Assignment 2 Painting with light

Assignment 2: Painting with light

  1. Assignment 1
  2. Feedback on assignment and response
  3. Final exhibition arrangement and reworked exhibition arrangement

Bibliography and Illustrations:

1. This project took some practice and working out in order to execute. With a bit of investigation whilst I could see that in principle painting with light technically is not that difficult to achieve, trying to get the type of image desired and the right tone of light whilst working at night was something of a challenge. The subject chosen was based upon a number of sources and inspirations of which I will discuss in a while. Firstly though some technical data and the images themselves of which there are five. Technical date: Canon 350EOSD Lens: 19-35mm. Shots taken using either 35mm or 19mm. ISO for images 100 and white balance I had set on tungsten. The light used was a simple pen light LED with a small snoot. Tripod used for all shots.

Post production: Levels adjustment layer and dodge and burn layer in order to lose some of the background detail and to enhance foreground detail. Images converted to black and white.

Research and Analysis of images: Follow this link:



_MG_5825 copy_for_printing

Looking at impermanance


What did I learn from the exercise and assignment? 

My experience of doing this assignment was very enjoyable. Also though I could see my limitation in experience. I have used a minimalist approach to photographing these images using standard two points of focus within the frame. I think that the image could have been enriched by changing a number of factors. One of which was brought out by feedback from my tutor: that of not obscuring the face of the subject.

In picture 3 & 4 the faces of the subject are obscured. On further reflection it would have been good to have been consistent with the style of portrayal and kept the faces visible and clear. My initial thinking was to produce images that were somewhat hidden facially to prompt anonymity. A sense of mystery within the darkness. However, it seems to be more fruitful in this series to keep the face of the subject clear and in focus. Another feature that I might have improved is to broaden out the two point focus and to include more of the surrounding context, which was a forest and could have visually been more stimulation than the simple depiction of skull and face. The theme of beauty and death is part of what I was working with in the series. Perhaps the surrounding could have been used more to bring out this theme further such as the pale reflection of a dead tree in the background or placing the figures between a dead tree and a living one to symbolically liven up the picture. As it is the images are quite subdued and literally shrouded in darkness. This was intentional but the outcome has been that the pictures are a bit one-dimensional and lack more visual narrative.

I made the mistake of arranging vertical frames with horizontal frames in the exhibition phase and also, to be quite honest the arrangement was not very good. If I were to go back and reframe and re-hang the images I would first of all put them a horizontal display fashion in line and secondly have the images all of the same size, not one larger than the rest. Again this comes down to inexperience from that point of the work.

Lastly, in the first photography the skull manifests behind the head of the woman. This was intentional, but partly through reflection and partly through seeing compositionally the shortcomings of this I think it would have been much better to have placed it to one side and given it its own space within the frame.



“Many thanks for sending me your assignment. It’s good to see you using your experience of and reaction to other work – ‘the Ambassadors’ and ‘Tomoko bathed by his mother’. Your work shows a maturing of your approach beyond the straight forward recording of the factual and an exploration of expressing your self. Good, well done!”

So a bit of progress in the form a of going beyond the mere documenting of events!

“You present an interesting series of images predominantly associated with the juxtapositioning of beauty and the inevitably of death and as such the work uses a good idea to explore the relationship. Your imagery is more attuned with the theme bound up in the Ambassadors than the ‘Tomoko’ image. It would be interesting to get some more insight into how your interest into the ‘Tomoko’ image, apart from the use of low-key lighting and Black and White imagery, feeds into your project. In this respect your notes set out in your blog are rather superficial and, having mentioned the inspiration engendered by the Tomoko image, could do with expanding to encompass aspects such as this.”

So the theme seemed to work although needs refining and more variation. I see that the images are a bit too uniform and that they portray two point focus a bit too much. I have included in the what did I learn section above some reflections on how I could have improved the sequence.

As for the image: ‘Tomoko bathed by his mother’, In my mind at the time I had the sense of a mood from the image which I wanted to emulate. In fact, what I have produced and what Eugene smith portrays are quite different. My analysis of his image and application to my work were not thought through enough.

