Assignment 2.2: Amend – Shutterscapes

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2.2.1: Aldeburgh revisited a very varied archive of old iPhone 5, iPad Pro and DSLR images processed in Light Room, inspired by the style of Marti Parr.

2.2.2: MINE, Penwith Cornwall : DSLR images converted to Monochrome in Lightroom and inspired by the moody and contrasty styles of Daido Moriyama and Brassai.

2.2.3: In Search of Sublime, Lake District: DSLR colour images processed in Nik Viveza and monochrome cloud and sky images inspired by the time images of Hiroshi Sugimoto.

2.2.4: Dark Peak : low resolution images taken on an old Canon G3 compact inspired by the black and landscape work of Fay Godwin and Paul Hill as well as very early photography techniques.

Assignment 2.2 asked me to establish a self-directed project that would allow me to explore and develop skills identified in my personal statement, revisiting previous project and/or new work.

One of the key areas identified in my aims for this course was further development of my photography skills, particularly digital software editing skills in Lightroom and NikFX. I focused on existing photography series from East Anglia and Northern England, selected to present a range of different challenges and styles.

The project brief explicitly required me to focus on skills development rather than content and meaning. My aim was to start to significantly improve my digital photography editing skills and develop a number of alternative visual communication workflows in different photographic styles in different software. More specifically to:

  • significantly improve my proficiency in different modules of Lightroom : develop module, book module, slideshow module and print module to see what can be achieved through using Lightroom alone.
  • explore potential role/s in my digital workflow of of DxOFX (NikFX) filters that I had not tried before, and compare what these can do compared to the quicker processes directly in Lightroom.

I selected a number of images I found interesting and/or potentially marketable but of varying quality and aesthetic from existing photo series dating back as far as 2011. My other set of criteria was their suitability in posing a variety of technical challenges to experiment with effects in the different software. Some of the images are older and less ‘professional’ low resolution jpg images shot with an iPhone or old compact camera. Others are newer and better considered RAW images shot on a DSLR. The aim was to explore a range of interesting and relevant technical treatments in different software as a more creative way of discovering ‘happy accidents’ as visual communication rather than focusing only on more conventional ‘technically professional photography’.

Although I was not asked to focus on content or meaning, my discussion of the images and the ways in which I develop them draw on discussions of beauty/sublime, the picturesque and ‘tourist gaze’ in landscape and documentary photography and considers ways in which different styles of digital processing can alter the meanings of the photographic image. In each series I explore a range of possible aesthetic and colour and/or monochrome technique before identifying those that best communicate the ‘spirit of place’, different ways in which human activity has ‘landscaped’ the ‘natural’ environment and my own ‘landscaping’ of what I see.

Stock Photography: audience and marketing

A further key aim of this assignment was also to start to look at ways of promoting my work, starting with Shutterstock stock image market. Advice from experienced stock photographers is to have a larger number of different types of image – editorial, commercial and also abstract. Rather than – as in higher end photography – to focus on a distinctive style and niche. So an issue in selection of series and images was how far I thought they might be suitable as stock photography rather than their documentary interest.

My original submission to my tutor included images from locations in Norfolk and Suffolk that were underrepresented on Shutterstock, covering a large number of images to get lots of experience in addressing different processing challenges. But, following advice from my tutor I narrowed down the images presented here to those in the series on the left. The other image collections submitted to Shutterstock as a result of this Assignment can be found on:

Zemni Images Shutterstock

Some of my own preferred images were actually sold on Shutterstock. But many of the sales appeared to be based on location searches, sometimes several together. Technical quality was not always the highest. Nor did I myself always like the images – I had taken them as part of documentary memories of a place and posted them because I thought they might have a market, rather than trying to represent my ‘voice’. This raises some questions about ways in which I might need to separate commercial photographic work from my own personal projects, though stock photography for a range of outlets is certainly a possibility if I take this work seriously. Other stock sites offer better terms for the best photos and I would probably have more success if I monitor the effectiveness of different content and keywords, and do more regular uploads to keep my images more prominent in searches. I could also do more market research on demand, and promote of my images on different platforms. I would however need to consider the relationship between that and possibility of sales from my own websites. Also whether or not I actually want to spend time on commercial work rather than earn my income from my professional consultancy career. To focus all my creative time on my own projects.

