Monthly Archives: September 2016

29 September 2016 – Reflex Cup (Digital Competition)

This week was a digital print competition, the Reflex Cup (Digital).  The first of 3 digital competitions this season.

There were 84 images entered in total.
There was no theme.
The judge for the evening was Cherry Larcombe EFIAP ARPS DPAGB BPE*4.

The same rules applied, as per my previous posts on digital competitions, one of which can be found here.

So here are my 4 entries, with their scores and any feedback received:



Eye Spy scored 15

The judge didn’t like this one.  It wasn’t clear what the purpose of the image or what the picture was.



Graffiti scored 14

The judge suggested the title of this image should have been more carefully chosen.  She said she was not necessarily looking at the graffiti.



Rippled Reflection scored 18

The judge enjoyed the reflection and the ripples which added foreground interest.  Good composition, not showing much of the building just it’s reflection worked.



The Kooples scored 17

Again the judge wasn’t sure what The Kooples was and so this made image interpretation difficult.



I am positioned 16th in the digital print league now at the end of round 1 with 2 more rounds to go.  The next digital competition of the league being the Victory Cup to be held on 8 December 2016.



Part three – Project 3 – Exercise 3.3

Part three : Traces of Time…

Project 3 : ‘What matters is to look’
This section is all about observational skills and an introduction to the decisive moment.

Exercise 3.3

Brief – Part 1:
What do the time frames of the camera actually look like?  If you have a manual film camera, open up the camera back (without film loaded) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release.  What is the shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright daylight?  Describe the experiment in your learning log.


I couldn’t carry out this exercise immediately when it came up in the course as I did not have access to a manual film camera.  In September however, I felt brave enough to make a purchase and am now covering this exercise for my Learning Log.

Obviously I had no idea what I needed to get by way of a manual film camera so I searched Ebay to see what I could find and decided upon a Fujica compact 35 Classic Vintage 1960s 35mm Automatic Retro Film camera for £32.98.  I still have no idea what I have bought but it enabled me to carry out this exercise.

I first got myself familiar with the anatomy of the camera.  With the lens facing away from me the controls / camera features are (you will not find any technical terms here):

  • left side is the back release button – flick it up to release the back.  Close the back and it automatically locks;
  • on the top left is a circular control which has an arm that lifts up so you can turn a spindle inside the camera.  This spindle is what the film spool is loaded onto.  To load a film you pull this part up, put the film in and then push it back down;
  • on the top right is the shutter release button and the winder.  The winder winds the film on to the next frame once the shutter release button has been depressed i.e. an image captured.  The shutter release button cannot be pressed twice in one frame;
  • back top right there are two reminder dials; the first is set to show the number of exposures your film has and the other to show the ISO of the film;
  • on the underneath there is an exposure counter to tell you how many exposures you have taken and a film release button which disengages the winding mechanism to allow the film to be wound back in to the spool ready for processing;
  • the lens on the front has three functions; automatic exposure, manual exposure and manual focus. The manual exposure settings allow shutter speed and aperture to be changed.  The manual focus has four settings; close up (face), portrait (head and body), groups(multiple subjects) and landscape (off in the distance).
  • inside the camera there is a left spindle, film exposure chamber (middle) and a right spindle on which you load the film.

And so back to the exercise in hand:

Note: it’s important not to put your eye right into the camera which is what I tried to do initially (you cannot see anything useful!), instead your eye needs to be further back to allow your eye to focus through the lens.  I worked this out by using the camera’s ‘bulb’ setting.

That done I set the camera to the largest aperture f/2.8 and the slowest shutter speed 1/30 sec.  I aimed my camera at the windows of my neighbour’s house over the road.  They were easily recognisable through the lens when the shutter release was pressed so this was a good start.

I kept the aperture at f/2.8 and moved to a 1/60 sec. shutter speed and found the image was not as easy to see but still recognisable.

Next 1/125 sec. I found I could just still see the windows but had to hold the camera a little further away from my eyes to see anything through the lens.

By 1/250 sec. I was unable to see anything recognisable.

I then moved on to the smallest aperture f/22 and a shutter speed of 1/30 sec.   This aperture made it very difficult for anything to be recognisable as the hole to look through was so small.  So I decided to conclude this part of the exercise.


I personally found it easy to see a scene with a larger aperture f/2.8 and upto a 1/125 sec shutter speed.

