Assignment 5: Narrative and Illustration

This final assignment is centred on illustrating a story for a magazine. This includes the cover, and several pages inside.
Even though no text is required, captions are to be included to explain and link each picture.
The assignment also brings together everything learnt so far on the course, and should therefore incorporate concepts covered such as the frame, elements of design, colour, and light.

The definition of narrative according to the Oxford dictionary is ‘a spoken or written account of connected events; a story’.
This in itself gave rise to questions relating to how a reader would expect a story to evolve. Should it have a beginning, middle, and end or simply narrate single events linked with a common theme, in a continuing stream?

Trying to visualise how a narrative would unfold in pictures without a concrete conclusion proved to be quite a task.
Seeing the story told through other people’s eyes was also critical, which led to further considerations of what style magazine the story would appear in?
Again visualising the intended audience or target market made the theme slightly easier to develop.

Whilst completing my previous assignment, I had become intrigued with images conceived before the digital age. In particular, the way in which they were physically viewed. Projected imagery, slide format, and the crude but poignant way in which they still managed to convey a message, proved to be a fascination, which I wanted to explore in more detail.

During research of photographers whose work demonstrated this type of imagery, I came across John French, who projected patterns onto models in the early 60s, which for this era was quite rare and innovative.
The sharply defined patterns conveyed a sense that the models were wearing the item rather than simply being wrapped in a light source. He managed to both merge the model with the projection whilst still separating them from the background, something I wanted to strive for in my own images.

More recent work by photographer/graphic design artist Eva Mueller, portrays very strikingly simplistic images, in which the placement of the projected image very powerfully reinforces her intended message. The models themselves almost become secondary to the projected area. Although the work from these two sources was beneficial, particularly in the way in which they used lighting techniques to manipulate the desired outcome, their work was very commercial.

Although this is an area I’m interested in, it wasn’t the style I initially wanted for the magazine.
As I researched further, it became clear that if the story was appearing in a magazine, which by default is a commercial entity, then I could produce at least some of images in line with this genre.

It was only whilst looking in a post office window at the ‘for sale’ ads, and the mix of written and typed cards on display, that an idea began to germinate.
This led to ideas based around the nostalgic look back at an age when typewriters were the norm, with comparison to the digital age.
Having taken a few shots related to the typewriter alone, it became clear that the theme was too big a subject to narrate, and I needed to re-think my objective.

I concentrated on just the typewriter with only one or two comparison shots, but when finished, the set lacked a general feeling of narrative and cohesion.
The result was an array of images without any real sense of purpose or movement, and I was reminded of the following quote;

“If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others
to feel anything when they look at your pictures” 

Don McCullin, Sleeping with Ghosts: A Life’s Work in Photography

I decided to put them onto the OCA Flickr group to obtain a viewpoint through fresh eyes.
One comment which did strike a chord, referred to people or the lack of them as being a possible addition.
Although I could see that this was a possibility but felt that the inclusion of people was out of context with the images already taken, so tried to work through how I could refer to, rather than physically represent them.

It was then that I began to visualise the type of people linked to the era I was portraying, combined with the written forms of communication, and thought back to the ‘for sale’ adverts in the shop window.
The following advert was located when researching the idea generally, and gave rise to the idea of using the images to portray the personalities of those behind the images.


The idea of adding a lonely-hearts style advert was then developed. When researching magazine styles for those aimed at a more elderly age group, the people portrayed were always shown in couples, particularly happy, shiny, healthy, and good looking couples, so I wanted to use a slightly different angle.

Captions placed alongside the images are part fact and part fiction.
The gentleman pictured in the following advert, who was also an inspiring element, was contacted, and he kindly set me a copy (by post as he doesn’t own a computer).

The camera used throughout the assignment is a Canon 5D with a 24-105mm, and 50mm f/2.5 macro lens. Post processing was carried out with Photoshop CS6, and the magazine layout was trialled with Adobe’s InDesign.

This image was taken leaving lots of white space, with a view to using this as text area for the cover shot. As the majority of the remaining images were close-up shots, I wanted to include the typewriter in its entirety so that the others could be easily identified as relating to this image.


1/30th f/9 ISO 400 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

The image below came about initially when I saw very bright sunlight creating strong shadows, and felt that this could be utilised to create a projector style effect.

It also felt an ideal way of beginning the narrative, with the idea of gradually adding colour and more clarity as the story continued.


1/6400 f/7.1 ISO 800 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

1/6400 f/7.1 ISO 800 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

Using paper in the typewriter itself was too dense, so a piece of acetate was used in its place, which produced a softer effect.
The red strip from the typewriter case was used as an anchor to the image, and emphasised the diagonal element. It also provided contrast, whilst linking it to additional images from a colour viewpoint.

It also links to the personality aspect, indicating that although this ‘mature’ lady is shy, she has a lot to offer once you get to know her. The shadow also represents how invisible older people can feel to younger generations.


1/80th f/11 ISO 250 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

1/80th f/11 ISO 250 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

After the former muted, and relatively colourless image. This one introduces if not more colour, more contrast to the narrative.

This picture has a projected image of typebars aimed at the paper. This was achieved by photographing them, printing the image onto acetate, and inserting this into a piece of cardboard, the same size and thickness as a conventional slide.
The intention was to show the minimal amount of the typewriter itself to in order to place the projected image in context, and at the forefront of the overall theme.

Two typewriters have been used throughout the assignment, one grey and one blue. The grey tones and overall colourless hues suited the personality in this instance.
The fairly rigid lines and centrally placed image helped to reinforce the characteristics of the person behind the image.

The general tones and dark contrasting areas point to a pessimistic character, set in his ways, someone who’s probably grown bitter and narrow minded.
The indistinct clarity of the printbars also helps to convey the feeling of someone in their latter years, again with the gradual loss or fading of colour.

Camera settings were selected accordingly to throw the background into darkness, which highlighted the projected image.
The projector was an old cine style model which was placed near to the typewriter effecting a narrower beam of focus.


1/80th f/2.8 ISO 400 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

1/80th f/2.8 ISO 400 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

For the next image I wanted to break with the typewriter theme but still link the two by adding some kind of failed technology, and also introduce colour.

The broken phone screen was part of a window display in a mobile phone repair shop. It was acquired with no real plan for its intent, just the knowledge that it would be useful eventually.

I decided on the computer error message for its simplicity and colour. As blue can be a quiet, and cool colour, it also balances the opacity of the red in the initial cover image.
Although the error message partly met the brief, it lacked impact, and simply felt like a commercial snapshot. The broken phone screen came to mind, and by sticking it to the actual computer monitor, and zooming the image in and out, I was able to frame and highlight the required section.

The result is akin to a projected image, and directs the reader’s gaze to the necessary text, and the mobile’s edge contrasts to break the large area of blue.
The iconic symbol of the upside-down smile is instantly recognised as being a negative element in the image, and the white text instantly draws the eye, enabling the image’s message to be quickly conveyed. The words ‘problem’ and ‘error’ are also closely aligned to reinforce the message.

The character behind the image is linked by the breakdown of his marriage, and is beyond repair. The advert conveys a sense of finality, pointing to someone who’s had his fingers burnt.


FinCapt copy

1/80th f/2.8 ISO 400 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

The intention for this image was to once again introduce more colour, and also change the tone and rhythm of the narrative. The image reveals a poignant message behind it, and is devoid of any projected imagery.

M Freeman (2012), details how the overall pacing of a sequence of images revolves around colour, content and scale.

