This year’s summer vacation was (again) spent in Romania. To be more precise we were in Costinești by the Black Sea. It was known in advance to be a sun/sand/beer experience so I decided to go film almost entirely. I packed five rolls of Ektar 100 for the Fuji GA645Zi and used that as the main camera. Just in case I also brought the 5D2 but only with the small Ultron 40/2 on it. All in all a sort of minimal approach.
We stayed at a simple but elegant hotel about ten minutes walk from the beach. On the hotel was served breakfast, lunch and supper. Every meal, apart from breakfast, started off with the compulsory and omnipresent palinka-shot (and now we’re not talking shots as in pictures here, but the ever present home distilled prune variety). Depending on its provenience it smells and tastes differently. Some are tasty and almost odourless while some smell – and probably tastes – like super glue (haven’t tasted the glue though). No matter, down the hatch it goes. Keeps the doctors away, you know!
During our stay a strict food regime was applied. We ate only what was served at the hotel. No extra nibbling apart from the needed beers during the day. Given that we had sun, and 30C or more in the shade, quite a few were required to keep us from cindering!
Despite the rather small portions at the hotel we were never really peckish and at the end of the week I had lost some weight and felt more fit than before. I must be used to eating much more than is good for me. Shall make a note of that.
Oh, and the coffee, as is common abroad, is best described as… brown.
During the stay I tried to enforce these few and simple compositional “rules” in my photos. These “rules” are no rules really, but merely indicators of what to think of/lookout for before pressing the shutter. One can take pictures without these in mind but they help me to increase my keepers anyway. A shot with all these indicators in it is likely to look very messy indeed.
Colour and light.
Unless in b/w – which is a subject on its own – try not to have a colourwise messy scene. A few colours are often enough. Make special note of primary colours (solid red, blue, green, yellow etc). We react most to red, as any advertising firm knows. Black-yellow is nature’s own danger signal, think of all the stinging insects (or mimicry). Not that every black/yellow picture signals danger, but we tend to react a bit more on it. If I find a black object alongside a yellow one, my photo nerve reacts: worth a picture here somewhere? The earliest red morning glow of the sun tends to boost red-ish areas of the scene – this can be used to ones advantage for more punch in the colours. As the sunrise progresses it’s colour will change into more yellow before getting more harsh and turns into ordinary day-light. Midday light is specially hard and unforgiving. It gives no shadows and makes the picture flat. A low sun (morning/evening) often makes a better scene. Also note the contrast (dynamic range), make some scenes very hard to do justice. For flowers and the like, a soft overcast light is perfect, objects in direct sun tend to have completely blacked out shadows.
Repetition of a subject or a structure in a scene often increases the impact.
I tried to think more than usual of what’s in the frame? Am I trying to depict something or just document something? What drew me to the scene in the first place? Is there a smell/taste/song that is typical? Get some ambiance – a picture of a cup of coffee is only a picture of a cup of coffee, add a bagel and it is a picture of a breakfast. Taking wide angle shots leaves some room for re-framing in the post process (at the cost of extra time and labour of course!).
A photograph with the one and only main subject in the distance is generally boring. Let the eye have a cue which carries the viewer into the picture.
I’m a sucker for geometrical elements in a picture. Parallell lines, fields of same colour, diagonals, squares, rectangles, triangles,… If I see them I tend to bring my camera up.
Some sample photographs
Here are a few of my film photographs. They are all taken with a Fuji GA645Zi on Ektar 100 film. This time I let a professional lab do the developing. I did the scanning myself on a Canoscan 9000F. These are rather crude raw scans with a minimal of postprocessing, a number of white stains should be hunted down and removed.
Here I saw the winch and the boom first. I did some test framings from different angles but there was always something in the picture that made no sense, either in the foreground or the background. So ended up on a little slope above the winch with the shoreline and sea in view. From this position I wanted both some grass in the foreground and sea in the background. For leeway in possible post-framing I made sure a bit of sky was also visible:
The picture is split horizontally with elements (from bottom) green grass, a horizontal lever of sorts, the yellow sand, blue sea and finally blue sky. An alternate and a bit tighter crop is this without the sky:
All in all I’m pretty happy with this one. The blue upper part and the lighter lower part with the interesting “thing” at the bottom.
This a picture of a wreck at sea. With something in front we get a framing and also make the picture to say more.
Below the composition is improved. The shore gives a foreground as before, but now the jetty and the ship are repetitions of horizontal elements and the jetty in the foreground also helps getting an idea of the size of the ship:
I am still wondering if the picture should be cropped a bit in the low part.
These three coloured trash cans were among the only colours on the beach. Not only are they strong colours, they also happen to be the colours in the romanian flag so they convey more information than just which one is for plastic, metal and glass waste. During the week I took several photos of them in different compositions.
The first one is straight on (some cropping required…):
The next one uses repetition and also combines with the Kiss-FM flag (I had to flip the picture as the wind was blowing the wrong direction. In the original the text on the flag was backwards):
And this one shows a booth where the composition uses vertical lines with blotches of colours in the old posters.
There was a pier with wave breakers that caught my attention. These concrete parts were huge, I’d guess 2 metres from top to toe! First an overview:
The size of this power pole was also huge. We walked under it every day on the way to the beach. It took me much thinking before I found an angle that was useable. This was the only photo of it I ever took. I wanted the size and the “raw brutality” of it all to come through.
A bonus. Some wooden structure below the winch. I thought it looked nice.
For those wondering: these descriptions are just what went on in my head on site before taking the photographs. With a little experience these considerations come automatically without really thinking on them.
Furthermore I have not put down a lot of work on post processing on these shots. Being home developed this is how they came out with Tetenal C-41 processed in the kitchen sink:)