The Art Of Photography Assignment 1: Contrasts

TAOP1 Reflection

General Thoughts

The Comments from Sharon are in now and I have posted them un edited to the blog if you want to have a read, I thought I would share them as they came because they may help those that come after me. I know I was very greatful to students that did this in the past.

Its intresting and I guess obvious that almost everyone who follows this path does pretty much the same thing, we all start out so litteral, sweet is something sugery and gooey sour is a lemon or lime etc etc, if your reading this because you just started the course don’t do that go interpret the words think deeper into the meaning of the word or find a latteral meaning it will make your tutor smile as they don’t have to look at the 4 millionth picture of a lemon.

I have to say that I was very pleased with the comments though I started out with the lime and a sticky mess I gradually started to interpret the words and I was delighted with Sharons comments on my interpretation of Dark and light, I basically interpreted the word dark as sinister and the dictionary opposite of that is angelic.

The biggest learning for me during the first assignment has been the quest for a voice, something that Gareth assures me takes a long time to firstly realise you need it then to discover it take a look at my brighton write up which ill be posting shortly for more on this subject as it was that weekend that started me on my path to find it.

I have spent the last two months since I submitted my assignment reading researching and developing a small portfolio, I took a course with a really nice guy called William Neil who worked for Ansel Adams in his studio many years ago and now is a professional photographer and writer who has a regular column in outdoor photographer, the guy is a genius and he got us over 8 weeks to select a topic and build a portfolio on that topic.

I am currently reading the recommended book by Susan Bright and looking into other photographers, this has become a bit of an obsession as I search out some focus for my photography.

All in all I am very happy with my progress and want to thank Sharon for being such an awesome tutor so far I am now working hard on assignment 2 which I hope to base on the portfolio I started in the short course, with some new images taken to fit the brief and the portfolio.

Comments on Feedback

Overall Comments
Firstly, it was great that you came to Brighton and got so much out of the experience. The ‘epiphany’ moments are wonderful and I hope these will continue and help you get as much out of the course as possible. You are already making huge steps towards understanding the ethos of the course and in time this will translate into your imagery.

I have to say that Brighton was a really wonderful experience I had a fantastic time and I think without going I would have spent a lot of time just getting where it left me. It was well worth going and I look forward to the next one in 2014

It was good that you got the opportunity to join in the critique session and well done for putting yourself forward and engaging so well with the feedback as a new student. I know you see the enormous benefit of seeing other peoples work and taking part in the critique both for yourself and for others.

I really enjoyed the Critique session, I wish OCA led more workshops like that as for me they are such a valuable way to develop, I have always been someone who values constructive criticism, I have never felt it was positive to ignore or be offended y this and so have always actively striven to listen and take on board the comments of others. I a session like this with such a lot of experience and the benefit of tutors not listening would be a crime.

Thank you for sending me prints. The prints themselves are very good quality however the window mounts are a little amateur and a better presentation method are simply the prints alone presented in a nice photographic box. You can get them from silverprint. As you progress through the course you can consider different sizes and types of paper and border options to suit your work. But it is a good start.

Comment registered I will fully take this on board, I was completely ignorant on how to present the work for this first assignment, hopefully you will forgive the clumsy and amateur presentation and note the learning I have taken on board in future assignments

You are clearly demonstrating a level of engagement that will serve you well. Your open mindedness and questioning nature is key. I’m sure we will work well together.

All i can say to that is blushing_smiley_stickers

Assessment potential

You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit Assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.

Assessment for a degree is the primary purpose of taking this module therefore I will state now that it is my full and unswerving intention to submit or assessment!

Feedback on assignment

As we discussed in Brighton, your work developed from a very literal way of interpreting the brief to a much more creative and less illustrative one. This is a fast progression and you should be pleased with that achievement. Thinking beyond the initial and most common responses to the exercises is key and particularly bringing a metaphorical interpretation when you can as this helps go beyond the cliché and more obvious way of seeing.

