Category Archives: General – self directed

A perfect end


Mahbub Jokhio: In the City of Lost Times
Exhibition at The Tetley, Leeds

In April I visited The Tetley, Leeds, to see Mahbub Jokhio’s exhibition; a link to the post I wrote after my visit is here.

This evening, six weeks later, I was very surprised to see a comment on my blog  from Mahbub himself about my post which said that he had enjoyed it and thanked me for my comments. What a lovely man to have taken the time to comment on my blog.

I came away from Mahbub’s exhibition thinking around graveyards and loss and potential projects and I printed different images of them from the Internet because it felt as though I may be on the cusp of something for the future; Mahbub’s work had interested and inspired me.

Receiving this comment has made me feel really engaged with photography as a community where everyone can learn and share even if the distance between people is as much as 5,000 miles away in Lahore. I felt honoured actually.

It is interesting that my very first ‘Square Mile’ assignment in my first year (Expressing your vision) included a graveyard image.

Like Mahbub, I don’t see graveyards as ‘being very scary places’ (YouTube, 2018 1.42). I see them as places that communicate history and respect. Also like Mahbub where ‘this  exhibition is the second one in which Mahbub has explored graveyards and he admits he’s not done with them yet’, I may also revisit them in the future. (Vulture, 2018).

Interestingly, Mahbub has a literature background, as do I. Mahbub is often influenced by ‘literary themes that he reads’ (YouTube, 2018 1.08) and I can also relate to this. A particular favourite exercise of mine was to chose a poem and interpret it through images. I chose Coleridge’s Kubla Khan shown here and often look for literary inspiration when considering photography.


Vulture, A. (2018). ‘In the city of lost times’ and ‘These silences are all the words’ – Two new art exhibitions at The Tetley, Leeds as part of #NewNorthSouth – Asian Culture Vulture. [online] Asian Culture Vulture. Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2018].

YouTube. (2018). Three Exhibitions at the Tetley: February – April 2018. [online] Available at: [Accessed 28 May 2018].


It’s a learning curve – colour problems and printing

Colour and printing problems

As assessment gets nearer I have started sending my images for printing via an online service. I have always been very pleased with their printing and their service but one image from my very first assignment (two sides of the story) came back very grey.

This is the image as it shows on my blog:

However, when it came back from the printing lab it seemed much more washed out and lacking in clarity and contrast. This is where I have a lot to learn. I have noticed that the dpi for this image is only 118 and not the 300 of my other images. I haven’t cropped this image so I have no idea whatsoever what has caused this or indeed whether it is this to blame.

I am aware of colour calibration and it may be something to do with this. I am also aware that to prepare this image in black and white I merely removed the saturation from a colour raw image and I now know that this is not perhaps the best way to achieve a good result.

Another thought is that I should perhaps have used exposure compensation to prevent the camera from interpreting the dark scene as mid tone grey. I have a great deal to learn regarding colour and calibration so intend to make sure I am informed before I start my next module.

Actually I think that making mistakes is the quickest way to learn.

Photography and painting

The Duke of Edinburgh by Ralph Heimans

The Duke of Edinburgh at Windsor Castle

This is a painting of the Duke of Edinburgh by artist Ralph Heimans and I don’t really know exactly why I want to include it in my photography blog but I am aware that my initial impression of the painting was that it was ‘really good’ as it looked like a photograph. It led me to look into the connection between painting and photography and how the two mediums have influenced each other over the years.

Photography at first was seen as ‘second best’ to painting (because it was ‘easier’ to make a picture with a camera than with easels, paints and brushes). So, to prove the artistic value of their photographs, photographers wanted to make their images look like paintings and took inspiration from them. But then, the artists realised that they needed to produce paintings that looked like photographs as the detail was superior.

Essentially what I am trying to say is how I am finding that photography gets me thinking about other arts and I frequently find links to painting  (and to literature) during the course of my photography studies.

It gets me thinking that’s all.

Project Proposal and Evaluation Form

Project Proposal and Evaluation Form

While reading one of the essential texts for this module, Behind the Image (Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana) I came across a suggested evaluation form and have adapted the one in the book to suit my needs.  I will use this as a way of pre-planning my assignments, evaluating the good and the bad and documenting a way to move forward and improve.

I have created my own version of the form as a WORD document and will use it as part of my overall assignment process. See my form below.


My version of Fox and Caruana’s form on page 101 of Behind the Image

I completed my form, on this occasion, in retrospect regarding the Illiteracy assignment that I have just completed. This was a test really to see how the form worked in practice.

Page 1


Page 2

Page 3


If any OCA students out there would like to ‘copy’ my form and use it for themselves, then please feel free.


Fox, A. and Natasha, C. (2012). Behind the image. Lausanne [Switzerland]: AVA Pub.

Recording ideas – how I intend to improve

Recording ideas and inspirations

‘Ideas are fragile’ and ‘are liable to vanish from the imagination as abruptly as they appeared’

(Fox and Caruana, 2012, p29)

I often have quite a few photography ideas throughout the day and in the middle of the night and then … when I get home from work, or get up in the morning … I have completely forgotten them! So, a while ago, I bought three notebooks and three pens and put a set in my handbag, a set on my bedside table and a set in my study so that when an idea comes to me, I can write it down and there you go. Easy.  Except, for some reason, all three of the books ended up in my study so, when I was out and about and looking in my handbag, or whenever that thought came in the middle of the night; well there was no sign of a convenient notebook.

So, today is the day that I am going to get my act together.

  • I have just relocated said notebooks and pens to their three rightful places. I have also just read one of the set texts (Behind the Image, Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana) and have referred back to page 29 ‘recording ideas’. Here it recommends that you ‘keep a notebook with you at all times (tick) and populate it with every creative thought’ you have. Even though you may not use that thought immediately, it is  captured for future use.  (Fox and Caruana, 2012)
  • I will continue to maintain my ‘to do’ list as I find this easy and extremely valuable. Currently it has on it the following: (1) increase exposures in assignment images, (2) Prepare posts on books that I have read, (3) Prepare post on Uta Barth, (4) insert images in ‘studio lighting’ post and ten other ‘jobs’ This works very well for me, keeps me on track and ensures I don’t miss anything.
  • I will create new posts as appropriate when an idea comes to me, even if that post remains blank for a while with nothing more than a title and a couple of sentences. This will form a reminder of something I want to return to or include in a piece of work.
  • I have collected quite a few ideas in the form of articles, practice photographs, other people’s images, mind maps, and so on, that I have slotted between two pages of my sketchbook to keep them flat. I will now do what I have been meaning to do for several months and  stick them in, to make it easier for me to refer to them. I think of my sketchbook as a way of recording what I like, what I have learned, ideas that I have had and a place to collect images, quotations, lists, notes and ideas for future use as well as a record that I can look back on in years to come.
  • Mind maps. I like doing these and find them extremely useful, not only for encouraging creative thought but also for organising research and learning; to consolidate the course modules and so on. I think that I am a visual learner (although this contradicts with my complete and utter lack of any sense of direction) so I benefit from mind maps to give me an overall image of what I am thinking or learning.

I am generally very organised but I just need to fine tune my working process and by using my current notebooks, sketchbooks, to-do lists,  blog posts and mind maps more effectively I hope to capture and record more of my ideas and thoughts.


Fox, A. and Caruana, N. (2012). Behind the image. Lausanne [Switzerland]: AVA Pub.

Studio lighting – extra curricular eight week course

Studio photography course

I have just enrolled on an eight week course at a local further education college to learn about studio lighting. I think a lot of time was wasted and I feel that I should have learned more in the time we had but I have a general ‘feel’ for the subject now that I didn’t have before.

Introduction to the studios

I now know what a studio looks like, how flash triggers work with radio transmitters, and the names of some of the lighting options. I am aware of backdrops, reflectors, soft boxes, snoots, still life tables, light tents and light meters.

High and low key work

We did some high key work to produce bright images and some low key work to produce dark images in minimal lighting. I will research more of this at home as the course was not sufficient really to give me anything but the basics.

Regarding a high key set up, I have started to understand how to set exposure and adjust lighting in the 2:1 lighting ratio so the light illuminating the backdrop is twice as strong as the front lighting in order to overexpose the white backdrop, whilst ensuring that the model remains correctly exposed. I was interested to understand how the ‘house’ lighting doesn’t affect the exposure and neither does the shutter speed as it is the flash firing at short duration that determines the exposure.

Regarding low key work we set models against a black backdrop. The lighting from the left side creates sharp contrast around the cheeks and the folds of the model’s jumper; and the softer fill light flatters the face. The model’s expression certainly adds to the appeal of the photograph and I chose to change it to monochrome, post camera, to add to the flattering effect.

