Note to Assessors

Dear Assessors,

Thank you for reviewing and assessing the work and learning I have undertaken over the course of study of the Expressing Your Vision module.

As suggested in the OCA study materials I have kept an online learning log throughout the course. This contains the majority of  my work.

My submission for assessment is made up as follows:

  • My online Blog
  • Print submissions for: Assignment Three, the original tutor submission and a reworked submission in response to tutor feedback. In addition there is a print submission for Assignment Five, this is a final submission reworked in response to tutor feedback
  • A Tutor Feedback Folder containing my annotated tutor feedback sheets, my responses and a summative end of course self assessment

My blog is set out in sections which I hope aids navigation. To assist you in finding the course exercises, research points and assignments I have also created a content locater. This is set out below. There is also more information about my research, reflections and learning set out in the sections of the blog which I hope provides further evidence of my engagement, learning and progress during the course.

Yours Sincerely

John Adrian Orr                                                                                                                                            514280


Expressing Your Vision

Part One

Assignment One- Square Mile:

Feedback and Reflection:

de Chirico, alienation and some thought on my square mile:

Exercise 1.1:

Exercise 1.2 Point:

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line:

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line:

Exercise 1.4 Frame:

Project 3 Research Point:

Part Two

Exercise 2.1:

Exercise 2.2:

Exercise 2.3:

Exercise 2.4:

Exercise 2.5:

Exercise 2.6:

Exercise 2.7:

Project 2 Research Point:

Assignment Two- Collecting:

Feedback and Reflection:

Part Three

Exercise 3.1:

Exercise 3.2:

Project Three research Point:

Exercise 3.3:

Assignment ThreeThe decisive moment: Submitted as prints and part of the assessment submission package

Part Four

Exercise 4.1:

Exercise 4.2:

Exercise 4.3:

Exercise 4.4:

Exercise 4.5:

Assignment Four-Languages of light:

Preparation for reworking assignment Four:

Assignment Four Reworked:

Part Five

Exercise 5.1:

Project One-Research Point:

Exercise 5.2:

Exercise 5.3:

Assignment Five-Photography is simple:

Assignment Five Reworked:

Exercise 5.3

St Lazare desk-4804

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

Behind the Gare Saint Lazare is a genuinely iconic image that in its time presented the possibilities of photography to capture and instant in time. Cartier Bresson, using a 35mm camera with all the freedom it offered when compared to previous generations of larger and slower cameras made this image through a gap in a builders hoarding. As he recalls in the interview in O’Byrnes (2001) Just plain love documentary :

I slipped the camera through [the railings] but I couldn’t see, that’s why it’s a bit blurry… I couldn’t see a thing through the viewer.’

‘You couldn’t see the man leaping?’

No.’ ‘That was lucky.’

It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters, you have to be receptive, that’s all. Like the relationship between things, it’s a matter of chance, that’s all. If you want it, you get nothing. Just be receptive and it happens.’

The image contains significant amounts of information. The scene, believed to be a construction site behind the St. Lazare railway station records a moment in time, a decisive moment. The image attests to the point being made by Flusser, noted in the EYV course materials that a picture isn’t read in a linear serial manner, it is a continuous experience with the eye being drawn to many elements simultaneously. There is much going on in the image and over time it has been interpreted and reinterpreted by many commentators.

St Lazare-4805

For me the pivotal point of the image for me is the silhouette of the jumping man and his reflection in the puddle below. It is the interplay, indeed the distance between his front foot and its reflection. Although the images contains much more information, it is this part o the sen that i always return to. it creates a sense of motions supported by the ripples down the ladder where the man has just run. the still image is full of a sense of movement, countered by the stillness of the puddle. Much of the information in the image is contained in the reflections, indeed ¾ of the scene is a reflection in a large puddle. The pivotal point hinges on  timing, the moment the shutter was released, because an instant after the image was made the mans front foot will have hit the water and much of the scene will have dissappeared in the outward ripples created as he splashes into the puddle. In that moment after the shot was recorded, the whole image as we see was gone forever! I learned much about reflections in pools and the fluid dynamics of puddles in executing assignment 4!

There are other factors of note, the replicated image of the man and his reflection in the poster on the wall, next to “Railowsky” appears to mirror the man and his reflection as he jumps the puddle. Also the single figure, another silhouette next to the fence on the far side of the scene mirrors Cartier Bresson himself, the observer of the scene, all be it from the other side of the image.

