Photographic Learning From My First Visit To The Ballet

Northern Ballet have produced Jayne Eyre (seen here), which I went to see at Leeds Grand last night.

The last time that I read Jayne Eyre was over twenty years ago, which meant that I had no recollection of the storyline. However, the ballet was so well choreographed and performed that it came back to me scene by scene.

I felt sad and cried, I felt angry, and I laughed. Such a moving and convincing performance.

My seat was in the upper balcony, slightly to the left of stage and that meant I had a good perspective for some technical analysis.

Choreography uses the same visual, placement and use of space that is used in photography.

Diagonals were often used, either with a group of dancers (front corner to opposing rear corner), or by two characters to create visual tension with my eyes moving back and forth between the two.

Foreground, mid-ground and background were used effectively. There were a couple of scenes in which there was a lot of movement across the whole of the available space, but not often. When the action took place in the background then there may have been one performer in the foreground. This gave a sense of space and perspective.

There were other occasions when the performance was taking place at the front of stage, and those dancers in the background barely moved. They provided a visual context to the rest of the action.

Use of scenery and props were relevent and limited to when there was a need to alert the viewer to a change of setting.

It was also clear that costume and colour was relevent to the social status/age/emplorment and personality of the character, as well as reflecting the change of social status for Jayne.

Key learning

Make use of space by allowing it to be there.

Emotion is portrayed by body language, clothing, lighting and props.

Make use of background appropriately – if the action/subject is in the background then have a touch of visual contrast in the foreground and vice versa.

Distractions – does it need to be in the scene. If it doesn’t then remove it or change perspective if possible. There are some occasions where distractions can be deliberately used to create tension, confusion and movement.

Props can be used to create the setting, to demonstrate personality (portrait/fashion) and to divide available space so the eye is drawn in to one part of the photo.

Lighting can be used to create mood, to alter emotion engagement, to highlight, to obscure, and can be used in an abstract manner to provide a hint to the viewer without being directive.

Planning. Having a photographic eye is no different from choreography in visual or performance arts. There are times when performance is ad lib as in photography, but often having a plan, even if it’s just a vision in the mind can ensure that a photograph is taken just at the right moment.

As I begin to move into making the political/social themed photography that I want to make, I am gaining more of an understanding about the necessity of planning. Test photos, beginning a project then realising it isn’t right, going out with my camera and taking photos for fun – these are as important as mind maps and written exploration of ideas. These ways of planning are a photographers dress rehearsal.

My first experience of ballet was mesmerising. Viewing the world through the eyes of a photographer is becoming more natural.




Pleased With Progress – Colour Verus Content – Viewing Photography From My Internal Frame of Reference

Two recent projects that I have completed, as a part of my studies, have given me a boost. They are the beginnings of the kind of photography that I wish to make. A Hermits Journey (here)  is a narrative that expressed part of my current life experiences, and combined text with photography. Sick of Bulimia (seen here) is a conceptual sequence exploring that particular eating disorder.

A Hermits Journey

The snow provided me with the opportunity to make photos which could convey the mood that I was looking to express, and the use text gave me the oportunity to present a visual and emotional journey. There were two influences that I used to help me to develop the idea for this work. Chloe Halstead, an OCA Photography and Creative Arts degree student, has produced Snippets, for assignment three. Snippets is a photograph (which can be seen here) that has text written onto it. The text is snippets of conversations that she heard. The narrative is broken in respect that brief glimpses of heard conversation do not provide a continuous narrative, but viewing the progress of her assignment sparked the potential for using text as a part of photography, rather than only as an introduction to a series.

Telling Stories by Judy Bach (seen here) has been an incredible experience to view. The story is told from a first person perspective and begins with the narrator, Florence Fountain, finding a box of photos in her mothers former home. Using appropriated and found images, Bach has developed a story which explores Florence’s family history. The use of photography and text has been both emotionally moving and convincing. Telling Stories was produced by Bach for Assignment Five Digital Image and Culture (seen here).

