Final post

Well that’s it, my work has gone off for assessment and my learning log has been updated so it is time to close this blog.

It has been an interesting and challenging journey and apart from the exercises and assignments from the course, The Art of Photography has inspired me to become more involved in photography in lots of different ways.  I am now chair of our local camera club and have a thriving photography club in our local primary school with a dozen regular children aged between 8 and 11 attending the club every Thursday after school.

I have signed up for Digital Photographic Practice as I’d really like to learn to make better use of the editing software I have, to know when manipulation adds to an image as opposed to compromising it and produce the best quality images that I can.

All I need to do now is wait for the results of assessment!!!

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Reaction to tutor feedback for Assignment 5

As always my tutor has been honest and constructive and there are no real surprises in the comments he made.  As I have already said, I did not find this assignment easy and I’ve learnt many valuable lessons, mainly to do with planning and thinking through the process in advance.  What worries and disappoints me a little is that one or two of the pictures that I thought were quite good in terms of observation at least, Pete didn’t think worked.  The mother and daughter from the back for example and the two chaps studying the form.  He also didn’t like the still life that I had taken for the cover as he felt it was too contrived.  I think the reason that I’m disappointed is that by now, I feel that I should have a better idea of what works and clearly in this case I didn’t.

A day at the races

In readiness for assessment, I have replaced some of the pictures that were criticized and have edited one or two others, so for example, I have replaced the cover picture with a colláge, the parade ring shot with one ‘less crowded’ and cropped a couple of the ‘racing’ shots so that I appeared to be closer to the action.

What I would really like to have done is pay another visit to a race meeting but sadly ran out of time.

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Latest news

Collected the cup for my Project Cup success at the Camera Club annual dinner on Tuesday and took over as chair of the club for next year.  We have a break now until the club restarts in September but have next year’s programme with the competition topics to work on over the summer.  One or two quite challenging topics this next year including a ‘plain and simple’ competition where we all have to use a disposable camera, so there is no editing of images in any shape or form.  Other topics include, ‘Its all in the eyes’, ‘Let there be light’ and ‘A touch of blue’, so hopefully what I’ve learnt on this course might give me some ideas on how to tackle these projects.

Last Sunday I attended my first Distinction Advisory Day which was run at the RPS offices in Bath, my intention being to submit some of my work for licentiate assessment.   I took some of my flower photos, taken for some of the earlier TAOP assignments and also used in the camera club competition that I won, along with one or two other images.  The main criticism was that I needed more variety.  Although the judge likes some of the flower photos he said there were too many of them and I needed to show that I was competent with other subjects. One or two photos were criticised for being too ‘soft’ when he would have likes them to be sharper and one or two others he suggested that I crop.  All in all he said that I had 5 or 6 good photographs as a starting point but I clearly have more work to do before I am ready to go for a distinction.  One of the most interesting and useful aspects of the day was watching the judges move the batches of photos around until they were happy that the panel ‘flowed’ in terms of size, shape, colour, topic.  It was also useful to see some of the work other hopefuls had brought with them.  My plan now is to get my TAOP work ready for assessment then attend another advisory day before going applying for the licentiate.

Just changed the header for my blog to one of my own photos, quite pleased with that.  I hadn’t thought of presenting this as a ‘pillar box’ type of format but I quite like it!

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Almost the end of the line

I have just submitted my last assignment for the Art of Photography and also an application to have my work assessed.  Now its time to start going over all my tutor reports from previous assignments and making the recommended changes and also making sure that my learning log is up to date, well presented and easy to follow.  The Learning Log for my next course will be easier to set up and I’ll have a better idea what I’m doing from the start.  Gone for a July assessment, hope I’ve given myself enough time!

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Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative – A day at the Races

…..illustrate a story for a magazine, the cover and several pages.  The cover picture will need some of the techniques of illustration that we have been studying.  So the whole assignment is a ‘narrative picture essay’ and the cover at least, needs to include one or more of ‘evidence of action’, symbols and juxtaposition.  Whilst for some pictures the subject may be the important thing, for the cover picture at least, the image quality needs to be technically good.

