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Tutor Report

Student name
Gary Bainbridge
Student number
Expressing your vision
Assignment number 1

Overall Comments
Great to see the assignment appear so quickly and it is a promising one. Your technical and visual skills are good, with beautiful grey tonality and thoughtful dodging and burning consistent through-out these photos. And the visual qualities of your decaying subject ‑ texture, shape and form ‑ all stand out well. Focus is often spot on, quite deep and helps draw the viewer into the scenes you depict. The series ‘sits’ well together, being all about dilapidated farm buildings and all processed in the same way.
My main concern about this work is that it is overwhelmingly technical and visual without a meaningful connection to you. You don’t say much about the farms themselves nor about any reason why you chose this as a subject. Your text is mostly about composition and technical issues. That’s fine, but don’t neglect the meaning of the subject. Of course, it may be that it is only the purely visual aspects of photography that you are interested in at the moment, but you will find photographs are rarely purely visual. They depict a subject in a particular way.

Assessment potential (after Assignment 1)
“Formal Assessment: You may want to get credit for your hard work and achievements with the OCA by formally submitting your work for assessment at the end of the module. More and more people are taking the idea of lifelong learning seriously by submitting their work for assessment but it is entirely up to you. We are just as keen to support you whether you study for pleasure or to gain qualifications. Please consider whether you want to put your work forward for assessment and let me know your decision when you submit assignment 2. I can then give you feedback on how well your work meets the assessment requirements.”

Feedback on assignment
This wide shot of barn is nicely composed and beautifully balanced in tone. I like the way you can see the inside of the barn as clearly as the outside and the eyes roam around the picture, which is totally in focus.
There’s a ‘snooping’ quality in this viewpoint towards the old wooden door, which adds an air of mystery in the overgrown scene.

In a few pictures you struggled with strong highlights and this is one. Cameras usually perform better in the dark tones than the whites, so under-exposing can help. You then lift the photo in Camera RAW repressing the highlights. You can also explore using High Dynamic Range (HDR Pro) 32 bit images, which can help with tonal latitude.
I have to say, if your highlights are this blown out, you would probably benefit from waiting a few hours for the light to change or just return on another day.

I like the composition of this old tyre and the door. The two shapes stand out well as the two main points of interest. The blown highlights are distracting though, and this could also have benefited from a cloudy day!

Amazing tonal quality in this almost abstract vision of decay and neglect. That pole…why didn’t you move it? I realize it may have been there, but it looks quite new and it is visually distracting being right in the foreground.

Although the exterior/interior shots are visually more exciting to rove around, this interior is have provided you with a much more sympathetic light for what you wanted to achieve. Lots of shape, form and texture here.

This light bulb is an interesting subject, but you’ve framed it against a distracting background – the dark shapes. I think you needed to frame it against either one or the other so that its outline would stand out well. It would also have been good to try to render the translucency of the bulb and it’s fragility.

This drain pipe is a good study of a line. I like the way it stands out against the overgrown shrubs behind it.
Doorways and windows make good frames within frames, but here there isn’t much to lead the eye to. It’s good to have a focal point of some kind.

Another example of a two-point composition with these two wooden rectangles standing out well with shape and texture. Really good lighting here, no problem at all with the sky.

Your framing of the flower pot, lower right, looks a bit indecisive as if you weren’t sure whether to include it or exclude it. But this is another good study of decay, with the white barn doors standing out in quite high contrast.

It’s interesting the way the ivy has started to grow around the barbed wire. This is a strong detail that emphasises the prickly barbed wire well. Actually, this may not have been so strong in colour, which can lose the strength of edges and textures.

Learning Logs/Critical essays
Apart from being a bit too technical, your writing is fine, but do try to consider intellectually the subjects that you are photographing. What does a decaying farm building “say” in a conceptual way? It could be something to do with abandonment, or the end or change of the farming industry – more mechanization leading to less work for country people and the effect that has on nature. There can be any number of conceptual reasons to motivate photography, and usually they deepen the meaning of the photographs.
Your blog needs a section on it for Research. Have a look at this OCA blog template You are welcome to use it and rename it.
Pointers for the next assignment
You have already started to make a collection of images here. And these views fit pretty well together. Have a look at the series “Heads” by Philip-Lorca diCorcia. Ask yourself, which of the heads stands out, and what does it make you think about what that person is feeling or thinking?
Good luck with the next stage.

Tutor name
Robert Enoch
14th January 2015

Exercise 1.1

This exercise was to take several photographs in a sequence without resetting or moving the camera and seeing the changes in the histogram.

To carry out this task I positioned the camera at an upstairs window on quite a windy day and took photographs at roughly 15 second intervals. The first three images are shown below along with their histograms.

The images are only slightly different, for example the birds in the first image had flown away in the third image, however, the histogram, although similar does show some distinct changes between images.

The histogram is a graphical indication of the number of pixels of each density in the photograph. It is a good guide to the exposure, and the dynamic range of the image. As you can see here, the whites are actually clipped slightly; the histogram curve goes right up to the right-hand edge of the graph, whilst at the same time the left-hand side of the curve is slightly to the right of the edge showing that there are no true blacks in the image. It is implying that the Program mode on my camera does slightly over-expose the image.

Exercise 1.1
Photographs taken in Program mode; 1/100 sec f/3.5 ISO 200. Unadjusted in-camera Jpeg files.


In practice this is only true of in-camera Jpeg files. If I use the raw data files, the whites can be recovered.

