Level 3 in review

Unit 1: Visual Recording in Art and Design – Criteria P 2, 4, 5

It’s come to the end of my level 3 course and, obviously, I am more than a Little sad that it’s over to be honest.

I won’t be doing level 4 at RACC as they don’t offer the course, for the next term, but will continue on my little journey somehow with some good friends I have met along the way on these courses. Perhaps at a photo club or Society or perhaps I may drop in and pester Zig at RACC every so often just to keep him on his toes πŸ™‚

So what have I learned this year, well to begin with, an appreciation of the art form and its deeper meanings. I have further learned to look past the image and explore what the photographer is trying to tell us either through composition, tone, texture or colour and content. There is no set pattern to what to expect from a photo and as the art is always evolving you must evolve with it and explore new ways you can portray your work.

Alongside this I have felt encouraged to experiment with techniques and styles I hadn’t before and to not be afraid to go wrong in trying those styles.

I have Learned to critique images, both my own and others, and to use that critique make selective judgements on how to present a flowing set of images or project that gels with a particular theme or approach to a subject matter or topic.

To see the tones and lines within images that “join” them with others to create a meaning or conscious collection of similar work. To objectively select images and also discard those that do not meet criteria or objectives.

I have also learned a bit more about the Importance of different media types for different Images or approaches to printing for different markets or uses. Different images or edits may affect what media you use as will the setting, lighting, framing and audience.

So here is a gallery of images taken during the level 3 course from all projects and terms both final images and prospective ones as well as other test images and such.

Cruel and Tender Final Choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So for my final submission for this terms Cruel and Tender project, I have chosen to use my Images of people interacting at the Tate Gallery. In the main entrance hall people gather under a huge swinging silver ball which rhythmically travels from one side of the hall to the other giving them a focal point if they choose or, like some others, something to totally ignore whilst they eat or go about their business.

This space is where people come to rest have lunch or just take a break. All life is here from lunching families and school outings to single figures sitting in quiet contemplation to children running, rolling and generally playing, all were oblivious to my presence on the sky bridge 4 floors above them.


Some of the images I looked at during my research for this project and some by Gursky that I feel are along similar lines. As soon as I had seen the carpet I knew there was a good project that could include it in the scene. It seems to lend itself brilliantly to the role and the fact that it is itself an Installation art piece makes it better.


The idea of this project is to show the interaction of people in a specific space, going about their daily business, be it a day out with family or stopping for lunch during a gallery visit. Some people even just come here for a dry place to sit and eat or socialise. There is a huge cross section of people here from every walk of life, this area must have seen thousands of people just going by in life.


Using my Canon 80d and my 18-135mm lense I set up shop on the sky walk some 4 floors above the actual area. For safety reason I had my camera strapped to me and you can’t use tripod in the gallery area so I was quite restricted on what I could do and my ISO had to be moderately high between 800 and 1600 to allow for faster shutter speeds at the longer end of the focal range whilst trying to keep noise to a minimum.

I began by just observing people looking at the interactions and socialisation and found that I could capture them completely unawares and this would be the premise for the project.


The lines of the carpet afforded me a brilliant canvas on which to capture the people. Like musical notes on a scale they moved and I adjusted angles and zoom on the camera to capture as best I could the positions as many people moved quite fast out of my line of sight. Once I had captured the images I knew I would have to do some editing and cropping and a little cloning as some spots of the carpet were very patchy dirty and distracting. I used bridge and raw to examine each Image and decided that a 10×8 print size which allowed a 5×4 crop would best suit the images as my cameras native 3×2 crop made the horizontal lines more of a distraction than a complimentary factor. I also had to adjust for the barrel and pincushion distortion of my lens to try and straighten the lines in the carpet as some of the angles made them look quite bent. There is definately a Typology here too.


From the set of around 18 I chose 10 these final images to present as my series, when I presented to the class we felt as a group that the strongest 6 would be a better set as some images were overly similar and splitting the 10 worked better. These are the 6 final images chosen.








I chose to print my final Images on a lustre paper at 10×8 to suit the crop I had chosen. I feel this size and finish is a good choice for the series allowing me to have a good selection of prints and the lustre finish gives a nice contemporary feel to the set.


I’m happy with this series of Images and the theme in general. I think I have managed to achieve what I envisioned for the project and would definitely do something similar again. I would love to find an area for a similar project where I can set up a tripod and compose on a specific area without having to keep changing focal length or move. So the area or “canvas” is uniform and only the people or subjects would change as I feel that would make an interesting set of images too.

