Urban Artists at Work – final shoot and new version of video

Posted on April 5, 2013


Yesterday I spent the day with a group of artists working on a collective work at Leake Street near Waterloo in London. It was very cold….still warming up. This was my final opportunity to shoot images in time for submitting work for assessment (by the end of May).

The painting was in a dark tunnel, under the railway lines. Very atmospheric but also very challenging photographically. I did not want to shoot with flash as this would have cast unwanted shadows and as it was so dark the use of flash would have been very apparent  – not my aesthetic for this project. I might have shot at very slow shutter speeds to avoid this problem but it would have been very difficult if not impossible to avoid motion blur. So I had to wait until the artists were illuminated by either the tunnel lights (strip lights on the walls about ten feet up) or the light from the end of the tunnel. This meant that the opportunities for shooting were more limited than usual but when the opportunities did arise the lighting was quite dramatic.

I was shooting with my Canon 5D mk 3, as on previous occasions. I have found that I can get pretty noise free images (after some post processing) up to ISO 1250, beyond that the quality is ok but when I come to printing the definition is not as sharp as I would like and the shadow areas are noisy. Most of the time I was shooting at F/2.8 or below with a shutter speed of 1/50th. I was using my F/1.4 50mm lens.

I made several image which worked well, one of which will find its way into the video…see below:

Squirl by Keith Greenough

Squirl by Keith Greenough

After the painting near Waterloo we went on to a live drawing session at the Boxpark in Shoreditch. This is a really nice venue and my nephew, one of the artists, had some work on show there. Live drawings are events which are frequent occurrences on the agenda of urban artists. The guys had to make their art in front of an audience and in a couple of hours. Each had prepared a sketch beforehand. They draw with Posca pens, which are marker pens for  artists. So they have to get it right. Their concentration is immense given the audience, the time limit and the nature of the medium.

The lighting at the Boxpark was if anything worse than at Leake Street. It was dark by now and so their was mixture of tungsten, coloured lights and fluorescents. Once again I was surprised to capture an image which I feel will work for my final set, as it meets my selection criterion of showing the concentration of the artist and in particular the focus of their eye(s) on their work. It goes without saying that the lighting, composition and image quality should be strong. Another consideration is how well it fits into the sequence for the final video. One of my considerations here is the placement of the artist’s head in the frame. Here I have been looking to create interesting transitions from photograph to photograph by moving the focus of interest (i.e. the artist’s face) around the frame.   Here is the second image:

Captain Kris by Keith Greenough

Captain Kris by Keith Greenough

I have now printed copies of my selected photographs as I plan to submit these along with the video. I want to be able to show the print quality of the underlying images. I am a little concerned that the video will be viewed on screens which may or may not have a similar colour balance to my own calibrated screen – you never know. By sending prints I will show how I intended the image to look!

The prints are 10inch square. The process has been very useful and quite hard work. I found some of my original images to be softer/noisier than I am happy to accept, so I had to look for alternatives. In fact this has been productive as I found several images which with hindsight I prefer to my original selections. There is a lesson here about not being too hasty about selecting images. You  need to live with them for a time and look again once the initial response to a shoot has died down.

I have created another version of the video which is now close to the final one…I must try to stop tinkering…the temptation is to keep wanting to improve it. I wonder sometimes if I am really making it better. I hope so…

Click on the picture below to go the Vimeo site to see the movie.