Friday, 29 July 2011

Assignment Three – Tutor Feedback

I have now had feedback from my tutor on Assignment 3, and have also had the opportunity for a thirty minute telephone conversation with him as well.  (I have to say that his willingness to spend time in direct conversation certainly helps a lot.)  The written feedback was detailed again and, besides the general comments that I am going to record here, there were lots of individual pointers and suggestions.

From my point of view, the main thing is that his opinion of my handling of the assignment is positive.  He was understanding of my concerns about the limitations of sticking strictly to the detailed brief – though pointed out, quite rightly, that there is a hint of a suggestion in the notes that a garden could be included (in the form of one of the illustrations).  I might decide to extend the number of subjects from five to six in the final submission and include some images I took of a garden in Carcassonne.  He praised the fact that, in spite of my concerns, I kept at it, reflected on it, and came through with a competent result.  As I have already commented, I do think the exercise has been worthwhile, despite my frustrations.

There were some useful comments on the choices of images that I had made. (I included some of my ‘rejections’ and ‘trial efforts’ in the submission so that he could see my train of thought.)  His comments could lead me to make one or two changes/additions to the set when I come to submit for assessment.

Some of our discussion was around technical issues.  I sent prints, which on the whole were OK, but one or two were a little dark.  Similarly, his feeling was that some parts of some of the images could have benefited from lightening.  We discussed how one would approach doing that in Photoshop, which was broadly in line with the approach that I had learned from ‘Classroom in a Book’, but with the chance to discuss in more detail.  My conclusion on all aspects of post-processing and printing is that I am making progress but that there is no quick way to learn these things.  It needs a certain amount of practice and trial/error.  Interestingly, the notion did come up that having the experience to actually define what is wrong with a print is half the battle.  I can look and sense that it isn’t right – but defining what is actually not right is a bit harder and needs practice.  Then comes the minor issue of knowing what needs doing to put it right; followed by the little matter of having the skills to do it.

Overall, I have to say that I feel better about this assignment now.  It hasn’t filled me with excitement and inspiration but I feel more comfortable that I have been able to deliver an OK outcome; I can see some areas to improve the submission for assessment; and I have continued to learn and develop through the work I’ve done and my reflections on it.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Assignment 3: Reflections after submitting

I have completed Assignment 3 and sent notes, images & prints to my tutor.  I have struggled with this assignment and I am not especially happy with the images submitted, but it was time to accept that and move on.  These are my reflections on why I have had a problem.

I suppose I should accept and note that it has been a busy time with other distractions - holiday, election to OCASA President etc - but I don't actually think that is anything more than a contributory factor.  On this assignment, I have not managed to reconcile producing something that inspires and pleases, something satisfying with a purpose, with fulfilling the brief.  The problem may largely be my own lack of inspiration - either generally, or with these buildings, or with the assignment itself - but I do think there is at least some relationship between my struggle and an issue that has been much discussed on the OCA Student Forum and/or Flickr - meeting the brief versus following a personally interesting and inspiring direction.

Assignment 3 of People & Place is a detailed and quite specific brief, which to my mind leaves rather less room for personal interpretation than some others.  I have probably met the brief with my submission and so have perhaps made a reasonable shot at the assignment in that respect.  The dissatisfaction is more about my own personal reaction to the images produced.  We are encouraged by OCA tutors on the OCA Forum to use the brief as a jumping off point to pursue our personal creative development.  I did that to a certain extent on Assignment 2.  But I seem to have found this brief much more restrictive - not so easy to break out of the shackles and leap!

Now, back to my earlier point, I am not denying that personal motivation and inspiration need to be there and were lacking to some degree on this assignment - so, not making excuses or even having a moan!!  But, my feedback to OCA (and I have made a similar point on other assignment/project notes e.g. some of those on the Landscape course) is that, if students are to be more creative and less 'conservative', then ideally this needs to come across more clearly in course notes and all briefs need to be written with that in mind.

For me, the learning point is, I think, that my personal development will be much better served by following what inspires than by following the letter of the brief.  I already knew that, and followed that path with the previous assignment, but I've fallen back into the trap here. (Albeit, there shouldn't really be a trap, should there?)

