Category Archives: Reflections

At the end of TAoP

Preparing for Assessment

I have spent the last few weeks preparing for the July assessment. I spent quite a bit of time tidying up of my blog to ensure all links are working and that it followed the structure suggested by the OCA . This, hopefully, will make it easy for the assessors to navigate.

I was initially unsure as how to present the work for assessment. Should I submit my blog as it stands or would it be better to submit some physical prints? The online option appealed to me for several reasons. It would involve less work, it would require little or no expense and I also have extremely limited experience of what would work well in terms of printing photographs for submission. However, I was also conscious of the photograph’s function as an object/artefact and of what Shore (2007, p15) describes as ‘The Physical Level’ of a photograph’s function. He lists attributes such as the base of paper to determine the texture of the print, the flatness of the paper to establish plane and the edges of the picture to frame and create boundaries. I was also curious to see how some of my work would look when printed professionally on good quality paper. I then found myself leaning towards a submission, which would have all the images from all 5 Assignments on a memory stick but also include 10-12 physical prints. I then approached a Glasgow based business, Deadly Digital,  who printed the A4 images for me on A3 sized matt paper. Overall, I was pleased with how the prints turned out and found it interesting to note that ones which stood out for me most were the two high contrast black and white images from Assignment Two. I gave quiet thanks to Jose Navarro, my tutor at that time’s advice to increase the contrast in these images in post-processing to make the them ‘more dynamic’ black and white.

'distinct, but irregular shapes'

‘distinct, but irregular shapes’



Tutor input

I have had three different tutors over the period of this course. When I was notified of these changes by the OCA I was slightly concerned that the change in tutor would somehow be detrimental to my learning process. However, as I am now at the end of the module I can now see the positives in this situation. I have the benefit of several different points of view when reporting back on my work and also of when directing me towards sources of research and inspiration.

Next steps

I would like to be able to list the knowledge that I have gained over the period of this module, however I think that this is nigh on impossible due the amount of learning and that I would be sure to forget to list something. When I reflect on where I was at the beginning of this module and where I am now the learning seems considerable.

It has taken me almost two years to complete TAoP and I now realise that had I had more technical knowledge of my camera and post-processing at the onset I could have reduced this time. With out realising it, there were times when I became sidetracked by camera settings and software functions, which meant I tackled the exercises at a slower pace that would have been desirable. This is obviously a major draw back to distance learning and something I need to be more aware of for the next course, perhaps by being more firm with a study schedule or seeking help from fellow students on the OCA forum.

I have looked at the options for the next part of this course and find the new course ‘Context and Narrative’ quite appealing. I like that it builds on elements of what we covered in TAoP such as Narrative while gaining influence from the work of contemporary photographer’s from which to influence my own practice.

Shore, S. (2007) The Nature of Photographs (2nd edition). London: Phaidon Press Limited





Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative- Progress towards Assessment Criteria

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

This section of the course has been quite varied in content, which has resulted in considerable learning. The exercise on illustration showed that, with careful planning, I could tell a simple story in a single photograph by showing evidence of action and that by juxtaposing one or more elements in the frame we create connection which provides the foundation for illustration. When planning both these images I called upon the knowledge I have gained in the previous section, Light. In evidence of action 2, I positioned a continuous photographic light to the side to emphasise texture while in juxtaposition, I used a speed light, diffuser and reflector to create dramatic shadows.

In Rain, I experimented with a speed light and adjusting shutter speed to reduce ambient light, creating a darker, dreary atmosphere and reducing shine on the boots.

For the actual assignment, however, I worked entirely with available light. This was because the light from 4pm to sunset was gold and attractive and also to minimize the attention that I received. I was trying to be a blend into the environment and be an ‘invisible’ photographer. This would have been made more difficult with a Speed light flashing.

When looking at narrative I was aware of the need for visual and emotional variety in the selection of photographs. Therefore I planned to include shots of various distance scales such as the first image in Assignment 5 that was taken from a far distance and image 8, which shows a close-up, detail shot of spices that overfill the frame. Image 1 also makes use of strong diagonal line to inject some dynamism into the establishing shot. I also experimented with aperture, adjusting it to give shallow depth-of-field and emphasis the focal point in image 9, while shutter speed helped to freeze motion in photograph 5 and create motion blur in images 7 and 12.

I have also become aware of the importance of timing a shot, particularly with moving subjects, to ensure they are positioned in the frame where I want them to be.

I believed that the photographs for Assignment 5 should be in colour to help convey the character of the Creek area I was photographing. I did experiment with a few black and white conversions but felt as though these were not as strong as the colour shots.

Quality of Outcome

I feel as though my work in this section has benefitted from the research and planning that I undertook on the subjects. I read in Short (2011, p42) that to be a photographer, you need to be passionate about communicating ‘something’, as this will inform every choice you make in relation to your work. This led to me giving focused thought to the idea of intention, “what did I need, or want to share with the audience?” I used a Picture Script as suggested by Freeman (2012, loc 1335) to develop the idea of a ‘Dubai’ type location story. This script helped me formulate a plan of what I wanted to achieve and came with me in my backpack on shoots.

