Landscape A1 Beauty and the sublime

Final Submission

After the assessment from my Tutor and following re-work this is the final edit that was sent to the OCA for Assessment:


The reworking of Assignment 1

Based on the feedback and the tutor session with Russell, I have extended the assignment through experimentation. I took the idea of making Diptychs using 8 of the images and producing 4 sets. the first step was to sort and select the images to use, I printed all 12 of the images on 6×4 photo cards so that I could move them around on the desk and visualise the pairings.

I found three easy pairings and struggled a little with the fourth, I stuck with the pairing that Russell and I discussed as it was the most obvious of the set I changed the cropping and flipped and rotated each image so many times I am not sure how close the final cut came to the example, however, this was the final diptych for the BT exchange and the warehouse:

I was impressed with the level of study Russell had given to the original images, he had zoomed in to look in detail and worked out that I owned a black truck, which is often in the images, in homage to this I left it in my crop of the BT building and if you zoom in close you can even see me flying the drone next to it. In this image, I liked Russell’s idea of using the boundary lines at the top and having them intersect as diagonals in the middle at the top. I do think that if I wanted to move further in this project it would be good to use the drone to take images of a series of tall buildings looking straight down like the one of the BT exchange. The biggest issue for this is securing a TOLS (take off and landing site) and having the permission needed to fly these missions.

The next pairing that took me was to pair Farnham Castle with a water treatment silo:

I liked the similarity of the two images even though they are remarkably different structures they share similar compositional characteristics. I rotated and flipped them both until I found the composition to be most pleasing and this was where I ended up. It took some time and the judicious use of guidelines to match the two images and to crop and resize them so that the two circles were the same size and lined up with each other, I was taken by the fact that this apes the original water treatment picture which also featured two circles. I was quite attached to the original image and I am pleased how well the merged in the diptych to create the final image.

The next pair is a rather obvious pairing of two street scenes taken from above a housing estate. The two images both gave me some of the highest feelings of vertigo and I always felt worked well in the original series. They play to the idea I had that in order to make the viewer feel vertigo not only did the height and angle have to be right but there needed to be something going on in the image to draw the viewer in. This is where I think we manage to go from straight vertigo to the sublime as the sublime in Burkes definition is the boundary between pain and pleasure and in this case interesting or beautiful and off balancing enough to make you grab the armrests of your chair. the pairing turned out like this:

Where I think this works particularly well is in the rotation of the images to make the eye feel as unbalanced as possible, the image on the left was rotated by 90 degrees so that it fools the eye into thinking it is falling over, the image on the right is rotated so that the tilt is in a different plane making the discord between the two more highly amplified. Overall I am really pleased with this pairing as it certainly demonstrates my theory, especially when viewed at a large size.

The last one was something of a struggle to visualise how two of the remaining images could be paired to emphasise the feeling of vertigo but also to resonate with each other in a way that the other three did for me. This was my final selection and probably took as long as the other three put together, much of the time being spent on trying to identify similar characteristics and rotating and flipping and cropping the images to find a matched balance:

I don’t feel this is as strong as the others but was the best pairing I felt I could achieve without using extra images, If I wanted to make this set stronger and push the final project further I might go out with the drone to specifically hunt down vertigo images that work together compositionally. However, given the brief to experiment with the 12 images from the initial submission this was not a bad compromise. In some ways, I like these tow images better in their initial form.

<EDIT> Having discussed these new Diptychs with Russell, I have taken off the background which was only there because of a misunderstanding and re worked the Sewarage version, I was not happy with the above cut and it was the first thing Russell comented on too, since almnost good enough is not good enough I have done some rework based on a bit of sage advice given to me years agon on a course about creating a portfolio where no image should feel worse than the others. Russell comented that the Sewerage images reminded him of dominos, I liked this and went with that theme, I confess I swapped out the images for more suitable alternatives from the shoot and arrived at this:

This does leave the door open to create other images and take this much further, I think if this was my level 3 project I would do that and maybe have sets of four diptychs depicting different ideas, one I have already suggested was the idea of taking images looking down tall office buildings. This idea makes me think of the work of Mr Steel a youtube FPV drone pilot who makes quite controversial videos bombing all sorts of buildings and structures with an FPV drone (I must point out by bombing I mean flying up down and around the structure), his videos are hard to watch as they are really fast and disorientating but there are moments in those films that show a view exactly like the ones I am imagining. If you want to check out Mr Steel his Youtube channel is here

I am however pleased with the extended version of this project and feel I learned a lot by pushing my practice further than the original images as submitted. If this is a taste of how the rest of this module will go I think I am in for a treat.

