Thoughts at the start of Part five

You’ve now reached the final part of Expressing Your Vision and this is a good place to reflect on your progress through the course so far. (EYV course notes P100)

If you aren’t looking back at your old photos and cringing a little bit … you’re doing it wrong (CLICKittyCAT 2016)

Looking back at my first posting, in February, I see that I expected to be well outside my comfort zone. Certainly, I have been outside my comfort zone at times, but not ‘well outside’ – that may come with Part five and the final assignment (a brief that loose is scary).

The course has two threads, the exercises and the collateral research. It has to be said that the exercises of Parts one to three are distinctly mechanical and so was my response to them; ‘Camera Controls 101’ is not going to be a mystery to somebody who has been using cameras for about 45 years, but there were a few nice twists and it is useful to test for myself something that I have ‘always known’. Part four, where we start to look outside the camera and consider the light, is much more interesting and I think that shows in the way that I engaged with the exercises (several blog posts for each). Part five appears to be more critical, and I am looking forward to that.

I think I see a difference in approach to the assignments as I have progressed. My Assignment one ‘Square Mile’ was as safe and uncreative as it gets. By Part four, I am deliberately saying, ‘That is the usual way to do it, so that’s what I am not going to shoot’

The collateral research has pushed me into doing things that are foreign to me, such as visiting exhibitions and reading photography art books (as opposed to technique books), which has been partly self-directed and partly responding to the tangential questions that Matthew, my tutor, throws into the mix with his comments on coursework. At first, I was reticent in expressing opinions for fear of treading on some received orthodoxies and getting marked down. However, I have now taken on board the advice, ‘there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course’ (EYV course notes P72) I have started to express my opinions more confidently.

The final part of this course … turns the focus back to you, the photographer, and your point of view (EYV course notes P101)

Bring it on …


CLICKittyCAT (2016) Instagram photo by  [Online] at: (Accessed: 23 October 2016).

Exercise 3.2 – some stuff from my archives

Before leaving Exercise 3.2 and the representation of motion, I will post a few examples of some of my earlier (pre-OCA) experiments.

The first image is not, strictly, a multiple exposure but a sequence of images (1/1000s with the camera in ‘machine gun’ mode) montaged in Photoshop. The focus blur on the rearmost image is accidental but seems to ‘work’. My montaging technique is not perfect, so there is some uneven colour in the sky around the kite-lines.


The next set is of an Irish Coastguard helicopter that was doing training exercises with a car ferry that I was travelling on, which gave me the chance to experiment with the effect of shutter speed on the rotors are depicted. In the first image, at 1/1000s, the main rotor is ‘frozen’ which gives the uncomfortable feeling that the engine has failed and the helicopter is about to fall out of the sky


At 1/400 we see some blur but the rotor is still effectively static. At 1/15s we lose it almost completely. The intermediate images with shutter speeds of 1/100s to 1/50s work best for me.

Slow shutter speeds and moving people can produce results ranging from delightful to bizarre, with quite a lot of ‘interesting’ in between. The two dancer images have exposure times of 0.8 secs, resulting from the very low light in the hall, but which capture the movement of the veils (which is the object of this dance)

In crowd scenes with an exposure of about 1/2s as with the examples below, people walking will blur but not disappear. This sort of image emphasises the stationary people and is a way of emphasising stillness in the middle of bustle.

Shutter speed is critical as there is a very odd effect which occurs at exposure times of 1-2 seconds. No matter how fast a walking or running person is moving, the foot on the ground is stationary. At these shutter speeds, a moving crowd becomes a sort of fog full of disembodied feet, which is very disturbing.

The final image is made with a pinhole camera and an exposure of 5 minutes. This is Maidstone’s main shopping street on the weekend before Christmas. The grey ‘fog is a crowd of moving shoppers. Only the group taking a breather are recognisable.

Maidstone pinhole mk1-003

Lens work 3 – my images

Both of the examples below, from my own 2015 ‘Large Format 52’ project, show use of selective focus to isolate detail and focus attention.

MotePark HP5 122


In ‘Reed’ I had pre-visualised the idea of a reed head with a very out-of-focus background, and spent some time experimenting with aperture, eventually settling on f/8 with a 150mm lens on 5×4. I found the background tree first, set against the water of the lake, then found an isolated reed. I like the image because I believe it says something about the sort of wetland locations that reed grows in.

Upnor HP5 306

‘Into the unknown’

In ‘Into the unknown’ I made use of camera movements to deal with perspective and to place the plane of focus horizontally on the third step (with the left shoe) so that the staircase blurred progressively above and below our imaginary walker. With hindsight, I should have focused on the second step in order to maintain reasonable sharpness in the step below, and to blur the upper part of the staircase further.

The same effect could be imitated in software, such as Nik Analog Efex but I prefer to do it in-camera and ‘old school’.

Hello World (or, at least, the OCA community)

Well, here we are on the first posting of a new blog – so let’s start with an introduction. This is how I introduced myself to my tutor:

Outside of photography and this course I am a 60-year old building surveyor, married and father of three. In addition to photography my hobbies include sailing (tolerably well) and learning saxophone (rather badly)

I have been interested in photography from about age 15 and learnt basic developing and darkroom skills at school (where the darkroom was part of the science block) and my level of involvement has varied over the years. I was a member of a camera club for a few years in the early 1980s until family and career caused some evaluation of priorities. I like to think that my family snaps and work-related photography benefited from the experience.

I have taken photography seriously again since about 2009, rejoined a camera club (occasional silverware on the mantlepiece) and started working for RPS and PAGB distinctions. I am LRPS and CPAGB, with fingers very tightly crossed for an ARPS assessment due in March. I regard myself as a useful technical photographer but have trouble picking subjects and moving beyond a record approach. I use film as well as digital cameras, because I enjoy the ritual of setting up a photograph with a manual, mechanical camera and I mainly shoot medium format for my hobby-photography.

I have started the BA Photography programme for personal development and challenge reasons, although I intend to submit work for assessment and award as a way of keeping score. I have previously taken a utilitarian approach to higher education; my BSc and MSc related to qualification and recognition in my primary career and this is the first time that I have taken a degree purely because I would enjoy it. I expect to be well outside my comfort zone, having never studied an art subject for a qualification before (even at O-level I chose the Technical Drawing option).