Deciding where to place an image which had a more melancholy element, was difficult. I could only draw on experience of reading various fictional texts, and try to imagine where I’d expect it to appear. Rarely is a poignant message revealed at the beginning of a narrative, and although the stereotypical ‘sad ending’ is common, it didn’t seem pertinent to a magazine aimed at an elderly population. My intention was not to depress half the readership, so the middle ground was decided upon.

This was a difficult shot to compose, where even deciding how many typebars to include, became a consideration at close range. Linking to the character behind the image, the idea was to convey a line of soldiers standing to attention, or in this case, slightly leaning.
The Union Jack placed directly behind partly dictated the placement, as the white section acted as a backdrop, thereby highlighting one or two bars in particular, with the others fading slightly into the deeper blue area.

Lighting was provided by naturally bright sunlight through a window, with the camera angled at such a level as to give the front keys deeper contrast, and highlight texture.
Use of a tripod was impossible due to the angle, so with a 1/13th shutter speed, I simply had to rest the camera on the typewriter and temporarily cease breathing.

The character’s personality is hopefully conveyed as someone who, although suffering from a recent loss, is still looking to the future. They have a sense of pride and determination.
They may be entering a different phase in their life, with the angle of the typebars intended to convey this period.

The colours in the image are the main linking element to others within the set. Blue from the previous, and red introducing the next.
As the central core of the narrative, I wanted to include parts of the typewriter for this section, to reinforce the main theme, combined with strong colour to add emphasis.
The aspect ratio has also been maintained for this section to reinforce the continuity.


1/640th f/4 ISO 500 Canon 50mm f/2.5

1/640th f/4 ISO 500 Canon 50mm f/2.5

Having placed the typewriter into its case for the cover shot, I wanted to include this in the next image, which would also help to make it more cohesive, by referring back to the cover. The stronger colour red also made more of a statement at this stage, being fairly centrally placed and at the peak of the narrative.

The background has been left purposefully stark in order to contrast sharply with its neighbours, and has been achieved with lighting from a softbox to alleviate any unwanted shadows.

The image was initially taken with the projected image showing smaller keys, but I did a re-take to give them a larger presence, more in line with a’ large print’ book feel.
Showing only a section of the lid also linked to the character behind the image. It shows someone who feels slightly embarrassed at placing at advert, but at the same time larger than life, and with a sense of humour.
Again the slightly unfocused look implied by the projected image, refers to the age of the character, something that I’ve tried to include in the majority of images.


1/5th f/8 ISO 800 Canon 50mm f/2.5

1/5th f/8 ISO 800 Canon 50mm f/2.5

As a contrast to the previous image, I wanted sharper focus in this one, and a feel of precision, with the re-introduction of additional colours, but keeping with the diagonal composition featured in several of the set. Red ink had transferred from the ageing ribbon and provided a fine line of contrast against the blue and yellow.

The softbox has again been used, and angled to direct the focus towards the highlighted typebars. The light reflected on the blue body of the typewriter also helped to add contrast to the image.
This is the last image showing two strong colours, and acts as an underline to show the cessation of this part of the narrative, before the final section.

The colours suit the advert’s writer, and the perfectly ordered typebars match her precise list of requirements.  Her outgoing personality is matched by the yellow toned background.
Compositional lines are clean and simple to tie in with her exacting character.


FINzipAndFonts3001 copy

1/30th f/8 ISO 500 Canon 50mm f/2.5 macro

Having moved from the slightly cynical characters at the beginning of the narrative, and then through onto reticent, poignant, and humorous, I wanted to convey a more confident personality with the next image. Someone who possessed a bit of passion, but without being overt.

The intent was to show the case partially open, conveying a hint of promise within, which I wanted to achieve solely with the projector.

As the case lining was red, the colour worked well as a focal point, but the mechanics of projecting something onto a fairly narrow opening was difficult.
Deciding that text would be the best option, the next consideration was to choose something which linked to the central theme.

Font styles were experimented with, and a makeshift slide was produced showing a number of what I hoped were fairly easily recognisable fonts. It took a few attempts to achieve the right angle, and also to get the lighting just right.
Although the projector created the right effect, a number of attempts had to be made to alleviate any glare on the glossy surface. The final result conveys the feeling of the interior being lit, rather than projected on.

The character’s personality comes across as someone who’s warm, and vibrant. Although in their latter years, there’s still a spark and a zest for life.

After the vibrant hues of the previous images, I’ve intentionally kept to just two colours in this image, as the narrative comes to an end, but included red for its vibrant connotations.
After several landscape aspects, I’ve switched to portrait style to keep the movement and rhythm varied.

IMAGE No. 8  

1/80th f/4 ISO 400 Canon 24 – 105mm @ 96mm

1/80th f/4 ISO 400 Canon 24 – 105mm @ 96mm

For the final image, I wanted to move away from the typewriter and back to more modern technology, but somehow still linking the two. Having shown a broken mobile in the third image, the idea formed of using a working one but with an image of typewritten text.
Initially I tried to show a projected message, but this looked too contrived, and at a small scale, was lost.

I tried using the mobile itself to take a range of photos linked to the typewriter, and finally decided on the image above. It also mirrors the fairly clean compositional lines of the previous image. Red and black also worked well, providing a strong contrast. I’ve also tried to make use of the white space to better highlight the central text.

Having started the narrative with a fairly reticent character, with just a shadow portraying the image, I felt the latter ones should have a confident, and more positive outlook, people who although used more modern day technology, were probably happier without it.
Whereby some of the previous characters had been a little mercenary, or bitter, this one was full of zest, and obviously wanted to meet a long-term partner.



COVER SHOT – This shot was taken inside with natural lighting, and the white balance was set to auto. Contrast was adjusted, and brightness increased to sharply separate the background from the subject. Shadows and highlights were then also adjusted to bring out detail in the keys.

As the initial shot, the intent was to build up gradually in both terms of colour and impact. It needed to be almost tentative in its composition, but still show the theme strongly.
Harsh sunlight was a boon in this instance and assisted in achieving the definitive lines required.
The most difficult aspect was in manoeuvring the typewriter at the right angle necessary to achieve the final placement.

More forward planning may have helped with this, but breaking the train of thought to find a more useful prop often seems to negatively affect the final outcome.

PP consisted of converting the image to black and white to de-emphasise the text written on the edge of the transparency, as this was not where the intended focal point was to be.
Brightness and contrast were then adjusted, before a slight crop.
The red edge linked back to the cover shot, and gave some grounding and balance overall.

Levels were adjusted in this image to accentuate the projected section, whilst simultaneously separating it slightly more from the typewriter.
Auto white balance was selected as this seemed to highlight the tones nearest to the true colour match.

A perspective crop was carried out to straighten up one edge, along with a levels adjustment, and a small change was then made to brightness and contrast to highlight the difference between text and mobile.

Vibrancy and contrast levels were adjusted in this shot, to increase contrast between the typebars and the background.

Contrast and sharpening adjustments were made in this instance to give more of a sharp focus to the projected image.

Apart from vibrancy levels, this image is as taken.

Initially a white background was shot, but this seemed at odds with the other colours. In pp the background was selected, and a different more contrasting colour was used to balance the composition, and place the emphasis onto the case’s interior.

Shadows and highlights were then adjusted for the same reasons.

The final image had a perspective crop made to straighten lines, and an increase to brightness and contrast, in keeping with the other images within the set.





Each time I approach an assignment, the intention is always to keep each image, at least for a period, which acts as a useful progression sheet from the first to the last. As the whittling down process begins, I inadvertently delete certain ones.

The image below shows the majority of those taken, including a few ideas that were trialled and then dismissed as the assignment progressed.


