Photography in Action 2011

I Don't Usually Use a Longer Focal Length Lens, But at an Event Like Art in Action With so Many People Around and so Much Artistic Detail on Show it Was Essential

A simple device of using a finished picture hanging in the background to offset the foreground detail of the artist at work.

‘Art in Action’ is a celebration of craftsmanship: a one stop show case for demonstrable artistic endeavour. It provides a rare opportunity to observe painters, woodcarvers, weavers, potters, glass-blowers, jewellers, sculptors and a host of other artists, normally tucked away in studios, openly displaying their creative skill in the grounds and gardens of an appealing English country house. They are more than happy too to talk about their craft, ideas and inspiration which altogether make this event so unique and rewarding.

I have heard grumblings that the art on show is too conventional, prosaic even. There is indeed nothing controversial or outlandishly ‘modern’ to see within the tented exhibitions, but this is not the point of the event. It is about the artistic process of creating. How things are moulded, carved, painted or shaped into fine, classic, traditional pieces of work.  The enduring moment of watching an artist in complete control of his medium crystallises the essence of what ‘Art in Action’ is about. He is relaxed, calmly focused his touch is confident, gently deliberate and seemingly effortless. There is a hint of flamboyance, an air of mastery about him, and it is wonderfully inspiring.

The sight of an artist at work is of course absorbing and rather uplifting but does a photographer have a place in this paradigm? The decisions and choices that the photographer makes right up to the moment the shutter button is pressed are very much a personal and internal process and are difficult to convey in real time to a live audience. To overcome this I did the next best thing, I gave an illustrated talk each afternoon explaining how I constructed and composed some of my own photos.

I used the analogy of a painter who works the canvas by filling it with interest and includes only those elements that make the picture work and not necessarily what he sees in front of him. So a photographer, once he has decided what he wants to say and how he wants to say it, can work in exactly the same way. By taking the time to allow elements to move in and out of the frame and by recording them in a selective and conscious way he can with patience, persistence and luck create more meaningful and memorable images.

The second session of the afternoon was a more practically based class where participants were encouraged to go into the showground with their cameras and work on some of the ideas that had been discussed. First, I gave a brief talk on the ways of avoiding the practical dificulties of taking pictures at Art in Action. There are a large number of people in confined spaces at this event some of whom will wander into your carefully composed composition just as you press the shutter. The crowds also hamper a clear view of the artists at work and tend to clutter up the background and foreground to your image. To reduce the recurrence of this I recomended using a longer focal length lens to condense the field of view. This will tend to blur your background negating any distracting elements and will also discipline you to focus on what you consider to be the essential detail of your image. Most of the artists work in marquees and the light is quite subdued. To get around this problem I suggested upping the ISO so that faster, more usable shutter speeds could be chosen. With so much distracting activity going on I stressed the importance of being in control of the camera, encouraging the use of manual focus and suggesting applying the aperture or shutter priority mode.

Traditional Chinese brush painting demonstrated by Shuhua Jin. Here I used a rack of paint brushes to frame my image giving it a sense of depth. It was shot with a 100mm lens, at f5.6 1/125s, ISO 800
Traditional Chinese brush painting demonstrated by Shuhua Jin. Here I used a rack of paint brushes to frame my image giving it a sense of depth. It was shot with a 100mm lens, at f5.6 1/125s, ISO 800
A very simple detail of the colour pallete of the landscape artist Richard Tratt.
A very simple detail of the colour pallete of the landscape artist Richard Tratt.
A still life by Jeffery Courtney. I wanted to include the colour and texture of his backdrop as well as the tools of his trade.
A still life by Jeffery Courtney. I wanted to include the colour and texture of his backdrop as well as the tools of his trade
The sculptor's tent was possibly the busiest and finding a moment without anybody walking into the frame was rare. Shot with a 200mm lens ISO 800 f8 1/250s.
The sculptor's tent was possibly the busiest and finding a moment without anybody walking into the frame was rare. Shot with a 200mm lens ISO 800 f8 1/250s.
A simple device of using a finished picture hanging in the background to offset the foreground detail of the artist at work.
A simple device of using a finished picture hanging in the background to offset the foreground detail of the artist at work.


Comments

Nick said...

Thanks for reading my blog post. Please let me know what you think. English only please :)

Rob Boler said on

I attended both of Nick Fleming’s presentations at Art in Action in 2013. He is an inspiration, in terms of both his teachings, and, his images. Even in an environment crammed full with artistic craftsmen and women, he shone through as a master. A privilege to meet him.

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Nick Fleming Behind the Lens

Photographing while on the Armanath Yatra, Kashmir (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
With Baba Avtar Singhji and Buga Singh and members and friends of Baba Bidi Chand Dal in Anandpur Sahib. (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Resting at Gaumukh, source of the Ganges (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Photographing In the garden of an Udasin ashram in Khankal near Hardwar during the Kumbh Mela (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Photographing in Patthar Masjid, Srinagar, Kashmir (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Nick Fleming and sadhu at dawn on the ghats at Varanasi (<a target="_blank" href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Gurdwara under construction at Shaeedi Bhag, Anandpur Sahib (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Taking a breather on the Armanath Yatra, Kashmir (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
In the mountains near Kedarnath (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
Near Jammu (<a href="http://dalbirsindia.wordpress.com" target="_blank">Photo by Dalbir Singh</a>)
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