4. Blog

17Mar – Barbican

Some vignetting.

Asg4 17Mar
Box A
Figs. A1-A10
The Barbican 17th March 2019

20th May – Barbican

[20May] It has taken more than two months to get back to The Barbican. I have had a number of thoughts on the subject in that time, some of which have been discarded and some replaced.

On 3rd May I wrote,

I am inclined to follow Schmidt’s lead in photographing architectural foreground details with the background revealing the larger context. I might have to extend the project beyond the Barbican, but following the same principle. I have a notion to shoot all the images in vertical format.

Egle Kisieliute
Concrete Evidence (Edinburgh), 2018

I encountered Sze Tsung Leong (featured in Philip Gefter’s Photography after Frank (20009)), who photographs worldwide, but always with the horizon in the same place. I wondered whether I might go for something similar and look for diagonals. I kept that thought in mind today, but there aren’t that many at the B. The work of Egle Kisieliute seen at Photo London a few days earlier helped this train of thought.

I have considered shooting in B&W, vacillated over time, but happily decided to do so today. I also stuck with the idea of shooting in vertical format.

I took a mini tripod and used that throughout. I took a wide angle zoom – in case – but only used the 18-135 (27-200 equivalent).

The weather was mostly overcast, with occasional sun during the hour (11:28 – 12:35). Bracketing was used when there was sky in the picture to try and induce some variation.

I wondered at one point today whether it would be possible to do the whole assignment on shots of the fountain, but access is restricted to residents and other persons of privilege. I might try asking for permission.

The Barbican 20th May 2019
Box B
Figs. B1-B9
The Barbican 20th May 2019

It is unfortunate that there is so little sky interest, even with a bracketing boost, nevertheless, there are some acceptable, workmanlike shots here – nothing particularly original or groundbreaking, but a solid performance. B2, B4, B5 and B7 make the cut.

The Barbican 20th May 2019
Box C
Figs. C1-C10
The Barbican 20th May 2019

There are so many similar shots is a strand of dangling creeper (I am not strong on plant identification) in the foreground, swaying into shot in the breeze and I was not sure whether to include it and so took a variety of options. 

C1-C4 are at ground level, C5 on the way to the first level walkway and C6-C10 on the walkway with and without creeper – this is where I first saw shot on 17th March – see A8 above.

C5 has a chance and one of C6-C10 — probably C9, the creeper is most evident and pleasingly defocused.

The Barbican 20th May 2019
Box D
Figs. D1-11
The Barbican 20th May 2019

D1 is shown because it includes The Heron (the shot is looking rather strange – I will investigate). A person passing on the walkway had told me a few minutes earlier “the heron is back” and I looked for it on the other side, to include with the fountain. D1 was meant to be a shot of the al fresco lunchtimers: it doesn’t really convey much about the Barbican.

D2 was taken for the cleaner with his hand cart circling couple, but again it is outside the scope of the project.

D7 is the back of the fountain – that and D8 can go forward to the next round: D8 captures a lot of the variation on the site but will it take a heavy crop to loose the ledge the tripod was on? D9 was taken in a rush to include the rare pedestrian and will need to be retaken with more attention to the composition. I’ll have another crack at D10 too.

D11 is the best shot of the day – I was just about to pack up when I encountered the scene. It is the only hand held shot of the day (rather awkward with the mini tripod still attached). The timing of another rare pedestrian was fortunate. Naturally muted, it benefits from a splash of colour in the cone and an edge of foliage.

Thus, D7, D8 [D9 and D10 to be retaken] D11 to be processed but not included in the final submission.

Possible submission shots

These ten shots, plus the last just for interest, comprise the initial shortlist.

The Barbican 20th May 2019
Box E
Figs. B2, B4, B5, B7, C5, C9, D7, D8 [D9 and D10 to be retaken], D11
The Barbican 20th May 2019

I will reprocess these from raw and put them on the submissions page.

Image refs: 6066, 6076, 6080-82, 6086, 6102-04, 6117, 6147, 6148-50, 6151, 6154, 6156. Not a bad hit rate.


[22May] A couple of potential changes of mind have occurred while processing the raw. One is fairly certain, replacing 6102-04 (fig. C5) with 6105-07 (fig. C5a below). This was pure luck – I moved the wrong images into the work directory and realised that the replacement, shot from the same location but at 29mm (44mm) rather than 83mm (125mm) offered a tighter, more succinct image. It is possible that cropping the wider angle view will offer other possibilities.