I am challenged a little by the reference to both Kawauchi and Sugimoto in the exercise brief, and I am troubled that the link isn’t obvious to me. I have a sense that at this point in the final stage of the course I should know whey they are referenced. I looked a Sugimoto’s work in detail in an earlier part of the course and understand his stretching of time, how he uses the full illumination of a feature film to make an image. Sugimoto capture an entire story in the light of his Theatres image and although the detail of the story can’t be unpicked, the viewer knows it is there. Sugimoto has also suggested that happy movies produce brighter images than horror films that tend to be darker. Perhaps the link is that in “Behind the Gare St. Lazare’, there is in one scene a multitude of stories waiting to be read, shared and interpreted. The Internal Context of the image is almost overloaded, the pictorial element compete for interpretation, we have Cartier Bresson’s thought about how the image was made that provide further information in the the form of the Original Context and we also have the fact that a copy of the image hangs in the V&A providing some External Context that all add to the interpretation of this paradigm setting image of the decisive moment.


O’Byrne, R. (2001) Henri ‘L’amour de court’ (‘Just plain love’)

Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.

I particularly enjoyed the planning and preparation for this exercise and used it to  revisit and consolidate what I had read and written in response to Barrett’s essay on photography as information.

I was also mindful that although I had the freedom to choose any photographer and any of her or his images, I also needed to consider the range of the work undertaken in the course so far. The references in the brief to both Davies and Steele Perkins made a link to Exercise 4.5 in the previous section and I considered this in the selection of a photographer and one particular image.

Before I describe that in detail I also want to reflect on the concept at the heart of the exercise:

“take an image in response to it’

The ‘it’ being the image I have selected. Based on this I am assuming I have the licence to be relatively free in my interpretation of the task. I also spent a little time exploring the notion of ‘homage’.

As Bloomfield (2014) suggests: 

‘…the homage should share some deep empathy or kinship with the original work’ (pp107)

The Oxford Concise Dictionary defines homage as:

‘Respect or reverence paid’

These two perspectives on homage framed how I set about the exercise.

During section 4 of the course I spent some time looking at the work of Bill Brandt. I had been aware of Brandt but in reality new very little about the man or the purpose of his work. As background reading for the course I borrowed a large volume of his images from a local library and spent some time getting to know his work in detail.  my blog entry here  records some of my thoughts about him. I also watched the 1983 BBC documentary : ‘Masters of Photography’ about Brandt’s life and work. In response to my first assignment: ‘Square Mile’, my tutor had commented that my work fell into a landscape/documentary’ genre. Reviewing the work of Brandt and recognising he worked in a number of genres, I think it is fair to say that he made a significant contribution to the landscape / documentary genre. His images from 1929 until just after the second world war document much about life in Britain through a landscape, survey type approach.  

With strong black and white composition ( Brandt appears to have eschewed the use of colour), both the internal and original contexts of his work provide the viewer with an insight into life Britain between the wars. To me the social commentary of his work transcends the aesthetic beauty and other strength of his images. A side issue for further consideration at another time is my perhaps niaive hypothesis that Brandt appears to be less well known or appreciated by the wider public possibly because he was a German, all be it presenting himself as being of English origin. There is a whole line of cultural and social enquiry here for another time and probably a different course!

So, after what might read as a protracted introduction, it was Brandt to whom my homage would be directed!

There were many images I could have chosen but the one I settled on  was: Grand Union Canal Paddington, taken around 1938, although the exact date is unknown.

It is a simultaneously simple, yet complex image. Visually it is well composed, there is a symmetry to the pictorial elements of the image and the viewer is led into the scene by the slow hyperbolic section to the curving pattern of the chimneys and rooftops and their reflected counterparts in the still water of the canal. The image has an abstract aesthetic as well as a clear subject and the near square portrait framing  adds to the overall satisfying feel the photograph creates, for me anyway!

I did not set out to replicate or mimic this image, but I did set out to make direct reference to the internal context of Brandt’s image, that is the elements within the frame of the image. I also thought hard about the external context of both Brandt’s image and my own, however I was unable to resolve this in my own mind I await comment from my tutor when he looks at this exercise which is part of the Assignment 5  submission.


Grand Union Canal Paddington circa 1938-Copyright Brandt Estate

Brandt’s image of a canal and the backs of buildings carries some obvious internal content.  This includes the composition, the deep depth of field and the relatively high contrast rendering of the image. The sky is bright and the reflections in the water are quite dark. We can see that these are perhaps dwellings and we know we are seeing the backs of them. The dark triangle in the left hand foreground I assume is a towpath and we can see that Brandt took the image from the opposite bank to the buildings.

The original context of this image is a little harder to read. Brandt’s cityscape work often  presents a particular aesthetic and there are some common themes about viewpoint, tone and composition that are a feature of his work that are apparent in this photograph. There is a simple beauty and satisfying balance to the image. 

