Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple

The Brief

“Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.”

What is it about?

This is about my view of the world in miniature. I wanted to explore the possibilities of this ‘secret world’ with my camera, and enjoy a feeling of being lost inside it, as a kind of escape from the ordinary. This idea isn’t new. I wonder what the fascination is and why we seek to re-create it?

Humans have explored this other realm in a variety of ways. Sometimes with human made items, such as dolls houses, miniature villages, replica boats and ships with every detail recreated, many crafted to precise scale.

 “It always seemed to me that the miniature was the most effective solution to experiencing visions of worlds and new perspectives that otherwise could not be achieved in life” – Matthew Albanese, miniature artist and photographer

“In my experience, working at a small scale invites viewers into a personal, intimate relationship with the piece. At the same time, the very nature of small scales keeps us at a distance, unable to fully ‘enter’ the work…. A place where time has stopped” – Thomas Doyle, miniature artist and model maker.

Little People Project from the book Global Model Village by Slinkachu.



Mar Cerda creation for Wes Andersen’s ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’


Miniature scenes inside a toilet roll


I have been interested in ‘miniature worlds’ from an early age; I have vivid memories of visiting the model village at Bouton-on-the-Water, Cotswolds. The village itself is not only recreated as a scale model, but at one end is an even smaller model village; a replica inside a replica. This has always reminded me of looking into parallel mirrors, stretching into infinity.

Away from human made scenes, the miniature is a strange, unreachable world that we can only glimpse, where nature flourishes quite happily in its own secret dimension. It was this I wanted to explore, within my immediate surroundings. I found myself perfectly absorbed, glimpsing spiders, tiny snails smaller than my little finger nail, luscious flower petal texture, raindrops shimmering, on both natural and human made objects.

Perhaps one source of inspiration could be music? If so, this subject reminds me of Suzanne Vega’s track “Small Blue Thing”.

Today I am
A small blue thing
Like a marble
Or an eye
With my knees against my mouth
I am perfectly round
I am watching you
I am cold against your skin
You are perfectly reflected
I am lost inside your pocket
I am lost against
Your fingers
I am falling down the stairs
I am skipping on the sidewalk
I am thrown against the sky
I am raining down in pieces
I am scattering like light
Scattering like light
– Suzanne Vega

There is also a piece of fiction which unfortunately I can’t quite remember where its from – I think its by the American author David Leavitt – where one of the main characters says to his lover not to be afraid as he be will ‘curled up inside your pocket’.  Small can be powerful too!

In seeking inspiration from professional photographers, I particularly liked the work of Heather Angel. The images are beautiful, and often so close up that the subject becomes a delicate network of repeating pattern.



I also noticed Grahams Wen’s nature images, which are stunning – I particularly like the brown trout captured in water.



Whilst I can’t hope to emulate the quality and complexity of this kind of professional work, hopefully I’ve managed to convey small hints of this fascinating miniature world within my own photographs. I certainly enjoyed making these images very much.


My Images

The vast majority of these images are shot with manual focus – but it turns out they just aren’t properly focused. I used the tip of using live view and enlarged the screen to try and check my work, but I wasn’t accurate enough. It eventually dawned on me that I had been trying to focus outside of the focal range of the camera. I swapped to auto focus and respected the ‘bleep’ to let me know it could lock on. This helped quite a bit (!)

Some further problems were that I’d chosen I very bright, but changeable day so the exposure was tricky. And as the majority the images were taken outside, the wind had fun whipping the delicate plants around all over the place. Not easy!



My Images

As when I tried macro photography a little earlier in the course, I found it pretty challenging. As I don’t have a macro lens, I used my macro filters, stacked on my camera. It does make focusing very difficult, as obviously the depth of field is tiny.  Unlike previous assignments, before submitting work to my tutor I have used as much post processing as I know how (using a combination of exposure, levels and curves) to alter exposure when my images were under exposed. In some cases, such as the snail images some areas remain quite dark. I really do like this, and would want to see this range in tone in an illustration, but I understand that this means some of my work remains a little underexposed.

I may well have used too much sharpening on my red rose, I love the ridiculously gorgeous velvety folds of the petals, but I don’t think I managed a sharp enough image. I’m a bit embarrassed just how few of my images are actually even approaching useable but I guess it just takes time. Still. I really, really tried and thats all I can do!

Looking  1/30 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


In front of me 1/250 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


Simplicity  1/125 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


Complexity 1/80 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


Beauty 1/100 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


Cruelty 1/100 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


Perfection 1/125 sec;   f/4.8;   ISO 200


Secrets 1/80 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


Revealed 1/160 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


The Small World 1/320 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


Please click here to view Tutor Report ruth-arnold-513075-photography-1-expressing-your-vision-assignment-5

Revisited Work –

“See My Small World”

After receiving feedback from my tutor, I have reviewed my selections slightly, with a view to strengthening and re-enforcing my ideas. The suggestion of drawing my images together under the theme of ‘Love Hurts’ didn’t really appeal to me – I’m not one of those lucky people who have never had my heart broken believe me – but this piece is about life and my experience of living with chronic illness. This theme has cropped up in my work before,  and its really difficult to avoid, as my  choice of photography subjects throughout the course have been restricted to where I can physically manage to be. In this case, the available world was my garden. I hope this revision in some way expresses a narrative that makes sense to other people. Here goes….