My initial plan was to create a sequence that was purely a physical journey, but as I began my walk I realised that I could take the opportunity to express a little of who I am and what the journey represents to me. Whilst I was walking I considered what I would like to say in relation to the scenes that I was photographing. A five hour walk left me with a lot of photos, and the selection process wasn’t easy. However, because I had considered the personal importance of the scenes as I was photographing them, some sections were quite straight forward.

Sick of Bulimia

The conceptual sequence that I produced for exercise 3.3, Sick of Bulimia, is photography that I am very proud to have produced. The idea has been nurtured over many months, with test photos taken last year. Having reviewed Self Burial by Keith Arnatt (seen here) I returned to my ideas in relation to bulimia, and decided to develop this into a conceptual sequence. The power of Sick of Bulimia is due, in my opinion, to my personal experiences. The photos are an expression of my emotions and thought patterns, and the emotion is evident in the series.

Two key learning points come across from these projects; Studying the developmental process of other photographers is a key to learning to turn an idea into a body of work. Halstead and Bach’s work has included reasearch, experimentation, development of ideas, critique from peers and tutors, re-working and excluding some photography that did not work. The other point is that photography which I have an emotional connection to, and that I feel passionate about, will be of higher quality and be more evocative than work that I approach nonchalantly.

Colour vs Content

I follow many student blogs and I recent commented upon the learning log of OCA photography degree student Tanya Keane. She was comparing two photos from groups on opposing sides of the abortion debate (eighth amendment) in the Republic of Ireland. The comment that I had made was in regard to the exposure of the two photos (seen here). Keane disagreed with my reflection and explained why. This gave me an opportunity to explore in some detail my confusion about colour, vibrance and exposure.

I am drawn to colour. You will see me out and about in blue, red, purple, green and other coloured trousers, and my jumpers and shirts are always colourful (not that they often go together). Much of my previous photography has been high contrast, colourful and  with added vibrance. One comment that I received a while ago was that a photo looked like it had been processed as HDR, it wasnt, but I do produce similar photography with the use of Lightroom. How I view photography is affected by this. My initial attraction is to colour, and then progresses onto the content.

Once I had completed my presentation for Sick of Bulimia, I sought critique and feed back, and it was suggested that I try different layouts, and a white background instead of the midtone grey in the original. The photos with the white background appeared brighter and were more prominent, however the series with the grey background meant that I felt drawn into the photos, and connected with them on a deeper level. I can make use of this practical experience to guide me with developing photographs in the future.

Frame of reference when viewing photography

We all have a personal belief system that has developed from our experiences. My mental and emotion frame of reference informs how I view the world around me. Having realised the importance of making photography that means something to me, which is developed from my frame of reference, I have discovered where there can also be a drawback.

Viewing others photography from my own frame of reference is completely natural, and I particularly enjoy reviewing the work of photographers. Once I have written my initial thoughts, I try to get into the photographers head and see what they are wanting to convey. I fall short of the mark but it helps me to see things from a viewpoint which is different from mine. My frame of reference is humanistic, ideological, left-wing and sometimes borders on anti-establishment. This is limiting when it comes to analysing the photography of others who have created their art from a different internal construct. To have realised this at an early stage of my studies is very useful indeed, and will broaden how I relate to the work of other photographers, and hopefully make me a more rounded individual.



Bach, J; 2018; Assignment Five Digital Image and Culture; Online AT: (accessed on 10/03/2018)

Bach, J; 2018; Telling Stories; Online AT: (accessed on 10/03/2018)

Keane, T; 2018; Two very different images taken from the media; Online AT: (accessed on 10/03/2018)

Halstead, C; 2018; Assignment Three handwriting; Online AT: (accessed on 10/03/2018)

Photography In Snow

The recent weather has been a wonderful opportunity to get out with my camera and explore snow.

I had heard that a camera on auto will underexpose as a way of compensating for the brightness of the snow, and this means that you lose detail and texture.