I wish that there had been some briefing either verbal or written that conveyed this requirement, I understand that in a teaching role it is sometimes effective to force the student to learn a lesson by leading them into a particular mistake and I get the idea that we need to be more interpretive and not literal, however I would love the chance to do this assignment with that at the forefront of my intention I fear there will be no time for such things and the moment has now passed for that

I don’t need to labor the point but just to illustrate your first pictures of sweet and sour, as you know, were a very literal example of photographing the brief (although you did go to a lot of effort to make it overly sickly which is more than most!) however your light / dark images showed that you were beginning to go beyond illustrative thinking and going further into conceptually led work, which is great.

Fully understood

I also really liked the opaque / transparent coupling, simply because you executed an idea effectively and I LIKE that they are similar but different! (No matter what Jesse says!) It’s better than taking a picture of a glass and a brick wall! I think this one works better than the poker set. (But that could be because I don’t ‘get’ poker.)

Ha I agree, I really enjoyed the technical bit of getting those shots, especially as they were done in a hotel room. I better be nice about Jesse though you never know he may end up tutoring or assessing me and I would not want to upset “Genius” 🙂 hope that was enough!

The Hard and Soft in one picture, for me is too contrived. It felt like you had to shoehorn the hard and soft into the frame. Perhaps going out into the world and seeing hard and soft in different scenarios would bring a more interesting interpretation. Don’t feel like you have to go and find a specific picture. Allow circumstances and things to pull you in rather than you having to pull them in. If that makes sense.

Makes total sense the whole assignment felt like me shoehorning images into the description as I said going back and doing it properly would be fun but time and the fact its not assessed make the prospect unlikely

Anyway, you are getting there and the first exercise, I hope, has highlighted to you the ideas to push and the ones to leave behind. Of course feel free to keep asking me questions as you go.

It has started me thinking on many things I look forward to the rest of the course

You demonstrate a strong sense of composition and lighting. This comes across very well in the still lives you set up, however I’m not sure they work the best conceptually. You may wish to try some still lives that also incorporate some narrative.

I have spent a great deal of time since coming back to photography getting the technical bit right I feel that the outcome of this assignment is to drive me toward the more conceptual aspects and I really look forward to working with that

Learning Logs/Reflective Commentaries/Critical essays

Your blog is really well laid out. THANKYOU for taking the time to set it up so well!

You are welcome I am glad you like it, I think its an evolution a work in progress

I would like to see an enhanced level of critical analysis of the photographers you mention. Why you like / dislike them. What you feel is successful about them and if / why you would like to emulate the photographers. (Yes, links to Wikipedia are not valid!)

Noted, I will be endeavoring to do more of this and writing up the work I have already done most of which is in notebooks jotted down in the spare moments at airports and during travel.

Your review of Charlotte Cotton made me proud! Well done for persevering.

It makes me even more proud you feel that way there is a certain pride to that accomplishment.

I didn’t see any reviews of study trips, since you have been involved you would benefit from writing them up while they are fresh in your mind. We (tutors and assessors) are interested in your epiphany moments.

They are all in paper notebooks I will have them all written up before any assessment, they are however done in my note books

Suggested reading/viewing

Edgar Martins – To think more about the use of the aesthetic to say something meaningful, rather than for the sake of aesthetics alone.

Here is the interview I told you about:

Now you have finished Charlotte Cotton you could try Susan Bright’s Art Photography Now or Why photography matters as art as never before, by Michael Fried. But I know you have a heavy box full so you could start with them if you prefer!

You may find it interesting to look at how painters used still life and also how some photographers have done it. Try Sam Taylor Wood for inspiration. Her decomposing still lives for starters.

All good pointers I will work my way through your suggestions I als have a lot of other books from the reading list so lots to do

Pointers for the next assignment

Consider picking a theme or subject matter that matters to you and build a series around that. Keep shooting until you start to see something of what you want to say about it come through. You can use the exercises as subtle visual strategies for achieving what you want to say.

