Using image layers in Photoshop

Brief

1. Create a series of photographs that include deep shadow in much of the frame. You
could achieve this by using a black backdrop or by exposing in high contrast light as
in Part One Project 2 (Shadows).
2. Choose about four final images.
3. In Photoshop, place the images on top of one another and change the Blend Mode
to Screen (removes the black from the image) of the images above the lowest image.
Experiment with Luminosity and Colour blending modes. You may also want to reduce the Opacity of each image. Move them around with consideration for the sense of depth the image represents and try to create a final composite.
The image below was made by making a double exposure with a film camera. But you can do the same thing by using Layers in Photoshop.
Russell Squires and Craig Hull, Doppelgängerism

Final Images

Space Centre

The series of images below combine 3 photos taken at the Space Centre in Leicester. Two of the photos are of a Soyuz capsule but from different angles. Changing the blend mode resulted in very different effects. The opacity of the images that were used for layers 2 and 3 I found were limited in what I could do. Too high an opacity percentage and they obliterated the other layers, too low and you lost all detail. Getting something that allowed all three images to be seen was a bit of a balancing act.

The blend mode for each image has been added in brackets to the caption. In all cases the same mode was used for layer 2 and layer 3. Using combinations of modes would have led to even more possibilities.

Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Screen)
Space Centre (Screen)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Luminosity)
Space Centre (Luminosity)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Subtract)
Space Centre (Subtract)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Hard Mix)
Space Centre (Hard Mix)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Divide)
Space Centre (Divide)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Dissolve)
Space Centre (Dissolve)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Darker Colour)
Space Centre (Darker Colour)
Exercise 4.6 - Space Museum #1 (Colour Burn)
Space Centre (Colour Burn)

Below are the three photos that were combined in the images above.

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What We Worship

In March I visited Cyprus again and for a few days stayed in Ayia Napa. One of the days I paid a visit to the monastery located in the centre of the town and took a series of photos. For the series of images below I used shots taken through an archway of the church in the main part of the monastery.

I then used a photo of a rocket, obtained at the Space Centre, and overlaid the monastery image with this. In set of images #1 I had only part of the arch showing. In iamges #2 I had the full arch. When I overlaid the rocket itwas slightly to one side of the image and so I moved it slightly to the right so the top of the rocket connected with the centre of the arch.

The idea to mix the images of the monastery and rocket was inspired by one of the original Planet of the Apes movies where a group of humans were worshipping a nuclear missile.

Combining the images juxtiposes traditional worship of God/Gods/Goddesses with more modern worship of technology and power.

In both sets of images I particularly like the Hard Mix and Difference blends as they make the rocket stand out more while not overwhelming the image of the church.

The individual images are in the slideshow below.

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What We Worship #1

Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship (Screen)
What We Worship #1 (Screen)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship (Luminosity)
What We Worship #1 (Luminosity)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship (Hard Mix)
What We Worship #1 (Hard Mix)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship (DIfference)
What We Worship #1 (Difference)

What We Worship #2

Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship #2 (Screen)
What We Worship #1 (Screen)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship #2 (Luminosity)
What We Worship #1 (Luminosity)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship #2 (Hard Mix)
What We Worship #1 (Hard Mix)
Exercise 4.6 - What We Worship #2 (Difference)
What We Worship #1 (Difference)

Contact Sheets

Final Selection-1Final Selection-2Final Selection-3

Responding to a theme

Brief

In this assignment you’re going to work in response to a theme.
A theme is more nuanced and you can bring your own personal interpretation to it because you’ll have your own experiences, thoughts and feelings about it. Responding to a theme photographically will help you to elicit your own ideas and make them visual.
If you want to set yourself your own theme, that’s fine. Otherwise choose from this list:
• Domestic
• Power struggle
• Pause
• The unbearable lightness of being.
For this assignment create a series of 3-5 still-life photographs based on a theme.
To accompany your photograph, write approximately one-page of text explaining:
• your theme
• your choice of background, objects and subjects
• the visual and conceptual reasons behind these choices
• your choice of light and/or time of day
• how you think the objects interact to give the viewer the impression you want them to
have.
Send your final image(s) and your text to your tutor.

Research

When I  started thinking about how I was going to do this assignment I looked for some books and websites that would give me ideas. For me, still life is photographs or pictures of flowers, fruit and other arrangements of items. To do something like that I would need to gather a series of items together and arrange them. Those arrangements and the ensuing shots would have to be done outdoors rather than bringing the items back home and photographing them indoors.