Although I wanted to portray the images to the best of my ability in a magazine layout, I quickly realised that hoping to become an expert with Adobe’s InDesign within a week, was probably not practical. The month’s trial was downloaded anyway, as I felt this would be an ideal opportunity to obtain an overview of its potential.

Several magazines aimed at the more senior section of the population were researched to get a better understanding of layout, together with more mainstream publications such as the Sunday supplements.

The key resource in the UK seemed to be Saga Magazine, with several more in the US such as Senior Living, to name but a few.
I was keen to show the images in context with the style of magazine that the intended audience would relate to.

At this stage I also realised that trying to show both the image and attached caption as one, was possibly a drawback. Re-scaling the size of images was not a problem, but the resulting change in text did affect the overall look.

Suddenly having different sized text boxes altered the look of a narrative which up to this point had appeared as fairly cohesive. Text in itself draws the eye immediately, but when separate bodies of text appear in different sizes, the eye seems to be  drawn towards the largest first.

This created a problem in that the images would then be viewed out of context for anyone scanning the pages, or even reading at a leisurely pace.
Certain images seemed to require the caption at different sides to the one initially selected.
As the narrative was intended to be a continually played out style, rather than a linear one, several re-works were initiated.

Physically laying out the images and the separate bodies of text proved more successful than re-arranging online. It was much easier to move them within the same time frame as the brain was mentally re-arranging, and re-assessing.
If the text was too far removed from its image, there followed a delay for the reader in trying to piece the information together, thereby missing the point.

Having decided upon the layout, I then set about fine-tuning the set on-line with Adobe’s InDesign, the final results shown below.


Having taken the image initially with a plain white background, it appeared incongruous once placed with text. I therefore changed to a colour more suited to the subject, and less stark.
Various texts were trialled until a simple contemporary look was achieved, which did not swamp or detract from the image itself.


The first page depicting the shadow of the typewriter, was initially given a border to highlight it against the background, but this appeared at odds with the subtle lines of the image. It also looked lost set amid columns of colourless text. Thinking of its placement against the next image also threw up further considerations of how this then altered the perception of the remaining set.

I felt the narrative was turning into the photographic version of chess. Instead of considering images one by one, it was necessary to view them as a whole, with each one’s placement impacting on the rest.
It became easier to view them as purely graphic shapes, with their own colour palettes. Referring back to the message behind each image, and noting where the peaks and troughs were throughout the narrative, made the process easier to plot and change.

Altering the first line of text to red, and filling text boxes with a pale colour, seemed to address the balance, at least in part.


These next two images were far easier to place in terms of colour balance, and aspect ratio, and naturally seemed to intertwine.


I had initially taken this image with a view of using the curved shape to offset accompanying text. At a smaller scale, the projected area was not as defined as intended.
Using it on a double page spread had more impact, particularly with the colour, although I was concerned at how covering the white space would alter the overall look of the image.

There is a large amount of text to contend with but the large header space, and change in text size further into the page, helps to ease this, and balance the overall rhythm of the page.
Again the large amount of red in the image does not appear to overwhelm the page due to its deeper and less vibrant hue.


The largest image was intended to appear on the right page but its shape and colour worked better visually on the left.
The most difficult part of these two pages was on getting text size evenly balanced and in sync with the images, so that text balanced rather than be the prominent aspect.

During my introduction, I considered whether if was feasible to illustrate a story which didn’t necessarily follow the ‘beginning, middle and end’ style of narrative.
By making careful use and placement of colour, I feel that the aim has been achieved.

This has been coupled with neighbouring text, which although not captions in the literal sense, link the images in a coherent manner, and enable the reader to see the similarly running threads of the story.

Each image has been framed in such a way as to highlight key elements within to support the narrative. This has been achieved either by cropping, changing the aspect ratio, separating subject from background, or projecting an image in such a way as make it the focal point.

Graphic elements have also been used to strongly emphasise and guide the reader, including the careful use of line direction, shape, focal points, and symbols.
The further positioning of these elements within the frame, and similarly in the final layout, assist in strengthening the general narrative.

Additional lighting considerations also had a strong impact, such as depicted in the second image using sunlight to produce shadow, projected imagery, and pc monitor lighting. Each assisted in conveying a message throughout the narrative, and contrasted against each other as the narrative unfurled.

By keeping a consistent layout, particularly with each of the image’s captions, the reader is able to see that the story surrounds single events linked with a common theme, as outlined earlier.
The tone conveyed by each caption was also designed to set the pace of the narrative. The image depicting the typebars set against the flag acting as a gear-change part way through.

This aids the notion that a standard narrative style does not necessarily have to be followed, and that images and text intertwine to allow enough visual clues to allow a story to be told, and the reader is hopefully left without feeling as though they’ve been robbed of a more concrete ending.

Accompanying caption text was cut back in several images, allowing the bare minimum to convey the pertinent points. A more bullet-point style was aimed for which seemed to achieve the desired outcome effectively.
This also kept a consistency of tone throughout, linking to the era prior to a purely digital age.

Trying to pitch the illustrations for a commercial publication, aimed at readers from an elderly demographic, was at times difficult to marry.
Continually adjusting layout and text styles, with an eye on the overall set, and intended aim, eventually led to what I hope is something both thought provoking and engaging.

One of the concerns with this assignment was in taking the images first, with only a fragile list of intended outcomes, and then compiling the captions afterwards. It was more of a reverse narrative.

The type of images taken were an additional consideration, as the intended audience may have found them too obscure. This is not meant as a slight on the intellect of older generations. It was more a question as to what people expect to see in the average lifestyle magazine.

This is why I created the accompanying captions in a fairly blatant style, to remove any doubt from the reader’s mind as to what the images conveyed.
Shortening the message in each also made them visually easier to scan, particularly for the pages showing two or more images.

From a creative viewpoint, the images were really enjoyable to produce, although whilst being absorbed in the creative aspect, it was all too easy to concentrate on getting the technical side right.
Some of the very slow shutter speeds really warranted a tripod, but the angles made some very difficult. This ended up in getting a tack sharp image, but not necessarily at quite the angle required, hence the tripod was dispensed with.

Getting to grips with Adobe’s InDesign software for the first time was a steeper learning curve than warranted, but it was very useful. Although I have by no means produced a slick publication, I am happy at the outcome as the knowledge gained will be useful in future projects.

Technically I feel I’ve reached an impasse. Although I’m comfortable in using my camera fairly intuitively, I’ve become a little complacent. It’s become habit to always stick to shutter or aperture priority without making myself work in manual mode.
With the ability to stick a plaster over problems in post processing, the habit lingers on, but I am aware of it.

Working with several images as a cohesive set took me out of my comfort zone. It was akin to looking after nine children, instead of one. You know where you are with one, but it did make me consider technical and creative outcomes far more ruthlessly than previous assignments.

Speaking to John, the gentleman who was looking for his ‘special lady’, gave me the impetus to develop the lonely hearts style captions, which made it more personal.
It was easier to imagine the characters behind the image.

“John has still not found his special someone,

but is looking forward to his fourth date…..”



Freeman, M (2012) The photographer’s story. East Sussex: Ilex Press Ltd


Alexander, A – Documentary & Narrative.  5th May 2014

Evans, H (1977) Pictures on a page. Frome and London: Pimlico

Mueller, E 1st May 2014

Short, M (2011) Context and narrative. Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA



Exercise 4: Rain

For this exercise we had to imagine a magazine cover on one subject: rain. The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject.
We have the whole cover space in which to place the image, which should be attractive, and preferably original.

