Category Archives: Exercises

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]









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.

Exercise 4.5

Make a Google Images search for ‘landscape’, ‘portrait’, or any ordinary subject such as ‘apple’ or ‘sunset’. Add a screengrab of a representative page to your learning log and note down the similarities you find between the images.

Now take a number of your own photographs of the same subject, paying special attention to the ‘Creativity’ criteria at the end of Part One. You might like to make the subject appear ‘incidental’, for instance by using juxtaposition, focus or framing. Or you might begin with the observation of Ernst Haas, or the ‘camera vision’ of Bill Brandt.

Add a final image to your learning log, together with a selection of preparatory shots. In your notes describe how your photograph differs from your Google Images source images of the same subject.

I chose to Google images of cars. The following screengrab is my result:


The thing I noticed with these images is that they vary from being purely the car with no background, then there are a few shots of cars on the road, and a couple with people in the car. Apart from the images with people in the cars, the cars were whole cars. The images with people in only showed part of the car.

I took my Canon 5D mkIII and a Tamron 28-75mm lens with me to Tesco car park where I took a few shots of my car after doing my shopping as the store was closing.

Aside from demonstrating that my car needs cleaning!, my shots show only part of my car – concentrating on either the angles of the construction of the car, or composing the car with the Tesco store in the background in soft focus.

The images with short focal length – eg of the badge and the Hyundai name quickly go out of focus – in fact not all of the Hyundai name is in focus.

My shots differ from the ‘classic’ images of cars in that they are not trying to sell the car, more trying to show its angles or it in context of its surroundings.




Exercise 4.4

Use a combination of quality, contrast, direction and colour to light an object in order to reveal its form. For this exercise we recommend that you choose a natural or organic object such as an egg, stone, vegetable or plant, or the human face or body, rather than a man-made object. Man-made or cultural artefacts can be fascinating to light but they also contain another layer of meaning requiring interpretation by the photographer; this exercise is just about controlling the light to reveal form. You don’t need a studio light for this exercise; a desk lamp or even window light will
be fine, although a camera flash that you can use remotely is a useful tool. The only proviso is that you can control the way the light falls on the subject.

Take some time to set up the shot. The background for your subject will be crucial. For a smallish object, you can tape a large sheet of paper or card to the wall as an ‘infinity curve’ which you can mask off from the main light source by pieces of card. You don’t need to use a curve if you can manage the ‘horizon line’ effectively – the line where the surface meets background. Taking a high viewpoint will make the surface the background, in which case the surface you choose will be important to the shot.

Exposure times will be much longer than you’re used to (unless you’re using flash)
and metering and focusing will be challenging. The key to success is to keep it
simple. The important thing is to aim for four or five unique shots – either change
the viewpoint, the subject or the lighting for each shot.

Add the sequence to your learning log. Draw a simple lighting diagram for each of
your shots showing the position of the camera, the subject and the direction of the
key light and fill. Don’t labour the diagrams; quick sketches with notes will be just
as useful as perfect graphics. In your notes try to describe any similarities between
the qualities of controlled lighting and the daylight and ambient artificial light shots
from Exercises 4.2 and 4.3.

Completing this exercise tied in well with a Portrait Photography Workshop I participated in. This workshop helped me understand how to build up the lighting for a photograph one step at a time. During the workshop we learnt several techniques, and I’ve chosen my favourite sequence from that day.

Image 1 – model in position


Image 2 – white background, flash coming from top left-hand side as you look at the photo. The model’s chin and the right-side of the image are under-exposed.


Image 3 – light is added below by the model holding a white light-reflecting board to light up her chin. Her hair to the right of the image is still dark.


Image 4 – a flash is added for the right-hand side of the image. The lighting is looking a lot more complete.


Image 5 – a white board is added to the right-hand side of the image to complete the lighting set up.


Image 6 – between shots – model holding white light-reflecting board


Image 7 – Final version of the portrait. Cropped version of image 5, however, for the perfect portrait, editing of her lipstick and stray hairs would be necessary.


Exercise 4 – Project 4

Rut Blees Luxemburg’s work is especially interesting as she not only captures the many aspects of artificial light at night, but uses unusual angles to give a different perspective (Vertiginous Exhilaration, 1995) to add an air of mystery . Her use of lights in reflections of a puddle for the Cockfosters tube station, makes an everyday sight interesting, whilst in In Deeper and A Girl From Elsewhere, her use of depth of field and shutter speed captures the feeling of movement in the liquids.

Brassai’s series of photos Paris by Night, are a beautifully composed set of images using the available light to highlight key parts of the main subject matter. The graininess of the images adds to the authenticity of the images and the subjects they are portraying.

Sato Shintaro’s use of the time between dusk and dark to photograph neon lights before it’s dark produces a series of images that are clear and vibrant with coloured light filling the frame.

This research has helped me understand that ‘night’ shots don’t have to be shot in the dark, in fact at dusk can be more useful to avoid large areas of black in the shots. Graininess from high ISO can add value to the image, but as with any photography, composition is key.




Exercise 4.3

Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a short sequence of shots (‘beauty’ is, of course, a subjective term). The correct white balance setting will be important; this can get tricky –but interesting – if there are mixed light sources of different colour temperatures in the same shot. You can shoot indoors or outside but the light should be ambient rather than camera flash. Add the sequence to your learning log. In your notes try to describe the difference in the quality of light from the daylight shots in Exercise 4.2.

One of my hobbies is photographing live music. Occasionally I shoot at Bodega Social, Nottingham and I often have difficulties dealing with the light there – particularly for some of the bands who only have back lights and smoke effects. Dystopian Future Movies are one such band. An additional problem is that the main light source tends to be front centre stage, so a band where the guitarist and bassist both perform towards the sides of the stage means even less light on the performers.