Busselle (1998) was a useful book to find because it had a section on still life photography, and in particular a section on Found Still Lifes, which was what I was doing. In some ways the photographs could be taken as advertising shots, not very flattering ones admittedly, but Busselle’s book gave me the confidence to continue down the route I’d decided upon.

Summary

My choice of theme was man’s impact on the environment, particularly around beaches and the sea shore. When I was in Cyprus in March 2018, one of the things I noticed was the amount of cans and plastic bottles that had either been discarded by people or washed up by the sea.

With that in mind I decided that I would do a series of still life images based around items that I found on the sea shore. This ended up being mostly cans, bottles but also a few other items that I wouldn’t normally expect to find lying around on the sea shore.

The reason I chose the items I did was firstly because they stood out when I was looking for things to photograph. The second reason was that each of the items highlights how casually people discarded things they’ve finished using. None of these items are going to break down very quickly. Glass may be smashed into smaller and smaller pieces by the sea but if washed up on the beach could end up causing injury to people or animals. Plastics as we are all becoming more aware gets broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, ending up being eaten by marine life, and in so many cases killing them or even ending up in the food chain, where eventually humans consume it.

The initial problem was how to remove the item from it’s background so that the focus was more on it than the background. The first idea was t use a sheet of card, positioned behind the object. In the end I decided that I’d take close up shots of the items or ensure that the background was as featureless as possible.

For the majority of the images I decided that I wanted to include just the minimum I could but in the case of the selected images I decided that I’d allow nature to have a bit of interaction with the Man’s discarded trash.

In the case of the aerosols I decided that I wanted to include more of what I could see. Just after I took the shot I’ve used a wave came in and moved it closer to the others. It was almost as if the sea was saying “Nope, I don’t want that. Take it back.”

Time of day was based on when I was able to go out to find items and was mid morning. This made some of the shots a bit more difficult because of the bright outdoor light.

Each of the objects stands alone. The toothbrush I hope will make the viewer wonder how and why such an object was abandoned where it was.

I’ve combined each of the individual images into a single image, which I hope will give the impression of the aftermath of someone enjoying themselves.

Final Images

Lunch by the sea #2 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #2 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #4 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Lunch by the sea #4 (@Wells-next-the-Sea)
Party In Paphos#4
Party In Paphos#4
Party In Paphos#6
Party In Paphos#6
Party In Paphos#5
Party In Paphos#5

References

  1. Busselle, M (1999). Better Picture Guide To Still Life & Close-up Photography. Switzerland: Rotovision
  2. Perweiler, G (1984) Secrets of Studio Still Life Photography. 1st edn. New York: Amphoto.

Contact Sheets

In addition to the images captured in Cyprus there were several that were taken in the UK, in Norfolk, which just goes to show that it doesn’t matter where you go, people will carelessly throw things away. Although there were a distinct lack of crisp packets and chocolate wrappers in Cyprus compared to Norfolk.

When it comes to humans it’s a bit like my father used to say “We have to go everywhere twice, the second time to apologise for the first.” Except there isn’t going to be a second time for us to come to Earth in order to apologise for the mess we’ve made of it this time.

Assignment 4-1Assignment 4-2Assignment 4-3Assignment 4-4Assignment 4-5Assignment 4-6

Some initial ideas for Responding to a Theme

Lunch by the sea
Lunch by the Sea

Last summer I started thinking about what I wanted to do for the 4th assignment in the course. The theme was man’s impact on the environment and with that in mind I took some photos while out walking near the sea while we were in Norfolk.

I don’t think that the photos meet the brief for a still life, however, they did give help me refine some ideas around what I wanted to do.

Although my original intention to collect some of the things that people leave on a beach and use them to make a still life didn’t happen, it’s amazing how clean beaches can be at the end of the season, during a recent run in the countryside I noticed so much rubbish that people just abandon. Looking at some of the items it’s not people accidentally dropping things, it’s people deliberately throwing them from vehicles.

So the next time I go out that way for a run will be with a rucsack and some gloves to collect the more interesting items that I can then use to make some still lifes from.

Presence/absence

Brief

When we look around familiar environments we tend to ignore or ‘not see’ certain things in them. In this exercise, you’ll explore the absence and presence of an object that you’re accustomed to in order to bring to the surface an altered ambience.
Your purpose here is to convey the trace of the absent person or thing, or to express
something of an altered mood by a particular emphasis.
• Choose an environment that you know well, but one where you can move things
around without getting into trouble!
• Ask yourself what forms the character of that place for you.
• Take a photograph of the place or ‘scene’ as it is.
• Now remove an item that strongly characterises that place or scene and take another
photograph with the same framing, without the key object. This key object can be
anything from a bed in a bedroom to the chairs around a table in a dining room or a
particular tree in a landscape.
• Yes, you can use Photoshop to remove items in images with the Clone Stamp Tool
or some clever selecting and masking as in the photo below, where the surgery has
been removed. But it may be simpler just to remove them while you take the photo.
• Place the before/after, presence/absence photographs side by side. But, like the
image below, it may not need it.

