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Sunday, 10 October 2010

Assignment3 - Submission

As usual I’ve opted to not upload my assignment notes to the blog at this time; I have sent printed versions and notes direct to my Tutor and await my feedback. I will continue with the next stages (Light) and will update the blog in due course (with any relevant assignment feedback).

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Colours into tones in black-and-white

This exercise is to see how colour effects tone in black & white images. The idea being to make a still-life arrangement that includes the colours red, blue, yellow & green; firstly taking one exposure in colour, then creating 5 black & white versions of the original. firstly a straight conversion, followed by 4 more, but for each one a different colour filter (the same colours as the still life) is applied, then to record the effect on the tonality of the result. (I used Photoshop colour filter presets).

I used Photoshop to apply the colour filters. (black & White film users would have had to use physical coloured filters over the camera lens to create the same effect)


I raided my daughter’s Lego box for this one! I wanted to use really strong definite colours and the Lego was perfect for this. I placed my ‘Still-Life’ onto a large grey card (to observe that the tone of the grey remained constant through the exercise), the camera was setup on a tripod and I was using natural light through a large window. The sky low grey cloud and dull which kept the light constant. I used an auto white balance setting for the original colour image.  

The camera was set up as:

39mm f/16 0.5 sec ISO 100

Colour Version

Black & White conversion - No Filter

The original coloured shot and the straight black and white conversion with no tone changes or filters applied. Apart from the bright yellow converting to a lighter tone, the rest of the colours have become very similar in tone which seems quite flat to me.

Green Filter

With the green filter the green base has become much lighter, the blue blocks have become darker in tone and the yellow blocks are also significantly brighter than the straight conversion. The red blocks where interesting though as their tone is almost exactly the same as the green base.

Blue Filter

The blue filter has made the blue blocks much lighter in tone, with the red and yellow blocks becoming much darker, especially the red blocks. The green base has become a little darker but only slightly. The most dramatic change is with the red and yellow blocks. It appears that those colours are being blocked by the filter.

Yellow Filter

The Yellow and red blocks have become lighter, especially the yellow; where detail has been lost in the highlights. In contrast he blue blocks have darkened and are so dark in tone, that some of the detail has been lost in shadow.

Red Filter

I feel that the red filter has made the most dramatic contrast to the image. The yellow and red blocks are very bright (very close to how the yellow filter worked), The blue blocks have turned to a very deep dark tone, with the green base also turning to very deep black tone.

A really fun exercise, showing how colour can be used to control the tones in black and white. I had experimented with this in the previous assignment elements of design, where I converted my submissions to black and white in a similar way to this, boosting the tones that would best compliment the subject.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Black and White

There is more to black and white then just a de-saturated image. It takes the influence of colour from the scene concentrating you more towards the structure of the composition.

I experimented with this idea a little in the last section ‘elements of design’  using monochrome versions of quite colourful subjects to emphasise the form and structure of the photographs. This section explores the idea in more detail of how colour can affect the tones of a black & white photograph and the control we have over these tones.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Colour relationships - Exercise

This exercise is in 2 parts in order to start exploring the relationships of colour in the frame. The first part is to produce a photograph for each of the primary and secondary colours in the correct proportions (or nearest to them). The second part is to produce 3 to 4 photographs in any colour combination that is appealing. 

I struggled to find the colour combinations for the first part of this exercise; trying to get the exact proportions of primary to secondary colour, as well as finding the examples in the first place. However I gave it my best go anyway! 

Red / Green 1:1

55mm f/4 1/125 sec ISO 100

Probably the easiest to find out of the Primary combinations; red and green I found a lot of this combination in nature as well as in the ‘manmade’ world, however to make myself work harder I tried to stick with nature or ‘found’ shots where I could.

The frame was composed in camera getting in close and using a 100mm focal length to maintain the 1 to 1 ratio as much as possible. The flower is fairly central and and relatively static however I felt that the contrast between the brighter red and darker green balances nicely.

Orange / Blue 1:2

44mm f/4/5 1/60 sec ISO 800

Not a very interesting photograph, subject wise however it posed an opportunity to get the colour combination for the exercise. Overall I don’t actually like the image, the ratio isn’t correct and it feels very off-balance. I considered cropping it further to correct the rations and although It is closer to the right ration it could be considered a bit too abstract.

Yellow / Violet 1:3

55mm f/13 1/125 sec ISO 100

I’m again not really happy with this image, it’s off-balance and although sometimes that creates a more dynamic image, it just doesn’t work this time. The problem I had was getting the focal length so that the ratios between the colours were close to their ideal proportions but keep the composition interesting; but even though the proportions are pretty close the image doesn’t work. in my mind.

The second part of the exercise was a little easier as there were no restrictions on the colours or the proportions

Yellow / Blue

18mm f/11 1/250 sec ISO 400

I love the contrasting blue and yellow in these beach huts. The alternating pattern of the blue then yellow doors creates a regular pattern drawing the eyes into the distance. This is also strengthened by the zigzag of the roofs and the diagonals lines that create the perspective, depth and rhythm. I guess the ratio is close to 1:2 Yellow to blue which is similar to the Orange/Blue ideal. Although not quite complimentary on the colour wheel I think the balance works very well.



