Category Archives: The Art Of Photography

My Learning Log for the Level 4 Open College of the Arts’ course, Photography 1 – The Art of Photography

Simon Chirgwin (512973) The Art of Photography – Notes for Assessors

Hello Assessors!

Nested below the link to The Art of Photography  (at the top of the page, under the title bar; it will take you back here, if you click it) there are 3 sub-category menus, each with further nested links to allow you to view specific categories of posts. I have replicated this tree of links here:



Research and Reflection

Each of the Assignment categories is headed with a brief introductory post, containing links to the Tutor’s Report and the folder on Dropbox containing the full-size files for all the pictures and some contact sheets included in the assignment.

I have not been able to reverse the most-recent-to-oldest sorting of the posts within any of the sections, or indeed in the blog as a whole, but assume this is normal.

All the assignment folders and an electronic copy of the Contents Document for the Physical Submission for Assessment can be viewed at once, by clicking this link.


Assignment 5; Narrative – Notes for the Assessors

I have remade the dummy book for this assignment following the suggestions in the tutor’s report. Now, instead of a series of individual prints, hinged together with masking tape, there is a single strip of pictures, scored and then folded to make a “concertina” book. The colour temperature of the pictures has been reset back to the original, cooler setting of the files created in my camera. If time and money permitted I would do one more edit, making the final, appropriated image/page darker, to match the others.

I would use this assignment as the basis for further work, creating other series of pictures of streets in Walthamstow that have obviously been damaged by wartime bombing. It may even build up into a stand-alone exhibition forming part of the Walthamstow Art Trail, either next year or the year after.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 5

I have included  a dummy book containing all of Assignment 5 – a concertina of 9 prints –  in my physical submission for assessment.

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 5 – Light

This contains:

    • The 9 full-size jpegs that make up the composited book ((512973-PH4AoP-A5-nn.jpg)

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.


Assignment 4; Light – Notes for the Assessors

This was the most overtly technical of the assignments for The Art of Photography. As such it ws mostly a case of trying to improve my application of techniques and lighting theory rather than of pushing me creatively. This does not reduce validity of the pictures however and while most of them are quite “exercise-y”, there are a couple (the two “texture”  pictures (05 and 06) and the second “shape” (02) which I think go a bit further.

For reasons outlined in my response to the Tutor’s Report (mainly around the fact that the flowers were long dead at this point) I did not reshoot any of the pictures for this assignment. I did however rebalance the colour following David’s suggestions and these are the versions of the picture files that were used to make the prints enclosed as part of my physical submission for Assessment.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 4

I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • Assignment 4.1: Shape – Photographic Lighting
  • Assignment 4.2: Form – Photographic Lighting
  • Assignment 4.3: Texture – Available Light
  • Assignment 4.4: Colour – Mixed Light (Daylight/Tungsten)

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 4 – Light

This contains:

    • 8 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A4-nn.jpg)
    • 4 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A4-contact-nn.jpg)

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.


Assignment 3; Colour – Notes for the Assessors

This was probably the most problematic of the assignments. As noted elsewhere (here, and a few days ago, here, and no doubt a few others, too) I found it very hard to stop taking photographs and to start editing them into either finished exercises ready for a write-up or to complete the assignment itself.

Then, after handing in my work here, this has been the section that has seen the most reworking of the “completed” pictures. I had worked on accentuating the main colours in the submission and then, following Dave’s comments in his report, dulled them down again; for the assessment prints, I have further reworked the way the colour was handled, again reducing the saturation (in part directly, but also by lightening the overall picture) in order to get print masters that didn’t smash the colour gamut of the paper that was being used to make C-Print, while experimenting with soft-proofing in Lightroom.

Now, I suspect I have calmed the colours down a bit too much in some of them; as a result, I have included the original print for Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours – Orange and Blue rather than the reworked one. “A work of art is never completed, rather it is thrown aside in disgust” as Apocryphal said…

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 3

I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • 01 -Colour Harmony through Complementary Colours – Orange and Blue (01 in the original submission)
  • 02 -Colour Harmony through Similar Colours – Violet and Red (06 in the original submission)
  • 03 – Colour Contrast through Contrasting Colours – Yellow and Blue (11 in the original submission)
  • 04 – Colour Accent – Orange (13 in the original submission)

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 3 – Colour

This contains:

    • 16 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A3-nn.jpg)

There are no contact sheets included for this assignment as they would need to be so extensive as to be meaningless as anything other than as an indication of my indecision!

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

Assignment 2; Elements of Design – Notes for the Assessors

I still really like the pictures I took for this assignment and while I don’t have much to add to what I wrote after receiving the tutor’s report about the pictures included. However, I would say that the suggestions that I take a few paces back and take wider pictures than I did on Flotta seems to have gone on to influence the pictures I have been taking since.

