Monthly Archives: November 2014

assignment # 2 – reflections and tutor’s comments

Rather quickly compared to last time – less than a week -­ I got the feedback report from my tutor; as a result, I hadn’t managed to put finger to keypad to do my own reflection piece on the assignment. So, here I’ll try and combine the two a bit, but mainly go with the stuff David wrote and my responses to it. To start with however, I think some gentle general self­-criticism might be in order.

So: the idea of limiting what I could shoot (and eliminating any idea of a reshoot) by going to a small island for a day worked rather well as a discipline. I had done research in the sense that I both knew what wartime installations in Orkney looked like and had read up on what I would be able to find on Flotta. I hadn’t spent any time on that island, but I knew what Orkney looked like and so wasn’t taking facile, “first look” pictures and knew what to avoid (big flat blown skies and flat landscapes with nothing to stop your eye sliding in one side and straight out the other). In terms of pacing myself I could probably have been a bit more energetic and a bit less dawdly as I started out, as it took me from 9 until lunch at nearly two to reach the furthest point of my walk at Stangar Head. Once there, I hurriedly took 2: two points, 5: distinct shapes # 1 and 14: pattern in a bit of a rush while shoving sandwiches into my mouth and slurping down coffee from a Thermos. At the same time, I managed to calculate how quickly I’d have to move on the way back to catch the ferry. There are 14 pictures in my submission for the assignment and only two were taken after lunch; probably I could have done more, and maybe come up with alternatives for some of the less successful earlier pictures if I hadn’t been rushing along through the rain that had started to fall.

1: garrison cinema - flotta

1: garrison cinema – flotta

2: airstrip - flotta

2: airstrip – flotta






Certainly, I hope I would have noticed the blob of rain on the lens that meant there was a soft spot on several of the pictures I took on the way; I might even have been able to do justice to the airstrip and the garrison theatre.

I like the pictures included in the final selection, particularly the ones of wartime structures, where I think I have come to a conscious understanding of how shooting out from the landward side gives an underlying sense of their purpose of observation and defence which is not there if you position yourself on the shore­side of them looking inland. I’ll play with this some more next time I’m up in Orkney I think. Some of them are weaker than the rest ­ 2: two points is soft (something gone into by Dave in his tutor’s report and which I’ll talk about more fully in a later post about what I think I am doing with equipment during this course -­ once it’s written, I’ll turn this into a link…); 4: several points is a bit lacklustre really; 14: pattern is just a bit too obvious ­ but generally I’m happier with this set than I was with the contrasted pairs of Assignment 1.

Dave’s overall view was very encouraging too ­ “Well done! […] this was an accomplished assignment and you have made some really interesting pictures ­ going on to highlight 5 of the pictures which “work for me because they are visually well composed as well as having a subject matter that begs questions –what is this place, and what happened here? The sea is obviously important and the lighting suits the subjects well” ­ and he also appreciated the fact I’d had prints made.

Where he was less pleased with the pictures, his criticisms made sense: there were a number that he felt were too tightly framed ­ the diagonals of the playpark and the third shapes picture although he was charitable enough to ascribe this to the need to follow the constraints of the exercise, rather than my laziness in not walking half a dozen paces further back and jumping over a fence! I also suspect that part of the reason for overly tight framing could be down to my rarely looking at my pictures any larger than 6 x 4 inches and making a lot of judgements while shooting based on the small viewfinder image and the equally small screen on my D50 ­ a bonus of getting decent sized prints made is possibly that I will start to be less concerned about something not being “there” in the picture as it is too small to stand out. We’ll see…

Dave also felt that the first implied triangle picture didn’t match the other pictures in the set due to the wildly differenct perspective created by both the lens and the way it was angled down at the foreground. I can see this and am happy to replace it with his suggested alternative:


“The triangle could be in the posts, the grass or the tarmac and it fits well with the cool, grey aesthetic that runs through the images whilst adding something new to the series” – Dave Wyatt

This isn’t a picture I took as part of the assignment; rather it was a diary-­type shot taken as I got off the ferry, to show where I was. As a result, I never considered it for inclusion here, but realise now that -­ as well as Dave’s comment above -­ it adds a further layer to the view of the economic history of the island contained in the set: other pictures show farming (now pretty much defunct), the fleet base at Scapa Flow, renewable energy elements and ­ – in 13: rhythm -­ a retired couple’s washing, hinting at the ageing resident population; I’d been slightly annoyed that I hadn’t been able to get anything of the oil terminal into the set and this achieves that in a simple and obvious way. I will get a copy printed up at the same time as I get the prints made for assignment 3…

the art of photography and photography as art and photography as crafted artifice

some thoughts on reading, theory and technique

Many years ago, when I was quite heavily involved in amateur drama, I asked an older man who was in the position of being paid to direct the local youth theatre whether I was any good at directing myself. I got a qualified yes, with the following caveat: ‘You’re very good when you’re inspired, but if you ever run out of inspiration you’ll have no craft to get you through it…’ As criticism and advice it was obviously pertinent enough to stick in my head, and bubble up again whenever I found myself in a position (not just in a theatre) where the only thing that was going to get me through was some practised technique rather than a divine flash of light that would trigger another dose of my romantic genius. I gradually came to realise that I was lucky enough to be naturally quite good at a variety of things and unlucky enough to be too lazy to put in the work to underpin things when I’d almost ended up in the right place, but didn’t quite know how to get there. Continue reading