Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Final Evaluation

Ok, that's it, I've finished everything! Time to write the final evaluation of my experiences over the last sixteen weeks.

The Course

When I first applied to the college, I was told that I could choose between starting on the level 1 course, or, because I'd had a bit of experience using my camera, skip straight to the level two. After reading up on the various requirements for each level, I decided that I'd opt for the level one (so as not to miss anything that might come in useful later on.) I know this initially caused Marie some concern, as she was afraid I was going to get bored, but I don't regret it at all. Wednesday nights quickly became the highlight of my week, and I was always disappointed when the three hours whizzed by and we all had to leave.

I'd had my camera for a couple of years before the course, but I'd never really tried it on anything other than the auto mode. And that's what I wanted to change. It might still take me a couple of tries to get exactly the right setting, but I'm now very happy using my camera on the shutter priority, aperture priority, and manual modes. I've also expanded my knowledge in areas I'd previously studied, and learned about all sorts of thing I hadn't! Of all the things we've done over the last few months though, the most enjoyable part for me was my time in the darkroom. Producing the photograms, learning how to operate the enlargers, and the whole developing process was fascinating. So much so, that I'll definitely be choosing darkroom printing for my optional unit on level two...and three.

As far as the main assignment is concerned, I have mixed feelings. False modesty and self deprecation aside, I know my images aren't as bad as I always claim, but there's still definite room for improvement. Having said that though, I've loved my time working on it. Learning about the studio, and how to operate the lighting rigs was great. I had loads of fun every time I got to go in to the studio (hope it wasn't too bad for the others who helped me.) My one regret though is that I couldn't transfer these skills to my final assignment in a way I was happy with. Ultimately it's my own fault. I never really had a clear idea of exactly what I wanted to achieve. This is the one thing I'd change if I did the course again. Taking more time at the start of the course to clarify my ideas, would have meant I didn't waste so much time. Both my own, but especially other people's!

Having taught myself how to do some basic tasks in photoshop, I was looking forward to the digital manipulation unit. I thought I might actually be able to show I can do something right for a change. Sadly it wasn't to be. Again I know they're not terrible pictures, but I'm also aware they're not as good as Marie and some of the others were expecting of me. Hopefully I'll get a chance to prove I can do it in the future.

The presentation is the one area I think went according to plan. I always knew I wanted to produce a large print, and if possible to get it framed. It's turned out to be a fair bit more expensive than I was expecting, but I'd rather spend the money and be happy with the end result, than save some cash and be disappointed.

The research element of the course was another part that I really enjoyed. Any excuse to read about photography is a good thing in my opinion! I tried to pick a mix of people I already knew about and who've inspired my interest in photography, and also a selection of people who I've been introduced to over the length of the course. I know this is hard to believe, but I really did try to keep the level of information down. Thanks to anyone who actually read any of them.

I've tried to do my best over the length of the course, and although that hasn't always been enough (at least in my opinion.) There's very little I'd change. As already stated, I'd spend more time thinking about exactly what I wanted to achieve, with my assignments. And for the level two I'll definitely try to manage my time better, things won't be quite so rushed then. I'd also like to try and get out and about a bit more for the next levels. By choosing to do all my shots in the studio, I haven't really improved my real world photography as much as my skills under artificial light. All in all, I've found some of the aspects of the course difficult, but this just reinforces my desire to improve, and fuels my need to show people that I can do these things. It's also made me all the more determined to pursue a career in photography. What this will be I don't know, but I'll get there in the end!

I know some of that sounds a bit depressing, but I've enjoyed 99% of the course, and the 1% is all problems of my own making. I've discovered whole new areas of photography that I'm desperate to try, and If I thought Marie could put up with me for another sixteen weeks, I'd happily do it all again. So don't worry Marie, I've had a brilliant time!


When I arrived on the first night I was incredibly nervous. Not knowing anybody there, I wasn't sure exactly what kind of reception to expect. Happily everyone in the class is incredibly friendly. They even put up with my incessant chatter, and questions. I've got to say a big thank you to a few people in particular though. Chris for coming to college early and helping me with my main assignment. Lucy for agreeing to model for me, even though she didn't want to. Rachael for helping me set up some of the shoots. And Ness for modelling for me, but also for putting up with me walking back to the carpark with her every week. It's sad that not everyone is moving on to the level two, but it's been fun.


I really can't express just how amazing Marie's been over this course. I know that sounds like hyperbole, but I'm completely genuine. I wouldn't have stood a chance of completing this course without her help. She's listened to me bitch and moan about my work. Let me come in to college early, week after week, when she obviously had better things to do. Answered god knows how many, emails and texts (except the one that got mysteriously deleted...Yes I know the truth!) And not once during all this has she complained. Even when I kept interfering in class! And after all this, she still let me use a picture of her for my final six images.

Thanks for stopping me becoming a gibbering wreck Marie, I know I can't repay all the favours I owe you, but I'll try:)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm of to look wistfully in to the sunset, whilst maintaining a manly yet approachable pose. Good times people...good times!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Research: Hiroshi Sugimoto

For my final research post, I've decided to write about another favourite photographer of mine, Hiroshi Sugimoto. I first came across his work through my love of Architectural photographs. I won't just focus on that though, because he's done some other amazing projects. Though Sugimoto does produce colour photographs, it's his black and white pictures that I find most interesting.

Barragan House, 2002, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

The Barragan house is part of his Architecture series, shot between 1997 and 2002. Sugimoto shot a whole selection of modernist buildings, with a large format camera, then deliberately altered the focus. He said he wanted to return to the core of the architects vision for the building.