  1. See My Small World 1/30 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


2. Look down 1/250 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


3. Is Beauty in the Details? 1/125 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 200


4. Or A Perfect Whole 1/100 sec;   f/5.0;   ISO 200


5. Life Is Complex 1/80 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


6. Fragile 1/100 sec;   f/5.0;   ISO 200


7. Beautiful 1/100 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


8. Painful 1/100 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


9. We All Feel Pain 1/100 sec;   f/4.5;   ISO 200


10. This Is My Small Un-Seen Life









Assignment 4 – Languages of Light

“Revisit one of the exercises on daylight, artificial light or studio light from Part Four (4.2, 4.3 or 4.4) and prepare it for formal assignment submission:

  • Create a set of between six and ten finished images. For the images to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, for instance a subject, or a particular period of time.
  • Include annotated contact sheets of all of the photographs that you’ve shot for the exercise (see notes on the contact sheet in Part Three).
  • Assignment notes are an important part of every assignment. Begin your notes with an introduction outlining why you selected this particular exercise for the assignment, followed by a description of your ‘process’ (the series of steps you took to make the photographs). Reference at least one of the photographers mentioned in Part Four in your assignment notes, showing how their approach to light might link in to your own work. Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.”

Re-visiting Studio Lighting

I really wanted to re-visit studio lighting (exercise 4.4), as it frustrated me a lot! I wasn’t at all happy with my pebble photos, and it seemed a good idea to look at this topic in more detail.

I wanted to focus on the subject of ‘food’, which I know is particularly tricky (!) Why? Because I want to be able to apply some of my new found er…’skills’ to my other visual communications studies. In particular, I noticed that a future graphic design assignment will be a 12 page brochure on the subject of food. So it seems perfect to try and produce my own images, rather than seeking permissions elsewhere…Thats the theory anyway!

Consequently, I asked my fellow students what sort of equipment they used for an inexpensive basic ‘studio set-up.’ I received some excellent well considered answers – particularly in reference to using flash and soft light box tent cubes. Drawing on this advice, I went ahead and bought a few items which allowed me some control over my lighting – namely a small pop up tent to diffuse the light, and a small pair of lamps. Plus I have a speedlight to attach as a better flash.

My influence comes from one of the photographers mentioned in our course notes; Jean Baptiste Huynh. The studio lighting is very beautiful, and although its dramatic, it retains a quality of softness too. As I was expanding on the rather mundane theme of food, I was drawn to his series ‘Vegetaux’, which includes a lovely image of (judging by the title) a celeriac. (The website is in French, and I’m not a veg expert so I’m making a reasonable guess here!)


On a more practical note, I’ve also been reading a how-to manual by photographer Tony Northrup. The ebook comes complete with hours of instructional videos that I’ve been watching avidly. He and his wife Chelsea are so unfeasibly attractive, with such a perfectly lovely home it would be easy to hate them. But luckily I don’t. Which is good because there are a lot of videos.

Happily, I have picked up a few tips from them about still life. As I’m aiming for a high key effect, with a white background; I’ve gathered I need to light the background as strongly as possible, and overexpose the white cloth behind my object. Of course the tricky part is not to overexpose the subject itself.

I shot these pictures over a few days, taking note of what did, and didn’t work. After some experimentation, I decided my lighting was pretty puny, so to get a good enough background, I needed to use my tripod and a slow shutter speed, sometimes in combination with my flash, which can be angled above, or to the side if needed.

Some of these images turned out OK. Of course, ideally no photoshopping would be needed – but I made an error with the back cloth – I now realise I should have ironed it! That doesn’t account for all the problems, but it hasn’t helped.

Fruit and Veg – Contact Sheets 

For my main body of work, I simply concentrated on trying to get reasonable quality images. Here’s the contact sheets.

(NB Left hand side, second row down – its a post processed apple – shouldn’t be part of the contact sheet! Sorry!!!)


Some items were easier than others – I found the onion, lentils, peppers and spinach the best to work with. On the other hand, each time I tried with the brie, or cheddar, its blown on the top. And the bananas have seriously wrinkled fabric. I don’t think I could be bothered to photoshop to that extent!


I used a total of 5 lights: both sides of the cube, back, above (just a light bulb), and in some cases, flash or the tripod and a low shutter speed (such as a 1/4 second) and a low/lowish f stop.

