Exercise 4.4


Brief: Use a combination of quality, contrast and direction of light to light an object to reveal its natural form.

I spent some time experimenting with this. I chose to use a simple and quite weathered shell, placed on a black piece of cloth. I used a variety of lighting:

  • daylight
  • overhead artificial light
  • a soft ring lamp
  • a hard point lamp
  • on camera flash

and tried these out in a variety of combinations. The camera was set on a tripod and I used a remote trigger to allow for the increased time. I focused manually, but saw when examining the images that the focus was not always on the most interesting area of the shell. This would be worth revisiting using a greater depth of field.

I ended up with 14 variants on my first trial:

Out of these the ones that I thought most interesting were the ones with the point light, they dis not show as much detail of the whole shell as those with a more intense light such as the natural light with added flash, but seemed to have the potential to give more sense of the shape of the shell – so I went and experimented further. I used mainly a single point light from various angles , and then added in a second softer light to cut down some of the shadow.

Scan_20171016 (4)

My overall favourite image is the top right of these using 2 lights with the inside of the shell lit up, and  a slightly softer shadow.

It would be worth experimenting further with flash bounced off a reflector.

Learning points:

  • studio work takes lots of patience
  • take notes carefully or you get confused
  • more than one light can be helpful
  • direct flash is very harsh


Exercise 4.5


The brief:  Search for Google images on a subject, then add your own images paying particular attention to the criteria for creativity. (imagination, invention, experimentation and development of a personal voice). Describe how your images are different from the ones in Google search.

I spent some time thinking about a subject for this exercise, looking at peppers (thinking of Weston), landscapes (Fay Godwin), shells (more Weston) and flowers (Carla van de Puttelaar). If you look at the Google screen shots of these 4 subjects  they are all remarkably similar. They are pretty, in the case of the landscape sometimes beautiful). They are all colour images – this surprised me. Most of the individual images are on a white background, again this surprised me as it would rarely have been my choice. Everything looks ‘perfect’, no blemishes to be seen. All could be used in advertising pictures , although the advertisement might be very boring.

I eventually decided to go down a different route and took pictures of penguins at our local sea-life centre. This was a challenging exercise, partly because they were often moving very fast, partially underwater, and, like often in Scotland, the light was not great.

On looking on Google the images are generally similar in theme to those above. The images are in colour, they are attractive, show the penguins in their natural environment (where few of us will have the luck to see them) and they are resoundingly cute.

I felt that I wanted to show penguins in a different way. Yes, they do spend a lot of time in the snow, and yes they can look very cute, but here, when we most often see them, they are shut in a relatively small pen. Their main environment is water, and I thought it was important to try to show how they related to that.

I  then changed the images to monochrome in Silver Efex 2, using a variety of processing changes to try and get the watery effect I was after, while still maintaining the essential nature of the penguins.

I was happier with these images as they seemed to show the penguins in their natural habitat, without distraction of colour.

The image I am most pleased with is this one as there is minimal distraction, they are clearly having fun and you can see the outline of the underwater penguin well:untitled-21

Learning points:

  • most of the images on line are very similar, and concentrate on the ‘pretty’ and ‘cute’ aspects of photography
  • look for different ways of seeing things
  • close up can be useful

Creativity – What is it?


This exercise is about thinking and noting the difficulties in getting a ‘new’ vision of anything or anywhere.

untitled-23 This shows a Google screenshot of Mount Fuji – classic images, all very similar

untitled-24and a Google screen shot of  Fuji City – there isstill a focus on the mountain – little of either detail or originality

In the whole series of images by John Davies on Fuji City the mountain is either absent or only minimally present. There is no ‘traditional’ shot with blossom and snow in sight. These are not pretty, but striking and much more evocative of what Fuji City is likely to be like in modern day Japan (Fuji City, 2008). The series by Steele-Perkins on Fuji City is very different, more personal with people and close incidents, e.g. a person struggling to walk in the snow. Again, the mountain is relegated to the background (Steele-Perkins, 2002 ).

©Chris Steele-Perkins – posted with kind permission of Chris Steele-Perkins

 If you Google images of Dunfermline (my local town) there is the same effect, most of the images show the Abbey, which while attractive and a tourist destination, tells you very little about the town itself, or the lives of the people there.


So – how do you see something in a unique way? Do you spend a long time looking (as suggested by Haas and Bailey)? Do you let the camera see (Bill Brandt)? This is about developing one’s own style and way of thinking. If I look at most of the images in my collection, they probably do not say much about me and my personal thought process.

There is a further complication if you are looking at many images, such as when studying photography. There is an instinctive temptation to follow what has already been done. When thinking about still life – I automatically think of the peppers and shells photographed by Weston.


Davies, J. (2008). Fuji City 2008 – no.608. [online] Johndavies.uk.com. Available at: http://www.johndavies.uk.com/f608.htm [Accessed 15 Oct. 2017].

Steele-Perkins, C. (2002). Fuji. New York: Umbrage.

Exercise 4.3


The brief: Capture ‘the beauty of artificial light’ in a sequence of shots. Use ambient light rather than flash. Describe the difference from the daylight light shots taken for exercise 4.2.

I found this exercise challenging as I rarely take images inside, either by artificial light or flash.  The first set of images was taken using an iPhone in a cafe during an evening event. I  had no control over the settings in these images,  and have not altered the white balance in post-processing. Since taking these I have invested in a ‘pro-camera’ app for my iPhone and am experimenting with that to give me more flexibility in a similar situation in the future. Using the iPhone was needed as the event did not allow for the use of a ‘real’ camera, and trying to use one would have been intrusive, even though I was just taking shots of the ambience.

The second set of images was taken in a holiday cottage on my main camera. In this case I used manual made throughout, and altered the white balance to try to replicate the light as I was seeing it. I initially hand-held the camera and then went back and retook some with a tripod. I found that, in spite of the light appearing reasonably bright to my eye, the images needed either a significantly raised ISO (6400 versus my normal 200) or a very long exposure. This set of images is part of a much larger set, as I am considering using them for assignment 4. The first set of 3 images were taken during the day, although as the light was not good (overcast) the internal lights were on.

The next set was taken at night with full artificial light.

The colours between the 3 sets are noticeably different. In the first set, taken with the iPhone the internal software has done a good job of compensating for both the low light levels and the colour of the light, clearly going for a ‘neutral’ effect,  but does not replicate the feel of the evening well.  The actual light in the room was much warmer. I have attempted to replicate it below in Lightroom, the image on the right is the altered one.

The images in the cottage all have an orange or yellow colour cast, which is accurate for the relatively dim lighting conditions. The exception is the bedroom shot, where the lights were more modern fluorescent lights which gave a blue cast.

Overall, the images are very different from those taken by daylight outside. This might be less noticeable if they were changed to monochrome, and I think the colour gives a good ‘feel’ for the time of day, and the type of place.

Learning points:

  • be aware of the lighting situation and the colour cast given
  • iPhone cameras tend to balance colour towards daylight (which may not be either accurate or what is wanted
  • an apparently ‘bright’ indoor room has much less light than outside, and needs a much longer exposure, or a markedly increased ISO setting.

The Beauty of Artificial Light


Images taken by artificial light have a different quality from those taken by natural light, however, that does not mean that they are all similar or that the colour palates or feelings invoked by those images are limited. The four photographers discussed below show a range of images taken at night or in the evening without the use of flash. Google searches of the images give an overview of the colours and contrasts between them.

Rut Blees Luxemburg (born 1967) has taken images at night with a medium format camera. These are very considered images. She says she will wander the streets and only take a few images a month. In the series ‘Leibesleid’ the images are intimate, of small, rarely considered areas, the edge of a street, a corner with writing on a wall, steps going down into water. She says, in an interview with Campany ‘space that allows for a moment of repose…… the quieter things are the more significant the sound’ (Campany, 2006).  The images are presented in a book along with writings by Alexander Garcia Düittmann which while not describing the them, rather talk to them as in a conversation with a lover. Luxemburg has also done a further series of images on a much grander scale, also at night, of the city and the tower blocks. An example is the image ‘Towering Inferno’ – a tower block at night looking straight into the windows from another tower. The colour palate of both series is very limited, golden yellows with browns, never quite absolute blacks. They are full of life, even though the people are not present, they have just stepped out of sight. A recent interview for Photoworks says ‘One can also think about the city as a ‘character’ in these photograph, one that’s alluring, open, glowing even… yet also ambiguously wet, slippery and dark.’ (Photoworks, 2017).

A simple google search for her images produced this, showing the limited colour palate and the coherence of her images:


There is a shocking contrast here between the alluring golds and the harsh red and black that was seen in the recent images of the Grenfell Tower fire. Life versus death pointed up by the colours without even the need for the stories.

Brassaï (1899 – 1984) was fascinated by night scenes and some of his most famous work is shown in ‘Paris de Nuit’. These are very different, often spacious scenes, not intimate even though they often show people as well as the places. The light is harsh and clean.


He is quoted as being influenced by the painter Georges de la Tour (1593 – 1652), who painted many pictures of people by candlelight. Interestingly de la Tour also mainly used a golden/brown warm colour palate. It would be interesting to know what colours the Brassaï images would have been if he had had the opportunity of using colour rather than black and white.

