Category Archives: Coursework

Research for Exercise 1.4 – Framing

For this exercise I wanted to really understand what is meant by framing.  Up to this point I had thought that it meant using objects such as a window frame or a group of trees to  frame the subject.

What I found was that the frame does not have to enclose the whole image but simply draw the eye in as with “repoussoir”, used in two dimensional art by placing an object in the foreground on either the right or left side which then leads the eye to the object in the background and the focus of the art or in this case shot

Framing is a way of manipulating the view point of the image rather than the object

It includes the use of:

  • Depth of Field
  • Use of objects such as window frames, doorways which also can create a sense of being part of the shot
  • White/Negative space
  • Vingnetting
  • Perspective distortion
  • Use of lens (wide to include more background or long to compress the image)
  • Focus (in/out) to create mood and depth to the image.

When framing is used well it can leave the viewer imagining more than originally intended.


Research for Part 1 – From that moment onwards……

As part of my research for Part 1 of the course, I considered composition and the use of “The Rule of Thirds”[1], Gestalt principles of dynamic symmetry, and principles of image composition[2].

There were many articles advising on how to compose a photograph and I have only included two references because many of them repeat the same information.

From my research I now understand what draws a viewer into an image and although there are some guiding rules these can be modified and still provide a pleasing image.

The rule of thirds is a very useful tool however, just moving the subject off centre can provide the desired effect as long as the focal point is strong.  Similarly placing a horizontal line in the centre or middle of the shot reduces the strength of the image, as does having a horizon or vertical line that is not straight.

Subjects that are interesting and place in the foreground can add depth and a point of reference.

Simple images are stronger and by composing an image with a strong focal point and less clutter will provide for a stronger shot.

Leading lines and framing shots by moving closer to a subject also play an important role in drawing the viewer’s eye to the focal point.

Most photographs are taken when the photographer is standing and by moving position this can improve the shot.

Detrie, in his discussion of Gestalt principles links our visual perception to patterns found in nature and it’s complexity.  How we perceive this complexity is dependent on the interaction between our experiences, interplay between perception and behaviour and the social and cultural context of our experiences.  Although this article was written for graphic design many of the elements described apply to photography.

Placing my subject in the centre is a common failing of mine and I need to improve on this.  On reviewing this research for my assessment I am aware that I still have many habits to break or improve on.




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.

In the paper “Photographs and Contexts”, Terry Barrett introduces us to visual communication theory by quoting Roland Barthes who was a leading structuralism thinker in the 20th century, and who drew on the science of the way signs behave in society, particularly the arbitrariness of signs within communication systems[1].

Barrett quotes Roland Barthes’ (Accessed 14.09.2016)  point of how the context of a photograph is related to its “channel of transmission” (and a point of reception). In his theory of visual communication, using press photography as the analogy, Barthes adds that even if the original context of a photograph is, for example the couple drinking wine in a French cafe as in the Doisneau photo, it is also dependent not only on the photographer, but the journalist who chooses the photo, those who put it into context in the publication and those who give it a title. Following these variants the point of reception i.e. the reader of the publication then interprets the meaning of the photo. In this case three different channels of transmission change the original context of the shot, depending which publication and context it is viewed in. When a) it is used by a campaigning group to warn of the dangers of alcohol, b) it is used by a scandal sheet, this time with a by line leading the viewer to be shocked by prostitution on the Champs Elysee or c) when it was viewed in its original publication Le Point. There is a further interpretation of this same shot when it was presented as art in the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and lastly it was published in a book by the museum where the curator suggests that the photo is one of potential seduction and from my interpretation of this adding certain eroticism.

So, to take us back to the Barrett paper the internal context does not really change. The environment of the café with the couple drinking wine is still present. However, if we then apply a conceptual framework as an aid to interpret photographs other considerations come into play and may be applied in an order or randomly. Commonalities including, selectivity, instantaneity and credibility may help us with deciding the cohesion of the shot. The contextual considerations as described by Barrett of internal, external and original will give information within the shot, information surrounding the shot and information about the making, evidence and meaning of the shot leading to a conclusion for the viewer.

