May 29, 2014

On to the new, last post on this blog

by Suzy Walker-Toye

It’s assessment time for the OCA modules so there will be no more updates to this blog. I will now be exclusively continuing my OCA studies on a new blog for module two: Digital Film Production: Creative Concepts.

Thank you to all the students and tutors who helped me with this module and to those of you following this blog, you may wish to follow the newer one, or my personal blog over at

I hope to be writing up a review of Saturdays study visit to this years Prix Pictet exhibition and to my visit to this years Deutsche Börse Photography Prize in the next few days on my video course blog.

May 23, 2014

Book Review: The Photography as Contemporary Art by Charlotte Cotton

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I found this book very interesting & thought provoking. It’s split into 8 chapters, Cotton really packs a lot into each one. These chapters divide up contemporary art into categories or themes to “avoid giving the impression that it is either style or choice of subject matter that predominantly determines the salient characteristics of current art photography. [p7] The chapters try to group together photographers who share common motivation & working practices to understand the ideas that underpin contemporary art photography before understanding them visually.

The first chapter, If This Is Art, challenges the stereotypical lone-photographer-snapping-away-at-life notion by introducing artists who have created performances and happenings  (I love that term) especially to photograph them. This style, conceived in the conceptual art of the 60s, works because the photograph is the intended final outcome (the object presented as the work of art). The photographic style can play on the notion that these are only casual documentary photographs of the event. This challenge lifts these out of the documentary photography category and into the art category.

Some of the photographers introduced in this chapter include:

Philip-Lorca diCorcia who set up a flash on some scaffold in the streets of New York which would be triggered by random passers by so that he could take ‘portraits’ with a long lens of people who do not know they are being photographed so they do not compose themselves.

Sophie Calle whose blend of artistic strategy and dally life compelled her to eat (and photograph) only food of a single colour per day and to follow a strange man she’d accidentally met twice in one day all the way to Venice and document the journey he unwittingly led her through. For her work The Hotel she took a job as a chambermaid and documented guests person effects to discover (or imagine) who they might be.

Shizuka Yokomizo who sent letters to strangers houses asking them to stand at the window at a certain time so she could photograph them from the street, the opposite of diCorcia, these people are all shown posing in anticipation of being photographed by some unknown woman.

We are looking at strangers looking at themselves in photographs, for the windows act as a mirrors as they anticipate the moment they will be photographed. [p32]

David Shrigley who’s work uses shock & witty visual puns.

The anti-intellectual form of photoconceptualism relies on a fast turnaround of ideas and, for the viewer, an immediate comprehension and enjoyment of their meaning. [p38]

Mona Hatoum whose (rather unpleasant looking) work Van Gogh’s Back, [p40] plays on the association of the swirly patterns in Van Gogh’s starry skies with the swirly patterns in the hair on the soapy mans back. Also, the interplay between various 2D and 3D representations (back vs painting and back vs photo of a back).


The second chapter, Once Upon a Time, focuses on story telling within art photography and the how contemporary artists use ‘tableau’ photography. I was introduced first to this style of photography in the seduced by art exhibition (I wrote up my study visit too this in my part 2 PDF), where photographers (especially in the 18th & 19th century) would stage photographs in the way of paintings to make use of common cultural understanding that those paintings had already provided in terms of props, composition, symbolism etc. This chapter also carries over from the last, emphasising that the final photographs often come together as a result of a collaboration, where the photographer is the artist, producer and directer in a whole cast of actors, crew, stage and props.

Artists introduced in this section included:

Jeff Wall (who was also featured in the seduced by art exhibition) is one of the leading practitioners of tableau photography. His photographs often play on the idea of staged scene vs casually glanced at scene so that often his photographs appear to look like straight reportage, however he uses compositional devices that might be found in Renaissance paintings.

Wall sets up a tension between the look and substance of a candid, grabbed photographic moment with his actual process, which is to preconceive and construct the scene. [p50]

Also, he chooses to display his work on giant light boxes, not quite a photography, not quite a painting but by its spatial & luminescent qualities suggest the experience of both. For example the one he showed in the Seduced by Art exhibition, destroyed room, was made on a transparent film, a very large one of a kind print, a unique image (like a painting would be). It pays homage to a large painting in the Louvre, Death of Sardanapalus by Eugène Delacroix, see my write up in the part 2 PDF notes for this exhibition.

Philip-Lorca diCorcia is again featured, this time Cotton talks about his Hollywood series in which he pays men he meets in the area to have their portraits taken and names the photographs with the name & age of the man and how much he was paid to pose. This encourages a kind of storytelling in the mind of the viewers.

Liza May Post’s images are surrealistic and dreamlike. She makes strange props and the figures are often in contorted, slightly off balance poses, such as in Shadow [58].

One of the great uses of tableau photography is as a format that can carry intense but ambiguous drama that is then shaped by the viewer’s own train of thought. [p58]

Frances Kearney whose series Five People Thinking the Same Thing depicts people doing ordinary  domestic tasks facing away from the camera. This title starts you wondering what it is that all these different people are thinking about, these thoughts are not revealed and you as the viewer are left to let your imagination run free from the clues within the pictures.

Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, and Charlie White take photographs that border the gap between art & fashion, which is where my mind went when I saw the title to this chapter (it made me think of Tim Walker who was not mentioned).

The physical beauty of the prints, combined with the moral ambiguity of the narrative, makes for an unnerving visual pleasure. [p65]

Gregory Crewdson, builds highly detailed sets in which he stages strange and disturbing happenings to photograph.


Chapter three, Deadpan, relates to a type of art photography that has a distinct lack of visual drama or hyperbol… instead these photographs have a visual command that comes from their expansive nature and scale [p8/9]. Well damn, how is one to really appreciate what Cotton is saying about these images when they are reduced down to such a small scale to be reproduced in the book? I haven’t seen any of the images mentioned in ‘real life’ so I would have to just imagine their image if they were huge. It does really bring home that some images are photographed almost exclusively for exhibition though, in this internet generation its often easy to forget this and make snap judgements on images you see reproduced so small. This brings to mind the Flickr effect, where images are judged first and for most by their thumbnail size impact. None of those images in this chapter would do well don flickr 😉

Some of the photographers introduced in this chapter include:

Andreas Gursky, whose huge images are often 2m by 5m to stop you in your tracks. At this size they can be packed with detail that simply cannot be appreciated when they are shrunk down to be reproduced in a book, see Chicago, Board of Trade II [p84] for an example of what I mean, I have actually seen this in a gallery space (I recognised it but I can’t remember for what exhibition, I thought it was prix picket but he wasn’t in the 2012 one I went to) and it was most impressive.

Gursky often places us so far away from his subjects that we are not part of the action at all but detached, critical viewers. [p84].

Jacqueline Hassink, whose images of boardrooms I got to see during the study visit to the Prix Pictet exhibition (see write up here).

The results of her systematic approach spell out the generic links between corporations, regardless of the nature of their business, and the values that each corporation attaches to itself through the demarcation of space. [p91]

Joel Sternfeld, whose images from the series When it changed featured in the same study visit to the Prix Pictet exhibition, the following quote from the book equally applies to that series as to the image on p108 to which it is referring.

Joel Sternfeld’s portraits do more than raise the question of what we can assume to know about the sitter from their outward appearance. They also propose the facts of what has transpired [p107]

Ed Burtynsky, whose images have also featured in previous Prix Pictet competition themes, I’ve only seen online and I’m books (more’s the pity). I wanted to make it to the flowers gallery exhibitions of his series Water  which looked amazing (even on the internet) last year but I didn’t get there before it finished.

While social, political and ecological issues are embedded into his subjects, they are visualised as objective evidence of the consequences of contemporary life. [p86]


Chapter 4, Something and Nothing is a funny one, its a chapter about how images ordinary every day objects can challenge the viewers perceptions of photography, i.e. how contemporary photographers have pushed the boundaries of what can be considered a credible artistic subject. Ranging from window reflections to discarded clothes these images are more about the subject (and lack thereof) and how they are conceptually altered because of the visual impact they are given by being photographed and presented as art – its the R. Mutt of photography.

 All the photographs in this chapter, in subtle ways, attempt to shift our perceptions of our daily lives. There is something anti-triumphant and open ended, yet still resonant, in this form of photography [p126]

Artists introduced in this section included:

Peter Fischli & David Weiss, who’s Quiet Afternoon series is a selection of images of ordinary objects stacked up in a surrealistic and often comedic manner.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, who’s untitled billboards [p118] are required to be displayed (by the owner) on at least 6 billboards at any one time and depict an unmade bed, with the imprint of the couples bodies still visible on the sheets.

 The photograph’s depiction of such an intimate scene is given its drama by being placed into the public contexts of urban streets and highways for the scrutiny of passers-by [p118]

Anthony Hernandez, who takes photos of abandoned buildings, documenting what is overlooked (socially and politically as well as visually).

Wolfgang Tillmans, who’s images are all very different (in both subjects and processes) have many recurring motifs such as the spontaneous sculptures made by clothes have have been casually discarded – either hung up or dropped on the floor.

Jeff Wall, crops up again, this time with an image of a mop & bucket.

Wall’s careful construction of a grouping of peripheral things prompts questions about our own relationship with photographs: Why are we looking at this? At what point in history and our own lives did a corner of a floor represented in a photograph become iconic, worthy of our attention? [p131]


Chapter five, Intimate life, concentrates on photographs revealing personal relationships.

We generally take pictures at symbolic points in family life, at times when we acknowledge our relationship bonds and social achievements. They are moments we hold onto, emotionally and visually”[p137]

Using the style of a family snap, many of these images seek to capture moments during which a camera wouldn’t ordinary be brought out. Some of these images could be said to be sensationalist however, the photographers are somewhat immune to criticism of exploration of their subjects because of the autobiographical nature of this style of photography, the subjects are typically friends & family of the photographer and sometimes the photographer themselves. This chapter was my least favourite, probably because I couldn’t identify with the photographers or their subjects, why would you want a camera in your face during those moments (as the subject)? And I couldn’t conceive of getting a camera out during those moments as a photographer, it seems so crass, intrusive and emotionally detached to be taking pictures during those moments, does that make me less of an artist – probably – but a nicer human being.

Photographers introduced in this chapter included:

Nan Goldin, who’s ongoing series of images of friends & lovers pretty much started off this style of photography.

The Ballard of Sexual Dependancy, for example, was a personalized contemplation of the nature of subjects such as sexual relationships, male social isolation, domestic violence and substance abuse. [p139]

Nobuyoshi Araki, who’s images are seen as a visual diary of his sexual life featuring young Japanese women in various states of undress.

Richard Billingham, who’s images are of his family in their cramped and untidy council flat in the West Midlands. I actually saw some of these in the 1997 “Sensation” Exhibition at the Royal Academy.

Ryan McGinley, who is following in Nan Goldin’s footsteps, by recording his lifestyle (in the same area although 30 years later).

Yang Yong, who’s images are staged as a collaborative effort of him and his friends to starve off boredom.