Still Life Final Choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

When we were first tasked with taking a still life image which draws inspiration from classical art I immediately thought of Vanitas , having seen mention of it in films and tv shows I had previously watched. There is something intriguing about a collection of objects and their meanings and placements and the Semiotics and meaning behind objects. I immediately had an idea of what I wanted to do and I wanted to do it differently, It was after all the idea of the task to draw our inspiration from the paintings not simply replicate them.


Some of the Images I looked at during my research. I love the idea of creating a still life with hidden meaning or a message withing the visual spectrum of the narrative.


My idea was to do a Scaled down Vanitas consisting of just a few select items that give a feeling of drakness and horror, of the fact that time is moving and nothing is forever, in short, the end is coming and no one is escaping it. To this end I chose a Skull, a candle, a pocket watch and a book of Poetry by Edgar Allen Poe as his themes frequently revolved around death,endings and darkness. I wanted to pay homage to Vanitas paintings I had seen on trips to the national gallery.


As with my portrait I wanted to put my own stamp on this image, I tried several lighting apporoaches and schemes using speedlights and studio flashes but I really wanted a low key image and the ability to selectively pick out particular components of the scene without over lighting others and taking away the dark shadowy feeling I wanted to permiate the scene. With this in mind I decided that, for the most part, the scene would be light painted using a torch and small snoots and have an element of candlelight (real not replicated) I would also add any small bursts of flash if I needed to.


For this shot I set up my scene on my desk against a black paper roll background to ensure a nice uniform darkness across the frame if any light did spill.

I used a focal length of 24mm on my 700d because I was relatively close but needed to get a wider view at f7.1 iso 100 but I actually combined 2 layers because the candle exposure is vastly different than the actual exposure for the light painting. Had I left the candle burning whilst using the torch the detail in the candle would have been lost and the overall image would not have worked as a candle lit style image. I used an exposure of around 15 to 30 seconds for the main lighting and 1/3 of a second for the candle portion. I used a white torch with a homemade cardboard “snoot” to narrow the beam and even then I used my hand to squash the end and shape the light into a sort of S shape giving a fantastic effect on the skull. Because the light wasn’t uniform I was able to really closely select the exact area I wanted lit and how strongly I wanted that area lit. I used a tripod and remote release to mount the camera and allow me the freedom to light the scene as I wanted with my chosen equipment.

I then used photoshop to edit the images together using layers to make put certain parts then blend using screen blend mode to make sure only the light part of the image was blended. For the most part the exposure was spot on as I was manually lighting so got to choose the best exposed image from the 15 or so I took.



For the Still Life image the paper used was Innova Fabriano Printmaking Rag 310gsm which features a mould made base dating back to the late 13th Century. Fabriano Printmaking Rag is traditionally the oldest and most renowned paper in Europe, used by the masters. This traditional paper provides unique white tones and soft grain texture to your artwork. The blacks on my image were extremely deep and yet the colour in the image was bright and well defined and the whites were equally as good, the texture and feel of the paper oozes quality and the paper hold the ink very well. You can view the paper information HERE


Well what can I say really, I am extremely happy and proud of the way the overall image came out. I love the lighting I have managed to create and the ambiance and atmosphere. I love how the candle has picked out the red/gold highlights in the book cover and made it appear to glow which adds alot to the scene. Overall feedback from everyone who has seen it is positive and if I were to really nitpick I think I would like to have perhaps had the composition slightly differently perhaps with more of the book cover seen and a slightly lighter watch face.

Portrait Final choice

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

Just like in my still life we were tasked with taking a portrait image which draws inspiration from classical art, of course my mind immediately went blank and panic set in. Alexa, Sylvia and I decided that a trip to the national gallery was in order to actually view the types of Images we were to draw our inspiration from. Upon looking around the centuries of art in the halls I began to draw the conclusion that I wanted to follow my line of thought that I had with my Vanitas and do something broadly similar. I came across several Momento Mori style portraits and some portraits of monks in prayer and had an idea of what I wanted to do. Again I wanted to draw my inspiration from the paintings not simply replicate them.


Some of the images I looked at during my research. Like like the Chiaroscuro lighting in some of these images and wanted to do something low key as I love that effect and look in images. The creation and appearance of something coming from the dark.


My initial idea was to do a momento mori portrait with Skull to tie in with my Vanitas as a common theme. I had noticed this running through several of the artworks I had seen in the gallery. With this in mind I ordered a large black cloak for my model to wear and obviously already had the skull from my still life. Just like with my Vanitas Still Life I wanted to give a nod to the portrait I had seen without replicating or imitating to much.


With this portrait task I decided that I wanted to do a much darker portrait and very much different to the norm. I wanted to not show the models face or at least only show part of it but leave enough in the Image that you knew someone was there. Again I tried several lighting approaches and schemes in the college studio and at home using speedlights and I really wanted a low key image and some separation from the black background similar to a Chiaroscuro effect I had in mind. I chose to rim light and feather the model to create this effect and feather the light onto the skull so that it only had minimal lighting so as not to overpower the image.


