Posts tagged ‘reading list’

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.

Advertisements
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.

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 🙂

July 8, 2012

Assignment 1: Contrasts – archive version

by Suzy Walker-Toye

This assignment is presented as a series of contrasting pairs of words. I had decided how to respond to this assignment before I had got to the chapter on contrasts in Michael Freemans book. In that chapter (p34) it discussed this assignment as an 1920s art experiment and the results were all completely disparate photographs showing the different words. I had already decided I wanted my whole project to be a series of similar subjects. So as a personal exercise I went through my back catalogue to find examples to present to you in the style of the original experiment. 8 pairs of words and one image that has two word (black & white in this case). Hover the mouse over the images to see what the photo represents. Click on the images to see the gallery of larger images.

June 16, 2012

Exercise: Object in different positions in the frame

by Suzy Walker-Toye

Part one of the course is all about the frame. Composition in other words. The exercise on p42 is about placing objects that are set within a large, clear background in different positions within the frame. I actually did this exercise underwater in grand Cayman with the help of my little blenny friend. These blennies live in small holes in the coral, which in this case is my large background.  It is nice to show the environment that these little fish live in but it can be tricky to decide where in the frame to place them. The blenny (for the most part) is facing directly out at the camera so we don’t need to think about giving the animal some space to swim into. This is the view I finally went with:

It’s not cropped, I just moved closer to the blenny than in the other photographs. This is a pretty standard rule of thirds composition. Below is a small gallery of some the other positions I put the blenny in the frame. You can see the placement in the frame from the thumbnails because the image is so graphic, however if you click them that will launch the larger sized images.

The rule of thirds is only one of the many composotional frameworks you can apply to what might make a more pleasing photograph. Some of the others are the diagonal, golden ratio and the golden spiral. I have only just started Michael Freemans book (from the course reading list) but I’m sure it must go into all of these in detail.

As I was researching this post I made an excellent discovery about Adobe Lightroom! The crop tool actually has these tools as crop overlay guides so you can use them to help you crop your images. I took of screenshot of the golden spiral overlay, where you can see the spiral ends at the blennies head. You can rotate the spiral overlay by using the shift and O keys as a shortcut (O, not 0).

June 13, 2012

Introducing my bookshelf page

by Suzy Walker-Toye


With the course comes a reading list (as you would expect). I’m currently slowly making my way through the list. I’ve added a bookshelf page to this blog where you can track what I’m reading now, what I have read and what I’m reading next. As I finish each book I shall update the links from the books (they currently link to where you can buy them on amazon) to a short review post. Not all the books I read will be from the reading list but hopefully they’ll all tie in and be interesting. You can fund my page in the menu above.

%d bloggers like this: