Monthly Archives: April 2014

John Berger – Ways Of Seeing

My tutor has given me some excellent extra reading resources and i’ve just finished watching a video by John Berger titled ‘Ways Of Seeing’. This is a very powerful video, and even though it is filmed in the 1970’s the topic and material is incredibly relevant in regards to the digital era and photography. I’ve been researching more work by John and have found some very beneficial information.

Here are several of my favourite quotes:-

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”  – John Berger, Ways Of Seeing

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this -as in other ways- they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it. – John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous 

Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does. – John Berger

What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time – John Berger

Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless. – John Berger

These are a few of many very interesting and thought provoking quotes that really make me assess the subject of my photographs at a much greater level. I am recording something to my own choice, to then display to others – I have control over what i choose to include and exclude; this is a topic that John Berger discusses as he demonstrates that by taking a selection or part of a scene you are creating something completely unique. For example, taking a picture of a crowded street, and then taking a picture of a person zoomed in within the crowd to produce a portrait results in extremely different pictures, but of the same scenario.





Exercise: Primary and secondary colours (TAoP)

Find scenes or parts of scenes that are dominated by a single one of the primary and secondary colours.  With each colour vary the exposure slightly to produce a set of three images; the first using the average meter reading, the second half a stop brighter and the third half a stop darker.  Select the image which is closest in colour to the relevant colour in the colour wheel.  Try to find natural colours rather than those that are man-made such as painted surfaces.

For this exercise we are required to take 16 photographs – 3 of each of the primary and secondary colours – one with the recommended exposure, one with a lower exposure, and one with a higher exposure. I was lucky enough to be doing this exercise just as spring had arrived and the flowers had started to bloom. There were plenty of examples of the 6 colours in every day life, but the course notes advised trying to find these colours through natural examples rather than man made. Some colours were easier to find than others (daffodils are everywhere at the minute!) but i tried to make a conscious effort to use subjects that i felt represented each colour as closely as possible. (I had intended to photograph an orange flower, but the results were not as obvious as with the satsumas.)

Here is the colour wheel provided by the OCA.


Red at average exposure reading (0)

red 0

Red at + 1 exposure

red + 1

Red at – 1 exposure

red - 1

I think the shot at + 1 matches the colour wheel the best.

Green at average exposure reading:

Green 0

Green at + 1

Green + 1

Green at – 1

Green - 1

Again i feel the green at + 1 exposure matches the colour wheel green the closest.

Yellow at average exposure

yellow 0

Yellow at + 1

yellow + 1

Yellow at – 1

yellow - 1

For the yellow image i think that the recommended exposure setting is the closest match.

Blue at average setting:

Blue 0


Blue + 1

Blue + 1

Blue – 1

blue -1

For blue, the – 1exposure matches the colour wheel best.

Orange at average exposure

orange 0

Orange at + 1

orange + 1

Orange at – 1

orange - 1

The + 1 setting most represents the orange from the colour wheel.

Lastly, violet at average exposure

violet 0

Violet + 1:

violet + 1

Violet – 1

violet - 1

The last photo at – 1 is the closest match to the colour wheel. I struggled a bit with finding a typically violet flower, but will re do these images and try to find a closer match.

I found this exercise very interesting as it taught me how to change the feel of a photograph by using the settings on my camera instead of post processing programs. People often think that exposure relates directly to light, and while this is true, it is a major key factor in changing the hue of colours. For example, the blue sky (at – 1 exposure) looks like it could have been taken late in the evening, or taken somewhere in the Mediterranean as it is a very full, rich blue tone. However, it was actually taken around 9am on a fairly bright London morning.


Exercise: Colours into tones in black and white (TAoP)

Create a still-life arrangement that includes the colours red, yellow, green and blue.  Also include a piece of grey card.  Convert the taken image into five black and white copies and process each version using the different colour digital sliders in your processing software to mimic the effects of coloured filters.

Filters can be used in photography, either as an actual coloured filter in front of the camera lens or as a digital filter applied during post-processing i.e. photoshop. A colour filter works by letting through its own colour but absorbs its opposite, complementary, colour.  For example, a blue filter allows all blue light, such as from a blue sky, through it but blocks yellow light.  Intermediate colours are affected relatively; violet passes through fairly well, but yellow-green is mainly blocked.  Filters are used in colour photography but have a deeper effect when used in the conversion of black and white images.

This exercise was fairly straightforward. I arranged a still life that included red, yellow, green and blue and also the grey card in the top corner. I then used photoshop to convert the image into black and white, and then applied the necessary filters. None of the brightness settings were altered as i wanted the images to simply be converted to the necessary colour filter effect. In hindsight this may have resulted in the effects not being as prominent, but i did not want to alter any levels other than the colour.

Original image:

Filter original

Converted to black and white:

Greyscale no filter

Yellow filter:

yellow filter

The only real difference with the yellow filter in comparison to the standard converted image is that the yellow (lemon) is slightly brighter. This is expected as the yellow filter allows yellow to pass through, while blocking its opposite colour – blue. Therefore the blue background appears very dark, almost black.

red filter:

red filter

The red filter has again brightened the yellow but also the red (radishes) which is to be expected. The green cucumber has darkened substantially as green is blocked through the red filter. Blue is also considered to be an opposite of red – therefore the blue background is still appearing very dark.

Green filter:

Green filter

The green filter absorbs the green of the cucumber therefore brightening its appearance, while the red radishes have darkened to the point that they are barely visable.

Blue filter:

blue filter

This image highlights the effect of filters extremely well. The blue filter has completely blocked out the yellow leaving the lemon to appear black. The blue background has lightened significantly giving a very different overall feel to the image.

Use of colour filters in black and white images can have a major effect on the tones and there are certain ‘rules’ for each colour of filter. By learning which filter blocks out or allows specific colours to pass through helps the photographer to compose and shoot an image that should work well in black and white. The use of filters can give the photographer more control in regards to deliberately making an object stand out in a black and white image by careful filter selection.

The results of this exercise may have been slightly more noticeable had I played around with other levels such as brightness and contrast, but as i mentioned before i wanted the colour filter to be the only alteration.


Assignment 2 feedback

I received my tutor feedback recently and was extremely happy with the comments. I’ve been given plenty of extra reading and photographers to study so i will be updating some of my findings to the blog soon.

I enjoyed this assignment much more than i thought i would as i got to use studio equipment for the first time and push my boundaries and knowledge in that area. Being able to control lighting strength and positioning was very new to me, and i was very pleased with the results.

I have several alterations to make to my assignment photos, and will be uploading these.

But for now it is onto part 3, colour 🙂

Tutor Feedback: