Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Levon Biss Microsculpture Exhibition at Museum of Natural History Oxford

I have seen a number of the images Levon has created and have to say I am blown away by the beauty and technical expertise.

Levon Biss Microsculpture

Levon Biss is a British photographer based in the UK who has been shooting campaigns for international brands for the last 18 years.  His work has graced the covers of publications such as TIME Magazine and he has produced a best selling book on the global game of soccer titled ‘One Love’.

Here Levon explains how he works on his Microsculpture project

“Each image from the Microsculpture project is created from around 8000 individual photographs.  The pinned insect is placed on an adapted microscope stage that enables me to have complete control over the positioning of the specimen in front of the lens.  I shoot with a 36-megapixel camera that has a 10x microscope objective attached to it via a 200mm prime lens.

I photograph the insect in approximately 30 different sections, depending on the size of the specimen.  Each section is lit differently with strobe lights to bring out the micro sculptural beauty of that particular section of the body.  For example, I will light and shoot just one antennae, then after I have completed this area I will move onto the eye and the lighting set up will change entirely to suit the texture and contours of that part of the body.  I continue this process until I have covered the whole surface area of the insect.

Due to the inherent shallow depth of field that microscope lenses provide, each individual photograph only contains a tiny slither of focus.  To enable me to capture all the information I need to create a fully focused image, the camera is mounted onto an electronic rail that I program to move forward 10 microns between each shot.  To give you an idea of how far that is, the average human hair is around 75 microns wide.  The camera will then slowly move forward from the front of the insect to the back creating a folder of images that each have a thin plane of focus.  Through various photo-stacking processes I flatten these images down to create a single picture that has complete focus throughout the full depth of the insect.

I repeat this process over the entire body of the insect and once I have 30 fully focused sections I bring them together in Photoshop to create the final image.  From start to finish, a final photograph will take around 3 weeks to shoot, process and retouch.”

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Levon Biss Microsculpture

Microsculpture The exhibition
Oxford University Museum of Natural History
27 May – 30 October 2016

Microsculpture presents the insect collection of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History like never before. The result of a collaboration between the Museum and photographer Levon Biss, this series of beautifully-lit, high magnification portraits captures the microscopic form of insects in striking large-format and high-resolution detail.

Levon Biss Microsculpture

Levon Biss Microsculpture

Levon is holding a workshop at the Museum:

Photography Workshop with Levon Biss
Levon Biss’ photography is a masterclass in lighting. Pick up some expert techniques using specimens at different scales from the Museum collections. Special workshop to coincide with the Microsculpture exhibition.

Details to follow after Microsculpture exhibition opens on 27 May.
Saturday 9th July

Levon Biss Microsculpture

Microsculpture

Formed at scales too tiny for us to perceive and with astonishing complexity, the true structure and beauty of insects remains mostly hidden. Their intricate shapes, colours and microsculpture are dizzying in their variety, but it takes the power of an optical microscope or camera lens to experience insects at their own scale.

At high magnification the surface of even the plainest looking beetle or fly is completely transformed as details of their microsculpture become visible: ridges, pits or engraved meshes all combine at different spatial scales in a breath-taking intricacy. It is thought that these microscopic structures alter the properties of the insect’s surface in different ways, reflecting sunlight, shedding water, or trapping air.

Alongside these elements are minute hairs adapted for many purposes. They can help insects grip smooth surfaces, carry pollen, or detect movements in the air, to name but a few. The shape of these hairs is sometimes modified into flattened scales – structures so small they appear like dust to the naked eye. In some insects, such as butterflies and beetles, these scales scatter and reflect light, creating some of the most vibrant and intense colours seen in nature.

The evolutionary process of natural selection should account for all this wonderful diversity of microstructures, but for many species their specific adaptive function is still unknown. By observing insects in the wild, studying museum collections, and developing new imaging techniques we will surely learn more about these fascinating creatures and close the gaps in our current understanding.

Dr James Hogan
Life Collections, Oxford University Museum of Natural History

 

15 of the best photography blogs to help you become a better photographer

It’s difficult finding the best photography blogs to learn from – there are so many to choose from! Here we share the ones worth your time!

Source: 15 of the best photography blogs to help you become a better photographer

3 Ways Photography Alters The Mind

I keep saying in class that an understanding of photography, of image making, of communicating in a visual way changes the mind. As the saying goes ‘mind stretched never goes back to the same shape’ Therefore seeing better, understanding your world through a visual medium has to be a great advantage. You will not be surprised then when I champion this article by  on Lightstalking

Visual perception, or the ability that allows you to observe a certain situation, is shaped and molded by you and your experiences in your surroundings. The way you see things, observe, take note of details and so forth defines your visual perception and how detail oriented you are.

