the sea and washing out the sky. I'm glad it wasn't a full on sunset, this is much more what I was after.
I finally bumped into Flickr's Rob Funfinger that evening. Hi Rob!
Joan Baker's exhibition will open for public viewing on 10th December at the Ty Crawshay Gallery, University of Glamorgan, Treforest.
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