Chapter six, Moments in History, takes a look a the work of photographers who bear witness to the ways of life and events of the world. It is primarily documentary photography and its use as art. Starting with ‘aftermath photography’, where photographers go into war zones and sites of other social and ecological disasters to photograph what is left.

In the literal scarification of the places depicted, contemporary art photography presents allegories of the consequences of political and hunan upheaval. [p9]

The chapter also touches on how documentary projects about isolated communities which once would have graces the pages of editorial magazines are now turning to galleries to present the work.

Artists introduced in this section included:

Sophie Ristelhueber who has documented the aftermath of conflicts in Beirut, Kuwait and Iraq and is seen to be one of the most influential photographers working in this mode.

In some of her starkest visualisations of the decimation created by war, burnt tree stumps act as metaphors for the loss of life as well as the ecological richness of the region. [p168]

Paul Seawright, who’s commissioned work (by London’s Imperial War Museum) responding to the conflict in Afghanistan is reminiscent of the early war photographs by Roger Fenton from the early to mid 1800’s.

Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin, who’s work I was introduced to by these videos on What is Conceptual Photography, and then again later in the Deutsche Borse 2013 study visit.

In this chapter of the book, Cotton touches on their work with reference to Benetton’s Colors Magazine and work from the series Ghetto (2003).

The fact that the activity in the prison was edited out and slowed down long enough to be visualised on Broomberg and Chanarin’s large-format camera relates the project to nineteenth-century documentary photography , and also serves to detach it from the conventions of photojournalism. [p177]

Martin Parr, who’s brightly coloured images from his Common Sense series test the boundaries of documentary photography, taking hundreds of photos and editing them down into a narrative about British cultural idiosyncrasies which may be dying out.

Common Sense epitomises photographic promiscuity – the taking of hundreds of photographs, which in their combination offer one dynamic and subjective image of the world. [p183]

Luc Delahaye, who’s images from Various works 2008-2011 won the 2012 Prix Pictet competition on the theme ‘Power’ (see my write up on that exhibition here).


Chapter seven, Revived and Remade, explores the postmodernist photographic practice of exploiting our pre-existing cultural knowledge base of imagery.

This includes the remaking of well-known photographs and the mimicking of generic types of imagery such as magazine adverting, film stills or surveillance and scientific photography. By recognising these familiar kinds of imagery, we are made conscious of what we see, how we see, and how images trigger and shape our emotions. [p10]

Why couldn’t Barthes just boil it down to a simple sentence or two like that? Anyway, this type of photographic practice raises all sorts of interesting questions on concepts such as originality, authorship & photographic veracity. This chapter also touches on reuse of existing images, which brought to mind the study visit to the Deutsche Borse photography prize. Mishka Henner, Adam Broomberg & Oliver Chanarin and Cristina De Middel’s entires into that prize would all feel at home being mentioned in this chapter and I was reminding of each as I read through.

A few of the photographers introduced in this chapter are:

Cindy Sherman, who’s work typically sees her pose in her own photographs portraying generic female characters. For example, her Untitled Film Stills series is sixty-nine images of scenarios that depict a single woman figure and could be from stills from black & white fils of the 1950s & 60s.

One of the most startling aspects of the series is the ease with which each feminine ‘type’ is recognisable. Even though we know only the gist f the possible film plots being staged, because of our familiarity wit the coding of such films, we begin easily to read the narratives implied by the images. [p193]

Nikki S. Lee, who’s work is part performance, part photography. The artist changes her appearance (her weight, hair, eye and even skin colour) to assimilate herself into a certain social group by scrutinising their clothes, mannerisms, social conventions and body language. The photographs are either taken by a friend or a member from the group. Her projects have ranged including Hispanic,Strippers, Punk, Yuppie and Wall Street Broker .

Vik Muniz, who appropriated Hans Namuth’s famous photograph of Jackson Pollock by recreating it in chocolate syrup and then photographing it (p190). Muniz has also make similar illusions with other substances such as chocolate, thread, dust, wire, sugar, soil and even spaghetti.

This suitably dripping re-presentation of the famous artist makes for a dynamic mental relay: we recognise this as a photograph of a drawing of a photograph of, what has become, a syrupy mystification of the creative act of the artist. [p191]


The final chapter, Physical and Material, is focused on photography where the nature of the medium is part of the narrative of the work. For some photographers this simply means to use analogue technology rather than digital when creating an artwork, for others this is appropriating existing images to find new meanings (although you could argue this is curation and not photography). This chapter also touches on artists who only use photography as one facet of their various media practice.

“There has been a shift in the current understanding of what photography encompasses and what it means to propose photographic works of art. More than ever this involves some sort of disclosure of the context and conditions that have shaped the completed artwork. Contemporary art photography has become less about applying a pre-existing, fully functioning visual technology and more concerned with active choices in every step of the process. [p219]

Artists introduced in this section included

Sherrie Levine, who appropriates the work of Walker Evans, rephotographing famous his photographs as objects, mounting them, framing them and presenting them in contemporary galleries. This is akin to Marcel Duchamp granting iconic status to ordinary found objects (except these photographs were already famous in their own right so it still seems like cheating to me).

Christopher Williams, who has an obsession with corn and corn byproducts and how they infiltrate every aspect of our lives, even photography (where a by-product of corn is used as an ingredient in the lubricant used to polish lenses and also in the chemicals used to make fine art photographic prints).

Sara VanDerBeek, who makes small sculptures which include appropriated images and then photographs them with dramatic lighting as the finished work (she doesn’t exhibit the sculptures themselves).

Michael Queenland, who makes art installations for which large abstract photographs are just one part, a “transformative tool of quotidian objects and experiences” apparently.

Within pan-media practice, photography is used in various ways, as an ingredient that can either intentionally disrupt or consolidate the overall narrative of an installation or artwork. [p227]

Eileen Quinlan, whose on-going series Smoke & Mirrors is a personal reflection on making analogue photographs and the luck and happenstance which goes along with that physical process.

Jason Evans, who’s online project The Daily Nice, is a photo a day project of something visually intriguing with a happy tenor which responds on how web behaviour can shape the scope of contemporary photography


The conclusion of the book is a relatively short and upbeat paragraph so I’ll keep mine short too, we are encouraged with the introduction to these artists to engage with the wonders of life and to recognise the beauty and magic that is still to be found photographically.

In an era where we receive, take, and disseminate as well as tag, browse and edit photographic imagery, we are all the more invested, and more expert, in the language of photography than ever before, and we have a greater appreciation for how photography can be a far from neutral or transparent vehicle for bridged and framed moments or real time. [p240]

Well after reading this book I now I am. Recommended.

April 1, 2014

Book Review: Behind the Image – Research in Photography by Anna Fox and Natasha Caruana

by Suzy Walker-Toye

basics creative photography 03 behind the image research in photography book cover I’m not sure why this book even got put onto the reading list. To me it seems to go from one obvious and belaboured point to the next. The first two chapters could have been condensed down into one or two good introductory paragraphs and a bullet list of ideas. For example do we really need to be told to visit galleries on a photography course? Do people in the modern age really need to be told what a bookmark is and how to use one? I was expecting to flip to the front and see that this had been written in the early ’90s but its actually from 2012.

It starts off nice and specific, ie you have something to research or you want to do a specific project which would need a proposal then it gets a bit wishy washy and seems to be suggesting places that arnt really specific research places as such. Galleries for example are great for inspiration and interesting exhibitions but unless they happen to have one on your topic it’s not really targeted research for your own projects.

The book is split up into 6 chapters, Planning, Development through research, Practice as research, Compiling your research, Research and practice and the Impact of research.

The first part of the chapter on planning was quite interesting, the idea of making a research proposal (or brief) is one which could transfer into one of those useful skills that all clients need but newbie freelance photographers often lack the practice in. This chapter brought to mind the recent Miss Aniela Creative Live workshop (which I recently blogged about here), and her concept of making a pitch document for the client and supplementing it with mood boards once the time comes for shooting. In fact several times while reading this book her workshop sprang to mind.

Basically a research proposal comprises of a title, a topic or theme, target audience, suggested practical approach to how you intend to carry out the work, any details of local access you might need (and other organisational details and permissions), funding proposals, summary considerations for social media, timetable & budget and proposed research references.

As much as this is important, I can’t help to think it sort of sucks the fun out of the creative photographic process, nailing down details up front might put some people off doing the project entirely, especially if its a personal project where you are your own client. It seems like it would be very easy to have a method of working which overanalyses things and loses that spark of spontaneity that some projects need to get off the ground.

The idea behind the approach and methods section reminded me of what I was doing (unofficially) with my pdf learning logs. Basically giving myself a history of where the ideas where coming from as they evolved. A useful exercise if a bit long winded for normal (non-assessed) work.

The Being Informed parts of this chapter I think could have just been summarised into a few interesting bullet list of ideas. Looking at photographers histories, books, magazines, journals & gallery visits all seem pretty obvious if you are researching something photography based.

I thought the case studies were interesting, they gave a good context to what the book was trying (and often failing) to express and keep the reader engaged with.

Unfortunately, the second chapter almost made me put down the book in exasperation. As I’ve already mentioned, no one in this day & age needs whole sections on why the internet is useful and what to do with bookmarks. There really was no need to go into that level of detail in stating the obvious (again). Its almost as if the publishers had given a page count and the authors felt some padding was needed (that apparently the generous whitespace and photos throughout didn’t give already)? Do yourself a favour and skip over this chapter.

Chapter three, “practice as research” started off seeming a bit random, touching on a few main places where you might take photos (the studio, street photography) – So? Eventually it got to its (very long winded) point of trial and error photography as a journey to new ideas or finished work. The same with Post Production and the types of things you could decide to do to your image. The self-evaluation form section was mildly interesting (we basically do this in the course at the end of each part anyway) but I think this whole chapter was a bit outside the scope of the book, long winded and not very well written. Sorry, just my opinion.

Chapter four, is useful if you read this at the beginning of TAOP course but with a bit of trial and error you come up with your own ways of organising your research materials (most people use blogging and personal workbooks for the course).

Chapters five and six see the book winding down and concluding by repeating fairly obvious themes and conclusions from earlier chapters.

In conclusion, read the contents page and imagine what each (very interesting sounding) heading might talk about. Expand on that logically in your mind. Close the book, reading no further.

March 28, 2014

Imaginative Fashion Photography Workshop

by Suzy Walker-Toye


Last weekend I caught a couple of days of the Miss Aniela – Imaginative Fashion Photography workshop on creative live. I like to see her finished work on Facebook or flickr so this chance to see behind the scenes was fascinating.

It was a 3 day course in which the Miss Aniela team did two fashion shoots live online and walked you through the process from beginning to end. The first, the lowfi shoot, was with modest equipment, lighting and model, the other, the hifi shoot, was an all-out experience with a whole production team collaborating. I found it really interesting the amount of creative input the other members of the team have after the initial idea of a shoot has been posited.

Miss Aniela comes in with mood-boards (more about these later) and the ideas for the shoot evolve from the location, the design of the dress, the direction of the hair & make up and the backstory that everyone on the shoot has in mind. After the shoot Miss Aniela takes the photos into photoshop and decides what artistic direction to take them in that fits in with the original photo (whether simple post process of the look & tone of the image or an all out surrealistic do over). She often pulls in other photos of objects & locations she’s photographed at other times (such as the sea in the above promo image), she sometimes brings in parts from old paintings (after checking that the they are old enough for the copyright to have expired of course).

