Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Future Project Ideas

Now might be a good time to step back and do some thinking and note taking for future projects. I have been busy working through the exercises and thinking carefully about what my next assignment topic will be. I have some ideas, that I have mentioned previously on this blog. They are:

A selection of infinite views
Photographs all taken from one (small) location to emphasise the variety and scale and interesting viewpoints that can be achieved from just one geographical location. I had thought to entitle/label each image with the orientation it was taken in and time of day. 

I have already started taking photos for this project and have a couple that I like. I'm not sure it's interesting enough as a project, even though I find it interesting... This would be a monochrome project as I search for shapes and patterns. It is a possible contender for Assignment 3.

This project focusses on my reactions of having my house 'open for inspection' every week and what my house says about me. I am investigating this by photographing the front of other peoples houses, in a consistent manner, and then assuming that the people who live there, share similar 'characteristics' or labels as myself. I am going to title each image with a label that I have put on myself (e.g. Mother, Geophysicist, Photographer, Gardener). This comes back to the theme of 'we are all the same, yet all unique', and investigates how we present to the world through our possessions, in this case, our home.

I really like how this project is developing. This is a contender for Assignment 3. I think the houses look quite interesting in black and white, and the shapes and patterns are more dominant than in the colour versions. If it is to be a successful series, then I need to consider being very consistent in my processing. If the labels are to be such a big part of the image then I need to add them in using Photoshop as part of the border of the image. I will need to experiment with font and layout to get the best results. Not having done this sort of project before, it will take some time and careful planning.

In order for this project to be a success, I have to do some careful research and consider the important of other peoples work in this area. I don't want the project to be a 'what the???' and so need to make sure that the images match the text very well and that the project hangs together as a whole. If that means re-shooting or reprocessing at any point then that is what I have to do. I don't want the concept to become greater than the whole.

Gay Marriage
This is a hot topic in Australia. It is constantly being brought up in parliament, and then shot down again. I have some friends who are gay and I believe that everyone should have the same rights, which include getting married if they want to. I wondered about a photographic project of gay/lesbian couples in their own homes, or going about their daily lives, doing all the same things that heterosexual couples do. This would emphasise that they are just the same as us, and therefore should have the same rights as us (I realise this is quite simplistic). The problem with trying to depict people doing normal everyday things is that they look normal and everyday and thus might not make an interesting photography project! Nonetheless, it's on my list of possible future projects.

This project would require approaching people (possibly using some online tool like Gumtree) and going to their homes or a mutually agreeable location and photographing them. I think this is probably outside of my ability at the moment, given my responsibilities at home. I think this project will have to go on the backburner.

Road trip
We are planning a sizeable road trip next year, probably taking between 3 and 5 weeks. This will be a big challenge with a 3 year old and 6 month old, but we are both keen to see more of Australia and it seems like a good time for us. I would love to document this trip in detail, picking out all the little things that are not typically photographed by 'mums with camera'. That is, the good, the bad and the ugly side of things! I'd also love to do a Martin-Parr-esque style documentary of the people we meet in the little towns of Australia, as we would be focussing out travel in these towns. And to capture the scenes of life along the way. This would be quite a large project that ideally I would make into a book at the end, I also envision including our 'diary' which I hope to keep with our 3 year old - of pictures drawn along the way, and notes/stories about our adventures, which I would then scan or photograph when we are finished the journey.

I will need to do some more research for this project - look at other peoples work online, perhaps purchase a few photobooks with this theme to know what to look for, and read up about the towns that I will be visiting. This will be a once-off opportunity so I want to be prepared for it.

Architecture of Southbank
The Cultural precinct of Southbank is quite important to Brisbane's history - it was born after the Expo in 1988 and really has marked the city as a modern, cultural city in Australia, which it was not considered previously. As a result, there are many interesting modern buildings in Southbank, an area where I love to photograph. I have thought to go and try to capture the fascinating designs of some of these buildings and do some graphical edgy (monochrome?) images of this area.

I have already taken some photos of this area at night (for Assignment 1) and did some research at that point for architectural photography. I would need to revisit this prior to taking more photos of the area. I would need to make multiple visits (ideally) at multiple times of the day/night which may be slightly challenging.

In summary, I'm going to include the suggestions made by my tutor on well executed mini-projects, to remind myself of what I'm aiming for. I need to ask myself if the above projects can fulfil the brief.

