Friday, 21 November 2014

Darkroom Basics

What you’ll need –

 Photographic paper;

 You’ll need “10x8 MG RC Glossy photographic paper”.  This is light sensitive e.g. only usable in a darkroom under red safe-light conditions. Do not open in any other light.

 “MG” is an abbreviation for Multi-grade and may be described as multi or variable contrast on other paper brands. “RC” is resin coated and differentiates the paper from the more traditional slightly more difficult to use Fibre Based paper. The brands you’ll probably find on-line are Ilford and Kentmere. You’re advised to buy at least one box for the course or share a box between 2 or 3 of you.

 At the main college in Southend smaller packs of paper are sold in 5’s 10’s and 25’s. See the technician.

You’ll need to identify during the course that you’ve used and processed a number of films looking at the process options and how it differs and affects the negatives and the final outcomes.

 You’ll need to buy Ilford HP5+,  Ilford FP4+  and Ilford XP2 for general use on the course showing the process aspects and differences in processing and results, but you’re also advised to try Kodak Tri-X

2 x  Ilford HP5 +135/36

1 x  Ilford XP2 135/36

Kodak Tri - X 135/36

 If you use the four different types that will be sufficient on the course.

Possibly the best shop in the world...

Virtually everything you'll need...

Useful link for teachers -

Getting started in the darkroom

Agfa Rodinal - RO9 one stop - Adnol 1 stop

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Analysis - how to (Within the Gibbs reflective format).

How do I make my work analytical rather than descriptive?

Don't take everything at face value, cast doubt on your initial assumptions, look at different ways of seeing and approaching a problem in order to resolve it.

Is it right for this situation - what if I tried something else?

This approach is reliant on accepting that photography is a series of problems, many of which need to be analysed in order to resolve. Therefore one of the helpful things you can do it identify these problems is to list them...

  • Light
  • Composition
  • Background
  • Props
  • Adherence to the brief
  • Equipment suitability
  • Equipment usage and calibration
    • One of the main things on the UAL courses that prevents students from attaining higher grades is the lack of analysis.
    • Analysis is required at regular points within your work.

    If you produce your written responses to your work within the framework of a Gibbs Reflective Practice model, you are prompted to analyse at stage (4)...

    (1). What happened
    (2). Feelings
    (3). Evaluation
    (4). Analysis
    (5). Conclusion
    (6). Action plan

    Example (using Gibbs).

    Our students were working on Unit 12 - Engaging with an audience in Art & Design (Photography).

    In essence they have to produce work that meets the needs of the client and the market. As part of this unit we had a professional photographer come in to the college and set a task whereby they had to shoot for a client with specific audience - Musto. The photographer liaised with the client who he was shooting for at the time and was able to obtain some of their products for the shoot (Coats). The students were given the name of the client beforehand in order that they could do some research into the brand and who the target audience is. With the knowledge of the brand and its audience profile, the students were briefed and shown a video...
     and were set loose to shoot the coats.

    On return, they had to then re-size the images and wetransfer the images to the Photographer before a specific time. Having done the practical stuff, they then have to reflect on the days activities and we strongly advise that they do so using the Gibbs method. So, this stage of their work if done well should look like something like this...

    GIBBS reflection

    What Happened - (Normally this bit is kept short, concise and to the point).

    We were set the task of shooting a series of images for a mock Musto location shoot at Leigh on Sea in Essex. Our initial submission of low res images needed to be 10-14 in number and required to be uploaded to the client within 48 hours of shooting. We were given Musto coats and assigned to random groups to shoot in, 1 coat per group of 5-6 students.
    Feelings - (Again, keep this bit to the point and fairly brief, unless you're really struggling, as you can use this as a way of alerting your lecturers to your situation).