She also talks about inspiration and where we take inspiration from. This is an iPhone screen grab of one of her slides from this segment where she just lists out some of hers:


Its interesting to note how most of those are not other photographers but actually outside the photography discipline altogether. I think it might be an interesting exercise to have a think about what mine would be when paired right down to a list like that.

In the same segment she goes onto to introduce the concepts of mood boards as the “physical version of the papier mache of inspirations”. They can give us a clearer view of the direction we might want to take a particular project is. I think this is what many creative people use pinterest for. This is another screen grab where images on the left are the mood board and images on the right are the resulting images from Miss Aniela.


Moodbaords essentially help you communicate with others your intentions of the shoot and make everyone aware of the inspirations. Also, when combined with the pitch document you might par pare for a client they help keep your aims real & motivated.

Overal I found this course interesting & inspiring. You can of course buy the download version if it here.

December 11, 2013

Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative

by Suzy Walker-Toye

In this final assignment we were bade to imagine that we were illustrating a story for a magazine. We had to create a worth cover (much like the rain exercise), and several pages of a narrative article (or series of images with captions as a photo story). This means that the story can unfold over multiple images rather than a single one shot story as a usual stand alone image is designed to be. We were reminded that some of the photos would be seen together on the same pair of pages (double page spreads).

My pdf submission here, was designed to act as one of those little A5 pullouts you get inside the middle of a larger magazine. A whole little story, self contained. All about a trip to Dive 2013, one of the largest dive shows in the UK. I made the PDF here landscape when viewed online (so you would get the effect of the double page spreads).

Online version:
Assignment5 Dive Show PDF

When it came to printing, I needed to make sure a double sided printer would print things correctly for the little booklet to be arranged (as if to be stapled into a larger magazine). This PDF below is the rearrange so you can see what I mean.

Assignment5 Dive Show Print Arrangement PDF

In my learning log, I have gone though each page and image choice in detail so I wont repeat that all here.

November 5, 2013

Exercise: Rain Magazine Cover

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p181 is to create a magazine cover on the subject of rain. Here is mine:

Rain cover

I did take this other image at the same time but I think the one I chose it better. Rainy london.

Alternative Rain

October 24, 2013

Exercise: Juxtaposition

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Juxtaposition is all about putting objects together to suggest a relationship and its the mainstay of illustration. In this exercise we are encouraged to take a book and create a new cover for it by taking relevant elements of the story and incorporating those together.

I recently read a very silly book called Undead & Unwed. It’s a comedy about a completely handbag & shoe preoccupied young woman called Betsy who gets killed and wakes up, not only undead, but queen of the vampires because for some reason she can walk in the sun. Pride and Prejudice for the new generation? Not. But funny nevertheless. Here is my new cover for it…

Undead & Unwed My New Cover

I choose fake (glow in the dark) fangs (to indicate comedy and vampire), OTT handbag and clearly fake blood. The real cover looks like this where they use ditzy blond doing her make up sitting on a gravestone:
Undead And Unwed Cover

October 23, 2013

Exercise: Symbols

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Following on from yesterdays exercise, this next one (on p178) is more of a thought exercise than a practical one. The idea is to find symbols for a number of supplied concepts here are mine:

  • Growth – eggs, small green shoots, little & large comparisons, children wearing adults cloths & shoes, increasing line graph, seeds, babies
  • Excess – sex, drugs & rock & roll lifestyles, banquets, super drunk people, obesity, exaggerated bling
  • Crime – guns, knives, handcuffs, police badges, mugshots, bloody bodies, chalk outlines, hoodies, balaclavas, swag, being arrested
  • Silence – silencers, headphones, praying, libraries, one finger to lips hush sign
  • Poverty – open hand (begging), 3rd world aid, tramps, people rummaging through bins, soup (kitchen), two cents (have not got two to rub together), the big issue.
October 22, 2013

Exercise: Evidence of Action

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p177 is a challenge to produce one photo in which it can be seen that something has happened. Suggestions included something that might have been broken or emptied. Here I went for something spilled.

Spilt Milk

The project associated with this action is all about illustration, and about how it really comes into its own when the subject is dealing with an abstract idea or concept. I wanted to illustrate the saying “No point crying over split milk”, which is another way of saying accidents happen, or what’s in the past is done and you have to suck it up and deal with the situation. I was going to use real milk but I had the idea to use milk illustration (cut out paper) as stand in. It illustrated my point better using the graphical concept of spilt milk.

The example of illustrating an idea that is given in the exercise is when insurance companies need to advertise. The second part of the exercise was to think of 5 examples of concepts that are regularly depicted in advertising & publicity:

  • Love – advertisers are continually trying to sell using love
  • Wealth – advertisers know that many people want to be rich
  • Faith – all sorts of symbols for this across the different faiths
  • Popularity – advertsiers play with popularity, who’s hot or not, the facebook ‘like’ thumbs up, etc
  • spread bettering – the best one I saw for this was a patched teddybear with a slogan about being stuffed, it made me laugh because many people get caught out spread betting so a company that can help you reap the rewards without so much risk would be worth it.
  • Virus protection – this is a bit like insurance, where they tend to use shields etc as symbols for protection.

There are many photographers who specialise in conceptual photograph, the one who springs to my mind is David Nitsche

David Nitsche

October 21, 2013

Exercise: A Narrative Picture Essay

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The narrative picture essay is a series of images which tell a story. We are all so used to trying to tell a story with one image sometimes we forget that a photo essay might be a more appropriate vehicle for telling the full story. I often do this on my personal blog when I come home from a trip (e.g. Whalesharks in Mexico). If there has been several discreet ‘chapters’ to my the story of my trip I might split them up into several blog posts and over the breadth of the trip across those (for example here, with my Namibia trip).

Image placement ,size and spacing becomes important in a picture essay. The images work differently when placed next to other images than in a standalone post. You can use size and order to emphasise certain aspects and shape the story. Captions are integral to most photo essays, linking the photos together to weave the story and give you greater insight to what is going on. The layout would be different depending on where & how the essay is to be displayed. I construct my blogs around my images but I try and shot my images to be standalone images for the most part. When you shoot for a story you find yourself taking context & linking shots which otherwise you might not take (or if you take them you might not normally choose to display them), but in the context of the story they can become the glue that hold the stand alone images together.


I actually went out into the Red Sea with the express intention of creating a photobook of my trip (for Solo photo book month). I had been to the Red Sea before, on the same boats in fact. So I knew what to expect. The types of shots to prepare for and most importantly I knew I wanted a photo book at the end of it. I found myself planning out the main story and then shooting to it rather than just my usual ‘street’ photography style of shoot what is interesting at the time. It was quite a challenge, the aim is to create 35 photos (or more) and text (if you want to) and put them in a PDF photobook all within 31 days! Also, because I’d planned it upfront, I was able to quiz my boat-mates throughout the week for some quotes on what they thought of the Red Sea to appear in my book.

The SoFoBoMo site (which has closed down now) had a size restriction on the file so I didn’t bother trying to print it because it’d look very crap. It’s been optimised for screen viewing and compressed to within an inch of its life to get it down to under 7mb. I was on a PC when I edited (not my Mac) so I used Microsoft publisher to layout which was pretty easy to use. I published to pdf but there wasn’t really any options on the pdf (security or document properties or anything) so I downloaded a free trial version of Adobe Acrobat 9 to edit my pdf properties. It was a very enjoyable process.

Here is my eBook.

October 16, 2013

Everybody Street… a new documentary about street photography

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Really enjoyed this trailer for the forthcoming documentary on street photography

See it directly on Vimeo here.

“Everybody Street” illuminates the lives and work of New York’s iconic street photographers and the incomparable city that has inspired them for decades. The documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City, and captures the visceral rush, singular perseverance and at times immediate danger customary to these artists.

Featuring: Bruce Davidson , Elliott Erwitt, Jill Freedman, Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Rebecca Lepkoff, Mary Ellen Mark, Jeff Mermelstein, Clayton Patterson, Ricky Powell, Jamel Shabazz, Martha Cooper, and Boogie, with Max Kozloff and Luc Sante.

October 7, 2013

Book Review: The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes: Creative Applications of Small Flashes (Voices That Matter) by Joe McNally This one isn’t technically on the reading list but was recommended to me. You know it’s going to be an interesting read when you learn something new in the first 12 pages. The HSD, unlike the other flash books recommended in the course notes is not a manual on how to shoot flash – Joe even states that on the into page xiii – This Is Not The Manual. This is a book you can sit down with in the train or with a cup of coffee and read like a normal person. And just who is Joe McNally, well as a National Geographic, Time, & Life photographer and internationally acclaimed American Photographer he knows a heck of a lot more about different light situations than I ever will. 😉

“Light is quicksilver. Magic. It is here, then it is there. Then it is gone.”

Its basically a book filled with different lighting examples and the stories of how they were shot, this makes it sound pretty dull but I found it really interesting to read. I tried to make notes on it as I went along so I would be able to refer back to my book review when I needed to look stuff up for reference (hence the page numbers throughout the review).

The introduction is all about the nuts & bolts of what Joe uses and why. What was the thing I learnt in the first 12 pages? Well, on p11-12 he is explaining the importance of EV. Mostly when I’m using my camera for underwater work it’s in manual mode, since my flashes are all manual so was my camera (this however may change now with my new Olympus set up), I rarely use Aperture priority so didnt have to understand this EV thing. EV is exposure compensation. In Aperture mode you are selecting the aperture and letting the camera select your other settings but what if you wanted it slightly darker or lighter than the camera suggests? That’s where EV comes in. You can compensate for the extra brightness or darkness you want.

Bright backgrounds will silhouette your subjects, hence you know to program in some plus exposure in order to brighten things for them. (p11)

Flash has independent EV controls because the camera EV is scene wide, a global input, which is both available light and flashlight. So if you dialled in some over exposure to the camera you have dialled in the over exposure to the flash too which would need to be corrected or the whole scene would just be darker than you anted (assuming we’re using TTL, which is sort of automatic mode for flash).

Upfront he lays out the very basic settings he usually uses and the reasons why. The book is very Nikon-centric but I’m sure it’ll translate into Olympus (or anything else) once you understand the gist. After twenty or so pages you might start to tired if the witty americanisms but push on because the content is worth it. He writes in a conversational tone but somehow gets the facts over. I found the little section on rear curtain sync (and why not to use red eye pre-flashes) on p14 interesting because I did have mine set to rear curtain but was finding the recycle time too long for the tiny hotshoe flash which my strobes optically slave from, I now have it on 1/64s power – more experimentation needed I think.