It is succinct - easy and clearly able to be described in one or two sentences. This means you are unlikely to get unnecessarily involved in considering ways to develop your creative response to the brief you have set yourself.

It is expansive - allowing you to develop your core idea in a number of ways, each able to offer different directions and interpretations, so affording the possibility of returning to this subject matter.

It is manageable - planning and executing the assignment is not so great a task that you are unnecessarily distracted from your core aims, to practice your photography.

It is readily contextualised - you engage with accessible research material. This allows you to appreciate the creative and conceptual approaches available to you with the project, supporting a number of possible creative approaches to develop your project

Exercise: Colour into Tones 1

Aim: The aim of this exercise is to better understand the characteristics of modern digital black and white. That is the impact of adjusting 'colours' to emphasise part of the monochrome image.

Process: By raising or lowering the colour level in the black and white mixer panel, it is possible to emphasise and de-emphasise parts of the monochrome image. This is akin to putting a coloured filter on the front of the lens of a film camera loaded with monochrome film. Of course, having the full colour spectrum means that we can be much more subtle than just putting one filter on the front of the lens, so this is a powerful method of processing the monochrome image.

In this exercise we are instructed to be quite dramatic in our work, this is to show the power of adjusting the various channels, but in reality I imagine this would be used with more subtlety and perhaps even discreetly over parts of the image (perhaps using layers and masks in Photoshop) to selectively emphasise parts of the image.

Two images were chosen, one with contrasting red and green, and one with yellow and blue. I have chosen a couple of images taken on my regular walks around the local area. I have used Lightroom for this exercise, and simply used the button and dragged on the image to raise or lower certain colours. I find this to be a very intuitive and easy way of seeing exactly what is happening and let the software determine which colours need to be adjusted.

Image 1: Colour

Image 1: 'default' Monochrome

Image 1: Raising the red channel makes the flowers appear almost white, and the car very pale

Image 1: Raising the vegetation (mostly in the yellow channel for this image) and lowering the red channel makes the flowers appear dramatically dark and the vegetation quite pale

Image 2: Colour

Image 2: 'default' Monochrome

Image 2: Raising the yellow channel and lowering the blue channel makes the digger quite dark and the sky washed out and pale

Image 2: Lowering the yellow channel and raising the blue channel makes the digger bright and pale and the sky dramatically dark, with the few clouds in the sky standing out.

Conclusion: This fairly simple exercise demonstrates the powerful use of adjusting the colour levels for a black and white image. The possibilities seem endless for tweaking each image! I have chosen images that are very bold in their colouring, so the results are very dramatic (which I think was the point of this exercise). However I can imaging that in more subtly coloured images the results can be quite powerful also. This is an essential step in creating a 'good' black and white image, and one that will be added to my monochrome workflow.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Moriyama and Klein

I have just got around to reading the October BJP which features the work of William Klein and Daido Moriyama who are currently being exhibited at the Tate Modern in London. Sadly I cannot attend, though of course I would love to! These images force me to reconsider black and white! They are extreme images...gritty, grainy, extremely contrasty, black blacks against white whites, and in the case of Moriyama, little in between. This is quite dramatic, intense photography, and I can see why it was considered very controversial when it was first presented in the 60s and 70s.

It's interesting to think about the political climate (Japan) at this time... Post war tensions would have run high and it seems like the images reflect this. Jack Keroac is once again cited as an influence, and I have also recently started reading 'on the road' as it appears to be quite a seminal book for many photographers and I'm interested to understand the culture a bit better.

I might also try to take my camera out in the dark some time to try for the gritty grainy contrasty look in my own work, just as an experiment.


British Journal of Photography (2012), October 2012

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Exercise: Strength of Interpretation

Aim: The aim of this exercise is to experience how 'far' black and white can be 'pushed' in processing compared with colour.

Procedure: Take two photos that can be processed with 1. high or low key treatment and 2. a strong increase in contrast (and possible clipping in the shadow areas). In addition I added in a Low key image.

Workflow: I have been shooting with black and white in mind recently, and have chosen two photos for this exercise. The first was taken at my 'selection of infinite views' location, and is a wide angle view looking up at a lamppost. It needed severe correction of vertical in Photoshop which I did after I had done the treatment for high key black and white and high key colour. The colour version is quite washed out, which could be appealing in the right situation.