The Luis Barragan house, is an example of the way an architect can use a combination of colour, texture, and light to define the character of a building. And the picture above, is an example of how Sugimoto likes to strip all of these away, forcing the viewer to concentrate on the form of the building, rather than it's constituent parts. By converting to monochrome, and deliberately throwing the picture out of focus, it becomes an abstract study, rather than a documentary shot.

Although the final shot is out of focus he still has to properly compose the original picture, In fact it's probably even more important to get the composition right, because you can't rely on other aspects of the photograph to attract the viewers attention. For this photograph he's used the lines of the building and the way they affect the light, to form a series of abstract shapes. If you were to view the original unaltered image they would clearly be walls and shadows, but after the transformation, it becomes almost like a cubist painting.

Lightning Fields, 2008, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

Part of a series of images called lightning fields. This picture isn't actually a normal photograph. Sugimoto produced it by placing a piece of film between a metal plate, and a van de graaf generator. The film then captured the arcing electricity. Sugimoto was inspired to create these images after a visit to William Henry Fox Talbot's home. He was fascinated by the links between Fox Talbot's use of science and the subsequent production of art. After conducting his experiments, Sugimoto produced a book called: nature of light (for which the above was the cover image), in which he looks at his work, and the work Fox Talbot created.

Of all the images in the series this is my favourite. As well as being an interesting documentation of the scientific processes involved, it also creates it's own mini landscape. The fractal nature of the arcing electricity forming two trees, and the other marks combining to give the impression of a sweeping hillside, and the hint of clouds. Like a lot of Sugimoto's pictures it reminds my of another art form, this time a charcoal sketch.

Lighting Fields, 2002, By Hiroshi Sugimoto

Part of the same series as the one before, this is another picture I really like. Rather than a softly undulating hillside though, this reminds me of a mountain pass. The markings seeming to sweep down forming a precipice. This time the trees are barely clinging on, having been battered by the wind. The shape in between the trees, reminds me of a phoenix, with it's long fiery tail. Although it still has elements of a charcoal drawing, it also reminds me of the type of woodcuts you see in Dante's inferno, or paradise lost.

Tyrrhenian Sea, by Hiroshi Sugimoto

Having explored Sugimoto's other works, I thought I'd finish with the subject that he's best known for, his seascapes.

This is a subject he's returned to again and again over the years. His intention with this photographs is to try to recreate a pristine image of the sea. The sort of view that our ancestors would have seen, uncluttered by the detritus of modern life.

The composition is virtually identical in all the pictures. The horizon is used to bisect the sea and the sky, usually straight through the middle of the picture but sometimes according to the rule of thirds. The only variations in the series are the level of light available, and the weather. Some of the pictures are perfectly clear like the one above, and sometimes they're taken in the fog, so the whole seems to blend together.

Well there you have it, my tenth and final research post. I've tried to keep this one a little shorter for you:)

Research: Brian Duffy

I'm rapidly running out of time now, so I'm going to have to curtail my natural inclination to go in to too much detail (what, no cries of despair, no pleading with me to reconsider?)

I've been a fan of Brian Duffy for a long time, and had originally planned to do a research post about him, but abandoned it after deciding on my initial theme. Now that I've changed my theme to black and white pictures though, he's suddenly relevant again.

Along with Terence Donovan and David Bailey (the so called terrible trio), Duffy's innovative style of photography redefined the way fashion was shot. That's not to say he was a one trick pony though. As well as his fashion photography, he also dabbled in documentary style street photography, and was in constant demand for his skill at devising advertising shoots. Born in Dublin in 1933, he tried a few different jobs before discovering a passion for photography. In order to hone his skills, he spent several years assisting other photographers, and accepting freelance commissions. In 1957 he was offered a job at British vogue, and quickly established his place in the fashion world. After several years of employment with various magazines, he decided to setup his own studio, as this would allow him to further explore and define his particular style. Having been at the forefront of the industry for almost three decades, he seemed to have become disillusioned with the business, and in 1979 decided to retire from photography. This wouldn't have been too much of a problem, but not satisfied with just retiring, he decided to burn all of his negatives. Luckily a friend came round halfway through and managed to save as many as possible, but Duffy had completely destroyed years of his work, in a single afternoon. In 2007 his son Chris started trying to assemble an archive of his dad's remaining work, and has kindly given me permission to use some of them in this post.

David Bowie/Aladdin Sane, 1973, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

This is not only one of Duffy's most famous photographs, but also one of the most famous images of the 70's. One of three album covers Duffy shot for David Bowie. This portrait was shot in 1973 as a cover for Bowie's Aladdin Sane album.

Like a lot of Duffy's studio celebrity photographs, it's incredibly minimalist. As well as being an album cover, this portrait was a good way of introducing Bowie's new persona to the world. By having the subject shot against a pure white background, and placing him in the exact centre of the frame, they become the only focal point for the portrait. This allows the person buying the album to get a good look at the new character. The white background and pale skin of Bowie, also help to make the colours in the hair and lightning bolt really stand out, creating a real visual impact.

The lighting Duffy's used has a duel purpose. Obviously the main lighting has to ensure that the overall exposure is well balanced, and that the features are clearly defined. The spot of intense light at the bottom of the frame though was deliberately setup to produce an area of blank space. This allowed the album title to be superimposed  over the top, without affecting the stark composition of the photograph.

Jean Shrimpton, 1964, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

Of all Duffy's photos this is one of my favourites, and not just because it's got Jean Shrimpton in...maybe!

It was part of a fashion shoot for British Vogue in 1964. A magazine both Duffy and Shrimpton had long connections with.

Shrimpton was one of the most famous faces of the sixties, and also involved with Duffy's friend David Bailey. As such, she worked with Duffy on quite a few occasions. This gave me quite a selection to choose from, but as I said, I've always really liked this picture. Being a bloke, the obvious reasons for this are nice legs, and an ample supply of heaving bosom, but there are other reasons...give me a minute and I'll think of some. Err...texture! Yes, texture. Duffy's use of a light coloured backdrop, and no set dressing means that the patterns and textures of her dress are in complete contrast to the rest of the picture, and as you'd expect from a fashion shoot, this draws the eye straight to it.

