Exercise: Softening the light


  • Set up a still life of any object / objects
  • Fix a naked lamp overhead and pointing down
  • Take two pictures – the first with the naked lamp and second with a diffuser
  • Compare the differences in both pictures


Canon 70D / 18 – 55 mm lens / Tripod / Cable release

Lighting equipment – Mini Pioneer Studio Flash 250DI light / Diffuser – photographic umbrella


For this exercise I used a vase of tulips placed on the floor with the light directly overhead and pointing downwards.  My camera was on a tripod aimed at a slight angle pointing downwards and I used a shutter release cable to fire the shots.  The results were very different; the first picture below was taken with the naked lamp and the second was with the diffuser.

The naked light produced very hard and pronounced shadows and the highlights on the petals of the lighter tulips were very bright. The diffused light eliminated the shadows of the tulips completely and the flowers appeared softer as there was less contrast between the light and dark areas.

In this situation I prefer the naked light, it gives the image a 3 dimensional look with the sharpness of the shadows creating more drama and interest to the composition.  The diffused light gives the appearance of a flat and static image. However in other situations such as portraiture, diffused light would be preferable as it is softer for the subjects face and will avoid creating harsh, unflattering shadows. It really depends what sort of effect the photographer wants to create.

Getting on with Part 4 – Light

I have almost completed the photographs for Assignment 4 ahead of doing many of the exercises in this section. Many of the projects require specific times of day or certain weather conditions and I’m finding it difficult to accomplish them at the times I have available to study. However, I have read the notes thoroughly and borne in mind the information whilst shooting my assignment pictures.

I will try to do as many of the exercises as possible before submitting the assignment but they will probably be done in random order depending on the weather that day!

Derelict London – Eastenders fake or real? Personal Work

Last month I spent an interesting Sunday on a walking tour of London’s East End organised by my local camera club.

For fans of Eastenders (the TV programme) – and people (like me!!) that think Albert Square and its inhabitants are real, it was an exciting prospect to visit the East End and find out what it’s really like. The closest I got to finding anything remotely Albert Square ‘ish’ or ‘The Queen Vic’ though was Albert Walk and The derelict Royal Oak.

The tour was booked with Author Paul Talling who was brought up and still lives in the East End.  Originally a music promoter, Paul started photographing derelict areas of the East End whilst walking through the area and many of the derelict buildings / areas featuring in his book he has stumbled upon and discovered by chance. Paul now makes a living by rambling the streets of London and giving guided walking tours. His knowledge of the area, the history and plans for future regeneration is second to none.

His website: http://www.derelictlondon.com/ and published books make fascinating reading / viewing.

We met Paul at Gallions Reach Tube Station all but one stop from the end of the DLR line. Having caught the Tube from Osterley (about as far west as you can go) and spending 1 and half hours on the Underground, I was slightly dismayed when he said there was nothing around the area where we could get refreshments! In fact, we hardly saw any signs of life all day! I know it was a “Derelict Tour” but even in residential areas, there was no sign of life except for an enthusiastic bunch of photographers –  What do East Ender’s do on a Sunday? Where do they go? It felt quite eerie actually, wandering around, even the traffic was minimal.

My first glimpse of the  East End was on the DLR journey. I was fascinated to see tiny rows of Victorian Houses that had survived the blitz, sandwiched between ghastly modern giant eye sores with tiny patches of green which constituted communal squares, allotments and tiny back gardens. This first observation continued on foot for most of the tour and the juxtaposition of old and new was quite stark in some areas.


We spent the morning on the edge of the River Thames on a derelict pier with the view of the old Beckton Gas Works, then after a ramble through some overgrowth and climbing a wall to the bank of the River Thames, Paul took us to the wreck of a sunken barge (circa 1900’s) which is only visible and accessible at low tide.


We wandered on through some residential areas – Albert Walk as shown above until we came to North Woolwich Pier. This area was really derelict, cold, empty it didn’t even have a spooky presence – just a sad feeling of being long forgotten.


I’m not sure if it was the atmosphere of the area or the imminent rain that had been forecast, but we were all starting to flag so we headed to the one and only functioning pub that we saw during the day. It looked neither welcoming or friendly and I was rather dubious about how the presence of 20 cold photographers and all their gear would be received behind the net curtains.

Food wasn’t on the menu so we all made do with a pint and packet of crisps (minus the pickled eggs and jellied eels). I was quite pleased that we were allowed to stay and not to told to “Get Outta My Pub”.  However, the news of our arrival didn’t take two minutes to reach the invisible Landlord who told the barmaid to let us know he would do some bar snacks “On the ‘Ouse”.

We had the most amazing Sunday Lunch – East End style and were made to feel very welcome. Bar snack of the day was sliced bread and butter with sausage and chips – delicious! Although it was “On the ‘Ouse” and I’m sure the motivation was to get repeat business from Paul and his walking tours, we all dug deep and left a very generous tip!






There were only a few locals in the pub – all men, propped at the bar and watching football. I would liked to have taken their pictures, to document some real Eastenders but felt that would be pushing my luck when they were being hospitable in their own territory. I asked Paul why there were so few pubs left in the East End. Although part of the reason is now culture and beliefs, historically, many of the reasons are economical with the decline of many local industries over the past 60 years.

So there we are – although Albert Square is fake, the East End is real enough – or is it? The derelict buildings and their areas are only shadows of their former self – built to last, standing tall and proud, vacant. But look hard enough and they provide evidence of history and act as guardians to a life that existed long ago.

