Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Final Thoughts

Well this will be my last (new) post for this course. I received my completion certificate last week for TOAP and I was quite sad, mainly because I've been so distracted by a recent Ofsted inspection at work that I hadn't really considered that fact that I had finished the course. I felt, feel, like I'm still doing it. The next module is going to have to wait too for financial reasons so I'm really reluctant to wrap up this course, but, assessment is pending so here I am, on the blog to tidy it up and make some changes before it is analysed and assessed.

So what have I learnt? Well, this may sound a bit over the top, but I have learnt how to be an artist rather than a skilled camera operator. I have learnt how to think about what I want my images to convey and also what I want to say through photography.

Since I have been taking photographs I have moved between different styles and subjects and doing this course I feel like I am crafting a style of my own. I'm also quite keenly aware of the different influences that there is on my work. I liked doing some parodies of Avedon, Mapplethorpe and others. I've also realised that people and portraits are my main passion when it comes to photography. 

Looking back at my work and the photographs I have produced I am proud but if I started from scratch there are a whole host of changes that I would make given time, but part of me likes to see what produced and rather than change it, use it as motivation to improve and make the next thing better.

I definitely feel this way about the assignments. The images I did for the last assignment are my favourites and I really liked being given a free reign over my ideas.

I've still got a long way to go, I need to work harder at expressing myself through my blogging and explaining my thought processes, but I'll get there!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

My App Is Published

Sort of related to this course as I have made it the focus of assignment 5, but the app that I have been making was published on the Android Market last night which is quite exciting.

It's called Your Big Day Lite and it's a wedding planner application. It's been fun to make and a challenge in a lot of ways as its been a long time since I did proper programming.

Anyway, back to Assignment 5!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Assignment 5 - Applying The Techniques Of Illustration And Narrative 2

Photograph Analysis

Chosen Photographs

Rather than discuss the individual shots, as individuals, I'd rather discuss them within the context of the page layout for which they were taken.

Bearing the purpose of the images in mind during post production. I have made a lot of them quite high contrast so that they stand out on the page.

Cover Page

I wanted the cover shot to be something that was attention grabbing and a shot that would sell the magazine off a busy shelf of competitors.
The photo on the front cover needed to have the iconic Android logo combined with the human element, me! I used a telephoto lens and a using a data projector, I projected a life size android logo onto a White wall. I then put the camera on a timer and spent a while running between the wall and the camera posing and resetting the timer.

I chose this photo because the eye-line is such a strong element. When viewing a photo, the first thing we look at is the eyes of a person or animal. This image works well as a narrative because I am looking at the Android but my eyeliner also leads the viewer up to the title of the magazine. A few other elements work well here too, I chose a black shirt because I thought that I would end up placing text over it, and the green text overlay enhances the contrast between the human in the photo and the character.
The image is playful and it plays with perspective as well because the android projection seems to be both behind and in front of the developer, making him (me, it's weird writing about myself) seem meshed within the world of Android.

I cropped this image for use on the cover, quite heavily actually. Simon cautioned me in assignment 1 about cropping as I composed the image, but in this case I think cropping afterwards for layout purposes is allowable, I'm not going to claim that every layout element was planned pre-shoot because I don't have that much magazine layout experience.

A final element of the image which works well, is the visible pixelation caused by the projector, being an older projector the resolution is quite low, but this leads to a connection between the digital nature of the product and the content of the article.
Pages 2 and 3

I looked through a lot of different magazines when preparing for this assignment and one if the things that I noticed was that where a cover story has a particularly striking image on the cover, the same image, or a visually connected image, is used within the magazine on the first page of the article itself.

So I knew when I was taking the projection images that I would be using more than one. with this in mind, I ensured that I created a variety of poses, most of which made me cringe afterwards! 

The second of them that I chose was one where my eye was roughly lined up with one of the androids eyes suggesting a link between the two of us, and also allowing the viewer to see the android as well as the human. This photo is composed exactly as it was taken, no cropping took place. I wanted to leave some space to the left of the frame to allow for the text of the article. I also processed this image a bit more than the cover story so hat is was a bit less detailed than the cover photo. I wanted this affect in order to allow the photo to be appraised by the viewer quickly so that they could then move on to reading the story. I increased the contrast and saturation of the image and adjusted the curves to make it as high contrast as it could be, without making it look too affected.