Initially I set the scene up in a small room with white walls, this was a mistake as no matter how low I put my flashes there was light bouncing all over the room due to the reflective qualities of the walls. I did a few test shots and quickly decied to use a large black surface behind my model to dampen some of the reflections which helped alot.

I used the 2 speedlights with snoots to help narrow the light as much as possible to pinpoint the shoulders and head and accentuate the skull somewhat. The test shots below show that initially I used the speedlights behind my model and at around 45 degree angle to the model facing away from the background. I quickly found that whilst this gave a great rimlight effect no light at all fell on the skull or the models face.



I then decided that directing the light toward the model from either side was a much better way of doing what I had in mind, It allowed me to not only light the model with a rim light effect but also to direct enough light on to the skull and a little on the models face so that the hood wasn’t just a black shape, I wanted you to know there was someone in there. I feel I have managed to give a nice nod of my head to Saint Francis in Meditation by Francisco de Zurban whilst making the image my own interpretation of this artwork.





For the portrait I chose a Fotospeed signature Cotton Etching 305 which is a 100% cotton Acid Free Fine Art paper with a white base. The surface has an slight etching texture which helps accentuate detail and gives a depth to your image.

Cotton Etching 305 uses the latest coating technology resulting in a wide colour gamut and pin sharp detail. Developing this paper with Doug Chinnery was such a pleasure as he understands not only his images but how a paper enhances them in a way a screen just can’t. We are thrilled to have Doug Chinnery on board as a Signature Photographer.”

I found this paper to be an excellent choice for the portrait as it wasn’t overly textured and had a nice smooth feel but being a cotton based media it held the ink well and had very nice black reproductions and sharp edges to the image. You can view the paper information HERE


Again as with my still life, I am extremely happy and proud of the way the overall image came out. I Love the lighting I have managed to create and the ambiance and atmosphere through the use of the snoots and finding the correct angle to just highlight the models face and give a little light to the skull. I have had a good reception to the image and even been asked for it on a canvas by a friend as she loves the image and the general feel of the work. Had I done anything differently I would maybe try some different approaches to the face and vary the lighting to see how they turned out, but overall I am extremely happy with the final image and print quality and how deep the blacks are.

Cruel and Tender Selection – Moments on Carpet

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

For my Final Cruel and Tender selection I was inspired by works I had seen at the Gursky Exhibition and his use of height and angles to make everyday scenes appear more interesting. Whilst in london on the rainiest of days shooting a few ideas for the project I noticed people gathering in the large atrium of the Tate Gallery. Whilst some admired the giant swinging silver ball installation others completely ignored it and went about their everyday lives and lunched or conversed with friends oblivious to the fact that some 4 floors above them I was on the skywalk, which joins the 2 Tate buildings, readying my camera to catch some candid moments on carpet. A carpet which I must say really lent itself to my idea by giving a uniform yet interesting backdrop and canvas for the human art I was about to image.

Not being allowed to use a tripod in the Tate and for safety reasons I had to securely strap my camera to me and hold it out over the edge of the skyway, Using a zoom I managed to get several shots and several angles and viewpoints of the carpet below and I love the outcomes.

I edited the selection in 5×4 format as the native cropping of my camera of 3×2 accentuated the horizontal lines and made the images feel stretched. I also like the format to be close to square but not actually square and the 5×4 was the best fit for this and also for the print size I have chosen.

Now comes the time to reduce this selection to a final set and I shall blog further when that is done and I have a final selection.

Testing Fine Art Papers on a new printer

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

So, as part of this terms project includes investigating fine art papers and media, I thought I would do just that. As luck would have it a trip to the Photography show allowed me to look at and discuss paper types with a few media manufacturers and I purchased a test pack of Smooth/semi smooth Fine art papers from Permajet.

Detailed below is the test pack of Fine Art Smooth papers I purchased.

Delve into the world of fine art printing with some of the best smooth and textured surface inkjet papers available. Using inkjet media with luxurious smooth finishes or clear defined textures can add a whole new dimension to your printed images.Utilizing new, multi-layer technology, coating processes and enhanced cotton rag and alpha cellulose base materials, PermaJet have created a range of lay flat, archival products that feed through your printer with ease. The enhanced coating, combined with modern ink technology ensures you achieve some of the highest Dmax ratings in the World today. These iconic photographic papers have evolved into a truly show-stopping collection which are now available in advanced 15 metre length rolls and all sheet formats.If your need is for a textured or smooth surface fine art reproduction media or you are wanting to recreate museum ‘giclee’ quality, here is a 18 sheet multipack containing our selection of nine fine art surfaces – making them perfect for absolutely any fine art inkjet reproductions:
2 x A4 sheets of each paper type below were included in the Fine Art Test Pack I purchased.