Thank you, Russell, it has been very profitable to engage with you and develop my work and practice further.

Reflection – Response to the Tutor Feedback

As a general comment this was one of the most engaged and useful feedback sessions I have had, it was the first one using google hangout t discuss the feedback and this is a big part of why I rate it so high, that and the interaction with Russell was really useful and worked for me on a developmental layer.

My first comment is one of relief, as always you take your heart in hand when developing an assignment like this and you start having no idea if it will hit the mark or resonate with others, the fact that Russell was enthused by the idea was the first of the goals hit, he also comments that the response was very good, which is the cap on what was a very entertaining assignment. I am also glad that my premise of equating vertigo to the feeling of the sublime worked, and am especially happy that I have managed to demonstrate how much effort and supporting research I have done. In IAP I did masses of research which due to the way I presented it may well have washed over the assessors.

Just to shine a light on the Elephant in the room, I can confirm that I do intend to get assessed and am very much aiming for a degree.

Russell gave me two recommendations for rework, which seemed more like extending the work and developing it further, rather than reworking it because it was not good enough, I really appreciate the difference as the way this has been presented by Russell feels more like developing my practice. I will be developing the Diptychs as discussed and they should appear as the final cut above this post. I had a lot of fun doing the editing and was delighted by the results which made the work take on a totally different slant.

I also looked at the colour balance on the two rogue images, I have commented in the blog about the cause which was a software bug in the DJI software and reworked the two images here are the results:

As a last comment. I was also really pleased that the work I have put into the web site and blog have paid off, that firstly Russell felt it was easy to navigate and that he was able to tell from the work their how much effort had gone into my journey so far. I feel that Im lost a lot of marks in the IAP module because of the web layout and the fact that the assessors could not tell how much work I had done. Their comments on risk taking and reasearch were painful lessons, I did so much reading and research and carefull pasted it all onto the blog, unfortunatly it was in a way that made it really hard to navigate and determine what research prompted each decision. I can see how badly I got that wrong now. It is still a shame that it was the module where I started researching like a degree student and formulating ideas driven by that research. Sadly only I really know that, I learned anm awful lot in IAP but fell short of demonstrating it to the assessors, hopefully, I will address that as I progress through level 2.


Landscape Assignment 1


From the comments on my assessment for IAP: “In terms of creativity, it would be good to see you take more risks with your looking, reading, thinking, reflection as well as your visual outcomes.”  I decided that I would try to take more risks particularly visually and in my thinking, so rather than produce a series of “Standard” Beautiful Landscapes I wanted to do something more daring, to this end I decided to look more into the sublime and found several references in the Morley paper describing the sublime as something between pain and pleasure. Burke talked about a feeling of being out of control, Joseph Addison describes the sublime as “Something that fills the mind with an agreeable kind of horror” in an article on the Artiface I found the following quote “In regards to the Romantic view of the environment, the sublime can occur when natural grandeur overwhelms an individual to the point of causing fright or a feeling of helpless insignificance.” I, therefore, was looking for a way to demonstrate this fear, pain and pleasure referred to in a still image.

In responding to the brief I mostly ignored the beautiful as this seemed to be the standard response to the brief and to a landscape assignment, on evaluating the work of other students I felt that many of them had taken the more safe approach of the landscape photographer as can be seen in camera club competitions up and down the land, I wanted to show I could take risks and push the envelope.

In part, one much of the study focused on contemporary landscape and the way painters responded to the genre, later in part one we started to examine the meaning of the sublime, I was warned by Jane Kemp not to focus too much on the sublime, and I can see how that could be a rabbit hole as there are so many ways to read the meaning of the word, I decided to stick with Burke’s definition and try to make work that inspired the feelings he described.