50mm* f/22 2 sec ISO 100

The contrast between the dark green and bright yellow draws attention to the flower. placement in the frame adds to the interest and balances the image. However the flower disappearing top right from the frame ‘bleeds’ colour away from the subject and I find this a little distracting.


Orange / Green

50mm* f/22 2 sec ISO 100

I don’t own a macro lens (saving up still!) but I used a 50mm Prime with some macro extension rings to be able to focus a lot closer to the subject. In this case a pepper! I wanted to try something a bit more abstract. I personally really like the green orange combination and even though the composition is tight I fell there is still movement around the curves of the pepper.


Red / Orange / Green

50mm f/22 3 sec ISO 100

I used the same setup and natural lighting for the above 2 shots of the strawberry and the tomato. I wanted to show how light affected the colours. Where the light hits the subject creates an orange tone and in the shaded area the redder it becomes. I also wanted to include the red/green combination out of the ideal proportions.


250mm f/11 1/180 sec ISO 200

Something that struck me just before posting this entry was that I have tended to look for a contrast; I’ve looked for strong tone changes, for example yellow and green are from the same part of the colour circle however I chose a darker green against the bright yellow, all of the images in the exercise follow the same pattern ‘bright Vs. Dark’, creating that contrast. Not sure if this is a conscious thing or not as this exercise was about what ‘I’ liked in terms of colour combinations. I will see if the trend follows as I progress…


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Colour relationships

Complementary colours - Colours that are opposite each other on the colour circle. The ideal proportions of colours in a frame for harmony are:

  • Red: Green 1:1
  • Orange: Blue 1:2
  • Yellow: Violet 1:3

Similar colours - Those colours that are near each other on the colour wheel, as in a cool or warm range of colours, for example:

  • Yellow: Orange
  • Blue: Violet

Contrasting colours - Colours combinations that are spaced about a third of the way around the circle, for example:

  • Orange: Green: Violet
  • Red: Blue: Yellow

Colour accents - Where a small area of colour sits against a much larger background of another colour, Could be any of the above, but may work better is some combinations than others

Monday, 20 September 2010

Camille Silvy: Photographer of Modern Life 1834-1910

I just happened to be in London the other week and walking past the National Portrait Gallery with some time to kill and I noticed an exhibition was currently showing for Camille Silvy. Not having heard of him until now, I decided to pop in for a viewing.

‘Camille Silvy was a pioneer of early photography and one of the greatest French photographers of the 19th century’


‘Working under the patronage of Queen Victoria, Silvy photographed royalty, aristocrats and celebrities. He also portrayed uncelebrated people, the professional classes and country gentry, their wives, children and servants.’

Exhibition text – National Portrait Gallery

The exhibition was divided into various sections, detailing particular times/genres in his life.

Introducing Camille Silvy

As with all photographers I’ve seen he started off as an amateur while working as a French diplomat. The first section of the exhibition consisted of family and self portraits, and I was struck by his stature; he was a large powerful looking man and caused me to think of a cross between Brian Blessed (with the think bushy beard) and the fictional character of Harry Flashman; perhaps not the most complementary of images, but that’s what came into my head and this is my blog!

If you have ever read the Harry Flashman novels you will think of the dashing cavalry officers of the 19th century (think charge of the light brigade) with those elegant and elaborate uniforms of the officer class.

The other thing that struck me about these early portraits where his use of props; the elaborate uniforms and costumes, but also chairs tables, ornaments and especially books; either a bookshelf in the background or holding a book, quite different from more contemporary photographs. Although a different age and style I though back to an Irving Penn exhibition with minimal props so that your attention is directed to focus the inner ‘character’

Silvy also used a technique where he produced a photograph of the same image 4 times – Think of a 19th Century Andy Warhol!

Early Photographs: Algeria and Rural France

There were 2 photographs from his early years Algeria; ‘the courtyard of the library’, which had really nice use of light and shadow that created perspective and depth to the photograph.

The other image photograph ‘Hashish smoker on balcony’ also used light and shadow to create depth, but also the use of diagonal lines drawing the eye to the centre. I did find the position of the ‘smoker’ a little eccentric as they were very close to the left edge of the frame, but somehow the use of directional light (coming into the balcony) and leading lines still makes the photograph ‘work’

Although not a particularly remarkable photograph, the old building in his ‘Cider Press’ photograph 1858 (France), did attract my attention to its texture details of the roof tiles, a great use of light to create dimension.

River Scene, France

One of Silvy's more famous photographs from France was ‘La Vallée de l'Huisne', (River Scene) 1958. This was really fascinating, not only for the composition and lines creating movement in the frame but also the technique Silvy employed to produce the image.