The presentation and layout of the narrative was an important element of this section of the course. It became clear to me that there is no one definitive ‘correct’ narrative layout. There seemed to be many variations, sequential layout, deliberate variety or visual continuity. In the end I began by using the basic, Opener, Body, Climax and Closer layout as suggested by Freeman (2012 ,loc 190) and tried to plan for visual variety in the rhythm and pace of the layout.

When I am working I often make quick notes and sketches in notebooks and post-its. This can somehow feel quite disjointed therefore I find that writing in my learning log on the exercise and work I undertake, helps me to organise my thoughts, think in a more coherent manner and consolidate my learning.

Demonstration of Creativity

Narrative and illustration needs to be visually interesting or it will lose the viewer. I knew that, photographically speaking, the Creek would be an interesting place to many viewers, however it was important that the photographs worked together to tell the whole story and keep the viewer engaged throughout

While I stated above that I had formulated a clear intention for the assignment in the Picture Essay I still took over 300 images over a period of 3-4 weeks in order to get the images that I needed.

During this time I experimented with creative use of shutter speed, aperture, vantage position, framing, composition and light. I also spent time waiting for elements to align in the frame the way I wanted them to.

Initially, I found the ‘open’ nature of Assignment 5’s brief difficult for me to refine into a subject idea. However, having now gone through the process it had helped me to see that by connecting with a subject is important as this then helps inform the choices you make about how to approach it with your camera.


On beginning TAoP course I spent a lot of time getting to know my camera as opposed to learning about or reflecting upon photography. As my practical skills improved I began to focus more time on reflection and began to use my learning log as a place to write about my thoughts and ideas on the assignments, exercise and reading I undertake.

In addition to this I now, routinely, take time to inform myself of the work of other photographers and consider my thoughts on it.

Recently, at my tutor’s recommendation, I sought out the work of Julian Germain, For Every Second You Are Angry, You Loose Sixty Seconds of Happiness (2005) and Wolfgang Müller, Karat, Sky over St. Petersburg (2003) and made entries in my learning log on this. Both series of work are very different in the narrative they want to convey but I also found them to both to evoke a strong emotional response. I found it useful to consider Karat in term of stadium and punctum as introduced by Barthes in Camera Lucinda (Wells ed. 2003, Ch 1).

In the last few months I have also attended exhibitions showing the work of Roland & Sabrina Michaud and Bruno Barbey, again writing my thoughts on the photographs and the photographer’s approach in my learning log.

In March, I attended a few events at Gulf Photo Plus, a photography festival in Dubai. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar on small lights with Joe McNally, which I found to be very informative. I found it extremely useful to see the practical side of a photography shoot and interesting to note that attractive results could be achieved with a single light as well as a multiple light set up.

During this week I also attended a seminar with David Allan Harvey, where he talked about his approach to work and discussed a slide show of his photographs. I found this seminar very inspiring and felt as this, to a certain degree, inspired my approach to Assignment 5, particularly his advice ‘don’t shoot what it looks like, shoot what it feels like’.


Freeman. M. (2012) The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual

Narrative. Lewes: ILEX (Kindle edition)

Short. M. (2011) Context and Narrative. Lausanne: AVA

Wells, L. (2003) The Photography Reader. Oxon: Routledge























Light-Progress towards Assessment Criteria 4

Light- Progress towards Assessment Criteria

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Material, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Before beginning this section of the course I was aware that my understanding of light was lacking. Since completing the exercises, reading and assignment I now realise that having knowledge of light and how it behaves is fundamentally important in photography. I feel as though I have had several ‘eureka’ moments when things seemed to have clicked together in my mind.

Examples of these occasions include when I felt as I was beginning to recognise light temperature. I had previously selected WB routinely, based on shooting conditions and was not fully aware of how this affected the image. However, carrying out the ‘Judging Colour Temperature 1 & 2’, exercises and examining the resulting images made it clear to me that the different options compensated for the varying temperatures of the light and also of how this could be used creatively. I have since began experimenting with custom WB options in post-processing and now realise that the temperature my camera, a Nikon D5100, defaults to for Daylight WB is slightly different to the Daylight WB setting preset on Photoshop Elements 11. The ‘Light through the Day’ exercise has also helped me develop an awareness of the colours of changing natural light. On examining the resulting images it was easy to see the huge differences in the light temperature, sometimes even after only minutes of time had lapsed. Following this exercise I downloaded a sun compass from I Tunes, which would allow me to gauge the sun’s position while travelling or in an unfamiliar place.

