Reflection following Exercise 4.4

I have no special studio equipment or lights, and so was using what I had to hand. (I have ordered some cheap gear from a chinese company who I do a little promotional work for, but it hasn’t arrived yet). As such, my light sources were weak and unable to cast significant light from any distance. This being the case, I was unable to see the effect, on shadows, of moving the lamps further away.

Nevertheless, I was able to see how the positioning and use of multiple light sources has a dramatic effect on the look of an object.

I have concluded that a light source directly in front of the object doesn’t look good at all, while having the light from one side balance out the light from the opposite side doesn’t look much better.

Two light sources, one stronger than the other, from different angles, seems to produce the most interesting images. In this way, it’s possible to create a sense of balanced depth. There are shadows, but they aren’t overstated.

My attempt to alter the colour of the light was largely ineffectual, but it did alter the atmosphere very slightly.  I’m sure proper colour gels on proper studio lighting could be very useful.


Exercise 4.4 – Studio Lighting

Examining the effects of controlled lighting.

There were two or three light sources in these images.

1: A Window on the right, about 10 feet away, with curtains either open or closed.

2: A small directional halogen lamp.

3: A battery powered bulb producing weak, non-directional, light.

Image 1

This image was taken as a reference shot, using just ambient light coming in through the window on the right. It’s blurred as I pressed the shutter manually and jogged the camera slightly. Doh!

The image is dull and unexceptional.



Image 2

Shot with light coming from the window on the right, and a small halogen lamp just out of shot, to the left.

The light from the lamp on the left combined with the ambient light coming from the right produces quite a flat looking image.



Image 3

Shot with ambient light from the window on the right, and a small halogen lamp pointing directly towards the pineapple, from the front.

The resulting image looks quite wrong, to my eyes. The lamp is set quite low, and to my mind, the pineapple just needs a set of fangs and a cape to complete the effect.



Image 4

Shot with ambient light from the window on the right, and a small halogen lamp just out of shot, to the right of the pineapple.

Strong shadows on the left of the pineapple.  High contrast. Not displeasing, but a little overstated.



Image 5

As the previous shot, but with the addition of a small battery powered bulb, in front and to the left of the pineapple.

I like this. There aren’t particularly strong shadows, but it isn’t flat and lifeless either.



Image 6

As the previous image, but with a green carrier bag over the halogen lamp.

Apart from making the shot slightly darker, the green bag didn’t have much effect on the pineapple. The tone of the background is slightly altered though. It looks like a nice warm evening. (It was around 10am).



Image 7

The curtains are now closed. There is a small halogen lamp covered with a green carrier bag just to the right of the pineapple.

As with the shot where the curtains were open (#4), this is a high contrast image with strong shadows. It seems slightly sharper, but not greatly different.



Image 8

The curtains are closed. The lamp with green bag are behind and to the right, while the battery powered bulb is behind and to the left.

I find this a very interesting image. With light to the rear, and the front of the pineapple in shadow, there’s a real feeling of depth.



Image 9

The curtains are open. The lamp in a green bag is to the right and slightly behind, while the bulb is to the right and slightly in front of the pineapple.

High contrast, with strong shadows.



Image 10

The curtains are open. The lamp in green bag is to the right and slightly behind the pineapple. The bulb is to the left and slightly behind the pineapple.  The shot was deliberately overexposed and then contrast and vibrance were boosted in post.

I was just messing around to see if I could achieve a ‘high key’ effect.  I may have overdone it.



Reflection following Exercise 4.3

Compared with Exercise 4.2, I found working with artificial light more predictable and enjoyable. While it can be limiting, in terms of subject matter…. you can’t go and shoot landscapes in artificial light…  I like the predictability (and sometimes, controllability).

While it would have been nice to go out and shoot dramatic atmospheric images like Dan Holdsworth, the necessary atmospheric conditions just weren’t there, so I found myself interested in much smaller details and subjects.

Multiple light sources of different qualities make for very interesting images, though I also found these the hardest to shoot, while for reasons that I don’t understand, highly coloured light causes some software problems.

While the subject matter and general feel of these images is varied, I do find there’s one thing that’s common to all of them. They have a sense of stillness. In some it might be odd, with a certain tension… but all are calm and quiet. I like that a lot.

Exercise 4.3 – The Beauty of Artificial Light

Sometimes I find myself stumped as to what to take photos of, when it comes to exercises and assignments. For this one, I found myself spoilt for choice… and I didn’t have to travel far.

Image 1


View 1500 x 1000


Fake sunflowers and a clutter of personal hygiene and health products.

The window in the en suite. The only available light is from the street light outside, filtered through patterned glass.


Image 2


View 1500 x 1000


Fence, bushes, abandoned chairs, and an LED lamp that’s imitating a candle.

There are multiple light sources here, from a neighbour’s garden light, the light in my kitchen, and dimmest of all, though the only one seen directly, the LED lamp.

I took a similar shot of this scene, with the lamp in focus, but I find this one, when viewed as a larger image, has more points of interest, in the fence and details on the abandoned chairs.


Image 3


View 1500 x 1000


Phone, router and plugs, in a cubby in the kitchen.

The LEDs are not especially bright, but in a confined space and with a long exposure, they create an interesting atmosphere. If it were red, I’d call it a warm glow, but in green, it’s kind of alien.


Image 4


View 1500 x 1000


Fairylights in the kitchen.

This was a difficult image to render. For some reason, loading the RAW image into Photoshop’s ‘Camera Raw’ feature produced an oversaturated mass of blue, with a huge loss of detail, that looked nothing like the camera had shown in it’s display. I had to use Canon’s Digital Photo Professional to render the image.