Also, as a footnote, almost a year to the day I took the Assignment 2 pictures, I was back on Flotta again. While I waited for the ferry back to the mainland, I took an alternative to the picture that replaced picture 10 of the original submission. Here it is:

Entrance to the Oil Terminal, Flotta; 30-vii-15

Entrance to the Oil Terminal, Flotta; 30-vii-15

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 2

I have included 4 prints in my physical submission for assessment:

  • 01 – Single Point (01 in the original submission)
  • 02 – Vertical and Horizontal Lines (03 in the original submission)
  • 03 – Distinct Shapes -Semi-Circle and Oblongs (06 in the original submission)
  • 04 – Rhythm (13 in the original submission)


High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 2 – Elements of Design

This contains:

  • 14 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos (512973-PH4AoP-A2-nn.jpg)
  • 7 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A2-Contacts-nn.jpg)
    Contact 01 contains 10 (revised)
    Contact 02 contains 04
    Contact 03 contains 09, 10 (original), 11, 13
    Contact 04 contains 01, 03
    Contact 05 contains 06
    Contact 06 contains 02, 05, 08, 14
    Contact 07 contains 07, 12

All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.


Assignment 1; Contrasts – Notes for the Assessors

After I received the feedback for Assignment 1, I did not make any changes to the pictures that make up assignment 1. The main suggestion – to match the aspect ratio of the portrait format pictures to that of the landscape ones –  would have meant a major re-edit and some possible re-shooting.

I had decided on the different ratios – 3×2 for landscape and 4×5 for portrait – at a very early stage and as a result some of the compositions were made with this in mind. I felt that the shorter portrait format would work better for a submission that would only be viewed on screen as the images would view larger on a normally oriented monitor screen. Also, at that point, I wanted to crack on with Elements of Design.

Tutor’s Report – Assignment 1

High Resolution Files of the Assignment picture are on dropbox in the folder: Assignment 1 – Contrasts

This contains:

  • 17 full-size jpegs of the assignment photos
  • 8 contact sheets (512973-PH4AoP-A1-Contacts-nn-thing&anti-thing.jpg)
All Related Posts can be found either Here or by using the link in the main menu at the top of each page. I have removed all “Read More” commands, to reduce the amount of clicking you have to do.

colour # 2 – single colours

For this exercise you are going to find scenes or parts of scenes that are each dominated by a single one of the primary and secondary colours. To produce images that match the six colours closely, you may find that you have to make a number of attempts. Don’t feel frustrated at the difficulty of making an exact match with each example – you will be refining your own ability to judge these colours.

AoP Coursebook

The open-endedness of this exercise – exemplified by the phrase “you may find that you have to make a number of attempts” – led me to wildly overshoot for this part of the course. The exercises here and the one on colour combinations merged into one long set of shoots that also began to overlap with getting the assignment done; one moment I’d see something RED and bracket it, the next I’d see something YELLOW set against VIOLET and bracket it too, then I’d see a contrasting colour highlight and take a candidate picture for the assignment. The next day I’d go to reshoot the bits that hadn’t come out as expected and then be distracted by something else.

Eventually, I realised I just had to stop and get the assignment finished as a priority. Now, at the end of the course, I’ve returned to try to make some sense of the stuff I got lost in nearly a year ago. Here are the most exemplary versions of each of the six colours. The way the colours behave as they are move from over to underexposure is described in a hugely subjective way in the text that goes alongside them. Continue reading

Assignment # 5 – Tutor’s Comments


Another sky over Walthamstow

“Conceptually this assignment was a success. You have experimented with an interesting idea and have created a critically interesting body of work looking at this place.”

Another set of positive comments (Tutor’s Report – Assignment 5) came back from my tutor,  a couple of weeks after I had submitted the physical book dummy and a link to my recent posts for the assignment. I was glad to see that David had thought the work was successful and the description of it as a body of work (rather than a bunch of photographs) showed that I had hit the spot I was aiming at here.

It would have been nice to get a bit more explicit praise, but moving onto things that can be improved makes sense in the context of a course that I am following and which itself forms a part of larger scheme of development.

“Rather boringly I’m afraid I have concentrated most of this feedback on a few technical issues that do need to be ironed out as soon as possible to allow your outcome to match your critical thinking. Hopefully this will put you in a strong position both conceptually and technically for the next module.”

Onto the specifics. First: “There is an overall red colour cast in all of the street pictures.” This is followed by a detailed description of how to correct while editing the images.

I find this useful and annoying in equal measure! Useful, because my use of Lightroom is very much self taught in a very hit and miss way. One of the things I’ve noted as a possible side-project during the level 1 courses is to work a bit on my workflow and how I work with images after they have been created initially and a particular area of focus would be how I deal with colour. The techniques outlined here are instantly applicable and can be incorporated into my expanding repertoire of standard actions while preparing pictures for inclusion on the blog or for individual assignments. It’s annoying however, because I actually applied the basic Lightroom “Cloudy” white balance setting to all the street images as they seemed a bit cold. The easy way to achieve much the same result as via David’s method would be simply to revert the pictures to “As Shot”.  How embarrassing!

