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Chemigram ideas and how to make them

I have seen this attempted by many, but mastered by a select few.

One of these is Pierre Cordier

“With the advent of photography in 1839, painting underwent a radical transformation. Nowadays, the digital process is revolutionising photography. The Chemigram, fusion of painting and photography, is most likely the ultimate adventure of gelatin silver bromide.”  Pierre Cordier

This is a beautiful sentiment, and one I happen to agree with. Chemigrams are an adventure and one which students should embark upon to develop their understanding of darkroom materials and practices, but most importantly, to re engage with their childish sense of play, creativity and imagination. The single biggest problem I encounter as a Photography Tutor at A-Level, is that students arrive from the GCSE model of learning, read the text book, know the fact, write it on the exam paper, get the grade. This is no way to teach, and no way to learn. I believe the most important thing a teacher can teach, is how to learn. Anyone can learn facts, and as science shines light on the dark areas of our knowledge, ‘facts’ are forever evolving, so what’s the use in that. Taking a piece of information, processing it from multiple angles, developing knowledge which then turns into insight, that should be the academic model. In a generation we would transform our culture.

This need to be taught how to learn was put into perspective when I recently conversed with a colleague regarding my own education. When I arrived at University, I genuinely had no idea what I was supposed to do. Assignments were not set in a way I expected, periods between deadlines were vast. What to do with all my time? I was used to an A-Level model, no one gave me the tools to learn how to be a good student. The response from the colleague was a haughty ‘hmph, study!?’. How do you ‘study’. It’s easy when you know how. How many students have you asked to conduct research and they submit absolute garbage. Is it because they are foolish, or because no one taught them first what the point of research is, and second, how to do it so you end up with meaningful answers. To expect children, students, adults to know anything is the undoing of the teacher. To fully understand something, you first need the tools which will enable you to critique, analyse and question in order to develop a meaningful understanding. Check out my article on what is good research.

I was inspired to write this piece after seeing Radiohead’s album titled a moon shaped pool. The album cover could be any means of creation, I have no idea. It did however, remind me of chemigrams:

a moon shaped pool

This is often the point at which students first encounter darkroom processes and are introduced to the magic of alternative processes. I however, have never made them before, documenting my findings seemed logical and hopefully you will derive some use from this post. Alternative photography is often left behind by students of photography, being seen as a means of creating ‘basic’ images. I am of the opinion that it is the most untapped form of image making, it’s potential nowhere near being realised.

On paper the Chemigram seems to be one of the easiest forms of alternative print making, the reality however, is very different. Throwing chemicals on a page does not a good image make. From oil paints to paper bag sculpture, the rules still apply. Regardless of materials used, composition, balance, rhythm etc. all need to be considered when making anything in a visual medium. Your intent might be to disrupt, distort and altogether break or abandon these rules, however that of course must be established in the development of the concept of your work. One can’t deliberately subvert rules if they aren’t aware they exist. The vast majority of Chemigrams end up taking the form of abstract expressionism, however, like most alternative photography techniques, I think with some dedication, you could make something ridiculously cool.

What is a Chemigram?

A Chemigram is a means of creating an image on light sensitive paper, without the need of a camera.

In real terms: take photographic paper, put stuff on it, see what happens.

Photographic paper is sensitive to light, exposing the paper to light and then placing in chemical developer causes a chemical reaction to occur in which the exposed areas become darker. Placing the paper in stop and then fix causes different reactions to occur which strip the light sensitive salts from the paper and then the paper is no longer sensitive to light. Our intention with Chemigrams is to play with these chemical reactions. Different liquids and materials act as a resist to the developing process and will affect how quickly the chemicals react to the paper.

Placing different materials or liquids on the photo-paper and then experimenting with the order in which we place the paper in the three processing trays is the intention. Play, analyse, gain knowledge, improve. There is no right or wrong, play with as many different ideas possible combinations as you can and inspect the results. Because it is relatively quick to produce a Chemigram, then the turnover of work will likely be quite high, remember to take a pen in the darkroom so you can write down the order of events so you don’t create something really cool and then completely forget how you did it.

What will you need?

Four trays:
Developer
Stop
Fix
Water

Assortment of vessels to hold resists such as oil, varnish etc.

Photographic paper
Resist – Oil, Nail Varnish, Honey, Egg, Glue, Pen, Sellotape – anything you can think of.

What causes variation in the final image?

Paper type and brand
Paper age
Type of resist
Method of applying the resist – paint brush, spray, sponge etc.
Method of applying the chemicals – paint brush, spray, sponge etc.
Order in which paper is placed in chemicals
Length of time in each bath

How to make a Chemigram?