Let us take a neurosurgeon for example: his visual perception is highly tuned towards details. The surgeon should be able to notice things which regular people wouldn’t even be able to see.

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Psychologists, on the other hand, should be able to catch various micro expressions by the people they are working with in order to be able to help them; their visual perception is highly tuned towards noticing small differences in the facial expressions, which often occur for a split second. Along with this, they should also be observant of the bigger picture.

Us photographers are a different breed. Our visual perception is separately tuned towards different things that we are supposed to observe…….

Light

Though it’s very difficult to fine tune your perception for light, this is something you start doing right away. Due to the limitation of the camera (the amount of light it needs to generate a decent picture) you first start evaluating the amount of light you have and whether it is hard or soft.

Generally, you do this by trial and error. First off, all you start with sources you’re familiar with e.g. fluorescent lights – and you generally learn which settings work in that kind of a setup, this can then be used in other scenarios.

You can ascertain whether the light is harsh or soft by looking at the shadows and observing their shapes i.e. whether closer or further away from the light source.

I think you should read more of this article, it is not long but it is worthwhile

I cover much of the conceptual aspects of these ideas in my Intermediate Photography, we have the next course starting on the 12th May and we have places

Best monitor for photo editing: 10 top models tested and rated

One of our most popular posts has been about monitors and which is the best for photo editing. You may be aware that the monitor you use to look at your images can have a substantial effect on how they look. That is not that they look better or worse more that they are accurate. If your monitor is too bright and you edit your images based on what you see then when you send your images for printing they will come out darker. The same of course goes for colour balance. So if you want some sort of accuracy you should always use the operating system software that is designed for monitor calibration, if you don’t know how just google monitor calibration on a (mac) or (PC). However if you want much better image fidelity you have to get away from a general purpose monitor which is OK for everything and get one that is designed for graphic work. This article on Digital Camera World lists the top ten as at October 2014.

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Good luck

Here are some more up to date recommendations but not from sites that I regularly use so cross check what they say

Best Monitor for Photo Editing and Photography 2016

Photo Editing Monitor Buyer’s Guide – May 2016

 

 

 

Cindy Sherman in 2016 Street Style Star

I came across this article and images in Bazaar and although intrigued by the pictures found myself uncertain about what was going on. I could instantly see how these related to her earlier work but the text and interview was confusing. Was she actually working for the fashion houses or are these true to form satirical images? The sub heading to the article is, so maybe, who knows? Text by  and of course photographs by Cindy Sherman

In an exclusive series of satirical portraits, the famed contemporary artist arms herself with the season’s standout pieces. Her quest? Social media validation.

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She began shooting portraits in the mid-’70s, while her landmark series, “Untitled Film Stills” (69 works in all, in which she embodied female stereotypes), was created between 1977 and 1980. The youngest—by many years—of five siblings, Sherman says her motivation to make portraits was a very basic need for attention. “They were already established as a family by the time I came along,” she recalls. “It was a way for me to say, ‘I’m here, you guys, don’t forget about me!’ Or ‘Maybe if you don’t like me this way, you’ll like me this way!’ Or ‘I can do this!’ “

Sherman’s parents weren’t as prone to introspection as their daughter. “I think they thought it was cute or something,” she says. “I know they didn’t think it would really turn into anything. When I went to college, my mother was always like, ‘Take some education courses just in case so you can always teach.’ They did see the early days of success; I think they started to realize it was a tangible thing for me.” She adds, “I still don’t think they really had a clue what I was doing.”…..

Today, Sherman could very much rest on her laurels. In 2012, New York’s Museum of Modern Art hosted a retrospective, and in 2011 one of her works, 1981’s Untitled #96,sold for $3.89 million at Christie’s (then a record for a photograph at auction). Ask if she’s still ambitious and she replies, “I want to continue to be happy with what I’m working on because that’s the biggest challenge. I’m hard on myself, but everyone is always waiting for someone to fall. That’s a common problem for artists. They fall into a mold of their greatest hits and just repeat it. WhenI feel that I’m repeating myself, or about to, it’s time to move.”

But when the work is done—new characters born, new realities created—Sherman exhales into her life. She’ll ride around Manhattan on her retro Pashley bicycle, or head out to her house on Long Island to collect her chickens’ eggs. Sometimes, when she’s feeling spent, she jaunts to a deprivational German health spa. Unlike the subjects of this series, she doesn’t live in the middle. “I don’t take selfies,” she says. “I hardly ever use my phone for photographs. It’s really hard to remember to even take a picture of something.” She shrugs. “Usually the moment is gone. I just don’t think about it.”