Here is the first of the above images, reprocessed from the raw file.  The histogram is completely different and the image is much more acceptable.SDIM4628 copy

One Square Mile

One Square Mile

I live in a small village in Norfolk, an area with only a few houses and a population of less than 100. Indeed one square mile more than covers the inhabited part of the village.

As you will see from my contact sheets, I started off this project taking pictures of houses, horses in fields and other mundane aspects of the area, but I was intrigued by the abandoned farm buildings at the end of my road. Despite walking past them many times over the year or so that I have lived here, I had never looked inside.

So taking my camera I gingerly moved aside some of the multitude of vegetation that had taken over the buildings and gained access to the secret world within.

As this is the winter, with the sun close to the horizon, there was little light which meant slow exposures and large apertures, never a good situation due to camera movement and minimum depth of field. Also when the sun finally came out there was a massive contrast between the shafts of light which flooded through the missing tiles and the shady areas of the buildings.

Due to lack of time, I had to return the next day to complete my shoot. Over the two days I used three lenses, my ‘standard’ 17-50mm zoom lens, a cheap 55-200mm zoom and my 80-400mm zoom to get close-ups. In practice, none of the shots taken with the latter lens ended up in my selection.

Once I had transferred the images to my computer, I realised that some of the images had too great a dynamic range, so I decided to apply some contrast correction to try and get detail out of the shadows.

My normal approach is to convert the raw files to 16-bit Tiff files with minimum contrast then adjust in Photoshop to get the final result. The contrast correction that I applied consisted of a second layer added to the image, inverted to become negative, softened with Guassian blur, then blended with the soft light option. This works well, but in this case it resulted in excessive colour noise in the shadows, so it was then that I tried converting the image to monochrome.

Having done that I decided that in fact the monochrome images were a better match to the subject than the original colour shots. In particular, converting to monochrome emphasised the shapes rather than the rather dull winter colours. The colours were a distraction as they tended to draw the eye towards the foliage rather than the walls of the building, so I decided to convert all of the images to monochrome. This I did by adding a saturation reduction layer which enabled me to adjust the contrast and view the result in monochrome.

Finally another layer to adjust the histogram then flatten and save.

Of the 12 photos which I selected, I have ordered them as a walk through the building. The first shot shows the building entrance and the shape of the fallen roof and guttering tends to draw your eye in through the gate.

The second and third shots show the external views of the barns from inside the now overgrown courtyard,

whilst the fourth image shows the clutter underneath the overhang. I’m not totally convinced about this shot, but I’ve kept it in as it shows the winter sunlight coming through the holes in the roof.

The next two shots show the entrance to the main barn. I particularly like the picture with the sign ‘chemicals’ on one door. I took some photographs of this sign on it’s own, but I felt it was a bit odd in isolation, so never selected it.

Within the barn this ancient light-bulb was still hanging from the ceiling, which I thought was quite a poignant reminder of when the barn was still in use, this photo also shows the sky and trees in the background through the now broken roof. I also thought that the shape of the downpipe from the now collapsed roof was a symbol of the decay all around me.

The gate is the way through into the other courtyard. Although the gate draws you through I did feel that it lacks a focal point on the other side. I decided to focus on what was through the gate rather than on the gate itself. The overgrown gate and window of the next shot show the way that nature is taking back the land from man.

The shot of the broken door of another barn indicates how the site has been ignored since it’s last use whilst the plant pot shows that someone had cared for it at one time. The pile of abandoned barbed wire makes me feel that the buildings were left with work still undone.

What would I do differently if I were to do this project again? First, I would consider doing something to help the dynamic range in the shots. Perhaps using a flash with a softbox (something that I don’t have) to lighten the darker areas and keep the contrast ratio in check. If I were in a conventional building I would consider bounce flash, but of course within these barns there is no reflective ceiling to bounce the flash.

Also I would take a tripod for the longer exposures, so I can get a better depth of field when I want. All the shots taken above were hand-held, and so, even with stabilised lenses, there were some shots that I could not get due to the low level of light. On the other hand, with wind blowing through the gaps in the walls and floor, some objects may not be stable enough for long exposures without blurring. Physically getting through the overgrown foliage to access the barns might also be a problem with a tripod.

Gary Bainbridge.


Student Profile

I’m Gary, a new student at OCA.

I’ve always been interested in photography, doing my own processing and printing when I was younger, including some colour work (I still have my colour enlarger). When I left school I wanted to study photography at the Regent Street Polytechnic, but having done GCEs in science subjects rather than art I did not have the relevant qualifications. Instead I went to the University of Kent in Canterbury, where I achieved a BSc Hons. in electronics.

I am taking this degree largely as a retirement project as I intend to retire this year. I am currently 62, and have been working for the past 40 years as a sound engineer in television. I have been freelance for the past 15 years since I gave up a regular job to look after my children.

I currently use a Sigma SD1 DSLR, although I still have some film cameras including a rather ancient Zenza Bronica medium format camera, but the impracticalities of home processing and the poor quality of commercial processing persuaded me to make the move to digital some years ago.

Over the years my job has given me the chance to work with and take photographs of quite a few celebrities, but I can’t exactly call my photography artistic, which is one of the main reasons that I want to take this course; quite apart from the eventual possibility of achieving a second degree.

My current partner, Patricia is also a student with the OCA, studying for a textile degree.

My current address is Awry Cottage, West Road, Shouldham Thorpe, Norfolk, PE33 0DP., and I can be contacted either via my OCA email address, or at my personal address of