There are numerous photos of bread, as this was my second afternoon of shooting, and I spent a lot of time working out my lighting/settings before moving on to other food. I tried to pay careful attention to the results by stopping and viewing bread pictures on my laptop.

I took such a large number of pictures, it took a while to sort through them all and decide on the best ones – a few almost made it, but had rather wrinkled backgrounds that I wasn’t quite able to eliminate whilst shooting. These have been lightly photoshopped, but would need quite a bit more to look OK



My Final Images

Bread  1/25  f13  ISO 200



Citrus Fruit 1/6  f10  ISO 200


Lentils 1/6  f10  ISO 200



Onions 1/6  f10  ISO 200


Sandwich 1/4  f13  ISO 200


Spinach  0.5 f10 ISO 200


The images that made the final cut, are all made without flash, and a slow shutter speed. I found it helpful to move away from a very shallow depth of field, as it can be a little limiting. I did notice with the lentils, the nearest to us aren’t in sharp focus – I’m thinking this isn’t ideal, and something I should have spotted at the time.

At this point, I felt I had achieved what I set out to do (not having to source some free stock photography for my future graphic design work) but of course I’m now in danger of being labeled The-Most-Boring-Student-Of-All-Time.

So, as an antidote to all this blandness, I decided it was time to let my hair down. The next series are playful, and a little less conventional. I simply gathered together items I found interesting, to interact with the food. Here are the results.

Contact Sheets Again


Final Images The Sequel 




Foot in Mash


Clockwork Apple


More Time


Lost Property




During this exercise, I feel I’ve learnt a lot about low and high key lighting as you can see from my pictures. The low keys ones looked fine on my computer, but now I’ve uploaded them, I think I should have made a small adjustment to bring up the lights. What is it all about? Well it’s really up to you!

Conclude your notes with a personal reflection on how you’ve developed the exercise in order to meet the descriptors of the Creativity criteria. Write 500–1,000 words.”

I began the exercise by not thinking ‘creatively’ at all(!) This was a conscious decision, as I wanted to understand how to light my objects, and produce them for use in a graphic design project. Its understand that this approach – producing generic bland pictures, seen countless times on stock photography websites, is something that goes against the spirit of our process of enquiry. However, simple images on plain back grounds do serve a specific function, and one that is useful to me. I feel this is a legitimate exercise, as its furthers an area of learning that works for me as part of my Visual Communications studies. On a more practical level, obviously it would be difficult to shoot food on a coloured background, as a coloured tinge could be rather off putting for a general audience. This set of images will be useful for graphic design purposes, as they work work easily as a set, can be cropped, or altered to portrait, to assist ease of layout. I can also envisage combining the images with some illustrations for a booklet on healthy eating, these images are unlikely to ‘fight’ or clash with other elements. They could play a supporting role, and I’m happy with that.

So what inspired me to move on to a different approach? Well, I’m aware that I have spent a great deal of this course learning basic camera skills – rather like a musician playing scales, its an important grounding. But at some point, its good to ‘play a tune’. This often comes more easily at the moment when you have done enough practise to perform basic co-ordination skills without it using up all your available attention. This is beginning to happen for me. I enjoy being creative, and I think like most people, when inspiration strikes, its a pleasure, and a discovery too, as ideas can veer off into unexpected tangents.

The best things happen when you let yourself play. I found my ideas came pretty quickly by simply glancing around the room. I scribbled down my ideas on a piece of scrap paper first, as I knew I wanted to incorporate various items of food and objects, but was initially unsure which to ‘pair up’ . You could for example stick a plaster on any fruit, as as apples bruise, some of these ideas developed quite easily by themselves. Again, the title came quite easily, as they were inspired by the narrative of the images.(Do they have a narrative?) For me, they do, and I will try to explain my thoughts behind each one:



Bruised – Obviously I enjoyed the absurdity of protecting fruit, and the suggestion that they have feelings. I like the wrinkled fabric, and rather clinical setting while the apple has obviously received some medical attention. Ouch.


Foot in Mash – When I was reading up on food photography, one of the things I learned was that mashed potato is a common stand in for various types of food, particularly ice-cream. I quite often suffer from a lack of props (who has that many interesting items hanging around?). But as it happened my partner had just dug up a couple of mysterious items from our garden – a plastic snake, and a small black boot. Perfect.


Clockwork –  Perhaps this begs the question ‘What is real?’. There are so many photoshopped images, it was fun making this series from real objects instead. I like the combination of the organic with the mechanical. I think I often enjoy a sense of the absurd, which may be a linking theme for these images.


More Time – Here I’ve switched to a black cloth, and explored the possibility of making more time. To my surprise, I find this a bit poignant, not really my intention, but time is a delicate thing. (Perhaps that should be the title?)


Lost property – What if all our lost possessions end up being snacked on, by something pretty weird? (Just saying….) This is often where my mind wanders. I like the sense of a parallel universe just out of our reach, and I’ve really never outgrown the impulse to image strange creatures, talking objects, odd events.


