Morty's People and Place and Landscape Photography Course

My progress throughout the course

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Starting a New Module

I have just started a new module on this photography degree course with OCA and decided to start a new blog for it.  I plunged for Progressing with Digital Photography this time and my new blog address is Pop over if you are interested and you will be able to see my next steps towards the degree.



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And Finally….

In order to finish the end of this course I still needed a final summer image of ‘my’ tree to complete my Portfolio.  I therefore travelled over to the Borrowdale area this weekend hoping that this tree was now in full summer bloom and hopefully there would be enough sunshine breaking through to illuminate the scene a little.

As I got to my location I was first pleased that the tree was indeed in full bloom but I was not sure if the sun was going to play fair as well.  I set up my tripod and camera to take a first record shot but it did feel a little dark from the overcast sky to fully capture what I was hoping for in terms of a bright sunny day.  The clouds looked as though there was potential for them to break and allow the sun through but I wasn’t sure.  After about an hour the clouds seemed to be getting darker rather than lighter therefore I eventually decide that I would have a look around the same area of woods for subjects that would suit the current light situation and then go back to my tree image if the sun did eventually break through.  Typically, the sun was deciding to play games with me today and as soon as I set my tripod and camera up in a new location that the sun broke through to provide dappled sunshine in the woods – just what I wanted.  I waited a couple of minutes to see whether the break in the clouds was only momentary but eventually decided that this was going to last therefore I should quickly pick everything up and rush back to my tree location.

As I set up again the light was changing once more and I wondered whether this was going to be another morning of cat and mouse with the sun.  Fortunately, the sun stayed out just long enough for me to capture the shot that I wanted.  the sun is creating dappled light in the foreground to help suggest a summer’s day when the tree foliage is so dense that it blocks out much of the direct sunlight but is still strong enough to lift the whole scene.  The image captured, and which is now part of my Seasons Portfolio Collection (see earlier Post), is shown below:

After feeling fairly pleased with myself for being able to capture the image that I wanted and then stayed in this area to just enjoy my photography.  The following are three other images that I made that day which form no Project, Assignment or Portfolio requirement.  They just reflect the end of my Landscape course and what I enjoyed photographing on that particular day.

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Seasons Portfolio Submission

I initially submitting this to my tutor for review and comment as a part-complete portfolio (missing the final ‘same image’ of summer).  There are several reasons for this, including the impact of re-starting the portfolio in Autumn (described further below), and thus needing to revisit the area in Summer.  The main reason, however, is that I was at a stage where I had captured images for three seasons and I felt that any feedback would be more beneficial at this stage when I could still revisit my Spring collection and further plan my final Summer collection.  I am not sure at this stage whether I will have time to submit my work for assessment this summer, which is what I had hoped, as the more obvious signs of summer may not be available until after the submission date.  I will need to reflect further on this nearer the time.  UPDATE: I am pleased to say that I have been able to capture the final Summer image as I had wanted and therefore this post describes the complete portfolio submission

I initially started shooting for this portfolio in the Summer 2011, whereby my intention was to use a wide view of Castle Crag in Borrowdale, Lake District as the ‘same view throughout the season’ and then include closer views of the local woodland as my two additional images for each season.

When I returned in Autumn to take the ‘similar view’ I realised that this was not going to work as well as I had hoped.  Firstly, the image relied on good lighting within the lower valley to add sufficient contrast and to capture some of the changes in colour of the seasons.  Due to changing weather conditions I realised that this was not always going to be possible, but even more challenging, and something I had not initially appreciated, was the fact that in the Autumn and Winter months the sun barely rises above the surrounding hillsides therefore there would be few, if any, opportunities to capture breaking light within the valley.  More importantly, however, I also realised that there was a lack of coherence between the ‘same view’ and the other two images for the season and that as a set they did not portray an underlining message of what I particularly thought about the season and would thus fail to be a personal interpretation of the seasons.

It  was therefore during the Autumn season that I decided to change my approach and I began to think more about the linking theme I needed for each of the seasons.  I eventually decided that I would use the theme of ‘trees and woodland’ as the overall linking theme and, for each individual season, I would try to portray my thoughts on the distinctions between them.  I thus came up with the following to describe my personal thoughts on the distinctions between seasons and what I wanted to capture within my images:

  • Autumn – colour / decay.
  • Winter – cold / harsh conditions / barren.
  • Spring – new growth / optimism / new life.
  • Summer – abundant greenery / full of growth.