The exercise on ‘Measuring exposure’ and ‘Higher and Lower Sensitivity” has helped see a shift in the way I meter a shot. Previously I used matrix metering the majority of the time, however I am now better at identifying a mid-tone in a shot and using this to TTL spot meter to achieve a better exposure. I do, nevertheless, realise that mastering an off-camera light meter is the next step. I also knew on a logical level that aperture, shutter speed and ISO had a reciprocal relationship when it came to exposure however these exercises have helped me to realise this practically.

A further ‘eureka’ moment came when I experimented with Bulb mode for the ‘Outdoors at Night’ images here I began to realise the opportunities that long exposures could offer. This encouraged me to use Bulb mode for the Colour 2, light painting shot.

110mm, f/11, 13s, ISO 200, Tungsten WB

Colour 2,
110mm, f/11, 13s, ISO 200, Tungsten WB

This section of the course has introduced me to many new techniques and pieces of equipment. I fairly recently acquire a speed light and a set of 500w (3200k) tungsten lights that I have found to be a joy to use compared with the desk lamp/daylight set ups that I have used for previous photographs. The lights offered bright, even light without the colour casts that the desk lamps gave. Where to position a light to reveal specific subject qualities was a major element of Assignment Four and as the tungsten lights have a stand and I can position the flash off-camera on a stand, it allowed me to position a light exactly where I wanted it to go and for it to stay in place.

When I previously researched photographic light and came across various light modifiers I quickly became puzzled as to what I would need and how would I use it. Research during this chapter, (Präkel, 2007, Hunter, et al, 2012, Freeman, 2012), made it clear that it clear that if I wanted to control light I would need some tools to be able to do so. I therefore have added modifiers to my kit, such as a large 5-in 1 reflector, a Rogue flash bender that can act as a reflector, flag or snoot, a shoot through umbrella and DIY soft boxes and grid. For this assignment I used some pieces of equipment more than others, such as the shoot through umbrella and reflectors, however I have taken the time to experiment with each item and realise their potential uses.

When deciding how to compose the still-life photographs for this assignment I called upon the learning I had previously undertaken on this course. I considered presenting the images in a square format as this would frame the shape of the pumpkin neatly, however after planning with some sketches I realised the square format felt quite restrictive and a rectangular format would fit some of the compositions better, such as Texture 1 and Form 1.

Texture 1,  side-lighting, 105mm, f/4.8, 1/45s, ISO 100, Tungsten WB

Texture 1,
105mm, f/4.8, 1/45s, ISO 100, Tungsten WB

Form 1,  tungsten lighting, 68mm, f/19, 1/15s, ISo 200, Tungsten WB.

Form 1,
tungsten lighting,
68mm, f/19, 1/15s, ISo 200, Tungsten WB.

I tried to vary the compositions between each shot to add visual interest to the series, employing both static and dynamic balance, different camera perspectives, over-filling the frame and varying depths of field.

I also considered making the series consist of both black and white and colour shots as black and white can enhance the qualities of texture and form (Freeman, 2007, p127). However I experimented with a few black and white conversions and found that without the element of colour the pumpkin images seemed lacking. Perhaps because the bright orange colour is often considered a pumpkin’s dominant characteristic?

Quality of Outcome

Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualization of thoughts, communication of ideas.

The learning I have gained throughout this section of the course has been vast and have I found the exercises useful in illustrating how this can be used in practice. I have also found that writing about the steps I undertake during the exercises in my learning log helpful in organising my thoughts and to pinpoint exactly what learning has taken place. Further to this, I find that by linking my thoughts and findings to the research that I have undertaken, whether it be reading or viewing the work of other photographers, my thinking develops and my thoughts consolidate.

When planning and developing the images for Assignment Four I have tried to show how I have applied my newfound knowledge of lighting and how to control it. However, I opted not to use all the equipment and  all the techniques to which I have been introduced, as I didn’t want use a snoot or a flag for the sake of it. I choose instead, to select the tools that I felt best fulfilled the assignment criteria by revealing the subject’s attributes.

In terms of presentation of work, I did give quite some thought as to how the work for the assignment could be presented, as noted above, in order for the photographs to hang together as a series and also offer some visual interest.  

I have had a few blog problems lately, mainly with missing images and plan to repair this before commencing the next section of the course.

Demonstration of Creativity

Imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice

I was aware that while Assignment Four was essentially a technical exercise, I wanted it still to be visually interesting. I initially used a mind map and rough sketches to brainstorm my ideas.

Screen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.06.55 PMScreen Shot 2013-11-13 at 1.07.17 PMThese formed the basis of my ideas but there was a lot of trial and error as I tried out the various techniques and compositions. I returned to the drawing board often to rethink, particularly before I purchased the studio lighting. I had somehow gone from being largely unaware of how to use light at the beginning of this chapter to a point where I knew what I was doing was not good. In the end it has taken me nearly 200 different shots and a period of 4 weeks to reach a point where I am (fairly) happy with the images.