There is a section at the start on flash concepts which clearly lays out the terms Joe uses throughout the book, eg TTL (through the lens metering), CLS (creative lighting system – this is Nikons name for it) etc. He talks a lot about zooming the flash (so that your flash coverage is edge to edge even when you zoom in your lenses). I must remember to check out this feature if I purchase a topside flash, it seems important throughout the book (introduced on p22). There is an interesting introduction section on gear, gels, light modifiers etc that had me reaching for google to check out extra info on them. Given the price on some of this stuff, I think careful consideration on exactly what you might need and what might be DIY’d will be in order. Given that he isnt saying you need any of this stuff, he’s just explaining what things are that he uses so when he talks about them later in the book you arn’t left scratching your head wondering what he’s on about.

Once you set one of these puppies off, light goes everywhere. It’s up to you to tell it where to go. (p27)

Joe goes into quite a bit about colour, specifically balancing the colour of the flash (which is usually neutral white daylight) with whatever the available light happens to be. This is going to come in handing during the end of Section 4 of the course. On pretty much every photo he examines he explains which colour gel he put over his flash & why which I found really useful.

Light can be hard, soft, wrapping, harsh, slashing, sumptuous, glowing, ethereal, muddy, muted, brash, poppy, brassy, contrasty, clean, open – it’s a little nuts. (p38)

I found the explanation of how Joe shot an image of a Tanzanian woman (below) on p56-57 really interesting – balancing the natural (harsh) window light with his flash. He makes the point that straight flash would destroy the mood and atmosphere of the scene, the lighting from the window reminds me of the “cathedral” lighting I often see in caves, shipwrecks and under jetties.
Joe McNally p56

On p61-67 Joe goes through a couple of the pitfalls of on camera flash and iTTL (intelligent through the lens), and gives a good explanation of EV, gels & colours, again explaining that he adds a CTO gel to warm up that flashlight and he moves the flash off to onside, right near the subject to produce a more flattering light. On p70 & 71 he talks about adding Magenta filters to the lens to offset the overall greenish tone to a city night scene but then having to green-up his flash with filters to offset the magenta filter and blend the light with the available light (in digital you can just use the fluorescent white-balance instead of the magenta lens filter). One great effect this has is the dusky sunset gets more magenta – which made it look even better. On p83-85 Joe goes over why you might use fill-in flash, what exactly it is, and how such small nuances may effect the mood and story of a photo.

You know why they call it “fill”? ‘Cause the glass is already just about full. All you have to do is pour a little more in. (p84)

And what, pray, is a Lastolite All-In-One umbrella? Being new to topside flash I’m amazed by the variety of accessories and lighting modifiers. On p96 Joe goes through why he was using this umbrella and its various features to shoot a girl in a hoodie at twilight. He goes further with teh accessories on p98 where he basically overpowers the natural light with flash to recreate the sunset!

The ballerina photo on p102 is a really nice example of using shadows of things that are between the light and the subject to tell a better story in the photo.

The smaller the light source relative to the subject, and the farther away it is, the sharper and harder the shadows will be. (p104)

He gets serious with lighting delicate hospital moments (and how to over come the banks of hospital overhead florescent with a Lumiquest 80-20 attachment) on p109 and p130.

The moment is more important than the light. (p110)

The next few sections cover topics such as light texture (lacey light to get that net curtain effect), working without strobes and introducing them slowing in an on-site scenario (although most of us wouldn’t get to document behind the scenes at NASA), various times when putting the lighting outside the windows creates great effects, lighting on water in just a plastic bag – eek, mixing neon, flash and tungsten light sources and some other interesting stuff.

Seedy motels mack of illicit liaisons, last stands, one-night stands, and desperate deeds done in the dark. Great photographic fodder. (p153)

On page 155 he goes into lighting without messing up the atmosphere of the scene as it stands. Increasing the punch and depth of the shadows by zooming the light through old dirty windows seems to be a favorite technique that he uses again and again.


I want to get this posted up for my tutor to see what I have so far, so I’m leaving this unfinished to come back & edit to when I’ve finished reading… to be continued.

October 7, 2013

Assignment 4: Applying lighting techniques

by Suzy Walker-Toye

For this assignment the task was to apply different lighting techniques to one object to emphasise Shape, form, texture & colour. Click on the small images below to enter the gallery view.

I’ve put my critical review & thoughts into my learning log pdf part 4.

Here are two bonus photos which didn’t quite match the rest of the set but which I also liked…

This could be an alternative for Texture:
Bonus 1

This could be an alternative for Form:
Bonus 2

October 3, 2013

Book Review: Light Science Magic

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

This is Nice simple introduction to lighting principles. I like the way they don’t try and narrow it down to using flashes and get too bogged down in the equipment right out of the gate. That is often off-putting to a beginner like me, when you pick up a book about lighting & flash. However here, they acknowledge that the same principles apply whether you are using the sun & clouds, desk lamps & DIY diffusers or high-end studio lighting. They are teaching the physics behind it (but in a practical and useful manner whatever your equipment).

For me personally I found this book very useful because I have only used flashes underwater (where the physics is a little different due to the water column, depth away from the sun, particles in the water catching the light (backscatter) and a host of other factors). On those flashes (two Inon z240 strobes), they come with two types of diffusers (but I have only ever used one set) and I have DIY red gel filters so that I get nice blue backgrounds. Colour drop off due to depth & distance is not an issue on land of course. When I shoot on land I use desk lamps for macro with official diffusers (just a little DIY tracing paper). Quite often I use shiny surfaces as backdrops so the explanations in this book will help me to master the glare and reflections to achieve the photos that I want rather than my previous trial and error approach. I’d recommending reading this straight away if you are doing this course and not waiting for section 4 (the lighting section).

They go through examples of photographing things and what sort of set ups would work and why. Such as photographing artwork & other flat surfaces (great for OCA students)! Also, shiny surfaces such as metal, transparent objects like glasses (the subject I found most useful considering my first assignment ideas) and photos that would need a mixture of surfaces catered for. Also, chapters on lighting people with one or more lights. Also, lighting for difficult extremes such as black on black or white on white.

I’d recommend this as a must read to anyone new to lighting or someone who’d only read lighting books that explained the who & what but didn’t get around to the why. This is a nice companion to the course and I’d say the most practically useful book so far. It’s also nicely laid out for reference, I shall be dipping back into this as a reference for years to come I expect.

October 3, 2013

Exercise: Shiny Surfaces

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p163 is about taking photos of reflective surfaces. The instructions were a bit weird, take a shiny object to lay flat and photograph & light from from above. Then take a cone of tracing paper to put over the lens and the object (but not in the photo) to stop the shiny object from reflecting everything about. Right, so I duely got about a spoon and gave it ago. However I couldn’t get the tracing paper cone big enough or stiff enough to stay in place over the spoon out of shot. Finally after getting very irritated with such a silly request I managed to (sort of) do it with a five pence piece. The first photo is the 5p just lit with a bare desk lamp. The second 5p is lit with the silly cone of shame over (see the little set up shot).

5p bare light
5p under the cone
5p Setup tracing paper cone

What we’re actually seeing here is that in the first shot the light is not in the family of angles that would be a direct reflection on the 5p. Chapter 6 of the Light, Science and Magic book (see my bookshelf) explains this very well. In the ‘under the cone’ shot the 5p is reflecting its surroundings (the cone). This is actually better demonstrated in my next set of images, which dont use a cone but a light tent (better, more stable version of the cone).


Setup 1

The first image is just the two bare lights. You can see it reflects its surroundings completely.
Photo with Setup 1

Setup 2
I thought to soften the light with diffusers but you can see the brown cardboard in the left hand cup and my arm reaching out to hold the second diffuser in both the larger cups.
photo with setup 2

This was the same set up as before but I moved the diffusers closer to the cups, you see its removed the brown colours in the left hand cup because the centre of the diffuser is now firmly in the family of angles which the cup directly reflects. But you can still see me and the rest of the surround reflected.

Photo with setup 3

Setup 3

To fix that you need the whole object surrounded (like with the cone) so we can use a light tent. You can still see me and the camera in the opening from the tent though.

Photo from setup 4

Setup 5

The light tent comes with a little front piece with a slit in it for just such an occasion which attaches with velcro. This allows you to just poke the camera lens through the opening to minimise as much of the direct reflections as possible. Obviously we cannot not have the lens there, if we don’t point the camera at the object we don’t get a photo, but we’ve done what we can. I guess if you wanted too, at this point you could just clone that out in photoshop to tidy it up a bit.

Photo from setup 5

Setup 6

The reason I took this last photo, is I thought that the left hand cup was a bit bright, so I re-angled the lamp outside of the tent a bit more to my liking.

Photo from setup 6

In truth I prefer the wider angle of the first few photos, and the light tent with the front open, if you were to just make the opening black to remove the reflection of camera & me then it would look better I think than the weird frontage that the front flap reflection gives.


October 2, 2013

Exercise: Concentrating Light

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Danbo in spotliht

If you only want light to fall on part of the scene you can create a snoot or some other way to confine the light. That is what the exercise on p162 is all about. Here I took my desk lamp shade off and replaced it with a piece of rolled up black card to create a spotlight.

Setup Spotlight Setup normal light

Danbo in normal light

Purse in normal light

Purse in spotlight

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September 25, 2013

Exercise: Outdoors At Night

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p152 is all about photographing at night in the city centre. The aim of this exercise is to explore the variety of lighting effects and colour in artificial light. To include in our list of image were the following:

  • A floodlit building (where the lights are hidden)
  • A brightly lit storefront
  • A large interior such as a shopping centre
  • And a view of a busy road where we can create light trails of the car lights rushing by.

The view skyline would look much better at dusk where there is a hint of light in the sky however I usually go home before its dark at this time of the year or I’m out for a reason until it’s full dark – this time I was at the David Bailey and Bruce Weber exhibition. Although having said this – London has so much light pollution it is never really black anyway.


Closed Tube

The Tower

City lights

City Lights

The Gherkin



Lit Walkway

Triangles & Lights

Office Block


Outside seating

Liverpool St Station

Busy Street

Empty Street






Shopping Mall

Liverpool St Station

Liverpool St Station

Upturned Spotlights

Shiny building

September 24, 2013

Olympus Image Space @ The Loading Bay

by Suzy Walker-Toye

This weekend Olympus was doing a very special event to celebrate the launch of my camera‘s big brother the EM1. I went along to the free workshops and they were a great chance to try out some types of photography I’d never done before. Studio lighting with a model and Indoor urban performance photography. And there was a photographic exhibition on in the space – Women of Iceland by Gabrielle Motola. It was especially good given that the current chapter I’m doing for TAOP is ‘Light’. Here are some of the shots I produced.

Studio Lighting with Damian McGillicuddy:

Damian basically set up the lights and talked up thought the choices he’d made and why he’d set the lights up like this. He had two FL-50r speed lights (with some sort of little lighting sock on them so they didn’t light up the white columns they were next to) behind the model for a back/rim lighting. The main light was another FL-50r behind a soft box into the models face from the side. He then got the model to stand ‘like an innocent little girl’ which to be honest given what she was wearing I found a bit creepy. I got her to do the same pose to see if I could get similar photos to Damian but she looked so sad that when Damian was busy with something else I got her to be a bit silly – which she seemed to enjoy – doing aeroplanes 🙂 Here are the photos…

Setting up – I wanted to take a few shots when no flashes were going off and I actually really like these:
Setting up

Damian’s assistant Matt took the light meter readings – all the flashes were on manual mode:
Matt taking a light meter reading

I took this shot before I changed to square format. You can see that they’d moved one light a bit so they ended up slightly asymmetric, maybe its ocd but I really wanted to go over and change it!
Wide shot

On Damian’s advice I set it to square format (thinking I’d be able to choose the crop again later since I’m shooting raw, but for some reason it only showed me the square format in LR and I could get back to the original, not doing that again, I’d prefer to crop in LR if I’m going too):

You can see the light flare in from one side where the light was nearer on one side that the other – it does look quite cool but I would have preferred it if it was intentional.