Final Images

exercise4.12presenceabsence-9419exercise4.12presenceabsence-9421exercise4.12presenceabsence-9441exercise4.12presenceabsence-9457

At New Year we were in the Cotswolds visiting my in-laws. While we were there some squirrels had been playing in the trees in the garden. I popped out with my camera to take some photos of one of them high in the trees. While I was doing that my gaze wandered around the garden. It is somewhere that I’ve spent a lot of time when we’ve stayed with my sister-in-law, playing with the children or just chilling out.

Looking around I saw many of the things that the kids and I had played with over the years. I found myself thinking that these were great examples of presence and absence. The swings and slides, the abandoned football, the trampoline covered with branches, placed in front of the goal. The bikes leaning against the house.

All things that were once used by the kids when they were little but now abandoned, never to be used again.

I know that this doesn’t exactly fit the exercise brief but I do feel that it highlights presence and absence.

Contact Sheets

finalselection-1finalselection-2finalselection-3

Clouds

Alfred Stieglitz produced a series of photographs called Equivalents. This was a series of images of clouds as observed from his studio.

As part of Exercise 4.11 Emulation, I decided to try and do my own version of Equivalents.

Working through this mini-project gave me an appreciation for the wonder of clouds and our skies, and how they can look depending on the time of day and the weather conditions.

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Emulation

Brief

Remember, there’s no need to make a direct copy of a photograph, for example a Man Ray photogram; make your own photographic experiment as Adam Fuss did (you can compare their photograms online).
If you chose to emulate Man Ray, you might seek out interesting objects that can be rendered graphic shapes in silhouette by shooting them against a white background. Or perhaps you want to emulate the uncanny, liminal sense of space created in a Laura Letinsky photograph but using landscapes.
Make the image your own. Artists rarely copy each other, but they do learn from each other. Try to identify exactly what it is in the photograph that appeals to you:
• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)
• the composition or design
• the subject
• the concept
• the photographer’s viewpoint
• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.
When you’ve identified these elements, plan what you’ll need:
• equipment
• location
• models.
When you’ve organised all this, make the photo.
Tanya Ahmed’s photographs from the series East 100th Street show the influence of American street photographers like Bruce Davidson and Garry Winogrand, but they are  also very much her own.

Research

Adam Fuss / Tanya Ahmed

Adam Fuss’s work, artnet (2018), builds on Man Ray’s work, producing some very artistic results. Some of the effects seem to be a lot more complicated that Man Ray’s original rayographs and without knowing that they were photograms could easily be taken for photographs taking using a camera.

Ahmed (s.d) has a similar look to Bruce Davidson’s East 100th Street series, Magnum Photos (2014), but there are clearly differences. Davidson’s images have a darker feel to them, even the ones of people, whereas Ahmed’s photos are much brighter, especially the ones of people. What I get from her photos is a sense of a place where people are happier, of a place that has seen improvements.

Davidson’s images leave me with the impression of an area that is more run down, and whose people are surviving more than prospering.

Irving Penn – Frozen Foods

Penn produced a number of still life images. Irving Penn (s.d) shows examples of these, including Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. I’d come across a variation of this in Hacking (2015), this version being minus the string beans.

Penn’s images were made at a time when we weren’t inundated with plastic packaging so I decided that I wanted to recreate the images both with and without the packaging.

Considering the bullet points in the brief for this exercise concerning what appeals to me about this photograph:

• the visual quality (tones, colours, light and dark)

The colours in Penn’s photograph range from muted greens through to bright oranges. The mix of colours contrast with each other but also provide a link, for instance the blueberry and yellow corn when combined link tho the green beans and asparugus.

The reflection in the surface is not immediately noticeable but when seen can’t be ignored.

The lighting has been done in a way that provides shadows between each of the blocks of fruit and vegetables, giving a sense of depth to what could otherwise have been a very flat image.

• the composition or design

I like the way that the different shapes of the fruit and vegetables have been pulled together by making square blocks, but throughout the image there is the circular theme within each of the different items. The carrots positioned end on so that they appear as round item, the larger circles of the raspberries; which then carry that circular theme down into each individual raspberry. Even the asparagus tips have that theme at their ends.

