Sunday, 6 April 2014

Assignment five–Tutor feedback and reflection

I have included an extract of the main points that Sharon made about this assignment and highlighted the areas where I will need to take action before submitting for assessment:
I particularly enjoyed the abstract nature of many of these pictures. I got a sense of your morning routine but had to take some time to work it out. It added to the project not to be given all the information out right and as a result really pulled me into the work. It was also a good decision not to title the work in a descriptive way so you still kept the mystery. I’m also glad you went with this project and not the actor set, which looks like a good exercise but this work takes me on much more of a journey. The journey and intentions of this project were clear before I even read your blog so that alone suggests you achieved it well. I also thought that the ambiguity provided by the use of macro photography helped this project from being a clichéd way to attempt this task. I would like to see your writing move away from more technical detail such as the tablet package providing good texture and detail to incorporating a more reflective account of what it means for you to get ready. In an extreme and shocking example you may be interested in Pete Mansell’s series for his level 3 Advanced. This kind of approach would help you to work with your creative ideas more and would help assessors know how you thought it through rather than seeing it as a simply technical exercise – which I am sure it is not. Some more information would be helpful here. I like the theme of touch and this does come through but again, in your writing and in your final editing process, ensure this hits the assessors between the eyes! The awareness you have about the retirement theme is very interesting and perhaps this is something you could look at in your next courses (landscape or documentary would both fit it well). I wish you all the best in exploring this if you choose to do so. (I think it would be great!) Technically these were well produced and printed. You demonstrated some very competent skills in applying lighting to the reading of an image. The only ones that looked over produced was the shaving one and the pills held in a hand, which could do with a reprint. Perhaps you could put them in a portfolio box for assessment? I’m glad you made the decision against manipulation, it wasn’t needed and I think the work is stronger as a result. I wonder if there are too many pills references. If I was you I would edit it down to one picture to represent this aspect of your routine. The pills in your hand is probably the most obvious and also badly coloured so I would consider editing this one out. The blue and white Braille image I feel is the most successful of these as it is the least obvious and most visually grabbing. Thinking along these lines I wonder whether the shaving face is required? Something for you to consider in the final edit. In my opinion it would be a good editing decision to make the selection visually striking and ambiguous. This would help the series sit well together both visually and conceptually. I think it is nearly there and with a few tweaks and removals it will be a tighter and more coherent set.

I will make the modifications to my initial blog submission by editing the descriptions using italics and reposting the blog with an explanation of what I have changed in response to tutor feedback.
Following Sharon’s suggestion, I looked and Peter Mansell’s blog. It was indeed an extreme example but I’m glad I spent the time. I got an insight into the difficulties experienced by his particular mobility problems but more importantly into the hidden and very personal issues he has to deal with on a daily basis. Issues that someone who enjoys good health (and takes it for granted most of the time) is not aware of.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Assignment five: Personal Project


Editing in response to tutor feedback. In response to my tutor’s comments (shown above), I have left my original explanations and captions in place and supplemented them with additional text in Italics, in particular how each step in my routine has come to mean something, simply by examining it in detail. The numbers shown on my prints have not been changed. Prints 5 and 8 have been omitted.


I am interested in the possibilities of images from  interactions between texture and light. My initial idea was looking in detail at the objects and surfaces that we touch every day (or may be touched by) but do not necessarily see, even if we look directly at them.
I started by using a macro lens to to find some interesting shapes and details around my house and realised that I would have to restrict myself, as the number of opportunities was vast and the possibility of  producing a number very similar images had to be avoided. Some of the images are enigmatic as I have identified and formed abstracts.
During my early experiments I started plotting out my day, working my way around the house as I went about my daily routine. As it turned out, the first thirty minutes of that routine provided the basis of my collection of twelve images. The whole series is about starting my day, carrying out actions almost involuntarily, a routine which doesn’t change and finishes when I divert from habit and start whatever the business of the day dictates.
It is interesting that another theme emerged from this series, depending on how you read it. During shooting I became aware that I had an additional theme in the series. I chose the first and last images with this is mind. As I approach my 65th birthday it became clear to me that this series was also about retiring. Being able to press the snooze button, needing to find my glasses before I can start my day, the unconscious routine borne of habit, the handful of pills and a label to tell me if I’ve remembered to take them and an empty diary page with the day waiting to be filled…….
I am happy with my selection. I tried to make this more than just a collection of abstracts or close ups and I think I have succeeded.
The images
I will print off the images to send to my tutor and for assessment but I will present each one here with some details of how it was made. Unless otherwise indicated, my camera was set on manual control and all images were taken under studio lighting. Exposure was determined using a flash meter. In most cases, focusing was manual and just one soft box and a reflector was used.
I experimented with ring flash but this did not give the lighting I was after. The exercise in improvising this from kitchen materials and my SB600 speedlight was interesting and it will be a  useful tool to have in the future.
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The use of editing software for this project was restricted to normal post processing, in particular “cleaning” the images of dust. Even making sure the surfaces were free of visible dust before shooting, did not remove it completely. The most valuable skill I learned from the course was the organisation of my workflow and editing a large collection of images down into a meaningful project.

Image 1
This represents the start of the series and of my day. Do I snooze or get up? Since retiring I have experimented with trying to wake without an alarm and on days when I have little planned, I have indulged. However, I find that I still need structure to my day which starts with a regular rising time.

Print 01

Image 2
This image was a very late entry into the series. It wasn’t until after I had added all of the pictures to my blog that I realised I had forgotten my glasses! They are so much a part of me that there is a lot I cannot do without them. They just sit on my nose and work. The image was made using two soft boxes, one to the left lighting the  object and one to right pointed at the background (white paper roll).

Image 3
This picture of the stamped metal magnet-release plate on the mirrored door of my bathroom cabinet couldn’t be lit successfully with flash. Instead a 64 LED array was used. I moved it around until I got the right combination of light and shadow in the letters. I emphasised the fingerprint by using moisturising lotion on  my index finger. Because of its height and position in the bathroom I had to remove the door and photograph it in my studio/workroom. The quality of the LED light was surprisingly warm. I adjusted the fine tuning slider in the White Balance to a bluer tone, emphasising  the cool metallic quality.
Instructions and labels constantly assault our senses, push, pull, stop, start. Most we see once and never look at again.In reality this tab tells me how to open a door. Beyond that, it’s a reminder to go beyond my boundaries. With age, it is more important to push myself forward out of complacency.

Print 02

Image 4
Again, this is a different touch. Hopefully the drag of the razor will be smooth and effortless, lubricated by foam and hot water. I used a black background and single soft box to allow me to highlight the water droplet. I made lots of exposures, trying to get the drop as large as possible by adding to it with an eyedropper and firing the flash before it dropped under its own weight. When I was setting up this shot I used a new razor with just water. Adding the foam caused some flecks of white in the droplet. I have edited them out.
Some habits are so ingrained that they are subconscious. For me, shaving is one of them. With this image I wanted to examine in close detail the object that is in intimate contact with my skin every day. Shaving is a habit I cannot get out of. I went four weeks without shaving a year ago but didn’t like it.

Print 04

Image 5
This was taken with autofocus, again difficult to judge but after several attempts  I got  this comparison of smooth and harsh textures. I took a lot of pictures of shaving foam at this point but decided not to include another.
Following my tutor’s advice, I have removed this image from the series as it does not add much to it and is is too obvious.

DSC_5084 _print file

Image 6
The next part of my routine involves taking my daily preventative medication, the braille on this tablet box was an ideal subject.

This is another device that we constantly look at but rarely see. Enigmatic for the sighted but a lifeline to the visually impaired. As this series is about touch and texture, I started thinking about the slow deterioration of eyesight over the years and my need for glasses. Hopefully I shall never need Braille.

Print 06

Image 7
The diary pack of tablets yielded some interesting text and textures.

