Monday, November 5, 2012

What I learned from Assignment Four

I think the main thing I learn from Assignment Four is that my still life shots are still pretty dull. I tried to put thought and effort in to them but as I've been focusing so much on portraits and fashion shoots external to the course, it's an area I have neglected in my studies so far. I hope to become a well rounded photographer in the long term and so have been trying to use still life shots for some of the exercises for part five. It's trying to find ways to make them more interesting and from looking at other photographers it really is something as simple seeming as light. It's the play of light and shadows across an object that makes it interesting to my eye both in photograph, moving film and art. I will keep experimenting, keep reading and studying other photographers I admire.

I also need to continue to increase my proof reading skills. I do double check for spelling mistakes and typing errors, but some are still slipping past me. I need to double check if I can rewrite some of written parts of my assignments before final submissions. I write my assignments in Pages and then copy into blogger to try and keep errors to a minimum as well as get a second person to read over, but it still means missing things sometimes if the word is correctly spelt but in the incorrect context.

I'm most of the way through the final part now and have signed up for Digital Photographic Practise. I have a couple of sets of pictures to potentially use for the final assignment and I hope to finish and submit to my tutor this week.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tutor Feedback Assignment Four Light

Overall Comments Well done again with this assignment Katie, I get the impression you eventually solved the problems you faced, through a determined methodical approach. The key issues I mentioned within my last feedback report were as follows: Look at the work of Sander / Penn / Weston. Continue reading around the work of the practitioners. Review an exhibitions or gallery visits via the blog. I can see you have made some headway here and was impressed to see your research developing through the submission [IE: Weston / Sanders refs] It would also be useful to start to try and discuss their work when commenting on your own now [IE: critical position] – it is sometimes easier to try and start doing this by perhaps using a relevant quote from somebody you have researched. You can only really achieve this by reading about the works, as well as viewing the prints. This is why the bigger names are easier to research as there has been more written about them within academia. Also … just be very careful when citing references … you have referred to Edward Weston as ‘Watson’ ! A simply enough mistake to make, but this won’t strengthen your argument when trying to convince assessors you know what you are talking about etc. Assignment Feedback This assignment specifically looks at the application of different lighting techniques. IE: Highlighting Shape, Form, Texture etc Your set of images work well together as a series and certainly answer what is essentially a technical exercise. I liked your use of backgrounds, especially when a shorter depth of field had been deliberately selected in order to reduce distraction. [Form 1] The next image [Form 2] does tend to merge into the background somewhat and for me, doesn’t work as well as Texture 1, where you have managed to define the object against the background. The image which had most visual appeal to me was Shape 2, which worked really well as a silhouette. Here the positioning of the object was well thought through and the vignette and double exposure effect really added to the image. Finally Texture 2 was also interesting – especially your comments about ‘shade on a nice day’. I find bright but overcast days are really the best days to photograph on location, as the cloud acts as a huge softbox, avoiding deep shadows and highlights which both film and sensors often struggle with. Take a quick look at the amazing typological work of the Bechers [Bernd and Hilla], who painstakingly record Gas and Water towers …from very specific viewpoints in very specific weather conditions ! Learning Logs/Critical essays Your blog is progressing well and is being updated regularly. Suggested reading/viewing Germain, Julian.2005: For Every Minute You Are Angry You Lose Sixty Seconds Of Happiness. Steidl MACK. Gottingen. Germany ISBN-3: 86521-077-5 Muller, Wolgang.2003: Karat - Sky Over St Petersburg. Nazraeli Press. Tucson