The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

The Art of Photography:Mike Mudd's Learning Log

TAOP Assignment 5 re work after Tutors comments

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, October 07, 2013 14:45:56
This is probably my second last post to my TAOP OCA blog, I am near the point of handing over all the content I have created for this module, for the dreaded formal assessment.
Prior to this conclusion though, is this entry, detailing my reworking of assignment 5 - Narrative and illustration.
My original version of this assignment was heavily critiqued by my tutor Rob, and rightly so to be honest. The first version, listed here reflected my over procrastination with this assignment and I cannot really volunteer and criticism of my tutors comments.

Firstly, my material for the first version was created in one shoot, with no reccy to test the ideas, the lack of scope for the narrative of the story was reflected in this. the images, though some were interesting were either lacking for the story, or were diverting the focus away from the actual subject and lacked an introduction for the main characters. My tutor also advised that I am prone 'to seeing and interpreting too much meaning from my images'. In this second version of the assignment I hope that I have been more true to the story and kept to the needed and necessary content.

Here is the second version of the pseudo magazine narrative which I offer for formal assessment:
The images in sequence are here:

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TaoP Submission: Assignment 5 'Narrative and Illustration"

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, July 15, 2013 21:45:27

OCA: TaoP Assignment 5: Narrative

12 Images on the theme of Illustration and Narrative

Assignment Aim:

To illustrate a story in the mode of a magazine assignment

Selected story – An easy days training for two team cyclists


1. Freeman, M. (2012) Michael The Photographer’s story Lewes: The Ilex Press.

2. Hunter, F. et al (2007) Light: Science and Magic: an Introduction to Photographic Lighting (3rd Edition). Burlington, MA. Focal Press.

3. Montizambert D. (2003) Creative Lighting Techniques for studio photographers, (2nd Edition). London, Amherst Media.

Online references:

Image storage Locations for viewing:

Summary statement:

This assignment presented an opportunity to demonstrate the idea of a connected flow and sequence of a story, and to singularly illustrate a subject with the introductory image. The potential for a story was not necessarily the difficult element of the assignment. More difficult was employing the elements of previous assignment and exercise experience and learning within the story board of images. These elements of course would provide photographic stimulus to the viewer.

My initial ‘potential’ themes for this story presented fairly sound ideas – a day in the life of a homeless man, the experience of students and lecturers in preparation for a degree show, a study of the close relationship between a teenage girl and her horse.

All of these themes presented a good potential for a story sequence, but all of these stories fell over for different reasons, but for the latter two these reasons were by and large photographic;

· Not being capable to exercise change when ‘planned shots ‘do not appear before the camera.

· Discomfort in photographing scenes with multiple people and not engaging with the subject matter – resulting in images which lacked stimulating composition, colour, shape and therefore illustration of the subject matter. This also resulted in image sets all with same focal length and similar framing – again too easy to record and therefore dull to look at as a result

· Collation of imagery which in illustration is too similar as a group and therefore lacking story variation, story peak termination and coda (Freeman: 2012).


Stimulating storyboard imagery requires an interesting subject matter which is aided by changing environments which can present opportunities in photography in terms of lighting, shape and colour, and also maintaining narrative interest. Considerations in making additions to the story – i.e. new characters or activities helps keep the story fresh for the viewer, in this case the use of the car and photography from the car/cameraman’s point of view. Changes in camera framing and composition also aid the visual interest to the story set – and previous attempts at this assignment certainly proved that. Essentially, it has taken three attempts to satisfy the demands of the assignment in terms of initially separating and recognising the story’s photographic and narrative needs – and then bringing these components back together.

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Narrative assignment looming – thoughts while developing ideas….

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, May 27, 2013 12:10:46

Narrative assignment looming – thoughts while developing ideas….

Browsing the shelves of Waterstones' a few days back, debating whether to add a tenner to the twenty quid voucher in my pocket – the debate is between Vivian Maier and Bill Brandt… then as I review the prices… and mull over the idea that I’ve just re –read Badger and Cotton…. Up pops Michael Freeman’s ‘The Photographers Story’… I need some new reading material and with this serendipitous moment... I buy the Freeman book… the right choice with TAOP assignment 5 looming.