Brief – Part 2:

Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes). Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.


I wasn’t really sure what the point of this part of the exercise was; to assess depth of field? or the focus point of my eyes (including peripheral vision) compared to what could be captured by the camera?

I started by looking down at the ramp with its lined textured steel grating.  This meant everything further on in the scene was out of focus, in my peripheral vision.  My eyes then followed the metal hand rails into the mid-ground.

In the mid-ground a clump of people were pretty easy to see the faces of.  Once focused on them though the building in the background and the ramp at my feet became out of focus.  This throng of people then led my eye further into the scene.

I became aware of the claustrophobic feeling of the people enclosed either side by the buildings.  And that the imposing building of St Paul’s in the distance, appeared to look over the people ho were trailing towards it.  When you look at St Paul’s the buildings at the sides are in your peripheral vision and therefore not in focus.


Either way I concluded that a camera can capture a whole scene with a consistent focus, and it is only when a scene is in a photograph (flat 2D form) that your eyes can see the whole scene easily.  In reality this is not achievable with your eyes because of your peripheral vision which gives you depth perception and allows us to move around our 3D world.  I note that my eyes can detect a wider scene than my camera can.

Here is my image:


This concludes my thoughts on Exercise 3.3.

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – Tutor Feedback

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – Tutor Feedback

Please find below my tutor feedback which has been provided in full as instructed by my tutor.  My responses to the points that have been raised will be in square brackets to differentiate between the two.

Overall Comments

It was good to see that for this submission you have gone out of your comfort zone and photographed skaters, feeling that this would best describe the decisive moment in photography. I know you had done some research on the subject matter beforehand and this has helped you to understand the subject, although I believe there were a few missed opportunities.

Looking at the portfolio of images you have sent me, they show a developing style and you have certainly considered colour, composition and focal length. There is a lack of experimentation within the work and some of the photos are a little repetitive, especially when several photographs feature the same skater! I am sure you can research a little further on this and develop more creative thinking skills and experiment with overlaying images or motion blur, to name just two examples.

[On reflection I agree I could have introduced more experimentation in to my series and used some different techniques to support my take on the decisive moment. I limited myself by being too narrow-minded in my approach which created broadly similar images.  I have taken note of this and will try to improve in future assignments.]

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

1 – I can understand why you have cropped this original portrait image, to a landscape image although I think it would have been improved if you had waited another second and got the skater higher up in the air at the point where he pauses before coming back down on the ramp. This would have ensured that the frame remains in portrait and you can appreciate the skill of how high they go up into the air. As it is, it appears as if he is achieving only a low level skill down on the ground which doesn’t come across as particularly impressive in the photo. However, I like the shape of his arms which you have captured, along with the lighting on his back which emphasizes the tattoos. The boy on the bike in the distance is a little distracting because he is a strong figure in red but he is not looking at the skater in the foreground (he appears to be looking at someone else to the right which we cannot see, along with some other people in the audience).

[There was a lot going on in the skate park that day and with the crisscrossing of the skateboarders it was difficult to get shots of isolated subjects doing their tricks, so it was a case of take an opportunity whilst you could. Maybe I was taking a too clinical approach and should have included multiple skateboarders.] 

2 & 4 – The skater in image 2 features quite a lot in your work so be careful of your subject choice. We would normally recommend you re-visit this skate park or change to another one, in order to get a variety of skaters. Again, this appears to be a rather low level trick at the point you have captured. I appreciate he is about to mount the pole (sorry, don’t know the technical terms!) but it would have been better to wait another couple of seconds in order to capture the moment he is in the air. The concentration on the face is excellent and he looks pin sharp with his muscles tense. Image number 4 is a better shot for the skater’s stance so you were probably aware of this. Try not to include two shots which are similar when submitting a portfolio as one is always going to be weaker than the other, so you are in effect, competing against yourself and you need to show discernment that you know which is the strongest image. There is quite a harsh black shadow across the face of this skater which you need to avoid.

[I have noted that in a series of images (or a portfolio) you should avoid similar compositions and include different and varied subjects to be more successful.  I need to watch out for harsh shadows across important parts of the image.]

