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

Assignment # 5 – Tutor’s Comments

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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

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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

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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

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light # 7 – cloudy weather and rain

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An overcast afternoon, looking towards Clapton

“For the first part of this exercise you will photograph the same view in sunlight and under cloud. You can do this at different times or on different days, but the easiest time is on a day when individual clouds are drifting across the sun. If it is windy, so much the better, as the light will change more rapidly. Choose two or three different subjects, such as a building, a person, and a street scene. Note the difference in exposures. Keep the white balance set to sunlight/daylight.”

– AoP Coursebook

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light # 6 – variety with low sun

the back garden, early

the back garden, early

“This is an exercise to demonstrate some of the advantages of shooting when the sun is low. Obviously, there is no sudden moment in the day when the sunlight switches between low and high but, as a guide, the sun is low within about two hours of sunrise and sunset, except in winter when it stays low for much of the day. In summer, this may not be a convenient time to go out shooting, but the results from getting up really early can be very rewarding. You can choose any subjects for this project, but they must be in sunlight.”

– AoP Coursebook

So, while he was down for the bit between Christmas and Hogmanay, I dragged James out for a walk down by the River Lea. When we were heading back home over the derelict golf course the light had dipped far enough to try out this exercise. The instruction was:

Take as many pictures as possible, but aim to produce four as a final result. If in doubt, bracket your exposures. If you can, complete all these pictures on one occasion. There is a tremendous variety of lighting, and you can capture this variety by changing your view point.

You can’t just assume with a 12 year old, but James was willing to pose and to turn this way and that so, here are the results: Continue reading

light # 5 – light through the day

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“You will need a sunny day for this exercise, or else sun at different times on differentdays. You are going to photograph one scene from dawn to dusk. The number of pictures you take will depend on the time of year, but get at least one per hour, and more at the end of the day when the light is changing faster. Find a landscape location with a fairly definite subject that will catch the sunlight even when the sun is close to the horizon. It needs to offer a good, clear view that is lit throughout the day – containing an isolated building, perhaps, but convenient to reach, as you will need to keep going back to exactly the same spot. Try and keep the composition exactly the same for all the photographs; either remember which parts of the scene touch obvious points in the viewfinder (such as the corners or any markings on the screen) or draw a little sketch. Keep a note of the exposure for each photograph”

– AOP Coursebook.

I took these pictures over the course of three days, way back in November. I’d set my tripod up, leaning into the velux window in the attic, looking out from my work-room (it’s where I’m sitting typing now) to the northeast. The view was open to the south so the light would pass over the view revealing detail and creating shifting shadows for the whole of the period of daylight. Continue reading

A quick note about what’s going on here….

I have finished working through the exercises from The Art of Photography, but have not managed to write all of them up into post-able combinations of pictures and prose. Similarly there are exhibitions I have been to and books I have read that have generated drafts which still need some work. I’m not going to start Context and Narrative for a couple of weeks (it’s always good to have a breather; I don’t think I could do two courses simultaneously either). And lastly, I need to do some basic neatening to get everything ready to be submitted in September for the November Assessment Event.

So, the next few posts here will mostly consist of exercises and reviews, well out of sequence (either in course terms or in terms of when I did something.

I need to work out how to display (and navigate) the material in a better sequence than the simple chronological by posting date one that wordpress defaults to, and I suspect it has to do with Pages. Let’s see…