Aeroplanes 🙂

Urban Performance Photography with R. Cleveland Aaron.

We actually arrived just as one session was finishing – with some cool acrobats doing flips etc but I wasnt standing in the right place for this one. I really wished we’d been there for the whole session with them. As much as the next session was really good, I have less than zero interesting in football.

Urban performers Urban performers

Our session was with football freestyler Colin Nell. He was very talented. If you like football tricks. They work better in video than stills though.

Football freestyler

Football freestyler

I did get to test the ISO capability of my camera though because downstairs it was very dark – only lit by those LED lights so to get a reasonable shutter speed with my not so fast lens I was up at 4000!!

Here is a 1:1 of a portion of that image with no noise reduction on it – ouch:
High Iso 4000

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

I switched to video which worked much better to capture his actions:

We then went upstairs for another round with a bit more light (thank goodness)! Where Colin demonstrated the same stunts with a hat, a tennis ball and lastly a golfball. He finished off by catching that one in his mouth – eek.

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

Football Freestyler

As talented as he was (and he was very skilled, not one ball came bounding over to the photographers) I still would have preferred to be watching the previous people backflip.

Women of Iceland Exhibition by Gabrielle Motola.

More infor about this in my paper log.
Women of Iceland Exhibition

Here is another review of this event.

September 23, 2013

David Bailey & Bruce Weber Private View

by Suzy Walker-Toye

‘Everyone is an artist’
David Bailey

To celebrate the new Nokia Lumia 1020 phone, Bruce Weber & David Bailey each took one around Harlem. Mike & I went to the private view of the resulting exhibition: Bruce Weber x David Bailey by Nokia Lumia 1020

“For this project, old friends David Bailey and Bruce Weber spent 24 hours in Harlem, New York to capture the spirit of the area using our newest phone, the Lumia 1020, which has the most advanced camera capabilities of any smartphone ever made. The 41 MP camera with optimised image stabilization means it captures images of gallery-worthy quality. “

Reflecting the content of the exhibition the event had a New York theme with American-style canapés, free wine and several chaps with Lumia 1020s to play with. There was also a choir & some girls doing fingernails.

‘It’s the new folk art – digital photography’
David Bailey

I very much enjoyed myself and used my own phone (not a Nokia shhhhh) to document the evening.

‘It makes u relook at things u take for granted ‘
David Bailey

Here are some of the Bailey & Webber photos in situ at the exhibition and some general photos of the event:

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

My Husband

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

People at the event

Split out phone

People at the event

People at the event

Head phones for listening to the videos (below)

My Husband

The event

Some videos:

Other reviews for this event:

September 18, 2013

Exercise: Contrast & Shadow fill

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p160 introduces the concept of shadow-fill. Essentially if you have your light source at an oblique angle you will have high contrast on your subject – the side facing the light will be bright because it is lit and the side facing away from the light source is very dark because it is not lit. So what do we do above the loss of details on the unlit side? Add a second light? Maybe – but then we’d blast the contrast out and lose the depth in the picture – the 3D-ness of the subject would be lost. This is where shadow-fill comes in. A small bit of light to just lift those shadows. This exercise is to show that affect. Firstly using a straight light. Then light + diffuser. Then light + diffuser + a white ‘bounce’ card opposite the light to bounce back the light into the shadows of the subject. Then further experiments with the reflectiveness of the bounce card.

First the light only shot:
bare light only

I noticed that the light was actually lighting up the white ceiling and wall (even though the table was as far from the wall as I could get it) so I set up a black ‘gobo’ (go between) to block the natural shadow fill of the room. Here is the resulting shot. Notice how the right hand side of the headphones are now darker.
Light & black bounce card

This is the same set up (with light and black gobo) but with a diffuser added in front of the light. I’ve added the set up shot (taken on my iPhone) for this below. Notice this has softened all the shadows and reduced the highlights.
Light & diffuser & black bounce card

You can see that the light is a desk lamp (with daylight bulb) and the diffuser is the same home made one from the previous exercises. The black gobo to block the shadowfill is just my black laptop-case propped into position by some cans.
p160 exercise set up

In this one, I’ve removed the black gobo. so the rooms natural shadowfill is back but lessened by the diffuser
Light & diffuser only

In this one, its the same as above, in fact from now on we’ll keep the light & diffuser static. however this time I’ve put a white card about 1m away from the headphones, opposite the light to bounce the light into the right hand side of the headphones to fill the shadows (even more than the room already was).
Light & diffuser and white board 1m away

I’ve moved the card nearer to the end of the table here, nearer to the subject an d the light. It’s effect is magnified and the shadows are lifted even further.
Light & diffuser & white board at tables edge

In this one, instead of just a plain white card I have covered it in kitchen foil but with the dull side out. This is bouncing more light than the plain white board.
Light & diffuser & dull foil board at tables edge

Here even more light is being bounced into the shadows because I’ve turned over the foil and am now using the shiny side to reflect the light (you see why they may be called reflectors now). This is as bright as my shadows get in this little series.
Light & diffuser & shiny foil board at tables edge

This one here is less bight in the shadows because although I’m still using the shiny side of the foil as they reflector, I’ve crumpled it them smoothed it back out but the effect is lessened because it can never been as smooth and reflective as it once was. This is brighter than the white card but less bright than the dull side of the foil before it was crumpled. It does seem a bit more even than the other foils shots though so probably my favourite.
Light & diffuser & crumpled shiny foil board at tables edge

You can easily see the difference a simple reflector makes to the contrast of the image.

September 16, 2013

Exercise: the lighting angle

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p158 is a series of photos where the camera & subject stay static and the light moves around the subject. This is to get a feel for the way the angle of lighting will affect a subject. I’ve chosen a subject with many facets to show light & shadow with each angle change. The first five are at subject level. The next five are at a 45 degree angle from the subject and the last one is directly lit from above. Please click on the thumbnails to open the gallery:

I took small setup shots on my iphone for each of them (below) but it may be easier to see what the lighting set up was from my diagram which shows the table, first from above then from the side of all the positions the lamp was in for each of the 11 shots.

Lighting Diagram p158

In each of the set up shots I used a lens cap to represent the placement of the camera (usually) just out of shot.

setup 1 setup 2 setup 3 setup 4 setup 5 setup 6 setup 7 setup 8 setup 9 setup 10 setup 11


September 14, 2013

Exercise: Softening the light

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p157 is designed to show the effects of adding a diffuser to a light. Here are two photos of Danbo. The first is with a bare lamp (I’m using normal desk lamps with Daylight bulbs in them) and the second with a diffuser. The diffuser was home made with a polystyrene frame and tracing paper screen that you can see in the set up photos below.

Bare Bulb

With Diffuser

In the second one you can see all the shadows are are softened and much reduced. The edged of the shadows are much less defined. And the harsh shadow under his chin has disappeared. The contrast & highlights have also been reduced.

These are the set up shots, the only thing I changed was to hold the diffuser between the light and Danbo.
Set up shot 1 Set up shot 2

September 13, 2013

Exercise: Tungsten and Florescent lighting

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercise on p151 is a follow on from the earlier colour balance exercise. It’s split into two parts – part one is essentially its a comparison between tungsten & daylight. I couldn’t find any tungsten environments in which to test this one, none of the lights in our house (and all my friends & family) were tungsten. Mainly everyone uses halogen now as they are much better for the environment so I think perhaps the course needs to be updated ;). I’ll leave this here as a place holder in case I’m able to find something before I finish the section.

The second part of the exercise is comparing different florescent bulbs. The first set below are of our friend Danbo again this time lit by a small florescent bulb. The second set are Danbo in my office light by the florescent overheads. The third set are the same images shot indoors, light by daylight (for comparison).

Its interesting to note that modern overhead florescent lights we have at work at very close in white balance to daylight. The florescent at home (top row) is much warmer but I was surprised to see that the incandescent white balanced looked the closest to the correct white balance!

The overal colour quality in the top two rows dont look as good as those shot in daylight because florescent lamps do not emit a full colour spectrum.

September 7, 2013

Venice Biennale 2013

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I got married at the end of August and to my delight the Venice Biennale was still on during our honeymoon. Before we went I caught the culture show’s coverage of it – which is uploaded to youtube here & here in two parts.

We were only there for a few days so we didn’t make it all the way over to the Giardini delle Biennale near Arsenale but, as my new husband is a street photographer, we did walk pretty much everywhere else. We caught many of the periphery pavilions and exhibitions. Unlike here, except for a few places, mostly they allowed photos to be taken so here is my rundown…

We were staying near Campo S. Stefano so we’ll start with the Azerbaijan pavilion.

Azerbaijan. The national pavilion presented Ornamentation, an exhibition commissioned by a foundation headed by Azerbaijan’s First Lady, Mehriban Aliyeva and curated by Herve Mikaeloff. I saw the installation in Palazzo Lezze, Campo S. Stefano, which is adorned with traditional, decorative patterns across the walls, lamps, tvs, furniture etc.


Ukrainian national pavilion featured the The Monument to a Monument show by artists of the younger generation, Mykola Ridnyj, Hamlet Zinkovskyi and Zhanna Kadyrova. I thought it was somewhere near Campo S. Stefano too but this site reckons this was at Palazzo Loredan.

The Ukrainians displayed sculptures and drawings (a wall full of match boxes with tiny portraits sketched inside them which Mike is regarding in the photo below), installations (a video camera with a beam of light made of concrete), and videos filling rooms with glimpses of Ukraine’s turbulent recent years, with the destruction of the utopia of the past and history manipulation as some of the motifs. The drawings and tiny matchbox portraits stole this one for me.

The Monument to a Monument

The next one we saw was Richard Mosse‘s The Enclave at the Irish-via-the-Congo pavilion. His exhibition features photos & videos of rebel-filled forests made using military surveillance film that turns the world psychedelic colours. The first room of giant scale photographs were a beautiful counterpoint to the traumatising videos in the next room. I picked up a leaflet for this one, in my paper note book for reference, with the curators statement – here is a quote:

Death is plainly observed by the ca,era, which pans over twisted bodies lying on the side of the road, already bootless, looted by passersby.

Not really honeymoon material but powerful nonetheless.