Shrimpton's pose is a strange one, with her leg slightly raised. and her arms splayed out behind her. I'm not sure what they were going for, but hey it works for me!

Sammy Davis Jr & May Britt, 1960, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

This is yet another example of Duffy working with the icons of his age. The portrait was taken in 1960, and is of the recently married Sammy Davis Jr, and May Britt.

There are two things I like about this particular picture. I don't know if it was left in for the final print, but I like the fact the black outline, and serial number have been kept. I think when framed this would make a great example of a frame within a frame. It reminds me of Dan Winters work today...or should that be winters work reminds me of Duffy? I also like the way Duffy's managed to capture an intimate moment despite it being a formal studio session. The different way they're dressed is another interesting aspect of the picture. Davis Jr's formal suit, a perfect counterpoint to Britt's casual clothes.

The last two pictures are examples of the kind of look I was trying to achieve with my own pictures:

Shutter: 1/60, Aperture: F/8.0, ISO: 100

Although I don't feel I really captured the essence of his style (though I did my best), hopefully I'll get another chance at a later date.

Benson & Hedges Advert, 1977, Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

I've included this last picture as an example of his advertising work. In the late seventies Duffy was commissioned to produce various advertising campaigns for several different companies. The most famous of which was for Benson & Hedges. The campaign consisted of four Photographs, each of which was slightly surreal. They all had packets of cigarettes placed in surreal situations, like hatching from an egg, or replacing the stone on a ring. The picture above is the one I find most interesting though.

By placing the cigarettes out of context, Duffy has transformed an ordinary situation, through the introduction of an extraordinary element. By angling the camera so that the lines of the ceiling and wall converge, Duffy naturally leads the eye towards the birdcage. He also makes the cage and cigarette packet the main focal point through the use of a limited palette of muted colours.

Not having photoshop in those days, he'd have had to produce this using practical tricks. I'd assume the room was setup with the birdcage in it, and a second cage was placed out of shot, with the silhouette cast using additional lighting.

Ok, so that wasn't quite as short as I was hoping, but there's only one research post left, so I'll try a little harder in that one:)

Thanks again to Chris Duffy for permission to use the Photographs.

Research: Erik Johansson

 Fishy Island, By Erik Johansson, 2009

Everyone seems to be picking Erik Johansson as one of their manipulation research subjects (well...two people! But that doesn't make for a great sweeping statement to open a post with does it?) I don't think this points to a lack of other interesting subjects, it's simply that his humour, level of innovation, and the sheer amount of detail he puts in to his images, makes him stand out from the crowd. By the way, my swedish isn't as good as it should be, so you'll have to forgive me if some of the names of pictures are wrong, I had to use a translator.

Johansson is a swedish computer engineering student and photographer who specialises in the manipulation of photographs. He received his first camera when he was fifteen and dabbled with the manipulation of his photographs then, but only began to seriously look at the manipulation process when he bought a DSLR in 2007. Amazingly, he is entirely self taught! By playing around with the various settings in photoshop CS4 (now CS5), and doing the occasional online tutorial, he's managed to master the art of photo manipulation in an incredibly short time. His early pictures were all taken with a Canon EOS 40D, but he has recently upgraded to a 5D. Although he uses a number of different lenses from the Canon L series, his favourite is the 17-40mm F4L.

Lighting wise, he initially tried to use the available natural light, but as his composition's got more complex, he needed a greater level of control over each segment, so he started using on and off camera flash.

Apparently he always starts the process by making a quick sketch of the idea. He then goes out and takes all the photographs he thinks he'll need, before bringing them home and creating a rough approximation of the finished project. Johansson will then spend on average 10-20 hours, evolving and refining this initial image in photoshop, before completing a picture he's satisfied with.

Although he has a broad range of influences and inspirations, the most obvious is surrealist art, and M C Escher in particular. A lot of Johansson's manipulations deal with the alteration of angles, Sometimes subtle and other times far more complex, he seems to enjoy manipulating the senses as well as the photograph. The picture below is a good example of this:

 Perspective Squarecase, By Erik Johansson

This image is clearly inspired by Escher's pictures of impossible staircase's, such as ascending and descending:

Ascending And Descending, By M C Escher, 1960

His pictures are so cleverly and subtly manipulated, that it can sometimes be difficult to discern exactly what's artificial, and what isn't, so bear with me while I try to explain the process. I'd say the photograph is constructed from at least 9 layers. 1 for the landscape, 1 for the man, 4 for the individual stairs, 1 for the dark underside of the stairs, 1 for the shadows, and 1 for the supports. It's possible the stairs are constructed from several layers as well, such as texture, but I'm not sure. As for what's real in the photograph, again that can be difficult. The landscape is real, and so is the man, but I think the staircase is completely generated in photoshop (I mean completely, not just the weird angles.) 

Although not obvious at first, I think Johansson has split the image using the rule of thirds. He's placed the landscape and horizon in the bottom third, he then uses the lines of the ascending stairs to lead you through the middle third of the picture, before taking you to a point of interest (the man), in the top third. He's also used a landscape devoid of any landmarks, so that the stairs become the focal point of the image.

The next image is also inspired by a surrealist artist:

Border, By Erik Johansson

But this time it's Rene Magritte:

 Personal Values, By Rene Magritte, 1952

Although obviously not a carbon copy of Magritte's painting, Johansson has taken the idea of an inside/outside room, and added his own particular twist. Like the previous photograph I think this is a mixed media composition. The girl on the grass, the window, and the clouds are photographs, but the walls and view outside the window are created in photoshop.