By 1938 the canal would not have been used for commerce and there is a sense of calm, in part created by the strength of the reflections confirming the stillness of the water. This might have been part of Brandt’s motive. I know from wider reading about the Brandt that his survey work of British cities between the wars was an ongoing project. I am however making some assumptions here.

The External Context is easier to read. Brandt provided images for a range of publications such as Picture Post, Lilliput and Harpers Bazaar. My assumption is that whether this image appeared in any of those publications, Brandt’s work would have been within the context of this sort of potential presentational environment.

My image in response to Brandt’s: Grand Union Canal Paddington

River reflection (1 of 1)

Reflections on the Wensum

My image, of some new luxury flats built at the edge of the River Wensum is about place above all else, although it also has some information in the frame about subject.  Like Brandt’s image it is in monochrome and there is a degree of symmetry created by the buildings and their reflections. The use of perspective I hope draws of the viewer into the scene  but in my image the line of the roof tops is sharper and more angular. I did take an image from a different position with a wider angle lens that had a much more curving sense of perspective, however as discussed earlier, this is an homage and not an attempt to mimic the brandt image

I deliberately made the image in landscape format to be different to the Brandt photograph and I also managed the exposure to capture detail in the sky and water. easier to do in 2016, 88 years after the Brandt image was made!

The External Context of my image is much easier to read, it’s principle presentational environment is this blog and my OCA course work, The external context is that this work is a learning tool. However it easy to see from this image what Freund (1980) describes as ‘category displacement’ can occur just by adding some text to the image. For example, ‘site of the drowning’ presents a very different potential to interpret the image, a darker and altogether different take on the photograph, equally ‘Luxury flats for sale’ is a far more innocuous interpretation of the image. Both statements are true about the location where the image was made, neither are true within the the internal or original context of this work. The point illustrates that the artist can to some extent control these factors but in the digital age one might argue that the external context may be beyond the control of the artist?

Examples where the inspiration is obvious and not hidden

Broomfield(2014) pp108 suggests that students review their archive of images and add one or two to the blog  where we have not tried to hide the influence. In doing so I found the images below.

The first,  a landscape has been unashamedly made with the influence of Ansel Adams, I have tried to use black and white to create a strong high contrast landscape scene in the style of Adams and although a pale reflection o his work , it does I think have some elements of an Adams image, not least the epic natural scenery.

Snowdon range

Hunting for Zone V

The caption, ‘Hunting for Zone V’ is a statement about the original context of this image. In making it I was far more focused on technique and the use of the Zone System than I was about the place or the content. I did compose the shot and consider the elements within the frame, but the real focus was on the range of mono tones in the photograph. It was made on film, like at the majority of my image making, so there was no ‘chimping’ or histogram checks to be had!

In an very different genre, the image below is a self portrait in a mirror, entirely influenced by the Rolleiflex self portraits of Vivian Maier. In recent years Maier’s work has been prevalent on the internet and with both the Maloof and Yentob documentaries about her life, her work has now become well known. Although known for her street photography, Maier’s catalogue of images is punctuated with a series of self portraits taken in mirrors and other reflective surfaces. My image is pure theft of this approach, right down to my use of a Rolleiflex 3.5E to make the photograph.

after viv v2

After Vivian


Barrett, T. (1986) Teaching about Photography: Photographs and Contexts, Art Education July 1986 Vol. 39, No. 4, pp33-36

Barrett, T. (1997) Photographs and Contexts in Goldblatt,D. & Brown, L (Eds) (1997) Op CitBurgin, V. (1982) Thinking Photography, Macmillan London

Bloomfield, R. (2014) Photography 1, Expressing Your Vision, Open College of the Arts, BarnsleyJay, W. (1999)

Brandt-The Photography of Bill Brandt, Thames and Hudson, London

Goldblatt,D. & Brown, L (Eds) (1997) Aesthetics: A reader in Philosophy of Arts, Prentice Hall, New York

Fruend, G. (1980) Photography and Society, David R. Godine, Boston, Mass.

BBC Documentary (1983) Master Photographers- Bill Brandt found at: ( Accessed 26th November 2015)

Maloof, J. & Sisket, C. (2013) Finding Vivian Maier details found here ( Accessed 26th December 2015)

Victoria and Albert Museum Biographical Note- Bill Brandt found at: ( Accessed 26th November 2015)

Yentob, A. 2013 Vivian Maier-Who Took nannies Pictures found at :


Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.

When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:

Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.


