So, after a nervous wait for the results, it turns out that I passed the course – not bad for someone who hasn’t really done much academic for a fair few years 🙂

So now is the time to move on to my next course – Digital Film Production.  With my video background I’ve been looking forward to this course, and hope to have a little fun with it when I can.

to that end I am now leaving this At of Photography blog as an archive and reference tool for other students, and am now carrying on with my learning log for the Digital Film Production over at my OCA Blog here: I hope to see you there too!!

Next Step!

So I’ve come to the end of The Art of Photography. I’ve had a fantastic time working on it, and it’s been an eye-opener, having to strip back what over the years I have learnt to do instinctively when it comes to exposure and composition.  I’ve had to force myself to NOT automatically photograph a good composition, and also to step away from technically correct to allow myself to start to expolre the arty side that (I hope!) is in me, that wasn’t really allowed to come out and play during my career as an RAF Photographer.  I’ve now archived all of my learning log for the Art of Photography onto a separate Blog here: please feel free to visit it, I just won’t be updating it again.

Now I’m moving on to the next phase, and for the next course in my Degree pathway I’ve chosen to go for the Digital Film Production – a subject that should be really interesting to study, having taught Video Production to Military Photographers.  It will be interesting to see what differences there are in the way it’s done in the real world, and again giving me the freedom to explore the art side of film production, rather than having to film in a more straightforward manner.  It’ll be interesting to see if I can force myself to film at Dutch Angles – something that would have gained my military students a “biscuit fine” – buying biscuits for the course!

My course information has arrived, and having had a little browse through, I’m really keen to get going on it now, wish me luck!!

The Art of Photography Assignment 5 – amended

After submitting Assignment 5 I volunteered as a photographer for the main Special Olympics Great Britain Summer Games, and got some fantastic images, so was gutted that I had already submitted my assignment.  When my tutor sent his feedback on the assignment, he suggested possibly changing a couple of images, so I took the opportunity to rework the whole assignment and make it all about the Special Olympics Summer Games as a whole (including the Equestrian events) and change the images I submitted, so this is the amended version of the submission.


For this assignment I was to produce between 7 and 12 images to illustrate a magazine article, telling the story with the range of images.  One of the images needed to be more illustrative, to be used as the “cover” photo, whilst the other 6 – 12 images should be more narrative, covering aspects of the story.


The suggestions for possible topics were:

  • A commodity – the production of something in a narrative format, or maybe symbolic implications of owning something.
  • Light – it could be the progression of light over a landscape, or the way light can transform a subject.
  • Holidays – it could be either a conventional narrative of the subject, or something more abstract.
  • Personal choice – I could also choose something of my own, which is the route I went down.

Planning and Preparation

From the beginning of the Narrative and Illustration section of this course, I had a particular topic in mind for my assignment.  A few months ago I volunteered to be a photographer at the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games to be held in Bath at the end of August, and also the  Equestrian event in late July.  I knew that this would be a fantastic subject to document, both for this Assignment, and also for the athletes involved and everyone involved with the Special Olympics GB.

Having covered a number of sporting events in the past, of varying sizes and importance I was pretty happy with what I would do.  My aim was to capture as much of a flavour of the particular events I was to cover as I could, and having spoken to the organisers beforehand I had a good idea of what the events entailed. At the Equestrian event the athletes would be competing in a couple of different disciplines and on the day I was there they would be taking part in dressage, inside an arena, Working Trails which would be outside, and Knowledge and Care of Horses, which would mainly be a question and answer session inside a stable.  I would also photograph the medal ceremonies at the end. At the main summer Games I would be covering the Opening Ceremony, to be held at the Royal Crescent in Bath, and also the Aquatics events, and some of the Boccia and Bowls. Having this knowledge prior to the event meant that I could be prepared with the kit I would need and also some of the challenges I would face with exposure and shot types, with the events being in a variety of different arenas with different exposure challenges.