    Initially I was a little concerned at the thought of a pro-photographer peering over my shoulder looking at everything I was doing, potentially picking fault with my process. In the end it didn't turn out like this and we were able to get on with our work. Over the course of the 3 hours, I became more confident as I went along although I do feel that there were issues, but these will be discussed in my analysis.
    Evaluation - (Again short and concise allowing for the detail to be discussed in the analysis section)

    Overall the whole process and day was good, being set the brief with these requirements and knowing that Musto might even consider using some of our shots on their website was exciting. The weather for the most part was good, but it was cold and some of us had totally inadequate clothing. Other bad stuff was that it would have been better if there were more coats and we’d been able to work in our own preferred groups.

    Analysis - This is where the detail comes in, this is where you demonstrate your learning and understanding of what you've done and show that you question your approach, analysing it in order to produce improvements. (You could use the list above as I am).

    The light on the day was good in some respects in that it was consistent, it might have rained as it did the day before and that would have been really difficult to shoot in. Having said that we didn’t arrive at the location until 10.00-10.30 ish. The sun at this point even though it’s pretty much mid-winter was relatively low in the sky over the River Thames, but no-where near ‘The golden hour’. As a consequence a lot of the better shots were to be had looking directly into the sun with the boats on the river behind the model, leaving us with a difficult lighting scenario. Considering this later on and thinking it through, if we’d have set out before sunrise or just before sunset, the light would have been in a far better place for shooting and much lower in the sky and much less intense. The sun lower at these times of day, would have been diffused due to the moisture and pollution in the atmosphere.

    Other solutions I could have tried would have been to use a external flash gun, but to be honest I’m not that brilliant at using them and would need to spend some time practicing before doing that for real. Another approach might have to be far more selective about where I shot the images, only choosing to do so in shaded areas. Looking again at the video, it’s obvious that the videographer had it easy because the light that he/she’s used is overcast and flat.

    We did have the use of lastolite reflectors, but they’re difficult to use with the models because the light is reflected back into their faces making them squint, so that isn’t a particularly good solution either.

     I think given the chance to do it again at the same time of day with the same lighting issues, the best approach for me given that my fill-in flash skills are lacking would be to use the flat, diffuse light in the shadows of the boats and buildings. It does seem that in these situations it is most definitely a good idea to look around the location with a little compact camera and work out where the best back-drops are, so that you can pin-point them and focus your efforts on prime locations rather than walk around as we did, not knowing where the best places would be.


     Looking at my own images, again given the time we had they’ve come out okay and similarly with the light situation, as second follow up shoot would almost certainly mean I would end up with far better results. In part this would be down to things like I now know what backgrounds I’d want and I now know what lenses I’d take in order to throw the backgrounds out of focus in some of the shots, making them more Musto-esque as in the video.

     Most of my shots were done at F16 in bright light, looking back and reflecting I think I would go for much faster shutter speeds and wider apertures. I’d also play around with individual ideas more. Because we were in groups I didn’t feel like I could shoot loads of ideas in one location because there was always 4-5 others waiting to shoot as well.

     Adherence to the brief

     One of the key aspects that we need to look at and discuss in our main unit brief is the audience and the little research that I’ve been able to do would suggest a certain type of audience based on my socio-economic observations with regards Musto’s target audience. Musto looks to be a high-end brand, with very few retail outlets in high streets. Looking around our locale, there are only 2 shops in Essex and they sell the shooting and hunting clothes, the nearest boating clothes retailer is in Rochester in Kent. It was this type of customer that we were shooting for.

     Looking at the video and my research the audience I’ve concluded are primarily fairly well off and middle class with an age group profile of 21 and above. Therefore there needs to be a certain approach in making the images, whilst still maintaining the Musto look as we see in the video. Looking again at my images and our location there are too many instances where the backdrop looks too industrial as opposed to vintage, classic and old school. The video has a kind of charm to it where it seems to be looking back at older more elegant times. With some of my shots, it’s far too urban and modern.

    Conclusion - (Again I'd go for a fairly short conclusion as it doesn't help a great deal with assessment criteria).

    The main conclusions that I’m able to draw from the Musto activity are –

    (1). Pre-planning and having some sense of where you’re going to go is important as a lot of time was wasted photographing in 5-7 different places and looking back at the images and again at the video, I think I could have shot most of the images in just two key places.