TAOP so far has very much being about the practicalities of seeing with a camera. Story telling has not been within the brief until now. The idea is easy to digest - a photo essay with an overriding theme, in fact, the ideas is too easy and therein lies the problem; pick a subject, go out and shoot and then present a story that you think shows a story. However, what you as photographer may initially be swept away with – this narrative run of images, may, if you’re not careful provide boring for another viewer – this is where the Serendipity of Freemans book comes in…

As Freeman states there is a classic Narrative formula, which lends itself to the photo essay, introductory images, openers, establishment shots climax, closers and coda. The language is appropriate as it works – and has proven itself to work in that a thousand and one various colour supplements have presented themselves and inspired their readers over most of the Sundays of the latter half of the twentieth century.

I have 2 or 3 possible stories to run for this assignment, and I haven’t quite settled on which one will win through yet… we shall see. I have chosen both stories to take me out of my comfort zone – they are environments and people that I do not normally interact with during my usual routines. The choices for story I have made have made for exciting prospects to photograph but I know that I must in still some discipline and planning into the images I collect - both planned and candid - to provide the narrative sequence for the story. There is a potential to be washed away with image collecting and end up reviewing a belt of images which provide no sequence of events. A further issue is to what extent I forego the individually dramatic illustrative photograph in pursuit of the story – I will find out as I shoot both themes.

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A response to assessment - Assignment 4 Light

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, April 08, 2013 09:57:45

This assignment, to date, has been the most enjoyable, and I admit to being more than pleased with the very positive assessment from my new Tutor.

The assignment gave the opportunity to really ‘get stuck in’ with the subject, and the opportunity to really ‘play’ with the core element in photography – light.

On the back of this work, my tutor has suggested that I follow TAOP with People and Place for my next level 1 module, I agree, and I think the module will be a strong challenge.

Firstly, in response to tutor comments I have selected a few elements which my tutor raised as pointers and/or welcome critique.

1. Shape – Image 1 – clipping of frame to remove arms.

My tutor questioned the framing of this first image (see with the cropping of the subjects arms out of the frame. I admit that it is unusual, and to crop the arms does not fit the criteria for assessment and somewhat disturbs the image. However my choice - subjective at the time intrigued me as the photographer, and I enjoyed the abrupt nature of the frame and the awkwardness it provided. I appreciate that this framing does not fully fit a more regular view of the subject, sometimes I think a little awkwardness is frame can draw a viewer to look at the image more intently.

Shape – Image 2 – shadow in background.

My tutor did appreciate the cinematic feel to this image, and I did too, the choice however is based on my previous versions of this frame, where a more cut out version was presented to the OCA flickr group – I prefer this less clinical version.

2. Form – Image 1 - Again my tutors response to the first image employed as form is very positive in terms of satisfying the requirement, however as a photograph – it is the reflection of the subjects eye from the shadow side of the subjects lighting which helps create a focus point for the image- making for a more interesting photograph.

Form – Image 2 – Again an image received positively and I acknowledge the comments regarding the use of reflectors on the shadow side of the subject to introduce detail. For this shoot had little means of mounting the reflectors I had in the kit – and no glamorous assistant!

3. Texture and Form – Images 2 and 1 Respectively.

For image 2 in texture the only critique was perhaps a little dodging of the eyes to render a focal point – I agree.

Finally, for image 1 in the colour set – yes the framing is a little low, I agree. And in retrospect I think that I left the frame uncropped in any way as at this point in editing, the element of the ‘unusual’ of the subject pervaded my choices – and this odd framing was left unadjusted as a response/result.

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TaoP Submission: Assignment 4: Light

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Mon, March 25, 2013 12:57:42

OCA: TaoP Assignment 4: Light

8 Images on the theme of applying lighting techniques

Shape: Defining an object/ subject by its outline/ edges.

Form: Describing the volume and 3 dimensional nature of a subject

Texture: Quality of the surface detail

Colour: The defining colour(s) of a subject.


1. Freeman, M. (2012) Michael Freeman’s Photo School: Light & Lighting. Lewes: The Ilex Press.

2. Hunter, F. et al (2007) Light: Science and Magic: an Introduction to Photographic Lighting (3rd Edition). Burlington, MA. Focal Press.

3. Montizambert D. (2003) Creative Lighting Techniques for studio photographers, (2nd Edition). London, Amherst Media.

Online references:

1. photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (,

2. photographer Bill Brandt (

Image storage Locations for viewing:




Assignment Aim:

To draw together the different lighting techniques and apply them to one subject.

