30 May 2011


Click here to download the PDF.

So, here I am at the end of my journey through TAOP. Journey is such a cliché word to use but it really has been just that: I have learned a lot and taken all of the points away from the course. I really do believe I have made a massive progression from the humble beginnings of Assignment 1 to this final write up for submission. There has been a transition from merely fulfilling the brief and becoming James the Photographer. I owe a massive amount of thanks to my tutor Joe Fox for his advice and encouragement throughout the journey as it was he that helped me realise that the course should be about my vision and pushing to confines of the assignment briefs. Once I realised this and started to truly analysis the potential of each chapter and draw inspiration from photographic artists I liked, TAOP became so much more than just a first venture into my creative studies. In many ways I am a little sad to see it end and looking back over my work I can see to many avenues that I could have taken. It truly is a document that can be readdressed and assignments can be redone on long weekends for personal projects seeing how much can be squeezed from the content.

I am very content with my submitted work for chapters 3, 4 and 5 and am particularly proud of pushing the limits of the brief for Assignment 4: Light. It called for a single object to be subjected to various lighting conditions in order to draw out certain qualities but it said nothing about the object being inanimate! A friend modelled for me and provided interesting, unique compositions for each frame as well as satisfying my enjoyment of extensive planning and elaborate staging. It also gave me the chance to experiment with home-made budget lighting equipment and planning for the position of the sun during particular times of the day. When you compare this to my earlier work, in particular ‘Pointed’ for Assignment 1, you can clearly see my ignorance and complete inability to recognise just how harsh and unpleasant highlights and shadows can be without an understanding of how light behaves. When you compare such an image with my work with small light sources for Assignment 4 you can clearly see a vast improvement.

Personally, given the importance of mastering the control of light, I would have preferred to have seen the chapter on Light come first in TAOP. My logical behind this is that, given the literal interpretation of the assignment, lessons from composition, focal length, frame elements and colour could be easily set aside to allow the student to gain an understanding of the behaviour of light and subsequently enhance their work in the proceeding chapters. Photography is essentially painting with light so it is my opinion that this fundamental aspect should be given first consideration. Indeed, the exercises on the temperature of light could be amalgamated into the colour chapter to form a rationalised focus on white-balance.

Assignment 2, take 2

11 Photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

Click here to download the PDF.

I thought it might be fun just to pick an assignment and redo it just to give myself a project. I recently took a long weekend in Rome and I was, naturally, trigger-happy with the Nikon. Most places wouldn’t let me take my tripod inside so I was constantly changing the settings and varying the ISO level to counter areas with low lighting. Here’s a fresh take on Assignment 2: When in Rome.

28 May 2011

Assignment 5 - Narrative and Illustration

14 Photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

Click here to view the Magazine Article in PDF format.

Thinking up an interesting and creative topic for this assignment has been an arduous task: I wanted to pour everything I have learned over TAOP into it to see off the course. If you read some of my log entries, I juggled some ideas around and ultimately rejected them. I spent a long time browsing other students’ work on the forums and I wanted to avoid choosing a subject that limited me to one event. For example, I’ve seen others’ work where they had visited a fair or travelled to a venue for a day of photography; I wanted to spend a couple of days shooting and go back to the subject after the event in order to evaluate the photographs and take further exposures.

I was driving around doing my general admin jobs while off shift and I happened to be driving past the village of West Wycombe when I spied a banner for a Ghost Tour and Paranormal Investigation of the Hellfire Caves over the Bank Holiday weekend. One thing I wanted to do was something similar to the work of Joshua Hoffine, much like when I imitated Gregory Crewdson for Assignment 3, but I did not want the whole series to be so contrived. This choice of subject allowed me to experiment with various techniques, plan and execute still-life and also think fast to capture those opportune photographs in addition to lots of planning to mimic Hoffine. Therefore, this assignment has a variety of methods and styles that demanded full control of my camera settings and appreciation of all I learn through out TAOP.

I have also decided that it would be fun to write up the assignment as a magazine article as this is what I were suppose to be imagining I were doing....

To my surprise I received another email from the OCA saying that they were going to feature me for a second time for this assignment! Very exciting news - you can see the entry on the WeAreOCA by clicking here.

11 Mar 2011

Project: Illustration, pt3

Exercises: Juxtapositon & Rain
2 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

I've decided to group these x2 exercises together in one blog post as both only ask for x1 photograph each and both are to illustrate a magazine cover.

Something I mentioned in a previous entry, planning for Assignment 5, I came accross www.coverjunkie.com, a website about creative magazine covers. I'm sure I will do a lot of cross-referencing with this at a later time but I will discuss a few basic observations I've made for these exercises. The main one is the way an image in composed for use on a front cover; it is normally centrally dominent or slightly off-center with a leading line toward the middle, creating a very static frame. This is done so that there is room either side of the image for headlines and article text to draw a potential reader into opening the issue. The second observation is that there is not normally many elements that make up the image, more a few key details or indeed a single object so that it makes a simple, striking "first glance" off the shelves to draw people in.

