Exercise: Rain


  • Produce 1 photograph to be used as a magazine cover on the subject of rain.


Rain is something we are all too over familiar with – How can you make rain look attractive and interesting? This exercise was harder to do than I thought.

I got caught in a downpour in London. It was just beginning to get dark and a combination of rainwater and light was producing amazing reflections on the pavements. I knew I had to do this exercise so I gave up trying to keep dry, put my umbrella away, got out my camera and fired off lots of shots of the pavement as I was walking along the bridge towards The Houses of Parliament. When I got home and uploaded the pictures I was really attracted to the following image because of the angle it had been taken producing diagonal lines. I think it looks even better presented upside down., where the reflection of the person appears to be walking along the diagonal line. At first glance it is obvious it is a rainy picture of big Ben but the fact its upside down makes the viewer look harder and is more interesting.




Exercise: Juxtaposition


  • Take any book and make a suitable cover illustration using two or three relevant elements.


One of my friends is a frequent traveller and is always snapping pictures of lost shoes wherever she goes! It started off as a bit of a joke but now she has become obsessive and frequently adds pictures taken on her camera phone to the album “Lost and lonely footwear” on her Facebook page.

I recently came across this pair of shoes – not just the one but a pair!

IMG_1338aThey had been abandoned underneath a tree in a busy street. I was fascinated in the way they had been left – almost as if the owner had been lifted up out of his shoes from a standing position. Obviously they reminded me of my friend so I took the picture and sent it off to her wondering how you can lose a “pair” of shoes? One shoe is relatively plausible but to lose a pair and for them to be left in such a way under a tree is just weird!


I have just finished reading A Place Called Here by Cecilia Ahern (Ahern, C (2006). A place called here. London. Harper Collins.) It reads rather like a fairy tale about a woman who is obsessed with finding missing things. It started as a child when socks went into the wash as a pair but only one would come out at the end and then a girl went missing from her class . Her obsession to find missing things grows and she dedicates her life to finding missing people by first joining the police force and then becoming a private investigator. One day she slips through the ether into another world which is the place all the missing people go to. She discovers the missing people she has been searching for years and learns how they are living in the place called “Here”. Not only that, everything that has ever been lost including shoes arrive “Here”!! Once all her questions have been answered she then starts a search to find her way home.

The book had more than a touch of fairytale about it – when I got to the end I really wanted “A place called Here” to be real and all the way through kept thinking about all the odd shoes that can be seen on any pavement in any city around the world. Every old trainer I now see sitting in the middle of a main road, I question who the owner was, where have they gone and how that shoe came to be lost?!

I think this picture would be a perfect cover for the book. The title of the book is about a place and the story is about missing people. and lost items. The picture of the shoes suggest that they are lost (in a place under a tree) but also connects with the story line  of missing people making the viewer curious about where the owner of these shoes has disappeared to.




Exercise: Symbols

No photos are required for this exercise – merely an opportunity to think or brainstorm some ideas about photographic illustration with the use of symbols.

The course notes discuss the use of clichés and to be wary of using a symbol that has previously been over used. unless it can be done in a totally original way. A symbol should also be recognisable in order for it to have impact. It may have two different meanings or could be presented in stages.

We were asked to think about the following subjects and list symbols  that could be used in photography to illustrate them:

Growth, excess, crime, silence and poverty.

Growth – growing; increase; something grown or growing; tumour 

  • Pregnancy – the growth of life
  • Seedlings – growing into plants / trees
  • City landscapes developing over time
  • Money – accumulation
  • Personal – ideas, personal development, education, pathways

Excess – State or act of exceeding the permitted limits; immoderate amount; amount by which a thing exceeds the permitted limits

  • Greed – overweight, money, wealth
  • Alcohol – drunk, driving
  • Stock piles of subjects for eg food
  • Baggage

Crime – Unlawful act; unlawful acts collectively

  • Theft – burglary,
  • Crime Scene – police tape, outline of body, finger prints, guns, knives etc
  • Prison cell – bars, hand cuffs,
  • Courtroom – judge, gavel

Silence – Absence of noise or speech; make silent; put a stop to

  • Empty – no people – beach, mountain, calm and serene
  • Finger against lips – gag, tape zip
  • Hands over ears
  • Ears and hearing aid
  • Feather dropping
  • Sleeping baby
  • Machinery – eg oil to make it quiet

Poverty – State of being without enough or money; lack of; scarcity

  • Money – empty pockets, bank account, purse with a few coins
  • Food – empty bowl, hungry people, empty tummy, bare field
  • Water – empty well. dry river
  • Homeless person
  • Empty hands

Exercise: Evidence of action


  • Produce 1 photo in which it can be seen that something has happened. Include something that has either been emptied or broken.