Without Limits, By Erik Johansson

I've included this for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because it's a great picture, but secondly, because it illustrates that Johansson doesn't just create quirky pictures.

All of his pictures have a dream like quality to them, but this one especially so. The stairs leading out of the shot, the empty landscape against a turbulent sky. They all combine to make a really striking composition. The sepia toning and slight vignetting at the edges also remind me of early cinema. Especially le voyage dans la lune for some reason, but I'm not sure why! That film's not sepia, and there's no rocket, or giant moon with a face...weird how the human brain works.

Compositionally, he's clearly dictated the path the viewer's eye's will travel. By placing the path in the field where he has, and having it lead straight to the base of the stairs, you naturally follow that line, before continuing around the stairway, and to the top of the frame. After that you naturally wonder where it leads, you're imagination filling in the missing space. He's also used the rule of thirds to clearly define the real world of the foreground, and the fantasy world of the staircase in the sky, and like in the squarecase picture, there's only a small section of the the stairs in the foreground third to tie the two sections together.

To make the stairway, he's obviously taken a photographs of a spiral staircase and cut and copied the elements he needs, stitched them together, and added the figure walking up. I can't decide though whether the sky and ground are one photograph or two. the horizon is hazy, and that's either an effect caused by the receding distance, or more likely, Johansson's blurred the line to cover the join.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Unit 108: Final Images

Here are my final four images for the digital manipulation unit. Like my other unit, the idea for my manipulations has changed a bit over the last sixteen weeks. I originally had grand visions of incredibly complex pictures, using all sorts of different filters and cropped images. All this however, was before my main assignment began to spiral wildly out of control. I was concentrating so hard on trying to get that sorted, that this became an almost secondary consideration. As a result, I realised I wouldn't have time to take all the photos I needed for my other ideas, so decided to try something simpler. Having seen Faye Heller's work, I thought this would be a far more achievable style to try. Again though, I left it far too late to try take the architectural photographs I'd need, if I was going to emulate the pictures of hers I liked. I decided to use photographs of objects instead. Marie kindly let me come in to college early again last week, and we took pictures of almost every object in the studio. Unfortunately, I've yet again wasted her time (sorry!) After looking at the images at home, I couldn't find any that I thought would make an interesting collage. Having hit this stumbling block, I frantically checked all my personal photos, and came up with a plan! I recently went to an art event in Bristol, and while there, took pictures of all the street art in the area. I've therefore decided to make my collages using these. Although I keep talking about collages, that isn't my theme, the theme is Faye Heller's style, i.e. Black and white pictures, with large blocks of blank space, around single images, or collages.

Before we start, I'd like to make a brief apology (other than to Marie for wasting her time.) I'm not an artist, I've never been particularly artistic, and I probably never will be. So I'm afraid the collages aren't great, but they're the best I can do. You'll just have to suck it up, and try to battle your way through!

Three of the pictures are made up of multiple photographs (they are collages after all), so to keep this post as short as possible, I won't include the original files on here, I'll just give them to Marie in a file. I also decided that because I was using multiple pictures, I needed to settle on a standard size for the final composition. Knowing some of the images I wanted to use were small parts of larger photographs, I thought A4 would be a good size to go with. It's big enough to make an interesting picture, but not so big that any small files would have to be stretched too far, and therefore suffer from pixelation.

Because these images are all my own, I didn't have to worry about infringing any copyright regulations, or intellectual property rights. There might have been a problem, with reproducing other people art works, but as the photograph were all taken on public property, and the art itself is also on public display, legally, that's fine. Because they don't contain any actual people, the usual issues of confidentiality, obscenity, and using images of children weren't a problem.

 Image 1: Banksy

For this first image, I've used two photographs. The main one being the Banksy, and then the smaller one, a random piece of art I came across.

I'm fairly happy with the final result. I think the balance of the overall composition works well. I like the way the white line draws the eye towards the man with the glasses and then the direction of his gaze, further draws you to the main photograph. The only slightly unfortunate thing, is that his eye line seems to be pointing straight at the naked man's groin, but you can't have everything!

To produce the final image, I started by opening a new A4 document in Photoshop. I then opened the two photographs as well. Selecting the Banksy picture. I copied and pasted it in to the template file, and used the move tool, to position it where I wanted. Using the rectangular marquee tool. I then made a large vertical rectangular selection on the left hand-side of the picture, and went to edit-fill, and used black as the fill colour. Again using the marquee tool, I created a thinner vertical rectangle, and filled it with white. 

For the other photograph, I used the marquee tool to select the part of the picture I wanted, then went to image-crop, and pasted the resulting image in to the main file, before using the move tool to position it. I decided I wanted to have the man looking in the opposite direction, so went to edit-transform, and pressed flip-horizontal.

To tie the picture in with my overall theme, I needed to convert it to black and white. As I don't have photoshop CS5, there's no black and white adjustment option, so I created a new hue & saturation adjustment layer, and slid both bars all the way down.

All I then had to do was check the final quality of the image. Using the actual pixels zoom option, I checked that the sharpness and resolution of the picture was still high, and hadn't been affected by my modifications. Looking at the photographs, I realised they needed to be boosted a little, so created a brightness/contrast adjustment layer, and slightly raised both.

Image 2: Marvin & Andre

This image was also created from two photographs.

This is my favourite of all the pictures. I think the stark black and white features of the Andre the giant poster, make an immediate visual impact. I'd have preferred a photographs of the poster with no other pieces stuck on, but in Bristol people can't pass a flat surface without plastering something on to it. I also like the composition produced by having the more muted central section. It makes the other two parts stand out even more.