Fake – Enter the plastic snake, brooding amongst a pool of lentils. I just don’t have to justify this. Its silly. Maybe some of our fears are too?

Have I succeeded in expressing my creativity? Yes I think so. We are often asked (or urged) to be experimental – Theres plenty of scope to push this in other directions – blurred images, pictures of my rubbish bin etc, but this style works for me. I’d also like to point out when you are a complete beginner everything, even the very mundane is out of your comfort zone. The scariest but most satisfying part of this course so far has been switching to manual, and grasping the possibilities it offers.


I’ve already mentioned Jean Baptiste-Huynh, but I also drew inspiration from these images:

I’m quite drawn to both dramatic pictures, and ones that appear to ask questions or tell a story. Apologies, I don’t have full information about this image, its from Pinterest

Escadas para o Céu” (Stairways to Heaven).


This woman passing through a door is also very dramatic, and leaves the viewer to create their own narrative,


Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois was an artist, often returning to the theme of spiders in her work. (Said to represent her mother) Her sculptures have been photographed many times, all over the world. I particularly like the drama created by using black and white, and the use of scale.


Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer is an American conceptual artist. She has often used photography in her work, most often to capture her series of slogans. An antidote to consumer culture. Its interesting that many conceptual artists use photography in their work, and in Holzer’s case, attempt to communicate quite directly with the viewer – no obscure metaphors here. I can’t help thinking photography is the perfect medium for this kind of work.


And general inspiration on still life and food photography

For humour and absurdity, I love Terry Border


Tutor Report

View PDF of Tutor Report here

Response to tutor report – I really feel I upped my ‘game’ here, and had the chance to become a bit more creative. However I am kicking myself VERY HARD that I didn’t ask my tutors advice before attempting food photography, as he is very experienced in this area, and at commercial photography in general. Doh. Instead, I chose to rely on my trusty ebook (stunning digital photography). Unfortunately I got the idea that I was supposed to blow out the background. Whimper. In the instructional video of shooting still life with a white background they even turn the the ‘blinkies’ indicator, so the camera flashes in the white areas. The video wasn’t specifically about food but I thought it was applicable!

So, this is the point tin the course where exposure is beginning to make sense to me, only for me to deliberately mess it up. Sigh. I also wished I had looked more throughly at how to light low key lighting – as my tutor explained this isn’t the same as simply underexposing!

I’ve altered some of the dark ones to my preference, though I understand they aren’t really ‘correct’ – as my tutor showed me, as correctly balanced they look pretty ugly! I used a combination of levels, curves and exposure in photoshop, plus masking some areas to maintain a black background for the snake picture.

I’m certainly not an expert when it comes to post production, but I have also deliberately avoided relying on it too much. Its quite nice to attempt to tweak my work though, as it gives it a helping hand!

Altered Exposure




As for the overall comments, I was quite pleased, and feel that I have gained in confidence, experimentation and skills.


Assignment 3 – The decisive moment

“Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.”

The Decisive Moment

As the concept of the decisive moment concerns timing – the exact moment when the camera captures a fleeting scene – I chose to focus my attention on movement. Thanks to my nephew Alex, and my niece Zoe, I had the opportunity to try my hand at capturing them at speed as they moved through the park.

There are far more of Zoe because Alex was busy playing football!  On entering the park, he made friends with a lad almost instantly and they had a great time together. As you will see he joined us later.

This is my first attempt at capturing action, and it was certainly challenging. I knew I had a very limited time frame to take pictures at all, as they were only visiting for a few days and won’t be back in Devon till later in the summer. This heightened my determination at capturing this particular afternoon, as we couldn’t return the next day.

Its always brilliant to see them. Choosing this subject was part of my joy at spending time with them, and how precious these times are. Its not an original or edgy subject, but it has great emotional importance for me. As always, this is heightened for me as I can’t leave the house everyday and normal activities are always a treat! I very much hope to stay with my nephew and niece at their house for the first time this year, health permitting. It is strange to think my brother left home about 25 years ago and all these years I have never seen where he’s lived since.

It is of course a cliche, but nothing reminds you that time is fleeting like children growing up.  Zoe is on the brink of secondary school, and I wonder how long she’ll let her hair down like this? I was really struck by their confidence in front of the camera. You can see from the images they are very relaxed and more then happy to take the limelight! I was the opposite at that age, I always felt extremely self conscious and pulled very weird faces in an effort not to smile as I felt ugly.

Clearly the kids are posing, and I’m sure some photographers would much prefer to capture candid moments when a subject is unaware of the lens. I don’t feel frustrated in this respect as I was enjoying spending time with them, and the pictures were part of us having fun together. The exception to this, is when the kids were off running about with my partner Steve, and not thinking about the camera at all. I couldn’t keep up with the action as they moved faster than I can, and the lack of a zoom lens meant they are some way off!

