Reflecting against the recommended criteria, I have the following observations:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills

For this assignment I tried a variety of settings in order to get differing depths of field. Being only allowed at the site during daylight hours, and visiting on a clear, sunny day meant natural lighting conditions were excellent. Whilst composition wasn’t always perfect in the original shot, the use of Photoshop enabled cropping to improve on the original framing.  A variety of shooting positions were used to vary the viewer’s perspective.

Quality of outcome

I feel my assignment gives a good balance of the technical aspects of my shots, alongside my showing of the multiple aspects of the character of the Major Oak and its interaction and popularity with the public.  I found the use of printed contact sheets useful in order to shortlist down to a final 20 images before settling on my final 10. Many of my images didn’t show enough of the Major Oak itself (they could have been taken anywhere) or were too ‘obvious’.

In order to choose my final 10, I printed the shortlist of 20 and asked opinions of peers. I then played around with the ordering of the final 10 in order to give the best ‘story’ of the Major Oak.

Demonstration of creativity

In approaching this assignment I tried to look at the Major Oak in a different way to how it’s usually shown in regular stock images. Consequently, few of my images show the whole tree, instead I chose to concentrate mainly on elements of the tree and in some cases only very small parts of it in order to show it in context of other things going on around it. I varied my perspective of standing, crouching and sitting on the floor to achieve the views I was seeking.


It was important for me to show the many features of the Major Oak in this assignment – from its weaknesses to its strengths, from its historical importance as a tourist attraction to it being just a tree in the background of a picnic area, and from its pathetic nature being held up by metal stilts to it still budding new life.

Assignment 5

Take a series of 10 photographs of any subject of your own choosing. Each photograph
must be a unique view of the same subject; in other words, it must contain some ‘new
information’ rather than repeat the information of the previous image. Pay attention
to the order of the series; if you’re submitting prints, number them on the back. There
should be a clear sense of development through the sequence.

What is it about? (300 words)

The Major Oak is famed for being the tree where Robin Hood and his Merry Men are rumoured to have hidden in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. The tree is believed to be 800-1000 years old, has a canopy of 92 feet and is oddly shaped. Due to its historical significance and the public’s love of the tales of Robin Hood, it is a popular tourist spot with many people visiting it each year. As well as tourists from further afield, locals like to pass it whilst taking a walk in the forest, or to relax in the picnic area whilst children play.

The days of being able to go inside the tree, or indeed being anywhere close to touching the tree, are long gone and it is fenced off to stop anyone approaching it too closely. What was once a majestic oak, is now a tree that looks like a sad old man – seemingly alone, wizened in part, with many metal props holding up its once strong branches. If it were human, the Major Oak would be in a care home seeing out its final few years, no doubt recounting how things have changed over the years and how much more lush Sherwood Forest was back in the day.

Nevertheless, the Major Oak remains standing proudly amongst a forest of younger trees. If it could, it would have many tales to tell those many years younger – be it stories of Robin Hood or of the millions of visitors that visit each year. However, no matter how old it looks, to prove it has still got life in it, the Major Oak continues to have new buds sprouting each spring.

Bibliography [last accessed: 01/05/2017]

Technical info

All images were taken on the same afternoon with a Canon 5D Mkiii and either a Canon 16-35mm lens or a Canon 75-300mm lens. The shots of the buds on the tree additionally used a 1.4X teleconverter. All shots were handheld, and a mix of standing and seated shots were taken to give different perspectives. Minor adjustments and cropping have been made in Adobe Lightroom.

Annotated contact sheets

Final set of images


The big old tree dominating a forest of young trees

Settings: 16mm, f/4.5 , 1/640s, ISO 200


Metal bears the weight of aged limbs

Settings: 220mm, f/9 , 1/160s, ISO 200


The spirit of Robin lives on

Settings: 300mm, f/11.0 , 1/200s, ISO 200


Yet another photo…

Settings: 300mm, f/5.6 , 1/1000s, ISO 200


So much to learn

Settings: 196mm, f/7.1 , 1/400s, ISO 200


Youth admires the aged

Settings: 98mm, f/6.3 , 1/800s, ISO 400


One for the family album

Settings: 112mm, f/13.0 , 1/320s, ISO 400


Not barren yet. The cycle of life continues…

Settings: 420mm, f/13.0 , 1/320s, ISO 400


The alternate angle

Settings: 20mm, f/9.0 , 1/200s, ISO 200

EYV5_StephanieWebb_329A4166Watching over families picnicking

Settings: 35mm, f/16.0 , 1/200s, ISO 200

Exercise 5.3

Look again at Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photograph Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in Part Three. (If you can get to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London you can see an original print on permanent display in the Photography Gallery.) Is there a single element in the image that you could say is the pivotal ‘point’ to which the eye returns again and again? What information does this ‘point’ contain?