This was a fairly easy picture to produce. I opened an A4 template, then with black selected as the foreground colour, went to edit-fill. This created a completely black background for me to place the images on.

I opened the Marvin picture, and used the marquee tool, and image-crop, to produce the middle section. Then copied and pasted it in to the template file. To make sure the image was as centrally positioned as possible, I used the view-new guide option to provide a reference point.

Opening the Andre photograph, I again used the marquee, image-crop, copy and paste process, to make one large selection. Then used the marquee tool to split it in half, producing the upper and lower sections.

Creating a new set of guides, I used the move tool to align all three sections at the correct distances from each other.

Finally I reduced the hue & saturation in an adjustment layer, to create the black and white effect.

I then performed the quality checks on this image. The sharpness, was fine. But I need to provide a little more definition to the pictures again. I started by creating a layers adjustment layer, and moving the white marker a little to the left to increase the impact. This did however have an unfortunate effect on the middle image, so I used the layer mask to remove it from the adjustments influence. I did create a separate brightness/contrast layer though, because that section still needed to be altered.

 Image 3: Fly Posting

This was by far the easiest of the pictures to produce. Unlike the collages, this is only one picture with a large frame around it. 

To make this picture I simply opened an A4 template, copied and pasted the whole image in to that, then manipulated the size with the free transform tool.

To add the frame, I selected a 200pixel brush set to 100% hardness, then holding down the shift key (to maintain the direction), dragged it along each edge.

I also added some graining, with the noise filter.

Like all of the pictures, I really wanted to make this image pop! So I created a levels adjustment layer, and using the layers eyedropper selectors, clicked on the photograph, to define the black and white base markers.

When I performed the quality checks, I noticed a strange bobbling along the edges of the frame. This was easily solved by using the marquee, and brush tools to redefine the edges.

Image 4: Devil Girl & Friends

I'll be honest, my already shallow pool of creativity was starting to run dry at this point. I spent about 30mins looking at the photos I had left, and was drawing a blank. I knew I wanted to include the devil girl, but I wasn't sure exactly what to do with it. I eventually came up with the picture above. Although I think it's the weakest of the four pictures compositionally, I do like the positioning of the two pictures on the right. It gives the impression that they're looking in to each others eyes. Whether this is due to some predetermined cosmic romantic inclination, or a simple mutual sense of disgust at having to appear in this collage, I don't know...but I like it!

To create this picture I opened an A4 template, and again filled it with black. This time however, I decided to alter the aspect, by going to image-rotate canvas-90° CW. I cropped, then copied and pasted the three images in to the template file, then positioned them with the move tool. Creating three new layers, I used the brush tool to draw the frames (again holding down the shift key to maintain the direction and width of the lines.) I then created a hue/saturation adjustment layer to convert the image to black & white.

After performing the image quality checks, There was the usual need to boost the overall look with a brightness/contrast level.

Because this was all done on the computer, I needed to take a couple of health precautions. I made sure I took regular breaks, allowing my body to adjust and relax. I also ensured the light was at an acceptable level, so as not to strain my eyes.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Lenses & Filters

Unless your planning to do pinhole photography, or photograms, one thing you're going to need is a lens. Aah...but it's not that simple though is it? What are you planning to photograph? How much of the subject do you want to capture? Do you want that hells angel your photographing to know you're there? All important questions, so lets see if we can't answer a few, although the answer to the last one should be self evident!

Three Main Types of Lens

There are three main types of lenses available. Which category a lens falls in to is determined by the focal length that particular lens offers.
  • Standard
  • Wide Angle
  • Telephoto
Standard Lens

For 35mm cameras, the term standard lens is most often a reference to a 50mm lens. Traditionally, this is the lens that comes closest to capturing a "normal perspective." Although this all depends on whether you have a full frame, or APS-C sensor (but I won't go in to that now!) A normal perspective is supposedly achieved when the focal length is the equivalent of the diagonal of the image sensor. Because of it's particular characteristics, a 50mm is often used for taking portraits.

Wide Angle Lens

A wide angle lens is a lens with a focal length of anything below 50mm. Wide angle lenses are a favourite of landscape photographers, because they allow you to capture more of the visible area. Another characteristic of the wide angle lens is that they have a tendency to accentuate the depth of field. Objects in the foreground will appear larger, while background objects will be further away. Most of the time this is an advantage, but it can also have a distorting affect on certain subjects. When using a wide angle lens to look up at objects like buildings, there is an increased sense of the lines converging.

Telephoto Lens

Any lens with a focal length above 50mm is considered a telephoto lens. These lenses are popular amongst sports, press, and wildlife photographers, as they allow them to maintain a suitable distance from their chosen subjects, but still get sharp images. Because the lens tends to compress the depth of field, blurring the foreground and background, you can use them to make your subject the absolute focus of the photograph. Available in a range of sizes, from the fairly modest, right up to 800mm+, and even three of these if you've got enough cash:

If you can't afford a telephoto lens just yet, another option is teleconverters. These are small extensions that sit between your lens and your camera, and multiply the focal length of your lens. The most popular converters are the 1.4x and 2x. There are a number of problems associated with teleconverters that make them a less suitable option though. Because you're adding another layer between lens and sensor, you're reducing the level of light that gets in, so need to adjust the shutter and aperture accordingly. Also they aren't designed to be of the same optical quality as proper lenses, so the photographs won't be as good.

Specialist Lenses

As well as the three main types of lenses, there are other specialist lenses designed for specific situations:
  • Macro Lens
  • Fisheye Lens
  • Shift/ Perspective Control Lens
Macro Lens

These lenses are specially designed to have a much shorter minimum focal length, therefore allowing you to photograph objects far more closely than with a normal lens. Because they are expected to capture even the smallest details, the build quality of these lenses is also usually far superior to normal lenses as well.