While the assignment brief asked for eight photographs to be taken of the same subject matter I took a bit of creative license and used a number of pumpkins in some of the photographs, trying to present the different subject qualities in slightly different compositions.

The exercise and assignment instructions encouraged me to experiment with techniques that were new to me such as backlighting to silhouette and rim lighting. While I did find the exposure for these shots tricky to master, I found the results to be worth the frustration and will use these techniques again, particularly to reveal a subject’s shape. Light painting, Colour 2 (see above) , is also an example of me experimenting with a new technique.


Reflection, research, critical thinking.

My learning log is the primary location where I reflect on my work, research and thoughts. I have also started to develop a more informal off-line electronic notebook. The benefits of this seem to be that I can cut and paste interesting articles and web links, however the downside of this is that it is I seem to be using this more as a way of collating information rather than for reflecting on its contents. While the core texts are influencing my thinking I am also finding that questions and ideas arise from magazines, websites and photography groups I follow on Twitter. I know from experience that my ‘informal’ reflection attempts can quickly veer off topic so perhaps I can find a way of adding ‘post-it’ style notes to each article in order to be concise?

As the concept of photographic light was very new to me I found that I had to undertake quite a bit of reading in order to support the exercises in this chapter. I have referenced this reading throughout, so my thinking can be sourced and I can refer back with ease should I need to.

I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend three different photography exhibitions this autumn, Rawiya, She Who Tells a Story, Jung Lee and Nestled in Nature and I have written about these in my learning log. These exhibitions were very different visually and in the messages they wanted to deliver. This was interesting as it helped widen the scope of photographic styles and intentions I have viewed such as reportage, historical record, nature and philosphical.

I also had the opportunity to attend a (free!) talk on the History of Photography. What I found especially of interest was the original daguerreotypes and stereograph that the presenter shared with the audience. While I had read about these early photographic mediums in books, holding them in my hand and looking at them first-hand seemed to strengthen my understanding of how detailed the early photographic processes were.

Narrative and illustration next…

Freeman, M. (2012) Light & Lighting. Lewes: ILEX

Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light, Science and Magic. (4th ed.) Waltham: Focal Press

Präkel, D. (2007) Lighting. Lausanne: AVA

The family of angles


Hunter et al (2012, p39) tells us that the direct reflection is produced when a light is directed at a polished surface, such as metal or glass. The rays bounce from points on the smooth surface at the same angle as which they hit it. Therefore the angle of incidence equals the angle of reflection. They continue by explaining that the family of angles (FoA) is the area formed by a collection of these ‘bounce’ points.

from Hunter et al, 2012, p70, diagram 4.8.

from Hunter et al, 2012, p70, diagram 4.8.

However, when reading chapter 6 of Light-Science and Magic I came across an exercise (p121) that is designed to help identify where the FoA might lie when lighting metal. I decided to carry out the exercise and see what could be learned.

Finding the Family of Angles

I placed a metal garlic press on a black fabric background. I placed the camera onto a tripod set the lens to 55mm and pointed it down towards the subject at an angle of approximately 40-45 degrees.

1. Position a white target where you think the family of angles will be

The white target could be any convenient diffusion surface. The less sure you are of where the FoA lies the bigger the surface should be. As I had very little idea about where the FoA lay I chose a 106cm diameter diffusion panel. I placed it behind the subject.

2. Place a test light at the camera lens.

This light is a called a ‘test’ to distinguish it from whatever light we eventually use to make the picture. As the beam of the light had to be narrow I opted to use a small torch. This torch’s beam had to be in line with the camera lens so I removed the camera from the tripod and taped the flashlight to the top of the tripod.

3. Aim the test light.

I aimed the test light at the point on the garlic press that was closest to tripod. The idea was that the light would reflect off of the metal and onto the white target sheet. However I couldn’t see the light reflected in the diffusion sheet at all. I wondered where I had gone wrong and mentally retraced the steps. I decided to play around with the position of the white target. I placed it directly overhead, no test light to be seen. I tried positioning it more to one side but this didn’t seem to be catching the metal reflections either. It seems I had totally misjudged the family of angles. However, when I placed the diffusion sheet back behind the subject but angled I had a bit of a eureka moment when the saw a light reflected in the sheet to show the near limit of the FoA. I marked this spot with a piece of removable tape as instructed. I repeated this by moving the flashlight to farthest point on the metal and marked the far limit of the FoA with tape too. I shone the light on a few other points but these reflections did not extend beyond the near and far limit of the FoA I have previously marked.

4. Study the position and shape on the area marked on the white target.

The area marked was very low down on the white target and fairly narrow in width. It was interesting to note that the point reflecting in the bottom of the image corresponds to the limit marked at the top of the test surface and vice versa. Hunter et al (2012, p124) notes that being aware of this is useful in locating the source of glare and hotspots in future set ups.