As I would be spending the days running around the events I wanted to keep my equipment to a minimum.  I knew that opportunities to use a tripod would be pretty much non-existent, so that saved me having to take that, although I did have it in the car – just in case! I also had the Nikon SB-910 in the car, but due to not wanting to spook the horses or distract the athletes I didn’t take it in as the chances to use it again would be non-existent.  In the end my rucksack contained:

  • Nikon D800 DSLR
  • Tamron 28 – 75mm f/2.8 Lens
  • Nikon 70 – 300mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 Lens
  • Tamron 10 – 24mm wide-angle lens
  • Sigma 8mm Fisheye lens
  • Pen and paper for taking shot notes and athletes details.
  • Spare battery
  • Spare SD and CF cards

Execution and Results

At each of the events I met with my contact on arrival and was shown the different locations for the events and requested a timetable, which included the athletes’ names, so I could keep track of the names of the people I was photographing.  At the start of each individual event or race I tried to photograph the timetable and competitor listing so I had a record on my SD card. I then headed out and covered the events in the way I felt captured it all. I wanted to ensure that I covered them fully – not just showing the athletes competing, but to also show them getting kitted up, relaxing, preparing for competition and a few close up detail shots, as well as some spectator participation where possible

The images below tell my story of the events, spread out over the few events I covered, hopefully giving a good flavour of what it was all about.

Self Assessment

Overall I’m pretty happy with how this assignment has gone, after re-evaluating the images I’ve submitted; my main complaint about myself is the length of time it has taken me from taking the images to writing up the assignment!  I’ve had so much going on that putting aside time for me to do the work has been a challenge.


Looking at the assignment, in relation to the assessment criteria set by the Open College of the Arts, I need to assess myself on a number of criteria.

Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

  • Overall the technical aspect of the images was handled well, although due to the extremely poor light levels in some of the locations arena, and the fact that I was unable to use flash meant that I had to uprate my ISO to pretty high levels, bringing quite a lot of digital noise into some the images, which detracted from the interior images a little.  This meant that I used less of the interior images than I would have liked.
  • Compositionally I think the images work well on the whole, and there is a reasonable mix of shot sizes, with some close ups, some medium shots and a couple of wider images, giving more of a location context to the feature.

    Quality of Outcome

  • The images in this feature give a pretty good flavour of the events that I covered, and I’m quite happy with the variety in the images, both in shot size as mentioned above, and in subject matter, with a variety of action shots of competitors, wider establishing shots, still life images, behind-the-scenes images and additional shots to support the feature.
  • I think ordering the images chronologically suits this particular feature, telling the story of the events, and think that it shows my experience of the Games, as well as the experience of the athletes and their supporters.

    Demonstration of Creativity

  • As it was more of a documentary feature the images are mainly of uncontrolled action, but I think in terms of creativity I’ve covered the subject well, using opportunities for a little bit more creativity where possible.


  • Looking at my Learning Log at I still need to look at other photographers work more, and reflect on it, rather than looking at others work and not logging it. I also intend to start looking out for more exhibitions to visit, to look at and reflect on the work of others.
  • As this type of feature work was something I had some experience of, I didn’t maybe look at enough of the work of others, as I felt in my comfort zone, both prior to and during the shooting phase of this feature.
  • Other than a lack of research on the Learning Log, I am pretty happy with how this section of the course has progressed, and the exercises leading up to the Assignment were very interesting, and enjoyable to do.


Now I’m at the end of this part of the first element of the degree course, The Art of Photography, I’m quite happy with this assignment, Assignment 5 and the four previous assignments.  Overall I’ve learnt (and re-learnt) so much, and am starting to get a feel for my “arty” side, which has had to remain suppressed during my RAF photographic career! I’m now looking forward to moving on to the next phase of the course – assuming that I successfully pass this assignment of course!



Exercise – Rain

Trust me to hit this particular exercise right in the middle of the least typically British summer – massive heatwave and hardly any rain!  so I needed to use my imagination for this one.


The brief for this was to illustrate a magazine cover, with an image of rain that is clear and obvious what the subject is, so I had a little look around on the old internet and came up with a fantastic range of images, ones that stood out in particular were those taken in the” Rain Room“- an art installation by Random International held at the Barbican in London.  I particularly like the way the primary subject was the rain, with the people on the shot being in silhouette mostly, and the back lighting is designed to highlight the rain falling (although it misses the people in the room!)

Unfortunately I live in the South-West and don’t have handy access to an expensive art installation, so needed to plan something lower-key.  I’d also seen images of umbrellas so decided to go with that, and set up a brolly outside our patio doors, so I could use the garden hose to shower it with water, whilst still leave the camera and speedlights inside as (ironically) it decided to start spitting with rain.  It wasn’t enough to get the effect I wanted though, so still needed to create my artificial rain with the hose.