This was not an ideal time to carry out the exercise – temperatures have reached the highest for the year, and skies are clear blue. Deciding against waiting for a downpour, I’ve instead used an image which suggests rain, which becomes stronger with the associated text.

My initial thoughts always visualised scenes looking out at the rain, but this seemed to place the focus on other elements, with the rain becoming secondary to the image.
By considering other viewpoints and focal distances, the concept of producing an image with a much narrower focus evolved.

Having researched magazine layout styles and how images were incorporated, I wanted the final look to have fairly clean edges which would act as the backdrop to supporting text.
Placement of the finished image was therefore crucial if the cover was going to look balanced, and have impact.

The image was produced by using a paint tray filled with water. Two coloured gels were used to reflect the required colour. A water dropper was placed above the tray, which was followed by trial and error to achieve the desired effect.

The final image was then positioned with enough room for the main body of text, and a clear area of colour at both header and footer sections for the remaining text.
I’ve tried to include just enough text to balance the image, but have stopped short of creating any more due to limited illustrator software. I felt more text would start to turn the cover into ‘a dog’s breakfast’, to quote a quaint turn of phrase.

The final result is shown below;


Although I’m pleased with the cover image, the font style could still benefit from a re-visit, but general placement and balance seem to work well.
The aim was to produce one single, strong, attractive photograph that leaves no-one in doubt about the subject, which I feel has been achieved in conjunction with the text.



Exercise 3: Juxtapositon

Continuing with narrative and illustration, this exercise called for an image showing a still life approach, someone with a possession, or the results of their work or hobby.
The aim was to show juxtaposition, defined as ‘the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect‘. The idea was to be portrayed in one image.

I’ve chosen a book called the ‘Time Traveler’s Wife‘ by Audrey Niffenegger, with the current cover shown below.

The story revolves around a couple who met when Clare was aged 6 and Henry was thirty-six,  who married when Clare was twenty-two, and Henry was thirty. Henry suffers from a rare condition where his genetic clock periodically resets and he finds himself pulled suddenly into the past or future.

My intent was to use two items which highlighted the difference in age, whilst trying to retain the slightly vintage look of the original image. I also wanted to retain a similar depth of field and overall tonal range.

The chess set was selected as it’s not a game ordinarily associated with a younger age group. My next task was to find something related to a female child which could be incorporated with the chess set, rather than being set apart from it.

I tried using various toy figures but they were too close in colour scale and size to the chess pieces, which is where the idea of using the duck came from.
It is bright enough to be the main focal point in the image and larger than the chess pieces, and also manages to convey the child oriented message.

The image was taken on a Fuji XF1, and has been reduced in resolution for web purposes.
In post processing, using Photoshop CS6, a ‘cross process’ curve was applied to increase the vintage look, and background contrast.
The final result is shown below;

1/210 f/1.8 ISO 200

1/210th f/1.8 ISO 200

This is the first image I’ve taken where the placement of text also had to be considered.
This did take longer in the initial stages as the brain had to do a mental shift to include this element, but I’m pleased with the overall result.

I think that the two elements contrast well and show juxtaposition to good effect, without being too obscure. The image, because of its two opposing elements create enough intrigue for the viewer to want to look closer at the book.
The exercise has also been useful when considering future images where such a concept is required.


Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Vintage, London, UK, 2005

Exercise 2: Evidence of action

In this exercise continuing with narrative and illustration, we were required to produce one photograph in which it can be seen that something has happened.

I initially considered solid objects which naturally come to mind due to their ease of use and handling. The concept seemed easier to convey, but course notes also referred to abstract ideas and concepts.

With this in mind I’ve used two subjects, one which contains text, and the other to suggest the absence of something linked to the former.

A macro lens in conjunction with a Canon 5D has been used to create the desired overall angle and depth of field. The image has been reduced in resolution for web purposes, and is shown below;

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

1/10th f/3.5 ISO 100

The intent was to show just enough of the death certificate to convey what had happened, and throwing the ring box out of focus to show what it was, without it being the main focal point.
I decided not to use a tripod even though the shutter speed was very low, as I did not want clarity in too much of the text.

Initial attempts used a tighter framing of the certificate with a wedding ring as the symbol to go with the illustration, but this was too informative and the text too prominent.
The certificate not only conveys what has happened but the ring box also suggests the link between the two subjects.

This has been a thought-provoking exercise and enabled me to shift slightly out of my comfort zone which is working more with solid objects.
It has made me give more thought to what should be excluded from an image, as opposed to what should remain.




Exercise 1: A narrative picture essay

This exercise required that we set ourselves an assignment and then photograph it. The aim being to tell a story in a set of pictures, with between 5 and 15 images.
Approximately sixty images were initially taken, with a gradual culling as the final layout was visualised throughout the process.

Photos have been taken on an Olympus E-M5 with a 12-50mm lens. All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes.

Assignment choice

Several themes were debated and two were finally selected. The first entailed a trip to a fly-in day at a local airfield, but my armoury of lens’ wasn’t really up to capturing anything at a great distance. The nature of the event also resulted in restrictive access to a number of areas which I had envisaged using.

The final layout depicts a visit to Furzey Gardens in Minstead, Hampshire.
The gardens are a mix of traditional planted areas, rustic and traditional artefacts, tea rooms, and lakes, in a rural setting.

When plotting the intended images I kept these elements in mind and have tried to include the key aspects, which can be seen below.
Although captions were required for each image, I felt that the layout was fairly self-explanatory.


I found it useful to consider the targeted audience for this narrative, and the context in which it would be used. With this in mind it has been styled in more of an advertorial layout.
Viewing all of the images taken, certain ones immediately stood out as not gelling with the overall theme. The reasons were varied, and included stark colour contrasts, overly detailed, or lacking in purpose, to name but a few.

I initially viewed the images in Microsoft Words’ Publishing layout as this gave more immediate results as to how the images worked as a set.
Viewing them in smaller scale also helped to review which images could stand alone at almost thumbnail size, and which overall could act as a centre-piece.

A more detailed explanation or each image is shown below;


IMAGE 1 – Thatch and gardens
This was selected to show the ground of the setting in conjunction with some of the structures, without including too much detail. The viewer is left to imagine the rest of the scene. I have also purposefully left images of people out to give a more tranquil feel to the set, and echo what the gardens themselves also convey.

IMAGE 2 – Close-up plant
The second image was selected for its detail and colour combination. This worked well with the surrounding images, and being of smaller scale, was necessary to enhance these qualities.

IMAGE 3 – Lake
Wanting an image taken with a longer focal length, this section of the gardens made an ideal scene. Again colours, and contrast are kept in balance with the overall set of images.

IMAGE 4 – Floral woodland
This image stood out from the rest due to the colour combination, which I felt was better suited to a larger size, and therefore have placed it centrally.
The bright green is a colour I’ve also tried to keep in the majority of images to form a more cohesive set.

IMAGE 5 – Fledgling
The gardens are a haven for wildlife which I’d hoped to capture in some way, but wasn’t hopeful.
This is a cropped image as I was unable to get too close to the subject.

IMAGE 6 – Exit sign
I was undecided whether to use this due to the pull of text on the eye. Contrast and brightness levels were adjusted to subdue tones and ensure it blended with other images rather than stand out.

IMAGE 7 – Lantern
As part of my initial research, I’d planned the picture script with shots that I aimed to capture, covering the key elements of what the gardens had on offer.
‘Traditional artefacts’ was one point, which the lantern conveyed. It’s also set against a backdrop of traditional style herbs which I’ve kept slightly out of focus to enhance the lantern.

