Category Archives: Coursework

Exercise 5.2

Exercise 5.2

The Task


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 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 have spent around three and half years living on the Isle of Man for two separate periods.  The Isle of Man is famous for its motor sports and in particular the TT motorcycle racing which takes place every year at the end of May/early June.  I had been to two earlier TT races but felt my photos were largely the same as every other person out on the course.  There is the added difficulty that as an amateur photographer I was unable to go into some of the spots marked for the media photographers.  The racing takes place over two weeks – a practice/qualifying week and then a race week culminating in Senior Race Day (a public holiday on the Isle of Man).

Prior to going out this year I researched both how to take motor sports photographs and I looked at motorsports photographers through a Google search.

The one that seemed to have a good variety of work both of cars and motorcycles was Jamey Price.  He appears to use two techniques – panning to give a sense of motion which results in a sharp motor vehicle but blurred background or the opposite using a fast shutter speed to freeze action or give a ‘decisive moment’.

The photo I have chosen from his work is

( accessed on 4/6/2017)

This photo shows the moment the car hit the mud in rainy conditions on the race track.  I am responding to the excitement of motor racing but also the skill of capturing a ‘decisive moment’ – the viewer of this photo will be left wondering what happened next – did the car go out of control or was the driver able to bring it back under control.  There is also the difficulty of taking photos in such conditions.

The photo below was taken during the first Superbike race during TT:

I believe this image shows a ‘decisive moment’ with the bike up in the air – he has just gone over a hump in the road.

In exploring Barrett’s (accessed 24/04/2017) article and the three types of information available for this image the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • Internal context – if one clicks through to the picture information this internal context is readily available in Photoshop under file information.  It will show that the author is myself, the image number and that it was taken on 4/6/2017.
  • External context – this refers to the ‘presentational environment. It can be seen that this is a motorcycle on a road that has a number on it suggesting that it is participating in a race.  There appears to only be a small audience so one may wonder if it is a practice.  If the viewer is unaware of how the TT race works they may wonder about a bike on its own in the middle of what appears to be a rural area.
  • This leads me on to the original context which is around what I knew was physically and psychologically present when taking the image. This meant I was aware that the TT race is a timed race which means that the bikes start at 10 second intervals so that particularly on the first lap often they will come through the course singly.  I also was aware that the race takes place over 37 miles of roads on the island and passes through built up areas as well as rural areas.  In addition there are now very strict guidelines in some areas of where spectators can be or not be in order to minimise the risk of spectators being injured if there is an accident with a bike.  The small audience on that side of the road is due to that being private property and restricted to the general public.  Sadly every year motor cyclists are killed undertaking what is seen as one of the most dangerous motorcycle events in the world.  This year there were three and in fact I have an image of one competitor at this spot whom within 30 minutes of my taking the photo was fatally injured.  Thus psychologically one is always mindful of the danger ever present but also in the case of my image above the superhuman strength required to control a bike that flies in the air in order to land safely.  For me these instances are the ‘decisive moment’ of motorbike racing.  Despite this awareness there is always the psychological awareness of ‘the race’.  I have over the years followed one particular New Zealand competitor, Bruce Anstey, which gives me a particular psychological interest in how he does – 13th in this particular event from memory.  He did get a 1st in a race later in the week.  Barrett (p.116) talks about attempting ‘to place the pictured segment back into the whole for several reasons and in particular to understand the reality it came from.  In terms of my picture the original includes a wider frame which has a 50 mile an hour sign which could have added some irony to the photo as the bikes tend to average over 120 m.p.h. around the course.  My first version of cropping the photo was as below:

However, I think including the people on the wall gave the impression that it was a race and that there was audience participation.  The slightly blurred background in the one with the audience means that the bike is still clear and the main focus of the image.

REFERENCES accessed on 4/6/2017 accessed 24/4/2017

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 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.


For this exercise I used a group of teenagers from a local dance group Unity.  A local photographer, Andrew Barton, organised a workshop – some of the photos are shot in his studio and some outside in the local area.

For this exercise I have chosen photos that on looking at them generally have something unexpected in the shot rather than the more formal, completely composed, smiling young people.

I have a lot of empathy with children and young people as I work with them on a daily basis as part of my job as a social worker.  This group were great to work with because, as they relaxed, they came up with their own ideas for poses, and  you could see they were having a lot of fun.

In terms of distance – the group in the studio set ups were relatively close and it was easy to get into a dialogue and get the girls to change the pose.  They were at more of a distance in the car park but by this stage they were very relaxed and able to come up with ideas of their own.  I was restricted by only having the two lenses with me – some of our group who had a telephoto took photos at more of a distance in the car park.

I used my Canon 6D camera and mainly used a 50 mm lens in the studio and the 24-105 mm lens for the outdoor photography.  The camera was set on a tripod with a wireless trigger to utilise the studio lights.

There were two main set ups used in the studio – one with a black background and one with a white background as shown in the diagram below.


Lens EF24-105 with focal length of 58mm 1/160, f9, ISO100


In this photo I did have the wall of the studio and edge of one of the lights included – this was a difficulty with being part of a group of photographers all vying for the best spot!  However it does frame the photo on the left.  I’ve also included it because it is somewhat unexpected in that it is not completely formally posed with the two girls on the right clearly enjoying a joke together.


Lens 50 mm, 1/200, f10, ISO 100

In contrast this picture is more formally posed – however I think a bit of ‘punctum’ is added to the photo by the ginger headed girl at the top looking sideways down at the group.

