Exercise 3.3

1. What do the time frames of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.

What do the time frames of the camera actually look like? A personal viewpoint

Rolleicord Va Case 3 (1 of 1)

I have to confess a passion for using film rather than digital technology. Whilst digital technology offers a world of possibilities I feel I retain a greater sense of connection with the image making process when using film. I know this is a personal and somewhat idiosyncratic perspective, but it’s mine and I own it. I am not a film evangelist, indeed I harbour a deep distrust of evangelists of any persuasion. I don’t get involved in the film vs digital quality debate. I just get on and make images with film. I have an indescribable connection to the images I make with film that simply does not exist for me with digital equipment. I do use digital kit and thoroughly enjoy it for the immediacy and the creative possibilities it offers, but these still do not measure up when compared to the film image making process. For this reason I felt I needed to say a little more than usual in this particular exercise. I am very used to hearing the duration of a mechanical shutter, the visual experience of seeing a time frame is much rare for obvious reasons.

The action of consciously opening the back of an empty film camera and looking at the duration of the exposure is an interesting one. In simple response to the exercise I can, at full aperture, or with the lens removed, see an exposure of 1/1000 of a second, all be it for a fleeting instant.

F2A 3 v23

For me though, the value in this activity is relating the initial question: ‘What do the time frames of the camera actually look like’,  to the concept of the ‘durational space’, a theme I have grown increasingly interested in as the module has progressed and one that is informing my planning and execution of the assignment associated with this part of the course. In particular the work of Michael Wesley, Francesca Woodman and Alexey Titarenko have drawn me into some very different thinking about the nature of the decisive moment. A theme I will pick up in a later blog post.

When using a  mechanical film camera, the sense of the durational space of the exposure, a moment in time being captured, is far more concrete and far less abstract than the electrons released at the moment of exposure in a digital camera. When the shutter is figured on a digital camera, a quantity of electrons move at close to the speed of light through circuits and wires to allow the CCD or CMOS sensor to capture a range of photons.  At the instant of exposure, an electronically controlled shutter is opened and those photons are immediately turned into quantities of electrons that are in turn assigned very specific values in luminance and in colour. The  image processing chip and firmware in the camera working their ‘voodoo’ to conjure up an all electronic reconstruction of the image captured. A marvel of science verging on the mystical, but none the less invisible to the human senses. On many digital cameras even the sound of the shutter is simulated to allow the photographer some semblance of the past and the experience of the image having being secured.

F2A 2 (1 of 1)

Not so in the mechanical film camera where an altogether  more concrete process takes place at the moment of exposure. Indeed much of the process can be seen and is both visible and audible. As the shutter release is pressed and the mirror lifts, the viewfinder darkens and the visual image is obscured as the shutter curtain travels at speed, almost like a guillotine, slicing a moment in time and allowing it to be imprinted on the emulsion covered surface of the the film behind its normally light tight material. A concert of the mechanical activity and optical contrivance, allows for the chemical changes in a films emulsion, in response to light being captured and recorded of the scene the camera is pointed towards.

F2A 3 v23

So what do the time frames of the camera actually look like? Well depending on the camera they look like moments of light, flashing in an instant accompanied by the sounds of mechanical activity all for me associated with the instant an image is created. The sight and sound come together in distinct and decisive moment of their own,  incontrovertibly associated with the moment an image is made.

Recording the process of capturing  durational space!!

2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.

Peir Ex 3 (1 of 1)

The Pier- 28mm, f7.1, 1/600

Exercise 3.2

Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another
technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement
within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots
together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you
captured the shots) to your learning log.

Some reflections on the work of Sugimoto, Vanvolsem and Woodman

Before I started to make images for this part of the course I looked at the work of a number of artists referred to in the course text. I looked a at number but in this blog entry I focus on the three whose work most influenced the images I made in response to exercise 3.2.


Hiroshi Sugimoto

Firstly I was intrigued by Hiroshi Sugimoto’s long exposure shot taken within a cinema. There is an intriguing dichotomy between the darkness of the cinema theatre, a place that needs to be dark in order to enjoy the projected images on the screen. At 24 frames a second the individual frames create a moving image that although bright in some cases the theatre still remains relatively dark throughout the film. Sugimoto challenges this though and his long collects the light from each on of this frames and in effects starts to add them together. The summative effect of this addition is that the movie theatre looks completely illuminated . The cinema screen appears to be come a source of illumination lighting up the architecture of cinema theatre in a strange light. this light reveals the architecture of the space but of course does not show any of the occupants, the long shutter speed failing to capture evidence of humans.

This whole approach resonated with me. Reading Sugimoto’s Wikipedia page the notion of capturing time is suggested. I must admit to thinking differently to this about the work. If an image captured in a thousandth of second in more traditional approaches to photograph is recording a short moment in time, the Sugimoto, is recording a collection of these, a genuine ‘durational space’ far in excess of the more general use of the medium. The work offer some insight i believe to the idea of time and space. I am intrigued by the use of longer shutter release times and a mechanism to examine time. Some of the images I will post in this section are about exploring time and who we perceive it. In deed the camera it could be argued might be a tool to explore time and travel within it, all be it visually and not literally!!


Copyright Hiroshi Sugimoto

If a film is 90 minutes long then the theatre will be illuminated by the glow from 129,600 individual frames and the light they give out!