The photograph was actually a composite of more than one shot and a combination of filters; 2 photographs one for the sky and one for the landscape detail. By joining the negatives together he created a more evenly exposed ‘photograph’. The exhibition text explained that Silvy used other techniques to further improve the overall photograph by ‘cropping’ the frame appropriately and using a technique called burning to darken other parts of the photograph.

These techniques made me think about how photographs are produced in our time, compared to those in Silvy’s and how those techniques remain remarkably unchanged albeit using different mediums. The idea of combining shots at different exposures to produce a final result and the use of ‘burning’ and creative cropping are still employed to day on both film and digital formats. It turns out photography hasn’t really changed as much as we think! Thought provoking...

'The Emperor's Order of the Day'

Techniques aside (will return to this idea later) the historical value of seeing older works is fascinating. Another famous image from his collection ‘The Emperor’s order of the day’ and history was that of a group of men reading a poster in the streets of Paris; A message from the Emperor Napoleon III while campaigning in Italy to drive out the Austrians. The photograph has a subtle triangle that leads up to the poster, a great image. I later found out that the photograph was actually staged and the people in the shot where instructed to stand in their positions by Silvy! To have taken the shot candidly would have taken a long exposure and if it were not staged then the photograph would not have worked.


In 1859 Silvy moved to London and started his own photography studio. A lot of the photographs depicted his love for horsemanship, men in elegant riding clothes and elaborate military uniforms (think Harry Flashman books again!). What struck me most about his studio photographs though was the use of props.

There appeared to be a lot of props in his photographs; the use of furniture, leaning onto desks and book cases, standing behind chairs. The male subjects were often holding a book or Hat and standing very formally, similarly the female subjects were often seen to be holding a fan or hankie and generally more feminine objects than the men. Some of the studio work had picture backdrops or elaborate curtains too

I kept thinking about the difference between more contemporary studios with clean and bare environments, they also made me think of the Irving Penn exhibition I saw a while ago where his use of minimal ‘clutter’ made you concentrate of the character of the subject.

One really good photograph that caught my eye was that of ‘The Missus Booth’ 1861 a picture of two sisters with one faces the camera and the other facing away; however her face is reflected in a mirror that is behind them. In terms of composition there are a lot of triangles, both pointing up and inverted that leads you to the centre. I also see a heart shape between the sister’s arms signifying their love: I really liked this portrait.

Another photograph that stood out was a still life of ‘game’ (Rabbits, hairs etc) however he played with the idea over more traditional still life paintings by Jan Weenix 1642-1719 by introducing modern objects such as cutlery and even a newspaper with the date, showing as a sort of Juxtaposition between the modern (for the 19th century!) and traditional times.

As well as having clients including members of the Royal family (Queen Victoria never had per picture taken by him though) he took a lot of photos of actors and actresses. To improve his reputation and portfolio he would take the pictures for free so that he gained experience and his name spread but then his customers could then sell prints or use them as a sort of business car (I think they were called Carte de visite) to their fans as well as their own portfolios. Again I see this idea being still used to day; often models will need photos for their portfolio and emerging / amateur photographers need the same – cooperative arrangement!

Sun; Twilight; Fog – Studies on Light 1859

This section of the exhibition had to be the most fascinating part for me. There were 3 photographs each depicting an area of lighting; Sun, Fog and Twilight; with each one showing a different use of light. In the sun photograph of an Indian street sweeper you have strong direct light on the subject creating a hard shadow. However the next 2 images were even more interesting.

Silvy was able to create a finished ‘photograph’ that would not be possible by just taking a single shot of a scene. He used various techniques to create the final print. In the ‘Fog’ image (with the 2 musicians) some of the tree has actually been hand drawn in to add more details.

In ‘twilight’ one of his best known images is actually made of a number of images joined together, (one for the background, one for the street lamp, one for the wall and one for the 2 figures under the lamppost) much the same in the ‘river scene’ I also ready somewhere (can’t find the reference though now so don’t shoot me!) that some of the lamppost was also drawn in by hand to bring in some more details. I also believe it is one of the earliest intended images depicting motion blur.

What I like about this set and especially with ‘Fog’ and ‘Twilight’; it’s the way that Silvy adapted what equipment and processing techniques he had to create the photograph he wanted, very much knowing exactly what he wanted in the frame for the final image. I really like this idea as it is very similar to how I like to work. Controlling the scene and subject to create what I want.

Later Life

Later on in life Silvy moved back to France due to ill health and he also came up with a new technique to photograph battlefields and one of the final images in the exhibition was of a 360 degree panoramic photograph taken from the centre of the Champs Elysées. Another example of manipulation of the equipment and post processes.

I really enjoyed the exhibition – not bad considering I went by chance, with of the most interesting things I took away was the idea that photo manipulation has been around since photography itself!

Of course let’s not get carried away with this after all there is more to photography than manipulation and processing; it’s about light, composition, design etc and the idea of getting the photograph ‘right’ in camera first time, but you will still hear arguments like “but with Photoshop you can just crop that, burn this, merge those together, stitch them together and so on..”