Under red lights, take a few pieces of darkroom paper. Close up the box – the rest of the process takes place with the lights on.

Choose a resist

Apply resist to photographic paper

Put photographic paper into chemicals in any order

Observe and record results.

These instructions might seem a bit crap. Ultimately, it’s because there is so much room for experimentation that attempting to write down the process in detail throttles the creative process. You can’t go wrong with this. It is the most user friendly version of alternative print making.

To add some detail however, here are some detailed processes and findings:

(All chemigrams ADOX black and white paper)

  1. Fresh paper, straight from the box.
  2. Submerged one third of paper into stop, turned upside down so chemical runs down paper.
  3. Submerged two thirds in developer.
  4. Submerged whole thing in fixer.

how to make a chemigram

Aged paper – taken from box and left exposed to light for an hour until grey.

  1. Submerged in water, rotated so water runs down paper.
  2. Submerged half in developer and left to run down paper, creating the black lines.
  3. Very quickly submerged in Fixer.
  4. Left overnight with lights on.

how to make a chemigram

Aged paper – taken from box and left exposed to light for an hour until grey.

  1. Submerged in a resist of water and oil.
  2. Submerged in fixer, developer, stop, fixer in very quick succession.
  3. Left overnight with lights on.

how to make a chemigram

Bend the paper into a U shape so the developer can only touch the middle of the paper increases control over the liquid and produces interesting results.

alternative photography chemigram

This piece is probably my favourite and demonstrates the creative potential of Chemigrams. Don’t be afraid to dream big with alternative image making, hell dream big with everything, the beauty is in the discovery, experiment with everything.

  • This is a silhouette printed onto A4 plain paper
  • Cut out the silhouette, submerge in fixer, remove from fixer, get rid off excess (dripping will bleed over the edge of the face and not give you a sharp outline).
  • Place silhouette over the photographic paper
  • Expose photographic paper to UV light until grey (place in windowsill etc.)
  • Remove silhouette, wash with water, leave to dry.

Is it still a Chemigram? I don’t know. It’s cool though and was born out of this process. The final image embodies the whole point of study, exploration and experimentation.

Always ask the question WHAT IF?

That’s all that I encourage students to do. Ask what if? What if I painted on it first, what if I put the paper in the inkjet printer, what if I made a Chemigram and buried it for six weeks? We asked what if and this was the result.

alternative portrait chemigram

All of these images were made in one afternoon of experimentation, imagine what you could do if you committed weeks to it. As always, submit your work and show us how you’ve been inspired. Peace.

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A-Level photography project – A Grade

This is an example of an A-Level photography book that achieved an A grade.

What makes it a good A-Level Photography project?

  • It’s exceptional from a technical point of view
  • Displays genuine curiosity
  • All work links to artist research and a consistent theme runs throughout
  • Genuine discovery
  • Exploration of ideas practically and conceptually
  • Learning from mistakes, demonstrating learning

A grade tintype photography a level projectA grade tintype photography a level projecttintype of skulltintype of three skulls
First attempt at still life landscapes.
For these images, a miscellany of skull, jaw and vertebrae of sheep were employed, composing each in different formations – piecing the skeleton back together. The fusion between bones and wet plate photography is quite apt; the association between the use of Tintypes depicting death and trauma in the American civil war of the late 19th century, with those images conveying skeletons and lack of life.
The landscape images are included primarily for the comparison against employing portrait techniques. These two images were taken using two 400 Watt lights with four simultaneous flashes, over twelve seconds, with an aperture of f/5.6. Both consequently were underexposed, so it requires adjustment to improve for the next attempt.

Second attempt at still life landscapes.
These Tintypes were an improvement on the first attempt, composing the image to a better quality, as well as the progress with the exposure. These images are of a higher standard due to the detail to which the depth of field was dictated. For example, the depth of field for the top image of the Ram is set at the cracks within its skull, which also includes the detail of the visible horn on the right and some of the intricate cartilage in its nose. This stress upon finding characteristics is quite successful when using close-up Tintype photography – allowing for emphasis between the decrepit nature of the skull and the rustic ability of the Tintype plates.

