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.



9 Mar 2011

Assignment 4 Feedback and Focus on Imaging

10 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

I’ve had some time to reflect on my tutor’s comments from Assignment 4 and there was a lot to digest, but on the whole I’m very happy. I feel that my photography has improved a lot from the beginnings of TAOP and I am enjoying myself more and more. That’s not to say that there aren’t still things to learn mind you.

One thing that came to light was the particulars of the fair use policy of other artists’ work: it does NOT apply to digital logs. The fair use for study purposes does not apply to the internet, so my learning log only hyperlinks to others’ work.

One of the main things to come out was using high ISO settings on my Nikon in order to achieve a faster shutter speed. Because my home made lighting setup lacked the power of actual studio lighting I was forced to up the sensitivity to make the series work, but there is of course the drawback of noise. Normally this would be a big no for an assignment but hopefully this wont be a problem at assessment as I’ve explained my reasons why.

This brings me rather neatly to the Focus on Imaging show at the NEC that I attended. If I’m honest, it wasn’t what I was expecting: too many people pushing the hard sell, even when attending the demos and workshops. One on the more exciting things I tried out was a radio trigger for a lighting setup where I took the photograph shown right. The ISO for this was at 100 and needed no editing: this is the shot as per. Life would have been so much easier for Assignment 4 if I’d thrown money at it, but of course this was not desirable. What has been suggested by my tutor are cheap flood lights from B&Q so I will give these a go for next time.

Focus on Imaging also reaffirmed the whole objectification of people that I was the subject of my last assignment. I felt somewhat embarrassed taking photographs of the models and found myself rather gingerly thanking them after my turn. I know that they were getting paid and its there job to model for the lighting setups but people (well, men really) flocked around like a cattle market.

All awkwardness aside, I did, of course, take advantage and took some photographs. Another thing worthy of note is that my model for Assignment 4 looked a little wooden and uncomfortable at times. Apparently, a great deal of research has gone into the ways in which people pose and still have it look relaxed and natural. I suppose that this is a failing of myself as I had set ideas in my mind as what I wanted from Assignment 4 and that probably made my friend a little uncomfortable. If you see some of the photographs I took of the professional models, they all look as if they’re not even trying and know what you want from them (it is, after all, their job).

I didn’t buy anything despite the hard sell from a particular stand trying to get me to purchase a membership following a lighting tutorial I watched. Did I mention that the demonstrator was trying to sell the lighting setup while giving the tutorial? Well, he did. Then the model he was using tried it on too…. Doesn’t mean I don’t want them mind :-P

15 Feb 2011

Assignment 4 - Applying lighting techniques

8 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

Another assignment that is in late, but just like Assignment 3 I am glad that I have again taken my time to get this right. A lot of planning has gone into this one and I hope it shows. Rather than reiterate a lot of what has already been said here are links to entries in my Learning Log that outline my thought process:

Planning for Assignment 4 – part 1
Planning for Assignment 4 – part 2
Planning for Assignment 4 – part 3
Planning for Assignment 4 – part 4

The main inspiration for my object selection game from fashion photography and Marilyn Monroe – I asked a friend if she would model for me and become the subject of this assignment. I think what sold it to her was asking “would you be my Marilyn?!”

Most of my thought process for object selection is documented in part 3 of my planning. You might notice that in all of the photographs the eyes are either concealed, outside the frame or closed, away from the lens: this is done very deliberately. Given that the theme is objectifying the subject I have chosen to omit the eyes to make every photograph very impersonal.

For Assignment 3, the majority of my photographs were taken at my Nikon’s lowest ISO setting so that I could control the colour intensity though the aperture and shutter settings. Also I had the benefit of photographing with a tripod for most of them so longer exposures were not an issue.
For this assignment, however, I have increased the ISO sensitivity in order to increase the shutter speed. The logic behind this was that I wanted to capture each frame handheld so that I could move around the model for the most interesting composition. I also needed to do this quickly as there was a finite amount of time she could hold a pose. All the photographs were shot in RAW and any unsightly noise was reduced later in my digital work flow using Lightroom.

Planning for Assignment 4, pt.4

As part of my preparation for Assignment 4 I decided on a lonely evening in to make a couple of items that I could use as photographic lighting sources to make my life a little easier when photographing. Using a comination of old cardboard boxes, spray glue, tin foil, tracing paper, duct tape and cheap clip-on light fittings I made the following items:

Soft box

This homemade softbox is suspended by an adjustable disco-light stand that I picked up from Cash Converters for £8!