Naturally none of the photos are pre-planned. I didn’t scout the location beforehand, or request they wore certain colours. The  choice of movements and equipment is all theirs. The zip wire was the hardest, as I had to be very quick to capture the moment of leaping aboard and the subsequent movement. I’m sitting for all the shots which isn’t ideal, as I felt it would help to be able to move around the action and run if necessary to get in position. Naturally this isn’t an excuse for my use of cropping – I did rely on it quite heavily to get a satisfying composition, and I also used photoshop in a few images to lighten faces that had lost detail in shadow.


Zoe’s enthusiastic cart wheels and hand stands remind me of Cartier-Bresson’s Greek boy in this photo and his wonderful ability to capture childhood.




While looking for these images, I stumbled across a photographer by the name of John Free, and this excellently timed picture


I also found this beautifully written piece by the same photographer, entitled ‘Wondering’, which I found very thought provoking.  In it, he ponders the thought process that goes into photography – why this moment? why this person? why this scene? – and what are you really communicating to the viewer? At the end of the piece he hints that the process of wondering never stops, as he recalls the ten minutes he spent photographing a young runaway about to leave on a train, and is wondering where she is 40 years on.

‘Wondering is a form of calculating, a conversation with yourself.’ – John Free

Contact Sheets

I started with a shutter speed that caused some blur to her feet at 1/200 sec.  Its interesting how some images capture movement, others don’t, regardless of the actual speed – for example on the slide.


I upped my shutter speed for the later pictures, like the zip wire at 1/640 sec

I like my sister-in-law’s facial expression!


This is my brother peeking into frame!




Selection and Printing

At this point, I had a look at some of the other student blogs, to see how they had narrowed down their choice of images. One fellow student had used street photography to capture people cycling past on an assortment of bikes. It struck me that quite a lot of images they had discounted were actually really interesting and quite quirky. I can’t say any of my images are as well shot, I’m very aware my skill level is low! But hopefully I can learn from this, and ponder my selection with other people.

I asked my helpful crew Zoe, Alex, and Steve to help me make a short list of the images. Steve helped me discount for example all the images on the slide as being less effective. When we had decided on the final set, I borrowed my Mum’s printer (as mine is currently in storage till we move house). It was a massive pain wrestling with unfamiliar equipment. Mum and I both got throughly frustrated! As a result, these could be improved, and I may have tried re-printing these images if I’d been using my own printer. Interestingly the final set are printed on Lidls photo paper – rather than Kodak. Yes, so much for high quality !!! At the time, we compared the two and I thought the Lidls paper showed darker richer colour, but this may have been a mistake. What I can see about the images, and my photographer friend Rach confirmed, is that some of the images are too contrast-y (her word). Some of the darks are very dark….I’m not sure if I should have shot the images differently or fiddled with photoshop, or of course if in fact I messed up with the choice of paper. I look forward to my tutors advice on this.

1/200 sec;   f/6.3;   ISO 100


1/640 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 400 I cropped a small boy out of the picture to the left


1/200 sec;   f/6.3;   ISO 100


1/640 sec;   f/10;   ISO 400.  I lightened her face in photoshop and cropped a bit to better focus on her


1/640 sec;   f/5.6;   ISO 400 Not sure if I actually selected the best group shot but its a fun one. Cropped to draw us into the action.


1/640 sec;   f/9;   ISO 400.  My best image, even though its the only one in portrait. I didn’t photoshop out the arm, but I was tempted!


1/640 sec;   f/4.8;   ISO 400


1/640 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 400.  His face is lightened a little in photoshop and this picture is cropped


I will be posting the printed images soon

Tutor Report

View PDF of tutor report here

A theme is emerging with my feedback which is really about lacking narrative. Arggggh. Its hard to be told to be more original – but my response is, I simply don’t know how! I do feel a bit of frustration that this is my first ever attempt at action shots, and although to the viewer, being in a park with family you love is very ordinary, its not to me (with or without a camera)! I realise I should understand better what is ordinary, maybe you need the chance to practise repetition before creativity develops. I don’t know – my feedback for previous courses (illustration and graphics) wasn’t ‘its a bit boring’. So I can only conclude as yet, I don’t know how to make whats in front of me interesting?!

Again, I have not yet grasped exposure, or how to ‘read’ a histogram, but this should develop I hope!

Assignment 2 – Collecting

“Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options Crowds, Views, Heads ) Or a subject of your own choosing.

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.”

The Subject 

As we were allowed the option to choose our own subject, I chose something that was easily accessible for me, and allowed me the chance to further experiment with shallow depth of field. I liked the idea of capturing strong shadow, and some of the resulting images of fruit are influenced by the fine art tradition of chiaroscuro, though relying on natural light. (Disclaimer – I’m not claiming to have suddenly transformed myself into a fine art photographer overnight. Far from it!!)