    (2). Back –up plan. Have a plan but then have a secondary plan, If I’d had more experience I may have recognised the lighting issues that came about and intended to shoot in the harsh light, but then might have gone to plan 2 and shot in diffuse light?

    (3). Have a good model. We all had to share the modelling, but it is obvious that in our class some people are better models than others, so if I’d been able to control this aspect of the process I think I’d have got better shots.
    Action Plan - (This is another section that calls for more detail and content primarily because it helps to meet a number of assessment criteria).
    Going forwards, I can now see that I could use this as the basis for a follow-up shoot. I wont be able to use Musto products, but I could either source another brand or even use my own coats or friends coats and do a shoot in the style of the Musto shoot alongside our main Shoe brief.

    What can I take from this in the short term and use for my shoe shoot? At the moment I’ve not shot anything for my shoe shoot, but I know I’m going to be shooting Adidas Sambas trainers to do an Adidas advert, I still need to make decisions about where my images are going to appear. On-line I’m aware that they use a number of different approaches, much the same as Musto. Some of the shots are studio pack-shots, simple white backgrounds which don’t particularly work to address an audience. The ‘Banner’ images on-line and in the brochures are the type we’re supposed be looking at as they’re the adverts that reflect the audience and their aspirations. 

     So far depending on the products, there’s an obvious element of ‘Urban and young’ with the use of colour. So in the short term I need to conduct more specific secondary research into the way the product is advertised currently. There is a specific advert for Samba football boots and the audience for that is very specific, using particular image conventions and approaches. So the plan…

    • Over the next two days conduct secondary research.
    • Make sense of the research, analyse it (Gibbs) and form a coherent plan. Allocate at least a day to write up the Gibbs Reflection of the research.
    • Aim to then review the situation, but have a plan to do a test shoot within the next 4 days.
    • Look to start contacting and finding models for the shoot now, I’m looking for any boys/men 18-15. Lots of people play football, I could look at using the students in the sports dept?
    • Check the weather and the lighting in the research images.
    The advantage of writing up the majority of your work within the Gibbs reflective format is that in doing so, you do so in a structured way. It also negates the necessity to write up separate 'Reflections' as the whole process is reflective. Working with this approach on a regular basis after you've done some work, tested something, tried something out and or completed your research will enable you to evidence so much of the assessment criteria. It really is the way forward.

    Tuesday, 4 November 2014

    1.1 Critically compare a range of critical perspectives that influence the analysis of art and design

    1.1   Critically compare a range of critical perspectives that influence the analysis of art and design

     Taking a critical perspective involves adopting a viewpoint that asks questions about the rationale and legitimacy of something. The idea behind critical thinking is to remove normal biases from a point of view to determine whether a conclusion is the most valid one. To do this, a subject must be thoroughly analysed.

     All of your photography must be under-pinned by research. The more you research and the more you question and explore other people’s approaches to their photography, the more informed your photography will become. At the start of all your projects you must explore the photography of others who work in similar or associated fields, or use an approach that you wish to explore. As an absolute minimum you must find two bodies of work or photographers that work in the same area of photography that you are about to undertake. Identify a series of images or a single image that you wish to analyse and deconstruct. This will form the basis of your research.

    So, in order to compare a range of critical perspectives you must initially present a minimum of three or four viewpoints. We therefore advocate that you do the following…

    (1). Present your own initial viewpoint without any analysis.

    (2). Present the viewpoint of others via primary research – conduct a survey, consider using Survey Monkey

    (3) & (4). Present the opinion and viewpoints of 2 people that have a more in-depth knowledge of the subject – Reviewers, critics, academics etc.

     You’ll have now collated 3 or 4 critical perspectives relating to your research; all that now remains is that you make sense of the information, forming a potentially more informed critical perspective of your research.

    The final analysis where you make sense of all the opinions should be produced in the form of the Gibbs reflection of your research process. It’s at this point you might want to use the 13 point analysis prompt?