In my mind, I wanted to make images that made the viewer gasp, I was thinking about that feeling you get from standing in an awe-inspiring location like the top of the Grand Canyon where the vista literally takes your breath away and makes you gasp in awe.

At first, I felt that an image taken from an elevated position such as the Grand Canyon example would be a sure way to make this happen, I considered lots of traditionally beautiful places to photograph and came up with the notion of taking them from the air with my Drone. My first experiments proved me wrong as can be seen on my blog, these images simply made the beautiful more beautiful, when they worked. Images of great distance were lovely but did not give me quite the reaction I was looking for.

I was reviewing a news article from the Daily Mail Online (not my preferred paper) reviewing what it called the best drone photos of 2015, on reflection I noticed that many of the images seemed beautiful and a few took my breath away, the ones that took my breath away were the ones that were shot straight down from above, and I found a few of my own images taken this way had a similar effect, I have previously discussed this on my blog. Drone photographers such as Januils Karolis and much of the work submitted under the Caters News Agency seemed to capture the effect I was looking for.

I set about taking images that fell into this category and quickly found that looking down from 400 feet was not enough, the images had to have more to them, a green sports field or a forest of trees did not give me the feeling of vertigo, I needed it to be busier, then I realised that the ones that really worked had elements in them that helped identify scale such as cars and buildings and these made me feel as though I was a long way up then the vertigo would kick in.

My final selection of images was driven by the ones that made me feel like I was falling into the scene, where the feeling of height was evident and where my centre of balance was over the centre of the image. I took many images and rejected all that did not fulfil my need to feel that disturbing and unnerving feeling you get from looking down from a great height.

My response to this assignment is far from the conventional and hopefully conveys my desire to take more risks with the assignments and challenge myself to make work that pushes the boundaries of the art.

Personally, I am happy that I made work that conveys that unnerving feeling I was searching for, and in tests has done so to the viewers it has been shared with, this feels like a topic that could taken much further given time, for now I am happy that I have achieved my goals for this assignment.


Initial Submission

After the editing process the following images are the ones I submitted to my tutor for his assessment:

First Cut

Having taken all the images with my Phantom the following images are the ones I selected to start the editing process:

Development of the Assignment

The following are the learning log posts that specifically relate to the development of A1 Beauty and the Sublime, these are repeated here for clarity and are also posted on the main Learning log page in their proper sequence.


Editing my A1 Submission

Today I took the last images for A1, having been really cheeky on Tuesday and walked into the site office of the local sewage works to ask if I could photograph it with a drone, I was really surprised how kind the site manager was, he told me that I could come back on Sunday morning and they would leave the front gate open so I could take my images when they had no contractors on site. I arrived promptly at 9 am as arranged to find the gates open and the car park empty. I set up my drone and took some wonderful images of the plant.

As it was Sunday I also managed to capture the trains parked in the Farnham siding from a deserted carpark in a nearby industrial estate.

After looking through the images I had a further 3 images to add to my first edit, which took me to 15 candidates, I did not really want to use more than 12 and had a hard time rejecting images that I had become far too attached to. I have been really attached to the first image I took above my house as it was the one that made me discover the vertigo effect, but sadly there were stronger candidates and I was rather overflowing with housing estate images.

I started being quite tough and ended up with 10 images, which is not a very aesthetically pleasing number in a WordPress gallery, so I tried to reject another which proved impossible as I would be rejecting images I really liked, my only solution was to bring it back to 12 which was not difficult. I am on the upper limit for the submission but am happy that it will stand up to a tutor assessment, no doubt he will prick my conscience and the final submission will change again.


I should put a lid on the Diptych work too, I did a lot of tests only a few made it to the blog, but no matter how I manipulated the work it did not resonate at all with me. I really feel that this work needs to be focused on my interpretation of the sublime and explore the relationship between that uneasy feeling we get particularly with vertigo and the pain/pleasure boundary that is alluded to by Burke. The addition of the beautiful images did not enhance or underline this for me in many ways it distracted from the work I am trying to do. Also in many cases, the more conventional aerial view simply was not beautiful, which would have limited the work I could include. In fact, many of the images I consider to me most powerful did not really have a beautiful counterpart of angle, and many of the beautiful images looked rubbish from above, the churches were the most remarkable of these.

