Sunday, 19 October 2014

Example of how to respond to a practice based lesson

I'm a massive advocate of the use of the Gibbs Reflective Practice as a method of generating responses to the practical lessons that students participate in.

Students often wonder after a lesson 'What should I now do in response to that lesson and how should I do it'?

Increasingly I'm seeing that the Gibbs method should become an integral part of what students do in response to their lessons. They need to say what they've done, how they've done it, what they've used, why they've used it, how it connects to professional practice and identify what it is they have learned. Through the use of Gibbs, almost all of the required written responses could be generated an in most instances these would meet the assessment criteria.

The example I've identified here uses a lesson I deliver for Fashion students. The students are given a choice of 20 historic and contemporary portraits to choose two from, to act as the stimulus for their own fashion photography images. The image that this particular lesson is based around is Vincent Van Goghs self portrait against a blue background.

The rationale for this approach is that, this image has stood the test of time, the pose and the use of light is by virtue of this being one of the most famous paintings ever, a very fine example for you as the student to draw influence from. Secondly, one of the criteria this work has to meet is one based around having to demonstrate knowledge and use of light in their practice. I therefore put a case that if you study the work and the lighting of the great painters as professionals do, your work will benefit from that study. The next bit is the tricky bit as I have to somehow bring that notion up to-date by cross-referencing an example that uses a similar light source. In this instance I use Corinne Day's 'Under-Exposure' from Vogue 1993..

The following text and images therefore demonstrates how a student might use the Gibbs prompts to generate a response to the lesson.

What Happened?

 One of the images that we were given the option to work with was Vincent Van Goghs self portrait set against a blue background. In this lesson the image was displayed on a tele and as a class we discussed the characteristics of the light. We had to look at the angle of the light, guess what the light source was and describe its characteristics.

 We were then presented with a contemporary photograph by a photographer called Corinne Day. The image comes from a set of images from a series called ‘Under exposed’ featuring Kate Moss, they appeared in Vogue in 1993 and caused uproar at the time. The reason we were looking at this image and comparing with Van Gogh was that the light sources are probably the same.
Having looked at both images we then tried to replicate the type of light used in both the images using studio flash heads. The lights were set up, our cameras were set in accordance to the lighting and the situation we were confronted with and we all took a number of pictures of each other exploring this type of light.


 At the moment with five lesson already gone and the deadline still some months away I feel okay about the current situation. The camera is complicated with so many settings and I feel that it would be a challenge to shoot either at home or in the studio still. This lesson though felt useful as did the lesson last week, I now think I understand what ‘Point light’ and ‘Diffuse light’ are. I think now when I look at pictures I can start to recognise the light and talk about the characteristics of the two types.

I was confused a little with the PDP (Gibbs Reflective Practice) but since the last lesson and the guidance to use it to generate the written responses to the lesson as I am here, I think I’ve now completely got it.. So for the moment with so many weeks ahead I feel that if I keep on top of the work I’m going to be okay.


 At the moment the good stuff out-ways the bad stuff, the lessons are all coming together nicely and I feel like I’m learning at a rate that I can keep up with. This lesson in particular was really useful and has made me realise a few things about the light in my flat where I am going to do my location shoot. I also think now if I look at photographs and paintings I’m going to be able to analyse the light at least in terms of where its coming from and whether it is point or diffuse light.

 Bad stuff, is primarily down to me being lazy. The work from the last three weeks wasn’t written up like this and I’ve still yet to use my camera outside of college and I really do need to try it out at my flat. I’ve not been printing off the images from the lesson and these images here are the first to have gone in my book, so I need to catch up.


Initially we looked at the Van Gogh image. The observations that were made and discussed were as follows.  Apparently It was common around this period and continues to be so, that the light that painters use/d was ‘North Light’. This is the light that faces the north side of a building/studio. The reason is that ‘North Light’ is reflected off the blue of the sky or cloud and therefore is no-where near as variable as direct sunlight seen in the south. Light coming from the south varies massively in colour and quality. We saw this in the lesson last week when we were taking pictures in the atrium. The light changed from one minute to the next. Point light when the sun was out had harsh shadows and diffuse light when the clouds covered the sun had soft shadows. North light is far more consistent – generally, flat, even, diffuse and soft; wrapping around the subject and sought after by painters such as Van Gogh.

 It was also noted that the image was predominantly blue, the skin especially and again this is one of the properties of North light, the colour is a cold blue as opposed to the variable light from the south. We all recognised that south light when it rises in the morning is warm and golden as it is in the evening.

 Looking at the Van Gogh image we all suspect that his studio must have had a large window facing the north and the lecturer drew up a lighting diagram for the Van Gogh image…

(A) Represents a window through which the light is passing. As the light passes through the window it scatters more and produces a soft, diffuse, wrap-around light.
(B) Is the viewpoint from which the subject (C) is viewed. Because of the separation between the subject (C) and the wall (E) the shadow (D) falls diagonally for the most part out of view and is only rendered on the subjects face.

The subject in the image is sat at 3/4's to the light in order that the majority of the face is lit and the shadow falls onto only a small proportion of the face nearest the wall giving us some sense of the contours and shape of the face.