The Distance Between Us

I pondered for some time about the subject for this exercise when in fact it was in front of me for much of the time. So, the sequence I shot was of my wife and daughter on a recent overnight excursion to take in the coast in winter. I made a number of images when we were together in a restaurant and in our hotel room. I was struck by the notion of ‘the distance between us‘ not only being about the relationship between the photographer and the subject, but also between the relationship between subjects too.

I do understand and recognise  the concept that a final image is created by the interplay between the photographer and the subject, but in this work there also the interplay between the subjects too. My daughter rarely like to be photographed an some encouragement was required to produce the sequence.

S&K 4 (1 of 1)

27mm, f3.2, 1/20 second, ISO 3200

In the image above I was trying to capture my daughters face and did not think enough about the background and the surroundings, given my daughters reluctance to be photographed I paid little attention to the rest of the scene. ~The lights from the christmas tree and the items on the table, all to some extent distractions, were all unintentional.

S&K 7 (1 of 1)

27mm, f2, 1/50 second, ISO 3200

In this image, taken with the camera held a little higher I manage to record and image while my daughter was distracted by social media! Again the background elements have had little thought. The distracting shadow of the chair in the top right was not intended although I have mixed views about it. Also given my motives for these images, the background is perhaps for me less of an issue than a more clinical and less involved viewer?

S&K 6 (1 of 1)

27mm, f 2, 1/30 second, ISO 3200

Below are some further image from the sequence

S&K 3 (1 of 1)

27mm, f3.2, 125 second, ISO 320

S&K 1 (1 of 1)

27mm, f3.2, 1/20 second, ISO 3200

S&K 2 (1 of 1)-2

27mm, f2, 1/125 second, ISO 3200

Of the whole set it is the image above that is my ‘select’. In analysing the picture as suggested in the exercise brief , the thing that stands out is the awful hotel room wall paper! Although I had concentrated on facial expressions, this thing that stands out about the image is that in this image my wife and daughter come a single subject. In an un posed, captured moment there is something between them as well as between the photographer too.

I am uncertain about whether I have captured what was intended in the exercise but I have learned something about both unintended pictorial elements in an image and also how the presence of the photographer does in many instances change the nature of what is being photographed. A topic that warrants further exploration. 

As a footnote to the exercise, I was also left considering does the presence of the photographer change the image even in a candid image? Some food for thought!


Research Point: Context can be found here

Exercise 4.5

Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such
as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log
and note down the similarities you find between the images.

Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special
attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make
the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing.

Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill

Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory
shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images
source images of the same subject.

Background and Preparation

In planning and preparing this exercise I revisited the creativity criteria at the end of chapter one as suggested.

In short, the criteria for demonstrating creativity suggest features will be:

  • Imagination
  • Experimentation
  • Invention

All leading to the development of personal voice, a central theme if this whole course.

This exercise did make me think about one of the most obvious things that photographers face, the fact that most things have been photographed before. The challenge that there are  no new images in the world, or are there? Expressing your vision and finding a personal voice are in many respects the search for originality, a different viewpoint and voice. I noted in a previous blog entry the detrimental effect I believe the popular photographic press has had on my own photographic work. Although a generality I do entirely concur with Gareth Dent’s thoughts in the introductory video for Expressing Your Vision about the potential impact of the amateur photography periodicals impact and purpose.

Exploring a personal response to a chosen theme appears to be the core of the activity and in considering how to execute it I did look in detail at some of the artist referred to in the course materials. I revisited the notions of how can we record something different when photographing things that have been photographed so many times before? This is perhaps the real challenge for the photography in general to bring new and unique ways of seeing to the common or the ubiquitous. Indeed this is perhaps central to finding a unique and personal voice.

As Sontag (1977) suggests:

The inventory started in 1839 and since then just about everything has been photographed, or so it seems.”

The final part of this quote, “or so it seems” is a challenge to be creative, to see differently and exorcise what we hold in our subconscious and find new and different ways of seeing a subject.

Having read the section in the chapter four I was taken with John Davies (2008) approach to including Mount Fuji in a number of images of industry around the city. Mount Fuji is an iconic presence in Japan and has been photographed and painted many times. Davies approach juxtaposed the man made and the natural in some very satisfying images.

Fuji City

Copyright John Davies

I was also interested in Magnum photographer Chris Steele-Perkins approach to making the Mount Fuji ‘incidental in the image was also of interest and for me there were parallels to the work John Davies, although I found a much greater diversity of the ‘incidental “ in Steele Perkins work. Also, Steele-Perkins work predates Davies work by some years.

JAPAN. Fuji City. Rice harvest.1998.