Personal objective:

To fulfil the assignment requirement, I opted to photograph a portrait set in a controlled studio environment. My choice of subject – a physically fit and lean, yet middle aged male model who has some prior experience of posing for life study students. My choice of submission content was intended to provide a personally more stimulating and challenging set to plan, shoot and submit – when compared to a still life arrangement. The models physique would also provide an appropriate subject to depict the themes of the assignment as a study set.

My objective was also to photograph the full set of images for each part of the assignment brief in one sitting, in a similar manner as a professional portrait photographer; my idea being that to shoot the whole set over a two hour period, the model would stay compliant and interested in the project – as oppose to several shoots on each part of the assignment over several sittings.

From a photographic portrait consideration, I wanted these images to present a meaningful presentation of the subject, focused not just on the physicality of the subject, but also the personality, and with this subject I feel that the transmission of personality over rode much of the personality input from me as the photographer, the images as portrait therefore are hopefully very much about the subject – Dave’. Dave is of strong character and culture, with a strong sense of identity which harbours not just strength but also a notable sense of individualism mixed with a purposeful bold eccentricity. I particularly wanted physical strength to come through in the images recorded for the theme of form - strength of both physical presence and personal attitude; But the sense of ‘being different’ was also my intention, hopefully the remainder of the images for the set reflect the fact that Dave is unique and not afraid to present a degree of discomfort in the interpretation of him by others.

Knowledge based on my acquaintance with the subject provided the basis of this ‘strong in personality and opinion’ theme, with an edge of the eccentric and cultured. Dave as a subject is not always accepted for his opinions and beliefs which can on occasion be transmitted too strongly, an action which may not suit the company at the time, often this strong opinion is derived from notable personal experiences which are outside the realms of his current peer group.


Images for submission


Shape 1:


This first theme was intended to depict the shape of a subject by defining the subjects edges from the surroundings/ background. My plan for this pairing of images was to photograph the subject in silhouette form against a contrasting background, drawing inspiration from fashion photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (, and the nude study work of Bill Brandt.

Both images presented for this theme are not absolute silhouette forms, and my intention was to allow some of the light projected onto the white contrasting background to spill onto the edges of the subjects form therefore adding a sculptural relief to the shape and providing very limited three- dimensionality and interest to the images.

The fist image is a closely framed study of the subject , not presenting the entire figure but rather a cropped study of the upper body, and to emphasise the form of the subject not just by contrast via lighting but by contrast against the frame edges too (by cropping the subject pose which extended beyond the frame). This first image for the set was also intentionally photographed to present an almost ‘cut out image’, with a stark contrast against the over exposed clean white background, although this background overexposure on the image is uneven so as to ensure the viewer that the figure is not actually cut out in photoshop.

Method – Shape 1

Technically the result was achieved by utilising a white paper background roll mounted on a studio frame of 3m width (the same apparatus was employed for the entire set, with the addition of a third key light for later images), accompanied by two flash strobe lights with diffusing softboxes; for these two images the two light sources were placed proximal to the white background. The subject was positioned centrally in the frame/ field of view of the camera with the background white material exceeded the dimensions of the frame.

The subject was not lit by any light source from camera position. A shutter speed of 1/160th of a second was used - synchronised with the two strobe lights via a wired connection to the left most light, the right light operating as a slave unit to the light with wired connection to the camera.

A camera aperture of F10 was used (throughout) to provide a reasonable level of detail and depth of field of the subject. A flash meter was employed to test the two background lights and ensure that the power output of the lights would require a much smaller aperture, of F16 or more, from the camera to correctly expose them. This employed camera setting of F10 ensured that the background would appear overexposed and more brilliantly white compared to the much underlit subject – creating the desired contrast between subject and background.

The subject was placed 1 metre or so in front of the background – this limited the light spill/reflection from the illuminated white background onto the subject – providing the limited sculputural detail to the subject’s muscularity.

Shape 2:

Method - Shape 2

This second offering for the shape theme employed the same techniques as previously described, however a 3/4 view of the subject is depicted – this change in framing achieved by reducing the focal length of the lens to 35mm from 75mm. The subject is still depicted as a silhouette with slight light bounce onto the figure to offer a small degree of three dimensions. The image has also revealed the uneven lighting from the two soft box diffusers, with the lower part of the background falling into shadow; I have left this element in the image to ensure a less cut out image presentation than the previous. However, this background area has been edited in Photoshop using a Gaussian blur to reduce some of the background detailing – so as not to adversely affect the viewer’s attention to the main subject figure. The crop is a subjective selection at the time of photographing.


Form 1:


The principal of these two images was to present the same subject in a more three dimensional, tangible subject, lighting mode, employing both shadow and lighting to provide sculpture to the subject. Again the work of Bill Brandt is relevant here, where he employed both subject pose and the effects of shadow and light to achieve a sense of subject depth and form.

Previous efforts to produce a sense of three dimensions to a subject via lighting technique have influenced my use of lighting in this pairing (seen here in my flickr stream), reference lighting set ups from both Hunter F.etal (2007) and Montizambert D. (2003) were employed also.

Method - Form1:

The same white background studio environment was used to create both of these images, however, the two soft box flash lights were reduced in power setting and the light heads were pointed 45 degrees away from the background and subject, thus reducing the amount of light being transmitted to the background and thus reflected towards the camera; This reduced the amount of light bounce from the background and presented a less contrasted background environment.

The subject was positioned right shoulder forward to the camera with arms crossed, with the intention of providing more detail from the lighting angles employed as the subject’s body would provide a barrier to light movement. The soft box strobe light to the left of the subject was positioned in a position with the soft box head angled more favourable towards the subject, throwing more light on the chest and arms and left part of the face, only one eye was intentionally placed in this area of illumination. The soft box strobe light to the subject’s right was positioned pointing away from the subjects rear right, illuminating the background but throwing less light onto the subject, putting this side of the subjects body into darkness and contrast from the subjects left side.

A third strobe light, positioned alongside and right of the camera, facing the subject, and fitted with a diffusing umbrella was employed, this strobe was set to its lowest power setting, and was used to project a minimal amount of diffused light and therefore to reduce the shadow contrast.

The sense of strength and masculinity of the image was considered in both the models pose and in the camera viewpoint, lowering the tripod position in relation to the subject enhanced the subject’s dominant position in frame and aided the desired narrative of the image.

Form 2:

Method – Form 2

For this second image of form, this same subject was engaged conversantly between poses, the concept being to provide a less contrived sense of depiction. In terms of lighting the principle change to set up was to move the strobe light illuminating the subject from camera point of view. This time the light was positioned to camera left, at an angle of 35-45 degrees from camera angle, the power of the light was also increased, creating a stronger illumination of the subjects right flank and throwing the subjects chest and left side into deeper shadow, however the light bounce from the background illumination maintains some detail in this shadow area.


Texture 1:

Texture 2:


My choice of subject is important with regards to the theme of texture. The subject is a racing cyclist in his mid forties, this by nature means that the subject has spent numerous hours of each year in the natural elements, both rain and shine. This means his skin is aged. I wanted to strongly depict this element as part of the subject’s masculinity.


The first image, taken as the first record of the photo session, was intentionally taken as the subject had just arrived at the studio from a day’s work, the subject was tired and not yet ready to be photographed, this candid pose presents a heavily textured version of the subject, which is aided by the pose.

In this image, the background lighting is at the same setting created for the shape images, the background is therefore rendered over exposed, the lighting of the subject employs light bounce from the two background illuminating soft boxes, and from a strobe light with soft box umbrella positioned behind camera and to camera right, projecting a lesser amount of light on the subject this light was initially set in one position with light emittance set to F10 – corresponding to a correct exposure of the subject, the light was then moved backwards by 50cm approx to reduce the amount of light projected onto the subject and then bounced to the camera sensor.

The angled lighting of the subject from the strobe to rear camera right has helped to exaggerate detail in the subjects skin, combined with the overlap of light from the higher powered background lighting this has helped to vignette the subject in more light at the edges, this has aided the appearance and contrast of the textured areas more central to the subjects body – i.e. more shadow contrast.

The second image in this theme was a more staged presentation, focusing on the most textured part of the subject – his face.

