Thursday, July 19, 2012

Visual ambiguity

click photo to enlarge
I've said elsewhere in this blog that visual ambiguity is something in which I take particular delight. Whether it be reflections, selections, juxtapositions or angles, the ability of the camera to present the everyday and ordinary as uncommon and extraordinary is something that holds a great attraction for me. The semi-abstract shots that I periodically take, many of which are visually ambiguous, make up a large percentage of my personal favourites.

Another way in which ambiguity can be achieved is through the use of a macro lens. This can transform a close-up view of a quite familiar subject into something strange or puzzling. Take today's photograph. At first glance it looks like a bubbling liquid, perhaps an industrial oil or maybe the scum on some molten metal. In fact, it is a long forgotten toy that belongs to one of my sons, a set of ball bearings of three sizes that can be arranged on a magnetic base. I came across it when we were tidying out some stored boxes. I'd not seen it before, but when I looked at it I knew that it could be the subject of a photograph.

I set it up on my desk at dusk on some black card and pointed my anglepoise lamp down at it. The single light source formed a large single reflection on each ball bearing, but this became multiplied as the bottom half of each of them reflected its neighbours. It's this phenomenon that gives the photograph the appearance of bubbles and the resulting ambiguity.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 100mm macro
F No: f5
Shutter Speed: 1/10 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.67 EV
Image Stabilisation: On