A grade a level photography project exampleA grade a level photography project exampleA grade a level photography project exampleA grade a level photography project example

This was the first attempt at this multiple exposure wet plate photography. It is obviously of poor quality but does show the true potential of the project. A multitude of issues with the image including; overexposure; the chemical marks (possibly due to under developing); accidental movement of the camera between flashes; and the fact that it hardly depicts a multiple exposure image, appearing more like a face with a skull in the background.
So funny are my students that not only do they produce technically excellent work but they also find ways to take a dig at me during their project write up.
The task of recreating and improving upon the seemed near impossible. It is evident, that after many failed attempts, this was the only adequate example: overexposed, out of focus and the two objects do not align.
The next image is however a great improvement, despite the obvious movement of the subject (it’s worth pointing out here that it is indeed me, Liam Smith the photography teacher, in the photograph. Once again students love taking a dig). Improvising a way of stencilling each part of the double exposure to align the two images improved the composition massively, there has been development in the exposure and focus. Unfortunately, the process and effort was not efficient enough to produce an A-Level book in the given time. If the project was to continue there would certainly be further experimenting with the composition and material. Some initial ideas are portraits of a person’s back with the spinal vertebrae double exposed onto it.

double exposed tintype

This was the first attempt at this multiple exposure wet plate photography. It is obviously of poor quality but does show the true potential of the project. A multitude of issues with the image including; overexposure; the chemical marks (possibly due to under developing); accidental movement of the camera between flashes; and the fact that it hardly depicts a multiple exposure image, appearing more like a face with a skull in the background. So funny are my students that not only do they produce technically excellent work but they also find ways to take a dig at me during their project write up. The task of recreating and improving upon the seemed near impossible. It is evident, that after many failed attempts, this was the only adequate example: overexposed, out of focus and the two objects do not align. The next image is however a great improvement, despite the obvious movement of the subject (it’s worth pointing out here that it is indeed me, Liam Smith the photography teacher, in the photograph. Once again students love taking a dig). Improvising a way of stencilling each part of the double exposure to align the two images improved the composition massively, there has been development in the exposure and focus. Unfortunately, the process and effort was not efficient enough to produce an A-Level book in the given time. If the project was to continue there would certainly be further experimenting with the composition and material. Some initial ideas are portraits of a person’s back with the spinal vertebrae double exposed onto it.This project is based upon the works of artists such as Heidi Kirkpatrick, David Prifti and with the heavy influence and initial inspiration from David Emitt Adams’s feat of art. The chapter consists of multiple attempts at producing tintype images upon empty can lids.

While the work of Kirkpatrick consistently conveys anatomical, fragile female figures and Adams’s generally of landscapes associated to his unusual canvases, the project consists mostly of still life objects: skulls, pocket watches and flowers. The reliability to produce an image initially depended primarily on actually focusing and pointing in the correct direction – harder than it sounds when the can lid and plate frame being of completely different shape and dimension. Eventually solving the problem by fixing the sensitised can lid to the loaded plat and drawing a trace of the lid onto the transparent screen, to where the image will need to be focused to. Corrections were adequately made over multiple attempts and extended periods of time. 

David Emitt Adams.

Born in 1980, Yuma, Arizona – Adams soon discovered the consistent disposal of junk. When many see the discarded items as polluting and ugly, Adams saw the potential beauty and art in the landscape. Arizona’s rugged, rustic landscape gives Adams the opportunity to capture the relationship of corroded items breaking down becoming one with the arid, merciless desert. Additionally, the objects which he scavenges are often symbolic to the desert – whether it be an oil refinery captured on the face of an oil drum or canine skull on a crushed can – he makes the connection to a bigger picture, of life, existence and then deterioration.

Even without Adams’ disturbing the objects, each still has a story. How did they get there? Why are they damaged? Adams betters that and contemplates on what is this objects’ potential?

Each rusty can sports a rich patina that serves as a backdrop for Adams’ compositions. Both natural and man-made objects appear on the corroded surfaces, blending the organic and manufactured forms. Using a technology hundreds of years old to reproduce pictures of the desert onto the metal surfaces. Adams explores the use of light and time, both upon the image and the can’s rusted, deteriorating state.

He creates images on their surfaces that speak to human involvement with The Landscape. The Results are Objects that Have history as Artefacts and hold images Connected to their locations. Both nature and photographic Technique add historical Character to the cans and ties them to their location. They Are relics of culture left behind on the March towards modernity, discarded and disregarded? His work can be seen as a tribute to the lost spirit of the West and a harking back to the moments in history lost to memory.