On reviewing my own photographs for this assignment I came across a shot I’d taken of a sign when practicing with depth of field. At the time the original context was depth of field practice and the sign was a useful tool to practice with. However, since the referendum on leaving the European Union the context surrounding the shot has changed.



My focus point was the word EUROPE with the surrounding words out of focus. The words above Europe include the English Channel, Southampton and other place names in England all out of focus and suggesting (now) a distance between Europe and England.

In my research for this exercise I came across the work of Ray Carofano  I was particularly attracted to the desolation and beauty of his Broken Dreams and Riverrun portfolios. I discovered that all shots were captured using a cheap plastic camera called a Holga. The Holga’s plastic lens renders the centre of the image sharp with the sharpness falling off at the edges. He then uses a very complex darkroom editing process, using very expensive equipment. I was intrigued whether or not this technique could be replicated using a DSLR and Lightroom or Photoshop post production editing.

I am not yet competent using Photoshop or Loghtroom and know that there is a way of reducing sharpness by selecting parts of the shot. However, I did not master the technique for this exercise. I did manage to produce a soft focus effect by reducing the contrast and I applied a sepia filter in Lightroom. Many of his shots have a dark vignette at the edges and I applied one to my shot. Although, not a direct comparison to the Carofano technique I was quite pleased with the outcome of the style I had achieved. (Accessed 03.09.2016)

The original context of Broken Dreams is the rundown and decline of buildings (usually in the Mojave Desert) the given date lets us know that the original context is modern. As it is presented as part of a portfolio in similar style this is also part of the original context. As part of a portfolio and exhibition, the internal context is in the style that leads us to believe it is an old picture of an area in decline and allows us to imagine what the scene may have been like in it’s useful life. The external or environmental context suggests an area in decline.

baud-station-1-of-1-2My response, Baud Station, Brittany, 2016.

In my response to Carofano, I was drawn to the subject of decline but also the style in which the shot was presented. Within the limitations of not having access to the equipment used to produce the effect of the Broken Dreams series. The original context my shot is of a station and a factory (an agricultural cooperative) in which I wanted to demonstrate the decline in the French economic system. By using a post editing process in response to the Carofano photo, I did not want to present this as a “real representation” of the station but wanted to present it as a more artistic or romantic shot (original context). The station was in use from the early 20th century until the beginning of the 21st century for both passenger and commercial use (internal context). From the weeds on the line it can be seen that the station is no longer in use but although it is not clear, the factory still is (the external context).




[1] (accessed 14.09.2016)

Exercise 5.1: The Distance Between Us

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. 


For this exercise I visited Alnwick Garden. Situated within the grounds of Alnwick Castle, and is part of the Duke of Northumberland’s Estate.  The Duchess of Northumberland created it in 2001, from an original garden by Capability Brown which had fallen into disrepair. The garden is a series of formal gardens with complex planting and formal structures.  As a keen gardener the distance between my dream garden and this vast area of cultivated land is immense.  I was interested in the combination of planting and structural designs.  The elaborate fountains are integrated into the planting plan and provide an interactive opportunity for visitors.

I found myself drawn to the structures in the garden, some of them created with the plants themselves.  This was unexpected as I had imagined that I would be taking lots of shots of flowers and plants.

Alnwick Garden (3 of 11)

I took this image because I liked the leading line and the enclosed pathway created by the arched beech tunnel.  I am wondering what lies behind the bend in the pathway in this shot.  I had not expected there to be lighting in the tunnel, seen here below the white box on the left hand side, because the garden is only open during daylight hours.  This left me wondering why?