Tent lighting and shiny objects

Our task was to photograph a shiny silver teapot, avoiding any glare and reflection. We used soft lighting and a light tent to facilitate this. By placing sheets of black cardboard at either side of the object (within the tent) we saw how to give definition to the edges when set against a white backdrop.

Photographing glass

Glass is tricky as it is both reflective and transparent. The main concern was eliminating those hot spots and reflections that can occur. It is necessary to use either top, bottom or back lighting in order to do this and not to light it directly. Our lighting was from the back in this instance. I am sure that experts have a more sophisticated studio than this!

Light Painting

We went in to the studio and set our cameras to ‘manual’. With tripods, and with ISO set at 100, we set shutter speeds to five seconds. We then adjusted the aperture to correctly expose our images. The tutor then used his mobile phone and waved the torch around in front of him so that we produced black images with lines of light in a random pattern.

He then passed a light around the contours of one of the students. Still with shutter speeds of five seconds, we captured the outline of a person as the five seconds was long enough to capture the light as it travelled round the body.

Strobe lighting

The next thing was to fire the studio light three times during a five second interval and take images of the tutor as he moved around the studio. By moving his position we could obtain three different portrait shots within the same image as the studio was lit up three separate times by the flash firing in quick succession.

Light trails 

We did a bit of work on light trails standing on a bridge overlooking a dual carriageway at night and used long exposures to create light trails from the cars’ brake and head lights. My GorillaPod was secured to the bridge railings to ensure that the image was not effected by camera shake.

I  also experimented with using a shorter exposure to create sharper images of the headlights to create black images with dots of light.

I have increased the exposure of this image, below, post camera, to produce a dark image but with cars and road  quite visible. The golden light of the underpass draws the eye into the image.



We briefly considered the use of complimentary (opposite) colours such as blue and yellow to show colour contrast. The result is a high contrast vibrant image like this one where colours appear brighter when used together.

Image courtesy of Pixabay

I am reminded of an image that I took for a previous exercise, below, where the small hints of blue against yellow are striking:

… and another one of my images, but this time these are not opposite colours they are similar colours and as such give a calmer feel. I think our very brief class discussion of colour has made me more aware and I will ensure that I think more about colour in future projects.

Vincent van Gogh was very aware of contrasting colours:

The Starry Night 1889



and this is some of the group in action ……



Anything that gets me using my camera is good, but I would have liked more constructive time in the studio. However, I have gained some knowledge of how a studio works and in the basics of lighting set ups and have been introduced in to an area of photography that I previously knew nothing about. I am pleased to add to my general understanding but I need to research all this much further and put it into practice as well.

Ian Beesley (Big Big Camera)

The Big Big Camera

Ian Beesley was a guest at the National Coal Mining Museum today. Unfortunately, due to work commitments I was unable to visit but my husband works there and he took photographs on his phone on my behalf.

My tutor last year, Chris Coekin, suggested that I look at the work of Ian Beesley and I researched him during ‘Expressing your Vision’ here

Todays visit was in connection with a big big camera. The Big Big Camera was originally used by wallpaper manufacturers who needed large process cameras – with negatives about 20″ square. Beesley was interested in restoring the camera to full working order.

It is 100 years old and measures 5 feet high and 4 feet wide.


The Big Big Camera

Man Size

A huge lens

Quite a spectacle

Beesley said that ‘Wherever we took this camera people were fascinated by its scale and by the effort involved in making just one image. It has been great fun and a real challenge getting this far and I’m hoping to produce a full scale exhibition with this camera eventually.’ (Gallery Oldham, 2017)



Gallery Oldham. (2017). Developments with our big big camera – Gallery Oldham. [online] Available at: [Accessed 26 Oct. 2017].

Idea (visual pollution)

Idea (visual pollution)

Whilst driving home from a nearby town I was stuck by how ugly it was. There were advertising signs, shop signage, graffiti, litter, power lines, billboards, hoardings, shoddy manmade fences and boundaries and other eyesores.

The images below were taken quickly with my phone camera from my position as a passenger in a car.

I am often affected by this ‘visual overload’ and often consider how ugly ‘man made’ constructions can be and it needn’t be like that. There are spelling mistakes, glaring colours and apostrophe abuse and a whole host of ugly things that we are forced to look at day in and day out. If one day I could present a series of images that made these polluters think twice and reconsider just one of their signs then it will be a project worth considering.