Sadly this Grade II listed thatched cottage caught fire last November. I walk past it on an almost daily basis with my dog and was so shocked to see it burnt out the day after the event. Thankfully the owner escaped with only 1 severe burn as the fire spread incredibly quickly. The upper floor was totally destroyed and the ground floor gutted. It was caused by an electrical fault.

With this exercise in mind I took the following pictures:

1 IMG_7528 IMG_7537 IMG_7546 IMG_7549

When I took the photographs I thought it would be relatively easy to choose one which illustrated the evidence of action, empty and broken – but they all do!! I tried to be objective by putting myself in the viewers shoes and thinking which picture best tells me that this property was gutted by fire due to an electrical fault? In the end I decided on this picture:

IMG_7537It is quite abstract, but on closer inspection the viewer can see the light switch in the corner of a room. Fire has destroyed the upper part of the room revealing the sky and all that remains is charred wood and scarred bricks. Ironically the only part of the image that remains is the light switch and electrical cables which were the cause of the fire.


Exercise: A narrative picture essay


  • Produce a set of pictures between 5 – 15 in total that tell a story.
  • Sketch a layout of the images so that they work together as a set and are visually interesting.
  • Write captions under each image describing what it shows.


I recently photographed a wedding of two friends who wanted me to document their big day. (Slightly nervous since I have never been the “main” photographer at a wedding!). When they approached me they gave  me a basic brief of what they wanted which included the following information:

  • Date & time of ceremony
  • Church venue
  • Reception venue
  • Time of evening reception
  • Number of guests to ceremony & number of evening guests
  • Style of photographs – relaxed and informal / documentary style + various formal photos outside the church and at the reception

The couple wanted me to cover the whole day including the bridal preparation at home, the ceremony, reception, evening reception, cutting the cake and finally the first dance. I did have a little panic about how I was going to cover the whole day by myself without another photographer and how potentially they were wanting me to be in two places at one time!! The couple had already thought  about this and had arranged for the Best Man to take pictures of the Groom and Ushers etc at the Church. They were also going to assist me in gathering the various family members for the formal photos so that I could just concentrate on taking the pictures!

The church was situated in a very small village, a two-minute walk from the Bride’s house. Once I had photographed the Bride leaving home, the chauffeur was to drive very slowly round the block to give me enough time to get to the church!! It was also agreed the couple wouldn’t have pictures arriving at the reception again giving me enough to drive there after they had left the church.

3 months before the wedding a did a recce of both the church and reception venue. I spoke to the vicar about any restrictions photographing the ceremony and also to the staff at the venue with regards to the schedule and layout of the reception. I took a few test shots at both places and made notes of available light and best places to stand etc.

2 weeks before the wedding the couple gave me the final timings for the day and a list of all the formal photographs they wanted, so I was able to put together a schedule which I’d use as a checklist to make sure I captured everything they wanted:

  • 10.30 – Take photos of flowers in church
  • 11.30 – Bridal party preparations at house
  • 12.30 – Pictures of Bride and Family in garden
  • 12.45 – Bridesmaids leaving house
  • 12.55 – Bride leaving house
  • 1.00  –  Ceremony at church
  • 1.45  –  Confetti line up followed by formal photos and then informal photos of couple
  • 2.45  –  Bride & Groom leave church
  • 3.00  –  Formal photos at Reception
  • 4.00  –  Mingle with guests and take informal pictures
  • 5.00  –  All guests seated for dinner
  • 6.00 –  Speeches
  • 7.00 –  Evening guests arrive
  • 7.45 –  Cutting of cake
  • 8.00 –  First dance

I had also agreed to attend rehearsals with the couple at the church the night before the wedding. I am so glad I did as due to illness they had to get a stand-in vicar. His view on where I was allowed to stand (at the back and nowhere but the back otherwise I would be asked to leave!) really limited the pictures I had intended to take. I made a mental note to set up my tripod at the back of the church in the designated spot when I went first thing next morning to take pictures of the flowers.