Alnwick Garden (1 of 11)

The garden is famous for its water features, and many of them are purely decorative.  I was drawn to those which had curtains of water falling from a flat surface and once again, found myself wondering what was behind the screen of water and wanting to get behind it, hiding, looking out onto those passing by.  I took several shots of this type of fountain and in particular liked the line of the fountain rim showing what appears to be a gentle fall of water but which was in fact a massive amount of water, creating quite a lot of noise.  Again, an unexpected find, as I assumed that the use of water in a garden was to provide a more relaxing type of noise

Alnwick Garden (10 of 11)

Even within the formal flower gardens there is structure to the design and structures within the design.  These enormous vases are an example, and the contrast between the peach roses and the blue delphiniums both in colour and size was an interesting discovery.  The vases are built-in with unique stone slabs which host an array of colours complementing the flowers.  Who made these solely decorative and extravagant pieces of art?  Although I had visited the garden previously, I had not noticed the vases (my photographs show that they were there), and I realised that gardens can provide a surprise for visitors and viewers.


Alnwick Garden (5 of 11)

Because of the size of the garden the scale of the structures within it are also very large and I was drawn to this monkey because of his face (one of three), holding up and enormous urn .  I couldn’t decide if he was laughing or trying to scare people away.  Although, the garden is only 15 years old the patina on the urn was well established and it looked like it had been there for hundreds of years, which made me wonder if it had been an original included in the Capability Brown design.

Alnwick Garden (6 of 11)

In this cropped shot the flatness of the water provided a lovely mirror to catch the reflections of passers-by.  The feature was in a circle of enclosed planting which meant it was impossible to capture the people and their reflections.  I initially rejected this shot but really like the effect and decided to crop it to lose the torso of the people, but left in the structure on the right which is a reflection of the fountain in another enclosure.  I was tempted to turn the shot on its head to replicate a mirror but decided to leave it because it creates a mystery about the people and why they might have been there.

Alnwick Garden (4 of 11)

The garden is also famous for its enormous Treehouse restaurant.  I was disappointed not to be able to get a decent view of the Treehouse because of the foliage growth around it.  However, down a track behind it I found a series of walkways and rope bridges, built just for fun for visitors to enjoy when visiting the restaurant and cafe within the building.  The tower gives an idea of the scale of the building.

Alnwick Garden (8 of 11)

Although, technically this isn’t a great shot, I wanted to demonstrate the way the structures provide interaction for  the public.  On a previous visit the day was hot and sunny and the fountains were full of children fully clothed which was surprising.  I don’t think I would have allowed my children to dive in and out of water fountains when they were small but it appears with the development of this type of water feature around the country it is more acceptable than 30 years ago.

Alnwick Garden (7 of 11)

Just before I visited the garden on this occasion I had been studying Ernst Haas and this is an example of Homage to his photography.  I asked the girl in the previous shot to swirl the water so that the ripples were coming toward me but it didn’t really work so I created the ripples myself. The now previously flat surface of the water is disturbed but still creating a sense of calm.  This is perhaps the way I might describe how I felt about the garden.

Alnwick Garden (9 of 11)


One of the streams leading to the main fountain is stone bottomed which provides a lovely surface for the water to bubble and tumble over.  Like all of the structures they have been carefully created to provide interest.  Some are straight, and some like this one are gently curved.  In contrast to the fountains with the flat surfaces this creates a sense of excitement and left me wondering where it was going and what I was going to find when I got to the source at the end of it.

Alnwick Garden (11 of 11)

My selection.   In terms of the brief of the exercise all paths and streams lead to this point.  The Grand Cascade.  Here I am waiting for the fountains to start and I have distanced myself from it and the other viewers.  I am behind a bank of plants and the other people are unaware of my presence.  They are all getting on with their own thoughts about the garden.  The man in the mid ground is pushing a wheelchair and talking to the person in it, the person behind the central yellow flower had their arms folded.  What are they saying to the person almost completely hidden behind the plants?   There is a woman in the central ground with her arm on the back of a child. In front of them is a couple, one sitting and one standing, and then the  child in the centre at the bottom of the cascade is standing with her hand to her face, waiting in anticipation for the spectacle.