Include a short response to Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare in your learning log. You can be as imaginative as you like. In order to contextualise your discussion you might want to include one or two of your own shots, and you may wish to refer to Rinko Kawauchi’s photograph mentioned above or the Theatres series by Hiroshi Sugimoto discussed in Part Three. Write about 150–300 words.

I find it hard to believe that Henri Cartier-Bresson couldn’t see what he was taking when he shot ‘Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare’. The timing of the man’s jump is perfect and would have been hard enough to catch whilst looking – let alone shooting blind.

My eye is initially drawn to the white star formed by the man’s legs, the reflection of his legs and the ladder. This point illustrates the gap between the real and the reflection. Following that, my eyes are drawn to the reflections – of him, of the cemetery railings, of the man in the background and of the buildings to the left of the image. The blurred image of the man himself leaping is one of the final things that I notice.

My response is of a young lad running along the side of the Old Market Square in Nottingham. I could see what I was taking, and timed my shot to get the boy’s foot landing on the ground. My reflection isn’t the full length of the boy, and I have a ‘tick’ shaped gap between the real and the reflection. The boy is oblivious to what’s going on in the background – his main concentration being on his bag of crisps he’s eating.


Exercise 5.2

Select an image by any photographer of your choice and take a photograph in response to it. You can respond in any way you like to the whole image or to just a part of it, but you must make explicit in your notes what it is that you’re responding to. Is it a stylistic device such as John Davies’ high viewpoint, or Chris Steele Perkins’ juxtapositions? Is it the location, or the subject? Is it an idea, such as the decisive moment?
Add the original photograph together with your response to your learning log. Which of the three types of information discussed by Barrett provides the context in this case? Take your time over writing your response because you’ll submit the relevant part of your learning log as part of Assignment Five.

For this exercise, I chose to take a response to a photograph by street photographer Anna Delany. I’d initially intended to copy her shot by taking a similar non-traditionally attractive male walking past a beauty salon, but then a situation presented itself that I grabbed a shot on my mobile phone when in town not intending to take any photos!

This is Anna Delany’s shot:



This is my shot:


The shots are similar in that both are high contrast black and white. Both have a sense of irony on that in Anna’s shot we have someone who is not on the face of it beautiful walking past a beauty salon, whereas in my shot, there’s a homeless man sleeping in front of an advert for furnished office space.

As per the course material “Barrett suggests that we interpret pictures according to three different types of information: information in the picture, information surrounding the picture and information about the way the picture was made. He calls these the internal context, the external context and the original context.”

In terms of what’s in the picture, both the original and the response shot appear to make a statement about society.  The first in terms of what’s recognised as (or in this case seen as the opposite of ) ‘beauty’, the second is a statement on the fact that there’s plenty of luxurious sounding office space for rent, when there’s homeless people sleeping on the streets. Both images could have been staged, but mine definitely wasn’t – even if the homeless man chose his sleeping spot to make a point.

It’s unlikely either shot would be used for a different purpose, however, Anna;s shot could be used in the context of beauty is beyond the surface  I’m sure the man in her image will be seen as beautiful by his family and friends in terms of other characteristics and the relationships he has. My response could be used as a poster for the current political campaign by the Labour Party to draw attention to the increasing gap between the rich and the poor. Or in the media to illustrate a potential ‘rags to riches’ story if the man were to go on to work in the furnished offices, or a dual life of rough sleeping and working in an office. [last accessed: 10/05/2017] [last accessed: 10/05/2017]










I was very satisfied with my feedback for Assignment 4. There were positive comments from my tutor together with examples of how i could improve on my work for the future.

Main learning points are the following:

  • a need to visit the site before taking the shots to better plan for the shots I want to take
  • a need to take a tripod to allow for greater lengths of exposure to allow for more possibilities of presenting depth of field
  • a need to include comments on my contact sheets so that my tutor can follow my thought processes in choosing my selects


The full tutor feedback can be read here:    Stephanie Webb_PH4EYV-4

Exercise 5.1

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring(!). Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.
When you review the set to decide upon a ‘select’, don’t evaluate the shots just according to the idea you had when you took the photographs; instead evaluate it by what you discover within the frame (you’ve already done this in Exercise 1.4).

In other words, be open to the unexpected. In conversation with the author, the photographer Alexia Clorinda expressed this idea in the following way:

Look critically at the work you did by including what you didn’t mean to do. Include the mistake, or your unconscious, or whatever you want to call it, and analyse it not from the point of view of your intention, but because it is there.