After a very long and nerve-racking day, I captured everything I needed but was grateful that I had taken the time to plan everything out in advance otherwise I would have been running round like a headless chicken!!

The 15 photographs I chose out of the hundreds I took during the day are as follows:

In order to display the set of pictures in a visually interesting way, I imagined putting together an A4 photo book as follows in the sketch below:


Each square represents a double page spread and I changed the order very slightly so that I could fit two landscape pictures next to one portrait picture. I also enlarged landscape photos 4, 5 and 7 so that they would fit nicely across the two pages.

This was a great exercise and really made me realise how important it is to take a variety of photographs in different formats eg landscape and portrait so that they can be displayed as a strong visual set as well as telling a picture story.

Photographer Study – Tom Wood, All Zones off Peak

All images used in this post are copyrighted to the individual photographer stated and are only being used for educational purposes.

All Zones off Peak (Wood, T. (1998). All Zones off Peak. 1st Edition. England. Dewi Lewis Publishing.)  is a body of work by Photographer Tom Wood  and was recommended by my Tutor quite a while ago. After much searching and waiting, I finally managed to reserve a copy to view at the Bodleian Library in Oxford.

The book is a result of a 15 year bus journey across Liverpool, where Wood photographs the world beyond the window as well as fellow travellers on the bus and waiting outside.

The first half of the  book is all in black and white, mostly taken in the reign of  Thatcher’s Government. The subjects appear to mirror the timeless effect of black and white in their everyday grey gestures and postures. Each picture is carefully thought out and composed. Some focus on the passing landscape outside and people going about their everyday life oblivious to the camera. In others he has concentrated on fellow passengers and in some cases has used a combination of the two. One image in particular titled Kensington 1988 was taken on the top deck of a bus. Wood has focused on a shop out of the window but in the top left corner of the frame are the hands of a male passenger reading a book and holding a cigarette. The bus is obviously stationery and he has also captured the bus stop sign with another sign directly above of an arrow pointing “To the Circus”. It is the tiny details like this that make his images so interesting and with each view another detail is revealed to the viewer in the never-ending layers of the story in his pictures.

In each picture it is quite clear that the  photographer is a passenger on the bus. Wood captures reflections in the glass, mirrors and parts of the window frame within the photo frame. His ability to capture the sometimes grey expressions of his subjects somehow suggests that the toil of their bus journey mirrors their everyday struggles in their life journey.


1983 (Netherton). Copyright Tom Wood

The second half of the book is in colour and appear more abstract with the use of reflections within reflections but equally still drawing the viewer in and creating a fascinating story.

In the accompanying text Mark Holborn quoted:

“The journey is the oldest narrative device”

It therefore seems quite appropriate that the last picture in the book is one of the photographer standing on the street and photographing the passengers on the bus. It appears that he has alighted at this final destination and is waiting for the bus to move off. Ironically many of the passengers appear to be looking at / watching him as opposed to the other way round.


London Road, City Centre, 1994. Copyright Tom Wood


Wood, T. (1998). All Zones off Peak. 1st Edition. England. Dewi Lewis Publishing.

Assignment Four – Applying lighting techniques

All images used in this post are copyrighted to the individual photographer stated and are only being used for educational purposes.
Many of the exercises in Part 4 required certain times of the day or specific weather conditions that I have found hard to accommodate in the time I have recently had available. Rather than delay submitting Assignment 4, I have read around all the course notes and suggested reading. I have also been greatly inspired by the work of Edward Weston and Irving Penn, in particular the  following publications suggested by my tutor. Their work has greatly influenced the way I have approached the assignment and the subject I have used.

Penn, I. 2001. Still Life. London. Thames & Hudson

Weston, E. 1999. Edward Weston (Photographic Study). London. Taschen

For this  assignment we had to use one object and then apply our knowledge of lighting to demonstrate the following four areas:

  • Shape
  • Form
  • Texture
  • Colour

Although  I still find it hard to arrange a still life as opposed to going out and finding subjects / people on he street, I was in awe of how Weston made his peppers look sensual and alive and how Penn managed to highlight every tiny detail in old cigarette butts. It also interested me that as mentioned in my previous post (https://alisoncheshire.wordpress.com/2015/04/16/research-for-assignment-4-irving-penn-edward-weston-and-paul-kooiker/) Penn and Weston were successful with both still life and portraiture so I did take inspiration from particular images from both of their work and came up with the idea of a mannequin – a sort of compromise between people and still life! After putting out a few feelers to see if any friends had any mannequins lurking in their cupboards, I got offered Betsy!!