All in all the distance between me (the photographer) and these shots has surprised me.  From the scale of the garden, the clever designs using structure and planting that I would never have considered, through the discovery of the many paths, tunnels (including a bamboo maze) leading me to another surprise, of the distance between me, there for the purpose of taking shots for this course and all of the other visitors, there for their own reasons.  A very revealing exercise for me.

Exercise 4.4

Exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colours 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. 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 is you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets the 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 sequences 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 of the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercise 4.2 and 4.3.  


For this exercise I used a pair of small constant studio lights.  I also took one set of shots using daylight and a reflector.  My set up sketch shows how I set  the shots up using either one or two lights and alternating the use of the reflector.

IMG_1588 copy


Image 1 is simply lit with one side light and no reflector.The lights have cause a hard reflection on the pepper and controlling this was difficult whilst retaining the detail in the black background (a piece of black felt).  The shadow of the pepper is visible on the left hand side.  This is similar to the result in 4.2 when the sun was directly onto the side of the lemon

Image 1

Pepper 4.4

Image 2

Rose 1 4.4

Image 2 was set up using two lights to each side of the rose.  This produced a much softer light and the petals of the rose almost glow in the light.

In Image 3 I changed the position of the rose and moved the lights to the front of the subject.  The result was a softer light than I had expected. However, there is a reflection on the black felt where the light bounced off a slight irregularity in the cloth.

Image 3

1 front lit
1 front lit

In Image 4 I introduced a gold reflector to the right of the rose which blocked out one of the lights. The result is a much warmer image.  I also tried a white reflector which made no difference to the light on the image.

Image 4

2 front lit gold
2 front lit gold

In Image 5 I changed the lighting to the side on image 5 using two lights, one either side of the subject. The imperfections in the cloth are still visible and light on the rose has become harder than the front light rose with the gold reflector.

Image 5

side lit
side lit

And in Image 6 I re-introduced the gold reflector on the right and again blocked out the light on that side. The result is a very warm image of slightly diffused light,  I also used a shallower Depth of Field.

Image 6

front lit gold 1 light
side lit gold 1 light

Finally, in Image 7 I opened the curtains and took three shots of the rose using the same settings.  The first daylight only is underexposed, I then introduced a silver reflector and the rose head petal edges are brighter and exposure of the head is better.  Then in the third image I used a gold reflector and the result is a warmer image.  Although, all three remain underexposed the difference of introducing a reflector is noticeable.

Image 7


Image 7a

daylight silver
daylight silver

Image 7b

daylight gold
daylight gold



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.


I struggled with this exercise, trying first to backlight a flower or a leaf and demonstrate the transparency of the delicate petals and bringing out the colours in the leaf (a maple) that can’t be seen normally. I decided then to use the opportunity of a recent trip to Brighton to take some outdoor shots.

PierLumix GX7, f4.7, 1/15sec, ISO 3200, WB shade.

I tried various settings for this and plumped for the high ISO and shade for WB. Other results were less warm with highlights and darks being very blown out. Because of the high level of noise I sharpened the shot in LR and reduced the noise reduction. I hand held the camera and in retrospect would have benefited by taking a tripod with me.

The dynamic range of the shot is wide from the black sky to the white neon lights of the signs making the task of getting the correct exposure a challenge.

Compared to  daylight shots, the artificial light from the street lights is warm and creates a pleasing reflection on the sea. However, the neon lighting is very harsh and hard. There are no obvious shadows and the detail in the dark areas is almost lost. There are two people on the beach on the left lower corner of the image, which is barely visible.

Brighton, on the beachLumix GX7, f4.7, 1/22sec, ISO 3200, WB shade.


This shot uses the same settings with a shorter shutter speed. The result is less noise; this was a bit of a surprise that a small change of about a third produced an obvious difference. I tried the shot with a lower ISO but because I was hand holding the camera I needed a shutter speed of more than 30 seconds and this produced a lot of camera shake. There was nowhere obvious to stabilise the camera. I experimented with speeds and this shot produced the least noise.