3 & 5 – Again, we have the same shot so you need to show discernment in your choice. There is an interesting use of long shadows in both of these images and this could have been developed further, perhaps highlighting it in your written analysis. The skater in image number 3 doesn’t look pin sharp on the print. I would always recommend that you blow your images up to 100% in Photoshop to identify if there is any softness. This may have been an opportunity for some motion blur as experimentation. Image number 5 is a much stronger image due to the shape of the skater in the foreground who is the key point of focus and he almost appears to be dancing with a decisive moment well captured. Your eye does drift into the ‘deflated’ skater in the distance (I would have preferred him to have been looking at the foreground skater rather than looking down) but the lighting and long shadows make this image more interesting and I could see this being used in a commercial setting / marketing material.

[I have taken these comments on board in particular regarding; not submitting similar compositional images and that images need to be pin sharp.]

6 – The same skater again but you have a well captured pose. I would revisit the bottom section of the print to look at cropping or remove the concrete ramp / paving in the foreground as it is too distracting. I like that there is more depth of field in this image but you have lost some detail in the dark area of his trousers.

[I will re-visit this image in post, as suggested, and include it in my re-work blog post.]

7 – Same skater again and I am not convinced he is sharp, although I do like the way he is framed in between the pillars. Did you consider overlaying the same skater on one image so that there are several of him doing various different tricks? This could have shown good use of experimentation.

[I need to experiment more when putting together my assignments…. I will try to loosen up my approach and thinking going forwards.  I will include an overlaid image in my re-work blog as suggested.]

Coursework – Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

I notice you experimented with slow shutter speeds in one of the exercises, with some successful results. It is important that you utilize what you have learnt in the exercises into your final assignment. This would show more evidence of experimentation in your final shoot, rather than compartmentalizing the exercises instead of integrating this working methodology into your assignments.

[I have noted the importance of using the exercises to inform my assignments.]

Research – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis 

You have identified some relevant photographers who have photographed skaters, however be careful who you research. One of the photographers has work which I feel is particularly weak and is not a good example. Try to ensure you find photographers who have had work published in national / international magazines or have won competition awards. You may want to look at the work of Giovanni Reda who uses a fish eye lens, overlays the skater onto the city and also photographs skaters at different times of day and night. There is also an interesting interview on vimeo with Tobin Yelland which you may find interesting as he photographs skaters but there is also the bigger concept of youth culture which is evident in his work.

[I have provided some further research within my re-work blog post in response to the comments covered here on photographers.  I note the point that the photographers included in my research should be good examples.]

Learning Log – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis

I would like to have seen you immerse yourself more into the subject with regards to your contextual research. Some evidence of research into youth culture would have been beneficial to get a bigger understanding of the subject matter, even down to the clothes and fashion.

[I have noted the comment on including more relevant contextual research.]

Suggested reading/viewing – Context

You have agreed with Cartier Bresson that the decisive moment is just ‘luck’, however, it is always better to try and find some other opinions from photographers, writers or theorists who contradict this point of view, with quotations to back this up… and then state your opinion. I know some photographers who say it is certainly not luck, but a great deal of planning and years of expertise!

[I have noted the comment that the alternative argument for a point should also be represented even if it is not agreed with, to give balance.]

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

⦁ It’s all about the light in photography and you have shown elements of this in your skateboarder series. I would recommend you build on this element of your photography to make the images stand out due to the lighting technique or techniques which you have used
⦁ Consider experimentation at all times

[I can understand the feedback given and hope I can learn from the feedback given and apply this learning to future assignments.]

Follow this link to my re-work blog post, which follows up on the comments provided above and any re-work of images.

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End (following on from Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle)

Please note: My tutor requests that my final Assignment image submissions are provided as A4 prints so the jpegs below are only of web quality.

I have attached a separate sheet providing the image summaries including the technical data and why I captured each image as one of my ‘decisive moments’. 

Please note: Due to the focal length of the lens some of the images have been cropped and for some the orientation has been changed to improve composition.  

