Exercise 4.10 Processing Technique

How do they do that? How did she get those muted colours? Why can’t I do it? These are the kind of questions I’ve been asking myself for a little while now. Scrolling through Instagram or leafing my way through the BJP I’ve seen the odd photograph that impresses me for it post production qualities. In my ham-fisted way I’ve dabbled, trying to achieve similar results but to no avail.

And then, as time inevitably marches on, I reached page 137 of FiP Workbook (2014 edition). In only four pages I have been taken along a post productive road to Damascus! With a few clear directions I’ve achieve the sort of ‘analogue film look’ that had eluded me. What’s more, there was a ‘Brucie Bonus’ as this Exercise also introduced me to Photoshop presets where those multiple adjustments in a curves layer can be save and used again. Overall, I’m very pleased with this bit of FiP!

So here are three, paired examples showing the ‘before’ and ‘after’, or rather the other way around…


Pauline with a ‘film look’

Ex 4.10 film AFTER 3

And before

Ex 4.10 film BEFORE 3


Aldeburgh Beach Lookout’s pebble table with the analogue feel about it

Ex 4.10 film AFTER

And before the post production

Ex 4.10 film BEFORE


My Mam and Dad in with the ‘film look’

Ex 4.10 film AFTER 2

And before…

Ex 4.10 film BEFORE 2







Exercise 4.9 Repetition

Confession time! I sidestepped one of the requirements of this exercise. I don’t know if that makes me a bad person or not but I chose not to set up and photograph a still life. Instead I decided to revisit one of my on going themes, trees. And not just any tree, probably my favourite of the ones I’ve trained my camera upon.

During my partner’s diagnosis and subsequent treatment for cancer trees took on a new significance for me. This one is old; it carries dead branches and its twisted, asymmetrical shape seems to reflect a hard fought right to life. Perhaps for me trees, particularly this tree, are acting as a metaphor for the journeys our own lives take and sometimes endure.

So I kinda slipped away from the still-life requirement and drove the short distance to my tree. Just like in the layered images here:

Layering Multiple Images

I photographed the tree along a180-degree arc. However, instead of layering them I’ve selected 6 of images and placed them in a grid. The order doesn’t reflect the order the photos were taken in but rather an aesthetic arrangement that seems to look best – broadly based on keeping the low grassy horizon aligned across the images.


Ex 4.9 Repetition - 1


The result is interesting in that the tree looks very similar in each image, only varying slightly between images while differences in the foreground and background are more obvious. I am interested in trying to depict the 3-dimensional qualities of trees and this approach is something I could explore further.

To keep more in line with the requirements of the exercise I have also produced this one, where I selected one image and reproduced it 8 times:


Ex. 4.9 Repetition


I like this one image because the light was strong and behind the camera. For me this grid doesn’t create the same intrigue as the first work – I’d be interested hear what other think about this. However, it does have a consistency of colour that the other lacks. This is due to the changing position of the camera relative to the sun as I moved around the 180-degree arc. Perhaps taking the photographs on a day with flat light might have helped.

Exercise 4.8 Photomontage

Again, I didn’t seem to have a definite idea for this exercise. Photomontage seems akin to painting, in that the artist will probably have an idea before putting brush or pixel to canvas. Now accustomed to this blank state of mind I basically started browsing through my 100’s and 100’s (1000’s) of photos till something struck me.

Thankfully, I have a habit of merrily snapping away when I see things I like. Such photos aren’t necessarily FiP work or even personal projects but are often one-offs. They sit in my Iphotos looking a little lost, kind of displaced, having no immediate kindred image to sit besides. Often they’re taken on my phone as I didn’t have my SLR or my ‘point and shoot’ with me at the time. Some of these one-offs have risen to the occasion today.

For this exercise I have drawn upon the following:

A sunset of winter’s sky taken when a Starling murmuration failed to happen at the RSPB reserve at Minsmere.

The tree line and beach huts are from a photo of an empty car park in a Devon beauty spot. Check out the full image here, it’s one of my favourites:


The young woman was from an illuminated advertisement off Oxford Street in London taken on my first study visit.

The giant Dinosaur was found at a garden centre off the main road to Norwich. Thankfully, I saw it before it saw me and I was able to make my escape unharmed.

The foreground is telephoto shot of the incoming tide on the river Deben near Woodbridge.