My notes to my tutor were very detailed, and I don't intend to repeat them here but I will post the images submitted, albeit without comment (other than the general one above).  Here they are:

Byram Arcade, Huddersfield

Queensgate Market, Huddersfield

Visitor Centre, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Underground Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park

The Garden Shed

Friday, 1 July 2011

Project 18: How space changes with light

Reading the brief for this project, I felt like I’d done it twice before – Art of Photography & Landscape – the difference being that this is potentially about internal space rather than an external situation.  I had thought that I would use a room in our home where the light changes significantly as the day goes by but, whilst on holiday, decided to shoot images of a room in the house where we were staying, looking at it in two very different forms of light – the morning sun and the internal tungsten lights of the evening.  Following the theme of the previous post, I didn’t try to photograph the whole room or even a significant proportion of it in any specific image but to select five compositions, which I then repeated in the two different forms of lighting to get my comparative images (though I did two versions of ‘evening’ for one of the shots.

The first composition looks into a corner of the room that is potentially lit from two large window spaces – one in the frame, behind the chair, and the other off camera to the left.  I say ‘potentially lit’ because the window that actually appears in the frame is actually quite shaded by a tree and the walls of other buildings, so actually provides very little light on the scene.  These are the two images.

Both present photographic challenges with contrast, the first because of the bright patch of sunlight on the floor in the foreground and the second because the light source is in the frame.  The first is actually lit from the window that is out of frame to the left, with the sun creating sharp highlights on the surface of the leather chair.  The comparative outcome of the images is quite interesting in that I first considered using the room for this project because of the attractive light in this corner in the morning sun, but in the end, it is the tungsten-lit image for this composition that comes out most effectively – to my mind.  Even though a large part of the chair is in deep shadow because it is a dark colour and back-lit, the contrast between the soft orange tungsten light and the blue cast of the evening shade outside in the garden works better than the harsher and less evenly sunlit first image.  Shooting this corner in the daytime would probably work more effectively if done in a more consistent afternoon light, when the sun is no longer coming directly through the window, or when there is no bright sunlight.  (Would that I could back to Carcassonne to try it!)
The next composition moves 90 degrees to the right.  The sunlight doesn’t reach across the room to this wall, so the daylight image is lit in a consistent manner with none of the sharp contrasts of the previous framing.

I think one of the characteristics of these selective, ‘incomplete’ framings that I have been trying is balance – or at least an attempt at balance – and this image hopefully demonstrates that.  Yes, the pot in the alcove is probably the immediate attraction, but so is half a clock, part of a red brick fireplace, a sofa arm and some CDs propped against the side of the fireplace.  I don’t necessarily want any one thing to dominate.  With the soft, even, natural daylight, the lighting helps to achieve that result, but because the alcove has a concealed light that is the main source in the second image, it is the alcove and pot that dominates the frame.  It still makes for an interesting image, but it doesn’t deliver the same balanced result as the first.
The next composition turns a further 45 degrees to the right, and there are 3 versions.

Once again, my own preference is for the soft, even natural light in the first version, shot in the morning.  As in the previous composition, the brightly lit alcove is interesting in the middle version, but it dominates and looks unnatural (and is difficult to expose for, of course).  I switched off that light and went for a longer exposure, lit by other tungsten lighting to the right, but it creates odd shadows.  I used the ‘open door’ technique to suggest things ‘off frame’.
Moving to another corner of the room, I selected this framing.

Once again, the change of lighting has a marked effect on the way the eye interprets the image.  In the left hand version, where there is natural light entering from the right of the frame, from a glass doorway in the other room, the eye is drawn out of the frame in that direction, particularly with the pan hanging on the wall and the radiator.  Whilst the same is true to some extent in the second image, that effect is balanced by the bright wall light, which increases the ‘pull’ of the left half of the composition.  Oddly, that seems to me to create a slight sense of menace from the right side of that second image – perhaps because the light is obviously less natural.
The final composition looks back across the room, towards the doorway that features in the one above, which leads into a kitchen.  Now, the balance is more even in the daylight image, with a reasonable it between the strength of the cupboard in the foreground and the kitchen area framed by the doorway.  The eye moves to the kitchen, but it is aware of the furniture in the room as well.  In the second, the brightly lit kitchen is the dominant area by some way, and that is where the eye goes immediately.

So, conclusion – not surprisingly, that the position and nature of the light entering a space will significantly affect the balance of an image and could lead to quite different decisions about where to position the camera and what composition to choose, depending on one’s intentions with the image.  Further subtle differences could also have been achieved in different forms of natural light at different times of the day and, as illustrated with the third composition above, by the choice of which artificial lighting to use and where to position it.