During this process I also branched out in trying to describe my surrounds from a different viewpoint. This mostly involved spending a lot of time lying on the floor. I hope I have experimented a little with some ‘impressions’ of my home in a slightly different way from assignment 1. Therefore I have ended up with two alternate ‘sets’ of images in order to explore this brief.

The fruit

I used wide aperture and macro filters for these images, mostly with manual focusing. Its been extremely helpful to dip into several ‘how-to’ photography magazines, and I was quite grabbed by the idea of focusing on only a section of an object in close up. This is thanks to my friend Rach, who passed this on to me,  it comes from Digital Camera magazine.


Camera Info…

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.44.22 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.43.07 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.41.33 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.40.29 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.39.25 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.38.00 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.36.44

From the ground

For this set of pictures I kept the ISO at 200,  aperture at f-stop 5.6 and the focal length at 55 throughout. You can see that the shutter speed drops quite low depending on the light and I was lucky to get away with not yet owning a tripod.

Camera Info…

Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.29.48 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.30.11 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.30.31 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.30.54 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.31.49 Screen Shot 2016-04-12 at 20.32.14

Image set 1 – Fruit & Flowers

pearStalk-LR pearGroup2-LR grapes-LR BestLily3-LR appleStalk3-LR appleGroup-LR


How well do I think this works? As suggested, I stuck to one format only – landscape in this case. Which means I had to disregard a couple of others that I might have considered. In fact my first dilemma was sifting through a large number of images and trying to decide which ones were up to scratch. It gets rather confusing when they are quite a high volume.

BestLily2-LR BestLily-LR

Plus points:

I enjoyed making the most of the sunlight,  using close-ups and experimenting with manual focus. The macro filters are really interesting to use, but quite hard to focus once you stack them, they are more controllable at individual magnification. I suppose you might say these images convey a love of nature, and enjoyment of the richness of these forms. I like the contrast of lights and darks, they seem to add depth, and a degree of richness. I like the possibilities of close up shots, they really make me feel very absorbed and involved with the subject. Clearly some of these images are stronger than others but overall I enjoyed making them.


I think fruit and flowers are OK as a theme,  but very traditional and lacking in originality. I question whether they really sit well as a set, as the degree of magnification varies, for example there is a close up of an apple stalk, and a group of the same fruit. Some more variety in the subject matter would have been good, perhaps it would have been sensible to plan ahead and buy more exotic fruit?? I suspect that some of the extremes in tone are possibly not ‘good’ in terms of an uneven histogram but I do like the effect!

Image set 1 – From the ground







This was my departure from the rules – I’ve used portrait and landscape, and simply took whatever interested me from ground level. I debated with myself about whether to rotate the image of the chair label, but I like “carelessness causes fire” upside-down,  as that was my true viewpoint.

Plus points:

These pictures are more meaningful to me (I can’t say if they speak to anyone else!) I felt particularly emotionally engaged with what I was doing, and as though this viewpoint represents a ‘secret world’ amongst the ordinariness of a familiar room and therefore a breath of fresh air. My favourite picture is of my dog – the angles, the variation in texture of his dark velvet ears against the wood, and the fact that you can’t see his face. I’m a bit gutted I took one of his paws which would have worked well in continuing a theme, but its blurry.



I struggled to begin to pull together a set. The theme may not be all that easy for the viewer to ‘read’, and the mixture of chrome/shoes and an animal may well be out of place.

Contact sheets

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I’m still getting to grips with basics, which to some extent has made me concerned with how to use my camera more than anything. With a bit more practise, I hope I’ll feel more free to experiment, and feel absorbed by the subject I’m looking at. This happened towards the end of this assignment, as I was primarily thinking about what I was looking at, and only half thinking about how to actually take the picture. Given my inexperience this results in a very hit and miss approach but moving forward I should improve over time.

I’m aware that photography is sometimes concerned with evoking a mood or a moment, as much any technical considerations. I do feel my pics could be much more imaginative, but again I hope inspiration will strike more easily when I’m not checking I’ve taken the lens cap off!!!

Tutor Report

View PDF of tutor report here

As my tutor pointed out, I have had problems with exposure – not something I fully understand or feel able to spot when this needs correcting yet. I was a little disappointed that he felt the images from the ground lacked narrative potential. Maybe I should have explained why I was on ground level. Its simply that I have problems sitting and standing for any length of time, so spend a lot of time lying down. I decided to get even lower and see the world from the floor.

Square Mile

It feels a little odd starting a subject that is entirely unfamiliar, but here goes…We have been asked to take a series of pictures of our local area, within a square mile. So to start, I’ve decided to comment on each of the photographers we were asked to view for inspiration. (In a few cases, the intended links have already expired, so I’ve googled the relevant photographer, and looked at the images that most grabbed me.)