IMAGE 8 – Cream tea
As the cafe is a key element of the gardens, the inclusion of the cream tea was a natural choice. It is also in keeping with the bright colours in the image set.

IMAGE 9 – Scarecrow
The final image is of a scarecrow or more accurately, his feet. A cropped image has been taken as it shows the key features and is better portrayed at this size. It again retains the traditional theme that the overall layout is geared towards.

Initially a plain white background was used which looked too stark. Instead I’ve used an image of a bluebell wood taken at the gardens, and reduced its transparency levels so as not to compete with the overall layout.

The exercise has been useful in researching a subject, not only to think about what images should be included, but more importantly which ones should be left out.
Visualising an audience and the context in which the layout would be viewed, was also a key learning point.

Having worked mainly with individually placed images to date, which stand on their own merits, it was interesting to consider sets of images.
Scale and placement altered the whole layout, which then highlighted images which no longer seemed a good fit.

Although course notes suggested that graphic elements within each image were not so important in this exercise, they were a factor. It is difficult to ignore them when faced with a set of pictures.
overall balance was more highlighted, for this and every other compositional element involved.




Assignment 4: Applying lighting techniques


This assignment is designed to demonstrate how effectively we can apply the different lighting techniques studied to date, by applying them to one object.  The chosen subject has to be something that can be easily moved around. The core of the assignment is to show the following qualities of the subject, one at a time, by means of the lighting, in eight separate photographs. The four themes being shape, form, texture and colour.

Initial thoughts

My first task was to clarify the definition of ‘object’, which for the purposes of the assignment, I’ve taken the literal interpretation of, which is ‘a material thing that can be seen and touched‘. This led to further deconstructing of ideas around the subject in regards to whether it could be one which could change shape and form, such as a vessel filled with water, a person, or a garment.

Having read through several of the OCA forum threads, the overall view was to avoid objects which were either too reflective or transparent, i.e. metal or glass, but apart from this, choice seemed open to personal interpretation, as long as the assignment aims could be met.

Although this made sense, I wanted to avoid the other extreme of the object being completely devoid of reflective properties. Preferring subjects with a degree of texture I initially considered things such as rope balls, rusted architectural forms and others too numerous to mention. Although all of the objects would have sufficed, I didn’t feel any particular affinity with them, and wanted something I already had in my possession which held a degree of interest or familiarity.

It was only when I was trying to clear a workable space on my desk that I moved an old box of slides recently unearthed, that I finally found my subject. I initially moved the box around and viewed it under different lighting sources to see if it would effectively show all the qualities required. The object had texture in the printed and raised text on the box itself, and the slide edges also conveyed texture well. Colour was well represented with the base of the box being a deep egg yolk yellow, and the top, an aged almost sepia based tone.

The possibility of using one or more of the slides themselves to demonstrate colour was another option, in conjunction with the object itself. Due to the subject’s transparent top, I felt it would be ideal in demonstrating both form and shape. Shape is the one theme that I’ve purposefully left until last as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. It was a very obvious and simple shape, which I felt might be difficult convey as anything other than boxy and boring. Separating the subject into individual components did concern me, and I wondered if this was twisting the remit of the assignment slightly.

Referring back through study notes, the words ‘demonstration of creativity‘ came to mind, along with ‘context‘ and ‘quality of outcome‘. With this in mind, I decided that a little dissemination was within the boundaries of the assignment brief. Apart from wanting to use a combination of natural, domestic and dedicated photographic lighting, I didn’t want to restrict myself to how many of each would be used.

My main aim was to ensure that a wide variety of lighting techniques were used to suit the individual themes. I also wanted to have fairly clean and simple lines throughout the series of images, without the background scenery overpowering the subject itself. Feedback from a previous assignment pointed to an ‘eclectic mix’ of styles, so I was keen to produce a more cohesive set of images for this one. My range of lighting equipment is quite basic, and consists of a slide projector, foil, LED camping light, and a light box.

The camera used was a Canon 5D with a tripod and cable release. The initial choice of lens was a 24-105mm but as this does not have a lens lock, it was difficult to use in downward facing shots due to lens creep. Therefore a Canon 50mm macro 1:2.5 was used instead. Post processing was carried out using a combination of Adobe Raw and Photoshop CS6. I’ve also just installed an X-rite colormunki display calibrator.

All images were taken in manual mode as I wanted to get more in the habit of working this way, and also to reduce the amount of post processing as a result. White balance settings were varied and are detailed against each image. Images have also been reduced in resolution for web purposes.


The definition of texture is, “the representation of the structure and minute moulding of a surface, as distinct from its colour“. My first consideration was whether to show purely texture without form or colour. A number of shots were therefore taken to see how revealing too much form or colour took the lighting emphasis away from texture. I also experimented with depth of field, and close cropping to isolate certain areas of text. The intent was to see if this would work more in tandem with the lighting technique used.

Researching the work of photographers who emphasised texture, I once again came across Edward Weston. He created richly detailed images of still life, particularly of natural forms, which tended to refer back to days when images were largely produced in black and white. This did make  comparisons difficult to make. Large format cameras were also used, so again the results are difficult to compare with today’s technology.

This led to further musings as to how photographs taken in the 1920s on less technically advanced equipment, could produce such amazing tonal ranges with their lighting techniques. Perhaps the labour intensive methods of seeing the final result instilled more determination in producing a piece of work, as opposed to the instant gratification of the digital age.

Having decided to retain colour, the required angle, and amount of detail to include in the shot, I used black velvet material as the background. The projector light was used to create the small light source needed for sharply defined shadows. In ‘Light, Science and Magic’ (2012) there were some useful lighting diagrams and suggestions for photographing reflective objects with texture. The key point being to light it sufficiently by skimming the surface, with the light source being far enough away to remain bright, but whilst still providing an even source across the object. This was also when the Inverse Square Law finally made sense.

To achieve an even light source, a piece of crumpled foil was used directly opposite the projector light to illuminate the left hand side. This caused too many highlights, so a wider aperture was then selected. By skimming the surface only, this also removed the issue of having light spilling onto the background. The raised text itself proved quite difficult to light, and took over twenty attempts. Moving the light even fractionally caused quite a dramatic shift in shadows on letters which were only around 1mm in depth.

Eventually I managed to achieve the required effect, which was to show more shadow on lettering on the right hand side in order to emphasise it, and convey less of a flat surface across the whole of the base. By cutting some of the text out on the left side, I also wanted to lead the eye towards the three main words on the right, which I think comes across. The brain automatically looks for order and closure, similar to the Gestalt laws of perceptual organisation. By showing only the text, and not overly emphasising form, I feel that any ambiguity as to which of the four themes is being demonstrated, has been achieved.

In post processing, contrast was increased and brightness was fractionally reduced.


1/125th f6.3 ISO 100 AWB

I’ve maintained the angle for the second shot demonstrating texture, as it is the flip side of the object, with the lid removed. Having experimented with just the slides themselves, I felt that the individual components should relate, at least partially to keep the set of images as a whole from becoming too fragmented. By slightly angling the object, contrast has been increased to emphasise texture, and also to reduce depth of colour which seemed to detract from the theme.

The lighting technique is set up as per the previous shot. When using the crumpled foil to reflect light back onto the object, the angle has been altered to highlight the textured area across the slide tops. This also produced deeper shadows and reduction in colour, in conjunction with the object’s angle. The most difficult aspect in this image was in maintaining an even light source across the shot, which the foil managed to overcome.

Although text can be seen in the image, I’ve selected a depth of field which reduces its clarity and therefore stops it from becoming an automatic draw on the eye. Without it the composition looked slightly unbalanced, and although colour was not a requirement in this instance, the subtle addition seems to provide the balance that it initially lacked.