The morning was very cloudy and I shoot in manual rather than auto, and was aware that setting the white balance to cloudy would add a touch of warmth to the photo.

The best way to learn is explore and experiment, so I bracketed most of the photos that I took. This has given me the opportunity to learn how I should expose in snow, to get the results that I want.

Two mistakes – I only used cloudy for my white balance and also only used spot metering. This means I’ve only garnered partial information relative to exposing photographs in snow.

I prefer spot metering so that I can expose the subject/object correctly, which is great if you have one. This has worked very well on specific photos, and I’m happy to make adjustments in Lightroom to develop the background. Evaluative (centre weighted or scene) may have been more appropriate for general landscape/seascape, especially when trying to shoot weather fronts over the sea.

On the whole I have preferred the under exposed photos, but that’s because of the drama in the sky. The correctly exposed photos were better for the subject and for the snow.

Were my photos a true reflection on what the conditions were on the day? Not the ones I have selected. Why? The feel and mood are personal expressions of my journey and the walk I took, under exposed, moody skies, drama, emotion – they present a narrative which I will present on my blog either tomorrow or Saturday. It will fit in with my coursework on sequence.

Although I stuck with the cloudy setting I do know how to change the colour temperature of a photo using white balance and camera, and believe that a touch of warmth was correct on the day. To make the clouds any cooler or warmer would have looked unnatural.

Centre weighted or scene average could have improved the land and seascapes, but again I feel competent in how I can develop those photos to enhance the scene around what I exposed for, other than the weather fronts, which turned out poor.

If You’re not shooting in auto then you can alter the exposure to capture the detail that you want, snow, cloud, weather, landscape.

Biggest mistake, not checking the ISO, which meant I could have had much lower iso and had more control over shutter speed and capture more movement. Five hours of photography and didn’t remember to check and alter my ISO. I just assumed the quick shutter speeds were due to the snow. A school boy error that I feel stupid admitting. But hey. This is my learning log and reflects my learning.




A Time Of Mixed Motivation

Today has been a very positive and engaging day for me. The project that I am planning for exercise 3.2 – Typology using street art and grafitti is developing. As well as producing the photomontage, I intend to create an HD video, and have specific music that I would like to accompany the photos. Great music that requires me to seek license consent. The emails have been sent, and it has not been easy to find contact details for the record labels, but I have got there in the end.

Exercise 3.9 – A familiar place. Having originally said that I don’t have a significant place, reflection has helped me to realise that I have a few. The industrial North East of England, where I like to explore traditional heavy industrial architecture (Blade runner esk and very familiar to Port Talbot), and then of course there is Redcar. I love Redcar. Yay to the paradox of traditional green-house gas producing industry alongside the wind-farm that I love and adore.

Although I have been out with my camera, exploring and having fun, the weather is putting me off from visiting Durham or possible Leeds/Bradford  for exercise 3.1 – Searching. Thats the small lack of motivation.

Sociology is important to me, and I feel strongly about gun crime and culture. I wrote a short essay called Gun Control Versus Mental Health which has been published by The Sociological Mail and can be seen here (thank you Shaneka). This essay has not been a photographic like my others, however it is important for my development and creativity. Photography, research and writing are all important to me.

My goal for tomorrow:- to create the background for my photomontage in Photoshop, create the 3D style writing that I will lay the images over, and begin to arrange the photography. The final piece will be 240cm by 135cm, and this will mean research into using a large enough scratch disk for Photoshop to be able to save the PSD’s as I go along.

Time for a nap.

Initial Ideas For Part Three – Communication: Narrative

My aim with this section of coursework is to explore themes and ideas that are relevent to me, and where I feel that I can have a voice through photography. Although I have these ideas I am aware that they may alter or change as my exploration of the coursework develops.

