The end ….. and the beginning

Its a been a long time, a very long time indeed !

Due to the start of my photography business I put Social Documentary on hold, and then when my time was up I was neither ready nor motivated to continue and then came the point where I realised there was no hope of finishing within the time frames and the realisation that I didn’t want to abandon my studies altogether.

I looked at the new versions of the courses on the OCA website and desperately wanted to carry on – so the only option available was to withdraw and start level two again, which I have to say I’m really excited about.

So within the next few weeks there will be a new blog for Gesture & Meaning which is my choice of course to restart with – a big thanks to all the OCA students who responded to my call for advice with their usual helpful support !

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Assignment 1 follow up

Some time ago (I know, I’ve been neglecting my blog!) I posted that the charity I worked with for assignment 1 were going to put a variety of the images I took on the day on show. In the end it turned out to be a little more than just a display of images, the whole AGM was themed “A Day in the Life” with some of my images included in the handouts and displayed on a screen during the meeting, which I was invited along to. The AGM was used to launch the display of my images which lasted a couple of weeks.

All in all it was a very enjoyable and flattering experience with the only downside learning that one of the young men I photographed in cafe had since died and I found it quite disturbing that such a recent image has outlived its subject. The prints with this young man in them were sent on to his parents and I hope that they brought some comfort.

And here it is, the first public display of my work !!

Cafe Eden at Bolton Steps

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Project 23 – Action with a motor drive

This is an optional exercise depending on equipment although I would imagine that virtually all cameras now have a motor drive. My camera has two continuous shooting settings, low and high speed and although I rarely use it I have my camera permanently set on low speed continuous shooting. Because it’s the low speed setting depressing and releasing the shutter normally results in just one image but it means that if I suddenly some across something fast moving, or if I’m shooting portraits and trying to capture just the right expression I can keep the shutter depressed and take as many shots as I like without first having to go through the menus and change.

The actual exercise is quite simple and involves finding some sort of action and shooting it using the motor drive for as long as the action continues. It’s not an especially interesting set of images but I was drawn to this woman’s bright pink top and the way it contrasted with the blue/grey tones of the surroundings. This was the first of the sequence:


and this was the last, with four images in between :


The image below is the one I feel is the most successful of the series :


I think the placing within the frame works well, she is close enough to see her expression but there is still space for her to run into, there is enough background visible to add interest but she is nicely separated from all the elements such as the railings to the right of the image and the wall to the left. Her own shadow and the shadow of the railings are also well placed with her feet falling in the small space between them. Without using the motor drive and choosing from a series of shots it would be extremely difficult to both predict and capture this placement of a the moving figure within the short time frame available. The biggest downfall I found was the noise made shooting continuously made it difficult to shoot discretely.

Due to the nature of the exercise I have not cropped any of these images, I would normally crop the selected image to remove the little bit of white railing to the right and the half man on the left.

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Roger Ballen

A couple of weeks ago I made an unplanned visit to the Roger Ballen exhibition, I happened to be passing the gallery on the first day so called in to have a look. I’m not going to go into much detail at the moment since I am also booked on the Study Visit in May. I will however say that many of the image are uncomfortable in a variety of ways and the exhibition feels like an insight into a troubled mind, its unsettling but at the same time compelling.

I’ll reserve any further thoughts until after the study visit.

Sometime ago I joined a weekly photo project group on Flickr called 52 by 52 where a weekly project is set by a respected photographer and coincidentally the week after I saw the exhibition the challenge was set by Roger Ballen. The challenge was “Close your eyes, turn your eyeballs around. Photograph what you see”. Having come away from the exhibition feeling that I’d seen inside a troubled mind I wanted to portray the opposite, my own mind being much more calm, tranquil and untroubled ! This is the image I took in response to Roger Ballen’s instruction :

#32 Close your eyes, turn your eyeballs around. Photograph what you see. - Roger Ballen

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Project 26 – Selective focus

This project involves using an out of focus foreground to enhance an image, sounds simple enough but I have produced images on a few separate occasions to fit this project and have found that whilst its easy enough to have an out of focus foreground it often creates a sense of unease that doesn’t necessarily enhance the image.

The first one I took was on a recent visit to Blackpool for the portfolio, I thought the brightly coloured coat of this lady would make a good focal point for the image. I then waited for a vehicle to pass to create my out of focus foreground:

The van serves to emphasize the distance and voyeuristic feel but other than that I don’t feel that it adds anything to th image.

