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Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Open University Results

Although this is not part of the OCA course, I felt that this is still relevant to include in my learning log, being as it’s part of my photography experience.

The OU course was a 10 week introduction to photography. The final assessment was to submit a 10 image panel that would would bee looked at for visual awareness and, technical quality; a written component was submitted as part of the panel, as well as a multiple choice exam (10% of the overall mark) to text knowledge of terminology and basic principles) was completed during the course.

I’ve included all parts to the assessment below apart from the multiple choice exam, but have included my overall mark and the assessment feedback.

Panel of 10 images

Snow Patrol  

1000 Yard Stare




Cheeky Girl




Witch is it?


Tea; 1 sugar


Tripping the light fantastic (but only at 50mph!)



Spin the Colour Wheel

Written Element

The idea was to select 3 questions from a set, each regarding a different aspect of the panel; I chose the following:

Question 2

Select one image from your ECA panel that you are pleased with and explain how it demonstrates your visual awareness. As appropriate, refer to composition, visual creativity, viewpoint, decisive moment (if relevant), use of camera, image editing and overall visual impact.

Cheeky girl (4)

I positioned my view to create an off centre portrait applying the rule of thirds composition as closely as possible, with one cross section focused on the centre of eyes. I also left space to the left of her creating mystery to what she might be looking at. To reduce camera shake and motion blur of a constantly moving child, I used a shutter speed of 1/500 and combined this with a high position using a wide aperture (f/2.0) setting on the camera; I wanted to create a soft depth of field to draw interest to the girls face, eyes and her expression. I also wanted to create a familiar viewpoint of the child, looking down towards her. Subjectively I felt it was a little more unusual than a classical eye level portrait, adding more interest to the overall visual impact.

Originally taken in colour; however I felt that the contrasts between highlights & shadows of the black and white uniform, balanced with the dominant mid tones of the background and face, I decided a conversion to a monotone (Black & White) could work well.

Another reason why I chose a Black and White Portrait was I felt that there was no added interest from colour and that the main visual impact of the image comes from the girl’s expression and what emotion it evokes from the viewer.

Question 3

Select one image from your ECA panel that you are pleased with and explain how it demonstrates your ability to use the camera and/or image editing to control the technical qualities of an image. As appropriate, refer to exposure, colour/tone, focus and sharpness, depth of field, digital manipulation and technical creativity.

Snap!? (9)

I do not have twins. This is two shots merged into one.

To line up the image so that background and table were identical in each shot; thereby reducing the risk of seeing any joins created by the merge, I used a tripod to maintain position and stability, setup the lights (household tungsten bulb) and external flash in the same position and power output to maintain consistent light effect and shadows and finally I laid out the table and props, all prior to making any shots.

I used the table as my focus point, turned off auto focusing and set the exposure controls to manual; again to maintain consistent conditions across the individual shots. I used a shutter speed of 1/200 to reduce any motion blur (from a moving child) and set a small aperture of f/13 to maximise the depth of field on a wide angle focal length of 27mm.

Then it was just the matter of taking a number of individual shots of the girl in different poses, selecting 2 images, then using Photoshop Elements tools (PhotoMerge) to create the resulting image.

As it is not ‘real’ I deliberately left a slight blur to create a dreamier feel to the image, and adjusted the lighting and colour levels only slightly, leaving emphasis of the tonal range towards the shadows, which all suited the visual impact I wanted to achieve.

Question 6

Looking at your panel, identify and briefly discuss three characteristics that identify this work as yours. Consider, for example, originality, personal style, mood, humour.

Mise-en-scène; one characteristic of my images is of being staged. I tend to have in my mind’s eye what I want to achieve before I start the shoot. I then set the scene as appropriate; using existing environments and placing the model to where I want them in the frame such as in Snow patrol (1) or use of props and staging an environment for the subject such as Bluebottle (3), Tea; 1 sugar (7) and Spin the wheel (10).

Another characteristic of my work is that my images tend to concentrate on a specific or single object with less emphasis on the wider image. They tend to be closer framed to concentrate the viewer to what I want them to see; 1000 Yard Stare (2) is an example of where I framed a big close up to give the image a more dominate impact. Tripping the Light Fantastic (8) which was actually a much wider image showing both sides of the road was cropped down to emphasis the 50mph part of the image.

It’s subjective to whether my images evoke a sense of fun, but this is my hobby and I like to inject some humour into my work. This would be a play on words from the title, for example Witch is it? (6), having fun experimenting with exposure techniques as in making Blue Moon (5) or manipulating an image with irony as in Tripping the light fantastic (8) an illusion of speed but with a speed limit. Or having 2 of the same child when there is only 1 in snap!? (10).

Marks & Feedback


Visual Awareness – Your panel of images shows variety in the subject matter, and freshness of treatment. Each of the four portraits, for example, demonstrates a different style. In addition you have used images from some of the activities specified on the course (Bluebottle and Tripping the light fantastic) which proves that you are continuing to learn and to strive to improve your photography. And it was good to see that you have avoided traditional landscapes by concentrating, as you described it in Q6, on “a specific or single object with less emphasis on the wider image”

Technical Quality – All your images are very good technically, demonstrating good control of different types of lighting, and subtle manipulations in Photoshop Elements. Your written component gave a very coherent account of your approach to image making.


Multiple Choice Paper - 100% (10% of overall mark)

Performance graded on particular aspects

  • Visual awareness – Excellent
  • Technical quality – Excellent
  • Written component – Excellent

Scale: Outstanding, Excellent, Well achieved, Achieved, Just achieved, Not quite achieved, Not achieved

Overall assessment – 94%

Obviously I was quite please with the marks and feedback, however I don’t want to let this lead me to a false sense of security. I know there is still a lot to learn and practice, and many aspects were only touched on compared to the depth of the OCA course. However I thought of it as a milestone in my photography Journey that was worth recording in my log.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your results Graham. I am new to the course (started last week) and I'm absolutely in awe of your work and your passion for the subject.Your blog is so comprehensive and exciting to read - it's inspired me! I'll continue to avidly follow your future work!