The lighting effect was achieved by, evenly lighting the background with the two diffused strobes on their lowest setting, and by bringing the subject nearer to camera and further away from the background paper. The key light for the subject was place camera left, and quite proximal to the subjects face and at 45 degrees to camera, the power setting of the key light was the same as the background lights, and the resultant background lighting effect was achieved by light fall off (Hunter F.etal (2007)) of these rear lights and lack of fall off of the very proximal key light. The lighting angle picked up the surface skin details and the light source (a diffusing umbrella) was larger than the subject and therefore helped to reduce shadow contrast on the subjects left side.


Colour 1:


Arguably the most difficult theme to address with this particular subject, a pale skinned individual, with no great variations in skin tone; It would have been easy to present the subject in an unnatural light, to present an artificially coloured version. However the two images together are intended to present a meaningful presentation of the subjects’ skin hues.


This first photograph, was intended to provide the lighter background variation of the pairing of images, the background light positioned to camera left was angled to face the background paper and centre of image frame, throwing some light onto the subjects right hand side, the second background diffused strobe was weakened in power but positioned similarly.

The Key light was placed behind the camera, and at same height as camera, and the power output was set to the lowest possible.

The intention was to not create any over exposure of the subject, either via direct lighting of the key light or via enveloping the subject with light bounce from the background; the subjects pale complexion would be too easy to over expose and therefore remove any colour detail

Colour 2:


A slightly more complicated lighting arrangement was employed in this second variation, here the background lighting was set to lowest power, and the strobe right of camera was set lower than the version to camera left, this light was also angled more directly onto the background paper- creating a slight variation in background lighting. The key light with umbrella diffuser was located parallel to camera and to the upper right of the subject, providing the greater highlight to the side of face and shoulder nearest to camera. The suggestion of colour here was intended via a degree of colour contrast of the subject from the background, which was weakly illuminated and provided a cooler colour environment when compared to the subjects visually warmer tones. The directional lighting of the key light was intended to create a sense of colour variation of the subject via light and shadow variation across the models body.


Notes on post production:

All of the images included in this submission were initially photographed as raw files, and then post processed in Photoshop CS5. Post production was intended primarily as an avenue to review each image and then to correct any artefacts or blemishes and on certain images clean up any distractions contained in the background paper. Some images were slightly adjusted in colour, clarity and or sharpness. Per submission theme my editing acknowledgements are listed below,

Of the two images submitted for the theme of shape, the second image was edited in order to reduce some of the detail in the lower background; here a Gaussian blur was used in a layer copy.

For the theme of form, the first image was edited the most, here the background illumination was uneven, with a distracting highlight evident to camera right of subject (seen here in my flickr draft set for the submission)and again the background was selected in a layer copy and a Gradient map was applied as a filter to normalise the lighting effect across the entire background in the image.

The first image provided for the brief of texture was sharpened and the clarity slider and contrast sliders were also employed in CS camera raw to exaggerate the detail of the overall image.

Both images provided for the colour theme were adjusted by reducing contrast and slightly warming the colour settings to help amplify the overall colour nature of a subject with little tonal variation and pallid colouration.


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Preperations for TAOP Assignment 4: Light

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Thu, March 14, 2013 09:36:40
I am currently drafting together content for assignment 4, the penultimate assignment in TAOP - The art of Photography, the subject is... LIGHT.

My Flickr set -

contains my drafting ideas.

The essence of the assignment is to prove an understanding of natural and artificial light, to create evidence that suggests the effect of light upon form shape and colour of a subject.

The four subjects are indeed - shape, form, colour and texture.

I do enjoy practicing studio work, and for me there was an opportunity to really play with the subjects I chose with lighting I can fully control, and although I have photographed still life variations on this assignment theme - I wanted to shoot a portrait set to provide a more intense experience for me on shoot, and to hopefully glean a stronger set of images that would be more interesting for my tutor - I have seen a lot of natural light still life images contained in the blogs of previous students of TAOP.

The real vain of this assignment thread is the sculptural effects of light, and this involved the element of subject colour, which by contrast to surroundings does have a sculptural, defining by colour effect. I have given myself the hard task on my still life subject for this -a white toilet roll on a white background, my mantra being that if I can make shapes, form colour and texture from such a mundane subject - then anything is possible!

The hardest element in shooting and editing these images is not the photography itself - it is seperating the four titles so that the intention of the image - i.e. texture stands out from its sister motifs.....

