Painting with Light (Feedback)

Having finally submitted assignment 2 of the course, I’ve received feedback from my tutor in a written report. I’ve gone through it and pulled out the main points that I need to consider with regards to the assignment and the exercises.

  • The Janus style image and duality within identity is something that I should try and build upon with my future photography. I’ve done something along this line for the sequence exercise but that may not be what I end up using for the exercise.
  • With regards to painting with light, the use of mixed light sources, including “popping off” a flash should be considered. I have seen flash used that way successfully outdoors, for me to use it indoors I need to get more familiar with the capabilities of my flashes.
  • Presenting the images for the assignment as a cube was a good idea but the actual cube could have been better constructed. If I use a cube as a means of presenting photos in future I’d opt for buying something suitable online rather than making it myself. Time constraints, and not knowing that you could actually buy them, were the reason for not doing that this time.
  • I need to be a bit more careful with focusing. Another reason I might not use the photos I’ve take for the sequence exercise, their not as sharply focussed as I would have liked.
  • The pixel painting exercise was a bit heavy handed when it came to it. While I’m still getting used to using Lightroom and Photoshop I need to keep my re-touching very light, plus I need to look more tutorials online.
  • Navigating around my learning log wasn’t as easy as it could have been. I think I need to think carefully about how I group material together for the exercises and assignments. Where I’m not including all the material in one post I need to have suitable links that take you to anything I’m referencing and then return you to where you started off. That way people don’t have to try and navigate around the site to find things and then get back to where they started. That said some things like research points, photographer bios and reviews are going to be directly accessible via menus and tags.
  • With everything I do I need to continue experimenting creatively and shoot a range of options for each exercise and assignment. I totally agree with this, sometimes I focus in on an exercise and don’t think about alternative ways to achieve the same end. Hence looking at alternatives for the sequence exercise in addition to what I’ve already produced. 
  • Spend more time working on technique. I definitely need to expand my skills when it comes to technique. I don’t work enough with flash or tripods. I find things like landscapes and buildings or situations where I don’t have to interact as much with people easier than those where I have to work directly with someone. It’s something I need to overcome and force myself to step outside my comfort zone if I’m to develop as a photographer.
  • And finally, continue adding to my learning log with a range of work, exhibitions and books. I have several books I need to write up reviews of and include in my learning log. I also have to find more exhibitions to go to, especially as it’s not much more than an hour drive to Bristol with it’s museums, the Martin Parr Foundation and several places that provide an opportunity to see artistic work.

Lots of things to think about going forward. I’ve got some ideas for the exercises in part 3 of the course. Some of those could be interesting. I’m certainly looking forward to the first exercise as I plan on doing that when I’m in Paphos, Cyprus in the middle of March, before I throw myself completely into the triathlon training camp I’m there to take part in.

Assignment 3 is due for submission on the 18th May. I’ll be aiming for that as it fits in with everything else I’m doing between now and October, which probably means that there will be the odd running, triathlon and burlesque related photo creeping into my photographic work in the coming months.



Painting with Light (Assignment Submission)

The brief for this assignment was to take a photograph of a person. The photograph was to be taken in a dark space, either at night or in a space that could be blacked out completely. When taking the photograph a torch or some other light source was to be used to ‘brush’ light over the person.

Prior to undertaking the exercise the work of Annette Messeger and Wolfgang Tillmans needed to be researched. The results of that research can be found here. My initial thoughts on the exercise and some initial experiments are documented here.

The photos were taken in my living room late at night. The room has blackout curtains so it’s possible to make it completely dark, the only lighting being from the LEDs on things like the Sky box and stereo system.

To hide some of this light leakage I put up the framework from a small studio kit that my family bought me with a black backdrop attached to it. My partner was then positioned sitting in front of this so that I could take photos and use some small torches to paint light on her.

Exposure times used were 15 seconds, 30 seconds and approximately 1 minute (using the bulb setting on the camera and the highly technical and accurate mechanism of counting to 60 in my head). Photos were taken with the camera set to ISO-400 and f/5.6.