Maarteen Vanvolsem

Looking on-line at the work of Maarteen Vanvolsem at the online Kussneers gallery I was very interested again in the notions of the camera as a device to record time. Vanvolsem suggested that the technology of the camera reveals something the eye cannot see, indeed he asks the question:

“Do images, built in time by the movement of the film, give us an image of time?”

This work not only utilises slow shutter speeds but also the motion of the camera, suggesting that vin some way these two separate controls reveal something to us about the nature of time itself. Although different to the work of Sugimoto, Vanvolsem is asking I believe a fundamentals questions about the mediums ability to reveal something that the human eye cannot see.

Francesca Woodman

A further artist whose work I explored for this part of the course was Francesca Woodman. Clearly a troubled but very talented photographer I found her work strangely compelling. Her self portraits and the portraits and studies of others contained for me some strong and recurring motifs. the first of these was the sometimes derelict and decaying backdrop to her images. Woodman use of 6×6 monochrome was also a further theme. the most engaging aspect of her work however were the images where a slow shutter speed had been used and the subject, sometimes her self had moved during the exposure. again the use of the camera to see something of time that the human eye is unable to capture was something that I thought I needed to explore in my own work.

Some of her work has a dance like quality and I was reminded of the early pioneers of the mediums use of slow shutter to capture what is ordinarily hidden from the eye. There is also a drama to the work, perhaps created by the movement captured in some of the slow shutter images. Of greatest interest to me though in this work was the deep melancholy that appears as a theme. I am uncertain whether this is intentional or whether subconsciously I see this in the work knowing that Woodman had complex mental health issues and committed suicide at a relatively young age. A talent lost and a photographer who perhaps never reached the pinnacle of the success she could have achieved.


Copyright the estate of Francesca Woodman

Of all of the photographers work I looked at it was Woodman’s influence that I found most engaging, and this work set me on a track to make some slow shutter, multiple exposed photographs.



Exercise Images

In these firs set of images i wanted to create a contrast between the sharpness of the scene but the blur from people and object in motion. I used a wide angle lens, a small aperture and slow shutter speed. the images were hand held. i am pleased with the juxtaposition of motion in a scene that is on the whole very sharp. the effect creates a sense of dynamism and records a longer moment in time than a usual image. these are all be it short ‘durational spaces’

Motion Bus (1 of 1)Omnibus in Motion- 18mm F22 at 1/25Camera Motion Blur Motion 6 (1 of 1)Street Crossing- 18mm F22 at 1/20Camera Motion Blur Motion 7 (1 of 1)Street Walkers- 18mm F22 at 1/25


The Durational Space-Movement in time

Having experimented taking the images above and reflecting on the work of Vanvolsem I also decide to experiment with slow shutter speeds and camera motion. The idea was not only to capture a long moment in time but also to scan the camera across a sen in the process. In my own way I was trying to record time in the way Vanvolsem describes in much of his work. The final images have a surreal and abstract quality but they also say something about time.


Camera Motion Blur Motion (1 of 1)Bridge 1- 18mm f22 at 1/9 secCamera Motion Blur Motion 2 (1 of 1)Bridge 2- 18mm f22 at 1/8 secCamera Motion Blur Motion 3 (1 of 1)Bridge 3- 18mm f22 at 1/6 sec

The durational space explored further through multiple exposures

I wanted to explore the notion of the camera controlling and representing time in different ways further and with this in mind felt i needed to use a film camera capable of multiple exposures to bring to a conclusion this set of exercises.

Cord and Mac (1 of 1)

To do this I used a 1959 Rolleicord Va II roll film camera and 120 monochrome film. The camera has an excellent multiple exposure feature a very quiet shutter and would allow me create a range of effects in the camera. I used Shanghai GP3 120 100 ISO film and processed it in Ilford Ilfotec LC29 at 1-29 dilution. I metered (incident reading) for each scene and then reduced the exposures by two stops to try an reduce the risk of the film getting too over exposed during the multiple exposures. I shot three images on each negative and used an aperture of f8 and a shutter speed of 1/8 second. The resulting negatives were scanned and sharpened slightly as I do with all scanned negs.

I wasn’t completely satisfied with the quality of the final images but this is an approach that I am going to explore further. Again I think i have created a range of durational spaces through the use of slow shutter and  multiple exposures. 

GP3 2 (1 of 1)GP3 5 (1 of 1)GP3 7 (1 of 1)GP3 4 (1 of 1)GP3 6 (1 of 1)GP3 t (1 of 1)


All of the above images were produced in camera and with minimal processing. as stated above this is an approach that I will explore further in my own work and the work for the course.

Exercise 3.1

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject.
Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible
blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated
John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and
a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.

This section of the course is challenging me to think about shutter speeds and freezing moments in time. I have for some time thought of image making as capturing thin slices of time, a moment frozen forever, captured and never to be repeated.

With this in mind I undertook some simple experiments with a bowl of apples, my camera and gravity! after a shooting a number of frames I settled on the one below:

Apple Master (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400

The fast shutter speeds has a allowed a moment in time to be frozen. the apples hang in the air defying gravity. a moment to fast for the human eye to se is recorded forever! There are some excellent examples of fast shutter being used to capture moments beyond a humans ability it see in the excellent Revelations Exhibition at the Science Museum. My blog entry review of the exhibition can be found in the research section of this blog

Below are some examples of shots from my experiments with the bowl of apple and gravity:

Apple Test 15 (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400

Apple Test 17 (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400

Apple Test 18 (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400

Apple Test 7 (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400

Apple Test 9 (1 of 1)

35mm (1.5x Crop Sensor) 1/250 at f2 ISO 6400