My pose makes me seem quite open and almost accepting of the influence that this process has had on me and gives the impression that I am a part of the android universe.

Pages 4 and 5

This spread marks the first of the pages where two images are used as part of a double spread, a pattern that I have used for the rest of the sheets.
After establishing the main protagonist in the article (me) I then wanted to show the amateur working environment and the simple equipment used to make an app at home. This is where elements of narrative start to come in. The main shot on the left, the computer desk is, believe it or not, quite a careful staged still life. I raided a box of backup hard drives, borrowed a couple of phones, placed a few bits and bobs around and finally took a trip to costa coffee just to get the final piece of the puzzle.
Having constructed the image I decided to used a fish eye lens to give it a dynamic feeling and I shot 6 different exposures and merged them together as a HDR. I can take HDR or leave it, some love it so hate it, but I don't mind. The reason why I decided to use it here was because lighting experiments failed to liven up a flat image and I wanted to add a sense of drama to it, without adding anything artificial.

 The image on the right is also shot with the fish eye but simply to allow me to fill the frame with one simple object. Whilst the computer desk is cluttered and rife with action, I wanted the mouse image to be a simple shot, almost a stock image of a mouse to show how such a common place object is so important in the process of development.

To make the mouse stand out I wanted to use a high key image with a lightbox as the background. As I don't have a lightbox I used a studio light with a softbox and turned it facing directly up. This created a nice effect where I exposed for the mouse, but the background is bright white and the edges of the mouse become much softer as the light from the softbox spills onto it.
This effect creates a nice high contrast, the focus is solely on the mouse and the shape of it. It almost becomes an object of beauty until the viewer remembers that it is a mouse.

Pages 6 and 7
Having taken the focus away from the developer I wanted to bring it back for the next double page spread. I also wanted this spread to be where I combined staged model shots with street photography. 
The first of the three photos used is a staged shot where I have projected binary code against myself and pulled a pose that should suggest frustration. The idea is that a solo developer working by themselves into the night can be very frustrating. I used the data projector again and a wide angle lens to get a dramatic image of frustration.
I think this image works well. I would have preferred not to have the rest of the projection spill over onto the wall behind me but I haven't got access to any rooms long enough to avoid this issue. I tried changing the angles of the frame and tried filling the frame but I wanted the 'tearing hair out' out pose and this was the only way to get it, because the projector projects light I couldn't even increase the shutter speed because the exposure for my face needed to be the correct exposure for the projected image. I still think it works.

The second image on the top right hand side is a shot taken whilst at the Gadget Show. I knew that going to the Gadget Show would be a great opportunity to take a lot of photos of the public using Android tablets and handsets. It was perfect because it meant that I didn't have to hover around in mobile phone shops and ask permission, I was able to use a longer lens (70-200) and shoot at will. The downside was that the lighting at the NEC was very poor and I had to compensate the white balance quite a lot. 
As I was shooting at 200mm I didn't use flash and the image that was chosen, out of quite a few, is nicely lit by the light box in front of the people using the phones and tablets. The image portrays the growth of the market and the interest that people have in this kind of technology, whilst it isn't obvious that this is the gadget show, it is clearly some kind of venue where people can have a go at new tech, and the concentration on their faces shows how interested they are.

The third image on the page is a pure street photography shot. I blogged about being terrible at street photography and this shot was brilliant timing. I had sat down looking for people walking past on their phones and noticed the two girls sitting opposite me using their handsets. The space between them speaks volumes and there is a great juxtaposition between them, sitting in complete isolation but on the same bench, because they are using smart phones. In a way, this is quite a damning photo, it decries the success of smartphones but it also demonstrates how popular they are, and why people like me spend hours at night making apps for them.