More to come... but here's some inspiration - more for my benefit thatn yours :)

lallisig on flickr

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Response to tutors comments and assessment – TAOP Assignment 3 – colour

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Fri, February 08, 2013 21:50:21

It has taken me a long time – since receiving the assessment on the 26th of January – to respond in writing and blog it, this chapter did not enthuse me, and in terms of my excuses, my wife’s father passed away on the 26th of January, so we have been somewhat distracted, but additionally, I have elected to change tutor, this assessment being my last contact with my original TAOP tutor.

Distance learning is a delicate affair, it suits or it doesn’t, and personally I am OK with the nature of education from afar, as long of course as there is some line of communication. My former tutor’s words were always courteous and fair, and tended towards the philosophical and depth full realms; this was in essence fine, but the problem was that the words always appeared reluctant and slow in coming forward. The one thing I have learnt from my time in education is that discourse is key; lines of theory and thought need to be aired, discussions shared and ideas banded around. From the most complex theory to the most simplistic view of things when learning from afar one needs that occasional poke to say ‘Hi how ya doing?’

Unfortunately, my first tutor was not as communicative as I needed, with a four week or more delay in providing a report on this chapter (and only then after gently poke from me), and to be honest a slow and lack of direction/tuition in response to previous assignments and questions, I had to install some change for the sake of what I wanted to achieve. I do understand that most if not all tutors looking after students of the OCA do have a multitude of full time responsibilities… but when communication starts dragging across weeks and months, I felt I had to draw a line in the sand and request a new tutor.

The effect of my lack of interaction or discussion, even in this early banal level that is TAOP, is that I started to feel wholly alone on this return to study, and with some lacking of interaction on the OCA forums I was beginning to doubt my choices in studying and more importantly I was beginning to doubt my photography, and any hopes I had to do something with photography. I want this course to galvanise my technical approach and my artists considered eye and up to this point – my only inspiration has really being the reading list provided with the course materials.

My response to assessment….

I moaned about this assignment throughout the entries leading up to my assignment posting. I have an uneasy relationship with colour, which despite my misgivings about this part of TAOP I have as a result of the assignment begun to work through… Part of the issue is maybe my brief obsession with Moriyama in the lead up… a body of work almost entirely in grainy B&W. Despite my moaning (perhaps a cry for help?!) I felt like nobody was reading my learning log (even my tutor) and I was moaning and mithering to myself!

My tutor made initial comment with the following;

Overall Comments

There were quite a lot of interesting concepts to cover in this assignment and you have made a good response to this through your approach and ideas in using colour in your image making. The brief required you to explore the idea of colours, their relationship to each other and to our perception of them. You have clearly observed and recorded colour in your work but this could have developed further with research into theory and symbolism in the use of colour. I get the impression from the work and exercises that you clearly understand the relationships of colour to the image but that perhaps you are uncomfortable in using colour as a strong tool in composition and meaningful content. Why not for example have shot the German market as a colour piece of work. You are aware of colour but as the comments in your learning log indicate you find it difficult to relate it to your personal view of the world and photography.

I agree that I did not offer broader discourse to my references and theory… though I did give reference to accomplished artists works… and to the publications of Michael Freeman…. I agree I could have dug further. With reference to my work at the Birmingham Christmas/ German market… I decided to shoot this experience in black and white – using a high contrast mode I have created on my Sony Alpha A850, I like the high contrast effect of this setting and set out to abstract the experience from its natural ‘high colour/ neon normal experience. However, on reflection I do agree that for the sake of the experience, to shoot the event in colour may have helped my personal ‘colour experience’.

It is an interesting idea that with normal sight and brain function we see the world in colour and as such black and white is the illusion. However within the confines of photography we have accepted this illusion as reality. At one time only black and white was considered to offer truth in documentary and street photography. In recent times I have read articles arguing that pure photography was B&W and that photography as fine art comes from the darkroom in the form of the B&W print. Yet we have to learn to read the tonalities of a scene, understand the latitude of film, the effect of process and transpose our vision from colour to black and white to interpret the world within the limitations of these tones. Surely this is as abstract a concept as any use of colour might be.

I agree that personally I may strive to use B&W to abstract myself from normal colour experience, and if anything to work in colour will force me to overcome a lazy photographic approach where relying on B&W and high contrast B&W in scene provides mood to an otherwise lazy composition – forcing me to use colour in these aspects to provide a meaning with greater latitude with the actual experience.