Box F
1. Figs. C5 and C5a
2. Fig. B7 in monochrome and in colour
3. Fig. D8 monochrome and colour, original and cropped 
The Barbican 20th May 2019

More controversially and surprisingly, I might switch to colour. I was perfectly satisfied with the B&W jpeg images but when processing the raw which retain the default colour data, I was taken by one, 6086 (fig. B7), which is more striking that way. This is still under consideration, because some are stronger without the distraction of colour.

[23May] On balance, while B7 might be enhanced by colour, most of the chosen images are not, fig. F3 (image D8) being a case in point. Also on D8, I am undecided on whether to crop out the foreground as while this also removes the distracting distant building crane the downside is that it loses the range of building types in view. Perhaps this is another candidate for a reshoot.

I will now prepare monochrome versions of the current shortlist for the submissions page. There is a fair chance of another Barbican visit next Friday (31st May).

1st June – Barbican

I had a number of specific shots in mind for the day, in addition to a general hunt for new angles. My list was:
Fountain, side view
Over fountain, no ledge
Flower balconies – these three subjects were all in Box D above.
Old buildings – see A6 and A7 above from the guided tour. Not found.
Church ? – not done. It was in sight, but I was not sure how to reach it, I was tiring, and abandoned the plan.
Heron ? – this was not spotted.

Recalling that the intention for this assignment was to emulate Michael Schmidt’s use of diffused lighting for photographing architectural details, it was unfortunate the the light was consistently harsher than on the last visit, but this is out of my control.

I was rather pleased with some of the images of flower beds from the previous visit (see fig. B1 above) and, while best in colour and likely to form part of this final submission, I thought there might be some worth in photographing foreground flowers with a defocused set of iconic balconies in the background. I am still intending, if time and the printer allow, to submit Asg. 4 in physical prints and one of these this might make a header sheet.

Barbican 1st June2019
Box G
Figs. G1-G4 flowers and balconies 
The Barbican 1st June2019

A cropped G3 might work, but none of these were as successful as the earlier visit.

On the targeted shots around the fountain, I ignored the sign excluding me from the fountain’s surroundings this time and managed to get much closer. There will be a choice between fig. H1 and those in Box C.

The bright sunlight meant that even if the prominent ledge in D8 is avoided, the shadow on the water is even more distracting the shots were bracketed, so this might be improved (see Box H2).

[3rd June] The side view (fig. H5) works quite well with the visitors to give a sense of scale (as in H1) and also the water reflected on the concrete. This will be a choice between H5, H6 and D6, if included.

H7 and H8 were planned to improve on D9 and D10. It is possible that H7 could replace both, though I rather like the clearer road markings in H8.

Barbican 1st June2019
Box H
Figs. H1 – H8 Targets 
The Barbican 1st June2019
Box H2
Fig. H2 enhanced

Actually the bracket merge of H2 and its subsidiary images gives an interesting effect with the shadow paralleling the ledge, but may be too intrusive. 

[8Jun] Box I contains new (in the sense of unplanned) images.

Fig. I1 must be a common shot of one of the towers, but it might have a place in the final selection.

A continuing challenge within this project was to find one shot that can show the range of residential building types: there are three main categories, the towers with characteristic balconies, the low rise units with “hanging gardens” and low rises without. It is straightforward to show two of those at once, but not all three, as demonstrated in figs. I2 though I6. 

Finally, figs. I7 and I8 show the water reflection first noted on the fountain (fig. H5) on a pillar supporting a walkway. This would, after a crop, be a visually attractive image, but is unlikely to fit into the project.

Barbican 1st June 2019
Box I
Figs. I1 – I8 Other 
The Barbican 1st June2019

Second shortlist

Without reference to the first shortlist, the intention is to select from the June 1st images, process from raw, then make a final selection for printing from both sets. I will probably send about a dozen to the printer and then choose 6-10 to submit.

I have not given up on the idea of a colour frontispiece for the assignment of flowers and a Barbican balcony and so G4 (or G3) is the first inclusion.

H1 fountain and balconies with observers might make the final set. I have come to like the enhanced H2 with ledge and shadows as it might lead the viewer to spend some time thinking about the cause. H5’s water reflections make a pleasing contrast with the cold and massive concrete. H8 provides a strong mixture of plant life, bold diagonals and more balconies, if I can get a decent exposure from the raw, other wise H7.