And finally, the big question mark is a self-portrait from FiP Exercise 2.9. The original can be found here:


Rereading the workbook for this exercise I don’t think I’ve met the objective of placing an odd number of objects in the foreground. Silly me! But then on reflection all the action is at the rear of the image.

Well, using Photoshop I lassoed the bits I wanted and copied and pasted them on to my blank canvas. While cropping gave me neat edges, in the tradition of photomontage it looks crudely done. Here is the finished work…

Ex. 4.8 Photomontage




Exercise 4.7 Juxtaposition

I’ve been aware of John Heartfield’s work for a long time now. His photomontages struck a chord with me many years ago. They are both powerful and poignant but I have to recognise that I may well be judging them from a Post WW2, late 20th century perspective. I’m sure they were impactive in their day, and the Nazis must have hated him! However, when we look into any historical context we have the benefit of hindsight. The image below was made in 1932 but we know what happened in the years that followed…


Picture 086


The FiP workbook also invites us to look at the work of Heartfield’s contemporary, Hannah Hoch. While Hoch’s work often commented on the role of role women in German society in the early 20th century she would also direct her art to critiquing the state. The image below shows the head of state and his finance minister in bathing costumes, lifted from a newspaper and juxtaposed against an embroidery pattern. Germany was going through a tense and rebellious period and this simple artistic act mocks the two men as out of touch with the lives of many German people. The use of an embroidery reference also serves to emphasise the distance between the politicians and the work and lives of women.


Hoch Heads of State


Both Hoch and Heartfield were part of the Dada artistic group. For Dadaists art reflected the difficult and turbulent times in which they found themselves. Their art didn’t hold back in its acknowledgement of the everyday street violence, food shortages and the failings of politicians. For many the photomontage was the best way to express their feelings through art. The photographic element brings a sense of ‘truth’ while the juxtapositioning added a dream-like quality. In discussing the superior quality of photography over painting in the political commentary in Dadaism and of Heartfield’s work in particular, Hughes argues that:

“Only the realism of the photograph, its ineluctably factual content, made his work credible and, to this day, unanswerable.” (Hughes, 1991: 73)

So, having done the ‘pre reading’ for this exercise, I set about making my own work. Leafing through magazines and newspapers I became a bit frustrated as nearly all of the larger images, that would serve as the background, had text imposed on them – it’s something magazine editors can’t resist. Also and more significantly, I was struggling to come up with an idea.

What I really wanted to do was emulate this early 20th century German political photomontage I’d just researched. I am a political animal at heart and I wanted to express something about how I feel. Magazines and newspapers would provide me with found images and as these were failing me I decided to look elsewhere; to the internet where a wider range of images was available.

So, with a range of printed photographs, a pair of scissors and a ‘Prit stick’ I set about creating this, my own piece of political photomontage. And if anyone is struggling to understand it, it’s not about Brexit!


Ex. 4.7 Juxtaposition








Robert Hughes (1991) ‘The Shock of the New’ Thames & Hudso



Exercise 4.6 Using Image Layers in Photoshop

A quick look at my Non OCA work tab will reveal that I’ve already been playing with multiple image layers in Photoshop. My slight preoccupation with trees led me to discover a Dutch photographer called Kim Boske. She has produced some very interesting work that looks like multiple layers of images of the same tree. I don’t know her technique but I became intrigued by her work when trying to evolve my own from the simple silhouette-like 2 dimensional representations of a tree.

One of the trees I repeatedly photographed for Exercise 3.4 Documenting Change, turned out to be, upon closer examination, two trees very close together! It really surprise me how I’d not noticed this and started my questioning of how I could photographically represent a tree’s 3 dimensional qualities.

This current exercise introduces at further Photoshop technique into my ‘toolbox’. So far in my practice I’ve been using the default ‘normal’ in the blend mode. By using ‘screen’ as instructed all of black in an image becomes translucent. The images below have had this blend applied to them as well varying levels of general translucency applied along the way.

Out of curiosity I also dabbled with some of the other blends available. None were used in these in these images, as they didn’t really suit this subject matter but it’s good to know they are there.

For this exercise I revisited the same pair of beach trees from 3.4. Needing some predominantly dark images I got under the tree and shot looking up into the canopy. Though I took a good many images I narrowed the range down to eight and produced a contact sheet so readers can see the ‘raw material’ I have been using.