But taking the composition (and medium) aside, when it comes to making an image as best it can be through post processing, how different is it from what Silvy was doing 150 years ago?

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Alan Hunter - Photographer

Sorry it has been a while since my last blog update but I took a bit of a break and have been enjoying some holiday time. I thought it best to catch up and get things going with the blog. I will start off with a some notes on presentation I attended A little while ago…

I attended a presentation by Alan Hunter professional photographer. He started photography in the 1970’s as a keen amateur and through his job at the time, a research scientist, he spent a lot of time around fishing boats and the fishing industry along the north west coast of England, particularly Tyneside and Newcastle.

By taking images of the fishermen at their work on the trawlers and around the docks, and at play, in the local pubs around the dockyards, developing a style of photography documenting the people and places of the time (70’s & 80’s)

He continued to develop this documentary approach, involving people in their environment, documenting the decline in the industry and the effect of this on the people and area. He shot exclusively on black and white film (and still does), developing the photographs himself in a studio darkroom.

He had some great images of this time; old weathered local men in cloth-caps sitting in their local pub and staring into a pint of brown ale, they looked like they could have been from the 1930’s and not the 80’s when some of the shots were taken. the high contrast and dark shadows gave general sad feeling to the collection, emphasising the story of the decline of the fishing industry

Alan talked about the ‘Zone system’ for exposure as developed by Ansel Adams. He explained that he would mainly shoot in Zone 2, which he said is lowest exposure before losing detail in the shadow tones.I had never heard of this zone system before so I looked this up finding a number of references to it below.

I’m not going to explore the ‘zone system’ or Ansel Adams in this entry, but a note to self that it would be worthwhile doing a bit more reading (and logging) around this subject. 

Throughout the presentation Alan discussed the importance of composition in this documentary style creating a context to the location and activity and the use of juxtaposition to enhance the the qualities of the story telling.

I found this very interesting as it touched on areas that I looked at in the previous section around design elements, including the use of light to enhance textures and bring dimension to the photograph

In 1992 Alan moved to the South coast as well as turning professional, and as such necessitated the need to expand his documentary style into other areas to sustain a business, such as portraiture, advertising and commercial commissions. However I got the impression that his heart was very much in documentary/reportage style, and this was also reflected in the images that he presented.

He went on to explain that he did a study in fine art  nude photography, picking up the Ilford-sponsored Black and White Master Photographer Of The Year Award in 1999. He showed a selection of this work and I was very impressed by the use of light and the textures and shapes he had created (all still black and white). Some were very abstract so you would only see part of the body with the rest fading into black (a very low key style) creating almost landscape shapes as if you were looking at sand dunes or rolling hills.

He explained that he remains an advocate of black and white film only; and was somewhat non-complimentary towards digital image making. I got the impression that he felt that digital could not replicate the quality of film and was still a long way off from doing so. I didn’t actually agree with totally what he was saying about this, but I could see from his perspective that the digital world has reduced the ‘tangibility’ of the photograph; whereas he would have spent hours on a physical thing (paper, chemicals) in a darkroom and physically touching and developing negatives and transparencies, then viewing these on a mounted frame on display or in a book and developing an almost physical relationship with them. This being very different from the majority of photographic processing of today, spending hours on a computer adjusting the pixels then presenting it on a website or blog and many never actually leaving the digital world, with no physical relationship.

I do agree that there is a physical aspect that is often overlooked these days, and since doing this course, I have felt that there is something so much more satisfying when I get my photographs back from the printers,  but in terms of processing I think its the same.

Hours in a darkroom or hours in a virtual darkroom? Subjective it is!

Anyway a very interesting and thought provoking presentation, it made a change from the business aspects of photography that can often be the focus in these presentations.

There are a few examples of his work on his website

Monday, 19 July 2010

Secondary colours

This is part two of this exercise to produce images dominated by one of the primary and secondary colours.


All of this set  was taken on different locations and under various light conditions. I have noted the shot details for each of the colours.




1/6 sec

ISO 100
The green set was taken at some nearby woods, on a bright sunny day with no clouds and using the camera set on a tripod to maintain a consistent viewpoint . I maintained a focal length, aperture and ISO any changing the shutter speed to adjust the exposure. I was going to try to find a more ‘pure green but as suggested in the course text; I tried to find more natural occurrences. When you look at the trees generally our brains see the green whereas in reality trees are made up of many shades of green and many other hues.



1/8 sec

ISO 100
This second image was the ‘average’ exposure for the scene



1/10 sec

ISO 100

This is the darkest of the 3 images (half-stop exposure difference of shutter speed) being the fastest shutter speed. The differences in the 3 exposures appear to be very subtle compared to other similar shots I’ve taken. Although the differences can be more clearly seen in the image below.