The first exercise asks for a photograph to be composed that is both striking and makes reference to the oil industry. The first thing I did was think about a few of the key issues around oil and, without wanting to bore you, the main thing I could think about was the sheer amount of money that revolves around it. Conflicts, taxes and finite resource make the entire industry a cash-cow and a centre of tension. So, what I've done is used a bottle of olive oil to symbolise the industry as a playful quip against the seriousness of it all, and juxtaposed it against money around it. This is two fold: the first, sitting on a pile of money as oil does, and also money falling around it, much like the shares in BP since the oil disaster. I did this simply by setting the shutter on a timer and dropping the coins from my hands (yes, I am aware it's merely shrapnel from my change pot: I would of liked to have used all gold doubloons!!) I made a mock-cover which you can see here and in the flickr set.

The problem with juxtaposition is not to confuse in with the frame elements exercises in chapter 2.

The second magazine cover was on one subject: rain. In was an exercise in trying to find an interesting way of showing the concept of it without being too literal. Inspiration came in the shower considering that the weather has been glorious as of late, and I was wondering what I could soak down easily for a simple yet striking image. Remembering that I would be creating a static, centrally framed photograph I decided to mount my umbrella in a block of polystyrene and set it in the bath. On one side of the brolly I set up a soft box and a reflector at the other, avoiding electrical shocks!!. Then, with the camera on the tripod and using its remote control, I took a series of exposures whilst moving the shower head. You can see the set up in the flickr set.

Project: Illustration, pt2

Exercise: Symbols

The idea behind this exercise is to note down any ideas I might have of symbolism for the below subjects. There's no actual requirement to produce any photographs but I'm sure if I happen upon anything interesting I'll post them with these notes.

Its an interesting subject for TAOP as symbolism has been used in art for centuries. In Renaissance Art, for example, when art was used to teach the stories of the bible for the illiterate masses, symbols were often used to point to partiular events. You can read a few examples here.


Plant sprouts, juxtaposition of x2 similar objects of different sizes, an organic object breaking free of an undersized container...


Obesity, greed, wealth, drug addiction, the effects of alcohol; eg hangover, stomach pumping, unkept enviroment.....


Results of an assult; eg cuts/bruises, broken door/lock, vandilism, riot, signs of authority that have been vandalised; eg police officers hat splashed with paint....


Plaster/tape/finger over mouth, singular entitiy in a large surrounding; e.g. alone in church, in an enviroment that is quiet; e.g. underwater / outerspace....


Moth escaping an empty wallet, close up on a foot with disintegrating shoe, dirty, open hands as if begging, cardboard home....

Project: Narrative

Exercise: A narrative picture essay

I have done NOTHING on TAOP since Focus on Imaging because I have been far too busy at work. It’s starting to get on my nerves that I’m being pulled away from it as I really want to come back to my art and get cracking on this chapter.

I’ve had a read through the chapter and it’s quite short this one, though a lot of thought will have to be put into the final assignment. I want to bring everything I’ve learnt along the way into this one and go out with a bang before submitting for assessment in July. Flicking through, however, the first exercise in narrative seems to follow the Sequence of Composition exercise in Chapter 1. Also, a large proportion of Assignment 5 seems to follow this format so I don’t want to exhaust my most creative ideas on the exercise. I’m not big on skipping exercises but I feel that I’m going to on this one…

Speaking of a narrative, however, and given my love of elaborately staged scenes, Horror Photographer Joshua Hoffine has produced a series of works called PICKMAN’S MASTERPIECE, based on an H.P. Lovecraft story called PICKMAN’S MODEL. As I’ve said about Hoffine in a previous log entry, he is an expert on the macabre and seems to emulate a certain elegance to a scene that would initially stretch the comfort zone of a sensitive viewer. I love his work.

Now, this series Hoffine produced was for ‘Famous Monsters of Filmland Magazine’. I have been desperate to emulate Hoffine's work much like I did Gregory Crewdson for Assignment 3 and I might have found an excuse in Assignment 5. The brief is to produce a narrative for a magazine so I’m wondering if I can stage something much like this, maybe a twisted fairy tale such as the telling of Red Riding Hood. So much fun could be had!!!!

Another idea I’ve had for the planning stage was a tattoo studio and following the course of someone selecting, receiving and living with skin-art. I’m fascinated by tattoos and how gorgeous a piece a talented artist can produce. I don’t currently have one because I haven’t found an artist I trust enough yet!!!

Something I also found which I will expand on later is http://www.coverjunkie.com/ all about creative magazine covers. Assignment 5 expects x1 photo to adorn the front page so I will have a look through this site for some inspiration.

10 Mar 2011

Focus on Imaging pt 2 and Looking Back....

Updated photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

One of the best parts of attending Focus on Imaging at the NEC was the chance to visit the OCA stand and meet some of the staff and other students studying photography. It was great to put faces to Gareth Dent, Dee, Eileen, Min, Nigel and others. Also, some of my work from Assignment 3 made an unexpected appearance…

As I mentioned in my previous post I really feel I’ve come a long way since the beginning of TAOP and have discussed the progression with my tutor. I think we’re both wincing over some of harsh flash usage in Assignment 1!! Also, there was an issue with record shots in
Assignment 2 to be addressed.

I further discussed this with Gareth and some of the other OCA students at the NEC and had my suspicions confirmed for assessment in July: I can submit new photographs with the old and expand on my reasoning and development along the way. The important thing is to show the progress, after all I’m learning more with every exercise.

To that end, I’m going to start putting things into a flickr set intended to supplement my earlier work. I should finish the TAOP in plenty of time for the July Assessment but thats no reason to not start now.