Keith Arnatt – His work includes informal portraits of people based on a theme, such as dog walkers or gardeners in their back gardens. I found myself immediately liking the warmth of these very human and slightly whimsical images, each one appears to tell a story, but of course we are left to only guess about these people’s lives. Pictures from a rubbish tip is also an interesting subject, and strikes me as quite subversive.

Gawain Barnard – The work was entitled “Maybe we’ll be soldiers”. These are quite gritty urban portraits, and landscapes of the nearby area.

Tina Barney – These are fantastic, camp, cool, quirky, flamboyant portraits.

Venetia Dearden – I particularly loved her book ‘Somerset stories five penny dreams’, my impression is of beautifully shot images, with a great deal of warmth towards her subjects

J H Engstrom – This work looks interesting, although the actual website is limited, as its under construction, I will have to look elsewhere to understand more

Roni Horn – Her talents also extend to sculpture, drawing, and writing too. Her works appears to be quite challenging and stark, perhaps similar in style to Gawain Barnard.

Roni Horn

Tom Hunter – I viewed some dramatic landscape photography which was a bit hyper-real (not so sure about it) But also some very clever portraits (he re-creates some paintings as modern day scenes) I only twigged this when viewing this image, then subsequently realised it was part of a longer running theme, I think his first being on the subject of an eviction notice.

Tom Hunter

As its a re-creation of this painting, Christina’s world, by Andrew Wyeth.

Wyeth, Andrew
Wyeth, Andrew

Karen Knorr – I would guess that her work is more commercially based, there’s some images of 1980s life but I got drawn to this gorgeous white peacock. I don’t know if this is photoshopped, but its beautiful.

Karen Knorr

Peter Mansell – Landscape re-interpreted from the perspective of a wheelchair user. Really personal, political work. Challenges able bodied people to view a different perspective. I like this more than the other socially motivated work, because this is his voice, speaking about himself.

Mark Rees –  I didn’t entirely grasp this work, but may need to look again. It seems to involve artwork, performance and portraiture

Jodi Taylor – She takes us back to her childhood home, and conveys a child’s eye view. I like the images are so ordinary, but affectionate rather than a hard social commentary. I can see them as really special, as they are the places she must have known inside out form when she was a small child. Back then they were her world.

My images

This will be a steep learning curve for me as I have just bought my first DSLR camera, learnt how to charge the battery, and take the lense cap off.

My written analysis

Assignment 1 – Square Mile

As I’m completely unfamilar with using a camera, I’ve been working on the basics, like simply getting a feel for holding it in my hand, and familiarising myself with some of the buttons and dials.

The camera I’ve chosen (Nixon D3200) is particularly light weight, which I really like, though I’m guessing this is entirely down to personal preference.

I have grasped how to take pictures in Auto mode, and that the letters on the dial refer to Aperture Priority and so on. I have taken a bit of time to watch some videos on You Tube aimed at beginners, so I have a tiny bit of knowledge when it comes to camera raw vs jpeg, and the relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed. However on saying this, I will probably have to refresh my memory several more times before anything sticks.

How I took my pictures

I simply took some practise shots the day my camera arrived, then continued from there a few days later. As its the end of January, the light in my house is very gloomy, and its been grey and rainy for days on end. Consequently my camera’s flash popped up automatically for every picture, regardless of how many lights I turned on!

I really don’t know the ideal conditons for taking interior shots, but its a fair assumption that my lighting was awful.

What I chose to shoot

Although we were given the brief of a mile, due to health problems my mobility is rather restricted and a mile is a long distance for me on foot. I chose to take pictures mainly inside my house, because this is the most accurate description of my life. But I very much hope to take pictures elsewhere during this course, depending on what I’m able to manage. Some of my plans include my next trip to the hairdressers,  as I’ve already asked permission from them to take some interior shots, as a learning exercise. Yes, I do plan to take outdoor shots too. I live so near dartmoor, it will be possible to drive even a short distance and find beautiful places. If this all sounds rather bland and “nice”, its motivated by my interest in taking pictures suitable for graphic design purposes. I do a small amount of work from home as a web designer,  so I hope to offer some photographic skills for web and print clients in the future.

The pictures I’ve chosen are all about representing different aspects of my small daily living radius. But I also hope that they present quite a varied set of images, which by being absorbed with detail, translates as “this is my escape from four walls”.  Everything pictured is (literally) within shouting distance. The additional reason for focusing on my own home, is that I have just put the house up for sale. It makes you view everything with a fresh eye, and a new appreciation.

The Door


Comments – Because the camera is on auto, I didn’t have much control over the precise point of focus (not that I have any experience out of auto!) . I can see the screw nearest us is sharply in focus, with the left hand side blurring out. This seems to be OK, as the nearest part is sharp, but I’m guessing this could be improved by lighting that reduced the shadow and a little more of the object in focus.



I like the colour and subject of this picture, as I think the monkeys sit well against the stripes and blue wall.



