Monday, 2 May 2011

We English author Simon Roberts

Following the feedback of my last and final assignment, my tutor has suggested looking at a couple of artists and I am glad he did.

The first one I am really impressed with and have learnt some crucial techniques, the opposite in fact of how I currently work. This will hopefully lead me to taking better images of things like street scenes.

Simon Roberts book 'We English' [ ] is a fascinating journey through England taken over several months, photographing how we interact and live in our countryside, seafronts, towns and villages.... we can be a quirky lot when seen as a whole in these images.

The first impact of his images to me is the use of space. I tend to fill the frame to make the image bold and interesting, however most of these images show a vast expanse of space such as sky or sand on a outstretching beach. This has two effects which I have ignored until now. Firstly the use of space gives the viewer an appreciation for the scale of the scene, showing how small people can be and that the subject matter is about both England and us, but we being the smaller part of it.

The second point is that people can be a small indistinguishable part of an image and it still works well. Although we cannot identify a person we can identify with them and their anonymity does not matter in taking in the image. To date I have always liked the people in my images to be mainly identifiable. Another great example of this technique was in Mary McCartney's book I referenced earlier in this blog, showing two distant people holding hands running towards the camera on a golden beach. They could be anyone, the fact that it was her parents does not matter.

The other thing I have noted from Simon Roberts work is that he tends to take the high ground in the vast majority of his work overlooking his subject. This looking down on people almost makes them even less significant to the viewer especially on mass, but I like the way this works and am already formulating how I may be able to use this for the next course.....

I like the images of the walks to Scafell Pike etc., these are similar to some of mine, but I would have done better to follow some of Simon's skills....if I had more sky and less foreground I think it would have been a better image.

Finally, I also looked as his earlier work 'Motherland'. A similar topic in Russia this time, but a completely different set of images. This I found stereotypical of Russia with subjects of serious stern faces giving away little emotion. Reminiscent of the cold war... again stunning work I must go back to.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Assignment 5 Complete

I can't believe I have finished, it has taken me15 months, though I have had a short break. I have found this course extremely useful and would recommend this to anyone wanting to improve their photographic technique. I will make my final posts once I receive my last feedback and then on to assessment.

I will now sign up for the next OCA course.....

Digital Photographic Practice

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Exercise: Rain

In this exercise we are tasked with creating an image for use as a front cover for a magazine on the subject of rain. The viewer should be in no doubt of the subject of the image and we were to be as imaginative as possible.

I tried to take various shots on a rainy day but they were not very pleasing. I had ideas for perhaps the feet of a small child with brightly coloured boots stamping or splashing in a puddle, but again that did not work too well.

So I decided to create an image based on some of the areas learnt so far in this course and then created my own rain. The following image was created on an overcast day, I focused on the foreground and locked off the focus with the camera on a tripod. I also tried to get the frame into some form of thirds with the yellow daffodil acting as a point of focus.

I then experimented with shutter speed whilst emptying the contents of a watering can out between the camera and flowers with a cable release, the ideal speed was around 1/300 second, adjusting the ISO and f-stop. This then resulted in the following shot to complete the exercise.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Exercise: Juxtaposition

I found this exercise great fun. We are asked to create an illustration of book cover  from a still life with a juxtaposition. Although not strictly a book and more of a play or movie, I chose dial M for Murder.

I used some of the lighting techniques from the previous chapter using a snoot to focus in on an old telephone, off the hook, with a blooded knife, using these two objects in a juxtaposition illustrating the title. I added the text and extended the dark background with photoshop to finalise the book cover.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Exercise: Symbols

In this exercise we are asked to think about symbols to subjects that are given to us that could be used for illustration.


A sapling, especially a new oak tree with only two of 4 leaves, signifiying the start of something small that will grow very large over time.

A graphical image showing ups and downs (with an upward trend) this could be superimposed on to a image such as a worker or industry.


Images on a market stall with sweets, brightly coloured and sweeping away with many many varieties.

A picture of an overweight or obese person walking with the body only.


A broken window, graffiti on a wall or building. An image of a gun with a wad of money


 An image of someone holding a finger to their mouth. An image of the Cenotaph on 11/11 or an image of a graveyard with sweeping gravestones, especially of the same type as seen in war graveyards.


A contrasting image of stacks of coins and notes vs. buttons. Another of cake and rice. An image of an African child from one of the poorest nations in the world.  A beggar on the streets on London, or sleeping rough. Could even be extended to Poverty of Spirit an image of a sinner in remorse.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Exercise: Evidence of Action

In this exercise we are asked to take a single image demonstrating that something has happened, specifically either something that has been broken or emptied.

I chose an old vase that was already broken. I positioned it as if an animal or child had broken it, also knocking the candle off it's holder, whilst filling the frame as much as possible. The offending pet looking onward with disappointment. I guess an image like this could be used to illustrate insurance even though it is a bit cheeky.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Exercise: Narrative picture essay

This project requires us to photograph an event in a narrative picture essay. The pictures should form a story and with interest between images along with a short caption for each image.

I chose my son's birthday treat to a woodland activity of climbing through trees and descending on zip wires.

Greeted by a large wooden monkey on arrival makes you wonder are we moving up or down the evolutionary scale?

Safety is the order of the day with double, if not triple fail safes.

Climbing on scramble nets and ladders up to 50 feet above the ground

Crossing between trees along thin beams requires a steady balance

 Having to squeeze through narrow obstacles 40 ft in the air to reach the next base.

Making it look easy, walking on rings was one of the hardest obstacles

One of the longest zip wires from the ground joining up two individual woodlands

Making the first decent, look mom no hands

Its not just for kids, well not just the younger ones!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Assignment 4 Complete

I was glad to finish Part 4, I found it quite time consuming but I was pleased with my tutor's comments and the results I obtained, fair and as accurate as ever.  Part 5 looks very interesting, and I already have plans both the exercises and the Assignment. I can't believe it has taken me this long, for the next modules I must be stricter on myself regarding time.....

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Exercise: Shiny Surfaces

In this exercise we are tasked with photographing an object with a high reflectance against a plain background. I chose a decorative apple made of glass with a silver inner. All photographs are taken off the tripod and the light moved around to see the varying effects. The first photograph taken shows how bad the reflections are in the image.Looking closely, all of the objects around the room, including the camera are visible and the light has ugly reflections.

The remaining images were taken with a cone of greaseproof paper around the camera lens looking down on to the apple with the apple at the bottom of the cone. The first image was a test, as the paper was a yellow / brown colour it has changed the overall colour which I like a lot, one to remember as a great light filter. It does already show how much of the ugly distractions in the reflections have been removed, amazing!

In the remaining images I adjusted the temperature in RAW so that they reflect the real image. My favourite of the exercise is the one below, I like this one as the light is falling on the leaf looks best and the reflections are more interesting, this was taken with the flash to the right of the shot. A vast improvement to the original.

The remaining shots are taken moving the lamp around each time, I have also noticed a nice blue light in the reflections, this is probably due to the lowering of the temperature during conversion.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Exercise: Contrast & Shadow Fill

This exercise involves the use of shadow fill using reflectors. I was always aware of this in photography but never really used it, I do not possess a reflector today, but will make sure one goes on to my birthday list. I am lucky enough to have two flash lamps and use the second one to fill in some of the shadows as required. This works well  but I have now discovered that a reflector may be a better option especially when using natural light.

The first two images taken are with a flash lamp without a diffuser and the second with a diffuser, this lamp was position at right angles to the camera and to the right of the shot. The notes were not clear on whether I should re-meter, it suggests leaving the camera settings alone during this exercise so that is what I have done. The pear on the left of the images I have chosen is a great way of showing the fill light, this was not intentional, I only discovered this after the first shot. The lamp without the diffuser should have more contrast, clearly in doesn't which has led me to believe that I should have re-metered. However as I do not have a meter this is not always so straight forward, I tend to use the histogram to see what the results are. Perhaps another one for the list.

All remaining shots were taken with a diffuser on the lamp. The next two shots are taken holding a piece of white card around 1m away on the opposite side of the lamp, and then quite close at around 30cm. Comparing them to the control image above this first has some shadows filled but not many when compared to the second image.

The exercise was then repeated by placing aluminium foil over the white card so that the matt side was used as the reflector. Here more light has been reflected at 1m and even more at 30cm so that it almost fills the shadows completely.