  • Exercise 3.1 Searching – Visit Durham, stay for a couple of nights and explore
  • Exercise 3.2 Series – series as typology, street art and graffiti presented as a photomontage – although I have some of the photography but will need to make more, this is a large project and will need to be done throughout the rest of this coursework, to be completed before the assignment, if this is not possible I will present it as an ongoing project for further development
  • Exercise 3.3 Sequence – unsure – an exploration of the spaces used by the homeless community
  • Exercise 3.4 Documenting change – An Alternate view of the Northern Powerhouse – closed shops in the centre of North Eastern towns
  • Exercise 3.5 Photographs from text – Leisure – William Henry Davies
  • Exercise 3.6 Mixing genres – unsure
  • Exercise 3.7 A significant object – my gohonzon and buddhist alter
  • Exercise 3.8 Re-phtographing – Extending upon assignment 2 via self portrait, as an expression of and challenge to my idea of self
  • Exercise 3.9 A significant place – unsure – I have no significant place
  • Exercise 3.10 A significant portrait – Work alongside a person who is homeless and explore how they would like to represent themselves in a formal portrait. I will purchase any clothing or props that they feel is relevent to them – I have a photographic relationship with a few homeless people already, so I can build upon the trust already developed
  • Assignment three A Narrative Photograph
  • 1 a staged photo – gambling and its human toll
  • 2 a narrative sequence – binge drinking from preloading to vomiting on the way home

Stopped And Questioned By The Police Whilst Photographing On Saturday

A bit of a scary but also positive experience. I like the North of England, and despite the progressive destruction of traditional heavy industry,and the development of a service based economy, there are many places where traditional industry is still functioning. I was aware that we were due to have a week with below zero temperatures and we’;re meant to have a lot of snow, so I decided to go for a walk, and explore a place I hadn’t been to before.

I had walked along the coast and taken photos of many things that interested me, and one of those was what appeared to be an inland oil rig. It’s a gas rig, but I am not sure if they drill for gas under the rig, or whether the rig is connected to a field just off of the coast.

There was also a really interesting building near by so I took a couple of photos of that. Whilst doing so a police car turned up, and as I was the only person around I figured they wanted to speak with me.

One of the officers got out of the car, with an assault rifle tucked under his arm (not pointing at me), and I was a little scared at this point. He explained that he was from the Civil Nuclear Constabulary and that I had been photographing a nuclear power station. He explained the security concerns to me, and had to carry out a PNC check to ensure that I was not connected with any terrorist activity.

He was calm, polite, interested in my photography and my studies. He explained that there was no requirement for me to show him the photos that I had taken, but would appreciate it if I did. He could see quite clearly that my photography was quite random, and we discussed my frustration with the current government believing that the Northern Powerhouse is only Leeds and Manchester (this is something that I may be able to explore during the next section of my coursework).

It has taken me a few days to process the situation, and I have decided that even though I have not been asked to delete or not show the photograph, I am not going to do so. I will keep it for my own collection though because I like heavy industry and the landscape that surrounds it.

Here is the photo of the gas rig though. This is the Northern Powerhouse.

Tees Port

Exploring the symbolism of the photo.

The rig – Power, Strength, Might, Domination

The grass – wasteland, waste, emptiness, void – each blade of grass represents one person who has been put out of work as the traditional industry is destroyed, the bare shrubs are destroyed communities

Despite all of this I see beauty.


Formal Tutor Feedback For Assignment Two

Please click Tutor Feedback Assignment 2 for the full word document of Jayne’s feedback.

Of particular note in your second assignment is the fact that you successfully worked with a model here and that you achieved the results you wanted through direction and rapport as well as careful preparation. You clearly enjoyed the creative process and (I sense) are feeling enthused towards the rest of the course – so I look forward to your third assignment!

Many of you are already aware that I have anxiety about being around people in general and working with people and photography. However, my skills and confidence in have improved throughout the Image the Portrait section of coursework. Although my anxiety remains, I enjoy working with people, and hopefully, in time, I will become more engaging and conversational with those that I work with. There is a vast difference between asking someone if I can make their portrait, and entering into a conversation with them. It helped that my close friend was my model for this assignment.