USA ISBN-3: 932809-40-8 King, Stephen.2009: Lewis’s Fifth Floor – A Department Story. Liverpool University Press. Liverpool UK ISBN: 978-1-84631-246-5 Billingham, Richard.2000: Ray’s a Laugh. Scalo. Berlin. Germany ISBN-3: 908247-37-3 Follow Up Work Your next assignment deals with ‘Narrative’ or story telling through imagery and I have included some excellent contemporary publications for you to take a look at in direct relation to this. Some will be easier to track down than others but you will find most of them in any University Library that has an Arts and Media Faculty. I would recommend you could try to locate your nearest Uni Library and try to gain access to these publications just for reference [IE: You won’t be able to take them out without being registered as a student with the institution, but you can view them on site as a reader] In addition to this, most of them will have been reviewed on line. I’d like to know your thoughts on these publications for the next assignment if possible. The four key images a picture editor will be looking for in a photostory / essay are as follows: The Establishing Image - In order to place an event, activity or person within context of their environment, it is important to step back to get an overview. For example, if your story is about a small coal mining community in a Welsh valley, you will need to get a shot of that valley in order to set the seen of the location. This image is often referred to as an ‘Establishing Image’ but doesn’t always necessarily have to be the first image in the sequence. This image can often be taken from a high vantage point, thus setting the stage for the rest of the story. It is obviously one of the most important images to get right as the success of what the entire story is trying to communicate can rest upon this one shot. This shot should really not just be of a sign in front of a company declaring what the company do etc … try not to be too obvious. The Action Image - This shot refers to a medium distance image capturing the action or interaction of the people or place that the story is about. Many images fall short within this area, especially if there isn’t an awful lot happening in the story ! The photographer should try and change the vantage point frequently for this image to be effective. Too many images from the same vantage point can be considered visually repetitive and would probably result in the editor removing them from the story. The Portrait Image - Portraits are really important in any story as people are generally interested in people and the viewer will want to identify with the key character or characters of a story. Viewers will generally be drawn towards the portraits unless the action images are particularly exciting / bizarre. The viewer will expect the photographer to have connected with the subjects in the story and the portrait image is a method of showing this connection. Environmental portraits differ from straight head and shoulder portraits in that the character is seen within the location of the story. The Close up or Detail Image - The final category requires the photographer to identify a significant detail within the overall scene. This detail is enlarged to both draw the viewers attention or to increase the amount of information the image offers. The detail shot might offer the viewer the opportunity to read an inscription or clarify a small detail. For example, if the story is about a crafts person that works with their hands, a good detail shot might show a close up of their actual hands, or a detail of an artefact they have made. These shots are quite unique and help to tie a story together, thus avoiding image repetition. Assignment Brief Ideas Commodity – Maybe try to find a local allotment to photograph. Visually they are always very appealing and generally most people are friendly and wouldn’t mind helping with a student project. Light - A day in the life of ….. Try photographing a person you might know in the daily working routine from dawn until dusk. This would represent time through the shifting of daylight. Holidays – Try to uncover an issue that has been deliberately hidden from view or covered up from the perspective of the tourist. This could be an environmental issue hidden away from the pleasant commercial face as seen by the tourists. I’ll look forward to your final assignment Katie, at which point we need to discuss what you should do regarding submitting your work for summative assessment and grading, in order to obtain the credits and move on to the next module.