Georges de la Tour (public domain)

Sato Shintaro’s (born 1980) images of Tokyo ‘Night Life’ are startling in their intensity, using highly saturated colour to show the neon signs and the vibrancy possible in artificial light. All colours are present. The images are fascinating, the city is shown as a place that is busy, alive and challenging but confusing. However, he has also taken a series of images ‘Tokyo Twilight Zone’ with more limited colour palates, red/green, blue/white. These are much softer, calmer, less confusing. It is hard to visualise that they are the same place as the other images.

Todd Hido (born 1968) is another photographer who has utilised artificial light in his night images of houses, shown in his book ‘House Hunting’. He describes finding one of the houses ‘I couldn’t even see across the street. I remember coming out of the flatlands and hitting this fog and it was just the most surreal and creepy neighborhood I’d ever seen. It had all the right combinations. I remember seeing that for the first time and just being blown away by it all … that sort of changed everything’ (Berton, 2006). The images of these houses at night have muted colours, greys and browns, mysterious, lacking in detail. They could be anyone’s house and are only identified by numbers not place names, often in a single colour palate. They are not dissimilar to his daytime images shown in ‘A Road Divided’, which are misty, often partially defocused evocative images. His style remains recognisable at all times of day.


Berton, J. (2006). Todd Hido and the ‘Art of Darkness’ (2006) | #ASX. [online] AMERICAN SUBURB X. Available at: http://www.americansuburbx.com/2009/09/theory-todd-hido-art-of-darkness.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Blees Luxemburg, R. and Garcia Düttmann, A. (2000). Liebeslied. UK: Black Dog Pub.

Campany, D. (2006). UNION. [online] Union-gallery.com. Available at: http://www.union-gallery.com/content.php?page_id=653 [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). brassai paris de nuit – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=brassai paris de nuit [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). rut blees luxemburg liebeslied – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=rut blees luxemburg liebeslied [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Google.co.uk. (2017). sato shintaro – Google Search. [online] Available at: https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=sato shintaro [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Hido, T. (2002). House hunting. Tucson, Ariz: Nazareli.

Hido, T. (2010). A Road Divided. Nazareli.

Photoworks. (2017). Jerwood/Photoworks Awards Mentor: Rut Blees Luxemburg | Photoworks. [online] Available at: https://photoworks.org.uk/interview-rut/ [Accessed 13 Oct. 2017].

Sato-shintaro.com. (2017). Sato Shintaro Photo Gallery. [online] Available at: http://sato-shintaro.com/m/ [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Toddhido.com. (2017). Todd Hido. [online] Available at: http://www.toddhido.com/homes.html [Accessed 10 Oct. 2017].

Edinburgh Exhibitions


Edinburgh Galleries have just had two exhibitions of old photographs.

The National Portrait Gallery is showing ‘A Perfect Chemistry’, the works of Hill and Adamson


while the Queens Gallery has ‘Shadows of War’ on Roger Fenton and his Crimea images.


A Perfect Chemistry.

David Octavius Hill (1802 – 1870) and Robert Adamson (1821 – 1848) are one of the most famous couples in photographic history. It all started, as it often does in Scotland, with an argument. In this case an argument within the church. In May 1843 there was a massive schism in the Church of Scotland where 400 ministers broke away to form the Free Church of Scotland, where they could choose their own path and the people had more say. There was a dramatic walk out from the General Assembly and a march though the New Town of Edinburgh which ended with the signing of the Deed of Demission several days later. Hill, who was at that point primarily a landscape painter, watched the march and decided to mark the gravity of the occasion with a painting of all the ministers involved. He started by making oil sketches but rapidly realised that this was an impossible task so looked for an alternative way. At this point he was introduced to Adamson, who was already an expert in the use of the new photographic method – the calotype. And so, it began.

Talbot’s image process, the calotype, was patented in England, but those patent rights did not extend to Scotland, so the Scottish images makers were free to experiment with it, and take large numbers of images. John Adamson, Robert Adamson’s older brother, altered the process to use potassium bromide rather than iodide as a fixative, but also introduced a lengthy washing to the prints. Both Adamsons became highly proficient in the making of calotypes which was shown by the vast number of images eventually produced.

Hill and Adamson did go on to make images of all the ministers which Hill eventually combined into a massive painting. The photographic images are redolent of the times, serious faced men, often leaning on books, looking sombrely out at the world. There are no women in this series as, of course, women could not be ministers in that era. The positioning of the men is at least partly to do with the demands of the calotype process, where, even when the sun was shining, the exposure could take up to several minutes, smiling would have been impossible, but would also have been thought inappropriate for an image of a man of the church.