Pages 8 and 9

Pages 8 and 9 show two similar images where I have used juxtaposition and metaphors to continue the narrative on application development.
The photography on the right has been cropped for page layout purposes but the important elements of the image are still visible, those being the plastic Android toy in the middle of the street. I wanted to use the 'long road' metaphor to show how the development can be a long process. I used a wide angle lens to give the android some dramatic perspective and a wide aperture to decrease the detail of the road and cars behind the android.

The photo on the right shows the same toy in the grass providing the 'grass roots' metaphor. Android is an open source platform which is something I really like and I wanted an image to represent this. If I had to remove one image from the submission though, it would be this one, it's just a bit dull, and I think I may have overused the robot toy.

Pages 10 and 11

I really like this last double page spread. I got the idea for the location from a fellow OCA student who favours this car park roof in Manchester. I tried shooting the robot toy overlooking the countryside from the top of a hill that has Manchester in the distance but it didn't look right so I relocated to the city centre.
I must say upfront that I don't normally like spot colouring on photos but it works here. I didn't fully desaturate the city-scape, just enough to make the android toy really stand out in the bottom corner, even with the spot colouring the eye is not immediately drawn to it, so it feels like a nice surprise when it is spotted.

Rejected Photographs

The main self portrait shots where I stood in front of the projector had many rejects. I really, really, wish I had invested in a remote for the camera as running back to the camera between shots was a right pain! Anyway, this caused a lot of rejects as I was aiming to have my eye in-line with the Android's eye and this wasn't always successful. I tried a variety of poses but felt like a fool in a lot of them, and looked like a fool in most.
I also experimented with a wide angle lens to start with but settled for the telephoto to avoid any lens distortion on the wall.

The binary projection shot went through a few different experiments too, the shot where I am thinking looks to complacent, I preferred the manic shots. I tried to take s hot where the screen was reflected on my face but focusing this alone was a nightmare, and I felt that if I asked someone else to focus for me, then I was handing over some of the creativity of the shot. I abandoned this idea in the end, it felt a bit surplus to requirements anyway. I think you can tell by the article that I am the programmer without having to see me at the keyboard.

I took a few still life shots that I discarded. The keyboard shots were just a bit dull. The shots of the android phone just didn't work without having the screen blacked out. I realise now that all mobile phone advertising must have a screen shot overlayed onto the handsets, because colour balancing and exposing for both is completely impossible.

I took a few extra shots whilst at the gadget show to show people using smart phones and tablet handsets. The one that I chose is better framed and shows the people engaging in a much more understandable manner, I also like the colours and the amount of people in the shot. The rejects were ok, the one with the green light would have been ideal if it wasn't for the distracting background, but on the day when I rearranged myself, half the people walked off. I also include an alternative HDR of the pc on a wide angle lens. I rejected this because of the sunlight and the general composition being a bit lacklustre.

Assignment 5 - Applying The Techniques Of Illustration And Narrative 1

The last assignment for the module is here already. I'm quite surprised, it feels in some ways that I gotten to the end of TOAP very quickly, but also like I have taken ages getting to this submission.

The Brief
The brief for this assignment is to illustrate a story for a magazine with a cover and then a series of pages inside. I needed to choose a caption for each image but not a full story - thank goodness!

The cover needed to show techniques of illustration and then the inside pages will be a picture essay similar to what I have created before.  I needed to consider linked images, different aspects of the story and use of juxtaposition and narrative.

My Approach
The theme was a crucial decision. The brief allowed be to chose anything which is quite a daunting prospect, I found my mind racing from one idea to the next.  I wanted to choose something that I knew about. I was tempted initially to do a recipe as there is great joy to be had in food photography but this seemed like to obvious an idea.

My picture essay earlier in this segment was based on one of my interests, running. I am preparing for the Great North Run and I started to think about the idea of doing a series of photographs and self portraits based around the preparation of someone who is new to running (less than 6 months) but who has signed up to do quite a strenuous race. 

I started to put more details into this plan. What I liked about it was the concept of combining self portraiture with some still life and some street photography. I am planning to the do People and Places unit next which will possibly mean I have to convince various friends and family to model for me, I don't seem to have surrounded myself with model wannabes and it always takes nagging or bribing them all. 