Project Illustration : Exercise Symbols

The exercise is to think about symbols for the following concepts and make notes on how you would photograph them :


1. A flower - try doing a time lapse series of photographs of one going from bud to fully flowering.
2. A tree - One that is tall and strong next to a small sapling.
3. A picture of a chart with the lines going up - like a sales tool showing the profits growing and improving


1. Many cupcakes with someone with frosting on their mouth, holding one.
2. A whole lot of expensive shoes - get a couple of female friends together with their best shoes and fill the frame with them.
3. A very large bag on a scale - Think excess baggage. Perhaps use a smaller briefcase as a simple comparison. Could also try and use the full airport symbolism and show the large bag not fitting into a container.


1. A raccoon - could see if a local zoo has one. The stripes aymbolise the old black and white jump suits.
2. A broken lock - need a padlock and something to cut the lock
3. A derelict house with a broken window - location scout and probably just focusing on the broken window looking like it's been smashed. Could also try and action shot of using something heavy to break the window


1. Someone in prayer - Taken during a religious ceremony, head down with mouth and eyes closed.
2. A close up of someones lips with a finger in front of them in a shush gesture - Easy to shoot almost anywhere.


1. A homeless person on the street in the evening - Not in full dark but shot to look moody with the focus on the lighting. The dirtier the feel to the shot the better. Could experiment and wait for some very well dressed people or person to go by to really show the difference in condition and status.
2. A young person behind a chain link fence - this is an image that frequently seems to show poverty. Ideally on an industrial estate that isn't in a very good condition. Could either do a close up of the child's face or a wider shot to show the dereliction/disrepair of the background.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Project Illustration : Exercise Rain

I originally set out to take a picture of my husband through a pane of glass so I could experiment with off camera flash. This was shot indoors using a glass door on a cupboard. I used my speedlight down at hip height pointing upwards to light up the face. I really wanted to try using the on camera flash as well, but I couldn't get it so it didn't reflect in the glass horribly. More experimentation is required. Once I processed the image I felt that although it represented "rain", it was not very interesting so I went back to the drawing board.

For my second attempt I borrowed a set of Scrabble from a friend. I then set up on my fire escape with the scrabble tiles spelling out "RAIN" but upside-down. I took the plastic case off the front of a cd case and placed it balanced on a couple of boxes above the tiles. I set up a tripod and focused on the droplets rather than the tiles underneath. I wanted it so that the letters spelt out "RAIN" in the individual droplets of water to reinforce the message. I made some small adjustments in Lightroom 4 and feel much happier with this final image for the exercise.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Project Narrative: Exercise A Narrative Picture Essay

I decided to photograph an event for this exercise and as I had been invited to do the photography of the opening of a new supper club in London I thought it would be the perfect opportunity. The evening was to consist of home cooked food, wine and a series of burlesque performances. It was my role to capture the night and try and convey the ambience and feel of the evening for any future events. 

I got there after the food had been prepared and was just being put out so unfortunately I missed the preparation stages there, although I did get some shots of the girls getting ready to perform (not included for this assignment). I chose my favourite ten pictures from the night that seemed to get across the relaxed and cosy atmosphere and arranged them in Pages with captions. I then took screenshots to upload as images here. 

They tell the story of the night from the pies coming out of the oven, the guests enjoying each others company to the performances and packing up afterwards. Burlesque combines strip tease with comedy and I tried to pick the shots that best sum that up and give a snapshot of five of the six performers routines. Acts ranged from a business woman putting the spark back into her dating life to a nurse contracting a sexy virus to an act based on Canada which involved a sad ending for a toy seal! 

I'm not sure using Pages is the best way to present this narrative, but other than taking a photo of the printed versions arranged on paper I wasn't sure how else to present this. The lighting was very low for the dinner guests and I took candid shots of them without flash to give it more of a dive club feeling. I also wasn't able to use flash during the performances as requested by the promoter so did the best I could with the very mixed lighting. I think if I am being critical of myself what I really missed was any shots of the audience during the performances to show them interacting and enjoying the night.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Project Illustration : Exercise Evidence of Action

There are lots of ways to show action and I decided to try experimenting with water. This was my second session trying this as the first time I tried it indoors due to poor weather. I needed to use a shutter speed of over 1/1000s and found indoors even with an overhead light and desk light pointed at it, it was still far too dark. My flash synch speed is only 1/200s so would not have been fast enough to capture this. 

The second time I was lucky that in the morning the weather was clear and sunny so I set up on our balcony with a chair, tripod, white sheet, glass and strawberry. I focused, locked it and then tried pressing the shutter just after the strawberry hit the water making a big splash. It took a few attempts and in between I filled the glass right to the top to get the biggest splash to show the action of the strawberry falling. 

The actions are dropping and movement and I think this photograph illustrates both of the concepts well. 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Day Trip to Calais

I went to Calais for a day trip recently as part of a meetup group with two models. I've been spending a lot of time working on fashion and portrait shoots and despite the truly terrible weather I was able to get a few shots I was really happy with which are below. I feel like my portrait work is really coming along, although I still have much to learn. I have been finding that my three quarter and head shots are much better than my full length ones so I will aim to do more full length shots to try and improve my skills.

Model : Katalin Kallo

Model : Riana Horner

Model : Riana Horner

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Feedback from OCA Flickr Group on Assignment Four

Posted up my images for the light module and had a really interesting comment/question from another user which I have posted below. It was posted under Shape Two.