Here is a video;

Some of the Collateral Exhibitions were, as far as I could work out, unaffiliated with a national pavilion. Culture Mind Becoming is one such, although filled with Chinese artists. It was spread over two locations, we managed to visit both, Palazzo Marcello, San MArco and Palazzo Mora, Cannaregio. The first, featured work from Fang Lijun – A Cautionary Tale.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Some I really liked such as the one pictured above but I wasn’t so keen on the gruesome disease series pictured below and the ones with all the many many babies in them.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

I really liked seeing these exhibitions in such unusual settings, usually art gallery spaces are very modern and austere but throughout these exhibitions the backdrop of these old Palazzos was rather refreshing. Quite often they had the patio doors & windows open so we could lean out for some sneaky photos of views venice while we were there. I’ll be blogging my main photos over on my personal blog at some point.

Culture Mind Becoming

Palazzo Marcello

The second part of Culture Mind Becoming, featured many artists. Click on this image to be able to read the introduction text from the Curator for section 1:
Culture Mind Becoming - click for larger

Culture Mind Becoming - Xu Bing

Xu Bing – Phoenix: The Interior of Urbanization. Made from 3D printed animation.

Culture Mind Becoming - Xu Bing

Culture Mind Becoming

Ye Yongqing: Painting a Bird, above. See the detail shot below.

Culture Mind Becoming

Hua Qing: Destiny – The 12 Zodiac Animals. 12 silkscreen prints.

Culture Mind Becoming

Zhou Chunya: Peach Blossoms Series – Flower Blooms, Flower Fades, Year after Year.

Culture Mind Becoming

Down the centre of the exhibition was this huge model pagoda on its side. When you walked past it sections from within would glow different colours.

Culture Mind Becoming

Click on this image to be able to read the introduction text from the Curator for section 2:
Culture Mind Becoming - click for larger

I liked this: Still Life No. 1, Huang Hsin-Chien, 5 pieces made from Lucite with eroded stainless steel embodiments. Each piece was so delicate.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Fan Angel: Secret Garden – No.2.

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Culture Mind Becoming

Zhang Kai: The beauty in my heart. According to this site this painting was sold in 2012 by Triumph Art Space for RMB 200,000 (approx. USD 31,900).

Next up is New Zealand – with Bill Culbert’s Front Door Out Back. This was one of my favourites that we visited, see my paper notebook for the map of the installation.

Bebop 2013:
Front Door Out Back - Bebop

Walk Reflection 2001/2013 – this one one of a pair of light skewered wardrobes, the other being called Walk blue:
Front Door Out Back - Walk Reflection

Daylight Flotsam Venice 2013:
Front Door Out Back - Daylight Flotsam Venice

Front Door Out Back - Daylight Flotsam Venice

Level 2013: This is a clever piece positioned to reflect whatever passes the doorway on the canal
Front Door Out Back - Level

Front Door Out Back - Level

HUT, Made in Christchurch 2012:
Front Door Out Back - HUT

Where are the other two? 2013
Front Door Out Back - Where are the other two?

Here are a couple of youtube videos about the exhibition:

Rhapsody in Green

In an adjacent exhibition, Rhapsody in Green, we saw the most meticulously painted green fields I’ve ever seen.

Rhapsody in Green

Huang Ming – Chang: Paddy in Autumn.

Rhapsody in Green

Huang Ming – Chang: Paddies in the Wind 2.

Rhapsody in Green

Not just paintings though, This is made from painted iron & steel wool.
Kao Tsan – Hsing: Mid-Summer Night.

Rhapsody in Green


One that both my Husband and I really enjoyed seeing was Ai Weiwei’s Disposition. On April 3, 2011, Ai was secretly detained by the police for 81 days at the Beijing Capital International Airport while on his way to board a flight to Hong Kong. He was released on bail on June 22, 2011 upon fabricated tax charges. Although the bail was lifted after a year, the authorities have not returned his passport and he remains prohibited from travelling outside China.

Installed inside a church (Salizada S. Antonin), Disposition is a set of 6 dioramas set inside large metal containers from Ai Weiwei’s 81 days in prison. There are viewing windows in the top and from the sides so you can see in. Its claustrophobic and disturbing and this is entirely the point. Here is the blurb that was printed at the entrance:










The top viewing windows were jammed open with a little plastic cover – these mush have been added afterwards because I remember in the culture show (above), them commenting on the nice prison clang they made when opening and closing the hatch. In one way this plastic cover took away from the experience of interacting with the show because a) you couldn’t hear that clang, and b) the plastic made it hard to see through the reflections caused by a bright church. In another way though, it enhanced it, the reflections were reflecting the church onto the scene – and there was a reason why he put this into a church in the first place.


You can watch an interview with Ai Weiwei here:

Another one nearby our hotel, just off Campo S. Stefano is Ink Brush Heart: Xi Shuang Ban Na. Artists Simon Ma & Julian Lennon show off a range of sculpture & paintings.

Ink Brush Heart

In the foyer we are met by a paint-splattered winged fibreglass horse-creature by Simon Ma entitled Lighterning.

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

The rest of the large sculpture pieces are outside in a cool sort of crumbing courtyard.
Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart


Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

At the end of the courtyard is an enclosed bit with inflated plastic versions of the teardrop shape with different colour liquids in the bottom. There was one guy polishing them and another guy getting ready to inflate some more. Could it be that they need to inflate and fill these every day?

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

Ink Brush Heart

Up on the first floor landing are some pictures by Julian Lennon. They are listed as Archival Giclée Print + Ink. The print is inside a plastic box and the ink is painted on the outside. They are hung in front of lights to show off the shadow caused by the dual surface.
Taken + Wind 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Taken + Wind 2013

Ink Brush Heart - Taken + Wind 2013

Blaze + Phoenix 2013:
Ink Brush Heart- Blaze + Phoenix 2013

Silver Linings + Lost Feather 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Silver Linings + Lost Feather 2013

Aurora + Duet 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Aurora + Duet 2013

Homeland + Return 2013:
Ink Brush Heart - Homeland + Return 2013

The Palazzo Pisani is really a lovely building. Up one more flight of stairs for the rest of the exhibition.
Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma:
Peacock Dance, 2013. Rice paper & Ink.
Embrace, 2013. 18k White Gold, Copper Alloy, Malachite, Emerald, Garnet, Yellow Diamond, Sapphire & Mother of Pearl
Ink Brush Heart Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma: Harmony, 2013. 18k White Gold, Copper Alloy, Malachite, Green Abalone & Blue Chalcedony
Ink Brush Heart

Simon Ma: Black Shadow, 2013. Rice paper & Ink.
Ink Brush Heart

There was some blurb about the artists collaboration too…
Ink Brush Heart

A Remote Whisper

A Remote Whisper

Down yet another random backstreet we found Palzzo Falier which houses the Pedro Cabrita Reis exhibition A Remote Whisper. Up several flights of stairs inside I wasn’t sure what to expect but this is what I found…

A Remote Whisper

Click on the images below to open the gallery:

Here is a video interview with the Artist and Curator (watch larger on Vimeo here):

By this point in the blog post you might be getting a bit arted-out, however, I’d urge you check out these links which explain a little more about this extraordinary installation.

I ended my trip around the Biennale on a little bit of a disappointment. I just couldnt get into the work in the Scottish Pavilion. After all the amazing art I’d seen, little trays with water in them and half finished mosaics weren’t really worth the 2 or 3 flights of stairs up to see them.



In fact the view out of the window here held my attention for longer… sorry chaps.

One exhibition that wasn’t part of the Biennale that I really enjoyed was in a shop on San Macro square, Impossible Venice by L De Luigi. Reminded me of Dali I think, which is probably why I liked it.

Impossible Venice

Impossible Venice

Impossible Venice

August 9, 2013

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain. Part 2 & 3.

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Following on from part one of this exercise, now we can demonstrate that overcast and rainy weather needn’t mean putting the camera away. Some scenes are more pleasing when shot in the enveloping, shadowless light. And photos in the rain can make for unusual photos.

Making use of overcast days

These photos of statues really benefit from not having the harsh shadows that a really sunny day would bring. We can better appreciate the subtle forms.

Making use of overcast weather

Another facet of the lighting on overcast days is that subjects with strong colours will appear rich and saturated. These two flowers (taken for the previous chapters assignment on colours but they didn’t make the cut) were taken in Kew Gardens when the day had turned overcast.

Strong coloured subjects photographed on overcast days

Strong coloured subjects photographed on overcast days

Bad Weather & Rain
Bad weather in tropical climates can create some dramatic photos with rolling thunderous clouds and amazing sunsets.

Storms brewing

Storms brewing

Storms brewing

Here we’re waiting for the onset of Hurricane Ernesto. The sky and sea grew stormier and stormier until we had to retreat inside for a day or so, it didn’t stop me taking photos though!

Hurricane Ernesto

Hurricane Ernesto

No one likes to be out when its raining but you can get some really interesting photos. I’m at a certain advantage having a waterproof housing for my camera but even so the rain holds a special fascination for me because the kinds of places we tend to travel too usually has amazingly sunny weather, rain is seldom.

Splashy split shot

Splashy split shot

Rain makes an incredible texture on the surface of the water when shooting from below.

Rain patterns on the surface of the water shot from below

Rain patterns on the surface of the water shot from below

You can get some really interesting rainy shots closer to home too such as theses from London and Florence

Rainy Florence, full of colour

London Night by the Tate

After the rain

If you’re really lucky the sun comes out again and gives you a rainbow or two!

Double Rainbow


August 8, 2013

Exercise: Cloudy weather and rain. Part 1.

by Suzy Walker-Toye

This exercise (p146) comes in 3 parts. The first is a comparison between sunny and cloudy weather for three types of scenes, the second is finding opportunities for best using the diffuse lighting that comes by overcast weather and the third is rain. This post covers part 1 only, part 2 & 3 to follow shortly.

So, for part one we are to take a street scene, a building and people, shoot them (with the WB set to sunny) when the sun is out and when the sun is behind clouds and see what the differences are.

Firstly, two photos of a building (these are straight out of camera with no adjustments in LR).
Building under cloud
ISO 200, f11 1/250

Building in the sun
ISO 200, f11 1/500

Theres an obvious difference in exposure (1 stop) but also the building under cloudy weather is much less warm in tone despite being shot with the same WB. The contrast is higher and the shadows are deeper in the sunny photo.

Secondly a street scene,

Cloudy street scene
ISO 200 f8, 1/200

Sunny street scene
ISO 200 f11 1/320

This time there is a larger difference in exposure: 1-2/3 stops. The overcast photo looks very dull and flat compared with the sunny one. Again you see the sunny one is warmer in tone.

Lastly, people, they didn’t hang around so long in the sunny area so I have different sets of people walking through the same area.

People lit when the sun is behind clouds
ISO 200 f9 1/200

Person in the sun
ISO 200 f11 1/400

This again was about 1-2/3 stops difference in exposure (by the way I was using this nifty little stop difference calculator here). This time we see that the cloudy one is nicer because the people are squinting less against the sun. There are less harsh eye-socket shadows in the cloudy photo too (although it was still quite bright). And although the buildings seem less warm the peoples skin seem ok in colour in both photos.

August 7, 2013

Exercise: Variety with a low sun

by Suzy Walker-Toye

In this exercise, p142, we are demonstrating advantages to shooting when the sun is low, so called magic hour. The light is golden and lovely but from which angle should we shoot? I think the photos get more interesting when we consider all the different angles.