So here are my final selected images for my Decisive moment, together with their technical specs (the text beside each image accompanied my A4 prints):

Image 1 – Life Imitates Art
Technical Details: ISO 250 1/800 sec. f/2.8 20mm
I wanted to capture the body art of the skateboarder against the graffiti on the walls/columns of the skate park. The dappled light from the afternoon sun, coming through the trees, created a highlight on the skateboarder’s tattoos.

image 1 _MG_5016

Image 2 – In Anticipation
Technical Details: ISO 320 1/800 sec. f/5 40mm
In skateboarding there is a moment of anticipation just prior to a trick being executed. I wanted to capture the skateboarder’s pre-trick expression and posture.

image 2 _MG_5152—-
Image 3 – Levitation?
Technical Details: ISO 200 1/800 sec. f/5.6 17mm
I was taking shots of the skateboarders riding their boards along the pole, trying to capture their exit tricks. Cartier-Bresson said in ‘L’armour tout court’, “It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters.” I feel there was an element of luck in capturing this image.

image 3 _MG_5096—-
Image 4 – Leap of Faith
Technical Details: ISO 320 1/800 sec. f/6.3 50mm
There were a few skateboarders who were trying more elaborate tricks and jumps. I liked the commitment I felt from this skateboarder who launched himself into the air aiming for a landing on the pole. I also like the red of the bottom of the skateboard.

image 4 _MG_5134—-
Image 5 – Deflated Skateboarder

Technical Details: ISO 200 1/800 sec. f/7.1 17mm
Initially your eye focuses on the skateboarder to the right of the frame but there is more; who are the shadowy spectators? What is the story with the deflated looking skateboarder left of the frame?

image 5 _MG_5112—-
Image 6 – The Jump
Technical Details: ISO 400 1/1250 sec. f/2.8 35mm

This image was taken at a different part of the skate park with more advanced ramps. I wanted to capture a compact fully airborne jump and this skateboarder had a praying mantis style jump which captured my imagination.

image 6 _MG_5029—-
Image 7 – Contemplation

Technical Details: ISO 400 1/800 sec. f/3.5 50mm
This was the run/route back from the main trick area, time for contemplation, thought and re-energising. I liked the lighting giving form to the skateboarder’s body.

image 7 _MG_5048

And here are my contact sheets for this Assignment:

contact sheets-1

contact sheets-2

This completes my Assignment three submission from a course requirement perspective. Please follow this link for tutor feedback.


Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle (following on from Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning)

I carried out some initial research on skateboarding and skateboard photographers working within the field to get an understanding of the different approaches which could be taken with my images.  The link to this research can be found here, rather than including this review in my Assignment post.

In hindsight I think it probably works better if the research is included within the Assignment narrative, this way it is easier to reference, explain influences in context and demonstrate the research done in a more holistic way.  As I work through the other degree modules I think this approach will be expected.  That said Expressing Your Vision is the start of my journey and in this respect these are the things that are to be explored and better understood whilst working through the course so I feel that my journey is helping me to find my way through to the best working methods going forwards.

My research prior to this assignment was mainly online skateboarding photography and ‘How To’s’ on YouTube, to see what settings were most successful – references given below.

Self Assessment / Strengths and Weaknesses:

This was a new area for me working with moving human subjects as opposed to moving vehicular subjects and I did find it a little difficult being in such an open public space taking photographs of unknown subjects, so for me this was a big learning curve.  The longer I was there though the better, it became easier.  I made a point of connecting with the skateboarders at the end of the session and took an email address to send on the images that I had taken for their reference. Had I had more time I should have made several visits to the same location but this was not possible on this occasion.

What worked well?
The location provided a lot of compositional choices. I wanted to achieve: frozen motion, interesting action compositions and be receptive to, and work spontaneously with, a new activity which I had not been involved with before. I think my approach generally worked well and I captured some good images. I agree with Cartier-Bresson’s view that there is luck involved in photography, especially when you are trying to capture a frozen moment of a high speed activity that also has to obey all the photography ‘rules’ when time is against you.

What didn’t work so well?
I think I needed to explore taking images at different times of the day to see if I could get less contrasted images. As with all these techniques acknowledge practice makes perfect. I’m not sure I felt that comfortable with using shutter priority mode as I like to have full control over my image capture but I can see why it is needed/easier in some circumstances.

Please follow this link for the next section – Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End.


Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning

The decisive moment is not a dramatic climax but a visual one: the result is not a story but a picture. (Swarkowski, 2007, p.5)

You know it’s funny. You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same.  (Eddie in Stranger Than Paradise, Dir.Jim Jarmusch, 1984)

Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme the ‘decisive moment’.  

Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be.  Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day.  a building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept.  Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

Format of my Blog response:
As with previous Assignments, where text from my official response to my tutor has been included I will highlight this to enable you (the reader) to distinguish between what is just ‘chat’ i.e. my ‘thoughts’, and what has been ‘submitted’.  This will help contextualise my tutor’s response/critique and any rework that is/has been requested.