In post processing, dust specs were cloned out, exposure was increased by .11, and the image was slightly sharpened.


1/50th f7.1 ISO 100. Custom white balance

The setup shot for the two images above, is shown below:TextureOneSetup A small number of rejected shots for texture are also shown below:TextureDiscarded


Form relates to the 3 dimensional quality of an object or its volume, which can be reinforced by the way in which shadow is used, and the modelling effect of the light. The object I’d chosen was a fairly simple design which in itself made it difficult to portray effectively, as the choices at first seemed limited.

As I had already taken shots of the box itself in previous images, doing the same again just seemed a repeat performance with a different angle. Demonstrating the required theme with the use of reflection was something I wanted to convey but the base of the box seemed too dense, and did not  show the translucent element that I wanted to achieve.

Fay Godwin’s ‘Pioneer Glassworks Series’ included images whose subjects were separated from the viewer by a medium which coerced you into looking through the image as opposed to ‘at’ it.
This is something which I toyed with, and one such image can be found in the reject set further on. I felt that this style was better suited to something less dense in structure to produce a more layered effect, and therefore a greater sense of form.

The lid of my object on its own was more versatile particularly when combined with the slides themselves. Its transparency when coupled with a lighter and more reflective background, produced a subtle but effective form. The backdrop of the projector screen provided the right amount of light when used with a softbox from above and to the side, at the 5.00 o’ clock position. The LED light was used for shadow-fill to create an even spread of light. The base was an upturned laptop tray which was an off white colour, and helped to reinforce the similarity in tones across the images.

Post processing included adjusting the levels, and slightly cloning out some specs of dust.
In hindsight I would have selected a more transparent slide on the right of the image as the one used is too dense. I feel it hampers the feeling of depth on that side, although conversely it may have been too obvious to have complete symmetry across the image.


1/25th f/14 ISO 160 AWB

Having recently read ‘Why it does not have to be in focus’ (2013), the idea formed of trying to create an image which portrayed the necessary quality but without the standardised sharp focus treatment that is usually depicted. I also didn’t want to end up with simply a blurred shot of something which could have been anything vaguely box-like and yellow.

Looking at the object from all angles, I realised that if I could somehow show it as though it were rotating, the sense of form could be increased.
The only turntable at my disposal was the microwave plate, so this was placed on a black glass hob next to a north facing window. The afternoon light was bright but diffused with cloud, and provided the ideal level of illumination without being overpowering against the glass.

I initially tried to capture the object without the use of a tripod as this was less restricting, but this did not retain the amount of sharpness required to view the object as a solid structure, with an adequate degree of detail. A tripod was therefore essential.

After approximately thirty shots, frustration and an inability to spin a microwave turntable without frisbeeing it into the stratosphere, almost ground the idea to halt.
After a re-think I realised that slowing the process down to achieve more of a double-exposure style shot would be more effective in demonstrating the notion of ‘form’.

After a few more attempts, one shot surfaced which conveyed the subject lit ‘almost’ as I’d visualised it. Although I was satisfied with my progress at getting the images to date right in-camera, I realised that this one was probably going to need some help in post processing.

I didn’t want to replicate the previous image with regards to the amount of reflection shown, and just needed enough to give it some grounding and provide a contrast to the left side, which hopefully increases the sense of depth.
The white lines radiating out from the same side of the image are the print of one of the hob rings, which I felt helped to convey a sense of rotation, and therefore movement and depth.

Having read through other students work, I was conscious that some had either removed colour from the object or decreased the vibrancy levels in order to emphasise  form over colour.  I did weigh up the options and consider whether this was something that would detract from the theme itself, but decided against the idea of altering the colour’s vibrancy levels or saturation. I felt that doing so was rather like pointing a large red arrow at the subject to explain what I’d done. If it didn’t work with the colour as photographed, then I hadn’t demonstrated ‘form’ very effectively.

In post processing the black level was reduced in Adobe RAW, and the image was slightly rotated. Shadows were adjusted at the highlighted edge by painting at a low opacity, and contrast was increased by +15.

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

.8 sec f/11 ISO 100. AWB

A few of the reject shots for form are shown below:



As the object’s colour has been evident in most of the previous images, I felt that I needed to convey this quality in a different way, whilst still showing the colour ‘as strongly as possible’.
Contrasting it with a cooler and larger area of colour such as blue was the starting point, as orange is twice as luminous as blue.  Utilising the light box to brighten and lighten a blue gel provided the right balance of colours but the composition still seemed unbalanced.

I then tried placing one of the slides onto the gel which seemed to address the balance and give more focus to the colour of the box itself.
Cutting out a piece of the gel to allow the slide to be more visible also portrayed more of a supporting contrast but I was mindful that it didn’t dominate and take away the aim of the theme.

Although I was now happy with the composition and it’s outcome, getting the exposure right took a while. Initial attempts produced a flat image with no real focus on the object itself, and everything was overexposed. There were too many things for the eye to process and no real direction as to the point of the image.

Adjusting the exposure to cast the right hand side of the box into shadow took the emphasis away from this area, as it did to the slide’s border.
I felt that the blue was of a sufficiently light enough tone to contrast and support the object, without being the dominating factor.

In post processing I adjusted a few lines to even up perspective, as the composition was quite geometric. Without this the slanting edges of the gel were distracting and took the eye away from the main objective.

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

1/8th f/8 ISO 160. AWB

The second image was the most difficult, both in terms of setting it up and justifying that it conveyed ‘showing the subject’s colour as strongly as possible‘.
Colour theory was outlined in the course as working on three levels; ‘visual‘ being the most obvious, ‘expressive‘ or the emotional level which evoke sensations that can be subjective and non-visual. Finally there is the ‘symbolic‘ or cultural level, where certain colours and combinations are associated with things that we have been brought up with.

The question in this part of the assignment was whether it was necessary to include all of these elements or purely concentrate on the visual aspect alone.
Would including all of them make the image any better or more to the point, would it demonstrate the aims of the theme.

As yellow or in this case yellow/orange is a colour which can radiate light very effectively, I wanted to project an image onto the object and highlight this quality whilst still showing strongly the colour itself. My concern was whether this would distract from the main aim.

I wanted to highlight the fact that the image was projected onto the subject, but initial attempts just produced an image which looked as though the picture had been printed on it.
Retaining any degree of sharpness from a slide projected from a short distance was not possible.
I realised that I was moving away from the aim of the image. I was trying to show colour, not a sharply focussed image.

The slide was taken in 1969 – (I am the small blot on the left), on a Kodak Brownie 127 on a fairly wobbly rowing boat, so the quality wasn’t great to start with.
Once I’d let go of the image quality issue, the process of getting the lighting right became easier, although it still took infinite minuscule adjustments to the projector itself in order to show the light falling on the area directly in front of the subject.

This I felt was necessary to show that the image was projected and not printed. As the object itself wasn’t solid it was capable of portraying a range of hues, brilliance and saturation levels, depending on the type of light around it. This is what I wanted to convey with the projected image.

Again I’ve left the background completely black so as to add to contrast, and placed the slides in the box with text out of sight so that this didn’t detract from the overall aim.
My only reservation was in not using the box lid to enforce strength of colour, but as I’m trying to not continually tweak and disseminate images once completed, I’ve gone with the initial image shown below.

In post processing it was hard not to alter the projected image to bring out the natural colours intended. Instead I slightly rotated it to gain a better perspective. Exposure was increased to .05, and highlights by +1.