I realised that this would become somewhat of an extension to my submission for Assignment 3 but felt that this was a warranted extension for further investigation due to my growing interest in the inner enclave of woodland scenes and in particular the wonderful variety of shapes, forms, textures and colours found within the myriad of different trees found in the UK.  I also posted some of these developing  images onto the “Untitled Gallery” exhibition website, which is an unofficial and independent gallery showcasing work from a group of artists studying with the OCA.  Within my artist’s statement I explain my fascination with such woodland scenes as follows:

I love to explore and find out what is around the next corner or behind the next tree, to go places that aren’t always controlled by footpaths or obvious viewpoints, and at the same time give myself time and space to free my mind of the here and now.  Searching through an undiscovered woodland gives me this opportunity and without my camera I would be less inclined to search out and leave the designated footpath.  Within my woodland wilderness I become fascinated by the life story of each tree I happen to pause upon and my challenge then is to capture this within a single image.

A further challenge for any photographer wanting to take photographs of trees or woodland features is to seek out the order within all the natural chaos before them.  Looking at works by photographers such as Eliot Porter and Jan Tove has helped me to see how this can be achieved with great effect and has inspired my developing style.

 My intention is to further develop this theme so that it forms part of my final portfolio submission at the end of this course module.

The Seasons Portfolio collection follows:


The initial image in the Spring set, Spring 1, is subtle in its indication of the season.  The foreground tree and surrounding branches show little sign of the transition towards Spring and remains fairly similar to the Winter image.  I could wait until later Spring for more obvious signs of the season but this may make it more indistinguishable from what will be the Summer equivalent image.  I have used the breaking light to signify the optimism of this season in comparison to Winter, and the green foliage in the background trees create a diffuser to the light and indicate that other trees in the area are further developed in terms of their Spring bloom.

The other two images in the set show the lime green colour of fresh new growth that is more incumbent of the season. Spring 2 shows a carpet of new growth covering the woodland floor and the composition is set to enable the viewpoint to move back and forth between the foreground tree on the left and the four interestingly shaped trees in the background.

Spring 3 is a close-up shot of new shoots of growth springing out from more mature branches.  The white textured bark contrasts well with the lime green new leaves.


I still have to return to this area to re-shoot my summer tree for Summer 1 (Update: now included) yet, at the beginning of this project, I had already captured a set of Summer woodland images for my original portfolio concept and these two continue to fit well within the series.  I will, however, have the opportunity to shoot further images this season when I return to shoot the Summer 1 image and will then make a final decision prior to my assessment submission.

The Summer 2 image was included as part of my Assignment 1 submission and is a good example of my attempt to find order within a normally chaotic woodland scene.  The Summer 3 image is another example of finding order from the chaos of natural growth and the close-up shot balances well with the Spring 3 image.  The change in the green colour between Spring and Summer is quite noticeable in these images.


These images formed the re-start of my Portfolio for the reasons described in my introduction.  They also formed part of my Assignment 3 submission and the Portfolio has thus become a development from that assignment.  I have already explained my reason for this.  The Autumn 1 image became the scene from which I expected both colour and texture to be evident in each further example and the other two images provide strong examples of the colour and decay that an Autumn woodland is recognised for.


I found very few opportunities to capture woodland covered in frost or snow this season therefore I had to look more closely for other signs of winter.  Winter 1 image shows the barreness of life in the middle of Winter whereas Winter 2 highlights some of the other extreme weather conditions, such as floods, that the woodland trees have to endure.  Winter 3 shows a barren tree with a twisted trunk struggling to survive in its harsh environment.  It was taken just as the sun was peering over the horizon on a cold winter’s morning.  The warm light on top the heather contrasts against the frost tipped heather in the shadows.

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David Ward (Project 36)

I have a lot of time for David Ward’s work and often look back at his image for inspiration.  He seeks out order within the landscape to create images that celebrate the wonderful colours and textures that can be found within.  At a personal level I would group him with Elliot Porter and Jan Tove as photographers who have inspired me to look closer at the order that can be found within any landscape as long as you look closer, and closer still.  All of which has helped me to develop my own personal voice that I describe as ‘a colourful representation of nature’s order’.

David thinks quite deeply about what makes a successful landscape image, and what distinguishes an image to transform it towards art.  These thoughts are explained in his two successful books “Landscape Within” and “Landscape Beyond”.  The intro to this latter book describes and distinguishes the two books as follows:

In David Ward’s critically acclaimed first book, “Landscape Within”, he asked questions about human perception and the creative process and what drives photographers to make images.  Now, David takes these deep explorations of photography a step further in his second book by studying what he considers to be the essential attributes of a successful landscape photograph: simplicity, mystery and beauty.

