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Couple, Pecs

The repetition here is not just the curves in the pavement; by a happy coincidence (and fast reactions on Frances's part), the girl's pose also echoes the S-curve of the setts. Never neglect the importance of luck, but equally, always be prepared to take advantage of it -- and remember that 'echoes' can be a form of repetition, even if the 'echo' does not precisely reproduce the shape of other picture elements. Of course it could be better: the couple could be more differentiated from the background, and the little cloud in the middle of the sky area can look like a processing flaw, but it still works pretty well for a very quick grab shot: a strong argument for having your camera pre-set to 'typical' values for the scenes around you, ready to shoot. Frances's Voigtländer Bessa-T was loaded with Ilford XP2 Super and the lens was the 50/1.5 Nokton with yellow filter. 7/10 (just).




Red flags, Tin-and-Man Square

A fair example of variation-within-repetition. Roger took quite a lot of pictures of these flags, using various focal lengths on his Leica MP (21-35-75mm), but chose this one with five flags and five flag-posts to use here. The chief interest lies in the shapes and textures of the flags: other frames (on Kodak Elite Chrome EBX ISO 100) laid greater emphasis on the sheer number of flags (up to a dozen or so per picture), the gold stars at the tops of the poles, and even the poles themselves. The inexplicable blackness of the nearest pole lets it down somewhat, as does the absence of the star on its top, covered by the flag: this is an advantage of digital photography, that you can examine the picture and be sure that you have what you want, because when you are shooting movement like this you can never be entirely sure otherwise. These flaws drag it down from an 8/10 to a 7/10.




Monument Park, Hungary

The Monument Park outside Budapest is a fascinating place, a museum of statues and memorials dating from the era of Soviet occupation. The statues and monuments range from the moving to the frankly kitsch; their execution is similarly variable. Frances shot this with her Bessa-T and 50/1.5 Nokton (with yellow filter) on Ilford XP2 Super, then printed on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone, toning with a home-made sulphide toner. She tried framing it in various ways, including one picture that concentrated only on the repeated faceless faces, but decided to shoot it this way in order to show context. Cropping into the front-row figures on both the left and the right reinforces the suggestion that the monument could go on forever: showing whole figures or (worse still) the edge of the monument would weaken the image considerably. An easy 8/10, maybe even a 9.




Slates, Kent

The subject matter is quite hard to read without a caption: it's something repeated, but what? It would be a very much better picture with more depth of field, which could easily have been achieved with a tripod and a smaller aperture, but Roger was lazy and took the picture (on Ilford HP5 Plus) hand-held, using a Contax 645 with 80mm standard lens; 35mm would also have given more depth of field, of course. Going up to 4x5 inch (or larger) might have raised insurmountable depth of field problems, even with the use of movements, though f/32 or smaller could perhaps have worked. Technically, it's quite a poor shot, clearly illustrating that a larger format needs to be used properly if it is to deliver the extra quality of which it is capable. Aesthetically, on the other hand, we rather like it, which drags it up from 4/10 to 5/10.




Cross, Old Goa

Pretty much by definition, shadows repeat the form of whatever is casting the shadow, but the repetition can be broken up by the surface onto which the shadows are cast. Frances's eye was caught by this crude cross and its fragmented image on the side of one of the huge Portuguese-era churches in Old Goa. The viewpoint was highly constrained; a hand's breadth to either side created a completely different image. At the printing stage she tried cropping out the moulded stucco to the right, but if you try covering it with your fingers or a piece of paper you will see that it removes a lot of context from the image. We always have a weakness for context: pure pattern and repetition can easily come perilously close to a sterile 'what is it?' picture. The camera was a Nikkormat, loaded with Ilford XP2 and with a 35/2.8 PC-Nikkor on the front. Another 7/10 bordering on 8/10.




London Eye

We almost used this in the symmetry gallery, but then decided that as it wasn't perfectly symmetrical, we'd put it here instead: symmetry and repetition are often closely related, which is why they share a module in Extras. The unusual tonality is because Frances shot it on Ilford Delta 3200, using a Voigtländer R3M and 50/2 Heliar. The legs of the wheel are exquisitely rendered but the grain of the film detracts slightly from the contrast between the spokes and the sky: this is not the ideal film for the application, though it worked very well for many other shots. The staff at the London Eye have an inexplicable taking against 'professional-looking' cameras but fortunately know so little about photography that Voigtländers, Leicas and other rangefinder cameras don't look 'professional' to them. 7/10, just.