Copyright Chris Steele-Perkins










I was also interested in the Burgin (1982) quote in the course materials:

‘There can never be any question of “just looking”: vision is structured in such a way that the look will always – entrain a history of the subject”

I read from this something about the experience we all carry with us, the memories of pictures we have seen and how this influences us. As Bloomfield (2014) states in the course materials:

…we can’t forget all the photographs we have seen”

I would go further than this and say that because in modern western society we have seen so many images we will always be influenced in what and how we make images without even realising the influence our conscious and subconscious have on us when we press the shutter. As I reflected further on this I would also say that following this course is much more about confronting and ultimately changing, for the better i hope, the mindset I have when making images. Expressing my visions is not about new viewpoints, but rather a re framed thought process about the act f image making.

This thought led me to consider the reference to Bill Brandt in chapter 4. I have always liked his black and white images and was intrigued by the notion of ‘camera vision’ i.e. letting the camera see for the photographer. At first I found the concept odd until I read that he had experimented with cameras that had very wide angle lenses so needing no focus. A camera for example used by police and others where no real photographic knowledge was required. In his biography of Brandt Delaney recorded the following said by Brandt of his wide angle Kodak camera:

“It had a fixed focus, no shutter, and could take a complete panorama of a room with a single exposure. I learned that the camera had been used at the beginning of the century by auctioneers, for photographic inventories, and by Scotland Yard for police records. It was fascinating to watch the effect of the lens which created a great illusion of space, and an unrealistically steep perspective, and soon I discovered that it could produce fantastic anatomical images which I had never seen before.”      Bill Brandt quoted in Delaney (2011)

It is easy to see in the context how Brandt talked about the camera doing the seeing. I was also reminded of the NASA Hasselblad cameras taken to the moon with fixed focus wide angle lenses allowing astronauts in heavy gloves to point and shoot, not really knowing for sure what they had recorded until they returned to earth.


Reflecting on the work of Davies, Steele-Perkins and Brandt I decided that I would explore and experiment with the notion of the ‘incidental’. I had a trip planned to North Wales and had intended to visit a number of castles while there. This seemed to be a viable theme, given that I knew a google search would reveal a lot of reference images of castles. In the event I had to cancel my trip to Wales but decided to stick with this theme and look for something more local in order to make my own images of this theme.

Below is a screen grab of some of the images I found on the internet.There are some common features in them all.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 18.06.11

The photographers have in most cases sought to create a sense of size, immensity and scale. They have predominantly done this through filing the frame with the castle. In most of the images the castles leave little sky or surrounding details, as subject they are dominant. The images were all taken by different photographers at different times and of different castles, but as the course materials suggest, these images like those in my wider search present a very consistent and well used approach to photographing castles

Set out below are four images out of the 120 that I took in the exercise. I have also included a set of contact sheet relating to this work.

What I sought to do was show a castle but not in the same way as the prevailing approach in my google images search. I want the viewer to see the castle but as part of a wider scene. In some of my images I wanted the castle to be dominant but in a different way to my google image search.

Icarus (1 of 1)


Castle gate (1 of 1)

fence 2 (1 of 1)

Old and new (1 of 1)

Skip (1 of 1)

Nero (1 of 1)

Sign (1 of 1)

In evaluating this work I think I have tried to make the castle incidental, to say something about the environment, something about the things that are in its immediate environment. In some of the images I wanted to contrast the old and the new. 

My images are fundamentally different to the google images in that they:

  • Do not present the castle as the principle object in the frame
  • Say something about the environment the castle sits within
  • Make the castle incidental in the images
  • Almost make the castle appear hidden or even just hinted at

Contact Sheets with annotation.

From the 120 images I took for this exercise I narrowed the selection down to just under 50. These are set out in the contact sheets below and as required in the exercise they are my annotated versions. To show the annotations I printed the contact sheets, wrote on them and then scanned them to show the annotations. The third page has a simple key to how I marked the images for selection or rejection.

EYV Ex 4.5 v1

EYV Ex 4.5 v2

EYV Ex 4.5 Contact 3


Bloomfield, R. (2014) Expressing Your Vision, Open College of the Arts, Barnsley

Davies, J. (2008) Fuji City found at: (Accessed 12 November 2015)

Delaney, P. (2004) The Charm of the Alien, The Guardian On Line 21-2-2004, (Accessed 11th November 2015)

Sontag, S. (1977) On Photography, Penguin, London

Steele-Perkins, C. (1998) Fuji- found at: (Accessed 11th November 2015)


Exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in
order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or
organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body,
rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artifacts can be fascinating
to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by
the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form.
You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will
be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only
proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.

Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial.
For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an
‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card.
You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the
line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the
surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to
the shot.

Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash)
and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it
simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change
the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.

Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of
your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the
key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just
as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between
the qualities of controlled lighting

Exercise 4.4

This was an interesting and in many respects very challenging activity. Unlike all the other aspects of the course exercises so far I had never undertaken any studio type shooting with lights. And whilst I have lots to learn in daylight and night time image making, I was an absolute novice at using lights to illuminate a subject.

I even put off doing the activity several times, in part due to my trepidation!

However I re-read the exercise details and the preceding sections of the course materials that described the four elements of studio lighting, quality, contrast, direction and colour.

I pondered for some time on light sources and eventually decide to use two identical halogen bulb desk lamps. These were the only directable artificial light sources I owned and although not ideal I built my mini studio around these light sources.

Using a desk set against a wall I mounted a thick white sheet to a high self and let it fall down in a curve to the top of the desk. To create a bit of a curve to the back drop I used gaffer tape.

studio 4

Makeshift Studio

I also pondered for some time on the choice of object/subject for the exercise. I was mindful of the course notes expectations that an organic rather than man made object was best use for this activity. With perfect timing a Sainsbury’s delivery offered me my subject in the form of a very fresh and colourful Brassica Oleracea, or to use its more common name a green cabbage!

I feel that I did really embraced the ‘Ex Nihilo’ concept and create my studio shoot and the attendant lighting effects out of nothing, or at least out of the things around me!

To make the images I used a camera with a 53mm (35mm on a 1.5 crop sensor) lens, placed on a tripod with a cable release. I tried a variety of camera and subject positions and settled for a shooting positions with the camera higher than the subject, with the camera at close proximity and the subject filling the camera frame.I also shot with the camera tethered to my computer to allow quick review of the images. This must be a boon for studio photographers?

I immediately picked up why studios don’t as far as I could see use halogen light sources. There was a strong purple cast from the lighting that all the White Balance Modes on my camera struggled with and in the end I removed the cast in post processing.

I did use a variety of positions as well as experimenting with diffusing the light sources with tracing paper and filters. In reality the filtered images simply didn’t work so my final selection are images where I used some different light quality, a variety of directions including below , level and above the subject. I also managed the contrast using the camera settings and light directions combinations

Set out below are some of the images I took with an associated lighting diagrams.

Ex Nihilo- Brassica Oleracea

Ex4.4 no. 2 (1 of 1)

53mm, f7.1, 1/5 sec, ISO 200

Lighting 6

the simplest of the lighting setup. Two lamps at the same height and both at 45 degrees to the subject.

Ex4.4 no. 3 (1 of 1)

53mm, f7.1, 1/15 sec, ISO 200

Lighting 22

Another simple lighting set up , both lamps at the same height but this time one at 45 degrees to the subject and the other at 90 degrees

Ex4.888 no

53mm, f7.1, 1/15 sec, ISO 200

Lighting 2

In this image a I experimented with the quality and direction of the light. I used a large piece of tracing paper to diffuse the light source. I also placed the lamp about half a meter higher than the subject. for the second light source I moved this much closed to the camera and again set it about half a meter higher than the subject. the effect was quite differ to the previous shots.

EYV Ex 4.4 (1 of 1)

53mm, f3.2, 1/150 sec, ISO 2000

Lighting 5

For this image I diffused the light from both lamps and again experimented with the angles and height of the lights. the left hand light was set at a height of 1 meter above the subject, the right hand light was set at a height if half a meter.

Exercise 4.3

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of
course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this
can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour
temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should
be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your
notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in
Exercise 4.2.

As some one who has predominantly made images in daylight this was an internist exercise. I used a range of opportunities to take photographs while travelling early one morning by train. On another occasion I looked at shops signed and lighting.

Artificial lights introduces number of colours that I image are to do with the nature if the light source. Lighting that can range from Tungsten, although less frequent now, through to sodium, haulage, neon and increasing the light from Light Emitting diodes.

All have defiant frequencies and give very different tone, clouds and hues to the light from the sun.

Below are a few shots taken in different condition that show these ocular and tone differences. Of course another key factor is the relatively high contrast ratio given that artificial light is often (although not always) seen against the backdrop of the night.

Car Park 2 (1 of 1)

bench 2 (1 of 1)

Steps 2 (1 of 1)

Leon 2(1 of 1)

Chop'd 2 (1 of 1)

Exercise 4.2

In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different
times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need
a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your
viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is
to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log
together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own
words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.

Although not the most interesting of scenes, I chose to make images of a  single location at 30 minute intervals during a single day. I used a fixed focus wide angle lens and mounted the camera on a tripod to retain the same view point through the shooting cycle. My first images were made at 7.30am and the final image was made at 19.30.