  1. I agree with Pete, this one photo is (to me) the best from the set, but I'm personally not fond of post processing effects.
    Can I ask something, and it is intended to be read with a gentle smile.... I've just had a look through your stream, and there is some amazing portraiture work, with really cool UV light shots. You seem to have a great report with people..... why did you choose this object for such an important and open themed assignment... why not having a go at using a person and go crazy with all these light effects or explorations? 
    It's not meant as a criticism, but in comparison with some of your beautiful portraiture work, this set of images feel really like a box-ticking exercise ... I'm so sorry to say.

  2. Hi thanks for the comments. It's my first time using post processing effects to be honest, I usually keep things quite simple but thought why not experiment a bit.
    @southliving - really interesting question thanks :) I'm basically still so new to photography only having my DSLR for a year now. I was never interested in portraits until around April this year when I suddenly became addicted! I'm still very much trying everything out and being a sponge, learning as much as possible. With the assignments I'm aiming to vary my subjects and have a range of shots at the end of the module. Assignment one was my first nude shoot and assignment two my first time booking an MUA, models and setting the whole thing up solo. I haven't really done much still life so trying it out and seeing if it grabs me like fashion and people did. Before the course I was only interested in landscape and wildlife and always asked people to move out of my way! Ideally I wanted to use one of my photogenic cats as a subject, but with positioning them while I played with the lights would have been nigh on impossible. The subject and shots definitely weren't box ticking, all were thought out and ideas planned in advance. Looks like I have a lot to learn about still life to make it more appealing, but it will be a fun challenge

    I'm going to take this as a learning point moving forwards. I am still keen to try different subjects and ideas for this first module. I definitely take the assignments seriously and put in a lot of work so I hope my tutor doesn't feel the same. I've learnt so much already and hope to keep learning and improving month by month.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Assignment Four - Light

Websters dictionary defines photography as “the art or process of producing images by action of radiant energy and especially light on a sensitive surface”(1). This makes studying light of particular importance for any and all photographers. Without light we cannot tame pictures. For a photographer light is tied in with contrast and brightness to show tonal relationships. There is an Italian expression “chiaroscuro” which speaks of the dramatic modeling of subjects in paintings by the use of shafts of light used to illuminate any dark scenes(2). As well as using light to express contrast and brightness, it is also used to highlight colour. This can be done with coloured light bulbs, but even white light comes in different colours(3). One thing I have been experimenting with since starting this module is experimenting with white balance. Changing one simple setting has such a dramatic effect on the colour of a photograph and it’s interesting using it for creative effect (especially tungsten/shade).

Another experiment has been looking at how other photographers use light and I have begun studying August Sander(4) and Edward Watson(5) (his nudes in particular although I found his photographs of shells fascinating also) as suggested by my tutor. When attending photography exhibitions now I am always looking at the use of light, colour, shapes and composition. Some of Sally Mann’s landscape work where she has documented battle fields makes lovely use of light and shadows in particular.

For this assignment I wanted to chose a subject that was portable and had an interesting form, shape and texture so it wouldn’t become dull photographing a series of pictures of it. I settled on a ornate candle holder from my mantlepiece. It is a set of two and I preferred the skirt that the female of the pair wore so she became my final choice. I tried to vary my composition and experiment with a few different ideas that I hadn’t tried previously which I think came out quite nicely. There are still a few that look a little similar to each other composition wise, but overall I think the collection as it is short holds the observers interest.

Colour 1

ISO 100
WB Sunlight

Taken with the subject placed in the sun at the middle of the day. I wanted the sunshine to show the actual colour of the subject and have it lit in a pleasing manner so I experimented with where I positioned the subject to get the effect I wanted. I settled for the sun being at the side so it wasn’t so harsh shining on the slightly metallic texture.

Colour 2

ISO 200
WB 5560K

Shot indoors against a black cloth background. I used a piece of coloured clear plastic taped to the front of the flash to experiment with the colour. First I tried a blue/aqua colour but I wasn’t happy with the results so moved to purple which I liked much more. I like the colour effect and that it still brings out all of the detail of the subject. 

Form 1

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise. Positioned so that the sunlight came from the side to give a sense of shadows and form. I wanted the light to help create a three dimensional effect and not have the subject looking flat. The blurred background helps the subject to stand out.

