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Michael Kenna

Michael Kenna is a world-renowned Landscape photographer who exclusive works in Black and White film, using either a Hasselblad medium format camera or a Holga camera. He is still one of the few photographers who opt to develop his films and produce the prints himself. He controls the whole process which allows him the artistic freedom to achieve the exact tonal range and composition he is looking for. This is something that he learnt early on in his career when he worked as an assistant for Ruth Bernhard.

Kenna mainly photographs landscapes at night or dawn, using long exposures which can last up to 10 hours. In an interview with Anne Telford, which was written for Wraparound, Anne asks Kenna what drew him to photograph at night and at dawn.  Kenna responded in detail describing the different qualities of light that can be captured and their effects:

‘I used to only photograph in the early morning… Morning light is often soft and diffused.  It can reduce cluttered background to graduate layers of two dimensional tone…

…During the day, when most photographs are made, scenes are usually viewed from the vantage-point of a fixed single light source, the sun. At night the light can come from unusual and multiple sources. There can be deep shadows which act as catalysts for our imagination. There is often a sense of drama, a story about to be told, secrets revealed, actors about to enter onto the stage. The night has vast potential for creativity.’

Kenna M. (2003)

Some examples of his work are as follows

Fig. 1.

Huangshan Mountains, Study 26, Anhui, China. 2009

The photograph above is of a woodland in China shrouded in mist. There is the glimpse of a path leading down into the woods on the bottom right corner.

Kenna has captured a thin delicate light which has been diffused by the mist creating an enchanting scene that has a pensive/medatative quality.

Fig. 2.

Six Flying Birds, Bath, Avon, England. 1987

This image is of a landscape in Bath obscured by the morning mist. There is a flock of birds flying across the frame from left to right.

There is a soft layered light to this image which is aided by the mist. The further away an object is the less light it is able to reflect back through the mist creating a graduated tone to the buildings and vegitation. The light is also filtered through the mist throwing an even light around the scene devoiding it from any shadows.

There is a simplicity to Kenna’s work that seems effortless as he captures an ethereal light producing elegant and romantic images. It is almost as though he is writing an ode to the Landscape that stands before him.

Bibliography

Fig. 1.
Michael Kenna
(2009)
Huangshan Mountains, Study 26, Anhui, China. 2009
[Photograph]
https://www.michaelkenna.com/gallery.php?id=8
(Accessed 6 November 2019)

Fig. 2.
Michael Kenna
(1987)
Six Flying Birds, Bath, Avon, England. 1987
[Photograph]
https://www.michaelkenna.com/gallery.php?id=3
(Accessed 6 November 2019)

Citation

Kenna M
(2003)
‘Alright in the Dark’
In: Wraparound
[Online]
At: https://www.michaelkenna.com/ivwrap.php
Accessed on: 6 November 2019

Exercise 2.1 – Zoom

Brief

Find a scene that has depth.  From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint.

Exercise 2.1

To find a suitable location to take the photographs for this exercise I turned to the National Trust Website.  Instead of taking photographs of a tree line or arches, I wanted to do something a little different.

I decided to go to the Rothschilds Archive building at Waddesdon Manor, which has recently been built.  The building is very contemporary and uses strong lines.  At the front there are wooden pillars outside the building set alongside a rectangle pool, with a statue of a gorilla in the middle of the water.

Photographs

The first time I went, I focused on the wooden panels behind the gorilla, but these didn’t come out very well. I returned a few weeks later and retook the photographs focusing on the gorilla, which has created a stronger sense of moving towards the statue when you view them in sequence. I took a photograph at each focal length marked on my lens.

1/640 Sec, f 5.6, 24mm, ISO 64

1/800 sec, f 5.6, 29mm, ISO 64

1/800 sec, f 5.6, 36mm, ISO 64

1/640, f 5.6, 50mm, ISO 64

1/640, f 5.6, 70mm, ISO 64

Reflection

When viewing the images the Gorilla moves from the right side of the frame to the left, without the degree of the angles changing, as seen in Blade Runner when Harrison Ford zooms into sections of the photograph on the Esper, the object moves from one side of the frame across to the other.  Also when you zoom into the final pictures you will notice that the finer detail has a lower resolution on the wide angled zoom compared to the full zoom.  This is only noticeable when you zoom into a section of the image, as highlighted in the film ‘Blow Up’.  The printed images of the section that are blown up are of a lower resolution and therefore the finer detail is lost as shown below.

70mm and 24mm

Tom Hunter

Tom Hunter is a photographer who has explored the East End of London and in particularly Hackney Marshes, which is the far side of an area I am thinking of exploring, due to its open space that creates a form of calm and tranquility. However, you are frequently reminded that you are still in London when a train thunders through every few minutes.

http://www.tomhunter.org/life-and-death-in-hackney/

Life and Death in Hackney (1997)
Fig. 6.

http://www.tomhunter.org/life-and-death-in-hackney/

The way Home (1997)
Fig. 7.

The photographs above were taken in the late 90’s to reflect the rave scene in urban areas. The lighting shows that they would have been taken around dawn, when the raves would be coming to an end and the people dispersing. I feel like the use of the light in Life and Death in Hackney creates the emotion of feeling tired and not quite ready for the dawn of the next day and that the Marshes is an area where you could collapse and recover.

Tom Hunter provides a description of the landscape alongside his photographic series, in which he states

‘This maligned and somewhat abandoned area became the epicentre of the new warehouse rave scene of the early 90’s. During this time the old print factories, warehouses and workshops became the playground of a disenchanted generation, taking the DIY culture from the free festival scene and adapting it to the urban wastelands. This Venice of the East End, with its canals, rivers and waterways, made a labyrinth of pleasure gardens and pavilions in which thousands of explorers travelled through a heady mixture of music and drug induced trances.’ (Hunter T, s.d.)

We are now just over 20 years on from when the photographs were taken. The landscape has not changed much, although the rave scene has now long gone. It is now a protected nature park with set out paths, full of cyclists, dog walkers and runners, with rowers travelling up and down the River Leigh. There are still two train lines that run through the Marshes. The tranquility of the landscape is frequently broken up as trains go thundering past serving as a constant reminder that you are still in London.

My idea for a photograph of the Marshes is to capture the wildlife with a train running past in the background together with a view of all the construction on the horizon reflecting the regeneration in the area. The other was to try and capture the rowers on the river Lea with the canal boats and if the timing is right a train running over the rail bridge.

This is a series of photographs to keep in mind when visiting the Marshes and looking at composition.

Introduction

I was made redundant from my role as a Senior Claims Negotiator in the City of London.  Although I had worked in Insurance for 20 years, I became disillusioned with the industry, and it became apparent that I wished to pursue another path. 

I have always enjoyed taking photographs and had an eye for detail, which I was able to capture on the old point and shoot digital cameras.  However, it was during a holiday to Iceland that my interest in photography really started.  Partly due to my husband and I being competitive and wanting to take the best photograph. I found that although I was able to take ‘good holiday snaps’, I was unable to capture the essence of Iceland, reflect its incredible beauty and ever changing scenery. 

Once we returned I took an online photography course, which I completed and was awarded a Diploma in Photography.  The Diploma was based on theory alone, with no practical work being submitted.  Following this course I continued my interest in photography, through mainly taking photographs of wildlife and pets.  I found that the more I learnt how to use the different settings on a DSLR camera together with the post production of RAW files in Lightroom, the more I was able to convey the scene at that moment in time.  This has culminated in me wanting to take my photography to the next level, through learning different styles and genres.