Chromatic Aberation reared it’s ugly fringe again too. All the street shots were taken with the same rather old 24mm f2.8 Nikkor prime. Leaving aside the fact that I should have spotted this myself (and corrected it in Lightroom), Level 1 of the BA lays the most emphasis on the straightforwardly technical aspects of photography, and I should definitely review my basic kit and replace the worse bits of it with something better as I work through the next two courses before moving onto level 2. Generally, my set of lenses is good, but old and second hand, chosen as much for price as for performance; There have been issues with some of the other lenses I’ve used with my D50 during TAoP and this may be the next place for me to focus my attention after replacing my DSLR body with something that is less ten years old…

The other area for focussed criticism was the presentation of the assignment: “I was pleased to see you include a dummy for the book. This demonstrates well your thinking concerning potential presentation of the work. I realise this is level one and as such this is unlikely to have a huge bearing on marks but you might consider producing a slightly more polished version for assessment.”

I’ll also redo the Assignment 5 book dummy following the method detailed in the feedback: I’ll print the pictures as a strip and then fold them into shape rather than connecting individual prints.  The scoring board and tools are sitting in my Amazon basket, ready for me to click submit. I have worked out where to get it printed and just need to make up the composited file for printing.

I will also take some time to look at how pictures can be displayed online, both in WordPress and more generally. I have a basic knowledge of web design and it shouldn’t be beyond me to play about with the Javascript & the CSS styles around them. I’ve noted a couple of times during the course that photographers’ websites can often be shocking to navigate or even just as a platform for pictures; it would be good to turn this carping into something positive with regard to my own work!

And that – bar some best wishes for the future and a nice general appreciation of my work over the course – is that.

 “I would suggest enrolling on the ‘Context and Narrative’ module next.”

And so I shall. I have enjoyed this course, and feel ready to move on. I’m booked in for the November Assessment Event. I’ll spend the next couple of weeks tidying my learning log – turning unfinished drafts into published posts; writing up missing exercises; making sure the metadata is consistent across posts; doing a final proof-read for typos, spelling and just simple stupidity – and making a final selection of assignment pictures to send as prints. It would be good if the assessment report would be able to feed into the next course sooner than November, but that can’t be helped. I shall assume that it won’t differ radically from what David has been saying over the last year.

light # 12 – contrast and shadow fill


Set up a simple still-life shot. You will not need to move the light around so the background can be whatever you want. Leave room for access at the sides of the set, and make sure that neither side is close to a wall. Shoot from the same level as the object, with the camera on a tripod. Fix the light at about two to three feet to one side of the object and at its level, so that it is aimed at right angles to the camera’s view. Take the first photograph without a diffuser in front of the lamp, and the second with the diffuser.

Follow these with a series of five exposures. The light and camera remain unchanged. Take the white card and place it three feet/one metre away from the object, on the opposite side from the light and facing it. Take a photograph. Then move the white card twice as close to the object, and take another photograph.Tear off a piece of the aluminium foil sufficient to cover the area of the white card and place it against the card, with the dull side facing the object. Make an exposure. For the next shot turn the foil round so that the shiny side is facing out. For the last shot crumple the foil in your hand and then smooth it out again. Place it once more against the card, with the shiny side facing out. Compare the results and arrange them in order of contrast, from the one with the biggest difference between the lit and shaded parts, to the least. You can see now why the expression ‘shadow fill’ is used. In a simple lighting arrangement like this, the lamp is set up first and then, if necessary, the shadows are filled in with a reflector.

– AoP Coursebook

Continue reading

light # 11 – direction of light

Keep the camera in a fixed position (on a tripod) aimed horizontally at the subject. If you are using an object (rather than someone’s face) place it on a small level surface so that there is room to move the light all around it. Place a plain background some distance behind. Start with the light, fitted with its diffuser, at the same level as the subject and camera. Between shots, move it around the subject, so that you photograph this lit from the front (with the light next to the camera), from the side, from behind and to one side, and from directly behind. With the light directly behind, aimed forwards to the subject and camera, the effect you will have is that of a silhouette, provided that the area of the light’s diffuser is greater than that of the subject. Then raise the light so that it points down towards the subject at an angle of about 45 degrees. Again, move the light right around the subject between shots. Finally, suspend the light overhead, pointing down, and take three pictures: directly overhead, from slightly in front, and from slightly behind. Lay out all the photographs together.

Study the differences in order to become familiar with the effect of moving the light. You should find that certain qualities of the subject are revealed better by some lighting directions.

– AoP Coursebook

Continue reading