Frontal Lighting: With the sun behind the camera, striking the subject fully. The lighting can appear intense (or flat because the shadows stretch out behind the subjects, be careful not to get your shadow in the photo as I did here in the second photo)!

Frontal Lighting, the sun is behind me

Frontal Lighting, the sun is behind me

Side Lighting: The sun to the left or right will make strong shadows on half of the subject, great for bring out textures but it can be a little harsh if overdone.

Side Lighting

Side Lighting

Side Lighting

Back Lighting: Shoot towards the light (don’t look at the sun though as it can damage your eyes). Interestingly using a higher f-number increases the number of points in the sun ball. This style of lighting is best of subjects with in interesting shape for the silhouette.

Back lighting

Back lighting

Edge Lighting: A special condition for shooting towards the sun where the sun is not behind the subject (usually not in the frame at all, although I choose to keep it within the frame in these tree photos, I included the lion photo again from exercise: measuring exposure to show the sun doesn’t have to be included). The sun hits the edge of the subjects to create a strip of light along the edge of the subject to define it from the background.

Edge Lighting

Edge Lighting

Edge-lit Lion

August 6, 2013

Exercise: Judging colour temperature

by Suzy Walker-Toye

The exercises on p136 & p139 are two parts of a whole story about judging colour balance. This function is also know as white balance because it sets the very brightest parts of the scene to pure white. Although I thought I had a fairly good handle on what white balance is (when I’m in the sea I set manual WB see below), when using new functions on my camera I like to know what they do. I most often just leave my white balance set to auto and then adjust it slighting in Lightroom if necessary. For the exercise we are using a Danbo (which doesn’t have a strong colour – he’s amazon cardboard box coloured). First I took a few shoots inside (with no lights on, just available daylight) to check the sorts of looks each setting produces.

As you can see, if you hover the mouse over the thumbnails it lists the white balance (WB) setting selected from the camera (you can click to open them bigger in a gallery but its easier to compare them with the thumbnails). The only extra one I added was the auto white balance which has been auto white balanced in Lightroom. I didnt include the flash ones because this post is related to available light photography and not supplied light such as a flash or strobe.
White Balance sliders in Lightroom 4 White balance is made up of Temperature (measured in K for Kelvin) and Tint and those appear as two sliders in LR. Also you can set similar presets (daylight,cloudy,tungsten etc) in a similar way as you can set in the camera. As shot will use the cameras WB settings. The difference here between the auto white balance in the camera and the auto white balance in lightroom was so minimal I could hardly tell a difference by looking at the pictures. However the camera one was 3900K with tint +18 and the auto one was 3850k with tint +17 which is ever so slightly bluer looking with a touch more magenta.

As you can see, the camera presets have a marked difference (apart from underwater which is frankly just confusing as I was expecting that to be really red, but it seems to be just auto with an extra +1 tint so we’ll ignore that one). The sunny setting warms the whole photo up to 5000k (+5 tint). The shade setting warms it even further 7250k (-1 tint). Cloudy is in between them at 5800k (+5 tint). The next two are for dealing with different types of artificial light, incandescent (tungsten lights to you and me) and fluorescent (like you get in shops and offices). These two sets of lights obviously behave quite differently. Incandescent is way down at 2700K (0 tint) and fluorescent is at 4200k but with a massive magenta tink of +53. While I was googeling to check that incandescent actually meant tungsten I found this really useful link.

Anyway, once I took Danbo outside for the real part of the exercise things got pretty interesting. For this exercise I took shots in the sunlight in the middle of the day, shots in the shade in the middle of the day and shots in the sunlight at the end of the day when the sun was low (sometimes called magic hour because the warm colour of the light makes everything look so nice). Here they all are compared.

As you can see depending on if you’re in the sun or the shade and what time of day it is the white balance presets give you different results. The shady images are more blue than the sunny ones and the low sun ones are a really warm yellowy colour. As you can also see, the LR auto WB has quite a different effect on each bringing it back to neutral colours, although we wouldn’t want to in the case of the low sun because we usually shoot at that time of day expressly for the colour balance of the sun at that time. My favourite one? Well the colour of Danbo in the auto WB magic hour is the nicest but I do like auto WB sunny Danbo too. Which one do you think is the best white balance?

When I’m in the sea using shooting available light I use a red filter (called a magic filter). I have to set the manual white balance to allow the camera to compensate for the filter. The filter goes on the back of the lens like this.
Magic Filter

and I set the manual white balance using my hand like this
Setting the white balance manually

This is a shot where I’ve used a magic filter (in this case I actually manually white balanced on the ship since it was white, and with my larger dome my hand doesnt always fill enough of the frame to get a good reading):

And this is a non-filtered available light shot where I’ve tried to white balance on the sand in LR afterwards, as you can see the sea in the top is also white but the blue has gone a horrible colour.

August 5, 2013

Exercise: Measuring Exposure

by Suzy Walker-Toye

And now onto section four – which is all about light. The following quotes seem appropriate here:

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography. – George Eastman

Light meters read; photographers interpret. – Catherine Jo Morgan

That’s what this first exercise (p131) is designed to explore. Interpreting the light and choosing the exposure which best expresses your intent for the photo. Here are a few photos where the exposure is deliberately darker or lighter than average.

For each of these photos I choose to under or over exposure some part of the photos to achieve the look I was going for.  The first four I’m underexposing and the second for I’m over exposing.


The lion in the first photo was edge lit (there’s an exercise on p142 coming up about varieties of lighting with a low sun angle) so the actual lion is shown more as an lion-shape because it is underexposed. In the second photo, shot in the cenotes, the focus is on the amazing light beams that shine in through the surface opening. The rest of the image is somewhat under exposed to emphasise this. The coral inside the cave was being lit from a shaft of light from above and the rest of the cave was much darker, if I had not under-exposed that it would have lost much of its atmosphere. The iconic shape of Ankor Wat in Cambodia is brought out in silhouette by underexposing the building against a lovely sunrise coloured sky.


The brightness in the dandelion brings out its fluffy white texture by being slightly backlit. The overall scene of my back garden in the snow is very bright because the snow & sky are both very white. The bright white sand in the photo of the sting ray contrasts with the dark ray very well to emphasise the lovely shape of his tail. And lastly, the sky in the photo of the statue of Neptune in Florence was brilliant white, with a white statue and white sky I exposed for the statue to bring out the textures.

The second part of the exercise on p131 is to take bracketed shots of several scenes (which means take the correct exposure and some under and over exposed versions either side of that, there is usually a bracketing feature on most cameras to do this automatically). Then we can look at the set and see if any of them are actually better slightly under or over exposed. My camera was bracketing with the chosen exposure first then two under exposures and two over exposures, which is how I’ve displayed them below. I’ve removed the really blown out last over exposures though because for everything but the last two rows (the interiors) they were just horrible. I think they all worked best as the proper exposures however if I was going to say over or under as next best thing I think the interiors worked better sightly over exposed and the outdoors sunrise/set ones work better slightly under exposures.

August 1, 2013

Assignment 3: Colour

by Suzy Walker-Toye

This assignment is to demonstrate combinations of colours to show deliberate relationships of harmony & contrast. The assignment is broken down into four types of relationship which I have put as headings above each section of photographs. We were asked to vary the subject matter by ‘finding’ situations where the colour relationship already exists and also ‘setting up’ situations to manufacture the relationship. I wanted an overall look to my assignment despite having to both find and set up the colours so I choose flowers as my overall subject to give the assignment a bit of coherence, sometimes I could find the colours within the flowers and their natural surroundings and sometimes I set up the backdrop by holding a coloured card behind them. So without further ado…

Complimentary colours
These are colours which face each other across the colour wheel (of primary and secondary colours). Click into see the images bigger and read the descriptions to see if I set up the colours or found them.

Similar colours
These are warm and cool colours which are next to each other on the colour wheel.

Contrasting colours
These are colours which contrast strongly and are spaced about a third of the way around the wheel from each other.

Colour Accents
These are images where a small splash of colour sits against a much larger area of another colour as a spot or accent of colour.

June 23, 2013

Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2013: Study Visit (15th June)

by Suzy Walker-Toye

As soon as I see any study visit that I can get to in London I sign up for them. They are great. They allow students to go to exhibitions they may not have gone to and bounce ideas off each other. Having said that, as this one drew near and I did the pre-reading (see links at the bottom of this post), I started to not really look forward to it. The day came and I’d convinced myself it was going to be a huge disappointment. Why? Well a couple of reasons, one, the reviews linked to from the pre-reading didn’t really sell it as very interesting and two, it was at the photographers gallery. I haven’t been to the photographers for a very long time (in fact I’d never been to it at its new location) but each time in the past I’d always come away feeling disappointed that the photography on display was poor/dull/unpleasant/uninspiring, take your pick. So I’m very pleased to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this study visit despite all the odds. Whether the photographers gallery has just got better at picking photography or I’ve become more questioning of what “interesting” photography actually is, I’ll leave to the reader to decide 😉

The Deutsche Börse Photography Prize is an annual prize of £30,000, which awards a living photographer, of any nationality, for a specific body of work in an exhibition or publication format, which has significantly contributed to photography in Europe between 1 October 2011 and 30 September 2012.

The exhibition was curated over the top two floors, 4 & 5 of the photographers gallery. It didnt seem to make any difference which you saw first so I’ll introduce the nominations in the order I saw them in the exhibition, floor 4 Mishka Henner & Chris Killip, then floor 5, Broomberg & Chanarin and Cristina De Middel. I think the things that really turned around the exhibition for me were the interviews with the artists (short videos which you could listen to on headphones on the 4th floor) and chatting with the tutor Simon. He challenged us to think about what is relevant for photography today. I’ve managed to find the interviews on vimeo so I’ve included them here for reference.

Mishka Henner – No Man’s Land (Exhibition)

Mishka Henner is nominated for his exhibition No Man’s Land at Fotografia Festival Internazionale di Roma, Museum of Contemporary Art, Rome (20 September – 28 October 2012). No Man’s Land presents google streetview images of prostitutes from all over europe to a soundtrack of birdsong from the various regions.

See this on vimeo here.

Mishka Henner, Carretera de Fortuna, Murcia, Spain, 2012 Mishka Henner, SS98, Cerignola Foggia, Italy, 2012

Mishka Henner, Contrada Vallecupa, Colonnella, Abruzzi, Italy, 2011 Mishka Henner, Carretera de Gandria, Oliva, Valencia, Spain, 2011

Despite Simon playing devils advocate and challenging our attitudes, I think most of the students agreed that this was the worst nominee, although the most controversial and therefore the most debated in the context of the study visit. Many of us were confused by the message in this one, and I think when you see the video above, this is because the artist isn’t coherent on what the message really is. Some students thought that he’d done this simply because he could get away with it, the “emperors new clothes” of photography. Some students didnt like it because it isn’t photography. It’s technically appropriation and curation of googles images and some amateur birdsong recordings. Many of the conversations were around the copyright implications of this one too. There were some students who were fine with the use of the google images, in fact one student mentioned going to Yosemite:

“Do we really need another photo of Yosemite? This guy using public domain images to express his vision instead.”

