Exercise 1.2 – eye-tracking

An interesting point arising from the eye-tracking exercise is that I believe I view an image slightly differently when I first encounter it, compared with later viewings. On the first encounter, I enter the image (typically near bottom-centre) and search for the key element(s). The search may take a split-second or several seconds, depending on how obvious the key element it. From there, I will explore the image (or not) before returning to the key element. With a previously-viewed image, I will skip the initial exploration and go straight to the key element.

The exercises below are an attempt to reproduce my first viewing of each image.


The red dot is the single point of focus and I go straight there. Periodically, I explore the empty space to the left and above (ignoring the space at bottom-right) and return to the red dot.


The red dot is the stronger point of focus (advancing colour) and I go straight there. There is a strong line leading to the blue dot, but I tend to explore the empty space on the way back.


source: OCA course materials, Photography 1: Expressing your Vision

The paving joint gives a strong lead in to the picture elements in the top half of the frame. I look at the concrete rounded structure but quickly lose interest and return to the chair and the light-coloured can below it, where I fixate. Further eye movements (including subsequent viewings) are trapped in the cage formed by the legs of the chair.


source: Sunday Times Magazine, 28 February 2016

Robin Williams’ eye-line gives a very strong direction to the head and torso of the Oscar. The return route is down the Oscar, through both hands, the white collar, the mouth and back to the eyes.


source: Sunday Times Magazine 28 February 2016

After initial exploration, I found the Jaguar badge and number plate and the orange radiator surround, which is strongly placed just outside the thirds point. I am led up the driver’s body to his face, then down via the orange patch on the helmet and the strong orange line on the car bonnet to the badge and number plate again. Surprisingly, it is this region, rather than the driver’s face, that I always return to.


Exercise 1.2 – Point (Part 2)

I find the brief to part 2 is unclear. Although the words and the sentence structure are English, I have trouble extracting any meaning without importing extra words, or ascribing special meanings to “place” and “in relationship”. The best meaning that I can extract is to say that a point is “in relationship” to its frame if you can place another point in any part of the frame. Therefore, I will look at the placing of two points.

Two dominant points in the frame create a dimension of distance, a measurement of part of the frame. … The eye is induced to move from one point to another and back, so there is always an implied line connecting the points. This line is the most important dynamic in a two-point image; being a line, it has a relationship with the horizontals and verticals of the frame and it also has direction. The direction of the line depends on a variety of factors, but it will tend to be from the stronger to the weaker point, and towards the point that is close to an edge (Freeman 2007:70)

All the images in this exercise start with a single point, near the bottom-right intersection of thirds

A second blue point is added, in semi-random positions. The following images explore the relationship between points at varying distances apart.


Where the points are close together (first image) it is possible to see them as a group or shape, with its own relationship to the frame. Where further apart, there is an implied line between them, as discussed by Freeman. The two images with the blue point above and left of the red feel more comfortable than that with the blue point to the top right and the implied line heading out of the frame.

It is also possible to think of the points and frame as “controlling space” in the same way as two stones in a game of Go. There is a balance to be struck between the strength of control (closer is stronger) and the amount of space controlled.

The images below explore Freeman’s concept of a relationship with the horizontals and verticals of the frame.


With the points arranged vertically, there is less sense of controlling space than in the previous images (where the points marked the diagonal of an implied rectangle) but a much stronger line, parallel with the edge of the frame.

Reference, Freeman, M (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: Ilex Press

Mamiya RB67 Pro

1 RB67

This is the first model in Mamiya’s RB67 line, introduced in 1970 and replaced by the RB67 Pro S in 1974. It is a modular single-lens reflex, taking ten 6×7 negatives on 120 roll-film, or 20 on 220. The RB stands for Revolving Back, which enables shooting in landscape or portrait format without having to tilt the camera (relevant when using a waist level finder.

All parts are interchangeable. A complete camera comprises the body, lens, viewfinder, back adaptor and film back. The body and lens are mechanically linked, so that operating the lever on the right side will return the mirror and cock the shutter. The film back has a separate lever to advance the film; there is a mechanical connection to operate a red warning flag on the film back (and later models have a double-exposure lock). Another mechanical connection prevents the shutter firing with the dark-slide in place and prevents removing the back until the dark-slide is replaced.