The quality of the light in this shot is more appealing and although there is a wide dynamic range, the shaft of softer pools light in the foreground compared to the harder light of the pier contrast greatly compared to the hard light of the midday sun in the exercise 4.3 and the shadows it cast. The shot in the previous exercise where detail was lost because of shadow falling on the lemon does not compare to the loss of detail in these night shots

Big WheelLumix GX7, f4.7, 1/13 sec, ISO 3200, WB shade.

Keeping the ISO and WB the same I tackled the “Eye”. Not only was there a wide dynamic range but the wheel was moving requiring a faster shutter speed to reduce movement blur. This range of light presents a problem because the bright hard areas need a short exposure to retain detail whilst the dark areas benefit from long exposure to retain detail. These shots are a compromise and in this shot the neon lights of the cars were blown our and I have adjusted them slightly in LR.

light trailsLumix GX7, f5.4 1sec, ISO 200, WB cloudy

In this shot I used a longer exposure after finding a railing to rest my camera on. One second was still about as long an exposure that I could manage without more motion blur. The quality of light in this shot is much more even, except for the street lights but the softer light trails of the cars rear lights balance the overall dynamic range and the slower exposure helps to balance the overall light.

There were some surprising outcomes for me in this exercise. When I couldn’t manage the exposure well at the beginning of the exercise I set the camera on auto and took note of the settings. I then proceeded to work with these settings and left the ISO on 3200. I wish now that I had experimented a bit more with the ISO and looked to see if I could have brought it down somewhat. Many of my test shots were very grainy and I have adjusted some in LR for this blog so that they appear more acceptable. When the nights draw in I will be taking my camera out again to further experiment with the camera settings and I WILL take a tripod.



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 Brandt. 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.


Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 16.40.23


Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 09.40.38

I have recently moved to Alnwick, famous for its castle . the home of the Duke of Northumberland and the shooting location of the Harry Potter films and the serial Downton Abbey.  It is also well known for the gardens that the current Duchess created. which include a Poison Garden housing many garden plants that are highly toxic, a real visitor attraction.  The gardens are magnificent in themselves with a creative design incorporating many fountains and water features, mazes, leafy tunnels and quirky activities.  The castle holds daily broomstick flying lessons and regularly has incidental features such as the Super Heroes I came across the day I was there.  There are many images on Google featuring the gardens and it is a photographers’ paradise presenting the opportunity to take traditional shots of the flower beds and landscape but also to encourage a more creative approach too.

Walk way
Walk way

Alnwick Garden, Beech Steps

Alnwick Garden, Beech Tunnel
Alnwick Garden, Beech Tunnel

The three shots above are of a traditional view of the garden, with the leafy walkways offering the opportunity to lead the viewer into the shot. and is reminiscent of the style of many photographers. including leading landscape photographer Charlie Waite.

WAITE-BELGIUM-DAMM_2949679k (accessed 10.07.2016)


Alnwick Garden, Fountain 2
Alnwick Garden, Fountain 2
Alnwick Garden, fountain
Alnwick Garden, fountain

The shots of two of the  fountains in the garden were inspired by Ernst Haas.  It is not intended to copy or replicate the kind of images Haas produced. more to use them as inspiration for a creative interpretation of water.   In the first it is the reflections in the water and of the photographer in the steel construction.  In the second I tried to capture the movement of the falling water by shooting only part of the fountain to create a more abstract view.



Ernst Haas, Japan 1984

http://www.ernst-hass.c0m/abstract-1.html (accessed 11.07.2016)

Alnwick Garden, Peony
Alnwick Garden, Peony

There has to be at least one flower shot from a garden.  This shot is not as creative as those of Haas and had I been taking this as a shot in its own right I would have focused more on the inner petals of the flower but I wanted it to have some context.