The word “Regeneration” means  to “undergo spiritual, moral or physical renewal; to reproduce or re-create”. To demolish these old buildings and make way for physical renewal in terms of modern and profitable office blocks and accommodation would be a crime. Erasing these structures and replacing them with modern buildings not only erases history and the character of the area, but would seem completely fake  The graffiti in the picture above seemed quite poignant whilst these derelict buildings await their fate:

 “Let it rot for 30 years then rebuild it for 30 Million”

Change however is inevitable and after the tour I realised how import it is to make more of an effort to document our existence and habitat not just for ourselves but for future generations to look back on. Photography is the perfect medium to record these changes and it is something I would quite like to do in the historic market town where I live. I recently came across a selection of photographs taken in the 60’s / 70’s and some as recently as 15 years ago when I first moved to the area. I couldn’t believe how much had changed in such a short space of time and how my children won’t remember “Woolworths” in the Market Square or the family owned DIY shop that used to do the most amazing Christmas window displays with an electric train set driven by Santa! I have been completely enthused by Paul and his derelict buildings and hope to start an ongoing personal project, recording change to the landscape of my town. Watch this space!!







Exercise: Higher and lower sensitivity


  • Choose a subject that is marginal where light, movement and depth of field are only just possible.
  • Take 12 photographs starting with an ISO of 100 and then higher..
  • Make notes on the results.


All the pictures of this busy street scene, were shot in Manual mode with an aperture of f/5.6 and shutter speed of 1/125.


The picture that looks best for me is the 4th with the ISO setting of 640. The lower sensitivity settings of ISO 100 / 200 / 400 resulted in the image being too dark. Once the ISO was increased over 640 the image became too light – first the white areas, as seen in the images with ISO 800 / 1000 and then the whole image from ISO 2500 onwards.  The higher the  sensitivity – the more noise there is in the image.



Feedback on Assignment 3

Considering the mental block I had getting this assignment completed, the feedback from my tutor was much, much better than what I hoped for! It has been really helpful to read all the positive comments and reassuring that I’m on the right track with both the practical and research / theory side.

I’m really enjoying the research and reading around the practitioners suggested by my tutor and am again reassured that this will be beneficial for the final assessment. However, I am getting increasingly frustrated with the lack of access to publications for specific practitioners. So far I have managed to request and reserve books with Oxfordshire Library Service except for 1 publication which they do not stock. For the next Assignment – Light, none of the books recommended by my tutor are stocked! I have requested them through the Inter-Library Loan Service but realise this may take several weeks. I have managed to get admission to the Bodleian Library in Oxford but am only allowed access during vacation, the next one being 27th March by which time I’m hoping to have submitted the assignment!! My tutor suggested approaching the nearest University that runs the BA Photography course and ask if I could access their library as a reader. I may end up clocking up the mileage to do this if I start running out of time, but it is really frustrating :-(

On the whole, I’m feeling really pleased with the way the course is going. I admit that the last 6 months have been a struggle and I have found it really hard to motivate myself and engage with the coursework / exercises. I feel that is behind me now and along with the positive feedback from my tutor I’m feeling really motivated to crack on and get AOP finished by the beginning of summer!

Exercise: Judging colour temperature 2


  • Take a similar situation to the last exercise and shoot the same 3 kinds of picture but vary the white balance settings to:
    • Daylight / sunlight
    • Shade
    • AWB – Automatic White Balance
  • Compare the 3 versions for each and note differences.


We were asked to think about the 3 photographs taken in the last exercise and decide whether any colour correction would be preferable – for example, would the shoes in the shade look better if they were neutral or slightly less blue and would the image taken in the low sun look better less orange? I looked at the images one by and then looked at all three together. Independently all the images looked acceptable to me but interestingly when viewed together my preference would be to colour correct them.

I used the same pair of shoes for this exercise and the results are as follows:

Full Midday Sun

Shade at Midday

Full Sun Late Afternoon

Looking at the 9 pictures as a set, it is easy to see that for each situation; full midday sun, shade at midday and full sun late afternoon all looked better with the appropriate White Balance setting – daylight, shade and AWB.

Full Midday Sun and Full Sun Late Afternoon

In both these situations the daylight White Balance setting resulted in a truer representation of colour than the shade White Balance setting which gave the images an orange cast. The AWB setting in both instances were extremely close with minimal difference.

Shade at Midday

As with the shade White Balance setting in the above situations, this was more orange than the daylight or AWB but is a true representation of the shoe colour in the shade. The daylight and AWB settings again produce very similar results, although I think the AWB produces a slightly bluer tone.

this has been quite a useful exercise – I normally only use AWB but experimenting with daylight and shade White Balance settings has made me much more aware of how to judge colour temperature and what looks best in different situations.



Exercise: Judging colour temperature 1


  • This exercise requires a clear and sunny day and a subject which does not have a strong colour.
  • Ensure White Balance is set to Daylight mode in camera.
  • Take 3 photographs:
    • 1 in full sunlight during the middle of the day
    • 1 in shade during the middle of the day
    • 1 in sunlight when sun is close to the horizon
  • Compare the results.


I was quite surprised by this exercise – as the course notes suggested, I didn’t really see much difference in the shoes whilst I was photographing them. This is because our eyes adapt to different colours and we are less aware of the changes as we always expect the colour of a subject to remain constant.

Looking at all 3 images together, it is easy to see that the colour differences are quite extreme. The sun is at its highest at midday and therefore the shoes look colourless or white. In the shade they appear blue – a reflection of the sky caused by the scattering of blue wavelengths. Finally – as the sun approaches the horizon late afternoon – the colour appears orange / reddish, red being the colour of the sun as it reaches the horizon.