Monday, 27 August 2012

Daniel Meadows

Being drawn to an OCA article on Daniel Meadows [1952 - ], written by an old tutor, I was pleasantly surprised to find something in photography I had never seen before. Photo Story Telling......

From Meadows free website at I have looked and listened to all of the stories put together, and I find them fascinating. Meadows strings together an excellent passage of words to accompany some first class photography of journalism. His opening story of The Shop of Graeme Street is a narrative of his early days as a photography student with images of one particular shop. I really liked the following image, it reminded me of Judith Joy Ross [1946 - ] in an untitled image taken in 1988. In both images there are clearly subjects that are more relaxed about the photographer being there, perhaps the length of their skirts made them uncomfortable.... the woman seemingly hiding in the doorway adds to this.

Daniel Meadows [ The Shop on Graeme St]

Judith Joy Ross [Untitled 1988]

There are too many stories to retell here, but I particularly like the ones around Stanley, where a long term relationship has been established between the subject and the artist, and this has even been reciprocated with Stanley creating his own Photo Story.......

I will have to remember Daniel Meadows and perhaps put together my own picture story as part of the OCA courses.... fantastic work.....

Saturday, 11 August 2012

James Fee

In one of my earlier assignments I referenced the work of Photographer James Fee [1949 - 2006]. I was inspired by many of his images and strangely drawn to his work entitled 'Psycho Ward'.

I think it is also true that this type of photography led me to choose derelict buildings for the final assignment, to capture something out of the norm', something eerie.

I tried to emulate Fee's work a little here when doing the final assignment and saw one opportunity that inspired me from the following image taken from Psycho Ward.

This image of a long hallway with light at the end is intriguing and the use of motion blur makes this an eerie image, added to by the lonesome figure seemingly banging the wall with his head. The curved ceiling adds to this tunnel effect.

The opportunity that I saw in one of the abandoned buildings I visited was a contained hallway with a door at the end, barely hanging by its hinges with light pouring through from outside. To obtain the motion I purposely increased the aperture to f/6.3 giving me a 2 second exposure, holding the camera by hand as steady as possible knowing the image would be blurred by motion. I processed this image in raw adjusting the colour sliders in making a monochrome conversion. Post production included dodging and burning, adding noise (grain) to give it a grittier feel and finally adding a yellow cast. When I compared my image to Fee's there was more warmth so I used the colourise option in a saturation layer to replicate this by adding a small amount of yellow/orange.

I did not submit this as part of my assignment as I tried to submit images that reflected the techniques learnt in this course, and although this has been a good learning point in this course, I did not feel that it met this criteria.  I may live to regret this! I was also put off a little by using techniques that most photographers avoid at all costs, such as camera blur and noise, but here I think they are used creatively for a purpose.

I think that the image has worked well in James' style and I am pleased with the effects of motion, grain and colour. The motion almost has an effect of madness and to me this is an intriguing image in wanting to know what is the on other side of the door, perhaps freedom from the surrounding decay..... with the motion adding a sense of urgency in trying to get there.....

Saturday, 21 July 2012


This weekend I have finished the DDP course. It has taken me longer than anticipated dues to personal reasons and the fact that I wanted to get the most out of it.

I didn't think that I would pick up that much out of this course, but it has pleasantly surprised me as did TAOP; it has been a real learning curve. I will post comments received and that will be the end of this blog.

Next People and Places.....

Exercise: Sharpening for Print

This exercise surprised me.

In it we are to take an image without any form of sharpening and then create three more version of the same image with varying levels of sharpening. From the RAW converter I selected the following image taken from the Olympic Torch bearer that passed my house with 0 sharpening and opened the image in Photoshop.

I then applied a 20%, 100% and 250% amount of sharpening with 1% radius and printed each one out. On the screen I would say that the best image was 100%, this is what I normally sharpen to. When printed the 0% and 20% images were clearly in need of additional sharpening whilst there was very little difference between 100 and 250%, especially when compared to the screen. It would therefore suggest that for print more than 100% is required as it is very clear. Looking at the skin tones those these do appear to be over sharpened and harsh but nowhere near as much as the screen image which look frightful.

Conclusion: open at the moment, certainly for screen 100% seems to be perfect, for print I think it may now benefit from a little more....

Monday, 16 July 2012

Exercise: Web Site Portfolio

The web site is now live after many hours of struggling with html and some javascript...... I am not entirely happy with the splash page and may change this as and when I get more topics to present. For now I have uploaded some of the Art of Photography images just to demonstrate some varying images to see how things work.

