This is a small selection of the images I believe are most successful in terms of aesthetics and meeting the brief of The Shape of Water.
The reason that I believe these particular images work are because they are more abstracted than earlier work. I am reminded here of the comments of one of the reviewers of my work in March who said that he preferred the more abstract work. I think this is the case, for me, because the subject matter is not important. What I am trying to capture is the shape of water.
There are a number of reflections about this project that I need to record. Not least my concern that I have moved from waters that might be considered fundamental to an Island’s identity, that is the water that surrounds it, to waterfalls. Does this shift meet the brief in terms of the essence of Skye and does my work achieve the aim to capture the shape of water? It seems to me that there is a story to be told about waterfalls that could be as compelling as the seas that encircle Skye. All Island communities face shortages and fluctuations in supplies of key resources – water being one of them. How many times have we visited Mediterranean Islands where we have been asked to use water sparingly to preserve their scarce resource?
However, on Skye, in the north-west of Scotland, of course, similar issues do not apply. We have significant rainfall throughout most of the year, and the waterfalls of Skye can often be seen cascading down the mountains and forging pathways through the dark rock of the Cuillin. Hence my choice of photographic location at Sligachan this week, in the heart of the Cuillin, where much of the water converges. The annual rainfall on Skye between 1981 and 2010 (no more recent data available) according to the Met Office, is 1806 mm, with October, November and January recording the highest monthly falls. During these months rain falls on average on 20 days. Skye, compared to North Scotland’s rainfall averages at 1721mm and Scotland as a whole at 1570mm provides a sense of the availability of water on the Island. And to put it in perspective, the United Kingdom as a whole records 1154mm per year. On the basis of this data, it seems to me that the amount of rain and thus the shape of the water in Skye’s many waterfalls will fulfil the brief of capturing part of the essence of Skye. My shift of subject from sea to waterfall is simply changing the context and the way I shape the story. And, like so much of my photographic work there is always a story to tell about the variation between seasons – working with the shape of water during the very wet months when waterfalls are in spate will I am sure, provide some interesting shapes and opportunities.
I do not normally write extensively about the technical challenges of photography, but I do wish to do so in relation to the shape of water as I need to record my field notes to inform future work with fast flowing water. During the course of this week, I have experimented with single and multiple exposure images. Generally speaking, I believe that the multiple exposures give a greater sense of depth and luminosity. However, in order to get the very fast shutter speeds needed to freeze fast moving water (when that is the effect I require) I need to set a shutter speed of around 4000 of a second. In order to get the speed required, I need high ISO settings and a wide aperture the combination of which result in a shallow depth of field in the image that is in sharp focus. Furthermore, if I use a polarising filter (to manage reflections and to suppress glare) then this will reduce the amount of light too. So, the challenge is to balance these technical aspects to best effect given the light available. This leads to the conclusion that for these technical reasons, and to best capture luminosity and depth, on balance, bright and strong light conditions are preferable.
I mentioned briefly in my last blog that I am interested in the concept of ‘reverie’ or daydreaming, or as Frederic Gros described the concept as “the walkers waking dreams”. Gros explains Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s reverie as follows:
“Rousseau claimed to be incapable of thinking properly, of composing, creating or finding inspiration except when walking. The mere sight of a desk and chair was enough to make him feel sick and drain him of all courage. It was during long walks that the ideas would come, on the road that sentences would spring to his lips, as a light punctuation of the movement; it was paths that stimulated his imagination.” (Gros (2015) p65).
There are a couple of ways in which the concept of reverie is important to me. The first is that whilst I do not always walk long distances to photographic locations, I do use the opportunity of being in the landscape to re-equilibrate, slow down and daydream – either about the photography at hand or the latest ideas I have for my PhD. I often take in the air, the sights and the sounds, and the opportunities before setting up my camera. I also use daily walking practice to develop ideas and prepare myself for writing or to give myself time to reflect during periods of writing.
During the initial research about reverie, I came across Reverie (1890) by Claude Debussy. In a musical context reverie is used to describe a piece of music of a vague and dream-like character often with contempt for musical form and structure. There is a gentle ebb and flow in Debussy’s work, using a single theme that puts me in mind of the paintings of Monet and other contemporary Impressionists’ painters.
This led me to return to Ryan’s model (2019) and in particular the concept of activation and the use of music to heighten mood and emotional connection with the subject during photographic work.
I intend to use this process in Period 5 of my photographic practice to experiment and evaluate its impact on my work and more importantly the resultant processing and images.
Yet again, the iterative process of reflection has yielded some fascinating results and insights that will develop and modify the direction of travel in my academic research and photographic practice.
Gros, F. (2015). A Philosophy of Walking. London, Verso.
Ryan, R. J. (2019). Intuition, Expertise and Judgement in the Assessment and Capture of Photographic Images. School of Business and the School of Art. Cheltenham, University of Gloucestershire. PhD.