Further development

In further development of my own personal projects, many of the low resolution, grainy images that are not technically acceptable as landscape photographs could be developed as photography-based prints in photoscreen, photolithography, cyanotype and/or sola plate. Building on my development of images of the Bridge in Assignment 2.1 and 5.2.

In terms of developing the images that I feel represent my ‘voice’ and that interest me as personal projects, concept and narrative are key. As well as further developing my technical capture and processing skills, including not only Lightroom and NikFX but also Photoshop and other software like Topaz Lab. In the original assignment sent to my tutor I had drafted photobooks of photographs from National Trust properties in East Anglia and Cornwall that I had intended for further development in VCAP Assignments 4 and/or 5. But these had to be postponed because of travel restrictions during the COVID-19 and consequent difficulties developing content with local communities and required permission from National Trust. They will be followed up as part of Sustaining Your Practice or after completion of my degree.

2.2.1 Aldeburgh Revisited

Aldeburgh is a Suffolk seaside town that we visit frequently for short camping holidays in the summer and days out in the winter. It has a thriving tourist art market with well-known artists like Maggi Hambling as well as local artists.

I have a very large archive of photographs of very variable quality. In this project I focus on colour, using three series of images:

  • Aldeburgh Morning Light: very low resolution images taken to test my first iPhone.
  • Aldeburgh Carnival 2017 taken on my iPad Pro originally taken as background reference for sketchbooks of Aldeburgh in Illustration 2.
  • Carnival Processions: high resolution RAW images taken on my DSLR

Focusing on colour styles, I explore how I can enhance the colour in the style of photographers like Martin Parr using Lightroom and Viveza, and how poor quality images can be developed as interesting atmospheric images in ColorFX and/or Photoshop. I was also interested in whether or not I could make low resolution images, as well as my DSLR images, technically acceptable as Stock Photography for Shutterstock.

See gallery of Aldeburgh images accepted by Shutterstock: Aldeburgh

Sold on Shutterstock

Other images I like for their colour, expressiveness and/or documentary quality.

Aldeburgh Morning Light

iPhone photographs processed in Color FX. Unfortunately the experimentation underlying the final images was deleted during a WordPress and pc disk upgrade. None of these images were of high enough resolution for Stock Images. But could form the basis for Photoscreen or solarplate prints and/or designs for linocut.

Aldeburgh Carnival

Slideshow of iPad Pro photographs processed in Lightroom. Several of these were accepted by Shutterstock, and also sold, following processing.

Aldeburgh Carnival Procession

DSLR photographs processed in Lightroom for Martin Parr-style saturated colour.

These are further developed as a Photo Essay and web gallery in Assignment 5.1 Shutterscape Reflections:

2.2.2 MINE, Penwith, Cornwall

Another documentary project I did a lot of work on in previous OCA illustration and printmaking modules, was the tin mining industry in Penwith.

Dating back to Roman times at least, tin mining has historically been one of the main sources of employment – as romanticised in the Poldark series. The mines have all closed over the last decade because of trends in the international markets for tin, causing a lot of poverty and unemployment in the mining communities. A number of local and international artists have worked with mining communities, giving presentations of their work at Tate St Ives. Many of the mines are currently run as tourist attractions – capitalising on t6he Poldark effect. I have so far visited three of the mines: Geevor, a private min and Levant and Botallack owned by National Trust. Although currently closed, there are discussions on how the substantial deposits of lithium can be exploited without significant environmental pollution – rather than exporting that problem to other countries to fulfil the rapidly rising demand for lithium batteries.

