Monthly Archives: March 2016

31 March 2016 – Model Night Using Studio Lights

Tonight was good fun!

The Equipment:
There were two lighting set-ups to try; both had a light facing away from the model with a silver reflective umbrella attachment – this was used as the main key light.  The other light had a diffused shoot through umbrella attached and this was used as the fill light.  There was also an option of incorporating a third hair/rim light which I used on a couple of my photographs.

Each set-up had a different backdrop; one was a large piece of beige and grey patched material and the other was a darkish blue material with light blue/white cloud shapes on.  I was surprised at the effect they produced and realised that you didn’t need to spend a lot of photographic studio background paper you could improvise.

Then there were the two willing models….

How the evening ran…
Everyone took it in turns to use each of the lighting set-ups using a remote trigger to set off the key light and fill light.  Settings were around 1/250 sec. f/8 at ISO 100 but this seemed to be camera dependent. The best bit for me, as it was the area I was least familiar with, was getting a chance to pose the models.  As a result I found that I was more considered with each photograph I took as I was paying more attention to shape, form, composition, focal point, mood and expression and probably more.

Working with a model I learnt that it is important to build rapport, this puts the model at ease and means that you get a more natural photographs from them.  The more you interact the more they start being themselves and their personalities coming through making for better more relaxed photographs, rather than them ‘Performing for the Camera’ (great segue to one of my other posts) and giving you what they think you want.

In addition to using the studio lighting I also experimented with setting my camera to cope with the normally lit environment, this meant having the ISO a lot higher than I would normally feel comfortable with but it did prove that you could still get some reasonable shots without using the studio lighting in the club room.

I think the photographs that were more successful, in my opinion, were the ones where the framing had been considered and some thought had been given to what I wanted the photograph to say/portray.  I was really pleased with the results and now want to take more portraits/people photographs so I’m looking for volunteers….

I am unable to post the photographs I took due to permission being sought, however, I am hoping to use the ideas gathered from the evenings experimentation in Assignment 2 of EYV.  So watch this space….


Part one – Project 2 – Exercise 1.2 Point – Task 1

There are essentially three classes of position [to place a single point]: in the middle, a little off-centre, and close to the edge. (Photography 1: The Art of Photography, p72)

Part One : From that moment onwards…

Project  2 : Visual Skills
The section is all about composition.

Noun: composition 1. The spatial property resulting from the arrangement of parts in relation to each other and to the whole.  (WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 March 2016].)

Exercise 1.2 Point

Task 1: Take 2 or 3 photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts of the frame.  (A point should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large it becomes a shape.)
Task 2: Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.

With this exercise I wanted to ensure the background was plain and that I used a ‘point’ which would stand out and could be easily moved to enable a quick and easy change in composition.  As a result, I used the diffuser part of my reflector kit as the background which I placed on the floor, and I used a small red button as my ‘point’.  I set my tripod up to eye level, so I could angle my camera downwards to observe the point from above.  This meant I had a controlled position from which to take each photograph to ensure a consistent approach.

Results – Task 1:

_MG_8742  _MG_8743  _MG_8744

Findings – Task 1:

In each of the above photographs; the background is light, the point is red and easy to see but this does not tell you where the point is…

It is very difficult to evaluate just a point in a photograph without using some ‘point of reference’.  So naturally the frame would be used as the reference and where the point ‘is’ would be considered in relation to this e.g. a central point in a rectangular frame is equal in distance from each of the sides of the frame but also equal in distance from the top and bottom of the frame.  For a point off-centre we would probably also need to use directional instructions such as left and right e.g. the point close to the frame is in the bottom right hand corner of the frame but is closer to the bottom of the frame than it is to the right hand side of the frame.  Obviously, you could be more specific about the point’s location by using measurements.  There is no right or wrong place for a point to be unless there is a reason for it being there.

However, you could also evaluate each of the points position using a more subjective point of reference if you consider ‘why’ it is there, for example:

A central point (assertive positioning) immediately has a direct connection with the viewer, it has presence and could appear to command attention.  It is not engaging with anything else within the frame or with any specific part of the frame so could be wanting to engage with the viewer, in a 3D sense.   However, it could also convey isolation or loneliness as it is not interacting with anything else within its plane.

If this was not just a ‘point’ but instead, say a fly, to give some context, I would agree that there is still a direct connection with the viewer, one fly/one viewer, and yes the fly appears isolated due to its relationship within the frame but would we consider it lonely?  As we do not know how a fly feels we would not necessarily interpret the fly as being lonely as I think where feelings are concerned that probably translates better to human subjects, that said, the isolation itself could be read as loneliness.