Below is the shot I chose to go with:

ISO 1250 | 1/250th Sec | f/27.0 | 2 x speedlight

ISO 1250 | 1/250th Sec | f/27.0 | 2 x speedlight

And for a bit of fun I thought I’d mock up a magazine cover for it to go into:

Rain Magazine

Rain Magazine

So, that’s it for the practical exercises – time for the final assignment of this first part of the course – eeek!

Exercise – Juxtaposition

Juxtaposition: the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect (Oxford Dictionary)

Connection two subjects or elements in an image so as to suggest a relationship is an important tool in illustration, and this can either be done in a controlled studio environment, or through the use of viewpoint,  composition and focal length to  build the relationship.

Initially I considered a book cover still life for this exercise, and thought about illustrating a Robert Rankin book  – “The Sprouts of Wrath” as I thought it could be a bit of a laugh trying to illustrate it – I had visions of a brussels sprout sat next to a bloodied knife, all mean and moody light.  I may still have a play with that one though 🙂

As I was planning the image, I had a stroll down the seafront and came across the scene below, and the contrast between the graffiti and the Pier struck me as interesting.  the street art symbolises more of a gritty urban, tough environment, normally found in a concrete jungle; whereas the Grand Pier brings about more sunny emotions, seaside holidays, ice-cream, sunshine and having fun.  Having the two elements so near to each other made for a very interesting contrast.


Weston-super-Mare seafront

Exercise – Evidence of Action

With the previous exercise I used a a selection of images to tell the story of a day at the seaside, but with this exercise I needed to create one single image to tell a story.  It couldn’t be a narrative sequence, and needed to suggest that something had happened.

My first thought was a spilt glass of wine, leaving it up to the interpretation of the viewer as to whether it was a drunken accident, post-party detritus, or the effects of a fight or struggle.


I wasn’t entirely happy with this first one, as I felt that it needed something else with it.  so I went off and got a couple of paracetamol:

Shot Two - Glass, wine and pills

Which definitely gave the image a whole new, slightly more disturbing twist, taking it from a drunken accident, to something much more sinister.  I decided that I also wanted a pill bottle in the shot and as the white paracetamol tablets above were from a blister pack, I went and got some brufen, and tried it both with the white tablets, and also the orange tablets, and came up with the final image below:

Final shot - Glass, wine, pills and bottle.

I think having the three elements balance the image better than in the other two, and the colour of the pills work better than the white tablets.


Exercise – Shiny Surfaces

To see the challenges that can arise when photographing and lighting reflective objects I needed to set up a still life with a highly polished item, so I decided to use this small compact mirror that my lovely husband bought me a few years back.  I’ve photographed shiny trophies in the past and used a light tent so was familiar with the problems that these types of items can cause.

I set the compact up on a fluffy black backdrop on the floor with the camera over it.  I tried to keep the camera as direct over it as I could, without being completely over it, which would have reflected the camera in the item, obscuring the text.

The first shot is taken with no diffusion of the light at all, the constant light is just off to the right of the subject, and slightly above it – the light is very harsh in this shot and the reflection of the low lit ceiling makes the object grey and it blends in too much with the background, not standing out at all.

I then created a “light tent” out of tissue paper – I created a kind of cone, starting from the lens and spreading out down to the backdrop, without getting it in shot.  I then directed the light from the outside of the cone, through to the subject.  For the first shot I left the light in it’s original position to the right and slightly above the subject, but as you can see this created a highlight on the right hand side, even when I adjusted the position a little bit as in the next shot.  I also noticed that I was getting a slight reflection of the lens, right on the edge of the bottom of the compact.

In the 3rd shot below I moved the light so it was pretty much directly above the subject, and also moved the subject slightly to prevent the reflection from the edge of the lens, but this completely washed-out the text, making it pretty difficult to read,  so for the last, most successful shot, I moved the light down a little more so it was from above, but slightly to the rear of the object, shining through the light tent.

In this last shot there is a hint of a highlight which gives it a little bit of a dimension to it, without over-highlighting the object.

Using the tissue paper to create a little light diffusing tent made a real difference to lighting this compact, and a really useful technique.