The lenses have leaf shutters, with speeds of 1 to 1/400 second and “T”, with flash synch at all speeds. I have 65mm, 127mm and 180mm lenses (32mm, 63mm and 90mm equivalent on 35mm)

The mirror is large, and noisy when it moves. It stays up after taking a shot, until the body is re-cocked, which minimises the risk of mirror-slap. When using the camera on a tripod, the mirror can be locked up.

The RB67 tips the scales at over 3kg which some say makes it a studio camera, not suitable for hand-holding. Certainly, it is worth investing in a comfortable neck-strap.

My RB67 is called “Lula”. Fans of Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum books will understand that she is big, black and beautiful. She was used for January in my 12 months, 12 cameras project.

Further information online at



Exercise 1.2 – Point (part 1)

Three images, placing a point within the frame.


With the point placed centrally, I fixate on it and feel no need to explore the rest of the image. This is essentially static.


With the point placed off-centre, my attention is drawn to it but I periodically find myself exploring the rest of the image before returning to the point.


With the point placed near the edge, I get an uneasy feeling that it is about to leave the frame, or fall off the edge (this may be because I used the right edge – a point on the left edge may have just entered, according to the Western left-to-right reading convention). I occasionally look at the rest of the frame but have to return to the point in case it disappears.

The same two elements, point and frame, in three images generate three different reactions. I do not regard any placement of the point as more “correct” than any other – what matters is the reaction that the photographer wants to evoke in the viewer.

The central placement draws full attention to the subject, which would be appropriate to a record or catalogue image. Feeling “static” is also no bad thing if we want to evoke a feeling of stability or serenity. A central placement would also work for a symmetrical subject (such as a reflection) if the intention is to emphasise that symmetry.

The off-centre placement is a more conventional composition device. It allows us to explore the frame at our own pace, then return to the main subject. When dealing with a shape that has a definite direction of movement (e.g. a vehicle or animal viewed side-on) we get the traditional “space to move into”

The extreme placement may be appropriate if the photographer wants to evoke feelings of insecurity, isolation or peril.


Michael Freeman reaches similar conclusions in ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ (Freeman 2007:66):

Central point, “Static and usually dull”

Slightly off-centre, “Moderately dynamic, without being extreme”

Close to the edge, “Markedly eccentric, needing some justification”

Reference, Freeman, M (2007) The Photographer’s Eye. Lewes: Ilex Press

Exercise 1.1 supplementary

After completing exercise 1.1, I was intrigued about whether the histogram variations were solely related to scene variations or were caused by the camera, either as digital noise or vagaries in the light metering. I decided to find out by repeating the exercise while taking control of as many variables as possible.

These images are shot indoors at night (to eliminate daylight variations) lit by a single 500w photoflood lamp for consistent lighting (flash might vary between exposures). ISO was set manually at 100, to minimise noise. The camera was tripod-mounted and image-stabilisation was switched off.

In this first set, I used programme-automatic metering and automatic white balance. The resulting images are identical at a ‘collect-and-jitter’ level, so I have only shown one here.


histogs 1

These histograms are much more consistent than in the previous (outdoor) exercise. Collect-and-jitter showed the three main peaks shifting slightly. Closer examination shows that the moves are no more than one pixel to left or right.

In the second set, I adopted manual exposure control and a custom white balance (3000K as recommended for photofloods) The only variable remaining should be digital noise. Again, the images were identical to each other at a ‘collect-and-jitter’ level.


histogs 2

These histograms are almost identical. Collect-and-jitter shows no left-right shifts and a slight variation in overall height, possibly a vagary of the histogram-drawing routine. Viewing the image above shows slight variations at a single-pixel level.

My conclusion is that a very small part of the histogram variation seen in the original exercise is camera-generated, but the majority relates to the very small variations in that scene.

Exercise 1.1 … the same river …

A fascinating exercise showing the camera’s ability to detect very subtle changes in the scene before it. The images below were taken at 30-second intervals, using a tripod to ensure identical framing.