Betsy is a hairdressers mannequin and originally had long hair for trainees to practice plaiting and putting up hair. Somewhere along the lines she had her hair hacked off by mistake and has been left with a crude bob, split ends and all!

Betsy has been great fun  to work with on this assignment – mainly because it has given me the opportunity to play around with my studio lights – (Mini Pioneer Studio Flash 250DI lights) something I don’t do often enough as I don’t have the  room to keep them out at home. For the assignment I turned my lounge into a make shift studio by blacking out the natural light and setting the lighting up accordingly. I also used a selection of filters and a photographic umbrella to act as a diffuser.

Like Weston I enjoyed arranging and re-arranging Betsy until I was satisfied that the lighting had captured her in the most simplistic way. I also wanted her to look natural and alive and tried really hard to capture all the tiny details by highlighting lines and shadows – something that Penn was so succesful at. Rather than be in danger of having 8 photographs of a mannequin head, I also tried to be creative with the use of different props to add interest as well as fulfil the brief of shape, form, texture and colour.

Final Images

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Picture 1

Shape 1

Shape 1

This quality is all about the outline of the subject, so I knew that I wanted to capture a side view of Betsy’s face outlining her profile but retaining enough detail to make it more than just a dark silhouette. In his Book, Photographic Study P.56 (Weston, E. 1999. Edward Weston (Photographic Study). London. Taschen) Weston has taken a portrait of a woman titled Lois Kellog 1923 (unable to source copy online). In the portrait the woman has turned her head to one side for Weston to capture her side profile but he has also captured the beautiful contours and shapes of her neck. Betsy doesn’t have much in the way of form from the chin down, so I decided to create more interest with the use of a black hat. As the background was also black, I needed to create a contrast to make the outline of the hat stand out in the image. To achieve this I positioned the light to the side, raised it and pointed it down at a 45 degree angle to highlight the  brim of the hat and face profile

Picture 2

Shape 2a

Shape 2a

Shape 2b

Shape 2b

I am undecided about which one of the above images I should use as my second shape image – so will be guided on the advice of my tutor (thanks in advance Keith!!)

Initially, I used this vivid blue scarf to introduce some interest for the  colour element of the brief and was experimenting with lighting Betsy from the back through a white muslin backdrop. In the second image I also used a blue filter on the light to create a blue cast to the backdrop. In picture 1 the contrast of the scarf against the background is very vivid and the outline of the face very sharp. In picture 2 I moved slightly round in front of her face to capture a different outline of her face. By doing this many of the  facial details have been lost to shadow except the soft curve of the cheekbone and shimmering glitter on the eyebrow yet she still looks very feminine and the outline of the scarf on her head reminds me of a religious Madonna – very mysterious, exotic even!


Picture 3

Form 1

Form 1

Form is about how 3D the subject looks and the  challenge was how to use the light to emphasise volume and depth by optimising the  use  of shadows. The smooth plastic surface of Betsy’s skin is very unforgiving and many of the images I took of her looked exactly what she is – flat and plastic! So I set out to light her in a flattering way and make her look more life-like.

Irving Penn took a great image for Vogue of a Mannequin in a Bell Jar, New York, May 1992 (unable to source copy online),(Penn, I. 2001. Still Life. London. Thames & Hudson). The 3D effect of the mannequins features are amazing with soft light creating strong contrasting shadows of the nose, eyes and mouth. It was obvious from the reflection in the bell jar that the main light  source was the natural light from the shop window and I tried to recreate this by using diffused side lighting that was enough to make the image look natural but which was bright and strong enough to create shadow and contrast of the nose. I also realised to achieve optimum  volume it was important to position Betsy so that the line of her nose was against her furthest cheek and not the background  of the image.

Picture 4

Form 2

Form 2

To make Betsy look more human I dressed her up for this image and used a brick wall backdrop. To get a 3D effect I knew I had to create some shadow on the wall behind her so this time used a stronger light by placing one directly in front of her. To capture the shadow in the image I had to move and take the shot from a different perspective, achieved by standing in an elevated position, at the side and looking downwards.