Image 1: Black and White High key treatment

Image 1: Colour High key treatment

My second image was taken at a favourite location, near the Museum in the city of Brisbane. I have chosen a very wide angle of view and captured some shadows in the foreground which lead the eye towards the 'louvre-esqe' pyramid and the dramatic sky beyond. I have dramatised the colours through selective processing of the colours (darkening the blue sky for example). I have pushed this image quite a bit. The colour image is very dramatic and colourful also, but does look a little surreal with the brightness and intensity of the colours.

Image 2: Black and White Contrasty treatment

Image 2: Colour Contrasty treatment

In addition I have considered an example Low Key treatment. This image is shot up looking through a tree towards the sun shaded by some dark clouds. I have pushed the S curve down to deepen some parts of the image towards black and this has given a very dark moody image. The matching Colour image is quite similar, and the colours are only very subtle, so in this case it is quite convincing also.

Image 3: Black and White Low Key treatment

Image 3: Colour Low Key treatment

Conclusions: I am getting used to the idea of treating colours as tools in the conversion of black and white. Being able to selectively darken the sky in the second image without creating complex masks of the sky and not clouds is very powerful. It lends a very dramatic feel to the image.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Exercise: Black and White

Exercise: Black and White

Aim: To produce an image in black and white, from conception to final processing.

Procedure: I chose a situation with late afternoon low angle lighting a short walk from our house, a possible project site for my (possible) project entitled ‘a selection of infinite views’. I like this location because there is so much variety in it. I tried to frame images with lots of lines and patterns and shadows. I used the bracket function on my camera so that I could concentrate on getting the scene right, and then used the ‘expose to the right’ procedure to choose the best image.

The colour version is displayed below, with some ‘optimization’:
Chosen image, displayed here in colour
I then processed the image in Lightroom to create quite a high contrast dramatic image with the full range of the histogram covered.
Black and White version
Conclusion: This was quite a simple exercise. I have been ‘thinking’ in black and white more recently and this project was good for going through the steps from planning, through image taking and to the final product which I think is a strong image.

Black and White

In preparation for this set of exercises focussing on Black and White photography, I have done some preliminary reading, specifically Michael Freeman’s ‘Complete Guide to Black and White Digital Photography’ (Freeman 2009) which provides a good history of the monochrome tradition (from both traditional art and photographic perspectives), discusses some of the contribution of photographic images to art (for example flare and perspective), and discusses the various ‘attributes’ of monochrome images and some possible avenues for development to the area (partially coloured images, split tone).

The second section looks at digital monochrome, and covers some specific issues relating to capturing a digital black and white image – that is that we have all the colour information present (in a RAW file), and then we have a multitude of ways of using this information to create a monochrome image (or variant of). There seem to be so many complexities to converting to black and white and I suspect the only way to come to grasp it is to actually perform the exercises on various images – for example the discussion around handling green vegetation seems to be very complex and can be addressed in a number of ways with a number of outcomes! It seems the capturing of the image in the first place is very much only the first step with black and white (this can probably be extended validly to  colour images too – there is just so much to learn in this field!). 

Section three discusses creative choices and mentions ‘thinking in monochrome’. To this end I have taken the advice of the book and set my camera to ‘monochrome’ so that I see that on my camera screen instead of colour. I hope this will assist me in starting to think about form, shape and texture a bit more. I have limited successful experience with creating black and white images, so I do need some help in this area.

The final section discusses an area that I really have no experience at all in: printing and display. I rarely print my images, and if I do I use a printing company, and because I have moved around so much in the last few years (UK, then Brisbane and who knows what next), I don’t have a regular place of printing, and thus they are a bit varied. I don’t own a printer at all (we did discuss getting one but decided to put it off until after our next move) and I’ve never done much printing at all. I also have no experience making photobooks, a medium I am quite interested in pursuing (if I ever have a project good enough!) and I only printed onto canvas (a gift for mum) for the first time a few weeks ago (and was very pleased with the results). As for printing, framing and hanging, I have no experience at all in this area. I feel that if I am to continue to Level 2 and beyond (that is my plan at this stage), then this is an area where I really need to develop. I think I will have to commit to purchasing a printer by the end of next year when we are hopefully all settled again) and start learning about printing, paper profiles, different papers etc etc. For this next assignment I note that I need to send prints to my tutor. I’m not sure when I’ll be getting around to that assignment but I’ll need to do some test prints through the best printing company around, which is fortunately located just a short drive away.