I think I have met all of my objectives. It was written in basic html using a jquery plug-in called ad-gallery that was slightly modified. This gave me a slideshow, gallery thumbs and a nice navigation engine to display the images, image descriptions and it also pre-loads images so I probably could go for bigger image sizes but at this point I have left them at a medium screen resolution that I think is fine.

Web site address:

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Web Site Design

As part of section 5 we are tasked with building a web site to display our portfolio, so I have been reviewing various photographers' web sites to get ideas of what looks good and what doesn't. The following is what I am planning:

  • Clean classic design, minimal no fuss. The site should concentrate on the images.
  • White (or near white) background. Use of grey text [#807e7e and #999999] seems best
  • Slide show would be nice
  • Menus for different projects
  • Contact information
  • Film strip
  • Optional description of the project / image
  • Would be nice if when re-size the browser the web site was not affected or moved with the resizing. A lot of sites seen to fail on this point.
  • I don't like pages that have the viewed imaged fading in and the background lost, this is too messy for my liking and too animated. Examples of this are Thickbox and lightbox.
  • What size are my images going to be, the viewing area should accommodate for both portrait and landscape, if pre loading of images can be done then size can be bigger, perhaps around 350k for JPEGS or 400 x 600 px as this is the same ratio as my camera so no cropping.
  • Flash is a little above me and I am told will be retired soon with html 5 taking off. So it is just Javascript for now.
I have found some javascript / jquery called ad-gallery which is free to use so I am hoping to use this. Although this part of the project is optional I really feel that it will be worth the effort as I am sure this site will evolve over the coming years as I progress my courses.

Here is my first attempt at a logo, drawn in Photoshop.....the fonts I have chosen are Corbel and Verdana, I actually compressed my name a little and obviously expanded out the character spacing for the word ' photography'. However as these fonts may not be installed in my viewers computers I think I will have to use a more standard font such as arial for the site's text so that every viewer receives the same experience.

Assignment 4: Feedback

Overall I was very pleased with the feedback I have received for this assignment. I did struggle more than usual over this and although the original idea was reasonable I found it hard to put into practice. However help from my tutor in replacing the lenses with mirrored lenses proved to be the winner and saved the project.

The rider placed in the lenses was blurred using motion blur as I found him too sharp to be real, comments received back suggested that I over did this and that the reflection should have been sharper. I did try this out before submission and thought that it was too unreal, and made too much of a focus on the reflection in the lenses. I do however agree that the image in the lenses needs attention but at my level I am at a loss as to what it really needs. 

The image was a composite of three images, the main rider, the rider in the lenses and a pair of reflective glasses. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

More on Enhancement

Whilst researching photographers' web sites as preparation work for the next chapter I came across my namesake at This web site is really very good, well thought out and presented, though perhaps too busy for my liking; I am looking for something more timeless or simple. In any case I have found some code that I think will do for my web site and I hope to be able to keep this new web site throughout my OCA courses and build upon it as my portfolio.

I did find one image on this particular site that was crying out for adjustment and is a much better example of my image used for enhancement. So I thought I would document the process here in my learning log for future reference. First here is the original:

The first thing that struck me was that the eyes are quite dark, this is added to by a blue / cyan cast over the image. Perhaps this was taken in shade and needs the correct white balance. As I only have a JPEG I adjusted the colour balance to  shift the blue / yellow to yellow and the cyan / red to red, leaving the magenta / green slider alone. This seems to warm up the image and bring out the blonde hair. I then made a feathered selection around the eyes and boosted the levels, then dodged the pupils further to bring them out.

Finally, I sharpened the image for the screen but on a separate layer so that only the eyes and hair were sharpened leaving the skin as is. I hope Nathan does not mind me using his image as a learning aid, its a great shot and the model has such lovely eyes its a shame not to make the most of them.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


Submission for Assignment 4 is now complete. For this first time I have posted this on Facebook to judge peoples reactions to the Real or Fake image, lets see what comes back.

In the meanwhile I am now a convert to HDR and Photomatix. I have seen tutorials on HDR and have combined two or three images together manually in Photoshop but never used custom software. I found that the process in CS5 works but not great, what I like about Photomatix is the speed and clarity of the composition. Adding the tone maps really brings the image to life. At this point all I can see is myself doing is HDR images!

Thankfully educational discount is 75% off so this piece for software was a steal to buy and I have used it for two of the images already for the final assignment 5. I hope these are well received. Would post now but it will ruin the assignment......

This as it happens is almost complete and I feel that I have done all I can with the images, perhaps I might just buzz these around Facebook too to get any feedback. A few of my friends are very good photographers so its got to be worth a bash!