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB

1/40th f/10 ISO 200. AWB


I had purposefully left this theme until the end as I felt it would present the biggest challenge. Although the object’s shape is simple, I was concerned that this in itself would present difficulties.
I was back to ‘boxy and boring’ in terms of ideas, and began to doubt whether it was a viable option.

Assignment notes stated that  the quality of shape had to do with the outline of an object – its edges. These are more likely to stand out more clearly if they contrast with the background, and if there is minimum detail visible in the object.

At this stage I had only a vague notion of wanting to light it from several angles, particularly from underneath to highlight the edges in some way.
It was only when I walked past my oven that I could see a way of doing this. The oven provided a ready-made shelving system, and an area which would contain light if required.

I didn’t really have a pre-conceived plan at this point, and just tried several lighting angles with the LED light, and gradually added a crumpled sheet of foil at the top of the oven to bounce light back from a lightbox placed under the object. A yellow gel finally provided the contrast and light level required. It was then just a case of fine tuning exposure levels to obtain the silhouette effect.

In post processing, the image was cropped to convey the lights extending beyond the frame and put the emphasis on the object as the solid and complete component. Contrast was increased, and levels adjusted.

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/30th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Oven light setup for shape is shown below:


For the final image I wanted to use natural light, and sunset seemed an ideal choice to highlight the object’s shape.
The challenge was in trying to capture the light at just the right moment before the sun set completely.

The first few attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to the background intruding into the scene, and secondly as the sun was still too high.
Trying to take the image outside didn’t work as I couldn’t get the angle of the sun to tie in with the parts of the object that needed illuminating. Moving to the window on the first floor of my home gave a better angle, although a fairly uninteresting background.

Moving the window frame into view and throwing it out of focus provided the background contrast that I felt the composition needed, and the sun highlighting the top of the box gave just enough brilliance to light the pertinent edges of the rest of the object.

In post processing exposure was slightly increased to bring out a touch of colour in the object, without detracting from the theme.

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

1/200th f/6.3 ISO 100. AWB

Rejected shots showing shape are shown below:



When I first considered the lighting equipment for this assignment I was concerned at my lack of dedicated photographic lighting. At the same time I didn’t see the point in rushing out and buying equipment that I didn’t really understand the merits of.
Since completing it, I have at least gleaned a greater understanding of what can be achieved with fairly understated pieces of lighting equipment, and now have the confidence in being able to create the right lighting scenario for a range of subjects.

Conversely I can also see how additional items would have been useful. Concentrating light onto specific areas, particularly in the texture shots was difficult, or perhaps more precisely, frustrating. Visualising what you want to achieve but not being able to quite capture it without lengthy trial and error procedures was exasperating at times.

I have at least become much more intuitive throughout the course with my camera, and find myself changing settings without thinking about it too much beforehand. Working in manual mode has become easier. Although I’ve probably taken far more images in this assignment than any other to obtain the final eight, this has been due more to a perfectionist streak than technical inability

Although my choice of object was perhaps not the easiest or most conventional, I’m still glad at the choice made, due to the challenges it presented. Perhaps having an emotional link was part of this, but being able to separate it into different structures I felt gave me greater scope over a more solid and complete entity.

Procrastination on choosing a subject and then photographing it has always been a bugbear, although I’m managing to improve on this irksome trait by developing distractions which halt any over-thinking.
Instead of trying to always achieve a result, such as with the second image relating to form, I stop trying to produce results and just take shots without any prior notion of what I’d like the outcome to be. This seems to free up the creative process and spark ideas which would not necessarily have come to the fore.

I realised when thinking initially around which object to choose, that one of my preferences was in finding something  which had a ‘familiarity’ to it.
Since completing the assignment I have questioned whether this is a luxury. In a commercial environment I would need to work around whichever subject was presented, whether it was familiar, interesting or something I was particularly adverse to, within reason.

Trying to detach myself from the subject and simply select an object which would have met the aims of the assignment more easily, would have made life easier. I don’t really think though that I would have learnt as much as I did, or have been able to work around lighting problems when they arose quite so much.

I’ve repeatedly referred back to the assignment aims throughout as sometimes creativity takes over and you suddenly realise that the image you’ve just taken two hours to produce, is far off the mark in achieving the main aim. There is still a niggling doubt with the projected image on ‘colour’, although if I ask myself whether it was in the right context, and achieved its aim, then I would still have to agree that it did.

I think this assignment more than the others has developed my creativity in problem solving a situation or in expressing a quality where required.
At first, producing only eight images seemed a much simpler task than previous exercises. The very fact that a small number was required meant that ideas, lighting techniques, and subject had to be carefully considered to produce the exact result in line with the assignment aims.


Freeman, M Luck, S. (2012) The photographer’s exposure field guide. 1st ed. China: Ilex

Golden, R Craig, P. (2008) Masters of photography. 1st ed. Chine: Carlton Books

Higgins, J, Coultos, H, Gee, B (2013) Why it does not have to be in focus. 1st ed. China: Thames & Hudson

Hunter, F, Bivers, S Fuqua, P. (2012) Light science and magic. 4th ed. China: Elsevier

Bibliography 15th April 2014

Bavister, S (2007) Lighting for portrait photography. Revised edition. Singapore: Craft Print International Ltd 19th April 2014



Exercise Two: Higher and lower sensitivity

The first part of this exercise was to take similar shots at both normal and high sensitivity, in a situation that was marginal – i.e. where the mixture of light level and subject movement was only just possible.

All images were taken on a Canon 5D with a 24 – 105mm lens. A tripod was not used due to being too intrusive for most of the locations. Images have been taken in RAW format and reduced in resolution for web purposes.

The first two shots below, due to size and low resolution, look identical which slightly defeats the object of the exercise. I’m viewing them on a 24 inch screen at 100% magnification and can see differences. At ISO 100 details are slightly soft, and shadowy areas lack the colour  saturation of  ISO 640 image. Colours are also more true to the originals in the scene.
I usually shoot with fairly low ISOs, so increasing it to 640 was a walk on the wild side.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 640


The images below are close-ups of two areas from the above images.
Again it’s only when the image is viewed at a relatively large size that visible differences become apparent. Finer details can be seen in the higher ISO image, and colours are slightly brighter.
Shaded areas also produce greater clarity.


TOP: ISO 100.  BOTTOM: ISO 640

Not convinced so far that the higher ISO has made a staggering amount of difference, I increased it to 800. I still had to enlarge the RAW image to 100% before any real visible differences could be seen. The amount of grain was quite apparent at the high ISO, and dulled highlights as a result.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800


The shaded areas of the image suffered at the higher ISO and lighter areas show the typical speckled effect that noise produces. This was particularly evident in paler tones which are effectively covered in a grain several shades darker than the actual tone.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800


Enlarging the following images revealed darker skin tones at the higher ISO due once again to noise levels, and paler colours appeared muddy for the same reason.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Also enlarged, the next images have experienced loss of quality, especially in highlighted areas as before. Detail is more sharply defined at the lower ISO range, and noise levels at the higher end of the scale have the effect of darkening colours compared to the original tones.

TOP: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 800

Below at a small scale, there is relatively little difference between the two images apart from slightly lighter tones again in the paler colours.

LEFT: ISO 100   RIGHT: ISO 800

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 800

Even enlarged, the differences are barely perceptible. Slightly less detail becomes apparent with the higher ISO in lighter tones, and conversely greater contrast between objects and structure can be seen in darker areas.