55mm f/5/6 0.3 sec ISO 100
Out of all the sets in this exercise I like the violet ones the best. The image is of a towel taken indoors with light coming through a window from the right side of the scene; I used a tripod to maintain the same viewpoint and as I like to shoot in the lowest ISO using the tripod reduced the chance of camera shake at such slow speeds. I just really like the abstract feel to it and the way the textures and depth of view make it more interesting for the eye.
55mm f/5/6 1/4 sec ISO 100

55mm f/5/6 1/6 sec ISO 100
Again the differences were quite subtle for the half-stop differences although clearer than the tree shots. I’ve created another version below so that they can be compared next to each other and you can see the differences more clearly


84mm f/11 1/125 sec ISO 100
This shot is my least interesting to be honest. It is the seat of my daughter’s swing in the back garden, however it serves the purpose of the exercise in filling the frame as much as possible with orange. The image was taken on a bright sunny day with no clouds and I used the camera on a tripod and framed it in camera (although the swing did move slightly in the wind for each shot). I found that the differences in the exposures clearer show the levels of saturation much clearer in this set, compared to the average exposed shot (below) this first shot has a faded weak colour.
84mm f/11 1/180 sec ISO 100

This was the averaged exposed image

84mm f/11 1/250 sec ISO 100

The fastest shutter has created the image with the most depth of saturation and the least brightness of the orange hue

As with the previous posts I’m still struggling to stay as focussed on the colour section. I’m not saying I’m not making progress with it, but just that progress is slow in relation to to. It’s been a busy time recently with my daughters birthday and starting a new job as well as some personal photography projects (still to be written up for blog!)that I’ve been exploring. While I don’t mean this to be an excuse for not being ‘on the ball’ with this section I “am” taking longer than I have during other exercises, so it’s a case of being patient with me for a while longer…

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Primary colours

The idea behind this exercise is to produce some images that are dominated by one of the primary and secondary colours. To make the exercise more interesting it was suggested to take different exposures of the same subject and identifying one of these as matching its corresponding colour on a  standard colour wheel.

I’ve broken this exercise into 2 parts. The reason being how long I’ve spent on this! since the last assignment other distractions have taken priority and I have been unable to concentrate as much time to the course. Added to which the line ‘take your time and don’t rush’ from the course text played on my mind and made it an excuse for not putting as much time in..

Anyway enough of the excuses; I’ve added the ‘Primary’ colours in this update and will add the ‘Secondary colours’ when I finish it!


All the colour sets are taken on different days and locations. I have used the same ISO and lens (although different focal lengths) throughout in order to keep some consistency; For the Red and Yellow photo sets I took the shots handheld and the blue set I used a tripod.




1/125 sec

ISO 400

This is the second shot I took in the ‘red’ set. I’ve placed the images in order of exposure though (this is the same through this exercise). Keeping the shutter speed constant this image is with the widest aperture. You can see the edges of the petals are paler than the other 2 images
250mm f/6.7 1/125 sec ISO 400

This image was the first shot and I took the exposure level from the camera (exposing the aperture from a manual setting of 1/125) you can see that it is less pale that the image with wider aperture
250mm f/8 1/125 sec ISO 400

This last image is with the smallest aperture of the set and the petal leaves have a much greater saturation and depth of the red. To me this is the more ‘satisfying’ red of the 3 images


225mm f/13 1/125 sec ISO 400

For this set rather than change the exposure setting for the aperture, I kept this constant and changed the speed, just to show a different approach to the exposure settings. In this first image (second one taken in the set) the yellow is bright and especially around the edges has started to lose detail in the highlights.

225mm f/13 1/180 sec ISO 400

As the shutter speed has increased, the yellow has become more satisfying colour with a better balance of detail in the highlights 

225mm f/13 1/250 sec ISO 400

The third version where the shutter speed has increased further the yellow has become flat and lacks contrast; although the image is still apparent as yellow it lacks the vibrancy of the middle image.


55mm f/6.7 1/60 sec ISO 400

The image is of some curtains at home. This time I went back to changing the aperture and keeping the speed constant. This shot was with the largest aperture. I liked the use of the curtains as the folds and patterns created different ‘blues’ to be compared for the different exposures. The wider aperture produced the lighter of all the images

55mm f/8 1/60 sec ISO 400

With the smaller aperture the lightness was subdued however the detail is still clear in the pattern and stitching of the blue material

55mm f/9.5 1/60 sec ISO 400

For the final image with the smaller aperture the centre of the image is close to losing  shadow detail, any further and the shadow could turn black.

As noted above I’ve struggle to concentrate on this exercise, leaving too much time between taking shots and I’ve still got to do the second half of this for the secondary colours! I’m wandering if I’m trying too hard at the moment, but having said that it has still been interesting.

Building a library of colours

The next section is about assembling a colour collection of photographs that are dominated by a single or distinct colour. The idea being to ‘train’ myself in recognising colours and becoming more sensitive to it in photography

Monday, 21 June 2010

Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the camera

Having a few hours to kill and not being too far away, I went to the Tate Modern on London’s Southbank the other week, I had seen that there was a photography exhibition on called Exposed that looked really interesting. I wasn’t disappointed; it was excellent; added to which this was my first ever visit to Tate and I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I got there I was amazed what a great building and so much to see.