A point close to the edge (passive positioning) feels connected to the part of the frame it is close to, more than with the viewer due to its relative perceived proximity 2D/3D.  However, it is also distant from the other side of the frame so could convey apprehension or fear of the far-side frame, maybe an intention to escape off frame or fall off.  It could also convey an attraction  towards the part of the frame it is close to.

Again if we used a fly positioned on this ‘point’, how might this be interpreted?  Depending on which way the fly was facing we might think it is heading away bottom right or could be heading towards top left.  This could give very different interpretations and probably adds more complexity than this exercise warrants but it also adds an interesting additional consideration which I’m sure will be covered in a later chapter, the perceived intention of a subject.

A point a little off centre (neutral positioning) conveys a more observatory position and I do not think there is necessarily a will to engage with the viewer or not.  It is not wanting to be ‘centre of attention’ or a ‘wall flower’.  Again if it was a fly, I would think it is just having a rest.

Reflection – Task 1:

This task of Exercise 1.2 was more difficult than I thought it would be.  Taking the photographs was actually the easiest bit.  I have never considered a point on a page before and just taking the time to consider something as simple as this has stretched my thought processes a great deal.

I can see that to have a reason for something being where it is gives meaning as to why it is there and instead of ‘just talking photographs’ having an intent of what you want to convey in the photograph in advance helps with composition.


Michael Langford, 2010. Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide for Serious Photographers. 9th Edition. Focal Press.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 13 March 2016].

This completes my submission for task 1 of Exercise 1.2.  I will put a link to task 2 of Exercise 1.2  here when it has been posted.

Physical learning log…

I have seen in several places now in OCA literature and videos that some tutors like to hold a physical log of work that a student has put together, so to this end I purchased:

  • 5×7 photographic paper for home printing/recording.  I know it won’t be the best quality but this log is all about ideas and the recording of.
  • An A5 Derwent Big Book, which I will use as my physical learning log.  Importantly it is spiral bound so you can stick things into it without the spine breaking.  It has 86 pages of 110 gsm acid free paper.  Meant primarily for sketching but I hope to be doing that too as I put my thoughts and experiments to paper.

Now I think I am all set to start recording all the work that is not specifically related to a specific Exercise or Assignment but will in some way be related in thought process.

I would be interested to hear how you are putting together your physical learning log or if you have just decided to go digital only…..

17 March 2016 – Learn Your Camera

Tonight was all about learning camera basics – ‘Table top photography and a chance to discover your camera settings.’

One of the club members provided the evenings ‘learn-in’ which included some test setups for us to photograph, to illustrate how a change in aperture and shutter speed would affect the images we produce.

“Eyes are only as good as they need to be”, every animal has the eyesight it needs for survival.  A hawk, for example, can locate a mouse on the ground whilst in flight and it needs to do this to find its next meal to survive.

We looked at this photograph and was asked what could we see:


Some of us could see the profile of a young girl looking away and some could see the profile of an old hag sideways on.  The young girl’s ear being the old hag’s eye.

What we were actually seeing though was some light areas, some dark areas and some in between ‘grey’ areas.  All that information was being sent back to our brains to process/interpret.  The brain processed this information and, based on our previous experiences,  converted them into what we then perceived the image was.

Producing an image using a camera goes through a similar process to the eye, put simply:

Eye sees => data goes through the visual cortex => brain collects and processes the data
= image created

Camera sees => data uploaded to computer => software (e.g. Photoshop) processes the data
= image created

However, the final image actually relies upon both of these processes; we look through the viewfinder to find the image we want to capture, which is processed by our brain, we then use the camera to capture this, process it using software and reproduce it for another person, who then goes through their ‘eye sees’ process and personal interpretation.

A lot of processing which raises the question, ‘Do each of us process/interpret the image we see in the same way?’.  Using the example of the young girl/old hag picture above this is proved not to be the case, so everyone will have their own opinion about an image.

Next we went through the 3 settings which affect exposure; ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

ISO – ‘International Organisation of Standardisation’ (or ASA – ‘American Standards Association’ now replaced by ANSI ‘American National Standards Institute’) is film sensitivity or nowadays with DSLRs it relates to camera sensor sensitivity.

The most common ISO to use is 100.  It is used in situations where there is good light. The sensor or film is not that sensitive.  It produces a ‘noise-free’ image.

