Note for Assessors

This is the final posting in this blog before ‘freezing’ it for assessment and moving on to the Identity and Place course, the blog for which will be found here. This blog is based on the OCA standard template and navigation should be self-explanatory.

All material relating to the formal assignments will be found under the top menu heading ‘Assignments’ and organised with a separate sub-heading for each assignment. For each assignment, the first posting is a ‘naive response’ or ‘initial thoughts’ on the brief, posted before starting work on the relevant section of coursework. Subsequent posts show the evolution, development and realisation of my project, followed by tutor feedback and my first response.

Non-assignment coursework, will be found under the top menu heading ‘Coursework’, organised with separate sub-headings for each Part of the course and second-level subheadings for each Project.

Other material, what OCA regard as a learning log rather than coursework, may be found under the other two headings, ‘Research & Reflection’ and ‘Soddments’.


Assignment 5 – tutor feedback and response

I have now received formative feedback from Garry, my tutor. Edited feedback and responses below. Garry’s notes in blue, my responses in black. PDF document here

Garry has also sent an annotated copy of my essay. Word document here.

Overall Comments

Digital composites and staging of the ‘invisible man’. Its a comprehensive submission with the materials including the final image, inclusion of contacts showing selection and a detailed visual outline of the different elements and technique involved in constructing the final assignment image are clearly documented. To integrate the Learning log with this final outcome even more: perhaps some more ‘signalled’ references within the write up/evaluation, particularly paragraph 6 when you begin to outline the technique used :” Lighting proved to be a challenge…etc”

Additional cross-referencing to learning blog required. However, not always appropriate when I am describing existing skills rather than something learned during the C&N course.

Make the links that you have made by showing them rather than ‘telling’ them just in the written evaluation. Perhaps a reference to either the learning log (or the companying ‘set up’ document)? Documentation of these f-stop and lighting diagrams and settings and any instructional manuals etc on fill in flash and balancing exposure (dynamic range, exposure triangle etc). You can then use this as a reference link in this write up so the reader/assessor is aware of your ‘reflective learning’. So, make it obvious what you are linking to by providing an in text citation reference within the text of the write up (as well as referencing your blog within the actual bibliography).

I had not really considered referencing my own documents in the bibliography, assuming that binding them into the main document would be enough. Easy enough update to do where the documents exist. I’m still not convinced about the value of a post-hoc rationalisation of existing skills, though.

Contextual write up is solid with reference to two major ‘Tableau’ practitioners, although you should define these critical terms in the intro – as well as popular misused terms such as ‘surreal’. Differences in approach of these artists are sound (but neglect their similarity of ‘staging ’ strategy?). Could include other references on representation/reality (Lorca di Corica? – assignment 3) as well as those that you may have drawn influence from in your chosen approach, which is much more – as you mention – a constructed composite technique rather than staging/strategy. Perhaps someone in Szarkowski’s ‘mirror’ strategy (such as Jerry Uelsmann) rather than the ‘directorial mode’ windows strategies you have mentioned.

I enjoyed the Uelsmann images (and recall seeing them in the photographic hobby mags when they were new in the 1970s) which are all the more impressive for having been created in the darkroom, pre-Photoshop. Some definition of terms to be added, though not in the intro paragraph.

Feedback on assignment and supporting work

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

I have made notations on the original word file with a summary below of the key points.

Word file linked at the top of this posting. Good suggestions for additional explanations and referencing, but with the standard problem of attempting to fit it all into the set word-count. Some amendments will be made to text.

Great write up and evaluation. Just add more detailed rigour and cross referencing – so perhaps when explaining a certain technique (you do refer to the supporting document on ‘set up) but also refer and make a link here directly to the ‘Learning Log’.

“Show your workings”

• Detail: for example, A DSLR with 24-70 standard zoom lens, 50mm? 35mm – each have their own framing and focus ‘looks’ as well as hinting at more psychological ‘about looking’ aspects (for example 50mm being naturalistic perspective and more contemplative and ‘still’ or static; whilst wider lenses being more ‘dynamic’. Hitchcock for example, used a 50mm lens as much as possible. More ‘expressionistic’ film makers (Marneau) or photographers such as Jerry Uselman (see – Readings) wider lenses with dynamic foreshortened angels. All this is relevant to the choices and selection of materials from your ‘arsenal’ with which to highlight the mood and concept.