Fisheye Lens

Unlike all the other lenses in this list, the fisheye isn't designed to capture an accurate representation of your subject. It's designed to make things look like a...fisheye! Apparently they were originally developed for studying cloud formations in meteorology (from wikipedia though, so take with a huge pinch of salt!) There are two types of fisheye lens: Circular, and full frame. The circular lens works by taking a 180° image, but unlike the full frame lens, the image only takes up the centre of the frame. Thus forming a circle, hence the name. A full frame fisheye stretches the image across the whole length of the picture.

Shift/Perspective Control Lens

When photographing objects like buildings, a camera can often have problems when used at certain angles. Photographing a building from below can cause the parallel lines of the picture to converge and distort the image. A shift lens has a built in gimble, allowing the photographer to keep the camera level, but adjust the angle of the lens. This reduces the convergence effect and creates a more normal photograph. the one major downside of shift/perspective control lenses is the expense. Even a cheap lens can be well over a £1000!

Like a lot of photographic tools the shift lens has been designed to solve a problem, but photographers being creative types, they like to play around and see what else they can do with their toys. This has given rise to a form of photography where you use the abilities of a tilt shift lens to create the illusion that normal landscapes are models: http://www.olivobarbieri.it/

As well as a large selection of lenses to choose from, there are also a number of different filters to help you capture the photograph you want.

Clear Filter

As the name suggests, these filters are simply a piece of clear glass of plastic that fits on to the end of the lens. They don't block any wavelengths of light, and are simply there to provide another layer of protection between your lens and the outside world.

UV Filter

Ultraviolet filters block this particular wavelength of light. Originally intended to reduce the haziness created on photographs by this sort of light, they're less useful today, as modern camera sensors are far less sensitive to this problem. Because they don't block any other form of light, photographers tend to use them these days as an additional level of protection for the lens. Some cheaper filters though can cause lens flare, and reduce the overall image quality.

ND Filters

Neutral density filters can be used to deliberately alter the length of the exposure, or width of the aperture a photographer can use. Basically a filter with a dark coating on top. They're designed to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, and thereby allowing you to use a longer exposure or smaller aperture than would normally be required. This allows you to create motion blur on bright days, or alter the depth of field without blowing out the highlights.

They're available in two types: Standard neutral density, and graduated. A normal filter has the dark coating over the entire surface of the filter, reducing the light by the same amount in all parts of the picture. A graduated filter starts dark, then gradually gets clearer. This allows you to alter the brightness of areas like skies, without affecting the exposure of the landscape.

Polarizing Filter

These things are the bane of my life! Having spent a fortune on one, no matter which way I twist it, there doesn't seem to be any change in the picture.

Unlike a lot of the other filters, this doesn't block particular wavelengths of light, it blocks light coming from certain angles, depending on how far you rotate the filter. When rotated they block light coming from a 90° angle to the lens. This allows you to determine the amount of reflection coming from non-metallic surfaces, i.e. glass, and water.

The one major advantage this filter has over all the others is that it can't be reproduced in post processing, so is still relevant for modern photography.

Macro Filters

Like teleconverters, these are designed to be an alternative to buying a dedicated lens. By placing one or more of these on the front of your lens, they allow you to reduce the minimum focal distance of your existing lenses. The more filters you use, the more apparent the effect, but like some of the other filters here, this also has the effect of reducing available light and image quality.

A better way of achieving the same effect, is to use an extension tube. These tubes don't have any sort of glass or optical enhancement in them, they are simply a way of extending the distance between the lens and the sensor, thus increasing the minimum focal distance. though they still affect the light levels like a macro filter, because there's no actual obstruction introduced, they don't alter the image quality. There is one stumbling block though. If you buy a cheap extension tube, they don't have the necessary electrical contact points the camera needs to operate the auto focus.

Colour filter

Another filter that has been more or less made redundant by the introduction of photoshop. They were originally developed to alter the contrast in black and white photographs, by blocking certain colours of light.

IR Filter

Infrared filters block all other forms of light, except infrared. This can be used to create black and white pictures, or pictures with wildly distorted colours. Materials and substances react differently to IR light than to wavelengths of light, so an IR image will look completely different to normally photography.

Digital camera sensors are very sensitive to IR light. The longer wavelength of IR light would affect the focusing of an image, and have other negative effects. In order to reduce this impact, most modern cameras have built in infrared blockers. Some people do remove these, but this makes the camera useless for normal photography.

White Balance

This final part isn't a lens or filter, but it still affects the overall look of your final image. When the human eye looks at a white object, it can automatically adjust itself to the available light. This means that white remains white. A camera sensor isn't as sophisticated though. So, in different lighting conditions the photographer has to tell the camera what setting to use, and can therefore maintain an accurate representation of white subjects.

There are a selection of preset white balance settings you can use depending whether it's sunny, cloudy, your using artificial light, or flash etc. You can also tell the camera a specific setting to use, with a custom white balance option. Another option is to deliberately use the wrong setting to alter the final image. This can achieve things like warming up the colours on cloudy days.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Research: Presentation

Like all the other units so far, unit 107 requires us to provide research posts. These posts are not only supposed to back up our own work (showing that we understand the various methods available), but also to provide an insight in to the whole process. For the other units this was all fairly easy. We just had to research various photographers whose research was relevant to our own area, and write about their working methods and how this compared to our own. For the presentation section however, it's slightly different. I've got to admit I was a little worried about trying to find photographers whose methods of presentation were sufficiently interesting to warrant an entire post. I'm sure you'll have noticed this by now, but I have a tendency to use ten words to describe something, when one would suffice. Even a master of piffle such as my self though, would struggle to drag out most photographers presentation methods to my previous word count. Luckily though, all we actually have to do is write about the various methods of presentation, rather than how specific people use them. So, lets get started shall we?