Monday, 18 June 2012

Exercise: Alteration

Well, we are leading up to making more and more changes to images, and this exercise is about replacing a part of an image with areas around it to remove it completely from the scene. This form of manipulation could well be considered unethical but in some cases it may be necessary where a moment in time can not be repeated for example of where any potential angle or viewpoint does not remove an ugly artefact.

This is a reasonable good wedding photograph showing the happy couple but separated by someone in the background. Although the depth of field is blurring it out this is a large distraction and one that makes the image unacceptable.

The area around the gentleman in the background is a tree (bark) which is a good cloning material as it has an unstructured pattern that can easily be blended. First of all I made a careful selection of this chap and feathered it by 3.5px as shown left. This is to make sure that I only clone within the selection and not on to the face of the groom.

Using the cone tool I select an area of bark and carefully clone this into the selection in several passes until all of the selection is made. There is a small piece not selected just above the shoulder of the groom, I did not select this in the cloning pass as there are some flowers protruding that I did not want to clone over. In a separate selection of this area I applied a hue / saturation adjustment altering the saturation, lightness and hue to match the background, this had very little affect on the hue of the flowers hence masking out the dark blue of the man's shirt.The final image once complete is below.

I think this is a reasonable removal of the gentleman and I can't really see an remnants of alteration, certainly not at this resolution. Perhaps there is a little but it certainly has brought the image back to life. The lady to the right is not ideal but not as bad as the chap in between the happy couple. Ethically is this correct? No I should have asked the gentleman to move, that would have saved the shot, but I do accept that there are scenes and situations that would warrant minor removals where absolutely necessary....What the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over? Perhaps.....

Exercise: Addition

This again is a two staged exercise challenging the dynamic range of the camera and learning how to merge either two exposures of the same image (taken within seconds) into a single image or by replacing part of an image that may be overexposed with another image

For the first part I took two images of a scene on a tripod so that the images would be exactly the same, but altering the exposure (shutter speed) so that the first image has the foreground perfectly exposed (1/5 sec) and the second the sky perfectly exposed (1/80 sec) both images were taken at f13 so that the depth of field remained constant.

Not surprisingly the dynamic range of the camera is well surpassed and either the sky is completely burnt out or the foreground too underexposed.

Using Photoshop I copied the darker image onto a new layer on the foreground exposure and applied a standard mask. The notes suggest using the eraser tool to remove under exposed parts to reveal the foreground exposure underneath, and while this is a good way to do things I prefer to use masks as they are non-destructive; any errors can simply be altered by painting in either black (hide) or white (show) with varying brush opacities to blend in the two images.


So I first added a gradient from white to back (top to bottom) in the mask, this revealed an almost perfect image with no selection or erasing. As the horizon in my image is not flat this left some of the bushes too dark, this came from the darker exposure of the sky. By selecting a soft brush with an opacity of 20 I painted over these areas so that they blended in to produce the following composite image. I feel that this has worked well and any join is invisible due to the blend of the mask as seen from the layers menu above.

The second task is to replace the sky completely with a second image from a different scene. I used the same landscape image but this time replacing the sky with the following image. I chose this image of the 'sky' as the sun was shining from the left to the right as it is in the original landscape.

I used a similar method as before using a layer mask to blend in the new image into the existing image to produce the following. Whilst I think that this is acceptable and not much to compare with from the first image composition I feel that this one is not quite as believable.

Exercise: Enhancement

This exercise is finding a way to improve a portrait shot taken in shade.This involves a two stage process, firstly by dodging or increasing the lightness of the face, and then secondly enhancing the eyes by further dodging and increasing saturation.

My original shot was not too bad though it is lacking in punch and vibrancy.

I created a new levels adjustment layer and filled the mask with 100% black; this effectively blocks out all changes to the adjustment. I then boosted the levels significantly and then using a white soft headed brush of 50px I painted into the mask revealing an overexposed face. I preferred to do the selection this way as it is easy to see the effect on the image and is easily corrected with a black brush. Once I had the right selection in the mask I then adjusted the levels to the correct value to produce a lightened face that is hopefully realistic.

The final section is about boosting the eyes. For this I repeated the levels adjustment on a new layer to boost the whiteness in the eyes. I have often seen this well over-cooked in cheaper magazines, almost looking like the eyes have been tipexed in, so I was careful to not over do this. Finally I repeated the selection and used a hue / saturation adjustment layer just to boost the saturation of the eyes slightly.

Overall this is a good improvement to the original image making the eyes much more piercing and drawing. It is possible on this blog to click on the first image to bring up a slide show moving between images with the cursor keys, it is easier to see the changes in this mode.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Exercise: Improvement or interpretation

This exercise was all about making an improvement to an image by selecting parts of it to work with emphasising areas that require more focus.