Church of St. Martin, Noizé

Like the Old Goa picture, above, this relies on shadows, but much more upon repetition (and repetition-with-variation) in the shadows themselves: the repetition of the tiles, which is obviously the origin of the shadows, is far less obvious. Roger shot the picture with the old Kowa 66 that we inherited from Frances's father Artie, shooting on Maco Cube 400 film: it is a good illustration that even a middle-rank medium format (MF) camera can deliver better sharpness and tonality than the very best 35mm cameras. Why, then, do we not use more more MF? Several reasons. They're bigger, heavier, less convenient and less versatile; they cost more to run; and processing three 12-exposure films is a bigger hassle than processing one 36-exposure. What's more important, though, is that we tend to shoot for the sheer joy of seeing, and 35mm gives us more of that. An easy 7/10.




Shoes outside Temple, Bir

This is an almost entirely intellectual interpretation of repetition: the shoes and sandals outside the temple, plus the idea that they are the only coloured things in the print (on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone, sepia toned). Roger chose to shoot from a slight angle, because otherwise the symmetry of the temple would have been too dominant. The 44x66mm Ilford HP5 Plus negative (exposed in an Alpa 12 S/WA with 38/4.5 Biogon) gives excellent tonality and sharpness and, with generous exposure, the ability to 'see into the shadows'. Because the camera has built-in levels that can be used even hand-held (as this was) the camera is dead level: it would not work anything like as well if the pillars were not parallel. Even then, without the hand colouring, the picture would rate only an 8 or maybe a 9, but as it is, it's one of the few pictures where we award ourselves 10/10.




Discarded film hangers

Surprisingly often, lots of the same sort of thing are thrown away, or at least, put somewhere to one side until they may turn out to be useful. These are hangers for processing cut film in deep tanks, and the picture was simply one of a dozen that Roger shot with his first roll of Maco Cube 400 when he was testing it for a magazine: the first roll should never be of 'real' and possibly unrepeatable subjects, but merely a collection of different exposures that you can check for development time. The camera was the KowaSix that we had recently inherited from Frances's father. As luck would have it, even the very first film was tonally excellent, and we liked one of the pictures so much that we used it as the 'signature' shot for the introduction to the modules on image quality. Compositionally this shot is probably only about a 3 but the exquisite tonality lifts it to a 5/10.





Like the shoes outside the temple, above, this relies on repetition of a similar class of objects, not of identical or near-identical objects. The background, incidentally, is not black velvet but black flock, sold by the roll as a photographic background: much easier to keep smooth and flat. This picture really irritates Roger, who took it on 35mm Ilford HP5 Plus using a Nikon F and 90-180/4.5 Vivitar Flat Field zoom; Frances printed it on Ilford Multigrade Warmtone. The composition is lovely, and the tonality is superb; but the depth of field is inadequate and the very slightly canted key on the right does absolutely nothing for an otherwise highly formal composition. With 6x7cm on a 'baby' Linhof, the sharpness could have been better controlled and the position of the key was sheer sloppiness. It would have been a 10/10 in that case, but as it stands, we rate it a bare 8/10.




Venetian blind

We were staying with Frances's nephew Dane when we woke up and saw this in the morning. Although we had no macro lenses or even reflexes with us, we did have a 90/2 Summicron for the M-series Leicas, which focuses down to about 1/10 life size. For a picture that is at first sight so simple, it is surprisingly complex from a compositional point of view. The contrast of vertical and horizontal is one element; the repetition of the slats and the vertical lines is another; and a third is the way that the right-hand vertical (the shutter control) echoes the left-hand vertical. Then there is the incredibly subtle gradation of light and shadow. Exposure was extremely critical, and we are not ashamed to admit that we bracketed -- though we are quite proud to admit that this is the middle bracket, so we got it right (on Kodak Elite Chrome EBX). A very fair 8/10.




Fly loft, Theatre Royal, Margate

As scrambled an example of variation-within-repetition as you might hope to find. We shot this (another cooperation) with the 'baby' Linhof and, as far as we recall, 100/5.6 Apo-Symmar, on Ilford HP5 Plus, but we are not sure to this day that we have the composition right. Holding two pieces of paper in front of the screen, crop off both the left and right of the picture. If we'd turned the back of the camera 'portrait' we could also have shown more of the rope in the foreground. Would it have been a better picture? Hard to tell... We lit it with two Paterson 1200 electronic flash heads, bounced off the wall, and used a small amount of swing to hold the receding plane. The print is on Ilford Multigrade IV. We rate it only as about 6/10, or 7 at most, because we suspect that with a bit more effort we could have managed a 9 or even a 10.


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© 2007 Roger W. Hicks