Happy with my purchase I returned home to discover that my trusty old printer had decided to retire at just the wrong time for me… Not to be beaten I looked at several options for a new printer, I had seen some real beautys from Canon at the photo show like the pro 1000 and 2000 series (which my final images for still Life and portrait were printed with). I decided that at this stage spending many hundreds of pounds on a printer was folly. I decided to buy a dedicated printer rather than a printer scanner and from the reviews and feedback I had seen I chose the Canon Ip7250 as it had very good image quality and a good dpi.

It’s an A4 printer which at this time. Is fine with me but it does have a 5 ink system for photos cyan, magenta, yellow and 2 blacks… A dye based one and a pigment based one. Combining these for deeper blacks and better tonality it seemed to be the perfect choice.

I printed a few test prints to see the difference in the papers and finish and was surprised to see just how much difference there was.


Now obviously the difference between these and your standard gloss and lustre is vast and I must say I was really pleased with the outcomes and finished test prints and particularly how well the fine art papers handled colour and blacks (very deep) and how well the printer performed given its 49 quid price point.



Source – Permajet





More studio practice.

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

During the few weeks when we as a class were taking turns in doing our studio still life and portrait sessions, whilst our classmates were shooting we had some time to take images of small still life setups and did some monocolor shots and just practice in general with the studio lights. It was helpful to work with the lights and adjust the modifiers and power settings and just generally shoot a few images examining where shadows fell and where the light fell on the subjects. Here are just a few of the outcomes.

My Still life/portrait process

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

After initially deciding on a subject for the still life or portrait image you have in mind it then falls to composition. How do you want the subject posed or objects arranged, do they need a specific arrangement or just to be placed randomly. Is there a story or some message in the composition or do certain objects need to be in the foreground of the shot.

Test composition
Test composition

Once you have decided on your Composition it is time to decide how to light the scene and which direction, strength and type of light you want to fall on the subject/objects. This is where a rough lighting process can be used.

After deciding and testing what focal length to use, the correct aperture for the scene and setting your camera to the chosen flash sync speed you can move onto a workflow for deciding on your final lighting scheme.

1 – Decide or test what type of light you want whether hard light, soft light. Do you want to try imitating a specific type of light like window or natural light. What modifiers could you use to get a chosen effect.

2 – Decide or test how many lights you want to illuminate your scene. Do you want 1 sole light from a certain direction (key light) or would you need to add some more (fill lights) to highlight a particular part or provide a certain approach such as back lighting or rim lighting the objects. Do you need to have a spotlight or reflector to give some light into a shadowy spot.

3 – Using your preferred type of light first either meter the scene or test your exposure at your chosen f-stop to check for a well exposed overall key light. This is the most important part to getting your first light set and can be done using a light meter or test shots.

4 – Begin to add fill lights to the scene testing the power and coverage of each one as you add them to make sure the scene remains as you would want it to be and that the light isn’t spilling into areas you don’t want it to.

5 – Adjust all lights and light modifiers to taste and take an exposure. Look over the image and see if you are getting the correct light into the places you want it and adjust or add more light to get to where you want the scene to be.

6 – Take your images and adjust and correct lighting, exposure or composition to match your ideas and be prepared to change those ideas if you discover a new way of doing something.

I used the process above to decide how I wanted to light both my portrait and still life shots for this term. I feel quite happy and confident in the studio now with selecting modifiers and adjusting settings and positions of light. During the term I helped several fellow students to select, position and set light power correctly for their projects and I believe this had helped greatly in our mutual understanding of the process involved.

Cruel and Tender Appreciating Art

Unit 23 – Photographic Media, Techniques and Technology criteria P 1,2,3,4

As a secondary choice for my my Cruel and Tender project I shot some candid images of people at the Tate Gallery and the Gursky exhibition. It’s an idea I first had a few months ago and mentioned to Zig and blogged about HERE and HERE , but never had the chance to shoot until I had visited a gallery. It was again interesting to see how people looked at art and interacted with the artwork they saw.

I wanted to show the varying emotions and differing opinions people had through images alone and looking at this now it is a very hard thing to do in such an environment. I would really have had to get face on to see anything other than body language and stance. And at this time I am not the most confident in just walking up and taking peoples images without first asking which would have defeated the whole object of the idea.

It was a challenge to do in the Tate at least, as there are many barriers, the light is terrible (for a gallery) and to be honest I don’t think the idea or meaning of the project comes across in the images I managed to get. So again like my Art Underfoot idea I decided against this as a final submission. So have included here as a rejected proposition which I may well revisit at a later date or in a separate and well lit gallery