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Sherman, 62, is one of the world’s greatest sociologists, so in a way, infiltrating the street-style species is a weirdly natural extension of her work. “You know, I never expected to be doing what I’m doing for as long as I’ve been doing it,” she says. “Every time I start a new project, it’s a new challenge, to try to think of new faces or new characters. Sometimes I feel I’m repeating characters that are poking out of these faces that I shot maybe eight years ago”—a fun exercise for Sherman nerds. “I take on projects like this when I’m starting on a new body of work because it inspires me, gets the juices flowing.”

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see more read more here

see previous Posts

Cindy Sherman

Cindy Sherman – working with MAC comestics

 

In the Future, We Will Photograph Everything and Look at Nothing & Free Nik Software

My good friend David Thomas alerted me to this article in The New Yorker

This is a really interesting and important article because it looks and addresses the issues that photography now faces. Yes I know that sounds heavy and overblown but there is no doubt that the way we make pictures, what we do with them and how they are consumed has changed, and changed for ever. Don’t worry I am not deaf to all those who tell me film is coming back, it’s just that I think it is doing so only to those who like the film process and mostly those are not the people who are interested in image making. They enjoy the craft based process and uncertainty that they introduce into the image production through lack of control that film can bring if you don’t know what you are doing with it.

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PHOTOGRAPH BY JORDAN STRAUSS / INVISION / AP

“Today everything exists to end in a photograph,” Susan Sontag wrote in her seminal 1977 book “On Photography.” This was something I thought about when I recently read that Google was making its one-hundred-and-forty-nine-dollar photo-editing suite, the Google Nik Collection, free. This photo-editing software is as beloved among photographers as, say, Katz’s Deli is among those who dream of pastrami sandwiches.

Before Google bought it, in 2012, the collection cost five hundred dollars. It is made up of seven pieces of specialized software that, when used in combination with other photo-editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Lightroom, give photographers a level of control akin to that once found in the darkroom. They can mimic old film stock, add analog photo effects, or turn color shots into black-and-white photos. The suite can transform modestly good photos into magical ones. Collectively, Nik’s intellectual sophistication is that of a chess grand master. I don’t mind paying for the software, and neither do thousands of photographers and enthusiasts. So, like many, I wondered, why would Google make it free?

My guess is that it wants to kill the software, but it doesn’t want the P.R. nightmare that would follow. Remember the outcry over its decision to shut down its tool for R.S.S. feeds, Google Reader? Nik loyalists are even more rabid. By making the software free, the company can both ignore the product and avoid a backlash. But make no mistake: it is only a matter of time before Nik goes the way of the film camera—into the dustbin of technological history.”….

Google’s comments—disheartening as they might be—reflect the reality of our shifting technologies. Sure, we all like listening to music on vinyl, but that doesn’t mean streaming music on Spotify is bad. Streaming just fits today’s world better. I love my paper and ink, but I see the benefits of the iPad and Apple Pencil. Digital photography is going through a similar change, and Google is smart to refocus.

Read the rest of this article and here you can download the Google Nik Software for free

Magical Land Art By Andy Goldsworthy

I have been a huge fan of Andy Golsdworthy for many years and have a number of his books. He is a sculptor who creates such ephemeral works that only photography can capture them before they dissolve, melt, blow away or sink back into the waters. Here are some of his works but you can see more on Bored Panda

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Andy Goldsworthy is a British sculptor, renowned in his field, that creates temporary installations out of sticks and stones, and anything and everything else that he finds outside. The son of a mathematician, Goldsworthy grew up working on farms before eventually getting his BA from what is now the University of Central Lancashire. “A lot of my work is like picking potatoes,” he told the Guardian. “You have to get into the rhythm of it.”

Much of Goldsworthy’s work is transient and ephemeral, leading many to view it as a comment on the Earth’s fragility. But for Goldsworthy, the picture is more complex.

“When I make something, in a field or street, it may vanish but it’s part of the history of those places,” he says in another interview. “In the early days my work was about collapse and decay. Now some of the changes that occur are too beautiful to be described as simply decay. At Folkestone I got up early one morning ahead of an incoming tide and covered a boulder in poppy petals. It was calm and the sea slowly and gently washed away the petals, stripping the boulder and creating splashes of red in the sea. The harbour from which many troops left for war was in the background.”

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see more here

Andy Goldsworthy

Melt

Andy Goldsworthy – Land Art video

 

1930s ‘Killed’ photographs The American Great Depression — excised.