For this exercise I chose the subject matter of my music player. It’s an old Sony stereo system that I still use to play records and cassettes on. Music is an important part of my life and whilst the majority of music these days is purely digital, I still like to own a physical object when I buy music.

I don’t own a macro lens for my DSLRs, so I chose to use my iPhone to take this series of images.


Image 1

Depth of field adds interest to the shot, but the needle isn’t visible


Image 2

The needle is visible here, but the angle doesn’t make for a good shot


Image 3

Like Image 1, the shot would be improved if the needle was visible.


Image 4

The needle still isn’t visible, but the inclusion of all the right-hand side of the record makes for a better composed shot


Image 5

I’d improve this by straightening it if it was my favourite shot. The use of colour on the CD and the orange light on the stereo add interest


Image 6

The foreground and the background are out of focus. The shot would be improved by the background (ie the on button) being more out of focus


Image 7

This shot would work better if there was more light on the inside of the cassette deck.


Image 8

This shot of a colourful cassette is a close second in my choice of ‘select’. Depth of field works well, as does the angle at which the shot was taken


Image 9

I had another attempt at capturing the record player’s needle, but in doing that, the record seems too flat


Image 10

This is my ‘select’. The red on the needle arm draws attention to itself. The needle is visible and the depth of field on the spinning record helps draws even more attention to the needle arm.

On Being a Photographer -David Hurn in conversation with Bill Jay

About the Photographer

David Hurn’s approach appears to be chameleon-like (page 32) – blending in with whatever scene he is present in. Unlike some photographers, he enjoys company whilst shooting, however he doesn’t take his mind off his art and can leave his companion talking to air whilst he takes his shot (page 33).

Some Definitions

David Hurn is a British reportage photographer who has covered many events across the world. Hurn prefers the term ‘reportage photographer’ as “it implies a personal account of an observed event with connotations of subjectivity but honesty. It is eye-witness photography.” (page 40).

Hurn prefers the term ‘essay’ to ‘story’. He states “when i talk about the picture or photographic essay I mean a group of images in which each picture is supporting and strengthening all the others; not that the sequencing of the pictures can be read like a string of words.” (page 41).

Selecting A Subject

Hurn states that what transforms a simple record into pictures of lasting merit is “It comes down to the choice of subject. The photographer must have intense curiosity, not just a passing visual interest, in the theme of the pictures. This curiosity leads to intense examination, reading, talking, research and many, many failed attempts over a long period of time.” (page 44).

Hurn suggests carrying a notebook to write down ideas of things which interest. He then suggests cutting the list down by asking these questions:

  • Is it visual?
  • Is it practical?
  • Is it a subject about which I know enough?
  • Is it interesting to others? (page 46).

He also suggests keeping the topic as specific as possible (page 48).

Hurn makes interesting observations about how the link between love and knowledge of a subject matter makes a good photograph. Hegives the example of Stephen Dalton’s photographs of insects in flight (page 55).

Shooting the Single Picture

“There are two fundamental elements in all picture-taking: where to stand and when to release the shutter” (page 57).

“Photography is a matter of tiny details” (page 59).

“In all cases the pressing of the button is a reasonably continuous process, because you never know if the next fraction of a second is going to reveal an even more significant, poignant, visually stronger image than the previous one” (page 60).

Hurn’s approach is to wait through pregnant pauses, anticipate moments of interest and then shoot continuously, adjusting position to get the shot. Contact sheets show a staccato of images. You can see the intent of the photographer. (page 62).

“A painter can compose the main elements and then add the significant details in precisely the right places. In photography, you cannot do that. You are hoping, almost by instinct, that the small details which make or break the picture are going to be in the right positions.” (page 66)

Creating Contacts

Hurn describes how valuable a contact sheet is. he is speaking in the context of a film camera as opposed to a digital camera, however the purpose of a contact sheet is much the same for their type of camera.

He describes the following four purposes:

  • “dear diary” pictures which act as visual reminders
  • acts as a learning process
  • convenient for marking images for easy future retrieval
  • allows understanding of others’ work/process (page 73).

Hurn states that he likes to put aside the contact sheets for a few weeks to distance himself from the emotion of the picture-taking moment. (page 76) – this is something I should definitely consider doing!

The Picture Essay

“Photography is about communication” (page 84)

“Once you know the number of images which will complete the essay, you must divide your topic or theme into that many picture-headings. List them, and alongside each heading jot down the words: “overall/establishment picture,” “medium distance/relationship picture,” and close-up picture.” (page 85)