How to light the metal

So it seems that after a bit of trial and error I had succeeded in finding the FoA. Now how should I light it. Hunter et al (2012, p125) notes that to keep the metal bright the light should at least fill the FoA to produce direct reflection. After removing the torch and replacing the camera onto the tripod I placed a spotlight behind the diffusion sheet.  I took some time adjusting the distance until the light more than filled the FoA that I had identified.


Light filling the FoA,
55mm, f/5.6, 1.5s, ISO 100


To make the metal look dark Hunter et al (2012, p128) note that the light can be positioned anywhere outside the family of angles therefore avoiding direct refection. I positioned the light near the camera and took this shot.

Light outside the FoA, 55mm, f/5.6, 1/2, ISO 100

Light outside the FoA,
55mm, f/5.6, 1/2, ISO 100

The metal is indeed darker than in the first shot and has less areas of bright highlight which allows some more details to be seen. It does seem quite dull though.


This exercise has helped illustrate in a very hands-on way that the FoA behaves for direct reflection, relative to the light source, camera and position of the subject. It has demystified the concept for me (somewhat) by demonstrating how, once the FoA are located, they can be managed to show or not show reflections. It would seem though from my two examples above that a middle ground between keeping the metal bright and dark might be a better outcome for some subjects. Hunter et al (2012, p131) describe lighting set-ups that fill the FoA to produce direct reflection from the metal plus illuminate from other angles to produce diffuse reflection from the background as an Elegant Compromise.


Hunter, F., Biver, S. and Fuqua, P. (2012) Light-Science and Magic (4th Ed.) Waltham, Focal Press

History of Photography Talk

History of Photography Talk

I recently had the opportunity to attend an evening talk on the history of photography by Matthew Dols, an Assistant Professor of New Media in the College of Arts and Creative Enterprises at Zayed University (Dubai and Abu Dhabi campuses), organised and hosted by Gulf Photo Plus, Dubai.

Dols is passionate about photography and this has led him to examine the very beginnings within the medium. He began by talking about the camera obscura1, which is Latin for dark room, which is the earliest form of camera. It basically, was a hole in a tent of box that allowed an image to be projected and then traced to make a permanent image. Dols noted that this may have been in use as far back as 5BC which is much longer ago than the 1569 date that Clarke (1997, p238) offers as it’s date for development.

He also briefly mentioned the work of Muslim scholar, al-Hassan Ibn al-Haytham, whom I had not heard of before, who is rumoured to have invented the pinhole camera over 1000 years ago.

The discussion also covered the techniques used by Niépce (1765-1833) heliograph2 which was used to capture ‘View from the Window at Gras’ c.1826. However, it was the work by Frenchman, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre who developed the first published photographic process, the Daguerreotype3, in 1839 and Englishman, William Henry Fox Talbot who introduced the Calotype4 in 1840. Dols outlined the processes both men had used and wondered out loud that of the two men who should be considered to be the ‘inventor’ of the photographic process. Should it be Daguerre as he was chronologically first or should it be Talbot as his process allowed a negative/positive process and is therefore the basis of photography proper?

Dols brought example of original daguerreotypes that he has collected and very generously allowed these to be passed around the audience for a closer look. This was perhaps the section of the evening that I enjoyed best. Up until point I hadn’t realised that because of their sensitive nature daguerreotype’s had to be protected by glass and were framed in a small, leather bound boxes to seal the images. The daguerreotypes were made of silvered copper plate and as such had to tilted to a certain angle for the image to be seen. The combination of holding the decorative box and the image revealing itself to me felt quite magical.

I also had the opportunity to hold and look at a stereograph5  in a stereoscope5. The stereograph felt quite flimsy in comparison to the daguerreotypes. It also seemed more ‘fun’ than the serious daguerreotype portraits in their leather-bound boxes, almost like a child’s toy.

At the request of audience members Dols provided the following as suggestions for reading on the history of photography and working with old medium in photographic work.

Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital
 By Todd Gustavson

Seizing the Light: A Social History of Photography
 By Robert Hirsch

A World History of Photography
 By Naomi Rosenblum

On Photography 
By Susan Sontag (I have had this one sitting on my book shelf for a while, but since this talk have began to read it)

The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes
 By Christopher James

Primitive Photography: A Guide to Making Cameras, Lenses, and Calotypes
 By Alan Greene

Photographic Possibilities: The Expressive Use of Ideas, Materials and Processes
 By Robert Hirsch & John Valentino

In addition to working at the university, Dols is also a photographer and fine artist. His work can be viewed via his website by clicking here

Clarke, G. (1997) The Photograph. New York: Oxford University Press Inc.

The definitions below are taken from the glossary in Clarke (1997).

1 Camera obscura: a ‘dark chamber’, which constituted the earliest, form of camera, although it did not record a permanent image. Developed in 1569 by Battista delia Porta for use by artists, it consisted of a hole in a tent or box, which allowed the entry of light on to a flat surface. The projected image appeared as inverted, but with the use of mirror the artist was able to trace what he saw.