So I thought that to use myself would work well in this one, also, I'm picking something about me so I should man up and put myself in front of the camera, not something I like doing.

The other aspects I liked of my idea was a combination of photographic styles in order to establish a more coherent story. I wanted to use modelled self portraits, still life shots of objects that relate to the story and provide some context and juxtaposition and also some street photography. This last one was proving a sticking point. I like street photography but it is an area I need to practice at length. I wanted to put it in to stretch myself and I had an idea of capturing some joggers going past a cafe with people sat outside looking at them as they passed. I know you shouldn't try to be that specific when planning street photography, but hey, I wanted to be ambitious for this last assignment.

The Final Idea
As happy, and excited, I was about the types of photographs and the approach that I was going to take, the subject just wasn't doing it for me. I felt like I was repeating myself slightly. I had already done the narrative of a race and this did feel like repetition even though I had planned to make it more personal. So I decided to retain the method of execution, but reconsider the concepts.

I thought about things that I am doing at the moment, interests that I have, and one of the things that has been taking up a lot of my time at the moment has been developing an Android smartphone application.
Some background is needed here as that may seem a bit random. 
I used to be a java programmer before moving into education. I manage an IT teaching team at a college and as part of my job I still teach a few hours. This year, two of my more intrepid tutors started teaching the development of iPhone apps. As an iPhone user, I thought this was marvellous, looked into it, discovered that the Android platform, iPhone's biggest rival, uses Java and after a lot of scraping around in my brain to remember java, I started teaching very basic Android app development.
In order to teach myself so that I could teach the students, I have been making a Wedding Planner app which I'm going to release on the Android Market as a marketing tool for my wedding photography sideline. 

I started to wonder about how I would use this as an idea. One of the things that leapt at me straight away was one of Android's strengths, it's iconic logo. The Android logo, a little green robot, has started to crop up in all phone shops and in the media.
Using this as a starting point the initials concepts quickly began listing themselves:
  • A magazine article about homebrew - the practice of developing software at home
  • The theme will allow for modelled self portraits, still life and street photography
  • The street photography element will capture the rise of smartphone usage
  • The still lifes will show the shabby approach to home dev
  • The self portraits will aim to capture ambition and isolation
  • The android logo will be used
I was slightly concerned that my subject is a bit to niche, but then I decided that it didn't matter. The brief states any subject and even if my audience aren't the types to read smart phone app magazines (like me - app nerd!), the techniques of illustration and narrative should still shine through.

This is a first for me, I usually stick to an idea once I have started it through bloody determination (stubbornness). In past assignments this has let me down a bit and I feel like I've grown a bit in my art work that I am willing to abandon an idea after thinking it through.

Magazine Considerations

Another of the early decisions I made was that I wanted my submission to look like a magazine.  With this in mind, I have been using Adobe InDesign at work. This isn't a package I have used before but it is brilliant. Using InDesign, I really feel like I've made my photos look like I imagine their use in a layout. I've never studied page layout or attempted it much so I am pleased to have used an industry tool. 
The use of a proper layout is important because it made certain considerations when I was taking my shots. For instance, the space to the left of the frame in the shot used as a background for pages 2/3 was intentional for text. Another example is the image of the mouse, this photograph was taken to be a context shot, intended to be smaller and more discreet than some of the others.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Street Photography Fail

I'm hopeless at street photography, I've just back from town where, having bought a new brake light, my aim was to get so shots of people naturally using their phones as part of my assignment five project. This is an area that makes me so uncomfortable. I sat in three different places trying to look natural and instead I probably looked like the most guilty weirdo every to hold a camera!

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Assignment 5 Ideas

For the last assignment I've decided to document a process I'm going through at the moment which is programming an Android app. This may seem a bit random, but I like the approaches that people have taken showing a recipe being followed, and rather than capture and event, I want to show a narrative of something I can control and am involved in. It means I have to use myself as model, which takes myself out of my comfort zone, and I can save a few favours for when I am doing PaP next.
Here are my initial ideas, which may make no sense to anyone but myself :-)