One of the hardest things about this was finding a topic which would allow me to incorporate all of the above and could be planned and executed in the time available.  Again I went through the process of brainstorming ideas, only to discard many of them because the timing didn’t work, or I felt they were too simple or too complicated.

I got the chance of a day at Stratford Races and felt this would fit as a suitable topic.   My starting point was to think about the different things that happen at a horse race meeting and the different photo opportunities that would present themselves as well as the pictures I would need to be able to get the story across.  The next stage was to think through some of the technical aspects; what lenses should I take? I settled for an 18-200 and a 70 – 300 telephoto lenses; what shutter speeds would be best, what about ISO?  As it happened it was dull for most of the day so many of the pictures were taken with a high ISO so that I could get a reasonably fast shutter speed.  I hadn’t been to Stratford Racecourse before so although I had made a list of the pictures I wanted and where I would need to stand to get them, such as at the parade ring or at the winning post, I didn’t bargain for the fact that there is a huge screen directly opposite where I stood to see the horses cross the finishing line, or that for much of time I was shooting towards the sun.  I can’t stress how important that planning activity was because although it didn’t all quite work according to plan, I got most of the pictures I needed and certainly understand the areas I’d need to focus on more closely if I were to do this again.  For example,  given the time, I would have gone to a race meeting without my camera as part of the planning process so that I could work out exactly where I needed to be for each shot.  I would also write to the race course in advance to see if I could get access to areas usually closed to the public.  One of the things I did find was that there were photo opportunities that I hadn’t planned for, such as 2 chaps studying the form and an auctioneer taking bids for the winner of as ‘selling race’, you just need to keep your eyes open all the time.  When I first received my TAOP materials and read through the whole course, this assignment terrified me, partly because I’m a little nervous about photography people and partly because some of the ‘illustrative’ photography I’ve seen, might have an interesting story, but the technical skills sometimes seems to be lacking.  I do now have much more respect for photographers who follow this route, it’s not easy but has opened up another avenue  for me to explore further in future.

Some of the hardest things about this assignment were:

  • planning – although I thought I had worked hard on that, it wasn’t really enough and if I did it again I would definitely make a prior visit to the venue.
  • not  in full control of lighting and where I wanted to stand – again a prior visit may have helped me accommodate that
  • trying to tell the whole story in a dozen or so photographs.  This required me to be quite choosy and I may have to reduce the number even further before submitting for assessment
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Rain

This was another interesting exercise, in that we were given a specific topic, rain,  and had to find an interesting and attractive way of depicting it.  I started by brainstorming some of the options, bearing in mind that we had been advised not to go for the obvious and that we need not necessarily have rain to be able to take the pictures.  Just as well because when I took the pictures, we hadn’t had any rain for weeks.   So how could I depict rain?  Puddles, natural or man-made; photo taken out of a rain splashed window, could use a hose if need be; raindrops on leaves or flowers, but I have used this lots of times already.

umbrellas drying off after the rain

In the end I decided to play around with sprinkling water over open umbrellas on a tiled floor to give the impression that they drying out, having just come in from the rain.  I tried to think about the composition for this one, close in on the umbrellas, the triangular shape of the umbrellas and the tiles and the reflections on the wet floor.

Raindrops on an umbrella

For the second image, I focused on one umbrella only and the droplets of rain on the fabric.  I’m not sure about ‘attractive’ or how successful this would be as a magazine cover but I tried to keep it simple as advised and again used symbols to illustrate the subject, I definately think the first one is the better of the two.

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Juxtaposition

The brief for this exercise was to bring together two or more related elements to illustrate something.  This could be a still life setting, using symbols or objects and/or lighting to show the connection or it could be using a viewpoint with appropriate focal lengths to emphasise the relationship of the elements together.

Walking boots, maps and a compass to illustrate the cover of a book

I struggled a little bit with ideas for the latter so went for the still life setting to illustrate the cover or a book, in my case on walks in Wester Ross.  Using an open map as the background, chose other maps, walking boots and a compass to symbolise the elements of ‘walking’.    I tried a number of different compositions, both landscape and portrait but decided that a portrait format would be best fitted to a book.  It was also necessary to consider what else might be on a book cover, for example the title,  and this influenced my composition too as I wanted a relatively free area in the picture to put the text.

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