Whether he took the photos or not isn’t the problem I have with this work. My issue with it is that it isn’t an original idea to use google street view so if you are going to do it you should have a good foundation, a solid concept. It just seems like he’s jumping on the band wagon. The write up on the wall suggested that the work highlighted issues of surveillance and voyeurism, all well and good and so the work does, but is that something the curators of the photographers gallery felt compelled to write up there to give the work a bit of gravitas? Why doesn’t he express that in the video interview?

In the video, he was mostly talking about the process of the how he did the work he presents and not the why. He goes into more detail than you would think about the google process of image capture. He says that he uses forums where they talk about sexworkers but “he’s not really bothered about what their motivation is”, he just gets the coordinates of the girls to plug into google. He even says “there is no narrative underpinning to this work”. He’s interested in the sequence of images, how they happen every 5m etc and the possibility that they’d go on for ever. He tacks on the parallel that this hints at the oldest profession in the world but it seems like an afterthought. Some tiny way of explaining why he choose prostitues rather than just for the controversy that this might elicit. However, the tutor brought our attention to an interesting last comment in the video talking about the volume of an issue, is he hinting at the broader issue of surveillance and voyeurism? For me it didn’t hang together nicely, too many unresolved questions, fuzzy explanations and something smelt fishy about his motivations.

Chris Killip – What Happened: Great Britain 1970 –1990 (Exhibition)

Chris Killip is nominated for his exhibition What Happened – Great Britain 1970 –1990 at LE BAL, Paris (12 May – 19 August 2012). What Happened – Great Britain 1970 –1990 presents a series of black & white street photography images of working people in the north of England.

See this on vimeo here.

Chris Killip, Youth on Wall, Jarrow, Tyneside, 1976 Chris Killip, Boo and his rabbit, Lynemouth, 1983

Chris Killip, Helen and her hoola-hoop, Lynemouth, Northumberland, 1984 Chris Killip, Rocker and Rosie going home, Lynemouth, 1984

For me this was the least interesting to talk about in terms of the prize. Beautiful street photography, but I was left wondering why this had been nominated now? These images are 20-30 years old and have probably been in many exhibitions that would have been eligible over the years. The only conclusion I could come to was that there context had come back into public focus with the death of Maggie Thatcher. When I mentioned this to the tutors they seem to think this was likely and didn’t offer any competing explanation.

The video interview less interesting to me than the others probably because the work is self evident. There doesn’t need some grand explanation of the concept. Straight street photography from a bygone era which is pretty much what he says. A couple of interesting thoughts about these came up during our chats in the exhibition & over coffee, for example: does this style of photography still have relevance today? And it was interesting to see that Killip was immersed in local culture & known by people when he took these photographs (and, that he actually took these photographs!) This gave different side of photography than other nominees. I was also interested to note that floor four seemed to present images as fact, real historical documents (bring up photography as truth arguments) and were both based from exhibitions whereas all the next two, from floor five, play with fact & fictions and were presented as books. Clever and subtle curation on the part of the photographers gallery there to present different facets of the prize. As to the first question, yes, I think street photography will always have a place in contemporary photography because people will always want to document what other people are doing now and we love looking back on what was done then. I think the beauty of street photography only comes with time when the now passes into history and we can look back on it as then. In 30 years time, street photography taken today will be that much more exciting than those taken in 30 years (if we’re still using cameras and not some other whizzy gadget) will be to the people looking at it.

Winner: Broomberg and Chanarin – WAR PRIMER 2 (book)

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin are nominated for their publication War Primer 2 (MACK, 2012). And this entry won the prize.

War Primer 2 is a limited edition book that physically inhabits the pages of Bertold Brecht’s 1955 publication War Primer. Brecht’s photo-essay comprises 85 images, photographic fragments or collected newspaper clippings, that were placed next to a four-line poem, called ‘photo-epigrams’. Broomberg and Chanarin layered Google image search results for the poems over Brecht’s originals in 100 books.

See this on vimeo here.

Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Plate 12, 2011 Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Plate 23, 2011

I first came across the two winners when I blogged this early last year: what is conceptual photography. I found this an interesting continuation of their ongoing quest to explore how war is imaged and what the “truth” is. Also interesting to note that while the other students were disputing Mishka Henner’s right to be nominated for the prize with google streetview images they were strangely quiet about this one, which is also essentially found images appropriated for the artists own message, as was the original book. In this case though, there is a real message which is I think the crucial difference. The original book depicted found war images and expanded and explained them with mini poems and captions. The new images, silkscreened over the top of the originals extend or play with the poems and you can see hints of the original images beneath.

This project deserved to win (despite my preferring the the Afronauts – see below), the parting quote from the video above says its all…

“There is a moment that gets photographed and it is a moment of somebody suffering, and then that moment is turned into a photograph and then that photograph becomes a piece of currency that is then distributed around the world”

You just have to look at p51 of their book for just one example and there are many others. You can download your own copy of the war primer 2 free here.

Cristina De Middel – The Afronauts (book)

Cristina De Middel is nominated for her publication The Afronauts (self-published, 2011).

In 1964, after gaining independence, Zambia started a space programme in order to send the first African astronaut to the moon, the Afronauts blends fact and fiction with beautiful photographs.

See this on vimeo here.

Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012 Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012 Cristina De Middel, The Afronauts, 2012

This entry was my favourite. The tongue in cheek nature and playing with fiction and reality are what really attracts me to this. Its so creative and original. This injects some much needed fun into series of academic nominations. What is ‘real’? This is an analysis on truth in photography, and I think draws parallels with the winners who are also talking about photography as an inaccurate document which need interpreting with the ‘poems’.

“The pictures I was taking for newspapers were not true.”

My favourite image is the one that appears in the video at 02:00 of the man dreaming of the space race with his eyes closed and all the cut out stars behind him on the crumbling wall. Since this is her first book I am again wondering about how the nominations get chosen? How does a first self-published book get ‘seen’ to be nominated? It would be interesting to find out more information on how that side of the prize is worked out. Although she is entered in a number of other prizes. The photographers gallery blurb had this to say:

In addition to personal projects, De Middel has worked for publications such as Foam and Esquire, as well as various NGOs. Her work has been recognised by the National Photojournalism Prize Juan Cancelo (2009), Fnac Photographic Talent (2009) and the Humble Arts Women in Photography Project Grant (2011). She was a finalist at Open Call Guatephoto, Guatemala (2012), the winner of Photo Folio Review at Recontres de la Photographie, Arles, in 2012 and returned there as a participating artist this year. She was also a finalist at FotoPress, La Caixa, Spain this year.

The Afroanuts iPad app is available to download via and I really enjoyed going through her projects and features on her website.

Previous winners of the prize are listed here.

Here are a few other write ups from the visit that I found online, I haven’t read them all yet but I look forward to going through them when I have some time:
We Are OCA

ps: if anyone reading this is the lady or gentlemen who were taking photos of me while I was with headphones on listening to the interviews I’d love to see how that came out so please get in touch 🙂

April 22, 2013

Book Review: The Photographer’s Eye by Michael Freeman

by Suzy Walker-Toye

I’d highly recommend this book for beginners. And although I did learn a thing or two from reading it, I think there are slightly more sophisticated books for the advanced amateur. However as a companion book to the OCA course it’s unbeatable. The course is clearly based from it and written by the same author so you get more context for the exercises & assignments. If I had one criticism though it would be that throughout the book Freeman often makes sweeping generalisations. My brain immediately thought up exceptions to these and that cast all the rest of the well reasoned concepts & ideas into doubt in my mind.

The book is laid out well into the following easy to follow chapters and illustrated beautifully throughout. Chapter 1: The image frame is all about placing your scene within the frame of the viewfinder. Chapter 2: Design Basics takes that a bit further discussing balanced compositions and other concepts of choosing & framing your scenes. Chapter 3: Graphic & Photographic Elements goes over the effects of various lines and shapes in your compositions. Chapters 2& 3 together partners with the second section of the coursework on elements of design and reading them along with the exercises pads out the coursework text to give you an insight into the authors intensions with each exercise. Chapter 4: Composing with Light and colour goes through colour theory and touches on black & white imagery. It pairs closely with section 3 of the course on Colour which is the chapter I’m currently working through at the moment.

UPDATE 16 Oct 2013 – the review continues…
The book seems to side step the issue of flash & lighting as a main topic (but there are other books on the reading list if guide you through section 4 of the course).

Chapter 5 & 6 (Intent & Process) both pair well with section 5 of the course (which I’m doing now). They cover basic storytelling through compositional choices, hunting for a situation or story to tell, whether your images should be obvious or challenging to the viewer with respect to making them work for the story. The processes or workflows one might adopt getting or constructing the shot, anticipation, reaction times, patience & persistence. Also an outline of a basic set of templates that an image might fall into based on perceptual psychology. Of special interest with regards to the final section of the course are the sections on photo stories & layouts, juxtaposition & returning to a scene.

The last two sections of the book are about post production & how various films & printing, and later digital & photoshop, has affected the syntax of photography over the years. You do shoot differently if you know you have options to change things later. HDR is touched on as more recent option too. I think these two sections are sort of what the next module of the course are about (digital photographic practice).

One criticism I would make is that it ends rather abruptly. One moment you are reading about photography syntax and the next page is the index! Leaving you with a feeling of ‘oh, it’s finished?’ A bit like this review 🙂

April 21, 2013

Exercise: Colour into tones in black & white

by Suzy Walker-Toye


The exercise on p119 is about trying to explain the use of colour filters on the outcome of a black and white photo. The exercise gives you the option of using actual colours filters on your camera of you have them or faking it with software if you do not. As I do not I choose to fake it with software as directed and I discovered something interesting (if not wholly unexpected). The sliders in LR (and probably photoshop is the same) do NOT mimic traditional filters. They can, if you know what you are doing with the sliders, and if you already know how traditional filters work, but I think this will confuse many people taking the OCA course (I did me, until I had it properly explained by Mike, B&W extraordinaire).

So what is the difference? Well, a traditional colour filter will lighten the area of that colour and darken the area of the complimentary colour in the resulting black and white image. So an orange filter would be used to darken a blue sky for example. In contrast the sliders in LR only darken and lighten the colour of that slider and all the other colours remain untouched. To demonstrate this I have taken a colour photo with all the primary & secondary colours, Blue,Red,Yellow,Orange,Violet, and Green.

These first photos below were processed using the sliders in LR. I made virtual copies of the colour photo and then, as directed, converted to black and white and tinkered with the b&w mix sliders for each. However, I noticed that the default position of the sliders on the neutral were not all the same (not a great place from which to start a comparison so I created another “neutral” with all the slider at -35.

Neutral b&w conversion – and default sliders, and next to that the increased yellow slider as an example…

LR Neutral LR Neutral Sliders LR Increased Yellow slider

Below is the set of LR slider based conversions. Notice for that each conversion, only the colour of that slider has been affected..

A photoshop plug in called Silver Efex Pro actually does have the facility to correctly mimic the use of tradition filters and their effects so here are the results of the same photo being run through against different filters.