So Nick’s stillness of presence is key. As is the black background (the unknown aspects relating to his move and the future) and the light ‘waves’ as the different emotions or energies around this.

With this in mind, I encouraged you to write a brief (100-200 word) introduction to the piece to gently (slightly obliquely) introduce the context (leaving experiential space for the viewer, i.e. try not to be too literal or too descriptive. You might also decide to veer away from the factual side of Nick’s life altogether and take the images somewhere different entirely through the introduction.

We also discussed the possibility of developing this work further as a future project (using the very strong 5th image as a ‘template’), as you enjoyed working on this so much. The idea of masks is very creative and potentially very interesting. But, no rush! Generally, though, taking the strongest image from a series and developing elements of that image further can be a great way to go when riding a creative ‘wave’.

Chloe Dewe-Matthews provides an excellent introduction to her body of work “Shot at Dawn, which can be seen here Shot at Dawn, and Tom Hunter has an introduction to all of his series of work which can be seen in his web gallery. Their series of work have a mixture of both long and short introductions, which are informative, and guide the viewer to think about their photography. I found that this guidance was thought provoking and still allowed me to view the photos and have my own thoughts and opinions.

I chose to write a poem to introduce my assignment, and my reasons for doing so are:- I intend to follow Jayne’s suggestion of using the fifth photo to develop a series of work that explores “self-identity”, and felt that the poem raises questions. Who am I is a question than has been around as long as humanity has had rational thought, but I have a personal interest in this question. From a spiritual, cognitive and emotional perspective I am beginning to let go of conditioning, and am committed to exploring my identity. Although I have not followed Jayne’s suggestion in the manner that she suggested, we have communicated via email and she agrees that the words are an appropriate accompaniment to the series of work.

Jayne commented upon a photo that I took for exercise 2.8

You’ve overcome the challenge of photographing strangers and have produced a super portrait in ex 2.8, which not only illustrates the flash effect but also the great rapport and connection you clearly achieved with the subject. Well done!

and I believe that this is my strongest individual photo from the coursework, and demonstrates that I can photograph strangers despite my anxiety.

Jayne comments upon the preperation and planning that I put into developing assignment two. What I find most interesting is that preparation and planning are important. They create ideas, provide the opportunity to explore options and develop perception and technical skills. I thoroughly explored the effects of coloured light and how it interacts with skin tone and make up. However, plans also go sometimes, as they did for me with the assignment. My belief is that my preperation gave me the confidence to be flexible and creative when it was not possible to shoot as I had planned. Was the outcome better than what my planned shoot would have been? I have confidence that it was. The out come was vibrant and dynamic, and I think this is because it allowed my model, Nick, and I to play and experiment.

The final comment of Jayne’s that I feel is important to reflect upon is in relation to my experience as an OCA student.

Excellent to see/hear that you’re making the most of the opportunities for peer group interaction; a real enhancement to the student experience, especially in distance-learning mode.

Studying at a campus would not suit me at this moment in time due to anxiety and paranoia, but that doesn’t mean that I do not need connection with other people. I have chosen to make the most of the opportunity to interact with others as part of my student experience. The Foundations in Photography  group email is a wonderful form of connection with my peers, there are several of us who communicate regularly via the group email and provide feedback on each others work.

Giving and receiving critique can be a bit daunting at first, but I find it is one of the best opportunities to develop. receiving the input from others provides an alternate perspective as well as suggestion of how to explore, alter or develop photography in a different way. Giving feedback I find scary, because I wouldn’t want to offend anyone. However, it also engages my eye and permits me to explore what an image is saying, rather than just looking at a photo. My own photography improves because of this, and when I am out shooting I am more considerate about the photos that I make. Why am I taking this photo?

When I started the course I used the WordPress search option to find other OCA students. As well as following my Foundations peers I follow the work of OCA degree students, and now communicate with several of these. Seeing how others, who are studying at a higher level than me, think, plan, execute, present, reflect upon their photographic work is inspiring, and this also has an impact upon how I view and want to develop my own photography.

