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

Invisible Man – more work on locations

This is an exercise in refining framing on location and exploring lighting.

My first choice of location is the dining room, using a corner of the table, showing bookshelves and enough window to indicate where the light is coming from.


This was early afternoon on a sunny day. Lighting falls off from left to right (with distance from the window) and shows strong shadows on the camera-right sides of objects.

I then played with placing figures in frame (me, as I was the only available model, holding an iPhone because I am using it as a remote trigger – K1 has a WiFi mode via the Pentax ImageSynch app). I also tried a reduced exposure to get some more detail in the window.

Then, just for fun, I combined them in Photoshop.


Not perfect. For instance, it needs some work to tone down the window frame and make the outdoor scene a bit more believable. I am not particularly worried about the left-hand figure having his face in shadow – he would become the Invisible Man so his head will be erased anyway. The lighting could be balanced by a big reflector at the right or, in principle, with flash.

Therefore, I spent the evening playing with studio flash. I used a three-point set-up, attempting to emulate the direction of daylight (main light with beauty dish at high level in the corner of the window) plus some fill (fill light with white reflector brolly at the camera position) and a hairlight to separate the right-hand figure from the background shelves (smaller light with snoot). Setup and one result below:

As seen, it is obviously artificial light (curtains being shut is a give-away) but I am confident that I could combine it successfully with natural daylight, subject to tweaking of lighting ratios.

However, I became less happy with the location, which will require considerable set dressing. The scenario I have in mind is a young lady with her invisible or ‘imaginary friend’, so the bookshelves will require replanning and filling with more appropriate books, instead of cameras. A logistical issue and also a potential distraction as I suspect viewers would spend (waste) time on checking out the titles.

I have, therefore, worked up a Plan B in the kitchen. The wide shot was taken at about 2pm, when there is too much direct sunlight through the window. The tighter-framed images were taken at 4:30, when the sun had moved around to just outside the top right corner of the window.

This is the location that I will work with as it can show an informal kitchen tea-party, and the natural lighting at the right time is good without artificial aids. (I will have some reflectors and studio lights available if I need them).

I moved the table and chairs to put them in the right place in frame, and I will have further set-dressing to do. Obviously, the table will need placemats, crockery and cakes. I wondered about a flower arrangement but it would have to be small – the white vase seen in the background was too dominant on the table. Background elements on the worktop will augment my narrative (a ‘young Miss Havisham’ figure with an ‘imaginary friend’ or ghost of a lost love) In particular there will be photographs of both (I have graduation photos) next to the fruit bowl or flower vase in the corner of the worktop.

The shoot will be next Thursday afternoon, with post-production done over Easter and submission to my tutor immediately afterward.

Invisible man – first attempt

This is a first attempt at an ‘invisible man’ picture, as a proof-of-concept exercise for assignment 5. The principle is simple; the execution turns out to be rather less so.

Broadly, the technique relies on two main images (one empty setting and one with the subject in position) plus details for infilling. All images were shot with the camera on a tripod and with an identical lighting set-up for ease of compositing. With the two main images layered together, I erased my face and hands from the top layer to reveal background. The tricky part is infilling details such as the inside of the shirt collar. I also found that I had overlooked my hands on the book and where they obscured parts of my shirt, which needed extra details shot.

These are the contact sheets for the first shoot.

… and this is the result.

Invisible man 1

A reasonable first attempt, but I am under no illusions that it will stand close inspection. The back cover of the book is particularly poor – a victim of lack of foresight. However, I have learned a lot about the technique and the next one will be better.

The spectacles are important as the give the only indications of where the man’s head (and face in particular) are. A hat would help the illusion but would not be appropriate indoor wear. Without a face, body posture becomes more important to telling a story.

The assignment image, which will involve integration with other characters, is going to need some careful planning.