Course: Expressing Your Vision
Assignment one – ‘Square Mile’ – Tutor Feedback
Getting tutor feedback for your first ever photography degree assignment, even if it is primarily a diagnostic exercise, is nerve-racking but also a little bit exciting. OK so maybe more than a little bit exciting. On a distant learning course especially, where you haven’t been able to spend hours chatting to your course colleagues about your ideas and how they might be presented in photographic form to achieve the desired brief, tutor feedback plays an important role. They are the ones who will guide you through your chosen learning path, who will challenge you to try new things and see things differently and give you the benefit of their knowledge, understanding and experience. This is invaluable.
My family, albeit very supportive, are not creative types and sometimes I think they just nod in the right places and give some encouraging smiles but really they no idea or real interest in what I’m doing. This is where my dark humour comes in and I chuckle to myself as it must be torture for them as I LOVE photography, I love talking about photography, I dream about photography, I make mental notes of how light falls on things as I travel to and from work, when I meet new people I’m framing them up in my head. OK maybe I should be locked up now…
Anyway, on to the real reason for this post tutor feedback which has been provided in full below as instructed by my tutor. My responses to the points raised will be in square brackets to differentiate between the two:
It was a refreshing change to see a set of photographs from a dog’s point of view. Before reading your analysis, I guessed this is what you had done, so therefore when you hoped that viewers would think they are seeing the surroundings from the perspective of a dog, then you have achieved this aim. The print quality is good and I like the choice of finish (gloss) which brings out the light.
Overall, the set of images came across as experimental and a bit of fun, which is a great way to start the course. On closer inspection of your contact prints, I can see there are some stronger images and disagree with you that the weaker images are the ones taken too close to the subject. I would say that they had more impact and on your contact sheet 4 of 4, the close-ups of the pack of dogs are not strong compositionally, however they are more intriguing to look at and give even more of a sense of a dog’s environment, with more impact.
[I have made a note of this comment and will be considering this point when putting together future assignments. I think I was too hung up on getting the images to be uniformed and look the same structurally with the horizon line in the same place that I overlooked some other aspects, in this case more interesting subject matter.]
You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.
[I have decided to take the course to its conclusion and aim for a degree. I say that now!]
Feedback on assignment
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity
I think it is important to look at the overall picture, and from my point of view, my eye is drawn to the dog walker who is out of focus. This is because you have used f/2.8 so I can see that the red car on the right hand side is perfectly in focus. The white house is also the first thing that your eye is drawn to, therefore, I appreciate what you are saying in that this is from a dog’s point of view, however, the low angle is enough to inform the viewer of your intention, but you need to consider how the viewer will read the image and anything that is white will always draw the eye first. With the dog walker being out of focus, then this could have been rectified with a slower shutter speed if you had wanted to portray movement and which would also have been a nice experimental touch.
[I have taken these comments on board, in particular; the use of shallow depth of field in relation to what I want the viewer’s focus to be, that bright areas will attract most attention so consider this when composing an image.]
So your main reason in this image is ‘sniff corner’ which is the wall on the left. I can see that the wall has a lovely textural quality to it, and it would have been a good idea to explore this further with your camera. As it stands, the wall is the last thing I see because it is so dark. I am instead looking at anything white (house, garage doors), then onto the dog walker (like the movement but was this intentional?). Again, the main focal point seems to be the car in the centre of the frame. The road covers around two thirds of the image and I agree with you that you needed to have the dog walker in the foreground (sometimes, people can be obliging if you just ask!).
[Street style photography I do find awkward as I feel like I am in some way invading people’s privacy. This probably says more about me than them but my tutor is right generally people are accommodating especially neighbours and fellow dog walkers, so as required I will ask to take photographs – what’s the worst that can happen?.. Also I love textures and close up work yet again I chose to ignore that approach in this assignment, hopefully I can draw this out in future.]
I am not sure that the lines in this image are strong enough to create a pattern (which can work really well in photography). I like the shallow depth of field in this image with the wall in the foreground and my eye goes directly to the bin man whereby you have captured a good ‘decisive moment’.
[I will try to identify stronger patterns when composing but this one really was a case of being at the right place at the right time.]
There is a large expanse of road in this image, however you have made it more interesting with the use of a reflection in the puddle. Overall the image is very dark (as are most of your photographs) and I note that you have used ISO 100 in all of them. Was this a conscious decision? Some more experimentation with ISO and f stops would be beneficial (although I appreciation you may have wanted a lower ISO so you did not lose quality). As you have used such a wide aperture, it is difficult for me to see what you have focused on.
[I used a low ISO as I have not been a general fan of grain, however, I have been to a number of exhibitions over the last couple of months and am finding I’m not so against it now. I guess photography could be compared to a fine wine, it’s only when you have experienced and been exposed to a range that your palette becomes more discerning and you can appreciate that which you didn’t previously understand. I will aim to experiment more.]
Converging verticals can be problematic but resolved in Photoshop. As you have photographed from down on the ground, the small garages are probably more exaggerated than they would normally be. The roofs reflected in the puddle work well. Be careful of structures growing out of people’s heads!
[A keener eye around the frame is in order. The only thing that should grow out of someone’s head is hair, right? Sorry to those who are follicly challenged.]
This image may benefit from a re-shoot. I can see the appeal from a dog’s point of view, but it would be best photographed pin sharp so we can see the beautiful texture of the tree. In photography, anything out of focus would be seen as a fundamental flaw.
[Point noted and I will look to improve this shot and re-post on this blog as a developmental exercise.]
Shadows are really not enough of a focal point on their own.
This image is very similar to image 7 above, although it has a more interesting foreground.
What a lovely portrait of your dog! I appreciate you were aiming for consistency with the horizon lines, however, this image would have been much stronger with a closer crop and would have shown further experimentation.
Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity
You are on the right lines with regards to all the exercises which I have viewed on your blog. Be aware that it would be expected that you use some of the exercises to inform your final assignments, so for example, you have carried out an exercise on cropping and justified the reasons, but you have not carried out this theory (particularly for Image 9 as discussed above).
[The Square Mile images were taken and prepared before some of the exercises had been completed, so on a practical level not all the learning flowed into this particular assignment. All the other assignments in the course follow the exercises so it should be much easier to link in with the learning undertaken in the relevant part of the course.]
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
I am pleased to read you attended an OCA Study Visit and glad you got a lot out of it. Always try and incorporate any photographers you have viewed at exhibitions into your assignment briefs to sign post any which have influenced you (I know you have done this for assignment 1, so keep up the good work).
Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis
Your blog is easy to navigate and you have made good reflective comments throughout.
You have chosen to research relevant photographers and as a result of your subject choice, I would also encourage you to look at animal photographer Tim Flach. He specializes in photographs of dogs (running towards him).
[See my post on Tim Flach which was written post this feedback being received.]
Pointers for the next assignment / assessment
- Consider a variety of viewpoints, rather than just one viewpoint (although I appreciate your reasons for this with regards to this assignment)
- Utilise exercises to inform your assignments (where possible)
[I am pleased with my feedback; it is constructive, offers practical advice, suggests different techniques to try, challenges me to be braver when photographing in public and be more creative with my compositions and it gives me guidance on what is expected for future assignments. So overall I feel I have made a good start to the course, I still have a lot to learn and try out and I’m looking forward to learning from this feedback and the next Assignment, Two – Collecting.]