I have a lot of documentary notes from various talks about the industry. Some of the photos of Geevor I used as the basis for linocuts in Printmaking 1. And there is significant potential for doing printmaking in different print media for cards and other outputs for the tourist market. The tour guiders are also very friendly and there is potential to develop Photobooks eg as the basis on which I could apply for a National Trust photographer permit to do commercial work on other properties in the UK. I should also ask for permission from the (friendly) community/privately-owned Geevor mine.

In this assignment I reviewed my photographic images, selecting some of the most dramatic in Black and White to provide some sort of overview narrative. I processed these in Black and White and exported them as a Slideshow from Lightroom. The presentation on the left had to be converted to low resolution in order to fit the file size limits on WordPress.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions I was not able to revisit Cornwall to work further on this area until September 2021, and this is now one of the locations selected for SYP.

2.2.3 In Search of Sublime, Lake District

I revisit photographs from a short stay in Troutbeck in the Lake District taken in 2014 for a Landscape Photography personal development assignment (not submitted for assessment). I wanted to see how processing these with Dx0FX Viveza could bring these to a more professional standard, comparing this with Lightroom.

All the images I submitted to Shutterstock were accepted see:

Lake District image gallery on Shutterstock

Images sold on Shutterstock
Shutterstock image sold to purchaser in Korea.
Image sold on Shutterstock
Image sold on Shutterstock

I myself really like the enigmatic reflected sunsets, abstract shapes, almost apocalyptic cloud images, wind or rain with drops on the lens and black and dramatic black and white images of the many vapour trails. For me these represent my experience of Troutbeck much more than the ‘prettier’ pastoral images. But these would need to be brought together as a narrative, or shot with more technical skill probably on a better camera than my existing DSLR.

Further anticipated documentary work was again impossible because of COVID-19. I develop this image series further together with new images from Derwentwater in 2019 and further planned visits in 2022 in SYP.

Clouds
Rain and wind
Sun
  • Sunset

2.2.4: Dark Peak

A series of images from a walk in 2011 around Crowden in the Peak District. Taken on an old Canon G3 compact. camera series of photographs, these images were very low resolution, grainy and with jpg artefacts. The images themselves were reminiscent of some of the landscape work of Fay Godwin and Paul Hill, and I liked the stark loneliness of ‘grey grit’ landscape and skeletal trees.

This first set of images was a set of experiments in monochrome conversion to see what could be done in SilverFX to produce enhance the ghostly loneliness of the landscape and sense of vulnerability of the trees. I find the results quite atmospheric, with interesting illustrative possibilities if further developed and combined with some sort of narrative. None of these images were of high enough resolution to submit to Shutterstock. But could be used for photography-based printmaking.

The Path
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011. BW1c
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011. original colour.
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011, BW1 f
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011, BW1e
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 2b
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 3a
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 3a
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 3b Silver FX
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 4b
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 4c
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 4c
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 4b

Water, rocks and flowers
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 5b
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 5c
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011 6b
  • Crowden Walk, Dark Peak, 2011
Trees and Sky
Experience with Shutterstock by August 2021

My experience so far has been broadly positive – good resources database on areas like intellectual and privacy rights, technical tutorials and quick and helpful response to some queries I had. I have learned a lot technically. and the experience has taught me a lot so far. Most of my 220 images were accepted when submitted first time (having consulted all their documentation first). The main reasons for rejection have been because of issues like titling, editorial vs commercial categorisation or keywording. Only 3 have so far been terminally rejected on jpg quality issues, but even these I think I plan to re-submit as more artistic creations using NikFX and/or use as images for photography-based printmaking.

Sales have been less successful. Shutterstock is generally considered by You Tube contributors to give highest income because of volume of sales rather than percentage of price. But in order to make substantial income you need to have around 2-3,000 images and constantly have a drip of new images going on. By the end of this module I had had 19 downloads, at different prices from 0.10C to $2.07, earning a grand total of USD5.80. The latest being August 2021, so sales still being made. Unfortunately because of changes to the Shutterstock member platform, I cannot link all these here.

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