I have therefore decided to limit myself to “birdseye views” in order to try to demonstrate the sublime in my landscape images.

A1 – What did not make the cut

I thought it would be useful and more complete to show the body of work that led up to my A1 submission. I went through a lot of work before centring on my ideas and this is just a sample of the things I tried that did not make it into the first edit you can click on an image to see a larger version and view the whole set in a navigation window:

Further Exploration of Diptychs

Further to an email exchange with Russell where I proposed using diptychs he suggested experimenting with my images to see if they work, he also wondered if 50/50 diptychs would be effective.

I have been playing today with these ideas with mixed results:

I am not sure how I feel about them yet, some images work while others don’t and it feels like it may be difficult to make a consistent set for the assignment, I do like the last one but its more a curiosity than a serious balance of the beauty and the sublime. In many ways its more like a set from a Stephen Strange movie but I will continue to contemplate and experiment, I have one more shoot lined up where I have permission to film an industrial site which is exciting.

A Revisit to the Castle

I have been up to Farnham park several times to fly the Phantom, it is nice because there is space and its just outside the controlled airspace for Odiham and Farnborough airports, the park is a council-owned park and has no restrictions on flying drones so it makes a good Takeoff and Landing site.

Last time I went there I took some images of the Castle, which are quite beautiful, I did this before I discovered the “Birdseye View so this morning I got there really early before any people were on the scene and made a very short flight to capture the following Image:


More on diptychs

I am unsure how well the first Diptych worked as it makes the sublime image quite small and I wonder if they work better bigger to this end here is a second attempt at a diptych where the images are mounted over and under rather than side by side.

Thinking diptychs

I have been talking to my tutor Russell, and he introduced me to Joseph Ford, whose work includes some interesting Diptychs combining drone photography with more conventional photography like this:

This has me thinking about the work I am doing on beauty and the sublime, I mentioned a few posts back that there seemed to be a shift from the beauty to the sublime when the camera was shifted down rather than looking across the landscape, I am now musing over the idea of creating Diptychs for each image demonstrating this, the rub is that not all the sites I have photographed produce a particularly beautiful image when taken more conventionally.I am planning to take a road trip today to revisit some of the sites and determine if they are just not beautiful or if I missed the best composition. In the meantime I have created this Diptych to test the idea:

Reflections on progress

In the last week either I have been too busy to get out with the drone or the weather has been bad, I really need to synchronise my diary with the weather, I am also suffering from a lack of the funds necessary to fuel up the truck and drive to more interesting places.

Last weeks work proved that some of the most mundane places can produce startling images, I want to get up to about 12 images that work for the assignment after editing out the ones that don’t earn their place in the lineup.

I thought I should try to sum up what I have learned and how that is driving the methodology behind the work.

Firstly I am working on producing images that reflect a definition I have formed on the sublime, this is derived from the various quotes I noted on the 17th of September that suggest the sublime comes from a place between pleasure and pain further I found the quote from Morley about Burke:

“Burke pinpointed a key aspect of the sublime as being the heightened and perversely exalted feeling we often get from being threatened by something beyond our control or understanding.”

I had the idea that this type of sublime was a bit like the feeling of vertigo you get when looking at something from a high vantage point, which led to the idea of using a drone. I also discovered that using a drone was not in itself the solution but that the vantage I take with the drone is critical to successfully achieving my aims. This last point is obvious as its the same with a land-based camera, a flash new camera will not ensure a pass at level 2 it will always be what you do with it. I was reviewing all of the images taken so far and wanted to share one I had discounted because I prefer another composition but this image almost makes me seasick as it has a greater feeling of being tumbled over and falling:

This image almost feels like it is upside down and I have fallen off my feet, I prefer the other for its composition but I do find this interesting for the effect it seems to have on my middle ear.

Hopefully, the weather will clear up and I will be able to go out and make more images in the meantime I continue to read and research.

