Category Archives: Reflection

Reflection of my assessment feedback

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1# I HAVE RECENTLY BEEN MADE REDUNDANT

I have just received my Formative feedback from my Tutor and am pleased to learn that he liked my work.

Shaun Mullins – 512659 – Photography 1 Context & Narrative – Assignment 2

This project like all the others I have had so far have been great learning-curves both in angle and in a sense of achievement.  All good.

Fortune was smiling on me when I set-up this shot as I simply filled the waste-paper bin of paper rubbish that I had rescued from our recycling bin and the sales brochure with JUST YOU happened to find it’s way to the top of the heap or I may have most likely not noticed it!

My Tutor comments on the text captions and choice of various font size.  When I came to printing I simply went by what I thought looked right.  This worked for this occasion; but I take my Tutors point and must not make this a habit.

My Tutor commented on the image with the Mars bar, that the word BELIEVE on the Mars wrapper was a little too obvious.  On reflection, I would probably agree.  However, this was not a trick of Photoshop the Mars packaging was genuinely labelled BELIEVE on all the bars that came out of a family-pack of six Mars bars purchased from a supermarket.

My Tutors comment regarding the last two images being portrait rather than landscape is also an interesting comment to remember.  I did not realize that the change in framing format would make a difference and therefore this is something I must try to keep in mind for future projects going forward.

The last image that I produced in colour, I had intentionally wanted the colour to be a dominant green to represent growth, hope and a new start (green for go).  However, again his comments are all useful and his suggested idea for an alternative image is good and simple.

I still have a lot to learn about printing; but my first attempt was acceptable at least and again I appreciate my Tutors advice.

One area of my study that I have neglected is visiting exhibitions and taking advantage of study days.  This I will start address from next week going-forward.

Also I appear to not be fully meeting my colleges strict copyright code, again this I need to address.

I am relieved that my assignment passed and that I can concentrate on my next assignment.

 

Photography The Key Concepts

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Davis Bate, Photography, The Key Concepts, (2009) London, New Delhi, New York, Sydney, Bloomsbury, ISBN:978-1-84520-667-3.

Divided into eight chapters / subjects: History, Photographic Theory, Documentary and Storytelling, Looking at Portraits, In the Landscape, The Rhetoric of Still Life, Art Photography, Global Photography.

This is a very good book to refer back to as it contains lots of  brief explanations to subjects that keep cropping up through out my degree course such as photographic theory such as aesthetics, representation, structuralism, semiotics, etc.

Each chapter / subject can be read separately depending on which photographic genre you are working with such as portrait or landscape and some subjects will complement them all such as History and Theory.

The Mystery of P.I.Y. (Printing It Yourself)

I have just purchased and successfully setup a printer for producing quality photographs.  To be honest I have been postponing this day simply due to my frustrating experience with I.T.  I began life with photography in the darkroom; so I am comfortable with the wet developing process but software and hardware compatibility leaves me cold through a working life of bitter experiences!  The prospect of having to struggle with printers, software and computers has not been a happy one for me in the past.  However, I have bitten the bullet and within a day I was successfully printing photos to send to my Tutor for assessment.

The tipping point in the decision to take the plunge was as a result of unsuccessfully getting my assignment two photos printed satisfactorily from a third-party.  On checking with my Tutor he was insistent that my prints should be consistent and of high quality.  I consulted my student forum for advice and one of my fellow students recommended the Canon PI7250 which is available for around £50.  At first I was annoyed with my Tutor; but on reflection realized he was right and I was being silly.  So I purchased a printer from Amazon on next working day delivery and had it running by late evening on the same day of delivery.  I am using a colour Spyder4 to calibrate my screen and I downloaded an up to date printer driver in order to be able to create a reliable printer profile for Lightroom and Photoshop.

I have set Photoshop and Lightroom for 300PPI and made sure the printer is set to high quality on slow output setting.

Project 2, Exercise – Metaphor – working log.

For this exercise I chose the poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’ by Stevie Smith, 1902 – 1971.

I first read this poem over 20 years ago and re-discovered it when searching for a suitable poem for this exercise amongst the books on my book-shelves.  This particular poem was published in, The New Oxford Book of English Verse, Chosen and edited by Helen Gardener, Oxford University Press.