A high ISO means the film or sensor is more sensitive to light.  If you increase the ISO (over 400) you will start to see noise and grain in the image but in certain circumstances such as inside churches at weddings (400+) or at concerts (1600+) using a higher ISO is unavoidable.

The eye naturally adjusts its sensitivity.  When there is a change in light a chemical is released.  If you go from a light to very dark surroundings your eyes can take some time to adjust and that is this chemical reaction taking place, after a while though you can see in the dark.

For the test shots, grain was not an issue and we were inside without a great amount of light, so we set the ISO high, this gave us more range of aperture and shutter speeds to work with.

Aperture – A hole or opening.  In camera terms it is a variable-sized hole that controls the amount of light that enters a camera.

The numbering system for aperture at first glance seems counterintuitive: f2.8 being a big hole which lets a lot of light in and f22 being a small hole which lets less light in.  However, if you look at these as fractions of light then it starts to make more sense; f2.8 lets 1/2.8 of light in and f22 lets 1/22 of light in.

So to the first of the test shots to see the effect aperture has on an image (we used aperture priority mode for simplicity):


You can see by focussing on the red brick at f2.8 (left hand side) that most of the other bricks are out of focus, this is called shallow depth of field.  By focussing on the red brick at f20 (right hand side) most of the other bricks are in focus.  Knowing what your camera/lens can capture at different f numbers is key, for example, if you want a whole flower to be in focus.

To measure this more specifically, you can use a point on some graph paper or next to a ruler, focus on the point at say f2.8, see what area is in focus, then do the same at other f-numbers to see how much more you can get in focus as this f-number changes.

From your eye’s perspective, if you look directly at a word on a page about half an arm’s length in front of you it is difficult to clearly see the words two lines above or below.   Also noting that the eye has a ‘blind spot’.

After determining our dominant eye, the eye we would normally look through a camera with, we tested our visual ‘blind spot’ .  Your ‘blind spot’ is caused by the optic disc, approx. 1.5mm in diameter, at the back of the eye where the optic nerve exits and the blood vessels enter the eye.  This is a very tiny gap in your vision where you are essentially blind, however, you do not see the ‘blind spot’ as your brain fills in the gaps.

This is important to know when composing a photograph.  You need to look around the whole of the frame including the corners to check that you know what is in the frame and what will be visible by the camera which doesn’t have a blind spot.

Shutter Speed – The amount of time the aperture is kept open to allow light in on to the sensor.  The faster the shutter the speed (e.g. 500 = 1/500 of a second) the less light let in on to the sensor.  The longer the shutter speed (e.g. 5 = 1/5 of a second) the more light let in on to the sensor.  This also controls whether a moving subject is ‘frozen’ or whether there is motion blur.

The two photographs below show the effect of different shutter speeds; the left hand side shows 1/800 of a second and the right hand side shows 1/25 of a second.


Note: If you wanted to take a photograph of a building or landscape which had people walking about but you did not want to capture them, you could set your camera on a tripod and use a long exposure.  This would capture the stationary aspects of the image and ignore the moving elements.  This is something I am keen to try…

There is a photograph that was taken by Louis Daguerre in 1838 called ‘Boulevard du Temple’ which illustrates this technique.  Daguerre would have taken this picture using the daguerreotype, one of the first photographic processes which needed very long exposures to form an image on the surface of a silver plate. It is likely the Paris streets were busy at the time and, as the image would have taken 10-15 minutes to form, the man – and possibly his shoe shine boy – were the only ones who stood still long enough to show up.

Next week is a model night using studio lights… so, until next week…

Dominant Eye Test…

Courtesy of the following website this is how you test which of your eyes is dominant:

  1. Extend your arms in front of you with your palms facing away.
  2. Bring your hands together, forming a small hole by crossing the thumbs and fore fingers.
  3. Choose a small object about 15-20 feet away from you. With both eyes open, focus on the object as you look through the small hole.
  4. Close one eye and then the other. When you close one eye, the object will be stationary. When you close the other eye, the object should disappear from the hole or jump to one side.
  5. If the object does not move when you cover one eye, then that eye is dominant. The eye that sees the object and does not move is the dominant eye.


  1. Hand-dominance does not always correlate with eye-dominance.
  2. Most people automatically use their dominant eye when looking through a camera eyehole or a telescope.

I have found out by doing this test that I appear to be using my non-dominant eye for my photography and will need to look in to this further to see whether this makes any difference to my results or not.  An interesting test nonetheless.