This is the obvious place to start, but even this can be a complicated process to explain. When we talk about printing, we tend to just assume it's just the process of producing a photograph on paper, there are all sorts of methods and materials to do this though:
  1. Silver Gelatin
  2. Chromogenic Dye
  3. Colour Inks
Silver Gelatin Prints

This is the standard method of producing Black And White Images. This process has gone through a number of different evolutions since it's discovery, from early attempts like the Daguerreotype, to Fox Talbot's calotype, and then the development of film rolls by George Eastman. But whatever method was used to produce the final image, the chemical reaction is essentially the same.

You start by producing a light sensitive medium. Whether it's, film, paper, glass plates, or copper plates, you coat your chosen material in a silver based emulsion. The modern method uses silver salts contained in a gelatin, which is applied to the material then allowed to dry. When exposed to light, some of the silver particles separate and this forms what is known as a latent image. The latent image is virtually invisible to the naked eye, so the picture needs to be placed in a developing fluid, this causes the silver to separate further and turn black, which creates the black parts of the image. In order to stop the remaining silver salts from developing when exposed to light again, you then use a fixing chemical, which removes any unused salts, and stabilises the image.

Chromogenic Dye, or C Type Printing

The Chromogenic process is used to produce colour photographs. Chromogenic films and papers are made up of a number of different layers, a silver based layer, like the traditional method of developing, and what are known as dye couplers. When developing the picture the silver based layer produces the latent image, but rather than being developed to turn black, the layer is used as a guide for the dye couplers to add colour to. There are usually many different layers of dye couplers (all either red, green, and blue), each of which creates a certain colour depending on which wavelength of light it is designed to detect. When the different colours are developed and layered on top of each other, they interact and produce a full colour photograph.

Film is designed to be used, and developed in a specific way (usually known as C-41 processing for standard colour film), but if you break the rules, you can actually create really interesting effects. By loading film in to a camera the wrong way round, the red layer will be exposed first, and so all your images will have a red/yellow hue to them when processed. This is known as Redscale photography. Another method is deliberately developing a film using the wrong chemicals, to create a cross-processed look.

Colour Inks

This is what we tend think of when producing photographs today. Running them off on our printers at home, or at work. Although you can buy professional printers that use multiple ink cartridges, most of them will use two, black and colour. Most colour ink printing uses the CMYK method. This system is based on the four colours you need to produce any other shade:
  • Cyan
  • Magenta
  • Yellow
  • Key: Black.
By combining any of the first three colours either in blocks, or using half-toning, you can produce any secondary colour you need. Though you could also produce black by combining the three colours, it doesn't produce a sufficiently accurate representation, so a separate cartridge is used.

Although this system is good enough for most photographic printing, when people want to produce fine art prints, they usually go for a giclee print. Essentially still an inkjet print, the giclee process uses two additional colours to help accurately capture the tonal range of a photograph. CcMmYK as it's known, adds two lighter cyan and magenta inks. Apparently this helps with half-toning, as the lighter inks make the spots less visible.

What To Do With Printed Photographs

Once you've selected the printing method you want to use, you need to decide what to do with the prints. Again you have a number of options:
  • Presentation Wallets
  • Window Mounting
  • Card Mounting
  • Foam board
  • Framing
Presentation Wallets

This is a simple method of showing your photographs. They're usually plastic wallets available in a number of different sizes, which allow you to insert the photograph, therefore protecting it from damage. The better quality wallets come with a stiff insert at the back of each section to help keep the picture rigid.

Window Mounting

Window mounts are usually made from card and have a section cut out of the middle to display the photograph. More usually associated as an insert for a proper frame, they can also be used to sandwich the picture between the window mount and a piece of card. You can have them professionally made for you, or if you buy the right equipment you can create them yourself. Window mount cutting tools can be purchased at a relatively low price, and will often allow you to bevel the edges of the mount to provide a more professional appearance.

Card Mounting

Card mounting...is mounting on to Card! All you have to do is decide which method you're going to use to mount the picture.

If you want to permanently affix the print , you can use some sort of adhesive. Although you could use a standard glue like PVA, this could damage the paper, and cause unsightly creases and folds. You're better off using a spray adhesive specifically designed for the purpose. This will ensure a smooth application of the glue and minimise the risk of damage. The only danger is inhalation of the glue, so you need to do it in a well ventilated area. You could also use double sided tape to fix the print, but again you're best bet is to use a proper mounting tape, as unlike normal tape, the chemicals present won't leech out over time, potentially damaging the paper.

If you don't want the mounting to be permanent, you can purchase small transparent mounting corners, which can be applied and removed at anytime.

Foam board

Foam board is made up of three layers, A polystyrene centre with paper, or card on either side. Incredibly rigid, it's a great material for mounting prints to.

All the same methods as mounting on card can be used with foam board, but with the added bonus of greater structural integrity.


Framing is the best option in my view. Not only does it offer the maximum protection for your pictures, but by choosing the right frame to match your picture, you greatly enhance the impact it has.


There are two methods of projection: Printing on to a transparency/Slide, or using digital files.

Printing on to a transparency, or slide is the more traditional method, but is a very limited option. All it allows you to do is show your photograph on a larger scale.

Projecting your images using digital files offers you a greater number of options. Like the more traditional method, you can choose to load and show your images one at a time, but if you combine the digital files with a slide show, you can add all sorts of effects, to help improve the viewing experience.

Slide show

Again you could create a slide show using the traditional method of creating slides, and using a slide projector, but a better option, is to create a digital slide show. You can either create a slide show using a desktop based programme: windows movie maker, apple iphoto, microsoft photo story, picasa, or photoshop. Or, you can use a web based programme Like: smilebox, or slide.