In a way, I was emulating Julia Margaret Cameron, whose strategy for focussing was ‘adjust it until it looks beautiful’. Maybe not beautiful in my case, but I do tend to adjust until it looks right. Focal length for all images in the composite was 55mm, which is toward the long end of ‘standard’ once a minor crop is taken into account.

Learning Logs or Blogs/Critical essays


• Blog is really comprehensive and full of technical and contextual research.

• The technique based material that you mention in the write up and self-reflection is all there in the blog / learning log.

• If there is a way you can simply summarise in bullet point at the beginning as well as make a cross reference link from the self-refection to the material in the learning log that shows the planning etc for the assignment that would make it easier for assessors to get a really quick overview (in limited time) to pick up on the relevance of your research and refection in a more direct easier way.

Otherwise its pretty comprehensive. Some reference to pre-planning and ‘real world’ practice based research you may use such as Depth of Field (mentioned in Assignment 1); planning shoots before execution (Weather Underground and TPPE – The Photographers Ephemeris so you can gauge time of day/direction of light before final shoot: https://

I know abut TPE and use the iPhone app. I had checked light direction by practical observation a few days previously, and set up shoot timing to suit. Unfortunately, the weather was not with us on the scheduled date.

Suggested reading/viewing

Edited out



Engaging writing style with detailed description of technique.

Thank you.

Placing this work in context with other practitioners who use similar staging strategy.

Photoshop / composite technique

Contact print selections annotated.

Areas for development


Could reference more rigorously in write up to blog where technique is explained and shown with reference to technical workbook etc.


Tendency to neglect rigorous definition of key terms and assume reader will understand them. Surrealism, Directorial Mode, Tableau etc.,

Standard question: am I writing for a lay reader or for an assessor with an appropriate level of knowledge?

 (Technique) match this in preplanning so exposure notes are taken to match much more ‘in camera’


Contact print selections annotated. Say why? by perhaps making notes either on the sheet or referencing elsewhere where you bullet point summary the reasons for the choice – technical .

‘Two Sides …’ Rework and an adventure in bookbinding

This part of the assignment is not so much ‘rework’ as work itself. The assignment was originally submitted to Garry in electronic form only. I have now produced prints for assessment.

The main change is to re-process the driver’s-view images as monochrome, eliminating the colour-popping which was a gimmick too far in the original submission.

There are two decisions in presentation. The first, as hinted earlier, is to print double-sided, with the corresponding driver’s- and passenger’s-view images on opposite sides of the same piece of Permajet Double-sided Oyster paper. My intention is to have the two views intimately linked but making it impossible for the viewer to see both at the same time.

The second decision is influenced by Garry’s comment on my second assignment submission, where he was enthusiastic about the prints being presented in a box. In that case, the box was the shallow A4 box that the printing paper was supplied in. That would be inappropriate for assessment, and it would be tricky to produce a presentation box from scratch. I have therefore decided to present the three sets of prints (assignments 1 to 3) in purpose-made folders based on a design by Alisa Golden (2010, 224).

The first attempt was a disaster, due to poor choices of materials. I used wide satin ribbon as a spine cloth and Permajet Oyster paper for the printed outer linings of the covers. Unfortunately, neither material takes diluted PVA adhesive particularly well, and the Oyster resin-coated paper is too stiff to fold around the cover board.


As seen above, plain copier paper is not the answer either. It folds well and takes PVA. However, it gives very low-contrast images when put through an inkjet printer.

For the final version I located some self-adhesive book-repair cloth tape for the spine and a special photo-quality inkjet paper (an Epson product) for the outer cover lining. It is still not perfect (there are a few wrinkles and glue spots that I will have to try to avoid in the equivalent folders for assignments 2 and 3) but it does the job intended – a protective cover for a set of prints.