My tutor thought that I should remove this image from the series as it was another image of my medication.  Again, it is a tactile experience squeezing the pill through the foil  but as the last image was about touch and vision, this was included because it is about  touch and memory. A useful reminder of the day of the week when every day can seem the same without the  total change of routine the weekends bring.

Print 07

Image 8

Of all the images that I printed, this was the least satisfactory. My four colour printer rendered the skin tone of my palm very pink. At first I thought it was the reflection of t he pink tablet but every attempt I made at correcting the colour on screen produced a worse effect so I printed it ‘as was’.
This image I have removed from the series. As well as the difficulties experienced with the colour balance, it is too literal whereas the two previous images are enigmatic and less obvious.

Print 08

Image 9
This image of the bead of water that is left by your top lip when you sip from a glass, was best photographed against a black background with just one light. I did try to use a white backdrop but the image was not as graphic.

With this image I wanted to show the after effect of the touch of my lips on the rim of a glass and the temporary nature of the film of water that forms there. The substantial amount of water that our bodies contain, will continue to exist long after we have gone, constantly being recycled and forever moving.

Print 09

Image 10

Photographing this neon lit button on my coffee machine using flash meant that the warm glow was burnt out and only the neon element was orange. To achieve this effect I photographed this using just the tungsten modelling lamp on my studio flash (f22 1.3s). Leaving the camera’s white balance setting on flash meant that the whole image was very yellow but after adjusting the camera settings to incandescent in my editing software, the orange glow in the button was retained and the surrounding  surface could be set back to its normal colour.

I find this round button appealing. It has a soft touch and its warm glow promises something comforting. I know as soon as the light goes out, the promise will be kept with a hot cup of coffee.


Print 10

Image 11

I needed to move the single studio flash  and reflector around to achieve what I wanted for this image of my coffee cup, a sense of the smooth shiny glaze, the form of the handle where the light has caught the edge of the curve and the vertical highlight where the handle is joined to the mug. This gave a three dimensional feel to the image with only a very narrow band of the picture in focus.
With this image I wanted to evoke the solidity and comfort provided by the contents of the mug. When holding the handle I rest my thumb here. I suppose it is the equivalent of the child’s comforter.
Print 11

Image 12
This final image is a representation of the day to come after the morning routine is completed.
It is my normal routine to scribble a few notes about the day just before going to sleep which makes the image a little ambiguous. With the whole day to myself, what is to be written here later, has at this point not been decided but is full of possibilities.
Print 12

Reflection on the Project
I chose this theme partly because of my interest in abstracts and textures and partly because I wanted to try out a recently acquired 100mm f2.8 macro lens. Given recent weather events it was a good choice as I was able to complete the entire project indoors.
I gave myself a very broad brief and let the project evolve. I deliberately allowed myself to explore different possibilities with regard to subject matter. My first difficulty was to do with photographing things in situ. The decision to use my studio/workroom solved that one easily. I needed consistent lighting and it was the only way forward. The second problem was to identify and introduce a theme or narrative to link the images. My first image was actually the door catch on the bathroom cabinet so the idea of following the sequence of events that occur after opening it followed on naturally. The first and last print were added at the end. I felt I had to have a starting point and a resolution point at which I could end the series.The final problem came when editing down to 12 prints as I introduced a lot of different ideas. Here are a few images that didn’t make the cut:
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DSC_5030 DSC_5373_097
DSC_5446_130 DSC_5259_038
Having selected my 12 images (except my glasses, which I had forgotten) I read through the assignment brief and realised that I had not included “ all that you’ve learned on the course”. I did experiment with an idea of using a semi-transparent layer on some of the images to simulate the ‘touching’ idea but it was not successful. I thought it distracted from the image and I was unhappy with the accuracy of the selection tool in PSE.
I decided to stick with what I had. I had fulfilled the brief with my normal workflow and didn’t see that manipulating the images would achieve anything.
Self Assessment
I’m happy with my Technical and visuals skills, I’ve presented my work well and think that I have communicated my ideas with this set of photos. I’ve tried to create something new using my imagination and experimentation. My ‘personal voice’ I’m still not sure about but I think I’m getting there. I am continuing to read, attend study events. Since my last assignment I have added a lot to my learning log.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Assignment 4 – Reflection on Tutor Feedback