I will consider this carefully and attempt to take your wise words on board.

Assignment One


My first image was to represent the category of sweet, I saw a lot of people putting out sugar cubes and photographing them for this category and I wanted to do something different, I started with a pie crust and filled it with brown and white sugar, I added lots of chocolate drops and mint choc chips along with some peanut butter lumps then I added Hershey chocolate sauce some devils food holes ( big colour full brownie chunks) and some marshmallows, I covered this with more of the Hershey sauce. I think the chocolate sauce because it is liquid and has a shiny texture makes it look more sickly and therefore more sweet.



To complement the Sweet category its opposite was Sour, thee most obvious choice would have been lemons, so rather than do the obvious I elected to use a lime which I found to be slightly more interesting in colour and less obvious than the lemon. The thing that I wanted to emphasise was the juice which is the sour part of the lime. Using a tight macro shot helps I think.



Tried to be less obvious with this entry the two  are parts of the same whole being views from either side of the table this one being of the winning hand and the largest stack of chips.



The contrast being the loosing hand and the small stack of chips, this was the root of my idea it was only later that I decided to reverse it to get the shot for many



Almost needs no introduction rather an obvious choice but maybe a different object, for those who don’t know its a broad head arrow I bought in Wal-Mart  in Chicago and yes it came home in mt luggage, oddly I found you ca buy such things in the UK who knew?



I hope I went away from the normal on this one, I wont lead you but to say lots of rust an oil can and a wet stone in there somewhere work the rest out for yourself



I was rather proud to be able to get this in a hotel room with an eye dropper a jelly bowl and water and no cleaver lighting, really looking forward to getting time to explore this further as I have discovered a more sophisticated technique using some electronics and timed water droplets that allow you to collide the drops.



I am hoping this is a unique take on this category it feels like an original thought, this too was taken in the same hotel room



When I looked for inspiration for this assignment one thing I noted was the so many people had a glass full of ice for solid it must get a little repetitive to mark for the tutors, so I thought long and hard on how to create something different, in the end I thought that using ice in a way it had never been used would be quite different, and I am sure no one else has frozen water in a surgical glove for this assignment before.



Having gone to so much effort to freeze it, it would seem a little rude not to melt it on camera so I give you liquid!



I wanted to dig further for this than an obvious image so I came up with the idea that dark was another way of saying sinister so I looked up the opposite of sinister which is angelic which is also refered to as the light so here we have light.



After one of the longest and most contrived setups of the series this was one of the hardest to get right technically, the major difficulty is getting a shadow to be sharp enough that people can work out what its a shadow of, had a terrific amount of fun taking and re taking this to get it right, thank goodness for studio strobes.



I hope this image speaks for itself through its imagery and contrasts well with its counterpart below.



Hopefully a natural counterbalance to the entry for strong, I took this in a hotel room with very basic equipment and thought to re-do it at home with lighting and more equipment available and so far every attempt to re-do and improve it has fallen short of this original shot so it stayed in the selection and I have become rather attached to it.



My first thought was looking along the edge of a ruler but the available depth of field really did not work in this case and the image was a bit dull, this came to me when I had gone around the house and gathered all the straight/measuring things I could find and dumped them on the table to sort through, that’s when this hit me, it has massive sentimental meaning for me too as many of the measuring devices were my Dad’s



I loved these as a child, I have never known where they came from or what they were ment for I suspect they were for an aero draftsman who designed wing sections etc my father used them to create templates for the models he used to build as a set of engineering drafting curves, I don’t think you could buy such a thing these days but I think they work for the curved entry.



Finally Hard and Soft in one image a contrast between the solid rock and the feathers and angel hair, from the phrase hard as a rock and soft as a feather


I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of the contrasts assignment.

Assignment One – Contrasts A Discussion

The Brief:

The basis for the assignment is one of the most fundamental principles in design: contrast.

We were asked to create eight pairs of images that demonstrated contrasts from a list of pairs and finally produce one image that showed both contrasts in the same image.

