Category Archives: Coursework

Part 5 – exercise 5.1


Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.


The starting point for my thinking about this exercise was the quote from Alexia Clorinda in the course notes:

I don’t pretend that I can describe the ‘other’. The camera for me is more a meter that measures the distance between myself and the other. It’s about the encounter between myself and the other; it’s not about the other.

The key word in this quote is “encounter”. The important thing is the interaction between photographer and subject – it’s not just one or the other, it’s both. The depth of the interaction is the real measure of importance.

Looking further into Clorinda’s work, I noticed her series titled Music Visions. The photos in this series are very evocative (her word) of being in a particular place, at a particular time. It seems to me that the encounter is intimate and personal. They are subjects that I can imagine she has empathy with.

The online Oxford English Dictionary gives several meanings of the word empathy, but the common meaning is defined as “the ability to understand and appreciate another person’s feelings, experience, etc.”. has a broader definition, moving away from just empathising with a person: “the imaginative ascribing to an object, as natural object or work of art, feelings or attitudes present in oneself”. This last meaning I found interesting and it brought to mind a long-running project of mine …

Lélex Farmhouse

Lélex Farmhouse

There’s an abandoned farmhouse not too far from where I live, just over the French border outside of the village of Lelex. I’ve explored in and around it, making three visits over several years and taking more than 250 photos. The place has an air of melancholy. It speaks to me of lives lived, loneliness, isolation and ultimately, decay. Like many photographers, these places intrigue me. Items of everyday life are still there such as old wine bottles, crockery, even a hand of cards left on the table. The upstairs rooms have old, dusty beds and there’s a half-destroyed sofa. I make up stories about the people who lived there and try to imagine what it must have been like. There’s a strong feeling of being abandoned and even a slightly creepy feeling which I find hard to shake whenever I’m there. Too many B movies, I guess.

I used this exercise as the opportunity to review the photos that I’ve taken in the past with a different eye. I was never happy with my selects before, so it seemed like a good opportunity to re-think.


 drg-26apr2015-101 drg-26apr2015-090  drg-26apr2015-087
 drg-26apr2015-083  drg-26apr2015-062 drg-26apr2015-061
drg-26apr2015-058 drg-26apr2015-042  drg-26apr2015-024
drg-26apr2015-015  drg-26apr2015-009

These photos are my picks from an outing in 2015 when I wanted to try out a LensBaby. I felt that a distorted look suited the mixed feelings that the place provoked in me. To emphasise the age and neglect, I cropped to square format, converted to B&W and gave all the photos a gentle warm tone.


When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4). In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:

Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.


My select is based on the feeling of abandonment. The thick cobwebs on the old chain indicate age, but they also touch on the B-movie creepy feelings I have when I’m there.

On examining this photo for this exercise, I noticed something that I didn’t see at the time: that the cobwebs almost look like hands reaching for the chains.

I must give up late night horror movies …

Part 5 – exercise 5.2


Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?

Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.

Following is my response to a photo by John Davies from his series Fuji City.

Figure 1: John Davies: Fuji 515, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, March 2008

Figure 1: Fuji 515, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, March 2008

Figure 2: Mont Blanc

Figure 2: Mont Blanc

In my photo I am responding to Davies’s stylistic approach of putting a dramatic mountain in an incidental position in the frame. In the area in which I live, Mont Blanc is an important visitor. I say “visitor” because frequently it is obscured by clouds and there aren’t that many times of the year when it is clearly visible. Normally, I’m thinking about getting up high and keeping the foreground to a minimum, or at least making it attractive (the lake, forest etc.). In this case, I had to turn my thinking around completely to mimic the Davies style. I had to think about including railway lines, industrial buildings – in short, something banal – in order to change the context.

Using the Barret (1997) classification:

Internal context: obviously this is a mixture of the mountain and the foreground elements. The mountain is in the background, and is small compared with the foreground – it has a secondary role.

External context: the presentational environment either in the original setting or in this blog is more-or-less the same. The photos are presented simply with only minimal caption information, as might appear in a gallery.

Original context: the causal environment is probably the key context here because of the deliberate choice to make something secondary which most people would see as primary. By choice of camera angle and use of a wide angle lens, the physical environment has been distorted in a way to focus our attention on the foreground. In effect, the context has been manipulated to show that Mt Fuji/Mont Blanc is part of the environment, but it’s no big deal – it’s just there.


Figure 1. Davies, John. Fuji 515, Shizuoka Prefecture, Japan, March 2008 [Photograph] At: (Accessed on 9 August 2016)

Barrett, Terry (1997) Photographs and Contexts. At: (Accessed on 9th August 2016)

Part 5 – exercise 5.3


Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Behind the gare Saint-Lazare

Henri Cartier-Bresson: Behind the gare Saint-Lazare

Pivotal Point

The pivotal point that my eye returns to in this image is the wooden structure in the water, especially the point nearest the man. This is the launching point and for me is somehow the focus – more so even than the man himself. I think it helps that the structure appears to be moving due to the ripples around it. I can imagine the man walking along it and then pushing off to clear as much water as possible.


From a contextual point of view, we can see that the interior context of this photo is quite complex – there’s a lot happening. Not only do we have the central subject of the man leaping over the water, but we also have a figure in the background who seems to be looking through a fence. The poster on the fence contains the word “Railowsky” – apparently the name of a circus. One of the websites I came across even suggested that the leaping man might be seen as a kind of acrobat. Seen in this way, I wonder if Cartier-Besson recognised the potential for humour – not impossible as many of his photos contain quite obvious humour.