Picture 5

Texture 1

Texture 1

The only part of Betsy that has any real texture is her hair! I really liked Edward Weston’s image of Guadalupe Marin de Riveria, 1923, P.55 (Weston, E. 1999. Edward Weston (Photographic Study). London. Taschen). Not a particularly flattering snapshot of the lady but the way the light highlights the coarse texture of her hair is really something special.


Guadalupe Marin de Riviera, 1923.  Copyright Edward Weston.

I recreated this  with Betsy by facing her towards a natural source of light – mainly to add interest to the mirrored sunglasses (added just for fun!) I then used a direct light slightly above and behind her head to highlight the individual strands of hair.

Picture 6

Texture 2

Texture 2

The second texture image is the only one where I have captured Betsy from the front. I wanted to highlight  the coarse texture of the floppy raffia sun hat and the fluid contours of its shape. This was best achieved by using a black background to create a contrast and using a light positioned directly overhead and pointing down so the light filtered through the woven texture of the hat.


Picture 7

Colour 1

Colour 1

In certain light Betsy’s hair is a vivid chestnut colour and tones with the orange-red of her lips. These were the two features I wanted to accentuate for colour and took inspiration from Irving Penn’s picture Summer Sleep (Penn, I. 2001. Still Life. London. Thames & Hudson) for the sleeping position.


Summer Sleep, editorial photograph for Vogue, New York, March 18, 1949.                       Copyright Irving Penn

As Betsy couldn’t close her eyes I used the mask to enhance the feeling of sleep and because we cannot see her eyes the colour of her hair and lips appears more vibrant to the viewer. For this image I positioned the lighting to the side of the subject at the same height.

Picture 8

Colour 2

Colour 2

For me the final image was a chance to get really creative with the use of colour and an even stronger opportunity to make Betsy appear real and lifelike. Again I took inspiration from Irving Penn, loving his image for Vogue, Vegetable Face Beauty Treatment. (Penn, I. 2001. Still Life. London. Thames & Hudson).


Vegetable Face Beauty Treatment, editorial photograph for Vogue, New York, November 6, 1995. Copyright Irving Penn

Re-creating the beauty treatment with Betsy was quite a challenge – photographing her directly from above with the fruit on her face resulted in something freaky from fright night! So I knew I had to find a more flattering angle that would enable her to remain the main subject within the frame but at the same time capture the vibrant colours and detail of the juicy flesh of the fruit. I must have spent 90 minutes arranging and re-arranging Betsy and her fruit mask along with the lighting until I achieve this image. She reminds me of how I feel when relaxing outdoors with my face to the sun or having the ultimate female luxury pamper of an expensive facial – so I am happy with this  result and think the red strawberry and green cucumber do a lot to enhance her beauty!

Penn, I. 2001. Still Life. London. Thames & Hudson

Weston, E. 1999. Edward Weston (Photographic Study). London. Taschen


Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills

Without repeating what I have written in the last few self-assessments, I really feel that I am growing academically with new ideas and increasing my skills as a photographer. This particular assignment has made me realise that I do have a certain control over my final images – much like an artist and their paintings, and I can create the effects I want by simply manipulating the light. These exercises and indeed the assignment have made me really think about how I want my final image to look and I have spent a lot more time planning each shot rather than shooting first and asking questions later!

Quality of Outcome

Throughout this assignment, my main objective other than using lighting techniques was to make Betsy look as real as possible. She certainly had the ability to scare the living daylights out of my family when walking into a room and seeing her head on a table!! I did take lots and lots of shots of her and by the end instinctively knew which angles were more flattering and worked best. Therefore it didn’t take too long to select the final 8 images and think they rather do her justice in the mannequin world!

Demonstration of Creativity

I have surprised myself with how much I actually enjoyed the still life aspect of this assignment as I normally favour going out to find real situations / subjects. Once started, I relished the free rein of creativity and freedom that I had with Betsy to do what ever I liked. It was quite satisfying not having to rely upon the subject to pose nicely or wait for the sun to come out for better light. I was amazed at how much time I spent, completely absorbed in the enjoyment of experimenting. Still life is something that  I will definitely come back to for another project in the future.


At the beginning of this course, I hadn’t realised how important the research, reading and writing about other practitioners was. I remember saying to somebody “aarggh all this blogging – I just want to take photos!!” Now I cant wait to get  my hands on the work of photographers that my tutor recommends. I now get a lot of enjoyment looking at the work of great masters and applying the knowledge I have to their pictures, there is so much that can be learnt from them technically as well as for inspiration.