The contrasts I chose were:

  • Sweet / Sour,
  • Many / Few,
  • Pointed / Blunt,
  • Transparent / Opaque
  • Liquid / Solid
  • Light / Dark
  • Strong / Weak
  • Straight / Curved
  • Hard / Soft (For my single image

When I picked up this assignment I played with many ideas, some I would still like to try like my idea of taking a picture of a hamster wheel and the london eye for large and small, unfortunately work and illness prevented a trip to London to get half the pictures, however I may still try this one just for fun.
I found that at the start of the assignment it was hard to pin ideas to the categories and lots of half ideas would run through my head, my solution was to fall back on my working practice as a programme / project manager so I started building a mind map with all the categories where i jotted al the ideas as I went i use a mind mapping tool on my iPad as it allows me to carry my ideas around and add to them whenever i get inspired. I also found I could attach thumbnails to each idea as I took shots. here is the output:

The package is called iThoughts if anyone wants to know more about it, you can find it on the app store.
I found I had lots of ideas but some were almost impossible to pull off either because I did not have anyway of getting the props or any way of getting to the place that was central to the idea. so It was important to refine my ideas so that it was possible to take them.
For instance one of the ideas was for continuous / intermittent where I tought of getting hold of a morse code tapper, I bid on several from eBay but the price went through the roof and made the shot really impractical. Given more time I probably could have found a museum or some thing that would have let me take the photograph but time was not on my side for that.
I have to say that although some of the ideas did not see the end of the lens I am not unhappy with the compromises I made and I like the end result of the assignment. I would still like to try the London eye as I said so ill probably add that to the bucket list, which I intend to create as a separate page on here.

I think my methodology and workflow have developed during this assignment, one thing I decided was that good enough was not good enough, for example, I had a mental image for the straight category of a long straight ruler taken in a macro style so the edge of the ruler was right in the camera and was moving away. this turned out not to work very well as the depth of field could not be set long enough to se much of the scale on the ruler and frankly the image did not work. I ended up taking a picture of the end of a ruler flat on. I fully intended to use this image even though it did not feel quite right. I was showing the images to my mother and wife and they were both complimentary until the ruler came up both of them went a little quite and obviously did not want to say that the image was basically rubbish compared to the rest. My head took over and I decided that if the assignment was worth doing it was worth doing properly and I re shot the category gathering every type of straight edge and measuring implement I could find I went into my shed with my strobes and composed a new image.

Along the same lines I spent a lot of time in hotel rooms in the USA during this assignment so I did a lot of planning and testing and ended up taking a bunch of shots, most of which I re shot with better lighting back in the uk, I have a bunch of photos that were good but not quite right. The broad head arrow I used for the pointed category was the most problematic, for some freak reason I got the lighting just right in the hotel, dark background of a brownish hue nicely out of focus giving almost a dark vignette around the arrow-head, however one of th blades was out of the plane of focus and left me with a fuzzy edge. so back in the uk I mounted it on a bamboo cane stuck it in the grass and set up a picture with a beautifully blurred background and absolute pin sharp focus, and a horrible green backdrop that really clashed with the body of the arrow. So back to the shed with the arrowhead, I took take three against the warm brown of the shed wall using strobe lighting I managed to get the image I was looking for.

I did a retake on the cards and poker chips too because in the cramped hotel room I did not get the tack sharp foreground focus it needed and the shallow depth of field to put the opponent’s hand out of focus, I have to say that I think the final shots were far better than the hotel versions.#

In contrast, the milk and water splashes used for transparent and opaque were shot in the hotel with the crudest of setups, but I love the results, I now intend to explore this world of splashes and drips again as the process was a lot of fun and I enjoyed the results, it is interesting that to get those two shots I had to take almost a thousand images to get just the moment I wanted. I have seen some work by a photographer using Arduino controllers and solenoids to make startling images and I really want to have a go at this, he publishes the computer control programme he uses so that anyone can have a go.