Looking for the Sublime with a Phantom

After the mixed success of yesterday I went out again today, in my mind I had an idea that had evolved from the warehouse yesterday that the drone could make an interesting image in a place that was really mundane to the land-based photographer, so my first port of call was the car park of the local industrial estate, being Sunday no one was around.

The first image really did not work as there was not enough going on in the image:

However, I tried to shoot the lake and found it was too big to shoot from 400 feet but there was an area at the edge of the lake that appeared quite busy this was the result:

I really like this image and feel it is doing exactly what I was looking for, before leaving home I also took this from the back garden:

I really like this one and am starting to feel like I am getting somewhere with these images as I can see more of them together.

I had two more locations in my mind to try and the next really blew me away, this was taken from the car park next to the Buddist temple in Aldershot and shows the BT exchange building:

My last site was a bit of a mixed bag I thought the cemetery in Aldershot might make an interesting subject, however, I don’t think it really worked at 400 feet. When I was descending I noticed that at about 200 feet the image was working better:

At 400 Feet:

At 200 feet approximately

I think that if either of these make it to the final cut it will probably be the lower of the two, there is a definite correlation between the angle of view to achieve the vertigo effect and the composition/ busyness of the image that creates the sublime effect.

Looking for the Sublime with a Phantom

I have been out today with my phantom looking for images for the assignment trying to develop the idea of images taken from directly above. My parameters were to take the drone to its maximum allowed height of 400 feet AGL (Above Ground Level) and point the camera directly downwards.

My First image was taken at the church in Seal as I wanted to see if a really lovely church like that would look good from above in a way the one in Hartley Wintney did not.

This was the result:

At this point, I am not sure about this image I included an image of the church from its traditional aspect for comparison I do get vertigo from this image but I am not sure if I like the image for itself in the same way as I do the house picture or the Wellington Statue. I do like the way you can see the human marks on the landscape however that is a different project.

I took two other images from the 400-foot aspect today:

The first was of a factory in the field where I crashed the original drone, in fact, the tree is the last one on the right at the top. This was taken at 400 feet I like the busy nature of the warehouse and the feeling it gives me of vertigo I feel like this one is a success.

I also took one directly above the Blackwater Vally Path where it crosses the River Blackwater and the result was somewhat mixed for me:


Exploring the Angle of the sublime

Its been a while since my last post mostly because I have had some rather extreme family issues to deal with that I won’t go into here.

Having been stewing over the discovery that an image taken directly from above may give the feeling of vertigo and be more reflective of the Idea of the sublime I wanted to test this theory and remembered taking an image at the Wellington statue from above, which we can contrast with the more traditional one from the last post I have put them together here to demonstrate the theory:

As you can see the image taken from directly above again makes you feel like you are falling into the image unlike the more traditional one. The question then is does this always work?

I went to an old church in Hartley Wintney to find out:

I feet that it does but in this case the image does not have the same impact for me it no longer conveys the beautiful building and could be a cross-shaped shed, the sense of its age is lost.


Using the Phantom for A1

Since my last post and my Flight test I have been trying to get out with the Phantom to capture some images, I have still been plagued with the weather but I did get a few images, which have rather challenged my ideas.

At first, I thought I just needed to find some interesting places to take traditional landscape images and shoot them with the phantom. I thought this would demonstrate that feeling of vertigo I was looking for. I somewhat naively thought that just because they were taken from a high vantage point they would take the breath away, This proved not to be the case. If anything it made the beautiful images look more beautiful and more traditional in terms of landscapes. Here are some examples:

As can be seen they are quite lovely images, however, I don’t think they show the sublime at all, most of them are images that have not been seen before because without a drone the camera cannot get into that position. These images are unique and different but not at all sublime as described previously.

I did, however, take one image during this period that made me stop and think:

This was one of the first images taken with the first drone, I think on the first flight, it was taken from about a 100feet or so with the camera pointing directly down, and it made me feel odd, I felt that little bit of vertigo I have been discussing, I wondered if the secret was the angle of the camera as this makes the viewer feel like they are above the image falling in rather than standing on a high platform looking out like all the others.

This image has an interesting quality there are lots of things going on. There is a kind of beauty that is sharpened by the feeling of fear or unease that draws us into the picture.