Spot light

The spotlight is made in the same fashion as the above softbox but is instead long and thin so that it is easy to move around and the light is not diffused by tracing paper.

In addition to this I bought myself a 43" circular multi reflector off ebay. Cant complain for £12...

Lastly, I converted the lounge of the flat into a make-shift studio by setting up a series of A-frames using garden twine and bamboo sticks so that I could hand background material from them using bulldog clips. I knew basic training as a cadet would be useful for something...

22 Jan 2011

Planning for Assignment 4, pt.3

I may have gone down the wrong path trying to come up with some interpretation of the brief that would allow me to change the subject of each photo, but I don’t think I’m wrong to limit myself to an inanimate object whatever I chose to use. I have previously stated that the dictionary definition object also includes ‘a person or thing with reference to the impression made on the mind or the feeling or emotion elicited in an observer’.

Sex can easily become objectified, the process of which is easily demonstrated by fashion photographers such as Eve Arnold. Arnold is best known for her photographs of Marilyn Monroe, whom she trusted more than any other photographer. A well known protest made by Monroe reads:

"I do not consider myself a kind of merchandise but I am sure that many people do not see anything else in me… That is what annoys me; a sex symbol becomes an object. I hate being an object.”

This photograph is a highly sexually charged example of Monroe; the frame is centrally weighted by her alluring pose in bed with a minimal flash of skin against the dominate white surroundings, suggesting warmth and sexual desire. The frame is further well balance with implied triangles created by Monroe’s arms, the positioning of the pillows and shape created by the way the sheet is draped. The lighting is soft, flattering Monroe’s features and further adding to the suggested comfort should you be fortunate enough to be embraced. There are no hard shadows or highlights competing for your attention.

Another fashion and portrait photographer that worked with Monroe was Richard Avedon
whose work can also provide examples of sexual objectification (not that his work was limited to this; he also photographed war protestors, mental patients and rock bands, including famous portraits of The Beatles). Again soft light is used, flattering the features and not removing your attention from the model.

I have come to adore Avedon’s ‘Dovima with Elephants’; the model in the Dior dress is juxtaposed with a pair of elephants, creating a contrast of beauty and beast, young and old. The soft lighting does not yield the subjects to their forms, instead focusing on the textures and contrasts that the scene creates.

Sexual imagery is powerful and is far more prolific in current society. The phrase ‘sex sells’ in not an age-old concept, the connotations of which are not wasted in the retail sector. Sex can be exploited for selling products; deodorants, food, drinks and motorcycles to name but a few. Who else remembers the Halls Soothers advert in the elevator or the model cooling himself with a cold can of Coke?

The idea certainly isn't wasted on the photograph below: swimsuit and Sports Illustrated model Marisa Miller is seen
here draped over a Harley Davidson V-Rod. Its jet-black finish is visible against the background only by hard highlights created by top-lighting from a small light source, where as Miller has had the contrast softened around her face and upper arms by use of a reflector, or possibly another light source. The use of minimalist light in the frame with the hard highlights of the V-Rod, in combination with the soft shadows on Miller’s features, creates a low-key chiaroscuro image.

To be honest, I wanted the bike to start with; now I want it more.

19 Jan 2011

Planning for Assignment 4, pt.2

Applying lighting techniques for Assignment 4 is calling for particular physical properties of only one object to be brought out using the knowledge gained from this chapter. As I stated in my previous log entry I find the idea of only one tangible item somewhat dull so it is somewhat unfortunate that I will have to work to this constraint for the object I eventually choose.

The four physical properties at the core of this assignment that are to be brought out are Shape, Form, Texture and Colour which I will discuss individually for my planning.


Shape refers to the out outside edges of an object instead of any of the surface detail. The first instinct is to use back lighting or edge lighting to silhouette the object and emphasise the outline. However, when you consider the brief more deeply and think back to the lighting angle exercise, flat lighting, or front lighting, eliminates all shadows and highlights that provide depth clues of an object. So, flat lighting could also be used to satisfy this brief.

A few examples of siohouetted subjects can been seen in Kai Fagerström's The house in the woods series for the Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. In fact, the overall winning photograph was Bence Máté's 'A marvel of ants' that shows silohettes of the leaf-cutters in action in the Costa Rican rainforest.