There were some artists mentioned in the book that I have done a little research on, though need to do some more:

Paul Strand: Strongly geometric (light and shadow for example this early abstract work), use of whole range of greyscale, soft, advocate of social and political causes, street photography (covert!)
Paul Strand, taken from for personal study purposes
Eikoh Hosoe: evocative portraits of body parts, light/dark strong use of contrast, using both ends of the spectrum, high key, contrast between male (black) and female (white), dramatic!
Eikoh Hosoe, taken from for personal study purposes
Ansel Adams: powerful use of images for changing peoples mindsets (setting up of national parks in United States of America), but I've always thought a bit conventional. Perhaps I should revisit. I did see an exhibition when I was in Edinburgh and the prints were pretty impressive hanging on the wall. Dramatic use of the mid tones, similar to Paul Strand, though with very different style (landscape). He was a master printer (I have read some of his books about printing/exposing b&w film)

Ansel Adams, taken from for personal study purposes

Harry Callahan: striking portrait of his wife with arms above head - almost bleeds into the surrounding, high key
Harry Callahan, taken from for personal study purposes


401 Projects. (2012), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Adams, A. (2012), Ansel Adams Gallery [online], Available from:  [Accessed 24/11/12]

Designboom. (2003), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Freeman, M. (2009), The complete guide to black and white digital photography. East Sussex: Ilex

Metropolitan Museum of Art. (2012), Paul Strand (1890 - 1976) [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Museum of Contemporary Photography. (2012), Harry Callahan (American, 1912-1999) [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Ansel Adams [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Eikoh Hosoe [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012),  Harry Callahan  [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Wikipedia. (2012), Paul Strand [online], Available from: [Accessed 24/11/12]

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Assignment 3: thoughts

I've been thinking about the next assignment for this module. My tutor said in a recent email that "soon you will have to start thinking carefully about what you photograph" (paraphrase). This has been playing on my mind a lot recently. We are also in the process of selling our home. Each week we spend a few hours tidying and depersonalizing our home to make it more appealing to potential buyers. This process has got me thinking about how we 'hide' behind the walls of our houses, and by opening our house up for strangers to walk through every week is a bit like opening up part of ourselves. I also wonder what people would make of us by what we have in our homes, and even simply by what our home presents like. At times of great change we often question ourselves,and I am also questioning what I am... We use many words to describe ourselves, but when out socially and someone asks me what I do I say I am a geophysicist. Why do I give my professional title? Why don't I say I'm a mum,  or a photographer, or a loving wife? We all have different labels for ourselves,and each label has a different perceived 'value' in society. Likewise, the car we drive (or don't), house we live in (or don't) all dictate how we are viewed by others. That is, we try to live up to expectations and ideals inhow we present ourselves to other, but does it really matter one iota? Is it because I'm not proud to be a mum or any of the other titles? No, because I think that it's the elements of my life outside by paid work that make me me, but I think that that is not what society thinks or expects. So we hide behind labels, like we hide our lives behind the walls of our houses. No one really knows what goes on behind closed doors in other peoples lives (fortunately I often think!), though this is being increasingly publicized as people live out their every minute online (something I'm guilty of too).

These above issues fascinate me so I've been thinking about how to formulate them into an effective photographic project. I came back to my 'house facade' project which I started recently. I thought that I don't know anything about the people in the houses, but that they probably share at least some of my personal values, attributes and descriptors that I would use about myself. So I'm going to title each image with a descriptor that I would use on myself, depending on how I feel about each house.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Exercise: Interpretative processing

In this exercise we are encouraged to ‘get creative’ with processing.

To choose an image open for creative interpretation. Apply different processing techniques (experiment with lots of different options). Then make three different versions of the same image, a written description of what I was trying to achieve, and how well I think I succeeded.

I went to Mt Cootha Botanic Gardens last week and thought carefully about composing some shots of the various cacti and succulent plants which I thought would make good subjects for this exercise, and future desaturation exercises where texture and form are important. I have been doing some reading about ‘exposing to the right’, so for all shots I bracketed one stop either side, using aperture priority.

Back at home, after uploading my images, I carefully looked at the clipping on the brightest shots, and kept those that were not clipped, and deleted the ones with lower exposure. I don’t want to get in the habit of keeping three versions of an image with only the exposure different. My Hard Drives already fill up too quickly, particularly with this new camera!

