Monday, November 15, 2010

Assignment 5: Tutor Feedback

Somehow this blog entry has been put off over and over again, perhaps I am reluctant to finish or more likely now that I am courses 2 and 3 in my OCA studies I have simply moved on.  However, for the sake of completeness here is a summary of my tutors feedback and my thoughts.

First of all in the light of more recent studies and development as a photographer, the content for this assignment now seems a mistake and a conceited one at that.  Prior to starting AoP my photography basically feel into 3 camps; events, still life, and most of all underwater.  I have been diving for 10 years and taking photographs underwater for 8.  This was a consuming passion, the fact that I could only dive every 6 months simply fueled the desire and planning prior to each trip.  Going on holiday became an expedition, equipment management and assembly a serious time consuming task.

In my own view I became fairly accomplished and have some images that I think I am justifiably proud of, but whether they can be called art or not is questionable.  I felt a strong need to present this aspect of my photographic development in this course and so was quite determined to submit assignment 5 based around scuba diving.  In the 8 months since then I have moved in a very different direction with my photography and suddenly underwater imaging has ceased to be the all abiding goal in my life.  This development has been driven by the OCA and for this I am very grateful and very much committed to ongoing development as a photographer and student.  Perhaps this is why I have been so reluctant to return to this blog.

In any case, the original reason for starting AoP was to develop my photographic eye and improve the quality of my underwater imagery, perhaps that predestined the subject matter for assignment 5.

On the whole the feedback was positive, the content was well balanced with the text and the structure of the document was appropriate to the subject.  Technically; "You have shown extreme competence and understanding throughout the assignment and produced images using a variety of techniques learned during the course".  This was what I was seeking to achieve with this assignment and so in a major sense I achieved the goal that I had set for myself at the start of AoP.

However, there was still some criticism, not of the individual images, but of the way in which I constructed the document.  When assembling the images for the assignment I was editing down from over 5,000 photographs to the 13 included.  I tried to select images that best illustrated learning points from the course, either composition or colour, however, I made a fundamental error in not considering how the images would sit alongside each other from a visual standpoint.  I tried to tie the images together with the commentary, however, there are two very clear examples in which I managed to heavily clash the colours.

The third page managed to place fiery reds and yellows opposite pastel pinks and purples.  From a zoological perspective these animals belong together and even from a diving point of view these two invertebrates are related, however, THE COLOURS DO NOT WORK!

A better choice for the right hand image might have been

The orange of the image would have balanced the urchins reds and the shrimp in the picture makes an interesting subject.  I wanted to use the right hand image, first of all because it is an interesting and attractive composition, but secondly the use of shallow DOF in underwater photography is unusual and is a key learning from the course.  Another alternative might have been to replace the urchin with another different species:

I appreciate that in preparing images for publication the way two images sit across a page from one another influences how each is read by a viewer.  Good Learning!

The other pair that are a little shocking were my closing images.  My tutor suggested that it would have been good to have an end of dive image here.  This thought had crossed my mind, but I struggled to find an image that I thought good enough, end of dive usually means slumping into a bar stool after a long day of equipment preparation and the concentration of taking photographs in a potentially very hostile environment. I also wanted to show a pair of images that spoke to the location.

Having said all of that the colour clash is strong.  On the whole I prefer the sunset to the lagoon shot as it shows the people of the islands heading home after work and balances with the first fishing image I used at the start of the article.  This would need a changed image for the the lagoon shot that balanced to the sunset.  The first and most obvious thing to do, would be another sunset, but with a very different look and feel.

I actually had a number of different ideas about this page, the first was to illustrate the fact that we had flown through Singapore to get there and use an image of Singapore night life as a juxtaposition to the tranquility of island life:

Although the colour clash would still have been quite strong.  The other idea would have been a second sunset, but with very different tonality or content

The second of these two photographs would have spoken to the highly volcanic nature of the region and would have balanced well with the tonality of the right hand picture.

Alternatively I could have dropped the sunset and used images that balanced well with the beach, perhaps a little documentary including the staff and the operation of the hotel.  The first of these two images is the portable bar that appeared every evening next to the pool

The second shows the dive guides relaxing after a dive

At the time of preparation all of these images were in my selection set, however, they were either too weak or too similar.

In future I will take more care to document the activities of the dive base and the people who make their living working there.

I learned a great deal from this course and it did show in my work from this trip, although, now having nearly completed People and Place my approach to my next diving trip will change to include more local life and also to be more experimental underwater.  Underwater photographers are generally obsessed with detail and sharpness, often to the exclusion of composition.  A bad photograph of a rare critter is also frequently preferred to a good photograph of a common animal.

Finally I would like to close out this comment with a note of thanks to Caroline Bloor, my tutor, for her advice and commentary during this course!