Again, I think the background works well to show off the shine of the utensils. Theres a dark shadow top left which I would photoshop out (I haven’t made any digital tweaks for this assignment)



I like the contrast of lights and darks here.



I’m reasonably happy with this, its in focus, and the composition is OK. Its hard to comment about what could be improved with my very limited knowledge

After cycling


You could easily argue this should not be part of the set, but these are all close ups of my life, and this one is my partner arriving back from cycling, having put his bike away in the shed. It was unposed, just taken in the moment.

Perfume bottle


I think this one worked quite well?! I wanted to contrast the two kinds of glass.

Bedroom window


You can see the flash has caught the rain on the window. This is probably a bit rubbish, but I thought it was an interesting effect.

Now I’ve reviewed these images, I’m not sure if I should have gone a bit Tracey Emin, and showed some grittier stuff – dirty laundry, unmade bed etc?! I do like “pretty” images though which is possibly a bit embarrassing but its true. I seem to get drawn to colour, texture and shine, so I went with it.

Since posting this I’ve done some research to see how these images could be improved. What I’ve gathered is that in proper studio photography I would need to place my objects with multiple light sources, to eliminate harsh shadow, and if taken in situ, I would need a flash that can be bounced off the ceiling. (Probably preferable if it is an external one?)

My only other option at the moment would have been to turn off the flash.

Contact Sheet


Tutor Report:

View PDF of tutor report here

Reflection in response to tutor feedback

I think my response to the brief was good in terms of talking about my thought process and the work of others, which boosted my confidence. As I understand it, I think my tutor was trying to explain that creating images can be about communication of ideas, impressions and mood, regardless of technical ability.

It is interesting to learn that ‘on camera flash is a signifier of vernacular photography’. Its hard to have the confidence to run with this, as I wouldn’t be choosing to be ‘rough and ready’ – but I can certainly take on board the principle that not all photography aims to be ‘pretty’ or technically ‘correct’.

My tutor has asked that I re-write my captions, moving away from the formal qualities of colour and subject, and focusing on a personal narrative. And to look at Barthes’ definition of ‘punctum’ from Camera Lucida.

“The punctum: that aspect (often a detail) of a photograph that holds our gaze without condescending to mere meaning or beauty…[to] embrace the subjective”

My Images Explained

The half open door – This door leads to freedom and the outside world, but is only ever half open for me (this is a theme I return to later in the course). The door itself is special, as its handmade by my partner, and although we bought this particular iron latch, I always notice ironwork, as my uncle is an Art Blacksmith. I really like traditional crafts that go back centuries – this contrasts with the relatively new invention of the camera. I hope that someone might imagine the cool feel of iron and the reassuring noise of the latch. As it is in close up, we probably ask few questions about where it leads to. I think pictures of whole doorways are probably more successful in adding mystery.


Two friends – These monkeys are clearly buddies, though the one further away may be a little depressed?! Or just a bit tired. I chose to photograph these two as I have a weakness for anthropomorphising just about anything. I lived alone for a long time, and the creatures probably have a similar function to Tom Hanks ‘companion’ when he’s ship wrecked.


Pink Metal – I had a goth phase as a teenager, and I only wore black. As I type, I’m wearing pink, and the wall is painted pink. I have discovered quite a few women decide they actually do like pink, having felt they really ‘shouldn’t’. So that my challenge, accept what makes you happy and go with it.


Lantern – the fireplace is victorian, the lantern is modern…OK sometimes there just isn’t a narrative. I think maybe I could be forgiven for arguing its OK to choose subjects on the basis of being drawn to colour, contrasting tone, texture and shapes. This is an emotional response, and its part of what draws humans towards creativity. Its what made our ancestors drill little holes in stones and make jewellery. I can’t be sure they had a message, but they liked to decorate!


Boots – There was a time when I didn’t have much use for foot wear, as I was bedridden for over a decade. To find these are worn is wonderful.


After cycling – I think I’ve explained this one already but it was interesting to capture an unstaged moment of domesticity.


Perfume bottle – I like to collect perfume, and have some antique bottles too which might have been a better choice. What is this trying to say? Well, its really responding simply to the reflections, in the same way as I would view objects in order to draw or paint them. The more you look, the more you get lost in the subject. This kind of meditative state makes me think of my Grandpa – he once recorded the sound of dripping tap, just because he liked the sound of it. (He would have been a mature man by the era of Bob Dylan et al, so I don’t think we can put it down to drugs!)


Through the window – If you spend a lot of time in your home, the view gets pretty familiar. Its raining, it does that a lot in Devon. Really, sometimes there just isn’t much more to say!


In conclusion, I think a person more familiar with photography would have chosen subject matter within the home that is indeed more ‘Tracy Emin’, however, this approach requires some degree of knowledge and sophistication about the subject of photography which I don’t really have at this point!