I then selected those images that I thought had lower dynamic range and were thus suitable for this exercise. I was quite pleased with my selection These images are shown below:
Selection of images appropriate for this exercise

I went on to choose my image to work with for this exercise, shown below without any post-processing:

I first ‘optimized’ this image, shown below:

In Lightroom I made a virtual copy of this image and started processing. I did lots of experimentation, tried tweaking all the sliders and using black and white and just generally getting a feel for what could be done in Lightroom, as I’ve mostly only used presets before. I did use the presets a bit, but also tried to understand what was being done in the presets so that I can use them in the future with more knowledge. Below is a selection of the different processing techniques and results.
Selection of processing techniques in Lightroom

I then chose my favourite four images (below):

before selecting the final three which I will discuss here (below):

First image:
Soft Black and White

In this image I was trying to achieve a soft looking black and white image, which was quite high-key and old-fashioned looking. To do this I first did a simple conversion to black and white, and then adjusted my exposure, black clipping point and highlight tones to make the image bright and light feeling. Then I went to the vignette slider (under ‘effects’) and added in a white soft vignette to the image. I also added in some grain to make it look lit it might have been shot on film. Finally I adjusted the shadows, clarity and contrast slightly.

I really like this image. It is soft and floaty, which contrasts nicely with the spiky points of the cactus. The vignette on the corners adds to the washed out feel and I think it suits the addition of slight grain. I have kept some of the blacks quite deep to retain some contrast in this image. Overall I feel it is a successful and quite different rendition of the original image.

Second image:
Contrasty Black and White

I was looking for quite a harsh, contrasty black and white image to provide a stark comparison to the previous soft image. So I chose the opposite route basically. I applied a heavy contrasty blue filter to the black and white starting image. This darkened down the image considerably, but I kept the highlights high and bright to really emphasise the tips of the plant and small spikes. There is a dark vignette applied to this image to bring back emphasis to the plant and heighten the drama.

I like the strength and surprise in this image. The plant looks so very spiky and dramatic.

Third image:
Cross-processed image

settings for producing 'cross-processed' image 

A bright, light, colourful ‘cross-processed’ image. I tried a few versions of bright, contasty, highly colourful images and decided I liked this one the best. I have not done ‘cross-processing’ at all before, but quite like the effect it has on this image. I also played a bit with the saturation and luminance of some colours to boost the effect. I like the high contrast, slightly otherworldly colours that have been brought out in this image.

The notes ask me to consider ‘how well I have succeeded’. Well I had some feelings about light/dark/bright colour but not more than that really before I started. I chose my starting image quite carefully (shot with this project and other similar ones in mind), so I guess I’ve been successful in the sense that I have imaginatively edited this image into three more interesting, different images. This in some ways for me has opened up a whole new creative side to my photography, as I have not spent much time at all before ‘editing’ images in this way (mostly choosing to stick more closely to ‘reality’, whatever that means!). This exercise shows me that a little tweaking here and there can radically alter images (sometimes for the better, sometimes not so), and that there is great variety and scale of change that can take place in one single image.

Assignment 2 Feedback

I have received my feedback for Assignment 2 from my tutor. The comments on the assignment suggest that my technical skills are perfectly acceptable for this level of the course. The suggestions were to continue to learn more about the technical side of things but to concentrate more on the creative side. This is something I have been grappling with myself lately as I do more reading about the wider photographic community and various aspects of ‘art’ photography. How I view myself and my photography and the direction I wish to take my photography have all been quite central to my mind recently.

My tutor suggested reading a fellow student’s blog, which I have done, and found quite enlightening. He is a little further ahead than me on the course, but is following a similar path, having previously completed at least one course with the OCA, and seems to be quite similar in his direction of looking for more ‘art’ than just ‘function’. He has taken an approach for 2nd and 3rd assignments of choosing a ‘theme’ and following it through for the assignment. My tutor has some useful suggestions on using a self-directed project which I will closely consider for my future assignments.

It’s funny this transition from thinking of myself as a ‘photographer’ to an ‘artist’. It’s a subtle shift in some ways (semantics some would say), but for me personally it is quite important and significant. I love taking photos but want to do and achieve more than simply taking a ‘nice shot’… And a cohesive, interesting project is just waiting for me, I just need to be shoved in the right direction, take the plunge and do it. I have lots of ideas but it’s hard thinking of how to execute ideas and make them into successful _interesting_ photographic projects that don’t just look good but have some kind of meaning as well…