Lens 50mm f.18 II, 1/200, f8, ISO100

In this photo the studio umbrellas have been used to help ‘frame’ the group.  Again the ‘mistake’ is the inclusion of the photo wall and gobo light.  This could be fixed by a square crop as below:

Lens 50 mm 1/200 f8 ISO100

Again I enjoyed the spontaneity of the two back girls in this photo however there are several mistakes – the back girl’s arm is chopped off, the lighting has made the front girl’s photo look orange and I think there is too much umbrella in the left half of the photo.

Lens 50 mm, 1/200, f8, ISO100

Lens 50mm; 1/200, f9, ISO100

This was a pose that the girls sorted out for themselves – however the left hand girl at the front struggled with it which is why she was lifting her head that point.

Lens EF 24-105, 1/25, f10, ISO 100

This was one taken outside a church across the road.  For me there is at least one mistake and one unintentional inclusion.  I think this one may have been improved by a vertical orientation which at the least included the entire door.  There is also the green moss at the side which I’m not sure detracts from the photo.  The girl in pink is also not focused well – probably due to the shutter speed being too low.  The addition of flash would also have helped – unfortunately my flash decided to die at this point and it was not a battery problem – I’ve had to buy a new flash since then.


Lens 24-105, 1/50/ ISO 200, f22

This photo includes some ‘framing’ – the blue metal railings and edge of the wall to the left and the top of the tower and wall to the right.  A slow shutter speed on Tv was used in order to give the sense of motion – I could equally have chosen to use a fast shutter speed to freeze the action.  I feel the incorporation of the speed bump and down ramp to the right gives some context that this is taken in a car park.  For me this is my ‘select’ as it does have some framing that gives context to the photo but also has some action along with the clock tower giving a bit of ‘ punctum’.

Lens 24-105, 1/160, f4, ISO 200

This last photo was also taken in the car park and is framed by the walls each side.  I think if you didn’t know this was a planned shoot it gives the idea of a group of teenagers hanging around and creating their own fun – in fact you often see groups of young people in this car park.

I really enjoyed working with this group of young people – they were willing to try anything and were pleased to have the attention of our group.  I do have a lot more images from the day that look much more formally posed but I felt these examples both highlight learning from the day (i.e. from the ‘mistakes’) but often seemed to have a more punctum due to a less formal pose.

Exercise 4.5

The Task

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 y our Google images source images of the same subject.

My Subject – The Firth of Forth Railway Bridge

I have long been fascinated by this bridge in much the same way as Ernst Haas experienced his apple.  I have photographed it many times and more often than not in the same way as the Google screengrab below:

Nearly all the photos show the whole bridge – many are taken in daylight with a couple at sunset and at night time.    They are also all in colour showing the brick red colour.

In the first few images rather than showing the whole bridge I showed some of the detail of this amazing piece of Victorian Engineering – the photos were taken from the car park at Sea World.   The next one shows some of the perspective of the bridge by including the houses of North Queensferry in the arch.   In fact this photo was taken through an archway in the road bridge.  The last one is also taken from North Queensferry and uses the wall as a leading line.  It also has the size of the bridge looking smaller in the distance.  The photos were taken on a grey bland day which did make it a little more difficult to get creative – the photos could have looked even more dramatic if there had been either stormy clouds or a sunrise/set shining through the structure.

Exercise 4.4

Exercise 4.4

The Task

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 artefacts 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 and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.

For this exercise I went to a workshop where the tutor was Andrew Barton who is a local photographer on the island.  He gave some information at the beginning of the workshop on the sorts of lighting we would be using – continuous, side lighting and lights triggered by wireless flashes attached to our cameras.  He warned us that we may need to manually focus when doing close up work.

When using flash you need to know the sync speed for the flash.  He said you can set to any speed up to 250.  At 250 this takes out any ambient light.  He also spoke to us about colour temperatures.

He mentioned metering – centred, partial, spot and evaluative.

He said that the camera sees the light on the subject; not that which is reflected back unless the light is bounced off the ceiling.  A diffuser scatters light everywhere – he recommended that you only use one if the ceiling is low.

He said you need to visualise the picture and visualise the light.

It was then time to get into the photography and experiment for ourselves.

  1. Continuous lighting.

This was done with a blue backdrop.

Thus for this first picture the fruit was lit from the side at an approximately 45 degree angle and also from above.  A blue backdrop was used.   I also used a flash on the camera set at 1/64.  As mentioned in the task it was hard to get the focus completely right.

2.  Side lit flowers with left light triggered by flash:

For the next two photos we used flowers that had been frozen in ice – this gave a nice effect as the ice started to melt.

I also found I couldn’t use Live View to compose and take the images as the settings were deceptive and if you took a photo using Live View it came out too dark.  I used a depth of field of f22 and a shutter speed of 200 for these.  ISO was set to 100.

These photos show the difference made by where you place the camera.

Thus when taking the photo front on there is very little visible shadow but in the second photo where I moved round to the side of the table there was a marked shadow.

In comparison with the other photos in the previous exercises you had more control over the lighting in the studio and where you wanted it to fall and if you wanted shadows or not.  In most cases the items ended up evenly lit although the strawberries and nuts had some highlights on them.

Exercise 4.3

The Task

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.

Please click on each image to get the full size photo.

I have always loved the city at night.  I jumped ahead of myself to take this series of images as I was in London at Christmas time.  The images were taken between twilight and night time – the photo of the Shard does run into the danger of being isolated in the frame.  I used the camera on a tripod and used long exposures.  This meant in some images I got light trails from passing cars to add to the interest.  This also turned the carousel into a circle of light.  In comparison with the images in Exercise 4.2 there is not a lot of detail in the actual sky but in most of the images there is enough detail in the buildings so this does not detract from the photo.

I also on one of my visits to Scotland went into Edinburgh and took photos of the Christmas lights and fairground rides with the thought that this could be expanded for Assignment 4.