All images were shot with my Canon 5D Mkiii and a Tamron 28-75mm lens on settings 1/80, f3.2 ISO 6400


In this first image of the whole band, the rear moving lights are converging on the drummer making him invisible. Meanwhile the bassist on the left would almost be a silhouette if she didn’t have a white shirt and white bass. The lead singer/guitarist has her face and hair highlighted with her long black skirt blending int the background on the right. dystopianfuturemovies_stephaniewebb_329a0469

In this image the moving lights are all crossing to the left of the image leading to the right side of the drummer’s arms, hair and hat being lit. The light also accentuates the metal of the cymbals and drums.


Again, the lead singer/guitarist has her face and hair highlighted with her long black skirt blending into the background at the bottom and right of the image. The lighting at the back produces an almost halo effect to her hair.


The lack of available light meant shooting at a high ISO and as a result the images are quite grainy. The main light source being behind the performers leads to interesting highlights in the photographs – such as for the guest guitarist’s hair in this final image, whilst the rest of him is virtually a silhouette.

The natural light observed in Exercise 4.2 was very different. For a start, although it was a dull light due to the weather conditions, it illuminated a much larger area – the lights in this exercise are directed at specific area, and their colour adds interest to the shots. The direction of the artificial lights highlights particular area of the shot – eg the drummer’s arms in the second shot, and the guitarist’s upper body and guitar in the third shot.

To summarise, directional lighting can add interest – whether that be natural light or artificial. Whilst lighting at small gigs can be difficult to work with as it has the challenge of not being consistent, the effects can be worth it.

Exercise 4.2

In manual mode take a sequence of shots of a subject of your choosing at different times on a single day. It doesn’t matter if the day is overcast or clear but you need a good spread of times from early morning to dusk. You might decide to fix your viewpoint or you might prefer to ‘work into’ your subject, but the important thing is to observe the light, not just photograph it. Add the sequence to your learning log together with a timestamp from the time/date info in the metadata. In your own words, briefly describe the quality of light in each image.

I tried this exercise on a few days, but each day I chose was overcast and the light did not seem interesting to photograph – limited shadows and reflections. My final attempt was on 6 January 2017. All images were taken from my doorstep with a Canon 5D Mkiii and a Tamron 28-75mm lens.


Image 1 – 07:58. f/5.0, 1/100s, ISO 3200 28mm

In this image, it is still dusk. the light is minimal and the car in the car park’s headlights are bright.  I didn’t adjust for colour balance.


Image 2 – 09:05 . f/7.1, 1/200s, ISO 400 28mm

An hour later, it’s daylight, but not very bright. It’s clear it’s going to be another overcast day with dark clouds.


Image 3 –  09:55. f/8.0, 1/320s, ISO 400 28mm

A little brighter now, but not much. A thinning of the dark clouds next to the flats shows a brighter piece of light coming through.


Image 4 –  11:17. f/2.8, 1/1600s, ISO 400 28mm

The clouds are thinner now, allowing more light. There’s a reflection of the light on the roof of my car in the bottom right of the frame.


Image 5 –  11:59. f/3.2, 1/1600s, ISO 400 28mm

Cloudier skies leading to less light again.


Image 6 –  12:52. f/8.0, 1/0s4, ISO 400 28mm

This shot is over-exposed, so shouldn’t really be included. You can see the mini leaving the car park has headlights on as it was still quite dull and dark despite being an hour after midday.


Image 7 –  14:04. f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 400 28mm

Possibly the brightest it got all day. Still no shadows, but a few light reflections on the roof of my car and the silver car opposite.


Image 8 –  15:01. f/8.0, 1/60s, ISO 400 28mm

Dark clouds again as the light drops further.


Image 9 –  15:52. f/2.8, 1/160s, ISO 1000 28mm

The sun is setting and it’s starting to get dark. I didn’t adjust for colour balance.


Image 10 –  16:54. f/2.8, 1/40s, ISO 6400 28mm

The sun has set. the only light coming from street lights, security lights and residential windows.

Exercise 4.1

Set your camera to any of the auto or semi-auto modes. Photograph a dark tone (such as a black jacket), a mid-tone (the inside of a cereal packet traditionally makes a useful ‘grey card’) and a light tone (such as a sheet of white paper), making sure that the tone fills the viewfinder frame (it’s not necessary to focus). Add the shots to your learning log with quick sketches of the histograms and your observations.

Set your camera to manual mode. Now you can see your light meter! The midtone exposure is indicated by the ‘0’ on the meter scale with darker or lighter exposures as – or + on either side. Repeat the exercise in manual mode, this time adjusting either your aperture or shutter to place the dark, mid and light tones at their correct positions on the histogram. The light and dark tones shouldn’t fall off either the left or right side of the graph. Add the shots to your learning log with sketches of their histograms and your observations.

I found this exercise difficult – even when following the instructions, I found it difficult to photograph white – my resulting image not being white, but more grey! The distortion around the corners by the lens also became apparent.



White histogram:




Midtone histogram:




Black histogram:


Exercise 3.3


Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do) where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes).
Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together, all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to your learning log.

I tried taking a photo from my bedroom window. The first thing I noticed was that my windows need cleaning! From the window  I could see the flats opposite and some parked cars, looking down I could see my car on the drive and my garden to the right in desperate need of attention. Looking further forward, I could see the warehouse buildings, bare trees in the flats’ car park moving gently, and even further back, the railway bridge with cars driving over it. I could also see the green flag advertising for a new housing development moving in the breeze. The weather was cloudy and there was a slight drizzle so the sky looked a dull pale grey with just the black lines of power cables breaking it up.

The photo I took with a 28mm lens has a much smaller field of vision. My garden and my car at the front of my house didn’t make it into the shot.