2 Heliography: the process invented by Niépce, it is the earliest form of photographic image, used to produce the famous ‘first’ photograph from 1826. It was based on a copper plate covered in a solution of bitumen. Its obvious drawback was the number of hours required for each exposure.

3 Daguerreotype: the first published photographic process, in France (1839), developed by Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre. Based on experiments he had made (with Niépce) since the 1820s, this consisted of a silvered copper plate made sensitive by iodine vapour. It was easily damaged and, once developed, had to be protected by glass to prevent the surface becoming scratched. To begin with, exposure times were up to twenty minutes, although they were rapidly reduced to seconds. There was no negative, thus each daguerreotype was unique. Despite its popularity it was rapidly supersede by Talbot’s negative/positive process.

4 Calotype: the basic process developed by Talbot in 1840, it consisted of a paper sensitized with a salt solution and silver nitrate. This was the basis of his photogenic drawings in 1834 but the calotype allowed a negative/positive process and is therefore the basis of photography proper. An earlier but different version was the salt print, which Talbot used in 1834.

5 Stereograph: an image based on the stereoscopic camera, which had two lenses set apart in relation to the eyes. Each ‘print’ had two exposures and when placed in the stereoscope (a viewing machine) produced the illusion of a three-dimensional image. Especially popular in the 1850s particularly for travel photography.

Progress Towards Assessment Criteria 3

Colour- Progress towards Assessment Criteria

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

Demonstrate an awareness of the principles of composition when planning and taking photographs using a suitable camera, lenses and other equipment

When composing photographs I now routinely experiment with viewpoint, focal length and framing in order to improve the shot. For Assignment three I planned and set-up several still-life arrangements. I took my time positioning the objects for these shots, considering the learning I had gained from Elements of Design, while exploring framing and camera viewpoint. Examples of this can be seen in ‘Calla lilies’ where I aimed the camera down onto the flowers, in ‘Red parasol’ where I shot from underneath, looking up and in ‘Red currant cup’ where I arranged red currants into triangles to bring order to the composition.

Visual balance is also something that I consider when working on composition, however it is not something that I seek in every image.

Bryan Peterson’s, ‘Understanding Composition Field Guide’ (2012) has helped reiterate some of the compositional advice discussed by Freeman (2007) and also in the course notes. Peterson (2012, p4%) believes that not getting close enough is perhaps the largest compositional hurdle but easily remedied by moving, on average, two feet closer to the subject. Peterson also advocates ‘mining the mundane’, arranging everyday, mundane items into appealing compositions. These pieces of advice encouraged me to consider items as subject matter that I hadn’t previously (Coffee diagonals, from Assignment three) and also to get closer to the subject matter in order to fill the frame and provide interesting viewpoints.

I have recently purchased a 55-300mm telephoto lens with an autofocus option and have found this lens easier to work with that the 70-300mm, which only had a manual focus setting. I used the 55-300mm lens for several shots for Assignment three, alongside a tripod, shutter release cable and, newly acquired, close-up filters. This allowed me experiment with much closer viewpoints than I have previously.

Demonstrate a knowledge of the different qualities of light, both natural and artificial, and the properties of colour, using methods of control to pictorial advantage.

The exercises on controlling the strength of a colour in Chapter three required that I use my camera’s meter or an external meter to find the average exposure settings. As my camera’s (Nikon D5100) light meter is only available in manual mode I took the plunge and began to experiment with this setting. Having only shot in Aperture or Shutter priority mode I was pleasantly surprised at the relative simplicity of this setting, and the usefulness that the camera’s exposure indicator provides. I have noticed however that the exposure indicator does not always get it ‘right’ each time and I still refer to the histogram and image after shooting where possible. I found it interesting to note how different colours responded to being over or under exposed by very small amounts and now I have mastered the Manual setting on my camera this is something I will experiment with more in future.

 I don’t have photo filters for my camera, and instead experimented with the photo filters in PSE 11. Filters were a new concept for me but it was easy to see how some filters warmed an image, others cooled and the colour filters added an overall hue adjustment. The art, it seemed, was deciding if an image may benefit from a filter and why, and then choosing an appropriate filter. For Assignment three, I used filters to eliminate a colour cast (Tulips in vase), to adjust colour (Coffee diagonals), adjust WB (Warm spices) and also to give an overall cooling effect (‘Dubai marina, am). I also experimented with adjusting the hue and saturation levels of colours in several photographs.

 I’m continuing to experiment with metering, particularly with using the spot metering setting. Again, the results have varying degrees of success. I can see the difference in exposure in the image and on the histogram, if I meter off different points in a scene, however I don’t fully understand why this occurs, in order to do this consistently. I look forward to researching this further in the next chapter, Light.

