Category Archives: Part 5

Assignment 5 – Photography is Simple



There are two fundamentals in all picture taking – where to stand and when to release the shutter … so photography is very simple.

(Jay & Hurn, 2001, p.37)


So  photography  is  simply  viewpoint  and  moment…  but  what  about  subject?  The  simplest subject is the moment. You can record the moment with a snapshot, but when you  review  the  photograph  later  you  find  you  didn’t  actually  record  the  moment,  you just recorded the ‘event of photography’.

It might take a very long time to simplify the whole world and its infinite framings into a subject that makes sense to you. Robert Adams said, ‘Sooner or later one has to ask of all pictures what kind of life they promote’ (Grundberg, 1999, p.34).  For now, though, you should just feel comfortable with your subject. It should say something about you and, in the end, you like it!


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.

 Assignment notes

In  your  assignment  notes  explore  why  you  chose  this  particular  subject  by  answering the  question  ‘What  is  it  about?’  Write  about  300  words.  Your  response  to  the  question doesn’t have to be complicated; it might be quite simple (but if you can answer in one word then you will have to imaginatively interpret your photographs for the remaining 299!).  Make sure you word process and spellcheck your notes as they’re an important part of the assignment.

For  this  assignment  it  is  important  that  you  send  a  link  (or  scanned  pages)  to  the contextual exercise (Exercise 5.2) for your tutor to comment on within their report.

What is it About?


This title collage is designed to give an idea of the subject of my assignment – then and now in the Laxey Valley and in particular the demise of metal mining and the diversification into tourism.  In viewing the remaining images the viewer needs to take into account the following as outlined by Barrett ( [accessed 02/07/2017])

Internal context:  Each image has something from the Laxey valley and some connection to mining (the motorcross rider was heading to the Snaefell Mine).  I tried to add some ‘punctum’ by including people where I could.

External context:  Some of the images are set in the valley which gives the context of the location of the mines and wheel; the weather was generally a bright day with harsh light hence the lack of shadows in most photos.  The last photo is intended to show some of the negative impact of tourism (my tutor suggested ‘mass’ tourism – numbers are small on the Isle of Man!).

Original context:  The images of the ruins were made after a 3 mile trek in hot sun up the valley to the site of the Snaefell mine with camera and tripod in tow.  I tried to get different viewpoints of the ruins.  I have turned these into sepia to give the idea of the past and in one case made a composite in photoshop in order to give the idea of a miner.  I deliberately chose to have the now (or tourist) photos in colour as a contrast.  The first photo was taken using HDR mode on the camera due to the light conditions and a need to bracket.


The rest of the ruins were in a harsh almost midday light much like Michael Schmidt ( -about-my-way-of working-1979.html  [accessed 02/07/2017]).


The link to Exercise 5.2 is

Further information and reflections (including reflections on the whole course) can be found at:



Exercise 5.3

Exercise 5.3

The Task

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

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

To see the image please follow this link (accessed on 9/7/2017).

The obvious ‘point’ in this image is the man jumping over the puddle of water.  However, if we think of the image in Terry Barrett’s terms of contexts there is a lot more in the photo than just the man and the ‘decisive moment’.  Another point is the ladder which leads the eye to the man but for me the shadowy figures in the backgrounds are also ‘points’ of interest.   What are these people thinking as they see the man in a hurry – are they wondering if he will trip and fall (the surrounding components to the integral point of the image).

While one cannot tell from looking at the image how it is made or the original context we know from Henri-Cartier Bresson himself that it was a photo taken through the railings and that in fact he did not see the man at the point he took the image.  It is likely he was thinking of form and geometry so perhaps for him the ladder leading into the man may have been equally important.  It is in hindsight that this image became known as ‘The Decisive Moment’.

I enjoy nature photography and over the summer have spent many enjoyable moments watching various insects in the pond – I believe Cartier-Bresson’s decisive moment can be equally applicable to some of the actions taken by insects in the course of their daily lives:

This image captures the point at which two damsel flies are mating – interesting how they form a heart shape which is a ‘point’ of interest.  In terms of the external context – it is the pond while the original context would be the equipment used including a macro lens.

This second ‘decisive moment’ shows a spider attacking a fly caught in it’s web.  The external and original contexts are the same as for the damsel flies above.

And last but not least this image captures a bee in flight with the same external and original contexts.  The flower also provides a ‘point’ of interest and framing for the image.

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.