Once again the exercise was repeated but using the shiny side of the foil as a reflector. In this test I did not see much more light appear when at 1m compared to the matt side but the differences may be very subtle, in the shot at 30cm I do think that more of the shadows has been filled which is expected as the shiny side of the foil is more reflective.

And finally the exercise was repeated by crinkling up the foil and placing it back on the card. Here the results are less shadow fill but a more diffused or gentler fill. This was expected as not all of the reflected light shines directly back at the subject and similar to the diffuser the reflected light itself has been diffused given a more even lighting at lower intensity. A very useful exercise and I must include reflectance and diffusion more in lighting.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Exercise: The Lighting Angle

These exercises are getting the best possible use out of my mains flash lights and I am learning. In this exercise we are to demonstrate the angle of the light by placing the flash at varying angles around and above a subject to show the differences in shadow, texture and depth. To show off these our image had to itself be something with curves and relief, I chose a manikins head in the form of a squirrel.

The first image was taken with a diffused flash directly behind the subject. This has formed a silhouette with very little or no depth, it has just formed the outline of the shape, but with a little light falling on the eyes showing some shape. I think this was light that had bounced around the room.

The next sequence of 5 shots rotate around the subject starting with the flash next to the camera at 6 O'clock, then at 4 O'clock, 3 O'clock, 2 O'clock and finally 1 O'clock which is just behind the subject and to the right.

Looking at these image I prefer the ones taken to an angle as they cast more of a shadow and give contrast showing the curves of the manikin. The best probably at around 3 O'clock.

The next set are taken from the same angles as above but with the flash unit above the manikin pointing downwards.

I think that this set has come out better, this goes along my earlier understanding that the flash light should be slightly above the subject. again the images with the flash to one side and behind work well and these are preference for the exercise as they shown more form to the manikins head. The frontal images are very plain with little or no shadow and do not produce a pleasing image.

The room in which I took these images has a very low ceiling and lots of close proximity white walls which I think has added reflected light. I will move for the next exercises and the forthcoming Assignment, another lesson learnt.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Exercise: Softening the Light

This exercise explores the differences in softening artificial light. I am lucky enough to already have some studio lighting, budget Interfit, and I must say I am really pleased with it. The quality of images obtained from this lighting set is brilliant and I always enjoy using it.

The first image is taken using a mains powered flash light with the lamp more of less overhead and slightly to one side with the diffuser removed. This image was taken at f13 1/250 sec.

The image looks well lit and quite even, but it is not until it is compared to the same image and the light fitted with a diffuser that subtle differences can be seen, especially within the cage. These images were taken at f8 1/250, clearly the diffuser is absorbing a lot of the light yet distributing it more evenly.

To show this more I have also taken a two shots with and without the diffuser but closer up within the cage. Here it is clearer that the shadows are much harsher without the diffuser and that the light is not as even. Also there is a purple'ish tinge to the second image with the diffuser, I suspect this is light that has been bounced or reflected from the material this still life was set on. All in all I think that the diffused image is a better version showing better lighting and colour and a lot more detail of the elephant.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Exercise: Outdoors at Night

This exercise involves exploring various lighting effects at nigh time. The aim is to take around 12 or more photographs including floodlit buildings, store fronts, interiors and a busy road with moving traffic.

I took some of the shots in London and some in a local town. The first two are on opposite sides of the Thames, I like the reflections in the water, but really like the warm lighting on the south side in the second image.

Unfortunately I did not have my tripod for the moving shots of traffic, so I just balanced the camera on the bridge to steady it, the exposure was too short to get a stream of lights but I still like the movement here and the lighting works well.

Here is one I took with a tripod in Paris with a much longer exposure.

The following are some shots of store fronts, I took these outside so that the lighting effect would be stronger. The first two I chose because of their strong colour.

I really like this shot of a bright carousel taken at dusk with the images of people silhouetted, shame it is a bit messy with the benches but shows the possibilities of night light.

The final two images were taken on my way back to the car, the first a view was greatly warmed up by the artificial light of the shops, and the last taken at night in the car park with fluorescent lights. I changed the WB to the correct setting but really like the shadows cast, the blue car in the back ground is the one I focussed on as it is the one that the eye is drawn to, almost as if colour popped.