Several of my photographs for Assignment three were not shot in natural light. This led me to experiment with my camera’s White Balance (WB) settings. I found it interesting to note the marked difference that the various White Balance settings create. This was very noticeable in the ‘Warm spices’ and ‘Model engine’ shots where the scenes where both lit solely by artificial light. Again, I look forward to experimenting with WB further in the next chapter of this course.

 I appreciate that my lighting set up at home of a desk lamp, baking parchment and tin foil are extremely basic but have delayed any lighting purchases until I reach Chapter 4 which will hopefully give me more insight into what I need.

On beginning Chapter 3, Colour, it took me quite some time to fully understand the differences between reflected light and transmitted light. Transmitted light seemed to contradict everything that I had previously learned and thought I knew about colour. The course textbook (Freeman, 2007) does not go into the subject it depth so I undertook some further research in order to understand it better.

Freeman, (2005) ‘Digital Photography Expert, Colour’ was a very useful acquisition as it explains reflected and transmitted light in more detail, while also covering colour harmony, colour contrast and the physical and emotional power of colours. This text was also useful in helping me to discern the subtle differences between hues and shades. On beginning this chapter, I carried out the x-rite online colour challenge that I read about on a fellow students blog. While a perfect score is deemed to be zero, my initial score was 16. This improved to a score of 8 when I redid the test a few days ago. While the score is relatively healthy I did find it interesting to note that my errors were in the blue/green modulations. I also found several websites to be of use as they listed the RGB colour codes and a RGB colour mixer tool, which I experimented with.

 Robert’s (2007) text, The Genius of Colour Photography was also helpful in explain the history and evolution of colour photography while highlighting how colour has been used by photographers to great success. It also inspired me to experiment with subject matter and photographs in the style of photographers such as Haas, Meyerowitz and Bathos.

The chapter on colour has introduced me to colour relationships in terms of complementary colours, colour contrast and similar colours. Previously, I would have selected colours based purely on personal preference, whereas I am now aware of the colour combinations and proportions that are deemed to be acceptable by many. However, I am also aware that sticking rigidly to these accepted colour combinations and ratios is a safe option and doesn’t necessarily foster creativity.

I have also learned about the perceived qualities of colours in terms of temperature, power and character (Freeman, 2005, Freeman 2007, Präkel, 2006). These associations can vary by culture, personal experience and emotion. Being aware of this has helped me to consider the possibilities in combining colour and imagery to convey a whole message. It also enabled me to read photographs on a more connotative level. 

Show a basic knowledge of the principles of graphic design in photography, conveying information by means of a photograph or a series of photographs

The graphic elements discussed and explained in Chapter Two, Elements of Design, provided an effective set of tools that I can apply to graphic design. I now appreciate that colour is also an element of design and how it is used can determine the way a viewer looks at a picture. Freeman (2005) was especially helpful in helping me to understand that effective use of colour can be used to draw the eye, make subjects appear to advance or retreat, spark cultural and psychological associations and convey sensations of temperature.

This information was extremely beneficial when I began to plan and compose the photographs for Assignment three, using colour as an element of design alongside points, lines and shapes. Examples include ‘Flower in fountain’ and ‘Buoy rope’.

 Awareness of the principles of graphic design in photography has also helped me to reflect on the work of other photographers as I can better recognise their compositional choices and experiment with these myself, such as with Meyerowitz and Bathos.

 Reflect perceptively on your own learning experience.

 I write in my learning log about my practical experiences with, and my thoughts on, each of the exercises and projects in the course material. I also write reflectively on the photographs I view, the exhibitions I attend and the reading and research I undertake. On occasions I have found my writing to be ‘long’ and feel more like an essay than notes on immediate thoughts and ideas. I feel there is a place for both in my learning log so I aim to enter shorter notes and reflections too.

While the core texts are influencing my thinking, I am also finding that questions and ideas arise from magazines, websites and Photography groups I follow on Twitter. With this in mind I plan to set up an electronic collection of photographs and articles that are of interest, alongside the physical scrapbook I have.

 Freeman, M. (2005) Digital Photography Expert-Colour. Lewes: ILEX

Freeman, M. (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: ILEX

Peterson, B. (2012) Understanding Composition Field Guide. (Kindle Edition) New York: Amphoto Books

Präkel, D. (2006) Composition. Lausanne: AVA Publishing SA

Roberts, P. (2007) The Genius of Colour Photography. London: Goodman

Progress towards assessment criteria 2.

Progress towards assessment criteria 2

On successful completion of this course you’ll be able to:

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the principles of composition when planning and taking photographs using a suitable camera, lenses and other equipment

 Looking at each design element individually helped to focus my attention and this meant that I fully understand their individual strengths. Helpful, not only in composition but also when looking at photographs. An example of making certain design elements work effectively in composition could be the ‘curves’ shot in Assignment Two. This illustrates the elegance of the subject, the urn, while utilising the smooth, flowing curved line to carry the eye to the minaret of Dubai Grand Mosque, in the background.