As found on Mashable

The photos look just like the most famous FSA images of Depression-era America. Laborers with weathered faces stare into the distance, sharecropping families stand on splintered porches and rag-clad children play in the dust.

But each picture is haunted by a strange black void. It hangs in the sky like an inverted sun, it eclipses a child’s face, it hovers menacingly in the corner of a room.

The black hole is the handiwork of Roy Stryker, the director of the FSA’s documentary photography program. He was responsible for hiring photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, Arthur Rothstein and Gordon Parks and dispatching them across the country to document the struggles of the rural poor.

Stryker was a highly educated economist and provided his photographers with extensive research and information to prepare them for each assignment. He was determined to get the best work possible out of his employees — which also made him a bit of a tyrannical editor.

When the photographers returned with their negatives, Stryker or his assistants would edit them ruthlessly. If a photo was not to his liking, he would not simply set it aside — he would puncture the negative with a hole puncher, “killing” it.

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see the full article and many more images here

other associated posts

Migrant Mother – Dorothea Lange the story of a picture

Photographing the Great Depression, then and now – Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange ……..the greatest American documentary photographer

 

 

Alec Dawson Photographer

In his series of untitled photographs Nobody Claps Anymore, the Mexican-American photographer Alec Dawson portrays ordinary people in their homes in a downbeat, ultra-stylised manner. Nobody Claps Anymore by Alec Dawson is on show at Perugia Social Photo festival, until 28 March, which focuses on photography around social issues – this year with the theme of ‘blindness’ . Dawson, who works as a civil engineer and has no formal training in photography, keeps the houses of his subjects largely unchanged, but brings in cinematic lighting to throw sharp shadows and dramatic highlights on them

The series’ title, Nobody Claps Anymore, was inspired by an emotional realisation that I experienced when my plane landed in Melbourne. Hundreds of tons of metal, carrying hundreds of passengers, silently flared momentarily before the tires collided with the runway. The nose of the plane heaved forward. The reverse thrusters roared and rapidly decelerated the plane. As the plane turned off the runway onto the taxi-way the individual joints in the pavement were perceptible as the plane lumbered to the gate’ Eventually the plane parked and I heard the sounds of belt buckles, zippers, and the rustling of bags. It all happened in silence. Not a word uttered. No applause. The audience had forgotten to clap’

Every so often by wandering around the web something special pops out. Today it was Alec Dawson. I know his work is somehow reminiscent of Gregory Crewdson except that Dawson shoots real people in real situations rather than constructing a set. He just adds dramatic lighting and I don’t doubt manages the location and people a bit. The images are remarkable for that, their reality, is this a truth. The idea that these are true representations forces the question what is truth. Anyway I am always willing to applaud great creativity and just wish I had thought of it first although I doubt Oxfordshire would have presented such characters.

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Originally found in the Guardian, this is a good place to see interesting photography and worth checking on a regular basis. The Guardian Alec Dawson

 

Sony World Photography National Awards

There are many photography awards, the Sony version is not my favourite but with every award or competition there are some that stand out. Here are some from the current national awards

The winners and runners-up in the Sony World Photography National Awards have been revealed. An expert panel selected the best image taken by a photographer from each of the 60 participating countries.

Here is a selection of some of the winners as shown on the BBC website

 

Minh Thanh Ngo, Winner, Vietnam, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography Awards

Image copyright Minh Thanh NgoImage captionThe winner for Vietnam, Minh Thanh Ngo, focused on the traditional custom of lighting lanterns on the Perfume River in Hue City.

© Pedro Diaz Molins, Winner, Spain, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightPedro Diaz MolinsImage captionPedro Diaz Molins took first place for Spain with this image of an old couple on a beach.

© Khairel Anuar Che Ani, Winner, Malaysia, National Award, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightKhairel Anuar Che AniImage captionWinner for Malaysia was Khairel Anuar Che Ani who captured a tired moment while Rejang dancers wait their turn the during Melasti Festival in Bali, Indonesia.

© Abhuit Banerjee, Winner, India, National Award,2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage caption Abhijit Banerjee was awarded first place in India with this photograph titled Gangasagar Fair, taken at India’s second-largest fair, which takes place in West Bengal’s Sagar Island.

© Luis Portelles, 3rd place, Canada, National Awards, 2016 Sony World Photography AwardsImage copyrightLuis PortellesImage captionA colourful graphic shot by Luis Portelles was awarded third place for Canada.

Here is the Sony website

The winning images will be shown at Somerset House, London, from 24 April – 10 May.

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