“Since its invention, the camera has been used to make images surreptitiously and satisfy the desire to see what is hidden. Exposed: Voyeurism, Surveillance & the camera examines photography’s role in voyeuristic looking from the middle of the nineteenth century to the present day. It includes pictures taken by professional photographers and artists, but also images made without our knowledge on a daily basis through the proliferation of CCTV”

Exhibition Guide Tate Modern

The exhibition was divided up into themed sections and I’ve noted my thoughts on the sections as I went through the exhibition.

  • The unseen photographer
  • Celebrity & the public gaze
  • Voyeurism & Desire
  • Witnessing Violence
  • Surveillance

The Unseen Photographer

The first area was about revealing an unaware world where the photographer took images without people knowing or consenting to. Not only were there photographs on display but there were also examples of how 19th century technologies were used to hide the camera equipment, so that they could be used without the subjects knowledge, this included camera hidden in walking sticks, jacket breast pockets and even a shoe!

Walker Evans 1903-1975

‘Subway passengers’ - taken in the 1930’s on the New York subway system. It was the interest in the people’s expressions that grabbed me, the un-posed faces and what were they thinking about? Where were they going? Evans used hidden cameras to capture his subjects unawares.

Philip-Lorca Dicorcia 1951

‘Heads’ – There were some large format/printed images; In 2006 Dicorcia placed hidden automatic flashes in some scaffolding and with a long lens that was also automatically triggered, took photographs of people as they were going about their business.

Paul Martin - 1864-1942

‘Tit bits was her greatest sale’ – 1892 Ludgate Circus.This was a photograph of a woman selling magazines in the street. What grabbed me about this one is that it reminded me of an old lady who used to sell newspapers close to a railway station when I was growing up. I think her name was Audrey!? Strange that I remembered this when I saw the photograph, but it’s the power of photography triggering memories of times past. Martin used a camera hidden inside a box that he carried under his arm to capture his unsuspecting subjects.

Morris Engle 1918-2005

Cop standing over a shoeshine stand - 1947 – It was the expressions on the faces that grabbed me; what were they talking about? The image was ‘busy’ with lots of things going on with  people in the foreground, but the clever thing is that the part of the image that draws you in is actually a reflection. It took me a few minutes to realize! Its very clever.

Ben Shahn 1898-1969

Shahn to photographs of groups of unsuspecting people, documenting the diversity of New York during the great depression and the 1930’s - He also used a right-angled viewfinder so that it would look like he was taking pictures in another direction. In the photograph of display, taken in 1937 outside of a US post office in Tennessee, you can actually see his reflection in the window, whereas he looks like he is taking a picture up the street and not the post office!

Helen Levitt 1913-2009

There were some photographs that Levitt took in the early 1940’s of children playing in the streets of New York, depicting life in those times. I wandered if taking pictures of children playing to record history and life would be as acceptable in this society? Probably not – A whole ethical topic in its own right and out of the scope of this update!

Henri Cartier Bresson 1908-2004

Hyères, France 1932 – This really caught my eye in relation to the design elements that were apparent. With the elegant curves of an outside staircase that take you down towards a road creating an implied line towards a cyclist. The motion blur of the cyclist adds further animation and implied movement around the curve of a road that it is travelling. A great example of leading the eye to create movement and animation.

Celebrity & the Public Gaze

This section was about the relationship between photographer and celebrity and how the changes of attitude towards self publicity, from the celebrity point of view to the relentless intrusiveness of  paparazzi and catching celebrities during private moments

 WeeGee (Arthur H Fellig) 1899-1968

There was a very iconic photograph of Marilyn Monroe taken during the filming of the ‘Seven year itch’ where her dress is blown up from an air vent. I thought I would mention as the scene is so well known! (Although I later researched that this was not used in the film and was recreated in a studio).

Marcello Geppetti 1933-1998

There was a 4 shot narrative of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton on a boat, that builds up to them kissing (as i understand this was to prove an affair between the two) I’ve been a fan of Richard Burton’s films so that’s why it stuck in my mind. I later looked up Geppetti, to find he was famed for his “relentless pursuit of film stars and celebrities”, a true ‘paparazzi’ by all accounts.

Tazio Secchiaroli 1925-1998

Anita Ekberg & Anthony Steel  - This was a classic paparazzi set of a photographer chasing celebrities. It consisted of a 7 shot montage of Steel chasing photographers away!

Particularly for the last two photographers, I looked up the word ‘papparazzi’ which I found derives from ‘Paparazzo’ which was a fictional character in the film La Dolce Vita.

Leonard Mccombe 1923

There was this excellent photograph where the background consisted of a row of men inside a train diner car all looking towards the actress Kim Novak in the foreground. What was clever about this was that the focus was on the background and Kim was out of focus in the foreground, but still recognizable; then you have the eye lines of all the men looking toward her creating this dynamic movement in the frame. Attention is drawn to the focused men but their eye-lines draw you to Kim in the foreground. The expressions on the men are also priceless – I love this photograph. 