• the subject

Fruit and vegetables are such a simple subject, one that

• the concept

The concept is a really simple one. Take some fruit and vegetables and stack them on top of each other. No fancy backdrops, just let the items speak for themselves, their colours, their textures.

But make them into small bricks and stack them on top of each other.

Such an image could be used in different way. The blocks are reminiscent of a child’s building bricks, and in a similar way to how a child might build something with their bricks, these blocks can build up a healthy diet.  This would work for both children and adults.

• the photographer’s viewpoint

Penn has captured the blocks straight on. Although this could easily have led to a very flat image, the use of light and shadow provides and indication of depth.

• the way the photographer has influenced or constructed the image.

Penn has constructed the image in such a way that the differing shapes within it draw you deeper and deeper into it. The big square blocks stacked on each other, then the smaller rounder shapes drawing you to the finer detail such as the textures on the carrots and asparagus. There is so much to see within the image, regardless of where the eye first alights.

Final Images

Not So Frozen Foods

Exercise 4.11 - Emulation-8804

The variety of different styles of packaging made capturing an image of everything still within it’s packaging a challenge. I eventually achieved this by attaching string to each of the containers which were then cellotaped to a cupboard and each container allowed to hang in such as way that it rested upon the ones below it. Even so, this was wasn’t a simple task with different containers swinging loose at some point. the final image was processed to remove signs of the strings.

Frozen Foods

Exercise 4.11 Emulation-8831

Having tried capturing each item in its plastic container I decided to try and replicate the original image in a much closer way. The vegetables were blanched before they and the fruit were placed in suitable containers and then put in the freezer.

The challenge with the above was to remove each item from its container get it so that it would rest on another item and then take the photos before the ice that was holding them together melted.

Exercise 4.11 Emulation-8851

In the final image above I decided that I wanted to include the packaging once again so that there was a contrast to how I see the time that Penn’s image was taken, compared to our current times.

References

  1. Magnum Photos (2014) Bruce Davidson – East 100th Street Available at: https://pro.magnumphotos.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&ALID=2K7O3RP0468 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  2. Ahmed, T. (s.d) East 100th Street Available at: http://tanyaahmed.com/east-100th-street/ [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  3. Cheim & Read (2018). Adam Fuss Available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Photogram-Adam-Fuss/dp/0965728013 [Accessed 25th July 2018]
  4. Adamson Gallery (s.d) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.adamsongallery.com/artists/adam-fuss [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  5. artnet (2018) Adam Fuss Available at: http://www.artnet.com/artists/adam-fuss/ [Accessed 30th January 2019]
  6. Penn, I. (s.d.) Still Life – Frozen Foods with String Beans. At: https://www.irvingpenn.org/still-life/ (Accessed on 13 August 2018)
  7. Hacking, J ()2015) Lives of The Great Photographers. 1st edt. London: Thames & Hudson

Contact Sheets

final selection-1final selection-2

The Final Journey

Shortly after Rhys passed away in 2017 I begun a project with the intention to tell the story of his last months, through pictures and words. The words being written as if Rhys was telling his own story.

Although most of the photos I wanted to use existed there were a couple that I didn’t have.

One photo I wanted was of a CT scanner or a MRI, it was to accompany the part of the story where we found out about the tumours in Rhys brain. The ones that would signal the end of active treatment and the beginning of palliative.

I was never able to get that photo and so one day I decided to use a photo I’ve used here, the one of the white toy bear staring out a window.

The other photo I wanted to get was of one of one of the a local ambulances. I finally managed to do that yesterday. With some minor editing I included that in the document I’d put together in Publisher.

The end result of the project can be found in the PDF below. Apologies for the size it’s about 30Mb.

the final journey

Re-emerging

I’ve not been doing much with the course for a good number of months now.

Last year I set out to do a number of running and triathlon events. I managed to complete the London Marathon, not in my best ever time but it was the hottest race day they had on record.

My first triathlon of the year, and one of the ones I had set as a must do, ended early on when I crashed my bike about 7 miles into the bike course. Although my injury wasn’t that bad and I could have been patched up, the only way to get medical attention was to return to the race headquarters, which put paid to my day.

From there things got worse, I struggled to find the motivation to train, and spiralled downwards.

In the end, days before my second must do race, I went to my GP and asked for help. In return for anti-depressants I handed over a large number of painkillers I’d collected to use to end my life. I also went to the hospice where my son Rhys had passed away and asked for bereavement counselling, something I’d denied I need since he died.

That point was a wake-up call and I finally accepted that I’d tried to do too much, put too much pressure on myself. Partly as a way to hide away from the loss of someone who was my whole world.