Initial Thoughts:
I thought for a while about the subject of this assignment and knew I wanted to do some action photography, in particular the ‘frozen moment‘, so this is the direction I took myself (and my camera) in.

For this assignment the requirement was to set the camera to shutter priority mode and to submit a collection of 6-8 high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’.  I have chosen to submit 7 images for this assignment (printed on gloss paper, with a 1.5cm white border and a 2pt black stroke) with the linking theme of skateboarding.

I chose skateboarding as I had seen some skateboarding photographs online and knew it would be very different to my normal subject choice and potentially challenging. I felt this subject would;

⦁ provide me with the opportunity to try something different, out of my comfort zone;
⦁ have scope to cover not only this assignment but also potentially future projects;
⦁ give me a platform for technical experimentation i.e. it would benefit me to familiarise myself with the location, the skateboarders and the activity.

To add to this I have a skateboard park close to where I work so the subject was also accessible, important if you might be going back several times to experiment or do any re-work.

Part three of the course is heavily focused on the decisive moment and exploring what that means in terms of photography. In Barthes’ ‘Camera Lucida’ he observed “that a photograph can be the object of three practices (or of three emotions, or of three intentions) : to do, to undergo, to look” [Barthes, 2006, p9] in other words you have the photographer taking the image (the “operator”), you have the subject of the image (the “target”) and you have the people who view the image (the “spectators”).

The reason I reference this is because I struggled with what the ‘decisive moment’ was and to whom it related. The word ‘decisive’ means “Determining or having the power to determine an outcome” [Wordweb]. I had already ruled out spectators as they do not have any impact on image capture. This left the operator and the target. I concluded that it was the photographer as the operator who determined the outcome as they are in full control of when the shutter button is pressed and what image is captured.

Technical Approach and Techniques:
For this Assignment I used my current favourite lens, which I had used many times before so felt comfortable that it would give me the performance I wanted for this exercise/assignment.

From a technical perspective I used a Canon 70D with a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. This lens gave me the most flexibility out of the lenses that I own, as I could vary the focal lengths according to the required proximity to the “target”, although at times I found 50mm did not get me close enough to the action.

As you can see from my contact sheets and shooting data, I used a few different shutter speeds depending on the speed required to capture the relevant ‘frozen’ moment. Initially my shutter speed was too low and I was getting motion blur, so had to increase this.

The sun was bright and low the day I took the images and formed lots of shadows which provided high contrast conditions. This meant at times it was difficult for the camera to expose correctly whilst maintaining a large enough depth of field to enable enough of the target to be in focus at the speeds they were travelling. Focusing on a moving target was a little more difficult than I had anticipated. As a result I increased the ISO slightly to allow for a higher depth of field. I took the images over an hour or so around early evening so shot partly during the golden hour which gave me some issues around colour consistency.

On the subject of focusing, I wanted both the background and target to be frozen in motion, so I did not want to adopt a panning style approach as this may have caused motion blur. Instead I used a focus point where I knew the skateboarder would be at a given point in his trick/jump (after studying positioning and routes taken through the skate park) and that’s where I focused. I then waited until the skateboarder was in my peripheral vision and used the shutter, in burst mode, to give a better chance of capturing the action frozen and in focus.

Please follow this link for the next section: Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle


Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: [Accessed 30 August 2016].

1 September 2016 – Start of the new season

So we are in September already… it doesn’t seem possible.  I say this every year but I will say it again ‘hasn’t this year gone quickly?’.  As you get older time seems to pass more quickly.  I’m not sure why that is *pause for thought*…  anyhow, September means a new season of the Reflex Photographic Club.

During the break we held a stall in the local shopping centre with the aim of getting more people to join the club.  I thought it was really fun to talk to people about something I was passionate about.  We enrolled 7 new members as a result.

The first night of a new season is really about welcoming new members, discussing the new programme of events and catching up with other members, informally sharing any photographs we had taken over the break.  The new programme, if you are interested, is on the club website.

It’s good to see that we have some new judges this season, also: a model night, a couple of lectures, a digital manipulation challenge and a couple of head to head battles with other local photography clubs (including Invicta – Chas Bedford!  Great to catch up with you the other day by the way).

I am also looking forward to my first discovery day challenge on 25 September in Whitstable.  This is where club members take photographs to enter into a digital competition where only photographs taken on that day can be entered.