There are other photographers, artists, poets, creatives on WordPress, as well as OCA students, and I follow several of these and engage with them as well. Creativity is creativty, I feel inspired by creative people, and it doesn’t matter whether they are photographers or not. One of my aims when I began the course was to develop my creativity. Anyone can develop technical skills if they apply themselves, but creativty requires internal and external engagement, and the willingness to let go and be free. As someone who is highly analytical, following other creatives permits me to let go and be free.

My peers, and the others I engage with on WordPress have become a community for me. I avoid contact with people face to face, so my OCA and WordPress community have given me the opportunity to contribute, and this has improved how I perceive my value and worth.

The poem that I have used as an introduction to I dare you to define me (assignment two) is

What do you see when you look at me?
Am “I” the “I” that you think you see?
The stillness within and my activity,
These are just circumstance, do they make me “me”?

Is it the hidden depths that I cannot see,?
Or does the mask that I wear make the person you see?
Can we define self with true certainty?
I can only be sure that I am humanity.

Do you dare to define yourself?


Dewe-Matthews, C; 2014; Shot at Dawn; Online AT: (accessed on 07/02/2018)

Hunter, T; 1980’s – 2017); Holly Street Resident Series; Online AT: (accessed on 07/02/2018)


Photographs That Say Something – Further Thoughts

Discussing with my tutor about making photos that say something has stimulated my thoughts.


  • We are individuals. What says something to me may not mean anything to you and vice versa.
  • I see photography as a means to explore as well as express. What I know is infinitesimally small compared to what I don’t know.
  • I will use my studies to beging to try and make photos that say something.
  • Outside of my studies I enjoy photography for a variety of reasons that are not about expression.
  • Bird photography slows me down and calms my mind. Patience stills me.
  • Macro photography, as above.
  • Event photography, I enjoy having to photograph quickly and hone my technical skills.
  • Portrait and street photography, although I get anxious around people I enjoy the observation and interaction.
  • Developing as a photographer is a lifelong process.

Photographic Priorities – Refocusing – Planning Next Photo Essay

The feedback from my tutor, and my own reflections have demonstrated that I can express myself creatively. I have opinions, as do people who I may photograph. There are many questions about life, people, society and myself which I can explore through photography.

I see the work of OCA student Tanya Keane  in relation to women that have had abortions and their right to make decisions about their bodies, and I see photography with meaning and purpose.

This is the beginning of my photographic exploration and expression, and I can see with my photo essays on homelessness and also on autism, that if I focus, I can develop. I’m feeling inspired right now.

With that in mind I’m putting The Hobbit on the back burner. The coursework for part three of the Foundations in Photography gives me the opportunity to explore some social issues that have meaning to me, and I have some ideas to work with.

With my non coursework photography I have been given the opportunity to work with a writer, sociology graduate and blogger, Breanna. We are working on a photo essay “The Richness of Diversity, and the Harms of Racism and Discrimination”. Breanna will write the essay and I will make the photos and hold interviews with the photographed so that their voice is heard.

Feeling very grateful this evening.

Tutor Feedback – Excited About Photography

I will write a full post about my tutors (Jayne Taylor) feedback once I’ve had time to digest and reflect upon what we discussed.

However, one thing that I have really connected with is the potential for developing the Painting With Light Assignment further. I now have lots of thoughts and ideas floating around in my brain, that will develop over time. Certainly the theme of self and other has come strongly to the surface. A theme that’s particularly important to me, and where I am currently in my life. Jayne has prompted me to consider that a good piece of work doesn’t need to be viewed as having been done and dusted, but how it can be built upon and developed into a body of work.

As for being excited about photography – I am. I have enjoyed the coursework and my personal photography, but since going to Cork I have been out with my camera more frequently. The more often I am out with a camera in my hand, the more I enjoy photography.