Not Waving But Drowning, immediately resonated with me as my wife is going through a very difficult time with her family. However, I will not attempt to produce images that make reference to my personnel issues in this exercise; but I will explore other ideas to complement this poem.

I have discovered an interesting short recital by Stevie Smith of this poem on YouTube.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKHWEWOrL9s

My idea is to take this poem and turn it in to a narrative of my own.

I began by writing down key words and phrases and then looking for ideas.

I also typed and printed the poem which I analysed and looked at each line and each paragraph

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The first paragraph of this poem for my story is a man who is drowning but is not aware of his peril.  Nobody heard him, because perhaps, he didn’t know how much danger he was in.  However, his friends and family may have been able to see the danger; but dismissed it, thinking that he could cope.

For the second paragraph I interpret that our hero has now met his fate and his friends and family are making excuses for themselves.

In the final paragraph our hero has now drowned and is protesting against the excuses and as he now realizes – all too late, just how much danger he really had been in.

As I have thought this through, I was originally thinking of producing as many as 7 or 8 images.  But then having discussed my ideas with my wife, she reminded me that I am searching for metaphors to convey my feelings.  After a nights sleep I returned to my notes, re-read the exercises criteria and focussed on, “develop metaphorical and visceral interpretations rather than obvious and literal ones.” “Don’t attempt to describe the poem but instead give a sense of the feeling of the poem and the essence it exudes.” Re-reading these lines and referring back to my notes, I realized that I only needed three images in total – One for each paragraph:  An image to represent his drowning in his own folly and an image to represent his friends discussing his fate; and a final image representing his loss.

I decided that before I could go any further with this exercise, I had to do some more reading to research ideas.  I first turned to a book that I read when preparing for my last assignment with Art of Photography course, Illustration and Narrative, The Fundamentals of Creative Photography by David Prakel and published by AVA.  I re-read the chapter on Communication which briefly covers semiotics.  I then read Photography by Stephen Bull, published by Routledge.  Chapters 3 and 4 helped me formulate my final ideas for this exercise.  Chapter 3 provided me with a better insight in to the theory of semiotics; but it was chapter 4 on advertising that the proverbial penny dropped and I saw my solution in how to use semiotics for this exercise.  The answer was the theory of relay and example mentioned in this book (page 68) a bank using images of conveying a feelings of joy with the caption, “This is what saving feels like.”  This one passage provided me with the answer to my problem of finding the idea of simple images that can work in relay to my poem.  The first two images will be relay and my last image will be both indexical and relay.

I then went back to my notes and the ideas began to form.  The first image that began to materialise was the middle image and I thought of a wake.  I wanted a fairly simple representation and all the wakes I have ever been to include a fair amount of booze; so I thought of just a picture of a mix of half filled glasses on a bar to represent the mourners.

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I originally had an idea for my drowned victim having been overwhelmed by debt and thought an image representing brochures, catalogues, and unpaid bills pilled up high might make a good representation and so I sketched it as in idea; but on reflection I didn’t feel it was strong enough.  Then I had the idea that drowning could be a metaphor for being overwhelmed by success or the pressure to succeed and drugs are becoming more and more common in the professional high flyer corporate world, with the use of cocaine becoming very common.  I then sketched out some ideas and also looked on the web for images of drug use in order to provide a realistic looking image.  My final image came to me when I was sketching the drug ideas, I thought of a body in a morgue and I found an image on line of naked feet with a label attached to one of the toes.  This I could re-produce easily myself.  Not my idea, but I doubt there is such a thing as an original idea anymore anyway.

I decided that with the resulting images, I would turn then from colour to black and white as I feel that black and white conveys more atmosphere / sense of feeling and emotion that colour does not and was best suited for this poem.

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This is the first image I made.  I used a silver and crystal cocktail tray, icing sugar, a razor blade, a rolled up old Turkish note and my mobile phone with a suitably chosen image downloaded from the internet.  I first tried using strobe lighting but couldn’t get a good image due to the reflection; so I used natural light and two reflectors to direct the family-of-angels for the reflected light off the star etched in to the crystal tray.  I used black felt material under the tray to get the jet black background.  Camera was on a tripod, 105mm, f/2.8, prime-lens, 1sec, f/11, ISO-125, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale in Photoshop.