“For the most part you use good straightforward composition in your images based on two principal points in the frame – the skull and the woman’s head and shoulders. This sets up an immediate questioning of the relationship between the two and hence the juxtapositioning of the two themes: beauty and death. I like the interactions depicted in the series; however I find the composition in your first image (the skull positioned directly behind and above the woman’s head) questionable. In the other images you use conventional compositional placing of these two elements. Would it have been better to place the skull on the left of the frame? this would have preserved the woman’s direct gaze and the viewer as well as the notion of the skull/death looking over the shoulders.

Yes, I see that this idea did not work. In fact it distracts the viewer’s attention. I was thinking too literally about the way that I wanted to present this scene. It would have been visually more appropriate to place the skull anyway from the head of the woman.  If I was to re-shoot these images, I would change two things. Mainly the aforementioned and then secondly the woman with the head cloaked and the skull to the fore. It seems that these two aspects of the these two images, plus not enough background context let the sequence down.

In your second image with the woman standing against the railings I feel that the indistinct face of the woman is counter-intuitive with the notion of beauty. Also the lighting on the skull is very harsh with a hot spot on the forehead. Personally I would have had the woman in focus, lit more from the side rather than frontal lighting and evened out the lighting on the skull by providing some light to the lower jaw and side of the skull. The lighting on the skull in the second image is very different from the first image; is this inconsistency by design or just how it worked out?

Yes this is how it worked out. Using the particular light that I had, I felt I could not control its landing so well. Also at the time it was difficult to see that it would lead to blown highlights.

In your fourth image with the woman with her back to the camera, her key features – the eye, nose and mouth are in deep shadow – again why? The skull is very bright by comparison to the woman and is different to its depiction in image 3 and 1. If you are using the skull as a euphemism for death I suggest it’s representation should be consistent throughout , or if it isn’t there should be a rationale for the difference.

I was running with an idea of facial anonymity, one that its seems did not land very well. I can see that actually it would have had more impact by disclosing the face of the woman from the start. It was somewhat counter-productive to leave the head shrouded and anonymous in this way.

Quality of Outcome
As mentioned I like your exploration of the concept of death and its relationship with beauty. I suggest that this is a theme that you could explore much further to encompass many more aspects if thought more about the topic. As it stands I feel that the work is more a result of a good idea and your intent to complete the assignment rather than an exploration of the topic with a resolution of what aspect you want to concentrate on and express your own feelings about.

I think that the idea was sound enough, but that the research and planning were not adequate to realise the desired outcome, so to speak.

Look at the lighting of the Tomoko image – although it is low-key and directional it splays in a controlled way across the elements carefully arranged in the frame; your imagery has two elements each spot lit as two distinct elements within the frame. While there is noting wrong with this, I feel that the result is more a result of happenstance rather than by careful consideration and design.

I would have not said happenstance, but I agree that I did not put as much thought into the direction of the lighting as I might have done. Again, if I were to re-shoot I would try side lighting to produce a more theatre style studio lighting effect. I think that actually it would have been good to of explored various angles and types of light in order to execute the project.

As the photographer you need to be in control over all the aspects that appear in the frame: their arrangement, lighting etc. The inconsistency in your images mentioned above leads me to think that although you have a good idea, your implementation needs to be more controlled.

Yes, I can’t disagree with this. The work needs more thought and experimentation before final shooting.

How you would display the images is fairly crudely set out as a montage of five images – and you only represent four in the earlier exposition in the blog. I suggest that this needs to be given more consideration and a better exposition in your final submission.”

Below I have reorganised the flow of the images. The reality is, is that the images are of different aspect ratios and this does not really work in this case, as does the fact that there is a horizontal frame and then vertical frames mixed together.

Demonstration of creativity
“As suggested you have made a good start and come up with a good idea, taking a risk with exploring the relationship between two somewhat intangible, elements. And this stands you in good stead in the development of your voice. You have used composition to good effect in expressing elements of the relationship but I feel that your lack of consistency in the treatment of the lighting etc detracts from finishing of the result.”


3.Final arrangement of exhibited images for assignment.Below the reorganised exhibit


Below the original exhibit



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