I decided that I needed to take a huge step back and just focus on a couple of things for a while so with the OCA’s agreement I took a break from my studies.

In the autumn I signed up with a triathlon coach who is linked to the tri club I’m a member of and, with him and another coach’s help, have been focussing on training for a long term objective and something I promised Rhys before he died.

In March I’ll be returning to Cyprus and the triathlon training camp I went to last year. At the end of that week I’ll be taking part in a middle distance (or half Ironman) triathlon at Ayia Napa. During the rest of the year I’ll be racing another 3 middle distance triathlons (Ironman 70.3 Finland, Immortal Half: Stourhead and The Woburner).

Next year I’ll be racing both the Outlaw Half middle distance races in Nottingham and Holkham and then stepping up to long distance (full  Ironman) and racing The Outlaw.

It’s taken me a while to get into the swing of training, this week was the first time I’ve completed every single planned session. The coming months are going to see my training workload increasing as I get closer to my A races for the year but I’m at that point where I feel I can get back into my photography and start working towards finishing the course.

Happy New Year to everyone, and it’s good to be back.

Repetition

Brief

Repetition of one image or very similar images, whether exactly the same or with slight
differences in exposure, crop or image quality, elicits an inquisitive eye. Repetition
emphasises the sameness and yet paradoxically indicates a difference. Andy Warhol used this strategy in his screenprints and photographs. In the image below, do you notice how the dog’s ‘stare’ becomes more insistent through repetition?
1. Make a still life set-up of your choice, but you can use any subject.
2. Try to emphasise your subject with the use of light.
3. Aim to make around 20 photographs.
4. Choose the best shot and process it to your liking.
5. Now create a presentation of that one photograph that involves six to eight copies.
Make some notes on the overall effect.

Final Image

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Windmill
Windmill

I recently put a toy windmill in our garden. On the weekend there was just enough wind to start it spinning so I set the camera to a long-ish shutter speed and took a photo of it. The colours have been enhanced slightly but I loved the effect.

Other Images

I also took a few other photos and used them for this exercise.

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Spots
Spots
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Deer
Oh Deer
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Jess
Jess
Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Charlotte
Charlotte

Contact Sheets

Exercise 4.9 Repetition - Contact Sheets

Layers

Brief

Most imagery contains layers of some kind: subject and background, f/g m/g and b/g,
for example. In this exercise you’ll experiment with ways of making layered imagery in
your camera and in the following exercise, you’ll experiment with using image layers in
Photoshop.
Look out of a window from inside and make a photograph that includes all three of these
elements:
• foreground detail in front of the window
• a reflection of something in the window
• background environment on the other side of the window.
Consider the light carefully. If there’s a dark area on the other side of the window, it will
help the window act as a mirror for an illuminated object inside.

Final Images

Between the Walls (Edward Steichen) - a reflection - Shape of Light @ Tate Modern
Between the Walls (Edward Steichen) – a reflection – Shape of Light @ Tate Modern
Exercise 4.15 - Layers-8333
Bedroom at night
Exercise 4.15 - Layers-8748
Studio View
Exercise 4.15 - Layers-8809
Morning Kitchen #1
Exercise 4.15 - Layers-8811
Morning Kitchen #2

Reflection

During a recent trip to London I was able to spend an hour at Tate Modern viewing the Shape of Light exhibition. Wandering around I recognised the names of many of the photographers whose work had been included; Man Ray, Bravo, Stieglitz, Moholy-Nagy and Ruscha just to name a few.

Photographing a number of pieces of work that captured my interest I took the above photo of Steichen’s Between the Walls. It wasn’t until I was looking at it later that I noticed my reflection in the glass.

Although the image doesn’t strictly meet the brief for the exercise, it’s not through a window, I’ve included it as I think it meets the spirit of the exercise. Looking at the photograph it has either been taken from a roof top or from a window. Although the original doesn’t show any reflections and so if taken from a window it would have been open, I think the reflections, including those of photos on the gallery wall opposite, give a feel of what it might have been like when Steichen took his photograph.

Bedroom at Night and Studio View were taken quickly when the opportunity arose and I thought it would be useful to see what could be achieved.

Morning Kitchen #1 and Morning Kitchen #2 were also taken because the opportunity arose but were more considered because the light outside was at the right level, light enough that you could see things outside but dark enough that reflections in the window could be clearly seen. The selection of kitchen utensils added the required element in the front of the image.

Taking these two photos I made sure to shoot at an angle so that my reflection wasn’t in the window. I also adjusted the ISO, shutter speed and aperture to get an image that was slightly darker, resulting in the details on the wooden handle of the knife sharpener being a bit more visible.