This was a ‘cloudy bright’ day with the sun behind a cloud for all four exposures. There was a slight breeze, so I avoided plants with moving leaves (which would be too easy to interpret) in favour of a subject that appeared static.

Technical information: all images were shot on an Olympus E-30 set to fully automatic mode. Image capture was JPEGs, medium-resolution normal-compression. The metering has taken all four images at 1/80, f/4, ISO200


image 1


image 2


image 3


image 4

All four images appear identical at first sight. I collected all four as tabs in a single Photoshop window, which allowed me to quickly switch between them and detect differences as ‘jitter’.

There is a subtle change in the light between the first and second images; shadows below the chairs become slightly darker and cooler. The twigs in the rear container shift slightly between the second and third frames (probably a breeze). A piece of twine on the rear trellis hangs directly in front of an upright in the third frame (a white section of wire disappears – this took a while to understand). A small leaf moves from right to left through the second, third and fourth frames.

I obtained histograms by importing all four images into Camera Raw and taking screenshots. Some surprisingly large changes can be detected by my ‘collect-and-jitter’ technique.

I have stacked the histograms together (in the same order as the images) for ease of comparison.


The changes most noticeable relate to the shape of the blue peak and the details in the colour fringes on both ‘shoulders’ of the graph.

An interesting point is that the histogram changes are more obvious than the changes in the scene itself. Whether this is due to the sensitivity of the camera as a measuring instrument, or to random fluctuations of the automated metering algorithms, is unknown at present. It would be interesting to repeat the exercise using all manual settings to bypass the automation as far as possible.

Square Mile -Analysis

This is the body text of my contextual analysis document:

‘There is a Welsh term “Y Filltir Sgwar” (The Square Mile) which may either be taken literally or understood as the area with which one is familiar and concerned about.’ (Moore 2012)

My childhood ‘square mile’ is no longer available, being two hours drive from home and inaccessible without trespassing. I have therefore adopted Moore’s description and selected part of my current home town, Maidstone.

The brief calls for relatively small images (1500 pixels equates to 5” at 300 dpi) similar to the 5×3-inch enprints of former times. This suggested a ‘snapshot’ approach so I chose to use a snapshot camera, an Olympus Trip 35. I currently use home-developed monochrome films with my older cameras and selected Ilford HP5+ as being appropriate for expected light levels in February.

My original intention was to photograph the shopping streets in the town centre. However, my walk into town involves crossing the Medway; I took what I intended to be a brief detour along the riverside path and found there was enough of interest to spend an hour and two rolls of film there. I made three further visits, finishing with 162 images for editing and selection.

My photography on the first day was undirected, as a result of which, there is only one image from that visit in my selected twelve. My subsequent visits were made after researching other photographers’ work in specific localities and I had a clearer idea of what I wanted. I have chosen to cover the way in which people use the space for recreation, exercise and access.

For inspiration, I viewed recent OCA learning blogs of other students on this course, particularly those of Melanie Paul, Chris Haddon and Ludovic Marquez. Among established practitioners, I viewed online galleries with the work of Keith Arnatt (Tate), Venetia Dearden (Dearden 2014), Jimmy Forsyth (Amber) and Martin Parr (Magnum)

The main lesson learnt was the importance of the scale of the background. In Arnatt’s ‘Walking the Dog’ series the backgrounds are tight, sufficient to identify the type of place, but not the place itself; in his ‘AONB Area of Natural Beauty’ series, the background is wider and we learn more about the place. The Marquez blog shows the opposite effect; although wider than Arnatt overall, his tighter views give a sense of involvement in the place, which is lacking in the wider vistas.

The exercise was a personal challenge because I am uncomfortable with street photography. Several of the images appear voyeuristic, as I did not want to be seen to be invading subjects’ privacy, and would probably fall foul of Robert Capa’s oft-quoted maxim, If your photographs aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” All twelve images have been cropped to some extent, to a field of view equating to a focal length of 50-60mm.

Given time and space to develop the project, I would track activities over the course of a year. For instance, there is a lot of boating activity during the summer months.