Two LED torches and a small pencil torch (the type used by doctors to check pupil response) were used as light sources. The light produced by these was adjusted using a 35mm film canister with a hole through it’s middle and a series of balloons (red, orange, yellow, green and blue in colour; and stretched over the end of one of the LED torches).

Photos were taken over two nights. The first night was predominantly head and body shots (the majority from the knees up). The second night was head and shoulder images.

When examining the resulting photos those where the subject had not been illuminated enough were discarded immediately, this included the shots where the green and blue balloons were used as these did not produce sufficient light. The images captured using the yellow balloon were also discarded as the light they produced was far too harsh and unflattering to the model.

This left the images involving white, red and orange light.

Having looked at the work of Messeger and Tillmans and how they had displayed their work I decided that I wasn’t going to opt for a straight line or grid presentation. Instead I decided to narrow the final selection of images down to five. These images would be cropped and resized to produce images approximately 6 by 6 inches in size. These would then be attached to a cube shaped object (I created a 6 by 6 cube out of cardboard and black sticky back plastic). Five of the images would then be attached to each of the sides that would be visible to anyone viewing it. The sixth side allowing for the cube to be placed on a surface or for a base to be added that would allow it to rotate.

The final selection of images, contact sheets for all of the images captured and the final presentation of the selected photos are shown below.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5837 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch through red balloon

Using a red ‘filter’ it was possible to just have the subject lit, details on the black backdrop being more difficult to discern than with white light. Some editing of this image was performed using the dodge/burn tool so that the seat blends into the background.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5846 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch through red balloon

A change of location and not using the black backdrop allows for objects in the background to be seen. As can be seen from the shadows the light was from the right hand side of the subject. This and the use of the dodge/burn tool has allowed for some smoothing of facial features. Something that my partner was keen on.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5847 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch with 35mm flim cannister covering the end

Using a much smaller light source it was possible to highlight a smaller amount of the model. From this image I can see that it would be possible to use this technique to highlight very specific parts of the model, for instance the head, hands and forearms, while leaving the rest dark or only faintly lit.

This image was edited to make the parts of the model that were illuminated more visible.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5881 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
Plain white light

The above image has been edited to darken the background to reduce detail that would distract from the model. Looking at the image closely one of the things I’ve noticed is the eyes. Sitting still for 30 seconds is hard but not impossible but when someone is shining light on you there has to be a tendency to follow the light with your eyes and looking at the iris of the eyes that has happened here. I do think the points of light in the eye make it more interesting though.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light-5889 - cropped and resized - 1024 pixels at 72 pixels per inch
LED torch with orange filter (balloon)

Part of the brief suggested that we get the model to move slowly so we can see what effect this has. Movement of the arms didn’t really register very well because of the particular light that was used.

An image that I’ve always been drawn to is that of Janus, the Roman God of beginnings, transitions, duality and endings, amongst other things, which is partly because of the duality of my own nature. This assignment gave me the chance to create my own “Janus”.

Duality is something I’d like to explore further within my photography and also use to help build up my skills. I’ve already got some ideas that I’d like to build on.

The images below show the final presentation format for the 5 photos using the homemade cube.

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5901
Exhibition Arrangement 1

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5902
Exhibition Arrangement 2

Assignment 2 - Painting with Light -5903
Exhibition Arrangement 3

Below are the contact sheets for all of the images taken during the assignment.

Edited Images-1
Contact Sheet 1

Edited Images-2
Contact Sheet 2

Edited Images-3
Contact Sheet 3

Edited Images-4
Contact Sheet 4

Painting with Light (Artist Research)

As part of the assignment we were asked to look at pieces of work by Annette Messager and Wolfgang Tillman. The reason for this was to explore different ways of presenting your work.

Annette Messager

Annette Messager’s My Vows (Mes Voeux) is a piece consisting of hundreds of photographs. Each photograph shows a single part of the human body. The artwork forms a circle with each of the photos hangs from a piece of string and forming, as the description on the Museum of Modern Arts website states [Reference 1]; borrowing from Aristotle, “a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

The assignment asks will we arrange our own photos in a classical line or grid. The example images that go with the assignment in the course notes show a grid arrangement. Both of these arrangements are good for portraits, and if I was doing a more traditional style of portrait, the kind that you would get if you went to a photographic studio then I might be tempted to go with either of these. The small number of final images that we’ve been asked to produce (5 – 10) couldn’t be presented as well in the way that Messager displayed My Vows but something different could be done.