Corinne Day ‘Under-exposed’ shoot lighting

The image of Kate Moss shot by Day looks to have used exactly the same kind of light albeit from the opposite side. The other difference is whereas Van Gogh is depicted separated from the wall leaving no shadow on the wall Kate Moss is leaning on the wall almost casting a shadow on the wall. It’s the quality of this shadow that enables us to hazard a good guess as to the light source along with a little research. From a little bit of research it’s easy to find out that this was shot in a flat using daylight…

"The setting - the West London flat she shared with the photographer and model Mario Sorrenti".

"Been photographed in daylight by her closest friend, the model-turned-photographer Corinne Day".

 The lighting diagram that we came up for this is…

(A) Again North Light coming through a large window, again scattering and diffusing as it does so.
(B) Indicates the general direction of that diffuse light towards the model (Kate Moss).
(C) Would be the position of the camera - the body position of Kate Moss is straight on and the lack of distortion would indicate a lens of 50mm or more?
(D) Indicates the field of view, the composition is quite tight with furniture in the bottom left hand corner and Moss's arm breaking the edge of the frame.
(E) Is the model position against the wall and the shadow cast by her body is indicated by the hatched area (F).
If we analyse the use of the light further in the image we have to consider what Day was trying to do in these images. Reading the Robin Muir article it’s apparent that there’s a fusion of a ‘Documentary’ approach in these images and sense of reality. The images are done in a way that looks very basic, we’re led to believe that this is a flat and that the light is what it is, so it is in fact wholly appropriate. Furthermore Day uses the light in a way that is flattering. The light is soft and diffuse, but coming from such an angle that there is some ‘Modelling’, we can see the shape of Moss’s face and figure, the clothes (Top) has obvious contours in it, so the lighting has been used cleverly.

Creating the Corinne Day lighting in the studio

 We then had to recreate the North Light effect seen in both the Van Gogh painting and the Corrine Day photograph in the studio. One of the lesson earlier on in the term Dave spoke about the fact that the further the light travelled the more even and manageable it becomes. We found a blank white wall for our Model (Dave) and placed the lights pointing away from him, bouncing off of the opposite wall and corner. The heads were positioned quite high so that the impression was that the light was coming from a slightly higher position.

(A). Two Bowens Esprite flash heads turned up full power and pointed into the same area on the opposite wall of the studio to the model. Initially a point light source, but once bounced off the wall (B) becomes a larger diffuse light source, with properties like that of light coming through a window.

(C). The resulting lights direction aimed at the model.
(D). The camera set with a focal length of 55mm or longer pointed directly at the subject.
(E). The model positioned against the wall.
(F). The shadow.
(G). This is a 8’x4’ white poly board. This was positioned next to the subject just out of shot to reflect light back into the subject ‘Filling in’ the shadow. When the board was really close the shadow was virtually invisible and the further it was away the more obvious the shadow was.
In this image (Above) the reflector is placed a good distance from the subject and therefore doesn’t affect the shadow. We deemed this okay, but wanted to look at the effect of bringing the 8x4 board a lot closer…
The ‘Fill’ from the reflector in this image almost completely negates the shadow and could be deemed as too flat. But a compromise between the two may give us the desired effect?

Camera Settings

The camera settings for the studio were as follows…
1.    Manual Mode
2.   ISO 100 (Lots of lighting means that a low iso is easily used and that retains quality. The faster the iso the lesser the quality of the images.
3.   File settings – Raw + Fine JPEG or if you haven’t got access to Raw software use Fine JPEG
4.   Lens set to 55mm or longer, too close will mean the image will start to distort.
5.   Shutter Speed – 1/125 – again this is easily achievable in the studio due to the control we have over the light.
6.   Aperture – This is the variable aspect with regards the light in the studio. We had to use 2 lights to get the light reading at 100 iso up to F11. The lenses work best at around F8/F11 so this was perfect in this scenario.


What else could I have done? The only other thing I could do is ask my class mates to be more involved and shoot more of them? Maybe we should come in with it in mind that we’re going to be photographed and offer ourselves as models rather than keep photographing our teacher? Other than that I think this write up has gone really well and I’ve written a ton of stuff that meets most of the criteria that we’re meant to meet.

My only concern at this stage is that if we approach our work in this way it becomes the PDP which we have to hand in during November and yet we carry on till January?
 I’ve talked to Dave and he has said that if we produce the work like this he’ll photocopy the pages that are done in this way and have them as the PDP.
Action Plan
 This has gone really well, but I readily acknowledge that the work that I’m supposed to be producing independently isn’t coming together and I need to start getting things together as time will catch up on me. We have been clearly told that we should try our ideas out in the most basic way in order that we have images to put in our book and respond to with more independence. This will also enable Dave to look at the work and give us feedback and guidance and maybe adapt the lesson to accommodate our own specific ideas with direct examples.
 So, this week I’m going to…
1.    Ask my mate Jo to model for me for my first test shoot on location (My flat).
2.   Plan the shoot for Saturday with Jo and ask a 2nd person to be a back-up model, maybe one of the group as they can act as an assistant as Dave has suggested. That way, if I can’t figure something out, between us using our notes we might be able to come up with a solution?
3.   Between now and Saturday I’m going to try and take pictures and set my camera up using my notes to get some confidence.
4.   I’ll make notes of my camera settings and record them in the event that it goes wrong.
5.   Whatever images come out, I’m going to get them printed and make sure they are in my book so that Dave can have a look and offer advice if need be.
6.   Then I’ll Gibbs it all again.





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