Golden, A. (2010) Making Handmade Books. New York: Lark.

Invisible Man – submission and reflection

Invisible Man-OCA final

The Invisible Man project is now complete and about to be submitted electronically to my tutor. In addition to the images, I have a set of assignment notes the mind-map, contact sheets and a PDF of set-up and progress photos.

Reflection against assessment criteria

Technical and visual skills

I am very happy with the technical and visual skills, deployed in this exercise. There is not the ‘complete fluency’ of an A-grade (I was ‘learning on the job’) but I believe I am at the top end of a B-grade.

Quality of outcome

The final print fulfils the brief; it is a ‘constructed’ image of my choice and I am happy  that I have controlled all the relevant elements. I formed and developed an idea, and have explained the process for a target audience with some background knowledge.


This is the most creative of my five assignments in C&N. It is reasonably imaginative and involves both experimentation and invention.

As always, the question of ‘personal voice’ is one for the viewer.


Tricky. The brief is so open as to be almost devoid of context. I have identified the creative approaches of Crewdson and Wall, but not followed them slavishly.

Invisible Man – photoshoot and post-production

Natural light in my kitchen location is fickle. The images in my previous post were shot with bright sunshine outside; dull weather is more problematic. Over the past week, I have experimented with supplementary lighting, such as ceiling-bounced flash, with variable success.

The day appointed for the photoshoot was showery with some weak sun. It was not sensibly possible to use natural light alone. With sensible ISO (400) and my preferred aperture (f/11) settings, the shutter speed was between 1.5 and 3 seconds. By experimentation I managed a reasonable compromise by opening up to f/8 (f/5.6 did not give me enough depth of field), switching on the room light and adding on-camera fill-flash (set to -2/3EV to prevent the flash dominating). ‘Set construction’ involved moving the furniture, finding the best china and popping to Sainsburys for a cake.

The camera is tethered to the laptop, out of frame, so that I could review images as they were taken (Jan, my wife, was camera operator for the images I am in – rather than relying on the self-timer). The actors are Kathryn, my daughter, as ‘the woman’ and me as ‘the invisible man’. I have a vague narrative in mind (a sort of ‘younger Miss Havisham’ scenario) and invite the viewers to make their minds up on whether the man is an imaginary friend, the ghost of a lost love, or a genuine invisible man. I put a pair of graduation photographs in the background to give a ‘hook’ for speculation.

Here are the contact sheets:

The base image was selected as showing the best interaction between the characters. The invisible man has lifted the cakestand and the woman is lifting a slice of cake from it.

Post-production started by layering the base image over a background layer with the empty set, then erasing the man’s head and hands.

Invisible Man-inter 1

The second stage is ‘repairs’. I took a set of supplementary images showing the insides of my shirt collar and cuffs, and also some of sandwiches, cake, a teacup and my glasses, for levitating. Because of the image selected, it was only necessary to levitate the glasses (I used the position of the glasses in the base image as a guide). I omitted to take specific supplementaries of the cakestand and sandwich plate, but was able to extract them from other images in the set. I also had to go back to an earlier image (playing with lighting before the main shoot) to find a piece of empty table-top and cupboard fronts, to patch over the bit of cakestand in its lower position. Here is the final composite.

Invisible Man-flattened

This is preserved as a PSD file with all layers and masks, at full resolution, so that I can produce it in various forms for its proposed uses. There will be an A4 print for assessment and a larger print for my camera club ‘Imagination Trophy’, together with digital images at various sizes for social media etc.

The third-stage of post-processing for the assessment image is to crop and reduce the image size (180x240mm fits on A4) and give a ‘faded, romantic, nostalgic’ look using layers. The layers were a vignette to darken the edges slightly, a sharpened layer, a blurred layer (using the ‘screen’ blend mode) and a sepia colour fill layer (‘color’ blend mode). The final stage is to tweak the influence of the various layers with the opacity sliders. This is the final version of “The Invisible Man comes to tea”

Invisible Man-OCA final