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This is in fact a self-portrait, using a white mattress cover and sheet on my bed, I set my camera on a tripod, set to self-timer, 20 seconds, manual focused using edge of the bed as a focus point.  Marked mattress cover with Cello-tape to indicate the boundaries for my feet.  I used my Sekonic light-meter to get an incidence reading for a correct exposure, with my feet pointing towards the window; so using just natural light to keep it simple.  24-120mm f/4 zoom, @ 70mm, 1/125, f/4.5, ISO-320, manual focus.  Adjustments made in Lightroom with grey-scale conversion made in Photoshop.

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I had an arm-band from previous funerals that I draped over a picture, re-introduced the mobile-phone with the same image and added the drinks glasses and bottles to suggest the people  chatting about the dead-man.  Again I kept it simple by using only natural light.  The camera was mounted on a tripod, 105mm f2.8 prime-lens, 1/5sec, f/5, ISO-320, manual focused.  Adjustments made in Lightroom and converted to grey-scale using Photoshop.

My original idea was to start with the image of the drugs, then the image of the drinks and finally the image of the feet; but when I uploaded the images and reviewed it I felt that it worked better by starting from the point of view that he is already dead with the explanation of his death being the last picture.

Reflections for Assignment I

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Shaun Mullins – 512659 – Photography 1 Context & Narrative – Assignment 1

I am pleased to blog that I received a good report for my first assignment for this course ‘Context and Narrative’.

This assignment was very similar to my last assignment for ‘The Art of Photography’ course which covered the subject illustration and narrative.  For that assignment I had to find or invent a story / narrative that I could produce photos for both as a book / magazine cover and to illustrate the story itself.  Having already researched a method of best practice to both prepare and carryout the work effectively, I put the same methods in to practice with this assignment – Namely, my brain-storming and storyboarding.

I took a risk when I decided to just used a mobile-phone as my only method of recording the images; but I felt I could create a better sense of authenticity for my particular story.  I found Clive’s comment that I had created a character for myself very interesting.  It hadn’t occurred to me.  Nor had I ever considered creating a character for myself.  Moreover, I would not have expected that by even having such an idea it would have made any positive contribute to the work.  However, this is a new dynamic for me and something I will consider further.

Coursework

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Clive’s comment on my coursework, is valid.  The exercise for street-photography didn’t go too well for me as I feel very uncomfortable just taking pictures in public like that.  Clive’s comment, “kaleidoscopic presentation of the street-photography and the dizzying angles.” is a fare comment as it was the result of my desperation to try and get some images of interest whilst working in an uncomfortable environment.  Maybe, in a capital-city or historical-town full of tourists it is much easier to work with a DSLR; but in small provincial-towns and villages you get a lot of negative reaction from people that borders on aggression.  To be honest this is not a field of photography that rocks my boat; but I will probably try again, I may book a street-photography course with Nikon and if working on my own I will prefer a more discreet camera such as that on a mobile-phone.

I am very grateful to Clive’s useful feedback and tips; I shall take them all on board.

Overall this assignment and this first section has been a very positive experience.

Putting trust in my light-meter

Yesterday, I did my first model photo-shoot and before my model arrived I set up my equipment and carefully made sure of the setting for camera were correct.

The first thing I discovered was that the idea of using a soft-box for this shoot was impractical as I wasn’t able to be able to position it as I wanted it and it took up too much space and was difficult to move around; so I decided to use an umbrella instead.  This was in fact the first time I have used my umbrella and I was pleased with myself that I had both invested in it and had clearly learned enough out of all the books on lighting that I should have instantly turned to it as an alternative solution.

Having set up my light, I then did some light readings with my Sekonic Incident Lightmeter.  This suggested a slow shutter speed of only 1/10sec providing 30% flash to ambient combination.  My first reaction was too slow what am I doing wrong?  It the occurred to me that the reading is taking account that the flash is 1000s of a second and this will freeze the image.  To test this I made some photos to satisfy myself, happy with the result I spent the rest of the day working with my camera set to manual and taking reading only from my Sekonic meter.  The results were great, all taken at 1/10sec hand held using 24-120mm zoom lens at various focal-lengths.  All my images are pin-sharp and the exposures perfect with text-book Histograms.

My first fashion style photo-shoot

1000 Poses

Yesterday I had my first pre-arranged photo-shoot using a model from ‘Model Mayhem’  This was the first time that I have done a photo shoot that wasn’t involving friends or family and wasn’t run through a third party such as the Nikon School.

about a year ago I signed up to Model Mayhem a social website for models, photographers, stylists, etc. to interact.  However, only more recently have I felt confident enough to try to arrange a photo shoot with strangers.

The experience was very good and positive.  I came across a young lady who had signed up as a model looking for photographers who would be happy to work with no financial reward or cost but trading modelling for photos.  After initially getting in touch with her through the Model Mayhems own mailing system and the follow up correspondence I discovered that she was looking for a photographer who could produce corporate style images for her website as a Nutritionist.   The arrangement is perfect, I have a model who can help me build my portfolio and confidence without the pressure of monetary value and I am also providing her with valuable images to promote her business.

She informed me that she ideally needed a kitchen for the location and so I offered the use of my own kitchen which is large and traditionally appointed.  Moreover, not having met her nor her having met me I suggested a Saturday when my wife was around who could also help with makeup etc.

This appealed to her and we exchanged photographic ideas and arranged the date, I also suggested that she leaves putting on makeup until arrival to allow flexibility and avoid over doing it.

Last year I purchased a book on model poses, Photographing Models: 1000 Poses, by Eliot Siegel, published by Bloomsbury, that I am now starting to use as reference material. The first chapter covers preparation including camera angels, creative cropping, lighting, styling, putting your subject at ease. Basic stuff but useful and  nicely to the point.  Two best tips for me was on the best camera angels for this project and best lighting position to use.

My wife helped her with the makeup and was able to help with costume and also provided some costume jewellery that complimented the clothes. We spent most of the day shooting and I have sent her low-res images to select that I will then work on for making good for her website.

Now we have worked together and now know each other I look forward to more photo-shoots both here at home and abroad in locations locally and maybe even further afield.

Langford’s Basic Photography, 10th Edition.

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I first read this book when I was a teenager studying photography for an O-level.  I have been reading through it again and although much in the book I already know, it does no harm to re-cap on previously learned knowledge to both freshen up my memory and  discover additional information that that I previously didn’t take in at the time.  This edition was published in 2015 and refers to new features in Photoshop, Photoshop Cloud and Lightroom.

More importantly for me, this new edition has two very good chapters for digital workflow and Photoshop which I found very useful and helpful and good referral material for the future.  One very valuable piece of advice was to set up the colour spacing in Adobe RAW and Lightroom; so that all future photos that are imported are correctly set for the appropriate colour spacing for print and can then be later down graded for screen use if necessary.  This insures that valuable information on the original RAW file is not automatically thrown away before you even get started and can future proof your images.  Although the chapter on Photoshop is not a training manual in itself, it covers enough to get you started.

This book also covers working with and developing film and I may refer back to those chapters at a later date.  I still have much of my old darkroom equipment although I haven’t used it in over 30 years.

There is also a very useful chapter at the back on presentation of your final work, which I am sure will be valuable referral resource later in my degree course when I am required to produce work for assessment to exhibition standard.

No matter how experienced you think you are, I would always recommend that you have this book on your book-shelf anyway.

Reflections of part one

I began this course not ever having thought much of what documentary photography was, in fact if asked I would have guessed and suggested that it was a form of photojournalism and probably a title given to a number of images pertaining to a news of magazine story.  I now understand that documentary photography has a much broader meaning and is very much linked to the Art photographer as describing their project work and I look forward to my next section.

I also learned that street photography / photojournalism is not that easy or straightforward, as I learned when I went out and about with my DSLR to take street style photographs.  Planning is always essential even if it is just arming yourself with some compositional ideas to find and photograph.