Thinking about how the images will be displayed does influence the number that would be produced. It also makes you think about lighting and colour schemes because where they are displayed and how can have an influence on how people see what you have produced.

Wolfgang Tillmans

Wolfgang Tillmans’s work Concorde Grid, 1997 is a rectangular grid of images 4 rows by 14 columns in size. The theme of the work is the Concorde supersonic passenger plane [Reference 3]. This appears to be a fairly ordinary way of displaying a lot of photographs. The beige background helps to highlight the blue of the sky and the darker tones of the buildings.

Tillmans’s exhibition at the Andrea Rosen Gallery [Reference 5] has more space for the images and as a result it is possible to put larger and smaller pieces closer to each other. The variety of sizes makes it interesting. I thought the image of the young child sleeping in the car seat was particularly good, the innocence and trust that a young child shows in its parents by being able to fall asleep like that it always remarkable. Although I’m not so sure that they’ll appreciate it when they grow up and their parents go “do you want to see a baby photo of you, let’s go the art gallery”. The large board with lots of smaller photos on it also stands out.

Tillmans’s website provides a good source of ideas. The photograph captioned “Wolfgang Tillmans, Zwischen 1943 und 1973 lagen 30 Jahre. 30 Jahre nach 1973 war das Jahr 2003, Kunstverein Hamburg, 23. September – 12. November 2017” shows how images of different sizes can be presented regardless of the space that you have available. Displaying pieces in the gap between the heaters and the large windows, by choosing appropriately size ones, was a great idea I thought.

The image “Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017, Tate Modern, London, 15 February – 11 June 2017” also provided an interesting way to display work, beneath glass on tables/


  1. Messager, Annette. My Vows (Mes Voeux) 1988 -1991 Available at: Accessed 31st January 2018.
  2. Annette Messager. Available at: Accessed: 31st January 2018.
  3. Tate Museum Available at: Accessed: 31st January 2018.
  4. Tillmans Available at: Accessed: 31st January 2018.
  5. Andrea Rosen Gallery Available at: Accessed: 31st January 2018.


Painting with Light (Initial Thoughts and Experiments)

This assignment is a trial and error process in taking a photograph of a person.

The photographs are to be taken at night or in a dark space and light from a torch or similar light source is to be used to paint the subject with light.

To make life easier all of the photographs will be taken at home in one of the bedrooms or in the living room as it is possible to darken the rooms or place a black cloth behind the subject.

In order to figure out what settings on the camera and what light sources work best I’ve drafted in my trusty model Barnaby. Once I’ve figured out settings and techiques I can move on to the proper subject.

The first thing I had to do was to make a snoot for one of my torches. I took a sheet of black card and wrapped it around the end. Unfortunately this just ended up with a tube of card on the end of the torch, which did stop light spilling everywhere but still left most of the light shining straight ahead.

Snoot Mark II was an empty 35mm film canister with a hole in it. This reduced the amount of light and provided an interesting diffraction pattern.

Mark III of the snoot was the lid of the film canister with a smaller hole through the middle. The smaller hole reduced the amount of light even more.

Moving away from the snoot I found a red filter on the enlarger which worked quite well, providing enough light to illuminate the bear but only the red wavelengths.

Following this a pair of sunglasses provided a similar effect but resulting in a different colour light illuminating the subject.

Looking at the examples of Kate Aston’s portaits in the course notes there seems to be a lot more light illuminating the subject than my torches are currently producing.  However, it may just be a case of moving the light source closer to the subject. or alternatively increasing the exposure time.

Locations is fairly easy. At home, our living room and two of the bedrooms have blackout curtains and the remaining bedroom has a blind that can be pulled down. This means that I have plenty of places which can be made very dark. In addition to this my family bought me a portable studio set-up for one of my birthdays and this contains a frame with a black backdrop, something I can use to hide anything behind my subject.

In order to take the photos I’m going to have to work over a couple of evenings, so that have the darkness and don’t have a model who gets very bored.