Here I am going to use lighting to show the volume of an object, its three-dimensional properties. The assignment calls for as much depth as is possible so I not only have lighting at my disposal but also image composition. Right back at the beginning of the course I learnt how I can control the depth of a photograph by varying my position and focal length (see Project - Focal lengths, pt 2). If the assignment wants as much depth of possible then I am likely to be close to my subject using a wide-angle.

The shadows and highlights are going to be massively important: too much and/or too hard then I will create a conflict in the image. Too little and I will loose the depth clues and make the photograph flat. It is likely that this will be the most difficult photograph to produce so I will have to pick my subject carefully.


The course notes state that revealing the quality of the surface details stands out best with a pattern of small hard shadows however I disagree. Using a small source to create hard shadows is not revealing surface detail but instead highlighting the three-dimensional qualities of a texture, bringing us back to form. I’m not saying that some shadow is not required; some are to reveal the depth of a texture but not hard shadows. I will argue my case with research I did at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at the Natural History Museum:

Oscar Díez’s ‘Sunning griffon’ (highly commended in animal portraits) shows a vulture backlit on a overcast day: the clouds have created a large light source and soft shadows, highlighting the texture of the bird’s feathers and the moss underfoot.

Similarly, Ken Dyball’s ‘Lookout’ has a backlit caracal, taken in Kenya. The clear skies mean that the sun serves as a small light source and the exposure has burnt out all of the background details. Instead, the reflected light revealing the caracal is soft and reveals the texture of the cat and the tree bark.

So, those were two examples of soft light being used to highlight texture in the subject. Now for the argument against hard light:

Tim Laman’s ‘Night eyes’ is a rare example of a primate called a western tarsier that are completely nocturnal. Laman's goal was “to capture the feel of night” and lit up the scene using Canon 580EX strobes. These small sources have created hard shadows which have, as the artist intended, created a night-time feel. I am not concerned with the tarsier’s texture when looking at this photograph; the shadows have created a conflict for my attention, focusing on mood and form. Of course I can see the primate’s soft fur, but its not the first thing I notice.

Axel Gomille’s ‘A miracle of monarchs’ has absolutely no visual clues to any texture in the scene. The hard shadows and the short focal length show you the depth of this forest scene and Gomille says “The sheer density is unbelievable”. This brings me back to my argument for the form part of this assignment: volume and three-dimensional qualities.

Another example I can think of off the top of my head is a snake. You often see snakes under hard light sources, such as the sun or a single bulb if in captivity. These create strong highlights on its skin and people are often surprised to find that snakes aren’t slimy. The small source does nothing to reveal a snake’s texture as people often assume wrong.

Another difference between texture and form that is apparent in the above photography is the relative size of the subject to the frame: form takes up much less of the frame than texture in the examples given.


The last part of this assignment will involve using lighting to bring out the colours of the object. Here I will have to make sure the exposure is correct so that the photograpn is not underexposed or burning out the colour with overexposure. White balance will be important to ensure that the colour of light or colour(s)that are relected do not alter the hue of the object. Colour 'temperature' will also be considered. I will probably refer back to a few points on the previous chapter's colour theory when selecting appropriate background(s) to really highlight the colour qualities of my chosen subject.

17 Jan 2011

Planning for Assignment 4, pt.1

I thought I would take some time out to start writing down my thoughts and planning for Assignment 4: I’ve had some back and forth conversations with my tutor and I might as well make a log entry, summarising my thoughts so far…

I studied the brief in depth and looked at submissions from other OCA students’ for Assignment 4 and it all seemed a little too literal. The brief states that the lighting techniques are to be applied to one object, but this seems to be a very straight forward interpretation and conceptually dull.

My first instinct was to use my guitar as the subject so at least I could throw a model in there with it so I could add some extra layers and really play with artificial and photographic lighting. But I had other ideas in my head that may of lead me down the wrong path. Because of these ideas, I ended up getting the dictionary out for a definition of ‘object’……

1. anything that is visible or tangible and is relatively stable in form.

2. a person or thing with reference to the impression made on the mind or the feeling or emotion elicited in an observer: an object of curiosity and pity.

