Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sepia, vignettes and the human touch

click photo to enlarge
Photography changes; it always has. Digital and colour are now dominant where film and black and white once reigned. Today images are most commonly viewed on screens but paper prints held sway for most of photography's history. People have always been the main subject matter. However, I have the feeling that a wider range of subject is now evident, though with the human form still ascendant.

Then there are the styles within pictures. Callotype, tintype, hand-colouring and much else fell away (except for the odd enthusiast) as straightforward, automated chemical processes for first black and white, then colour, appeared. But the ease, flexibility and immediacy of digital has allowed the qualities of the old styles to re-appear. I've always had a soft spot for sepia toned photographs. I see them as black and white with a warm edge. Similarly, the vignette has alway appealed to me for the concentration that it gives to the subject and the contrast that it can inject into what might otherwise be a flat scene. Of course, because these effects are perceived as "old" any modern use tends to give a patina of age to a shot. I wish it didn't, and perhaps if such effects were used more they would become simply common additions to the photographer's armoury, but sans the associations of history.

The other day I went into one of our bedrooms and, under the effect of partly closed curtains and morning light, the blinkers fell away. I saw afresh what I'd seen many, many times before. So I took a photograph of the edge of the bed, the bedside chest and my wife's sandals. I sepia toned it and added to the natural, curtain-induced vignette, some all-round vignetting, and then sat back and looked at my work. It was fine as far as it went, but it didn't go quite far enough. I felt it needed a dissonant note adding to the mix. So I added a human one in the form of my hand and arm, a little something to make the viewer, or at least one who hasn't read this explanation, wonder about the picture.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 32mm
F No: f7.1
Shutter Speed: 1/5
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On