Monday, 9 April 2012

PART 1 : Final thoughts

Well, I’ve completed the exercises and non-assessed Assignment 1 in about 10 weeks, which in view of limited time and the length of some of the exercises themselves, I am very pleased with, especially as the first time round it inevitably takes time to set up the blog and establish a way of working to complete the exercises and consider what has been learnt from each. 

More pleasing in many ways is the amount of background reading I have completed (see the references list in the blog side bar) and the influence and inspiration I have gained from the events I have attended.  I am genuinely surprised at how much of a difference I have seen in my own photography and how I approach taking a picture, even with the subject types with which I am most familiar.  Additionally, I have found that I now take a much more considered approach to reading photographs and thinking about the relationship between their individual elements and also to how my eye moves around an image and how I feel about what I see.

Blogging has been a great way of recording progress through the course, although the vagaries of Blogger are irritating in the extreme.  I write everything in Word using Ariel 11 font before uploading, and Blogger’s habit of changing font size, adding in extra line spaces occasionally obliterating paragraphs which were clearly present is bloody annoying.  The hard copy Learning Journal has been a success and has enabled me to capture prints of some of the images I was not able to reproduce in the blog other than by linking to originals.  I have treated it as more of a scrap book and it has been good to be able to revisit pages and scribble in notes as thoughts have occurred to me.  My tutor has stated that he does not need this to be submitted for the first non-assessed assignment, but I will be sending it along on subsequent occasions as I believe that it adds significantly to the blog and has always been produced with the intention of the two being followed side by side.

The visit to the Taylor-Wessing portrait competition was a real eye opener - the first non-wildlife photography exhibition I have attended – and it was fascinating to see the differences between the highly contrived studio or location portraiture and the ad hoc images which were taken as a situation was found.  The latter category made more impact on me initially as it seemed more real, but upon a month’s reflection, I will confess to a growing interest in understanding and actually doing some studio based portrait photography myself.  To this end I have signed up to do a two day studio workshop run by the Royal Photographic Society, which I am sure will be of major benefit later in the OCA course.  This is run at Lacock in Wiltshire, conveniently close to the Fox Talbot Museum for a little inspiration.

The New Documentary Forms exhibition at the Tate Modern also made me think more widely about my own photography and especially in producing images that lead the eye around complex scenes – my own work is often of single discrete subjects, as is much wildlife imagery, and I have promised myself that I will make a serious effort throughout the course to consider options to have more content in images where there is potential to do that ….. which of course means thinking about how I want the eye to travel round the image and the message I want to convey.

Michael Freeman (2007) in The Photographer’s Eye covers many of the things I need to consider to make greater impact in my own photography, and his points around composition especially hit home and will be remembered in the future.  The other book which made particular sense was Chris Gomersall’s (2012) Wildlife Photographer – a Course in Creative Photography, especially his focus on taking images that are either narrative and create a sense of place, or abstract close ups to really generate interest in the viewer.  I have attended a number of the author’s workshops and will be doing so again in April by attending his Birds of the North Norfolk photo tour.  In addition to concentrating on portraits of the birds, I will be making a special effort to look more widely around the habitats and see what creativity I can come up with and how much better I can use the available light than I have done in the past.

Starting the OCA course has also widened the range of periodical photographic literature I have reviewed with the monthly Black and White Photography making me think far outside what I have done before, and I have experimented with some of my existing images to produce mono conversions in Lightroom 4.  I have processed several of my Contrasts assignment images in mono, and they were amongst my favourites of those I submitted.  I have downloaded a trial version of Nik software’s Silver EfexPro to check out as well, although I don’t plan to get too far into that at this stage other than to develop a general idea of how it compares with Lightroom 4 black and white conversions (far better by many accounts, but we’ll see).

As far as the OCA is concerned I have been a reasonably regular contributor to the student forums and have also signed up to attend the first ever weekend photography students conference in Leeds in September where it will be good to meet some of the tutors and other students from the course.  This is largely aimed at those further along the road to BA and beyond Level 1, but it will be a valuable insight into what is coming in the future.

So, all in all, a lot has happened since the Big Red Folder fell through the letterbox at the end of January.  A couple of thousand images I would never have taken before have been taken, books that would never have been read have been read, photographers I have never heard of have been studied, and there has been a total change in thought process and approach. Can’t be bad …… onward to Elements of Design!! 
I plan to complete Elements of Design by June 30th 2012.

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