Stuck again.

I was a bit eager to start the course and managed to come up with a fantastic theme for my  first assignment only to discover a bit later that most of my set-ups were time-consuming.

I had good ideas about most of my pictures, but the still life genre requires a lot of attention to small detail because small details could make or break a picture. As result of that I was constantly in search of one more prop. As it often happens with food, if you can’t take your picture straight after you’ve got your prop, you need to get its replacement. By the middle of February, my fantastic project lost its appeal. I’d taken incredible shots in my imagination, but was still struggling to archive them in camera. It seemed that I always needed another prop.

It was great to meet a few students who had already done that module or were at least half way through it. Talking to them, I realised that I should really simplify my project and concentrate more on its photographic workflow than on its artistic side. So, I put my thinking hat on to find a different theme and discovered that I am stuck.

Since I set my heart on a still life assignment, my research was about still life photography: its ideas, history and photographers. Changing my project to a different photographic genre is a bit difficult. Firstly, I don’t know a lot about landscapes and more important I am not a landscape photographer. I love looking at the amazing photographs of landscape in books and galleries, but I don’t feel like getting up very early to go out on my own with my heavy tripod.

The other possible option is to take a set of portraits. I’ve seen so many interesting portraits recently (famous paintings with a child as a model, sleeping child journey, mother and her small daughter doing yoga, Red Riding Hood by Sal Cincotta) that it is a bit difficult for me to come with something simple and interesting that doesn’t require a lot of props.

I managed to come up with a simple idea that was possible to carry on in my small village, but my son was down with a bad chickenpox and I had to put it off. He is finally back to school, but there are Easter school holidays approaching (I can take only snap shots with my two kids in tow) and also, there is still a high possibility for my second child to catch chickenpox, so I can’t plan portraits. It looks like I am back to the square one: still life. It feels like I am stuck.



This Saturday was an interesting day. For the first time, I went to a meeting of the OCA students at Thatcham. It was nice to meet people whose blogs I enjoy reading. Also, it was nice to meet one of the tutors who gives very useful advice on the official students’ forum and Flickr.

It was a very useful meeting for me. I was able to understand in what direction I need to go with my current assignment and later that day at home, I decided to simplify my plans for it and pick up a completely different topic to get over my photographic block. Since I don’t want to throw all my research out, my new topic is still about still life. However, the subject is completely diffirent. I think I have a good chance to finish with my assignment by the end of the month.

Also, there was another outcome of this meeting which has surprised me a lot. During the meeting I asked some questions about a few aspects of the after module assessments.  I finished my first module a few months ago and for a long time I was had trying to make my mind up whether submit my work on the AoP for an assessment or not. After my conversation with Clive, I thought that I might go for it after all.

In the evening, I realised that although I love photography, enjoy reading about different photographers and their work, I don’t feel I want to carry on studying at the OCA. My current course “DPP” is going to be my last course with the OCA, so there is no point in organising my old notes for the assessment. I’ll better spend my time learning something new.

“Before the Shutter” by Anne McKinnell

I love getting books. There are lots of books on the my shelves (wooden and iShelves) that are waiting for their turn to be read. One of these unlucky ones was the book by Anne McKinnell “Before the Shutter”.  Actually, I started reading that book a few years ago, in October 2012, but got distracted  and eventually forgot about it.

This year, after my favorite book app became available on an iPad,  I decided to create an e-catalogue of all my photography books and rediscovered a few good books that I’d forgotten about , “Behind the shutter” among them.  Since I’m working on creating an effective workflow, I decided to flick through it pages again and I started with reading my highlights. Continue reading

Workflow: Inspirational Videos

Working on creating my own workflow, I’ve used ideas from a lot of sources. I’ve been lucky to come across two videos showing the inspirational photographer Sal Cincotta at work. He is a well known wedding and senior portrait photographer. However, those videos tell about his two creative personal projects.

Last summer I watched the first episode from Sal Cincotta’s series Continue reading

Assignment 1: A Small Change in my Plans

There are not many restrictions in the first assignment for the course: number of pictures and a type: landscape, portrait or  still life. I started thinking about my assignment relatively early (in the middle of November) and very quickly decided on the theme which was related to Christmas. I easily came up with several strong visual ideas about possible subjects those could be used to create a story with the required number of pictures.

After a few weeks working on the assignment and taking and retaking pictures, I realised that there was a flaw in my concept and the point of the emerging  story was really very weak. My story as I planned it did not have a really strong connection with a spirit of Christmas and started falling apart as I progressed with the pictures. Continue reading

First Impressions: How Pictures Work

I noticed this books in the list of recommendations on Amazon. Its title (“Picture This: How Pictures Work”) caught my eye, its cover put me off. Still, I added it to my Christmas wish list. I was delighted to unwrap it at the end of December. Since it’s relatively short book, I started reading it first. Surprisingly, it took me a bit longer than I expected to finish this book. Although, it’s written in a kind of entertaining style, it requires a lot of thinking. Looking at the pictures and finding the answers could take as long as you would like. There are plenty pictures to illustrate the writer’s point. Continue reading

My Reading List for 2014

Christmas is a good time to get some new books. I added several books into my Christmas Wish list and now, I’m struggling to decide which book to read first. It looks like it might take me a few months to read all the books from cover to cover. The problem is that I need to read several of them now. I might use a kind of selective reading and read pages from different books on different days.

It is possible to divide my Christmas books in three big category:

  • Practical (books about a specific aspect of photography)
  • Inspirational (books that make me think and could help me understand myself better)
  • Analytical ( useful books to read about theoretical aspects of photography and art)
    Continue reading

Food for Thoughts

Trying to finish my research on still life, I opened the last links from my list and went to the still life pages of “Source”, the magazine for contemporary photography.  There, I came across a set of pictures that could have a significant influence on my set-ups for several pictures for Assignment 1. ( )

Pictures from “Dinner for One” by Martina Mullaney show a different way of presenting food. That way is a far cry from the traditions of modern food photography that rely on help of food stylists to create an increadible picture of something incredibly appetising that almost impossible to get in real life. However, there is something in the style of the pictures by Martina Mullaney that is appealing to me. 

Continue reading

Contemporary Still Life: Wolfgang Tillmans, Part 1

Trying to figure out what is still life is, I’ve read a chapter from the book by Charlotte Cotton that was recommended by my tutor. In that chapter Charlotte Cotton mentioned several prominent photographers who have left their mark in the history of contemporary still life. One of them was Wolfgang Tillmans, a photographer who has taken pictures of, among other things, abandoned clothing items presenting them in a kind of sculptural way (picture of grey jeans). I thought it might be useful for me to find out a bit more about him and his work. (I had a hope that looking at pictures of a different style could help me get over my current photographer’s block.) Continue reading

First Thoughts after an Open-Ended Assignment

I was lucky that my kids’ sport club had a fund-raising night at the end of this year. I had a fantastic chance to practise in taking pictures for an open-ended assignment.

I created a basic workflow almost immediately after I’d been asked to take some pictures at the event, then I followed my workflow adjusting my steps when it was necessary. It was a very useful experience even if I ended up only with a handful of good  (in terms of quality and composition) pictures out of 770 pictures I took on the night. Continue reading