I am now ‘almost’ enjoying having to view colour in my B&W mental eyes, the work of Shore and Eggleston, with their subdued tones are leading me in gently by the hand, despite my misgivings…. The chapter has done me good!

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The Art of Photography: Assignment 3 Colour

AssignmentsPosted by Mike Wed, December 05, 2012 12:30:53

This assignment was a lot harder than expected, though I hope the work enclosed presents a modicum of understanding.

16 images –

· Colour harmony through complementary colours

Brick wall blue/orange, Energy gel sachets Yellow/Violet

Acer leaf and grass, Orange wine glass on blue background

· Colour harmony through similar colours

Fallen leaves - orange/green/yellow – warm, Leaves on trees - green and yellow – cool, Waste materials – blue green – cold, Leaves in close up – yellow/green - cool

· Colour contrast through contrasting colours

Red car yellow leaves on the tree, Toy cars, Fitness instructor, Green plant against an orange wall

· Colour accent using any of the above

Coloured ball bearing, Bicycle chain with gold link, The Robin, Grass and red plastic


1. Colour harmony through complementary colours

Complimentary colours across the wheel – brick wall blue/orange

Blue and orange dominate the scene here, and I have intentionally cropped the image to present a more balanced presentation with a ratio of 2:1 in favour of blue, the more receding colour (Freeman 2007).

Complimentary colours across the wheel – Energy gel sachets Yellow/Violet

Yellow and violet, are readily available colours naturally occurring in the peak of summer with flower blossom, but less so in the autumn winter months. Therefore a set piece artificial image was created for this selection. Bright synthetically coloured food sachets were used – disproportionally with a ratio of 2: 1 in favour of the more aggressive yellow. The image was flashgun lit on white back ground with a shutter speed of 1/100th - in order to redeem a bright transmitting colour picture that suited the colours used. F11 as an aperture setting puts the rearward yellow sachet out of the plane of focus (Shore 2009) and helps to provide a little more balance to the colour distribution in the image.

Complimentary colours across the wheel - Acer leaf and grass

A potentially controversial image to employ to illustrate this theme, as softer browns and russet colours permeate the image, however I believe with the aid of flash the red and green content is heightened. In terms of balance the red acer leaf is centrally framed, with the green leaf and grass blade surround edging in from outside the frame (Shore 2009). The overlapping of the green grass blades over the red Acer leaf helps to re emphasise the proportional balance of the colours.

Complimentary colours across the wheel - Orange wine glass on blue background

An image I have elected to use from a previous personal project. A studio shot employing a blue filter over the light source to colour the white background independently of the orange glass, which was lit with a single diffused spot studio lamp from above and behind as a hair light (Hunter etal 2007). The proportions of orange – the more brilliant colour versus the less active blue are approximately correct according to Goethes work (Freeman 2007).


2. Colour harmony through similar colours.

Colour harmony through similar colours - Fallen leaves - orange/green/yellow - warm

All the tones in this image are warm and occupy the upper right hand side of the colour circle, with yellows oranges and green, combined with some russet natural hues from a similar range of colours from the wheel as the primary colours. The image was taken in fairly close proximity to the subject with a 16mm lens and a moderate F11 and 1/13th of a second exposure to slightly soften the detail and provide focus on the colours. The green hues are almost an accent in the image, and the image was cropped tightly to give the impression that the subject matter exceeds the boundary of the frame (Shore 2009).

Colour harmony through similar colours. - Leaves on trees - green and yellow - cool

2 adjacent colours on the colour wheel which occur naturally very readily, the image is almost transparent and lacks depth (Shore 2009) and presents a balance of two energetic colours, despite the cooler nature of the natural lighting at the time of taking the photograph.

Colour harmony through similar colours. Waste materials – blue green - cold

The two hues depicted here both lack saturation, and the blue content is more brilliant than the green, creating an imbalance in how the colours are presented. There is a lack of balance in the colours which is accentuated by the awkward composition.

Colour harmony through similar colours - Leaves in close up – yellow/green - cool

More natural world colours in this frame, presenting yellow to green leaves. The yellow foreground leaf presents the strongest element in frame, both because of the strength and forward nature of yellow and the composition. The green is more subdued and naturally falls into background; this subtlety is aided by the lack of depth of field upon these green elements.