Depth of Field…

I wanted to refer to a post I had previously written on depth of field for my other blog but rather than just provide a link to my other blog, I wanted to keep everything in one place for this course so have copied and pasted the text/photographs verbatim [Posted on on 3 October 2015]:

“As my regular readers will know I have recently taken up photography (visit my website at for more pictures).

Being new to this medium I have been playing around with different settings to see the different effects I can come up with and thought this was a good illustration of how depth of field works/looks….

I used a Canon 70D body with a 17mm to 50mm Sigma lens for these shots, not sure about all the technicalities of both the camera and lens yet but I have managed to get some pretty good shots so far.

This was a trailing plant I found overhanging a lovely rustic looking wall in the Little Venice area of Paddington (which I will go back to at some point and do some model shots as it makes for a fantastic background).

Shot 1 – using an f stop of 2.8

f/2.8 1/80 sec. 50mm ISO 100

f/2.8  1/80 sec. 50mm ISO 100

Shot 2 – using an f stop of 5.6

f/5.6 1/20 sec. 50mm ISO 100

f/5.6 1/20 sec. 50mm ISO 100

Shot 3 – using an f stop of 11

f/11 1/20 sec. 50mm ISO 100

f/11 1/20 sec. 50mm ISO 100

Notes (more for new photographers):

  • the higher the f stop the bigger the ‘depth of field’ = basically more of the picture is in focus
  • f stop numbers seem to work in reverse; a lower f stop means a larger aperture (opening/diameter in the )
  • more info about f stops can be found here
  • landscapes are usually taken using a high f-stop (22) so as much as possible is in focus

Hope this has helped to explain the effects of f stops and depth of field.  Please feel free to leave me comments or questions.  In the meantime have a lovely weekend…”

On reflection, with 5 months having past since I posted the above on my other blog, I still think they are a great example of how depth of field changes with a change in f number / f-stop.

Looking past the technical and now more to the composition what strikes me is that the colours work particularly well together, the red/green of the leaves against the red/neutral tones of the brick wall.  My preference even now is for a shallow depth of field, I like this look in what probably is more of a portrait style image granted.

It’s also nice to look back at work you have previously produced with a sense of knowing that this is the right path…

Langford’s Basic Photography: Chapters 1 and 8

This week I purchased Langford’s Basic Photography book [Michael Langford, 2010. Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide for Serious Photographers. 9th Edition. Focal Press.]

This is one of the books which is recommended reading as part of the Photography 1 – Expressing Your Vision course for the Open College of the Arts (‘OCA’) BA (Hons) Photography degree.

I thought the reading I would get with this degree would be heavy going but actually this book is very information indeed.  When you start a degree course you are given guidance as to how to read research materials, which sounds strange but it’s the only way you can quickly get through the parts you need, you are then able to go back to the other parts when needed.

OCA suggest the following basic reading techniques:

Skim to quickly gain a general impression of the text – focus on headings and key words.
Scan for the information you require – read only what’s necessary.
Read thoroughly for deeper knowledge – analyse and assess the text.

So I thought I would test this out, so initially I looked through the contents of the book to see if there was any relevant sections to the work I was currently studying.  Or whether there were any section that I thought would be fun to read just as a person interested in photography.  I landed on two sections:

  • What is photography? – Chapter 1
  • Organising the picture – Chapter 8

It was from these two chapters that I found some very useful and relevant texts;

  • names of photography practitioners who I hadn’t heard of before for further researching in particular Elliot Erwitt (b: 26 July 1928), a French advertising and documentary photographer, who I have now referenced in my Assignment one ‘Square Mile’ (still to be assessed and posted online),
  • information on image composition and subject qualities which I think will have relevance to Part one ‘From that moment onwards…’,
  • a reference to Martin Parr’s work, who I will be going to see at the Guildhall Art Museum and the Barbican in the not so distant future,
  • the impact of using portrait or landscape orientation,
  • the rights or wrongs of cropping,
  • the influence of line and patterns in an image,
  • the impact of perspective and contrast,
  • references to ‘decisive moments’ which I think will be useful for Assignment three ‘The decisive moment’,
  • it also includes a photography timeline matrix from circa 400BC to 2006 (a little out of date) showing; date, image technologies and processes, photography and art, culture and current affairs plotted alongside each other.  Did you know the photocopier was invented in 1937?
  • lastly there is a glossary of photographic terms, which for a beginner like me is invaluable.

I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the book as required, this is very much a dip in and dip out kind of book, but has loads of really useful information in it.

Happy reading!