 When composing photographs I now like to experiment with different viewpoints, focal lengths and position of subject in the frame to note the difference in outcome. I recently read On Being a Photographer by Bill Jay and David Hurn (1997) and noted that Hurn advised that the two most important decisions a photographer makes is where to stand and when to release the shutter. With this in mind I am trying to anticipate potential shots and wait for the best time to press the shutter button. ‘A combination of vertical and horizontal lines’ in Assignment Two, would be an example of this.

 I have been trying to use my 70-300mm telephoto lens more and have found I can get reasonable results with it, without a tripod, if I don’t extend it fully. Perhaps this is the ‘sweet spot’ I have read that each lens has?

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the different qualities of light, both natural and artificial, and the properties of colour, using methods of control to pictorial advantage.

I have continued to work on getting the ‘right’ exposure and routinely check my camera histogram, adjusting exposure compensation as required.

My attempts at metering have had varying degrees of success. My main problem seems to be identifying a mid-tone to spot-meter from. Freeman’s ‘The Photographer’s DSLR Pocketbook’ (2010, p72) explains The Zone System and describes Zone V, the mid-tone, as typical shadow value, as in dark foliage, building, landscapes and faces. Identifying the mid-tone as a concrete object seems to make the concept seem less elusive for me so I will approach future shoots with this in mind.

Feedback from Assignment One noted that a few of my images appeared flat and would benefit from exposure adjustments in editing. Following a discussion with my tutor I have now upgraded my editing software to Adobe Photoshop Elements 11. I have spent sometime exploring the ways in which this can be used to enhance my photographs and, in particular, adjust the exposure in RAW editing and through Levels. As I converted all the photographs produced for Elements of Design to grayscale I haven’t yet explored the Photoshop Elements 11 colour adjustment tools. I look forward to doing this while learning about the properties of colour in TAoP, Part Three, Colour.

For Assignment Two, I visited the same street scenes at three different time of the day and found it interesting to note how the light behaved differently, emphasising textures, casting shadows and influencing colours. I found that the light in early to mid-morning worked best as it was softer and colours seemed brighter. Mid afternoon resulted in many photographs with blown highlights, which when retaken in the morning light, were okay. It will be interesting to note how this will change as summer quickly approaches.

When lighting still-life arrangements at home I have been experimenting with a very basic desk lamp, baking parchment to soften the light and tin foil to reflect it. I realise that it would be advisable to invest in some lighting equipment, however I am reluctant to do this before undertaking Part Four of TAoP, Light, as I realise that what I learn will influence my choices. ‘Light Science and Magic’ by Hunter at al has been useful in giving me some insight into lighting basics.

  •  Show a basic knowledge of the principles of graphic design in photography, conveying information by means of a photograph or a series of photographs

 The graphic elements discussed and explained in Elements of Design, provides an effective set of tools that I can apply to graphic design.

Hopefully, the images I produced for Assignment Two illustrate my awareness of the qualities that each element holds. When discussing a few of the images I have also made reference to a combination of elements and how it has contributed to the photographs composition. (A single point, Several points in a deliberate shape, Implied triangle 2)

When composing a photograph I apply more effort to achieve the outcome I want, whether this involves revisiting a scene, repositioning objects or waiting for the right time. I’m also more aware of balance in an image, mentally disregarding some scenes or viewpoints for being too static or considering ways to add dynamism to them.

Being aware of graphic elements has also helped me to look at the work of other photographers and ‘read’ their images. This was the case when I wrote about a Marc Riboud exhibition I attended recently. Awareness of the graphic elements has also helped me understand and explain why I like a particular photograph or am drawn to a scene.

  • Reflect perceptively on your own learning experience.

 I have been writing about my practical experiences with the camera and thoughts on the photographs viewed, exhibitions attended and reading undertaken in my learning log. While, this can, at times, take quite a lot of time I do appreciate the value in doing this as it helps me to organise my thinking and consolidate my learning thus far.

 I have begun to read and reflect on some of the core texts and have found certain aspects are beginning to influence my thinking. An example of this would be, when recently viewing photographs on, I began to think of the themes that Charlotte Cotton (2009) uses to discuss contemporary art photography and consider if, and in what way, they could be applied to the images I was viewing.

 I shall continue to write reflectively on the learning that I undertaken.



Cotton, C. (2009) The Photograph as Contemporary Art (2nd Revised ed). London: Thames and Hudson Ltd

Freeman, M. (2010) The Photographer’s DSLR Pocketbook. Lewes: ILEX

Jay, B. and Hurn, D. (1997) On Being a Photographer, 1st Kindle Edition 2010. Washington: LensWork Publishing

Hunter, F, Biver, S, Fuqua, P (2012) Light: Science and Magic. An Introduction to Photographic Lighting  (4th edition) Waltham: Elsevier, Inc