Form 2

ISO 100
WB 5560K

Taken indoors with a flash fired from behind a white umbrella to act as a diffuser. Light stand placed to the side to emphasize shadows and form. Again I wanted to see the shadows on the subject to really feel like it is a three dimensional object and not just a drawing on a black background. 

Shape 1

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise to give the long shadow. Positioned with the sun behind me shining into the subject. I tried this in black and white as well but settled on the colour version. I wanted the shape of the subject as well as the shape replicated in the shadow and found this time of day and position worked the best after experimenting.

Shape 2

ISO 100
WB sunlight

Taken in the morning, two hours after sunrise. Taken on my NIkon DLSR and processed using Snapseed on my iPad. I knew I was going to do a silhouette as soon as I saw the exercise, it was the first idea that came to me. I took this when the sun was low so I could take the shot with the sun behind the subject and I balanced it on a post box. I then decided to experiment a bit and use an editing app to make the effect more dramatic. 

Texture 1

ISO 100
WB 5560K

Taken indoors using a long exposure. I had read a few magazine articles on light painting so decided to experiment for texture. I focused manually, locked it and then turned off all the lights. I then used a small hand held torch to paint/bathe the subject in light during the ten seconds. I wanted to bring out every last detail and all the folds of the skirt.

Texture 2

ISO 200
WB shade

Taken in the shade in the middle of a sunny day. I found doing the exercises that shade on a nice day brought out details and textures so I wanted to try this for the assignment with a different composition. I like the skirt and the detail on the tights so focused on those areas eliminating the rest of the subject.

1 Websters Dictionary (1839)
2 The Photographers Eye - Michael Freeman (2007) Ilex, East Sussex

3 Light: Science and Magic (4th Edition) - Fil Hunter, Steve Biver, Paul Fuqua (2012) Focal Press, Oxford

4 Face of Our Time - August Sander (1994/2003) Schirmer Art Books, London

5 Icons - Edward Watson (2008) Taschen, London

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Exhibition - Steve McCurry

I went to this exhibition whilst I was in Ljubljana, Slovenia. I've noticed that when I travel I tend to visit a lot more photography exhibitions, it's become a priority for me. These were exhibited along with many others in a room at the top of the Castle overlooking the city which made for a lovely setting. He is a photographer I hadn't come across before, but now I see his prints and photographs everywhere. He is a Magnum photographer and his main website is here.

What I loved about his pictures in general was the colours and textures. His pictures really sum up moods as well and they are so vivid you feel like you are being drawn into the images in the various exotic locations. My favourite pictures from the exhibition are below and I will definitely be looking up more of his work moving forwards.

Coal Miner Smoking, Afghanistan, 2002
Such intense eyes and I love the whispy smoke trail. If only my portraits were half as good as this I would be a happy photographer. The dirt is so engrained into his face and hand, I wonder if he is ever able to get completely clean.

Young Monks Video Games, Indonesia, 2001
Wonderful composition and colours. The red stands out beautifully form the textured grey/blue background. The boys without the games look they are having more fun than those with the games though!

Elephant and Man Reading, Chaing Mai, 2010
Here I love the gentleness of the young elephant as it leans against the young man who is so engrossed in his book. It almost looks like the elephant is trying to read the book over the man's shoulder like people do on the tube.

Holi Festival, Rajasthan India, 1996
Just look at the colours. The green man being carried by whose covered in red powder. It definitely conveys the idea of a religious celebration in the pose and expression of rapture on the green man's face.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Exhibition - Sally Mann

I recently visited Stockholm, Sweden and spent an afternoon in the Fotografiska Museum which was dedicated solely to photography. They had three exhibitions on during the time I was there and the one I spent the most time in and enjoyed the most featured work by Sally Mann. Her website is here and she is an American photographer based in Virginia. She first became known for her book Immediate Family (published in the 1990s) which contained shots of her three children growing up. It became very controversial and a lot of religious and moral groups raised questions of child pornography etc due to the nudity in many of the images. Personally I think this is ridiculous. The children were raised in quite a rural setting and I love that the collection captures growing up so well with the bumps, bruises, arguments etc.