Voyeurism & Desire

This section was about the fine lines between art and eroticism. Raising questions as who should be looking at these images and why would they would be looking? Especially the images that were taken, where the subjects were unaware of the presence of the photographer

Merry Alpern 1955

Dirty Windows – 1994 - this was a really powerful set. It consisted of 12 large prints covering a whole wall. The set was taken from an apartment across the street into an upstairs window of sex club in New York. The set depicted the men that used the club and the women that ‘serviced’ them, including the exchange of money and drug taking. Each photograph was naturally framed through the window frame of the shop, and not all details could be seen; only glimpses of what was going on leaving the viewer to imagine the story behind them. All were in a black and white, grainy style that really suited the sordid feel. A really thought provoking set of images.

 WeeGee (Arthur H Fellig) 1899-1968

There was another image by WeeGee that I liked; it was of a couple kissing in the cinema. Although the cinema had lots of people in the photograph, the space around the couple and the line of seats caused me to be drawn along the rows and to the attention of the couple.

Kohei Yoshiyuki 1946

‘The Park’ - This was another strong set of images. In the 1970’s Yoshiyuki, using an infrared flash bulbs, took photographs of the sexual activities of young men and women in a park in Tokyo along with the Voyeurs and peeping toms who observed them and in some cases touched and joined in (Not Yoshiyuki to be clear!). A sort of voyeur or voyeurs is some respect! The images were displayed in a long line in a darkened section of the exhibition, adding to the feeling of being part of this night-time act. In the display information it went on to say that the first time these photos were exhibited they were blown up to life size and displayed in a dark gallery with the visitors being given torches to go through the gallery!

“To photograph the voyeurs, I needed to be considered one of them… I behaved like I had the same interest as the voyeurs, but I was equipped with a small camera. My intention was to capture what happened in the parks, so I was not a real ‘voyeur’ like them. But I think in a way, the act of taking photographs itself is voyeuristic somehow. So I may be a voyeur, because I am a photographer”

Kohei Yoshiyuki

Witnessing Violence

This section was on the opposing responses from seeing violent images. Does it provoke people to act violently? Does it show people the need for change? Or does it numb us to horror?

 WeeGee (Arthur H Fellig) 1899-1968

There appeared to be a lot of work in the exhibition from WeeGee so I’ve made a not to self that at some point to return and do a more specific study on his photography. He had taken pictures of bystanders showing the morbid fascination with death. Some of the faces depicted the emotion of fun!

Brassai Gyula Haiasz 1899 1984

Here was a photographic narrative of a man who dies in the street (1932). The narrative was very interesting, with the body seen lying in the street alone. Then the ‘story’ unfolds in each photograph as a crowd begins to grow around the body, with each photo the crowd gets larger and larger, until eventually a vehicle (assume ambulance) appears in one photo with the next being the empty street again, as if nothing had ever happened; just a normal street. Although the powerful subject was what held my attention I noticed the elements of lines of the road and points and shape of the crowd.

Enrique Metinidos 1934

Here was a set making up a narrative of the rescue of a person attempting to commit suicide by jumping from a high point. The high point was Toreo stadium 1971. I found this really interesting due to the diagonal lines of the structure and points of the people attempting to rescue the person.

Nick Ut 1951

The famous print of the Vietnam War image of a group of children running from a village after a napalm attack was part of the exhibition. A powerful image when taken in 1972 as it is today.


This section was about the power of surveillance. From military reconnaissance (including the cold war) to the idea of ‘Big Brother’ and that no matter where you go innocent people are recorded or viewed in some way during their daily life. Also the close link between the increase in surveillance and the development of photographic technologies.

Simon Norfolk 1963

He had taken a photograph of this huge Radar system built on the ascension islands with the purpose of capturing mobile telephone conversations. Its thin wire structure of horizontal and vertical lines reminded me of a giant mechanical spider’s web! Scary that these things have existed, the radar not mechanical spiders…that would be silly!

Sophie Calle 1953

There was a huge display from the work of Calle. Where she had spent time as a chambermaid in a hotel and she would be able to enter the rooms of people staying at the hotel and ‘spy’ on their lives, taking pictures of their personal belongings. She would also follow them and record their actions. I found this work unnerving in the lengths she would go to record private lives, fascinating though.


The photographers and images that I have mentioned are just a small part of the exhibition. To do it justice I could have gone of for much longer and more in depth, however the scope of it is just too big for this one entry. As noted I plan to re-visit some of the works/photographers and look at them in more depth as I think that  many would be very useful later on in the course, covering narrative and documentary aspects of photography.

What a day! I could have spent a lot longer at the exhibition and I would recommend it to anyone who has an interest in photography to visit. I highly recommend this  interesting and thought provoking work.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Fathers Day

Just a quick one!