TOP: ISO 100   BOTTOM: ISO 800

TOP: ISO 100.   BOTTOM: ISO 800

I decided to try the same experiment in brighter light, and increased the higher ISO to 1600, convinced that this would show a marked difference in noise. As seen below, with the smaller size you would have to look very closely. Results show very marginal colour, and contrast differences.

LEFT: ISO 100.  RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

Enlarging one area does however show a greater difference in image quality with the higher ISO. The effects of noise are similar to pixelation when an image is enlarged beyond its optimal capacity.

LEFT: ISO 100.   RIGHT: ISO 1600

LEFT: ISO 100. RIGHT: ISO 1600

The overriding result is that smaller sized images at a high ISO can appear ‘almost’ identical to the ones at the lower end.
For most people who print no bigger than an A4 size, this may be a happy compromise when higher ISO settings are required due to reduced light levels.

Colour does seem to change from the original tone as ISO numbers rise, and highlighted areas darken and appear muddy, which may not be an issue for some subjects. Skin tones for example may not stand up to such high settings.

I can see that reflective surfaces may also suffer considerably as highlights are dimmed due to noise levels increasing, again effecting such things as catch-lights in eyes if portraits or people are the main subject.

For some images noise levels may not be an issue, and depending on choice of paper when printing, may even be an advantage.
The general evidence though seems to support the theory that higher ISOs and the resulting noise does reduce quality and accurate colour rendition.











Exercise Four: Light through the day

This exercise involved taking a detailed look at what happens to a view as the sun moves from dawn through to dusk. The same scene had to be photographed, and include a fairly definite subject that would catch the sunlight, even when the sun was close to the horizon.

All images have been taken in RAW format on a Canon 5D with a 50mm lens. A tripod and cable release were used throughout.
I have taken screenshots of the majority of images and shown them grouped together, as this more effectively demonstrates the changing light between shots.

The first set below were taken between 6.00am and 7.00am, with the first one showing a blue cast. Colours are still quite dense due to low light levels, and there is little sign of depth across the image. In the second one warmer tones are now present as the sun rises, and areas of contrast begin to appear.
By 7.30am colours are clearly distinguished, and contrast has increased, with long shadows developing.

6 til 7

6.00am until 7.00am

The next set below shows the light from 7.30am to 10.30am.
At 7.30am the image still shows the effect of early sunlight with warmer colours and tones, and a fairly strong blue colour in the sky.
As the sun rises, colours start to appear more bleached, are cooler in tone, and have a less dramatic variation in contrast. The sky has gone from a clear blue to almost white in comparison.

7.36am to 10.37

7.36am until 10.37am

Although the actual sky colour remained fairly constant from around 11.00am until 3.00pm, the land colours and contrast changed considerably. The image below at midday shows more saturated colours appearing as the sun moves. Contrast simultaneously increases, again adding more depth to the image, as areas show a greater degree of light and shade.



Moving into the afternoon, the next set shows the changing light from 1.30pm until 5.00pm.
The most even lighting, which showed an equal balance of contrast, and colour seemed most apparent at around 1.30pm, although the overall effect is still one of a cooler colour palette.

Moving to late afternoon the sky once again reverts to a bluer colour, and the warmer tones shown in the earlier part of the day start to appear.
The colour in roofs of buildings can be clearly seen, rather than showing just as highlights.
Contrast again seems stronger as shadows lengthen, and colour saturation begins to deepen.

1.31 to 5.01

1.30pm to 5.00pm

The final set below highlights the change in light as the sun moves towards the horizon, and were taken between 5.30pm and 8.00pm.

During the earlier part of the evening, colours and contrast appeared quite flat. Shadows are long but not a great deal of depth can be seen. This may be partly due to the angle of the sun on the scene.
By 7.30pm the low sun skimming parts of the scene bring out depth and texture in the foreground, and a greater sense of depth overall.

5.30pm to 8pm

5.30pm to 8.00pm

Of all the images my preference is for the early morning set, particularly around 7.30am, which was an hour and a half after sunrise.
Colours were rich and warm, and shadows although long, highlighted contrast between tones. Saturation of colour was also enhanced by the low sun level.

This exercise has highlighted how light effects a scene, far more than I expected. I initially viewed all images taken on a TV and scrolled quickly through. It’s only when a comparison is made in this way that the differences in an image are revealed, particularly with colour variation and tone.
It has also assisted in planning a shot by gaining a better understanding of how the overall scene will be affected by light at different times of the day.







Exercise 11: Contrast and shadow fill

This exercise required a simple still-life setup which was shot at the same level as the subject. The camera was mounted on a tripod, with a softbox as the light source placed at 90 degrees to the camera. The backdrop is a piece of black velvet.

All images have been reduced in resolution for web purposes. The camera is a Canon 5D fired with a cable release. Various white balance settings were trialled, with AWB giving the truest colour match. Settings used throughout the exercise were 1/6th f/8 and ISO 400.

Lighting setup

Lighting setup

The first two images were taken firstly without a diffuser on the light, and then with one attached.
The results can be seen below.

This produced as the course notes suggested, the greatest variation in contrast. Highlights are more noticeable in the un-diffused image, and the background. The objects appear to come forward whereas the diffused area recedes due to the greater density of shadow. Tonal variation is also greater in the diffused image.

With and without diffuser

UPPER SECTION: With diffuser.  LOWER SECTION: Without diffuser

The next part of the exercise involved placing a large white card opposite the light, approximately three feet from the subject. The was followed by moving it to 1.5ft away.
Although there were differences, the effects are minimal compared to the previous two.
When the card was moved nearer to the subject, highlights were slightly brighter, and tones richer in colour. I expected to see more of a difference between the two but maybe the black velvet backdrop has absorbed some of the additional light created.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject.  RIGHT:  1.5 ft away from subject.

LEFT: White card 3ft away from subject. RIGHT: 1.5 ft away from subject.

Aluminium foil was now required to cover the card, with the dull side facing out. This was then alternated with the shiny side facing out.
When viewed at this size and resolution, the differences are difficult to detect but instantly noticeable at a larger size.

The dull side produced the brighter highlights which surprised me, as I thought the opposite would be true. The greater contrast is actually derived from the shiny side, partly as the backdrop appears darker, and colours are slightly richer. The wood grain is also more apparent, again due to deeper tonal variation.

LEFT: Dull die of foil facing out.  RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

LEFT: Dull side of foil facing out. RIGHT: Shiny side of foil facing out.

Although it was not required for the exercise, I experimented with the silver and gold side of a reflector to see firstly how the silver side compared to the home-made version, and what impact the gold side had as I’ve only used this once in a portrait shot.

More light was seen with the dull side of the foil, and silver reflector, although greater contrast was marginally seen with the silver reflector.
Reflected light was almost identical between the gold and silver reflectors, but more contrast and richer tones were achieved with the gold.

LEFT: Silver reflector.  RIGHT Gold reflector.

LEFT: Silver reflector.   RIGHT: Gold reflector.

The final image was the result of crumpling the piece of foil and smoothing it out again. This was once again placed on the card, shiny side facing out. This is my preferred image of the exercise, as the lighting is even, and the subjects are separated from the background due to the darker shadows within.

It has brightened highlights and brought out detail and colour, which has given a greater sense of depth throughout the image.


Crumpled foil facing outwards

This has been a useful exercise, particularly when comparing home-made versions of reflectors with purpose-built equipment. The crumpled foil has therefore been saved for future projects.
Sometimes the results have been more subtle than expected, such as when using the white card. I would have expected a greater shift in contrast and shadow fill.

The exercise has also highlighted the way in which objects can be manipulated to recede or be  brought forward in the image, altering the general feeling of depth and form.