I1 has to be a possible as it is pure tower and balcony. I4 (or a cropped I5) provides a good contrast of tower and flowered balcony. I will work with I7 to see whether any good will come of the water reflection detail.

Barbican 1st June2019
Box J
Second shortlist
Figs. G4, H1, H2 (enhanced), H5, H7, I1, I5, I8
The Barbican, 1st June2019

The remaining sections were early versions of the submission page. The Box designations have been amended to fit in with this page.


Two projects are running for possible submission, The Barbican and Shadows of Small Things — the likelihood is that The Barbican will be favoured. After a first Barbican visit for a guided tour on 17th March there was a long lacuna until 20th May, but that produced some creditable photographs and the initial shortlist will be shown here. Another visit to reshoot some of the images is intended in the next few weeks.

Box K
Initial shortlist
The Barbican, 20th May 2019

There are two versions of image 7 as this is still under consideration.

10th June

Ten (+1) shortlisted images from the first visit (not counting the guided tour) and seven from the second. The intention is to choose a dozen for printing and use the physical prints for the selection of the final submission.

The Barbican, 1st June 2019
Box L
Shortlist from second visit
The Barbican, 1st June 2019

I made a point of not looking at books of images of the site, so as to avoid influence. it will be interesting to do so after the assignment is completed.

Final selection

Images from the two shortlists will be grouped together for elimination. Images will be awarded a subjective score in the range 1 to 5.

Box M
Figs. 1-5
The Barbican

The first five images from the 20th May visit were not reshot.

M1 is likely to be included, being the clearest shot of the iconic balconies (with a pigeon just visible). Score: 5

M2 is quite a strong image with its contrast between flat and (rare for his site) curved but is does not really fit in with the others as demonstrably Barbican: it could be anywhere. Score: 2

M3 offers a pleasant contrast of textures but the glass walkway is a distraction. Score: 3

M4 has the advantage over C3 of a stronger configuration of the tiled areas but there is a danger of too many images of the balconies. Score: 4

M5 is almost certain to be included, with three striking and contrasting planes. Score: 5

The Fountain 

Box N (previously D)
Figs. 1-6
The Barbican

The choice between D1 and D2 is no straightforward. D1 is stronger through simplicity with the hanging foliage for added interest. D2 has the advantage of people for scale and reveals more of the structure but the flats behind are a distraction. D1 scores 5 and D2 a 4, but probably print both and defer the decision. 

D3 is 5 and included: this is an entirely subjective matter — I was so surprised and delighted by the form and pedestrian function of this part of the fountain which is not apparent unless viewed from the (publicly accessible) residential area. It still makes me smile as I write this. And the light reflection is a bonus.

D4 and D5 were taken on 20th May and the intention on 1st June was to retake the image without the foreground ledge. Unexpectedly, D6 was the outcome with even more of the ledge but with the addition of an interesting shadow. I remain undecided on this. D5 shows more detail of the back of the fountain (which was the aim of the shot) but D6 has the intriguing shadow. Print both (D5 and D6, score both at 4) and delay the decision.

The rest

Box O (previously E)
Figs. 1-7
The Barbican

E1 and E2 were taken in rather a hurry on the first outing. The intention was to retake them individually, but E3 from the second shoot can replace them both: it captures the bold diagonal of the staircase but puts it in the context of the residential area, draws attention to the car park road with foreground foliage forming a relieving contrast with the mass of concrete. E3 with a 4. 

E4 is ordinary but purposeful in the context of documenting the look of The Barbican. Score: 4 and print it

My eye was drawn to the composition of forms in E5 by an airplane passing the tower. I waited a few minutes for another to come, but none did. Having seen the missed shot, I cannot find E5 satisfying. Score: 2

E6 was my favourite shot of 20th May, but it stands alone, not as part of a Barbican set. Score: 5 and print it in colour, but not for submission.

E7 is the light reflection on a pillar. I failed to find a usable shot from the two images, but this abstract may find another purpose. Score: 2

Print these      

Box P (previously F)
Figs. 1-11
The Barbican

If I had to choose six today it would be F4 … I have had several tries at this and cannot get past F4 consistently. I wrote after May 20th that if I had access to the residential areas, I would probably shoot the whole assignment on the fountain and that remains the case.

[23Jun] Time is running out. I laid out the images on the kitchen table today and chose six. Plus the colour front cover and I have for now included the colour print of D11 which will not be sent. 

The Barbican 20th May 2019
Box Q
The Barbican
Final selection