The first definition of object is the literal interpretation of the brief where as the second could be more conceptual. First thing that comes to mind is an ‘object of desire’ and given that we are bombarded with sexual imagery daily, I’m sure I wouldn’t of been short of inspiration!

I wrote a log entry about Cindy Sherman's work that lead me further down the idea of objectification, such as her Centrefolds series. I then looked at her Fairy Tale Stories series and that lead me back to Joshua Hoffine. I further considered ‘Object of Fear’ as a possible start point for Assignment 4, a ‘focus on phobias’ as a challenge that would allow me to change the subject matter in each photograph as the ‘object’ would be fright rather than something tangible.

I was concerned that I was missing the point so I consulted my tutor. He agreed with me: “The same photos of the same object, whole, with the same light only different gels, really does my head in. I didnt realise the world had that many wee small budda statues before I started tutoring this course. Most reasonably well executed but incredibly dull.”


“I think your arguments are sound but only if you can tie them in with the different types of lighting and can still show the relevant aspects of the assignment brief with regard to lighting the 'object'.The main issue with this assignment is that it is very difficult to produce a panel of images from one subject without putting a notional as well as literal translation on the object. Otherwise you get a series of stick that down there change the lights, click, move lights, click etc.

Its a tough one for me this one, I’d say go for it but I genuinely wouldn’t know how an external assessor would take it, they could love it or hate it and although that shouldn’t really matter I’d say to give them at least one photo in each of the sections that they could refer to. That makes the object selection difficult because to then carry out the rest (all well lit and showing the assignment brief) as an object of fear or phobia would take a lot more thought. I'd love to see what you make of it but I’d still say for you to play safe for some of the photos but still put an interpretation on them.”

Some more correspondence followed, but in a nutshell:

“If you are asking definitely about the idea and the brief I’d have to
come down on the side of saying, from what you have already mentioned, that it wouldn’t fit the brief.”

Bugger. I still have no idea what I'm going to use for this assignment...

16 Jan 2011

Looking at Artists

I managed to squeeze in a trip into London earlier this month to spend some time wondering around a few galleries I had selected online and also spend the evening doing the outdoors at night exercise.

One of the main exhibitions I wanted to see was the work of Francesca Woodman at the Victoria Miro gallery on Wharf Road. The exhibition is due to end on the 22nd of this month I didn’t want to miss it. I’m so glad I didn’t.

Woodman is best known for her black and white photographs featuring herself or other models. Her first photograph, taken at the age of 13, is a self portrait on the end of a sofa with her hair obscuring her face. The cable release at in the foreground is blurred and creates a line dissecting the frame evenly on the diagonal. This as a frame element, creating a leading line to the second element, Woodman’s highlighted upper body, is evenly balanced with the golden section. A light source going from the outside left of the frame has created hard shadows across the scene.
Unfortunately, Woodman suffered some mental anguish early in her life and committed suicide at the age of 22. Only around 120 images have ever been published or exhibited.

Many of her photographs feature nude women as the subject, either herself or a model, though she has also used nude men. The photographs are often blurred by movement and long exposure times, merging with their surroundings, or with the subject’s faces obscured. The photographs are untitled and are known only by a location and date – a table containing her work and descriptions can be found at this Wikipedia entry.

The use of light in her photos varies been hard and soft, dependant on the mood she has intended to portray. Colour is rare in her photography and her monochrome images are often chiaroscuro, particularly when creating hard shadows. This phototgraph, featuring a model ensnared by fly paper, shows the use of a small light source light – you can see the hard shadows and highlights on the flypaper. The model is back-lit by having her face away from the source; her features have been shadowed and created a contrast with the pale walls.

Looking forward in the course material for Assignment 4, Woodman’s use of light could be used as inspiration for my submission. She has used large, open settings for much of her work, allowing her to move the subject around from the light source. However, given that the assignment asks for characteristics of the subject to be brought out using light, the details will have to be sharp and in focus. Long exposure times coupled with motion blur will most likely be unacceptable for Assignment 4. This photograph, though evocative, shows no details such as the shape, texture, form or colour of the subject, all of which are requirements.

11 Jan 2011

Light: Project - The time of day, pt 3

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain

Click here to view flickr set.

This exercise calls for a number of pictures to be taken in various weather conditions: unfortunately, the time of year is not giving me any clear days at the moment so some photos are missing: I’ll add them when I can.