There’s not much we can say about the external context except to point out that the image is kind of standalone – it is so well-known that it would be difficult to appropriate it for other uses just with the external context. But marketing people are endlessly creative …

From the point of view of the original context, Cartier-Bresson says in the documentary ‘L’amour tout court’ that he just stuck his Leica’s lens through some railings and couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder because it was blocked by a railing. The hazard of a rangefinder! So the “causal environment” was not optimal and it is a great credit to Carter-Besson’s skill and experience that he managed to capture such an image. Having said that, we can imagine that the photo accurately captures “the way it was” – it doesn’t particularly select a small scene that we couldn’t imagine is not a representative part of the bigger environment.


L’amour tout court. (2001) At: (Accessed 27 March 2016)

Part 4 – exercise 4.3


Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.

In the following images, I was inspired by Sato Shintaro’s depiction of the bright lights of the big city, largely without people. I spent two weeks in Chatswood, a very developed part of the Sydney sprawl but which has an identity all its own. My goal was to take straight street scenes, like Shintaro, which show it just as it is in a very factual way.

The white balance required a slight tweaking in most of the images, however due to the mixed light sources, it’s always a case of finding a compromise.

 DRG-24Jul2016-008  DRG-24Jul2016-013  DRG-24Jul2016-017
 DRG-24Jul2016-022 DRG-24Jul2016-027  DRG-24Jul2016-029

The quality of the light is very different from the daylight shots. It is bright, often harsh and creates sharply defined shadows. The mood it creates is also quite different, lacking the softness of daylight. The colour temperature of the light is also obviously different, varying depending the type of lighting e.g. tungsten, fluorescent etc.

Part 4 – exercise 4.5

Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.

Following is a screen grab of the first page of a Google search for images using the term “apple”:


Exercise 4.5 - Apples

Ignoring the reference to the company, it’s safe to say that these images are stereotypical – they correspond to my mental image of what an apple should look like and don’t score highly on the creativity criterion. However, that doesn’t mean that some of them aren’t attractive.

Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.

Following is a contact sheet of a number of images I took of an apple, using backlighting to show the form, but without the details. In this way, the apple becomes almost incidental to its own outline, which becomes quite imposing.

Contact Sheet

Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.


My final image shows the form of the apple, but with the strong backlighting there is a sense of drama. My photo has mood, mystery and shows a quite different perspective from the “straight” photos from the Google search.

Part 4 – exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form ….

Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just as useful as perfect graphics.

For this exercise I chose an egg carefully balanced using BluTack with a 50x70cm sheet of heavy black art paper as a background. For lighting, I used a combination of a small desk lamp (lens diameter about 20mm), a large Metz hammerhead-style flashgun used off-camera and a block of bright white paper as a simple reflector. All shots were taken with a 60mm macro lens set to  f/8 to give some depth of field since the lens to subject distance was quite small (200-300mm).

Photos are shown below with a short description and a lighting diagram.

Lamp RHS of camera, feathered

Lamp directly over camera to mimic on-camera flash

Lamp directly on top of camera

Lamp to side of subject

Lamp to side of subject

Lamp to side, reflector on left

Lamp to side, reflector on left

 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 1 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 2 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 3 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 4

Lamp directly over subject

Lamp directly over subject

Flash directly on top of camera

Lamp to right of camera, feathered; flash directly on top of camera

Flash at left of camera

Lamp to right of camera, feathered: flash at left of camera

Flash to left of subject

Lamp to right of camera, feathered: flash to left of subject

 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 5 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 6 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 7 Ex4.4 Lighting Diagram 8

In your notes try to describe any similarities between the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.

In the shots with just the lamp, as expected the white balance is on the warm side which is very similar to the early morning and late afternoon light quality in exercise 4.2 . On purpose I have not corrected this. By contrast, the shots with the flash have the feel of bright daylight. The flash photos all have the flash set to TTL but “turned down” 3 stops. Even so, the power of the flash quite evidently completely overpowers the small desk lamp.

I enjoyed this exercise. Although I have used studio lighting several times in the past for portraits, this is my first time experimenting with still life. The form of the egg, even the texture is nicely evident, especially on the shot with the reflector bringing some indirect light. By contrast, the flash is harsh and a useful development would be to try bouncing or diffusing the flashgun to get an umbrella or softbox effect.

Part 4 – exercise 4.1


Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.

 Black - Auto Medium Grey - Auto  White - Auto
 Black HD jacket  Medium-grey card  White sheet of paper


As expected, in full auto mode, the camera exposes the scene to make the tone a mid-grey which is how the built-in meter is calibrated.  I know that this happens from my own experience of trying to photograph snow – it will invariably appear under-exposed if I just let the camera decide the exposure.

Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The mid- tone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.

Black - Manual Medium Grey - Manual  White - Manual
 Black HD jacket  Medium-grey card  White sheet of paper


I have manually varied the exposure by several stops for the black jacket and the paper to get a result which looks more-or-less like how I perceive the object.


For a scene with a good range of tonal values from dark to light, the camera’s light meter will probably do a good job. For other scenes with restricted tones, it will be necessary to adjust the exposure to ensure that the resulting tonality is correct, at least in terms of how we expect the scene to appear. This has practical applications when trying to “expose to the right” in order to capture maximum shadow detail and reduce noise to a minimum. Depending on the scene, a large amount of exposure compensation may be needed.