This is composed of 4 images (as instructed in the course notes):

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 02


This is composed of 3 images:

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 04


However, my favorite is this, were I used just two images. Less is more, perhaps:

Ex. 4.6 layers in Ps TEST 03


Contact Sheet

Ex. 4.6 Layers in Ps


Kim Boske


Exercise 4.5 Layers – Look Who’s Back!

In the early days of my FiP journey I feel I treated the exercises in a rather clinically way. When photos of shadows were needed, I photographed shadows, when blurred movement was required I sought out the same. I appreciate the exercises are there for us to consider a function of the camera or particular approaches and techniques in image making. But as my photography is evolving I’m increasingly seeing opportunities within the exercises to make the kind of images or shoot the kind of subject matter that appeals to me.

That said, the creative process cannot be rushed too much. I pondered over this exercise for a few days, as initially my mind was blank. So, it required the use of a window and reflections to create a layered image with foreground and back background. There was an easy option involving large retail spaces. I work not for from shops like Tesco, M & S, and Next. I could loiter around these, particularly at dusk and take advantage of the large windows and bright lights. Yes I could but it would probably have been a technical and rather soulless response to the exercise. Then, late one evening while relaxing on the sofa the answer was staring me in the face.

Eagle-eyed followers of this blog will know that chez Dave is blessed with a conservatory. If you’ve missed it don’t worry; it only appears in the periphery due to its need for a good tidy up and de-clutter. Staring through the sitting room window into the conservatory I spied all the reflections and layers I needed. After a couple of test shots were taken it was identified that the windowsill also needed a good de-clutter. After some reflection I came up with a solution: the usual domestic detritus was removed and replaced with the three figures used in Ex. 4.1 – an opportunity to revisit this still life. Moreover, with a nod to Part 2’s lighting theme they were then lit from the left with a red cycle light to add a little atmosphere.

Ex. 4.5 layers 1

Exercise 4.4 Patchwork

An afternoon in Norwich city centre seemed an ideal opportunity to collect a series of photos for this exercise. But the dull overcast light and the occasional drizzle did suggest quality images wouldn’t be forthcoming. That said, I wasn’t going to be beaten by the typical English weather. Walking through the multistory car park on our arrival I spied my first image; some parallel yellow lines painted on the dark tarmac roadway. Seconds later another image with a bold yellow theme. That’s it, I’ll keep my eye open for ‘yellow’! The day may be dull and miserable but I’ll aim to have a bright sunny feel to this series. Astute readers will quickly realise what I’ve done here. “Ah Dave, Norwich, yellow; of course…”

Norwich is the home of Coleman’s mustard, and historically speaking was famed, so the internet tells me, for canary breeding. From which the local association football team gained it colours and it’s nick name: the Canaries play in yellow. But lest you go on thinking “Dave, you’re so chromatically aware” I let you into a little secret. The Norwich connection to yellow never crossed my mind. Besides, what I know about football can be written on the back of a postage stamp. I was born and raised in a Rugby League city, no one talked soccer!

Back to the patchwork…

Here they are 20 photos taken around the centre of Norwich. Some indoors some outdoors, many with a yellow theme. Some of which were given a little further encouragement with Photoshop’s saturation slider.


Patchwork 1


The photos are not laid out randomly. Once I started to compose the patchwork it seemed clear when some images clashed or just didn’t sit well together. For example, I had one of a small pale blue jewellers shop that was just too weak in amongst these quite bold colours. I took it out and replaced it.

The yellows are obviously striking and so too are the whites. There is also an unintentional grey theme running through the patchwork. Though dark at times it recedes when standing next to the yellow – the Lloyd’s bank photo illustrates this well.

Following the instructions I took out a distant and one close-up image and replaced them with photos of a person distant and close up. Paradoxically, they are taken from the same position with my ‘point and shoot’s’ zoom at the same setting. The framed filled image suggests a close up while the tilted image with more of the ceiling in it feels like a distance shot.


Patchwork 2


For me there is change in my response to this second patchwork. Perhaps it’s because my partner now occupies two spaces in the work. I am familiar with her and have an emotional connection to her. But perhaps the change has occurred because there is now an identifiable person in the work. As humans, we seem to have a curiosity about the faces of others. We look at them, check them out, if only to establish if we know this person. It feels that the inclusion of a human face like this has made the work less abstract and more tangible and identifiable.


If folk want to compare the two patchworks they may also notice that the human face has replaced two powerful and socially imposing institutions, the police and a bank. But may be that’s a coincidence just like the yellow…