Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ruskin, weather and contre jour

click photo to enlarge
"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." John Ruskin (1819-1900) English art critic and author

Though an active supporter of the Pre-Raphaelites and a firm believer in the primacy of painting over all other visual arts, John Ruskin took a keen interest in photography and used a camera. He was one of the subscribers to Eadweard Muybridge's 1887 publication, "Animal Locomotion, an Electro-Photographic investigation of consecutive phases of animal movements." In 1856 he made daguerrotypes of the towers of the Swiss Fribourg, also drawing them freehand, then comparing the results. His view was that the photograph was "more right" but that the sketch "nevertheless conveys, in some respects, a truer idea of Fribourg than the other, and has, therefore, a certain use." Though he was thinking in artistic terms I am sure Ruskin would not have been slow to spot the continuing use today of technical drawing rather than photographs to illustrate car, camera and many other instruction manuals, and to use this as further proof of the value of drawing over photography.

His views on weather are ones I share, particularly from a photographic point of view, though our recent extended wet spell is testing me. Extremes of weather offer "different" kinds of images to the photographer. Snow, fog, rain and the rest, though presenting certain difficulties that fair weather doesn't, nonetheless give the opportunity for photographic drama, simplicity, contrast and much else. The recent wall-to-wall rain that has beset the British spring and summer briefly cleared one recent afternoon and we took the opportunity to venture out for a walk. The roads were lined with deep puddles that hadn't drained away, the tarmac glistened, reflecting the sun, and the ragged clouds offered every shade of grey. I caught my wife with this contre jour shot as she wended her way between the pools of water. When I looked at it on the computer screen I liked the deep contrast and almost moonlight feel to the image that appeared when I converted it to black and white. It was, I reflected, a photograph that could only have been taken in this kind of Ruskinian good weather.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 7.9mm (37mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/1600
ISO: 80
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 EV
Image Stabilisation: On