Image 5


View 1500 x 1000


An untidy garage at night.

There are multiple light sources here. A battery powered bulb in the garage, street lights out of shot, and a garden light illuminating the garage door in the other side of the street. These multiple sources make an interesting and varied image.

This was the only image that required multiple shots, with various apertures and exposures, before I could get things looking the way I wanted.


Image 6


View 1500 x 1000


In the fridge.

A single, dim light source with a grille across it, in a confined space, with beads of water and white surroundings. What’s not to like?

Martha Rosler

I was recommended to view the work of Martha Rosler by my tutor, in relation to my use of titles in Assignments One and Three.

I had actually written a little on this in my response to the feedback for Assignment  One…

‘Martha Rosler – The Bowery in Two Inadequate Descriptive Systems

I found Martha’s explanation of her work thought provoking. Her way of addressing the whole ‘find a bum’ mentality to certain types of photography strikes me as enlightened. There are questions of ethics when shooting poverty for personal gain. She addresses this by removing any question of exploitation, excluding images of the poverty stricken from their settings, and replacing them with their words.

This gives me many things to think about, aesthetically, and conceptually.’  Challis, S (2016)

Some time has passed since I wrote this response to what I saw when looking at Rosler’s work, and my view has crystalised somewhat.

To be honest, and ignoring the images themselves, I don’t like this way of incorporating text with imagery. These are not, to my mind at least, titles. They are providing a context for the image, using the language of those who inhabit the places depicted. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that if the context or purpose of the images aren’t clear without more than a very simple title, that the images don’t do their job on their own… they are powerful images. What I do think though is that together with the text, this strikes me as less ‘photography’ and more ‘illustrated storytelling’ or something like that.

To my mind, a title gives you a clue… pointer to begin your own interpretation of an image. When you add a whole mass of words on a separate page, it is art, most certainly, but is it photography? However highly regarded it may be, I do not wish to create similar works, or be influenced by them.



Challis, S (2016) Reflection Following Tutor Feedback  At (Accessed 23/03/2017)

Rosler, M (1974-75) Whitey Museum of American Art At (Accessed 23/3/2017)

Sian Bonnell

At the recommendation of my tutor, I’m looking at the work of Sian Bonnell.

The first thing that comes to mind is a comment my tutor made in feedback for my second assignment. I had taken close-up images of computers in my collection, with shallow depth of field, so you couldn’t always tell what you were looking at. He suggested I arrange them, or parts of them, like circuit boards and stuff, so that they looked like a futuristic cityscape.

To be blunt, I didn’t like the idea, and couldn’t see why he would suggest such a thing. I think I understand now.

Bonnell’s (1998)’Constructed Coast’   series features, among other things, a toy boat placed in various locations, such as on folded navigation charts, and shot in such a way as to appear like a real boat on a wild and rolling sea… maybe shot with a tilt-shift lens.

It’s really interesting/pleasing to see this kind of role reversal. I’m used to seeing images using tilt-shift, to make real world scenes appear to be small toys, or dioramas. Bonnel seems to turn that around. I like it a lot.

The series isn’t all toys made to look like the real thing (kind of)… there are other images, which take objects that aren’t exactly a thing… but kind of look like it…. arranged in ways that suggest a location, or a scene. This whole series is, as it’s name suggests, a creation of coastal scenes, using objects found in a (her?) house.

Looking at other series’ by Bonnell, she seems to focus on presenting objects, up close, looking at the details, and how a mundane and unimportant object…. or maybe a toy or plaything can be seen in a different light.

In the series Kaput!  Bonnell (2006) looks at the little things people do to fix broken objects.. or maybe, to fix a situation. Bodges… I would call them. She looks at the paperclip, the piece of Blu Tack  or coat hanger, used to hold things in place. She looks at them up close, so you don’t see the bigger picture… just the detail.

It’s a very human thing… you can imagine the person putting it there. So much is suggested, without being seen.

Much modern photography is so serious, it presents itself with a great big frown on its face. Bonnell’s is refreshingly playful and happy. I like it a lot.

Looking at my own work, I have, for exercises, used toys to demonstrate certain aspects of camera use. I could see myself exploring this more. I’m reminded of how, as a child, I would play with my toy cars on the bed, with the folds in the blankets simulating rolling hills for the cars to race over. Images like that… they’re worth exploring.



Bonnell, A (1996 – 2014) Work At (Accessed 24/03/2017)

Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher

I was encouraged by my tutor to look at the work of Bernard Beacher and Hilla Beacher in relation to my third photograph of Assignment one –



I see where he was coming from, in that Beacher and Beacher’s work is of mundane industrial structures, viewed face on.

What they do is interesting, taking black and white photographs of industrial structures, placing them centrally in the frame, with minimal background features wherever possible. Each individual image says “This is the object I want you to look at, and only this object, with no mood lighting or other distraction”. If that was all there was, it would be interesting.

But these images are then grouped together with other images of similar structures, shot in the same way, from the same angle, with the same lighting etc. They’re then all placed together in the frame in a grid of nine images… a typology. So you get a frame filled with nine water towers, or nine mine tower, or nine gas tanks.

They are stark in appearance. What you see is what you get. They are the same… but different.

I understand why my tutor suggested looking at those images, as both contain face-on views of industrial structures, but my aim for this image was not the same. My interest was in the juxtaposition of the vertical objects. The trees and the silos. It was also concerned with the passage of time. How what once was possibly a rural scene had become industrialised.

I do though wonder how this would look in black and white.



Beacher, B & Beacher, H (1965 – 2005) Artworks [Photographs] At (Accessed on 23/03/2017)