Here are the tutor’s overall comments:
Thanks for completing assignment 4. I thought you showed a good level of creativity, with a subject that is current and also showed how you have got to grips with Photoshop. Well done. I think you could have deepened your level of research into real and fake in relation to photography both historically and today

and Feedback on Assignment:

…..When I started to look closer I did enjoy your thought process and thought how you executed your vision was well done. Although I think it is too literal in approach I have to admire the way you made the image match your vision, as highlighted in your sketch. I also like the made up language and the general concept for the magazine, which demonstrates a good level of creativity. My only criticism is that when considering real / fake in relation to photography you don’t have to go to extremes of using manipulation and Photoshop in a dramatic and obvious way. You could use the software in a subtle way and therefore confuse the viewer with what appears to be real but is not. In fact this is at the heart of photography as truth and an issue that has been live since photography began. One of the first photographs was by a man who staged his own death! …….and other comments on context: Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays (Context) It’s great to see you continue to be engaged with your reading and OCATV visits. Taylor Wessing was a good idea and I enjoyed reading your points of view on the winners and others. These trips must not be underestimated in terms of importance to your studies. You also demonstrate a good level of Photoshop awareness when using it for touching up images and have made your position clear on how far you would go in changing images. In terms of making your blog easier to navigate may I recommend you put a label for your assignments so the assessors can easily link between your blog and your assignments. Suggested reading/viewing (Context) Looking at the work of other photographers and visual artists will open-up greater creative responses within your own practice. Dave did an excellent job with his research for this assignment – you might be interested. I really felt like he got beneath the areas of importance for the real/fake debate in digital or manipulated photography and what this assignment was based upon. Other artists you use manipulation: Wendy McMurdo Julia Fullerton Batten Conclusions / Pointers for the next assignment Make your final assignment something that really interests you!

Reflection My reflection on feedback was included in an email to my tutor:

I understand that there are more subtle ways of using manipulation, maybe I need practice at doing  that. My image is an expression of the way I see the situation. Unfortunately, I have the “crash bang” approach to assignments. I get an idea I think will work, put my head down and pursue it. I’ll try to remember to pause occasionally and ask myself if I’m on the right track or if I could do it differently.

Assignment 5 is coming on slowly. As I mentioned I have registered DPP for assessment in March but it will be touch and go.  I may have to push it onto the July event. At your suggestion I put my Assignments in a separate blog some time ago. The link is  on the top right listed under ‘My OCA Blogs’ above my photograph. Where my blog refers to a particular assignment, I’ll add a hyperlink if I can’t add a label. For level 2, I shall be moving to Wordpress which I understand is more flexible.

I’ve looked at the links you included and found Dave’s research very useful. I have actually read most of the topics he included at one time or another but didn’t think to write and include a report to my blog – omission noted  for future action. All part of the “re-learning the learning process”.

Talking of which, I was discussing the Level 2 options with Eddy at the weekend and he mentioned the amount of written work that is required for the courses. I achieved an ‘O’ level in English in 1965 and since then have not written a sizeable or serious essay. I am finding it increasingly difficult (i.e. it takes me a long time) to marshal the ideas I get from my research and reading into a coherent form. Are there any resources or techniques  that you can recommend which may improve my skills?

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Assignment four: Real or fake?

13/12/2013 I've had a few ideas about this one. Thinking of the globalisation of our High Streets and  posing the question: Are the global brands squeezing the local colour out of your High Street? Notes: Use composite of shop fronts. 2 big brands either side of a local café distorted vertically converted to monochrome with colours running out over the pavement and down the drain. Look for shop fronts about the same scale - without parked cars. May have to add a clear piece of pavement and a SW drain. Photographs in pedestrian precincts ideal - search Google street view for locations near here. Farnham has both a Subway (The Borough) and Starbucks (Lion & Lamb) Alton has a Subway (High Street) Farnborough has very little but I did pick up the story of the unsuccessful campaign to save the former Tumbledown Dick pub from being turned into a McDonalds Drive through. Guildford High Street is the best venue, Starbucks, McDonalds and Jo Clark's café bar as the local colour How to make the colours look like flowing paint - research PS filters/plugins? Name of the magazine?............ Have your say - Ĉu via diru (Esperanto) Made up magazine – made up language! Here is a quick (bad) sketch of the idea in my head. Squeeze
Here is my first attempt at the image after a visit to Guildford High Street. This attempt was a rough try out to see if the idea was practical.


This attempt highlighted a few problems, mainly to do with scaling the images but the idea was there. I need another image for the left hand shop (too much detail to remove) and the central image’s scaling needs to fit so all the shopfronts and name boards are of similar height. I will also experiment with a selection layer on the monochrome image to show the colours running downwards and work on a method of showing the colours running across the pavement to the drain.

After visiting several locations, experimenting with different views of shop fronts I have come up with four images which I think will provide a reasonable, believable image when edited, cropped and joined up. The most arduous part of this shoot was waiting for parked cars and delivery vans to move and finding suitable locations in the first place. Three of the images are from Guildford High Street and the fourth (Domino’s) is within walking distance of my home in Bordon.

DSC_4708_clark_edit DSC_4775
DSC_4754 DSC_4741_orig


1. These are the original crops I made to assemble the image. Having processed them I had to ensure that the scaling was correct. I would like to have included more of the “big brand” shop fronts but using the vertical format I had to crop closely and on the McDonald’s facia, had to move the logo to the left. The centre frontage of Clarks didn’t matter as I was distorting it vertically but I did want to retain the essence of it as a cafe bar. I started off by using this black and white conversion.
DSC_4775 DSC_4708_crop DSC_4741

2. This is my first experimental attempt to add the paint to the pavement using Sumo Paint but the “bevel” tool wouldn’t give me a fine enough adjustment and the paint looks more like plastic.


3. I was also unhappy with the monochrome shop front so I used the selection brush in NX2 to selectively remove the colour in streaks. I also made the crop a bit closer.


4. Further experiments with painting in PS Elements using the pencil tool to outline and the fill bucket led to some interesting effects. I also chose to use only the colours from the original image. At this point I made my second attempt at the composite image paying attention to the reflections in the damp paving slabs. At this point I was still unhappy with the Jo Clark’s image.

Cover01 - Copy

5. My next idea was to use the distort brush to give the image some dynamism. I felt it lacked any interest otherwise. I have tried to retain the sense of the type of business by leaving the window lettering part readable. I also re-thought the McDonalds shop front and decided to re-crop it to exclude the first floor window.  I have added the name of the fictional publication and some “dressing to make it look realistic. This is the final image that I will submit to my tutor as a print:

Cover01 - Text_final03

I have produced this image with no thought of deception, rather to use manipulation to construct an image to illustrate a metaphor. I’ve assembled the elements and arranged them in a manner which is obviously the realisation and simplification of an idea, not a physical occurrence.

Reflection on Assignment 4

Demonstration of technical and visual skills: This assignment was challenging in its execution because this is the first really serious attempt I have made at constructing an image of this type. My usual editing software does not have the facility to use layers so I had to learn how to do that. I have shown the image editing skills I learned from this section of the course and have successfully planned and executed this project.
Quality of outcomes: I have used my knowledge and experience to conceive this idea and present it in an original way. 
Demonstration of creativity: I think I have been very creative in the way I have used editing software to manipulate this image and interpret this idea.
Context: The proliferation of global brands throughout our environment is something which concerns me especially at the expense of small highly personalised businesses. This image sums up how I feel.
This assignment has been submitted to my tutor as a single print on 13/01/2014.