From these I selected a range of images taken about 1 hour apart. They record the changing light through what was quite a bright late summers day. The camera was set in manual mode and I adjusted the exposure to maintain a well exposed image. From these I selected a number of images that were about an hour apart and that shod the changing light an shades through the day.

8:00, 9:00 and 10:00am

F8.00 (1 of 1)

F9.00 (1 of 1)

F10.00 (1 of 1)

In this first sequences the sun remains low, slowly rising and casting long shadows. There is also evidence of what is sometimes called ‘golden hour’ light. It is a light that can be very orange and long in wavelength. This caused by the low sun having to starve through a thicker layer of atmosphere with has the effect of filtering some of the bluer shorter wavelengths, the effect is relatively short lived and by the end of this first sequence there is a bright more even set of colours. The green of the lawn, bushes and trees is quite intense in this first sequence and the grass almost glows. The images are very contrasty and there is quite a range of hues within the colours in the shots.

11:00,12:00 and 1:00pm

F11.05 (1 of 1)

F12.05 (1 of 1)

F13.05 (1 of 1)

In the second sequence the first image was taken with the sky somewhat overcast. This has the effect of subduing the shadows and to some extent ‘dulling’ the colours, there is no longer the vibrancy of the bright some light. There is however  an evenness about the light in the scene and as all the harsh shadows have gone I can see why architectural photographers prefer this sort of even light to capture the detail in buildings. Also the sun is higher in the sky and when shadows appear in the next two images they are shorter and less harsh.

2:00, 3:00 and 4:00pm

F14.05 (1 of 1)

F15.00 (1 of 1)

F16.00 (1 of 1)

The progress of the sun is much more evident in the next set of images. By the 4pm image and the direction of the shadows is quite different to this initial shots. there is still a brightness and glow caused by the direct sunlight unhindered by clouds. By the 4pm image here is a hint of the golden hue seen in the morning images, again caused by some of the blue light being filtered by the atmosphere. 

5:00, 6:00 and 7:00pm

F17.00 (1 of 1)

F18.00 (1 of 1)

F19.00 (1 of 1)

In the 5pm image the golden hue is even stronger and the long and distinct shadows attest to the setting sun. However by the final two images the sky has become overcast, shadows are far less obvious, although still evident and there is a very even but uninteresting light.

This was an interesting exercise that demonstrated the range of factors that influence the quality of the light in an image. These include the:

  • time of the day
  • height of the sun
  • weather conditions
  • the subject matter and how it reflects or absorbs light

Exercise 4.1

1. Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone
(such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally
makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper),
making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus).
Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and
your observations.

You might be surprised to see that the histograms for each of the frames – black, grey and white – are the same. If there’s not much tonal variation within the frame you’ll see a narrow spike at the mid-tone; if there is tonal variation (such as detail)  you’ll see a more gentle curve. If you find the tone curve isn’t centered on the mid-tone, make sure that you have your exposure compensation set to zero. You may see an unpleasant colour cast if you’re shooting under artificial light, in which case you can repeat the exercise using your monochrome setting (a light meter is sensitive to brightness, not to colour). This simple exercise exposes the obvious flaw in calibrating the camera’s light meter to the mid-tone. The meter can’t know that a night scene is dark or a snow scene is light so it averages each exposure around the mid-tone and hopes for the best. But why can’t the camera just measure the light as it is?

The reason is that a camera measures reflected light – the light reflected from the subject, not incident light – the light falling on the subject. To measure the incident light you’d have to walk over to the subject and hold an incident light meter (a hand- held meter) pointing back towards the camera, which isn’t always practical. If you did that each of the tones would be exposed correctly because the auto or semi-auto modes wouldn’t try to compensate for the specific brightness of the subject.

2. Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid tone
exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter
exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time
adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones
at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t
fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log
with sketches of their histograms and your observations.

Switching to manual mode disconnects the aperture, shutter and ISO so they’re no
longer linked. Because they’re no longer reciprocal, you can make adjustments to
any one of them without affecting the others.

Exercise 1.1

Ex 4.1 Desk (1 of 1)

As directed in the course exercise about photographing black, grey and white objects, I used a 1.5x crop sensor camera with a 60mm (90mm full frame equivalent) lens and focused on black, white and neutral grey cards. In actual fact the grey card was more brown but still neutral. The portrait  lens used allowed me to fill the frame with the cards colour. The images are set out below:


White Auto (1 of 1)


Grey Auto Auto (1 of 1)


Black Auto (1 of 1)

There are some variations in the tones and some strange vignetting (probably a result of the lens struggling to autofocus on the neutral subject and the uneven light from my desk lamp) but broadly they are very similar. I sketched these into my notebook and then photographed the page in the notebook.