I had a fantastic present on Fathers day today; Wildlife Photographer of the year book. It is a lovely book with some fantastic photographs and contains the camera settings and details of how many of the shots were taken, very interesting and highly recommend. I reviewed some of the photographs before when I visited the live exhibition back in March so I won’t cover them again.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Control the strength of a colour

This excise is about exploring the relationship with exposure and how this can affect colour. The idea being to find the average exposure of a strong definite colour then varying by half stops either side of this average, take a sequence of images then compare the differences in terms of colour.


I used natural light through patio doors for this exercise and had set the camera up on a tripod so that each exposure was of the same viewpoint and frame plus I used a manual white balance setting to further ensure the consistency. The subject is the back of my wife’s wedding dress (yes she got married in red!). I used an automatic mode on the camera to identify an average exposure this was f/5.6 at 1/15 sec (I had set the ISO at 200 and have used a fixed 50mm lens).

I Then set the camera to manual mode and started the sequence by 2 half stops of the average exposure  then took an image at each half stop decrease in the aperture size.


50mm f/4 1/15 sec ISO 200


50mm f/4.5 1/15 sec ISO 200


50mm f/5.6 1/15 sec ISO 200


50mm f/6.7 1/15 sec ISO 200


50mm f/4 1/15 sec ISO 200 

To make it easier for comparison I created a version with each individual shot beside each other in order of exposure.

The exercise showed that as the exposure changed so did the colour; but when I say colour, I actually mean the Saturation and the Brightness of the colour and not the Hue (the photographs are predominately red which doesn’t change). With the overexposed  images being more bright with a weaker saturation and the underexposed images being darker with more intense saturation.

To strengthen the point I loaded the files  into Photoshop where I changed the preferences to display colour information in the HSB(Hue Saturation Brightness) mode and then selecting the same area in each of the frames, I ran the pointer over the most overexposed image (image1) and compared the results with the most underexposed image (image5).

In the overexposed image (image1) as I ran the pointer over a small area, the Hue varied around 0-10 Degrees, the Saturation varied between 30-80% and the brightness was consistently around the 90-100%

In the underexposed image (image5) as I ran the pointer over the same small area, the hue again remained about the same displaying figures around 0-10 degrees, however the saturation was more consistently displaying much higher figures of 80-90% and the brightness was consistently a lower percentage of around 60-90%

Although I can’t exactly quantify the figures, it certainly backs up the theory and the findings from my visual assessment in that the underexposure produced the greater depth and darkness to the colour, whilst the Hue remained unchanged. 

Despite my reservations with the colour section I really enjoyed this investigation.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

What makes a colour

I had a read through the notes on colour theory on the OCA website and through some of The Photographer’s eye to check my understanding of this. Here is just a few notes that I made for the log as a reference.

Primary reflected colours

  • Red – Strong and dense, energetic, warm, hot, passion, aggression, danger
  • Yellow – Bright, vigorous, sharp, cheerful, the sun, radiates light
  • Blue – recedes visually, quiet, darker, coolness, wetness, air

Secondary reflected colours

  • Green – Nature, hope, progress, growth, sickness
  • Violet – Elusive to find & capture, confused with purple, mystery, immensity
  • Orange Warm, strong, brilliant, powerful, fire, celebration, sunrise, sunset

The 3 qualities that define colour


This is how the colour is defined, it’s what gives the colour its uniqueness - It’s how we name a colour. This can be affected by filters, white balance and software manipulation


This is the purity of the colour (hue). From strong intense colours at one end of the scale to less colourful and grey at the other end and can be affected by exposure. 


This is the lightness and darkness of the colour (hue) and can be controlled by exposure and it should be noted that it can differ between hues.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Part Three: Colour

For some reason I didn’t feel quite as motivated for this section. Not quite sure why, maybe I needed a break from what I have done so far. However I thought it best to keep the roll going and crack on with this section, especially as I completed most of ‘Elements of Design’ as black & white monochrome images it means a different approach to the images I take.

Something else that I feel different, is in the previous sections I’ve looked closely at pre-course images and identified photographs that suited the exercises. Although I’ve only had a quick scan through my ‘library’ there wasn’t a great deal that stood out in line with what the next few exercises are asking for. I guess this adds to the challenge!

A bit of colour theory

The use of colour is also a design element that affects the way we see the image, however it also has specific qualities that affects us physiologically and psychologically; this makes it suitable as a separate section in its own right.

Primary Colours and Secondary Colours

There are essentially 2 types that we need to consider

Technical - This is the process of colour in relation to the recording and transmission of (light) colour

  • Primary: Red - Blue – Green
  • Secondary: Cyan - Magenta - Yellow

Perceptual - This is the way we see and feel about (reflected) colour

  • Primary: Red - Yellow – Blue
  • Secondary: Green - Violet - Orange

Although it is important to be aware of the properties and differences, it is suggested not to become ‘bogged down’ by the specifics at this stage. I’m aware that computer screens, image manipulation and digital cameras are associated to technical (transmitted RGB) colours; but for the purpose of the exercises, my focus will be towards the perceptual primary & secondary colours. I will however make reference to the transmitted colours if and when appropriate.