For this exercise we are to take an image of someone in part shade and selecting them and make an enhancement such as a levels or curves adjustment. For my image I also chose a bright background. Normally you would use a fill flash for this type of photography and I have later shown how the raw conversion 'fill light' has helped.

Here is the original image, as seen the subject is in shade which does not produce a pleasing image.

I then used the lasso tool to select around the subject, then refining it with shift (add) and alt (minus) keys to get as good a selection as possible. I find that a poor selection is obvious when boosting part of a high contrasting image. After saving the selection I then feathered the selection by 20px.

Using the levels adjustment I then brought in the right hand slider to meet the edge of the histogram which has produced the following, this I feel is a good improvement, that is not unrealistic.

Pushing the levels further produces an image that I think has too much manipulation and does not work. Perhaps adding more contrast and saturation may help but that would also darken the selection as well.

Finally, using the raw converter and the fill light slider at 53 produced this image. This is remarkably similar to the first version that has been adjusted with a selection, but the raw conversion has done this with no selection!

We'll take Manhatten

Last night I watched an excellent fact based drama about a young David Bailey on shoot for Vougue with his girlfriend / model Jean Shrimpton in 1962

The programme really showed off Bailey's attitude to rejecting the norm', almost sticking two fingers up at tradition and re-writing the rule book for fashion photography. He saw a more youthful vibrant need for change, with a new post war generation that demanded a new identity and he gave that to them.

The images he captured were not just about fashion, but capturing the time and place, itself giving a context of belonging. Traditional framed images were now a thing of the past.

He even rejected the requirement to use a full frame camera on a tripod, favouring a more agile 35mm Pentax. 'Grainier' was deemed to be more refreshing.

The images that were recreated in the drama were absolutely to die for. If you watch nothing else then just look at the end credits and see the following...... These are Bailey's originals producing fresh vibrant images that are almost timeless. I particularly like the image with the puddle, great foresight, and the 'Twist' image with so much going on but yet in perfect balance. How does he see all of this? The 'Teddy Bear' theme throughout also adds a great connection between images....

Monday, 30 April 2012

The Start of the Final Assignment

I have yet to write up all of the exercises for this part of the module and yet to take any images for the assignment, although I have some ideas, yet I have found time to start taking images for the final assignment.....

My initial remit that I have discussed with my tutor is to take images of abandoned or derelict buildings. The first problem I have is finding suitable and interesting buildings. As a keen cyclist I do get to see many sites that most would whiz by in a car and miss, and this has led me to three of my subjects. I hope to get between 3 or 4 images per site, this is my first challenge. The cyclist in me has ideas for the next assignment which I will leave or now.

My tutor suggested I visit these building at different times of the day or in varying weather conditions and this is excellent advise to get a more varied set of images. Darkened skies perhaps, or a setting sun for example. Rain too may show the neglect for a building left to stand by itself.

I want to get images that shout out decay, abandonment, rot, loneliness, help,  perhaps crying out for the old times of a past when this building was cared for, lived in or used productively. If I can find some evidence of life before the abandonment set in today that would be one of my main goals achieved.

I have been checking the weather forecast in the area of my main interest and last early evening it was ideal conditions for what I was looking for, so I headed off to Horsebridge Mill.

The sun was setting lighting up the main brick tower so I concentrated on this side of the building, wading through mud and sodden ground. The water still flows through the mill creating a very relaxing sound that has not been muted over the years. With the amount of rain lately this has almost caused the banks to burst; I think I have one or two possibles from this angle.

I then concentrated on the other side of the building, walking around to the old water wheel that stands motionless, and then on to the front of the building that is weathered and worn, paint peeling off the brickwork, doors and windows smashed and boarded.

I was surprised with the fading light how different the images are from the sunny side to the dark side. I have yet to look at most of them but one took my eye and I have spent a good hour or even two on processing it. I hope it is well received. I think it will be hard to better.

My only regrets are that the mill is such a good subject that I will find it hard to get images as good as these from my other buildings. I do not think I could get 10 images from just this one, but I will leave that idea in my back pocket just in case.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Exercise: Correction

In this exercise we are looking at correcting artefacts included in an image that should not be there, typically those caused by flaws in the camera equipment.Two that are looked at in detail are dust spots on the camera's sensor and lens flare.

I try to keep the sensor clean, especially when I start to notice dust spots, more noticeable on solid colours such as the sky on a clear day. Finding them in a mix of colours is a lot harder.

