Thursday, 2 July 2009

SoFoBoMo 09: my books, wrap-up

End of the beach, Mundesley, Norfolk, June 2009

I've got there, it's over. Here's a summary of what I did, why I did it and what I learnt along the way (with all the self-promoting links, natch).

Part 1: On England's Pleasant Pastures Seen

Norfolk, May 2009

The first two books have titles inspired by Blake's poem "And did those feet in ancient times" (better known as the hymn Jerusalem), which is evocative of all that is English. This one covers the rural county of Norfolk.

It was designed from the outset as a print book (available from Blurb with a free print offer!) with the unusual aspect of a bottom-edge binding. This is a layout I've been meaning to try for a while. The online pdf version attempts to recreate some of the experience of that format.

All of the photos wee taken using a rangefinder (Zeiss Ikon) on colour negative film (quelle horreur).

Part 2: Upon England's Mountains Green

Blencathra, Cumbria, may 2009

Following on from the rural landscape of Norfolk, this is about the hills of Cumbria. From the outset it was designed as an online book but in a format that could readily be converted to print. I was experimenting with mixing colour and black and white, multi-image pages, background colour and captioning. Variable quality of images but turned out rather better than I had imagined.

All the colour work was with a Panasonic LX3 camera, all the black and white with a 4x5" field camera on Ilford FP4+ roll film.

Part 3: Under English Skies

Swaledale, June 2009

A purely online effort, using images from a photography workshop in Swaledale, Yorkshire. Title comes from my observation that England seems to have very particular skies, which suits the very particular landscape photographed. Some pretty good photos. Book was designed from the outset as a purely online book, taking advantage of variable page sizes etc afforded by a purely electronic format.
However, I think I'll extend this idea into a longer series of my best landscape work from the UK and turn it into a printed version.

Part 4: Seafront

Fishing on the beach, Mundesley, Norfolk, June 2009

Another effort from Norfolk, this time based around the seafront of the village of Mundesley. Again designed as an online "book" but in a very different format, further exploring the unique capabilities offered by electronic presentation. Of course, it could be printed (large) but that isn't really the point.

Both books 3 & 4 were shot entirely with my Canon 40D.

There we have it - four very different books, four different cameras, two different types of film.

Why so much? Partly my travel schedule - 5 trips during the SoFoBoMo period (not all planned at the start) meant I couldn't really focus on a single topic. So I used that to my advantage to explore different ways of doing books and shooting projects.

I've learnt a few things:
Electronic presentation of photo work has its own characteristics. It is possible to produce entirely satisfying work solely for that medium, if one is prepared to think in a different manner to traditional print layout.
Editing is a tricky business - choosing work that fits together is not the same as picking a bunch of good photographs. For this effort I went for first impressions, quick selections, cutting down the time I applied as exploring the form of presentation was more important than content.
Practice with book layout and workflows for preparing images helps. Editing aside, I can easily assemble a book in an evening (3-4h). Good preparation helps: having text written, images processed (but not sized) and a clear idea of layout & storyline are requirements to do things that quickly.
Putting together presentable work takes less effort than one might imagine. While I'm not claiming any of these as works of Fine Art, they're reasonably good and didn't take a huge amount of effort, shoehorned as that was around a busy work & travel schedule.
Shooting with film is not a good idea for large volume or time-pressured work. The camera time is about the same, and I produce less frames but the processing time is high: develop, scan, dust spot, apply corrections, dust spot, prepare for print, dust spot... I do not intend to use film for SoFoBoMo 2010.

Overall it's been fun, it's got me out when I might otherwise have stayed indoors and it's taught me a lot (again) about my photography. It pushed my meagre time-management skills (although I work well to deadlines). I continue to develop the running themes in my work and see some large chunks coming together. And it was fun.

I've now downloaded around 50 of the other books and I'll be posting some comments on them in due course.

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