The exhibition contained a broad range of her work including shots from Immediate Family all the way to her recent self portraits and work in a forensic study centre in Tennesse where she photographed bodies in various stages of decay. Possibly the most interesting part was a documentary playing shot during her time taking the forensic photographs and trying (and failing) to get them shown in a gallery in New York. It was a touching look at her life, surrounding friends and family and her whole photographic process. She is also doing a series with her husband Larry who she met as a young woman (19 versus his 22). He suffers from a rare incurable form of muscular dystrophy which sees his muscles wasting away.

She uses a technique from the 1800s. A collodion wet plate which creates a large-format negative image on glass, not film. She shoots with antique view cameras from the early 1900s, the kind where you duck under a cloth to take the picture. They are carried on massive wooden tripod legs and a long brass lens held together with tape. I can't even begin to understand how to use one when I'm so used to digital, but the process of developing the negative is fascinating. Below are a few of my favourite pictures that really captured my attention. Funnily enough they are all from Immediate Family and I think I will have to get a copy of the book to have a proper look and read all the captions in full. My absolute stand out favourite is Jessie Bites. I love the bitemark on the adult arm, the war paint and the expression on Jessie's face. She looks like a little warrior Queen just after a successful battle.

Popsicle Drips

Orange Virginia

Three Graces

Emmet's Blood Nose

Jessie Bites

Friday, September 7, 2012

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Shiny Surfaces

I found this exercise really difficult. It was so hard trying to get the tracing paper right without my hand in the shot. I am not sure how you would do this in a studio, maybe a light tent?

DSC_0361 - No tracing paper tunnel. Lots of lens flare and bounced flash reflections.

DSC_0362 - Tracing paper tunnel which took out the lens flare and dramatically reduced the flash reflections.

DSC_0363 - Moved the light to see how it affected the reflection

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Concentrating the Light

I took these in a studio using just one light falling onto a nude model. They didn't have a snoot, but we created the effect using a grid to focus it. The light is focused nicely onto different parts of her body highlighting different areas nicely. I had a lot of fun posing the model and playing with the light and the shapes it made with her body.




Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise Contrast and Shadow Fill

I used some raw food ingredients for this still life. I also enlisted my husband to help with the card. The camera was set on a tripod and the light was fixed to a stand to the left of the subject. Later shots were taken with a large piece of white card either plain or covered in aluminium foil as directed in the exercise notes.

DSC_0348 - No white umbrella/diffuser

DSC_0349 - With white umbrella to diffuse the light (much softer shadows visible especially on the green pepper)

DSC_0350 - Card at 3 feet away

DSC_0351 - Card at 1.5 feet away

DSC_0352 - Card at 0.75 feet away

DSC_0353 - Card at 0.375 feet away

DSC_0354 - Card at 0.1875 feet away (the least amount of shadows on the right hand side of the subject. More and more of the tomato is hidden by shadow the closer the card is placed)

DSC_0355 - Card covered in aluminium foil dull side out (the whole set up is lighter, especially the tomato)

DSC_0356 - Card covered in aluminium foil shiny side out

DSC_0357 - Card with aluminium foil crumpled, shiny side out

Project Photographic Lighting : Exercise The Lighting Angle

I used a speedlight attached to a light stand with a white umbrella to diffuse it. I asked my husband nicely to be the subject and he was very patient as I moved the light stand around him and then above him. My Nikon D5100 was kept still on a tripod and I used a remote release to take the pictures.


DSC_0338 - Front Lighting

DSC_0339 - Side Lighting

DSC_0340 - Side and slightly behind lighting

DSC_0341 - Behind lighting

DSC_0342 - Pointing down and in front

DSC_0343 - Pointing down from the side

DSC_0344 - Pointing down from the side and slightly behind

DSC_0345 - Pointing down from behind

DSC_0346 - Light directly overhead

DSC_0347 - Light directly overhead and slightly in front

DSC_0348 - Light directly overhead and slightly behind

It's interesting seeing the different the light makes on the shadows across the face. Especially around the eyes, nose and mouth. For looking at the form/shape of the face, I like side lighting and slightly behind lighting. It gives more depth to the features, creates pleasing shadows and gives cues about the three dimensional structure.