Hist Auto (1 of 1)

Exercise 1.2

I then repeated the exercise but this time with the camera set to manual. The images again are set out below:


White Manual (1 of 1)


Grey Manual (1 of 1)


Black Manual (1 of 1)

As can be seen these images print an all together different view of the three cards and begin to illustrate the point being made in this exercise. As in the first part of the exercise I did a drawing of the histograms in my notebook and these can be seen below:

HistManual (1 of 1)

This time the histograms are very different. with the camera in manual mode it is seeing the light reflecting back and no compensation is being applied as would occur in auto mode. 

I was aware of this principle and knew in advance that in auto mode the camera would set the bulk of the seen to a neutral mid tone. So it did not matter, grey, black or white, the auto meter would think grey. The camera does not know what it is seeing and in auto mode assumptions are applied. As this practical activity highlights the camera is easily tricked. 

Although I knew this in advance and had read many times of this effect it was valuable to actually prove the point through experiment!

Exercise 3.3

1. What do the time frames of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.

What do the time frames of the camera actually look like? A personal viewpoint

Rolleicord Va Case 3 (1 of 1)

I have to confess a passion for using film rather than digital technology. Whilst digital technology offers a world of possibilities I feel I retain a greater sense of connection with the image making process when using film. I know this is a personal and somewhat idiosyncratic perspective, but it’s mine and I own it. I am not a film evangelist, indeed I harbour a deep distrust of evangelists of any persuasion. I don’t get involved in the film vs digital quality debate. I just get on and make images with film. I have an indescribable connection to the images I make with film that simply does not exist for me with digital equipment. I do use digital kit and thoroughly enjoy it for the immediacy and the creative possibilities it offers, but these still do not measure up when compared to the film image making process. For this reason I felt I needed to say a little more than usual in this particular exercise. I am very used to hearing the duration of a mechanical shutter, the visual experience of seeing a time frame is much rare for obvious reasons.

The action of consciously opening the back of an empty film camera and looking at the duration of the exposure is an interesting one. In simple response to the exercise I can, at full aperture, or with the lens removed, see an exposure of 1/1000 of a second, all be it for a fleeting instant.

F2A 3 v23

For me though, the value in this activity is relating the initial question: ‘What do the time frames of the camera actually look like’,  to the concept of the ‘durational space’, a theme I have grown increasingly interested in as the module has progressed and one that is informing my planning and execution of the assignment associated with this part of the course. In particular the work of Michael Wesley, Francesca Woodman and Alexey Titarenko have drawn me into some very different thinking about the nature of the decisive moment. A theme I will pick up in a later blog post.

When using a  mechanical film camera, the sense of the durational space of the exposure, a moment in time being captured, is far more concrete and far less abstract than the electrons released at the moment of exposure in a digital camera. When the shutter is figured on a digital camera, a quantity of electrons move at close to the speed of light through circuits and wires to allow the CCD or CMOS sensor to capture a range of photons.  At the instant of exposure, an electronically controlled shutter is opened and those photons are immediately turned into quantities of electrons that are in turn assigned very specific values in luminance and in colour. The  image processing chip and firmware in the camera working their ‘voodoo’ to conjure up an all electronic reconstruction of the image captured. A marvel of science verging on the mystical, but none the less invisible to the human senses. On many digital cameras even the sound of the shutter is simulated to allow the photographer some semblance of the past and the experience of the image having being secured.

F2A 2 (1 of 1)

Not so in the mechanical film camera where an altogether  more concrete process takes place at the moment of exposure. Indeed much of the process can be seen and is both visible and audible. As the shutter release is pressed and the mirror lifts, the viewfinder darkens and the visual image is obscured as the shutter curtain travels at speed, almost like a guillotine, slicing a moment in time and allowing it to be imprinted on the emulsion covered surface of the the film behind its normally light tight material. A concert of the mechanical activity and optical contrivance, allows for the chemical changes in a films emulsion, in response to light being captured and recorded of the scene the camera is pointed towards.

F2A 3 v23

So what do the time frames of the camera actually look like? Well depending on the camera they look like moments of light, flashing in an instant accompanied by the sounds of mechanical activity all for me associated with the instant an image is created. The sight and sound come together in distinct and decisive moment of their own,  incontrovertibly associated with the moment an image is made.

Recording the process of capturing  durational space!!

2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.

Peir Ex 3 (1 of 1)

The Pier- 28mm, f7.1, 1/600