I could, however, take photographs of overcast days and rainy conditions. As it is evident in these photos, the clouds have created a large light source in the sky and therefore soft shadows and highlights are cast – there are no sharp or defined contrasts. If you look in particular at the tree bark, the light so far diffused you can see that there are hardly any visual clues to the depth of the tree. Instead, the image looks flat and the emphasis is on the textures of its surface.

The photographs in the rain require special attention as reflections and the less vivid colours offer an interesting compositional challenge. Aagain with just cloudy days, the light is a long softer so there may also be to problem of a lack of depth clues meaning three-dimensional qualities are achieved more through composition. What you do see, however, is more patterns emerging; droplets in puddles, people with umbrellas and symmetry from reflections.

Gregory Crewdson's latest work, Sanctuary, is a series of black and white photographs of the Cinecittà studios in Rome. A step away from Crewdson’s elaborately staged narratives, Sanctuary instead aims to capture the empty and somewhat eerie permanence of the now abandoned studios. All of the photographs in the series have been shot on overcast days, and again we see scenes that are void of hard contrasts.

Light: Project - The time of day, pt 2

Exercise: Variety with a low sun
4 photographs

Click here to view flickr set.

For this exercise I chose to photograph a statue of Christ at Tewkesbury Abby at around 4pm. The sky was cloudy but the Sun did break through on a couple of occasions, changing the scene between soft are hard shadows. This didn't really change the results much and I'm not going to discuss them at length. This exercise is very similar to the lighting angle exercise for photographic lighting, only with less control of the source. Still, I'm quite happy with the results and it's a bit more interesting than the controlled enviroment as the results come with different backgrounds, meaning I could be a more creative with the composition.

Light: Project - The time of day, pt 1

Exercise: Light through the day
12 photographs

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{content pending}

9 Jan 2011

Light: Project - Availiable light, pt 2

Exercise: Outdoors at night
12 photographs

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I love photography at night!! I decided to do this exercise whilst I was out and about in London. There are examples of floodlit buildings with the London Aquarium and surrounding buildings at the London Eye, brightly lit store fronts in China Town, crowded interiors at Liverpool Street Station and the Underground and light trails at the Houses of Parliment. Another example of lightrails I have produced was for my diagonal lines submission for Assignment 2.

The exercise doesnt actually call for any examples of artificial light during the twilight to be produced however it does talk about in in the project text. I have included two examples in the album; one of the Commons and one in New York I took last year as the sun was coming up (after partying in Times Square - YEAH!). As the text states, these photos do not loose the shape or outline of the buildings that can be lost in pitch black conditions.

Most of the photos in this set have been taken hand held using ISO 1600: the high setting seems to be ok for noise levels at night. None of them have had any processing done to them. Also, for some reason, I became pretty obcessed with taken candid shots of people silhouetted against bright lights; I think it takes away the lonliness of some of the photos without making the individual(s) the subject of the frame. Good times!

Light: Project - Availiable light, pt 1

Exercise: Tungsten and fluorescent lighting

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{content pending}

3 Jan 2011

Looking at Artists

Bill Henson is a contemporary art photographer whose work reflects an interest in ambiguity and transition. The use of strong contrasts between light and dark (chiaroscuro) is common throughout his work, such as this. The two figures appear to be side-lighted using a small source, creating hard shadows and strong contrast. This has given presence to the form of the subjects in order to create atmosphere rather than submitting to the details and textures of the models. There is a strong battle for attention between the shadows and the subject, giving way to the mood of the photograph.

Henson's intention is to use photography for creative expression and often uses juxtaposed relationships between male and female; youth and adulthood; day and night; light and dark; nature and civilisation.

Some of Henson's work and behavior has come under much controversy and police investigation given the subject and nature of particular photographs. More can be read about it here.

Thomas Joshua Cooper is one of the most celebrated and distinctive landscape photographers working anywhere in the present day. The locations are found on a map, tracked down and then photographed, each place the subject of a single negative taken with a weighty antique field camera. They are meditative, almost philosophical images, exquisitely printed by the artist in the 19th century manner with layers of silver and gold chloride.

Here is a high contrast photograph with lots of depth clues created by the strong shadows of the rock formation. The monochrone and chiaroscuro nature of the photograph is extreamly atmospheric and produces a solumn and hauntingly lonely tone to the frame.

More of Cooper's work here.