Next (and with their permission) a couple of images of friends and fellow students Fiona and Jeff, here I used an out of focus foreground to explain the surroundings (a coffee shop):


Once again I feel that the out of focus foreground creates a strong feeling of discomfort, it reminds me of one of those tv programs filmed with a hidden camera !

And yet another one where the foreground makes the image feel intrusive :


This week I finally managed to get a shot where the out of focus foreground enhances the image without making it feel uncomfortable, I had been asked to photograph the opening of a newly refurbished studio at the local community radio station and I managed to get this candid image of the mayor:


In this instance I feel the foreground helps to add context to the surroundings without adding the feeling of discomfort that exists in the other images. I think this is partly due to the fact that I am closer and maybe also because I am on the same level.

So, in conclusion, it’s very easy to create an out of focus foreground but it can often add tension to the image, obviously this could well be the intention but if not its a technique that needs to be used carefully.

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Portfolio – winter

Well winter’s been difficult, between constant rain and eyesight problems that stopped me from driving it felt like summer would be here again before I’d managed a winter trip or two to Blackpool. I finally managed to get there a couple of weeks ago, I was a little worried that it may have been too busy because it was half term but it worked in my favour since the piers had been opened but many of the attractions were still closed.

As I’d hoped once I’d started to get some winter shots it became a little clearer what I wanted to say and I’m also starting to wonder whether a book would work well but that’s a decision I can delay for a long while yet. Since I shared some potential summer images in a previous post I thought it would be good to share some of the winter contenders :

Paradise Hotel car park

Seats For Customers


No Entry

Luxury Apartments - No Vacancies

Coming in to Land


These won’t necessarily make the final selection but they give a feel for the contrasts between winter and summer.

I also came away with one image that I felt really summed up the feeling of a seaside resort on a cold winter’s day, it won’t be going in the portfolio since the style is too drastically different from any of the others so it would stand out like a sore thumb.

Cold Afternoon

I like it though and I think its one that people would say is very much “me”.

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Project 22 – Action – peak moment

This project involves taking a number of images of a situation where there is plenty of activity without changing lens or viewpoint and analysing afterwards to see which is the most effective. The text does actually call for fast movement to freeze gestures and expressions, I choose to photograph people getting on and of a tram and the nature of this means that some of the movement was fast and some not so, in fact there are some images where people had stood still. It was nevertheless a brief period of intense activity and allows for the necessary analysis of the images afterwards.

Here are my images in the order I took them, I stood at one end on the platform using a 70-300mm lens, I wasn’t really able to be discreet so I just had to hope that no-one objected. There are a couple of images where I have obviously been spotted but I was ignored anyway.


Above is the first image I took and she has obviously spotted me! The one below I feel is an improvement, there is a better separation of the figues and the fact that she has paused to put something in the bin adds a little interest.


The next three images are all taken in quick succession as you can tell by the progress of the young man towards the camera, he’s obviously spotted me in the first shot and then keeps his eyes averted. Of these three I prefer the first, although there’s not really much to choose between them, I like the capture of the woman’s getsure as she hitches her bag on her shoulder and glances back. Its such a normal everyday gesture but for some reason it catches my attention.




Of the sequence containing this group of people this is definitely my favourite, they’ve all stopped together but seem to have their attention focussed in different ways making them seem less united. The group of the figures also provides a good balance in the image.


And here’s a bit of an accident ! Supposed to be focussing on the woman getting on the train but managed to miss somehow, I still like it though, I think the lack of definition in the people is quite effective.


This is the train driver changing ends of the train.


The following two are the same lady who could be seen in the out of focus areas on the previous images. I think the first of these two is more effective, the placing of the figure is more balanced and I like the fact that the sign is fully visible.



And the final image is one that probably captures a gesture best of the set, you can see from his gesture and the empty platform that this man has rushed to get the train before it leaves.


We are supposed to identify which is the “critical point” in the series of activity, however, due to my choice of subject, I don’t feel that there is any one critical point. The last image captures a single gesture the most effectively and certainly ties in well with the “peak moment” theme of the exercise but my personal favourite is the fifth one posted, I can’t help looking at this group and wondering where they are going, they seem so uncertain somehow.

This exercise is very much in keeping with the way I would normally work although I would usually choose to be less obvious in what I am doing.

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