After taking the images of the ministers, the partnership continued, photographing the great and good of Edinburgh society, by now including women, landscapes, building projects showing Edinburgh old and new and even at least one nude portrait. Many of the images were taken in Greyfriars Cemetery, cemeteries were a popular and romantic destination even then, and many were certainly influenced by the Romantic works of Sir Walter Scott, with people dressing to portray characters from his books. They also took images of military characters, such as drummers and soldiers from the 92nd Gordon Highlanders, which again Hill combined into a massive painting of people under Edinburgh Castle. One of the ventures of the duo was to capture images of the Newhaven fisherfolk, men, women and children. This is probably one of the first examples of photographic typology extant. The images are not snapshots, but carefully composed, often using the tools of the trade as props to allow for the extended time of image taking, but also using stands and clamps to hold people still. These were often taken out of the final image or ‘painted’ over. They had planned to produce a book of these images but this never materialised.

                Images by Hill and Adamson, courtesy of the National Galleries of Scotland.

Their partnership was short, only four years, as Adamson died at 26 and Hill did not continue with the photographic work after his death, returning instead to painting and producing lithographs. However their work had a profound effect on the popularity and use of photography in Scotland, and still remains a massive achievement.

The exhibition was fascinating, accompanied by an audio recording explaining the history of the images and an extensive catalogue (Lyden, 2017). I found the images of the people surprisingly moving given that they had to sit for such a long period and they were clearly staged. They give a real sense of the people and places. The faces are the same as those you see in Edinburgh today, only the dress has changed.

Shadows of War

Roger Fenton (1819 – 1869) was a London based photographer who was commissioned to travel to the Crimea to take a series of images of the generals and other important figures there and to bring them back for the artist Thomas Barker to form a large oil painting depicting them all meeting. A meeting that could never have happened in reality. The war in Crimea, known then as the Russian War ran from 1853-55. Fenton travelled there in March 1855, leaving in June 1855 and was neither the first or the last photographer there, however his pictures were well advertised and shown around the country on his return to England and he is considered to be one of the first war photographers. He travelled to the Crimea with two assistants, his portable darkroom (a shed on wheels) and 700 plates which he prepared as needed, and brought back about 360 images.

                                               Images by Roger Fenton (public domain)

The exhibition shows many of his images together with others of the Crimean War, including its aftermath and the fall of Sevastopol, by which time Fenton had left the area. As with all photographers of that time many of the issues were staged, and some were ‘touched up’ with details before the final prints were made. He has been criticised as only showing the images that the authorities wanted the public to see, but in reality, many of his images are bleak in the extreme. He shows the chaos of the railways, the squalor of the camps as well as the set piece portraits of the generals that he was commissioned to take. Several are instantly recognisable – ‘The Valley of the Shadow of Death’ with its cannonballs (even if they were placed there) is an iconic picture of a war-torn environment, while his haunting picture ‘Lord Balgonie’ has been suggested to be the first image of a soldier suffering from shell-shock.

                                    Images by Roger Fenton (public domain)

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive book (Fenton, Gordon and Pearson, 2017) with large plates and an historical overview together with an audio soundtrack about the images, this soundtrack is enhanced by Prince Harry talking about his own experiences of war and also by Don McCullin speaking about the difficulties of shooting pictures in those situations and the ethics of what can and what cannot be taken, how sometimes all you can do is bear witness.

At this stage one cannot know how many of his images were truly real, certainly at that time photographs were thought to show the absolute truth, although they could be altered and staged then as much as they can be now. They are possibly less overtly full of death than more recent war images, however they do show the aftermath of battle. It would have been nigh on impossible to take images in the middle of a firefight using collodion plates and long exposures. They are not ‘pretty’ or ‘romantic’ images – a world away from those of Hill and Adamson.


Fenton, R., Gordon, S. and Pearson, L. (2017). Shadows of war.

Lyden, A. (2017). A Perfect Chemistry.

Nationalgalleries.org. (2017). A Perfect Chemistry | Photographs by Hill and Adamson. [online] Available at: https://www.nationalgalleries.org/exhibition/perfect-chemistry-photographs-hill-and-adamson [Accessed 30 Sep. 2017].

Shadows of War (2017). Shadows of War: Roger Fentons Photographs of the Crimea, 1855. [online] Royalcollection.org.uk. Available at: https://www.royalcollection.org.uk/collection/themes/exhibitions/shadows-of-war/the-queens-gallery-palace-of-holyroodhouse [Accessed 9 Oct. 2017].