Looking back I had problems in finding an old image with such spots, which I suppose is good, but he is one with a minor spot shown in the white square, though not easy to see at this resolution.

To fix this is very straight forward using the spot healing brush, just select a brush size slightly larger that the spot and click. I find it very hard to see any join and remnant of the original blemish.I feel that this form or alteration is valid as the spots should not be there and are introduced through flaws in the camera. Also removing them is virtually transparent to the viewer, so that the feeling of modification, will in almost all cases, not be known.

The second flaw looked at was lens flare. Again an artificial artefact but one that is a lot harder to remove. I could not find such an image in my collection, but I used photoshop to add a lens flare through  the filter menus.

Personally, I like lens flare but in some cases this may become too distracting or spoil a particular part of an image and therefore needs some treatment. As described in the notes I used the clone tool, with the mode being set to colour and darken. On my first attempt I found that I needed to reduce the opacity to around 50% as the changes were too strong, I also found that using a colour mode has changed the colour of the highest head of grass to a blue tinge. In hindsight I should have used a layer mask to make the changes, I then could have gone back and deleted the changes over the head of grass to bring back the original.

Overall the technique has been successful, but there are traces to me that are quite obvious that changes have occurred and therefore I do not feel that this is a valid editing process.Personally I feel that the lens flare should be retained, and if it cannot be removed without having obvious water marks then the image should be left as is or assigned to the bin.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Martin Parr

Documentary photography has interested me probably more than any other genre. In looking for potential topics for the final assessment I have been looking at Martin Parr [1952 - ] an English photographer noted in The Photograph [1] by Graham Clarke. He is best known for his critical work looking at life in England with an emphasis on the social awareness of an image. He has tended to break the mould a little in producing a series of images for each topic that depict a social scene around the current attitude to life. This is an interesting concept in that the images not only document the moment in time but also the social awareness of that time.

I was particularly drawn to his book A to B [2], a collaborative piece of work with film maker Nick Barker, in which Parr took images of people with their cars in the early 1990's. This is about people with their prized possession, the car, and how it is a reflection of their own persona and how the car has become part of the social status of life. Some decorate the car personally, for others it is a workspace, but in all of them the subjects seem to be enjoying the moment of being with and driving their car. There are also several shots of single women, perhaps describing an inner portrait of their own self-image or freedom. So the car is therefore no longer an instrument to get from A to B, rather a social necessity and statement of who we are.

I really like his work, it is simple, has great colour and records a past era that I can recall in my early years of motoring, but it recalls more than just memories or cars and motoring but also the social awareness of the car.....

I have decided not to try and follow Parrs work here for now, I will revisit this for People and Places as I think it will be more suited here.

Look at me, an image of glamorous motoring
The car adorned with tokens of ownership
A formal family day out in the Mercedes. I love the yawning of the small boy
I like this image in that fact that the car has a higher status in this young man's life than his girlfriend resigned to the blurry back of the image.


[1] ISBN  789-0-19-284299-8 p.71-72
[2] ISBN 0 563 36984 1      

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Reflection of last Assignment - Its been a while

I have not been able to pursue the course much lately. This is mainly down to working away, work and having to study for work related exams..... work, work work!

With only one more exam to go at work, I have found time to study the course material and take images for the exercises, so hopefully I will post this soon. In the meanwhile here are my reflective notes from the feedback received for the monochrome assignment.....

All in all it was a very pleasing and constructive response. It was commented early on that the changes and enhancements I have made to the images were subtle and perhaps not as strong as could have been made. This I found interesting as I have been trying hard to make sure the the images I take need as little processing as possible, previously I relied too much on Photoshop. Using the correct white balance and checking exposures with the histogram have helped enormously to capture better images. To try and retain this unaltered look I have probably been a bit economical with some of the sliders and I can see how and why I could make some improvements. As the course unfolds we are now being encouraged to question what is acceptable in modifying images, and my view today is that as an art form we must make the best possible image from the tools we have available, however it should not make the image unbelievable or obviously modified to too great an extent. So in the future I will push the processing a little further.

My tutor has also kindly given examples on processing a couple of my images. In these he has made one more dramatic and in the other drawn out more detail. On reflection I should have spent more time processing the images and not trying to have them looking too natural. The one image I did increase contrast significantly and dodged and burned (Lobster Pots) received good feedback in respect to the tonal range.

I was also pleased that the BMX and Abandoned images were well received as these were my favourites. Notes to self, pay attention to detail and show more in the Blog and Assignments on experimenting with different techniques. I do this all the time but do not record it.

Here are the images for anyone interested! The theme was the coastline of Eastbourne, or just outside.