Not only are his words thought provoking and an interesting read but the images within are wonderfully produced both from the photographer and the publisher.  There are few photographers whose books contain images that I pause upon image after image.  It is fascinating to be able to appreciate how he has managed to construct each image and capture the colour or texture of his subject to maximise its wonder or beauty.  The only thing missing from these two books, and something I would be seriously interested in seeing, is a collection of images with a linking theme or project to see how he would adapt his style to achieve this.  At the moment his books are linked by his writing with the images reflecting the many different ways in which he has interpreted the inner-landscape.

David’s books will no doubt continue to be an inspiration for me for many years to come, as well as a reminder that capturing the beauty of the landscape can be artful and does not necessarily need to form a clichéd view of our land.

My 100 word review of his style would be as follows:

David Ward is a UK based landscape photographer who celebrates the beauty of the landscape and his images remind us of the wonderful colour, textures and patterns that can be found from within the land.  He looks for order within nature and, whilst he does not ignore the larger view, he often discards the need to recognise the location of an image.  He uses whatever light that is available to sculpture and illuminate his subjects.  The intensity of his vision for the inner-landscape shows his deep attention and love for the landscape.

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Project 20: Sun Stars & Diffraction

The aim of this project is to investigate the best conditions for creating potentially attractive sun stars and surrounding rays.  I tried to follow the project instructions as best I could and the following images help to illustrate the intentions of the project:

In this first image I used my wide-angle lens set at 20mm but with a very small aperture of f32.  The sun star is very intense include the 6 very distinct rays with further beams of light also surrounding the star.

In this next image, I used my standard view lens but still with a 24mm setting and a small aperture of f22 this time.  The centre of the star is much larger this time with thinner rays but more of them.

In this next image the same 24mm lens was used but his time with a larger f13 aperture. The sun star is much softer and less intense and the rays are much softer.

It is interesting to see how sun stars can be used to create a potentially interesting feature from the sun and even though the wide-angle lens does create the stronger and sharper sun star, the effect within the other two images could also be used successfully.  The important thing to remember of course is to make sure that your lens is pristinely clean for this technique of shooting directly towards the sun.

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Project 32: Telephoto Views

Whilst I have now completed my final assignment for this course there are still a few projects that I need to catch up on and this is one of those projects which I have attempted to do a few times but never successfully.  The simple aim is to use your telephoto lens to capture as many different views from the same commanding viewpoint.  In my previous attempts I have had technical problems such as trying to keep my much larger lens still in the wind even when on a tripod, but more challenging has been creating reasonably successful images by using this lens. It is a lens that I take out occasionally but is not one that I use very often.

The following images follow the brief of creating a variety of views from portrait to landscape, including the horizon and not, etc. By following this brief I now realise how limiting this can be in terms of visual and artistic freedom to capture what your own vision is attracted to; even though I do try to do this as much as I can. This, I suppose, is the excuse I am giving myself for making a reasonably acceptable, if not inspiring, set of images.

The lens does bring objects within a scene together and can be quite successful in creating juxtapositions between such objects but for me it makes the image a little too flat for my liking.  The project has confirmed how I could use this lens when the need arises but is still not going to be used on a regular basis for my landscape work.

But see what you think (they are all taken from a viewpoint above Derwent Water Dam):


Assignment 5: Feedback

Well, I have to say that I am delighted with the feedback received for my final assignment with generally positive comments against all the images submitted.  I was immediately pleased with reading my tutor’s covering e-mail which suggested that I have “concluded this module with an excellent assignment.  Your images and commentary were very good.”

The change in style and emphasis of this assignment may only be a tiny step forward in the evolution of photography but it did seem at times like a giant step forward for me, therefore, the feedback received came both as a relief but also an encouragement to continue to look at ways in which juxtapositions and symbolism can be used to add a connecting narrative and thus create an extra dimension to my images.

The only image I was asked to consider was Image 8 People on the Beach.  This is the image I used in Project 38: Burning in the Sky to look at the effect of inserting a different sky to add more interest to the overall image.  I wasn’t sure about adding this level of manipulation to the image therefore I had decided to leave it as originally captured and see what comments I received from my tutor.  As I probably expected, he picked this matter up and suggested that I did insert a new sky.  I thus further asked him to have a look at this Project to see what he thought, which he kindly did and gave me some additional feedback about the balance of tones etc.  It will be of no great surprise that I have taken on board my tutor’s comments and will be re-submitting this image with a new sky added.

So nothing much more to add really, it’s the end of another excellent module where I have seen my work steadily progress and hopefully it will continue to do so.