The benefits of producing a digital slide show, are that the software allows you to integrate, transition effects, music, create collages. All sorts of things are possible.

You can also view a digital slide show on multiple formats: projector, computer, embed it in to a website.

I'll post this now, but add more soon.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Presenting Photo Images: Initial Ideas

The presentation of photographs is often merely an after thought, you concentrate so much on capturing the perfect image, that you never even contemplate what you're going to do with it afterwards...at least I don't! The thousands of photographs currently languishing on my hard disk can attest to that, so what to do with these photographs? Not having had an original thought for a long, long time, these sort of things are always a bit difficult for me, but knowing this part was coming I've given it some thought over the last few weeks. None of these ideas are particularly creative, but they're tried and tested methods, so hopefully they'll work:

  1. Diptych's, and triptych's, and hexaptych's, oh my!
  2. Photo book.
  3. The long shot???
 Diptych's, Triptych's, and Hexaptych's

This was the first idea I had, and has changed a little since it's inception. The first idea was to do three A3 prints, each with two of the six photographs on:

I like this idea, but I need to look in to the cost of the whole thing! I know Marie said the quality of the print isn't that important at this point, but I'd still like to look at how much it would be to have them professionally printed. For my own benefit, if nothing else. Should this prove ruinously expensive however, I've refined it a little, to bring the cost down. By changing to a triptych, it will hopefully be a bit cheaper:


The logical extension of this, is to produce a hexaptych. I'd then be able to have all six images on one A3 print, and therefore minimise the cost:


Obviously I don't want the cost of the photographs to be the defining characteristic of my presentation, if I decide I need to spend the money to benefit the final result, I will. whether it's two, three, or six photographs, this is definitely one of my favourite options, so I'll do another more detailed post about it soon.

Photo Book

Although I like this idea, I just don't think I'll have enough photographs to warrant a book. I need to check whether we can hand in all 16 of the three unit's required photographs in one, or if they need to be kept separate for marking. If we can hand in all sixteen pictures as a whole, then this might become a viable option.

The Long Shot

This is going to be a stretch! Basically it involves getting six of my classmates so paralytically drunk, they won't notice when I have facsimiles of my six pictures tattooed on them. Do you think it's an option? The other issue with this idea is storage, even if I picked the six smallest people in class, they're going to take up a lot of cupboard space!

Again, I realise this isn't a particularly detailed post, but I just wanted to show I'm actually doing some work! Looking at it logically, I think the two most realistic options are the large prints, and the photo book, so I'll do a couple of more detailed posts soon.

Presenting Photo images: Slideshow

I was looking around the internet for presentation inspiration, and came across this slideshow. I appreciate a lot of the ideas are a tad elaborate for what we're doing (I don't think Marie's willing to turn the room in to a gallery space:), but thought it might get peoples imaginations going:

Presenting Your Photographic Work
View more presentations from Z Hoeben.

Just click the direction arrows to move the slides.

Hope it's useful, see you all wednesday:)

Disclaimer: This slideshow can lead you to hundreds of other slideshows, I obviously can't look at all of them, so if they lead you to anything of a naughty nature, it's not my fault! Recoil in disgust, or enjoy...it's up to you;)

Monday, 10 January 2011

Unit 107: Presenting Photo Images

We've now started the third and final part of the certificate process: Unit 107. These introductions never need to be too detailed, so I'll basically give you a version of what it says on the unit sheet.

Like the previous units, 107 is split in to two parts: 1a present images and 1b written account.

1a Present Images

For this section we need to take six thematically linked images, either new ones or pictures from a previous section, and devise a way of presenting them. Whatever method of presentation we decide to use, it will be assessed in three ways:
  1. Use of techniques, materials and media.
  2. Accuracy and detail of finish.
  3. Overall visual impact
For the first part, we need to make sure whatever techniques we use to present the images, they remain consistent throughout all the images, and that they add to the overall  effectiveness of the images. The second part entails maintaining the highest standards of accuracy and finish, and again make sure there isn't anything to detract from the final result. The final part means that we have to select a method of presentation that adds to overall visual impact, whilst helping to communicate the theme.

1b Produce a written account

For this second section, we need to not only describe the method we finally chose to present our images (explaining why we settled on that method and how we went about achieving it), but we also need to describe at least one other method we could have used to present the images.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Digital Manipulation: Idea Development

The end of the course is getting sphincter tighteningly close now, so obviously the sensible thing to do is to pick something easy to do within the available time frame. Being sensible however, is not something I can ever be accused of. I have therefore decided to abandon all the manipulation ideas I've previously discussed, and go for something completely different. Whilst doing research for the manipulation part of the course I was looking through the list of artists Marie gave us, and one's work in particular caught my eye...Faye Heller!

Heller specialises in producing photo montages:

Swiss, By Faye Heller

She often uses architectural straight lines, such as the modernist/brutalist architecture of the building above, or a staircase (below), as a counterpoint to the organic lines of the female form.

Start Of Fiction, By Faye Heller

To produce her montages Heller often takes photographs from her own archive, she then separates the photographs in to segments, which she lays out in various ways before settling on the final configuration. Once she's created a montage she likes, she then photographs the resulting picture to create the final image. It's a tad easier for me to produce my images. All I'll have to do is use the marquee selection tool in photoshop to highlight the sections of the photographs I want to use, then separate them using either the cut, or copy command, before placing them in to the new picture with the paste command. I'll then be able to fine tune the position and size of the selection with the move tool and the transform options.

I'm not sure yet whether my images will be colour photographs or black and white, but if I do decide to go with the B&W option it will just be a case of desaturating the images.

I know this isn't very detailed, but I only decided to do this a few hours ago, so I'll update this post as more information becomes available.