3. Colour contrast through contrasting colours.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – Red car yellow leaves tree.

The 2 colours working against each other in this frame red and yellow present an unbalanced composition, focusing initially on the red car, the viewer is then drawn to the brightness of the yellow, before scanning and then re tracing. The intensity of both colours is relatively similar, though the mass held by the yellow leaves is disproportionate to the smaller mass of the car.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – toy cars

This image presents the yellow as a less frequent colour, but dispersed through a more solid mass of red, creating an acceptable level of balance between the two colours, the colour of the display is the principle attraction in the image, overriding the subject matter.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – Fitness instructor

The vivid nature of the strong red against the relatively strong blue in this image presents a real vibration at the juncture of the two colours. There is little balance in the picture and the two colours battle for dominance.

Colour contrast through contrasting colours – green plant against an orange wall

Here, the weight of the orange background is reduced in effect a little by use of a shallow depth of field which presents the contrasting green plant leaves closer the plane of focus; however the orange mass still outweighs the green. The green leaves are hindered in colour graphic effect by the variation in saturation and brightness of the colour, if the leaves were more solidly a single hue of darker green their contrasting effect would be stronger.


4. Colour Accent

Accent – coloured ball bearing.

A simple accent image, and a created rather than found image – utilising red nail varnish and a box of ball bearings, shot with on camera flash and F16 for a reasonable long depth of field, and a 300mm lens to isolate the subject from their container and to fill the frame with the subject. There is a single alternative visual distraction in the frame – a wire in the bearing pile – which although offering alternative stimulus to the coloured bearing I believe its inclusion into the image aids to demonstrate the overpowering effect of contrast of the singular coloured bearing against the more muted mass highlighted only by the specular reflection from the flashgun.

Accent – bicycle chain with gold link

A more muted and similar colour picture which still presents an accent with the gold links against the more silver mass, taken again with a 300mm lens to isolate the content and occupy the full frame, the image employed flash and a faster shutter speed of 1/160th in order to reduce the amount of light flash bouncing back from the subject. Although the subject matter was quite flat the image was again shot at F16; the relatively deeper depth of field employed to force the element of accent as the point of attention rather than the focus of attention being the plane of focus (Shore 2009).

The image was cropped tightly from original, and also re orientated - pushing the key accent elements into a more static position with the composition.

Accent The Robin

A more contrasting image which has other graphic intrusions into the frame, but again I believe the colour accent still presents the strongest element. The image was taken with a relatively shallow depth of field to help isolate the central subject from the background. The red/orange breast of the robin contrasts with the green background – and becomes accent as the proportion of red to green is much less that would aid a complementary colour of colour as suggested by Von Goethe (Freeman 2007).

Accent Grass and red plastic

A contrasting image, with no use of depth of field to assist the effect – a visually and mentally (Shore 2009) simple image presenting a documentary scene – it is plastic it is grass. The red and green colours dominate the scene despite the russet brown content and the shadow to the left of the scene.


Overall thoughts and considerations:

An exercise which I have struggled with, colour is ubiquitous, and ever present, and in the words of Daido Moriyama (Vimeo: Tate Modern reference) I find it makes too many decisions and lacks abstraction, my natural preference therefore is to eliminate colour from my own work.

However, despite my misgivings, the exercise has forced me to re assess how I utilise colour to create black and white, and to explore the effect of colour hues saturation and tone when adjusted to black and white in edit.

Additionally this part of TAOP has also forced me to consider how to present themes in my future work in colour where my previous and current photography relies on black and white; in particular chiaroscuro, to create abstraction and symbolism from the banal. Work by both Shore and Eggleston (see online references) both present this very well. A better understanding of colour may help to create a less lazy approach to good photography and less of a reliance upon chiaroscuro. Understanding colour proportions and framing of colours is enormously influential in setting the mood of an image, and in presenting an image both graphically and in creating narrative.

In terms of colour as an exercise in TAOP, I have experienced a re-awakening with regard to colour assessment, and also to truly re look at the world around me, there is a great deal of variation in colour hue, greens in particular are hugely variable.

Balance and inbalance and colour partnership can be used to dominate graphically and ensure a statement and mode can be created in an image. Conflict and compatibility between colours can also be used to state or dominate a scene as can warm and cold colour grouping.

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