For his piece 36 Exposures, Adams used 35mm film canisters that were discarded by his “Introduction to Photography” students as a base to their portraits. The Canisters and the process Adams used speak of the Evolving nature of photography, representation, and culture. The irony of Adams’ project is in the invention

The composition of Adams’ Images is fairly regimented. However, the image of this Female student defies his Norm. She is set off centre, the neutral space to her Right and exposure to her Neck defines her as Delicate, Fragile and vulnerable. The way in which her hair Falls partially covering her heart, further exemplifies that concept, as well as the possibly subconscious angling of her shoulder shielding herself to the camera. Like the wet-plate process, its outcomes are delicate and laced with meaning. Then of rolls of film, it replaced the process of wet plate photography, to make it more efficient and simpler. Yet, their protective canister is now the pathway to their own form of art.

a level photography projectA level photography project example of a grade

David Prifti

Born in 1961 – Prifti dedicated 25 years to learning and teaching photography at Concord-Carlisle High School. He once wrote that it was his desire to explore his life through the things that shaped his time: his relationships, his memories, his sense of family, rites of passage, aging and death. Prifti Died of cancer in 2011. The imperfections that often occur on the edges of the plates only add to their precious quality and mediate the intensity of the images. Imperfections of the print produces a symmetry between the final outcome and the contents of the photograph itself. The print is representative of the uniqueness of the individual and the uniqueness of their behaviour, here we see an elderly lady drinking (what can only be assumed to be tea or coffee due to the presence of a saucer and spoon) through a straw. Entirely unique in both artistic process, outcome and depiction of behaviour. The way in which Prifti bushes the light sensitive solution over the material is unique to his work. Not only does it add additional texture to the surface and the image, but also gives the ability to paint only certain parts and allows for possible patterning. The images of the individuals

And their possessions or Interactions gives life to the seemingly discarded inanimate Object; a personal quality, With the possibility that they had their own memories, Experiencing emotions of its owners, to have been part of history only to be thrown away. While depressing, it is Enchanting that they have been given new life as art. What may have been a chair or a boat or simply a fence panel is now elevated beyond its original status, from disposable object, to irreplaceable art.

The nature of the corroding metal can is symbolic of the deterioration of childhood and innocence. The Stare of the young, female eye only amplifies the preconception of the corroding of virtue, exposing the youth to horrors and pain. Images of executions and disasters being broadcast across the internet make it impossible to shield young people from the truths of human nature; the inevitable Decay of the person and death of all things pure. In practice, nothing lasts forever, the exposure to life and hurt destroys everything. Beauty is temporary, suffering is essential and death is inevitable.

A level photography project research

Heidi Kirkpatrick.

Born in 1959, Springfield Ohio – Kirkpatrick has exhibited widely over the last fifteen years and her work is held in numerous private and public collections. Heidi’s intent is to create works of art that are approachable in form and content, are interactive, yet fragile. Kirkpatrick’s work often incorporates found objects and addresses several different issues, including post-feminism and the female body. Her work often presents the women as angelic beings; her project ‘modern goddess’ being a good example of this, women being presented as shining lights upon a world of darkness. Despite her intentions of depicting strength and power, her pieces retain a level of intimacy through the models positioning and the style in which she has printed the images.

Kirkpatrick exploits abandoned objects – such as these old, discarded cigarette tins – in order to trap and preserve the prints. As if a mythical creature, delicate and vulnerable, trapped within the case like Heidi Kirkpatrick’s own little obsession.

I have had a lot of physical pain and have for many years. In my continual search for an answer, as well as my way of dealing with the unexplained, I dissect my Gray’s Anatomy book. The pages find their way into specimens, layered under images of those closest to me. The illustrations bind, clothe and wrap the body. Putting the inside on the outside, I wear my heart on my sleeve. Reminiscent of 19th century cased images; Specimens are housed in small hinged tins that open and close to reveal or conceal the secrets they hold” – Heidi Kirkpatrick’s analysis of her work, ‘specimens’, printing anatomical images upon that of her subjects’ skin.

The pointed ballerina like toes, bare legs and pure white skin allude to a purity and innocence. Yet, the large red vein upon her legs contradicts any kind of innocence, instead alluring to a darker, throbbing sexual yearning. Further exaggerated by the bold use of the colour red (signifying risk) rather than the initial allusion of purity or virtue, now corrupted by the romanticism of danger and defiance. The tin cigarette case, a prison, traps each image’s beauty and vulnerability, but Like Pandora’s Box, also containing the horror and destructive power of human nature.

tintype on tin can

With numerous previous attempts at replicating David Emitt Adams’ ability to print upon cans, this is the first example of a visible ‘image’. Prior to this image, all the chemicals were emptied and refilled which may have been the cause of repeated failure. It faintly shows the petals of a flower, as it is heavily underexposed.

tintype on a tin can

This image, once again underexposed is an improvement upon the first attempt. With a longer exposure time and better placement of lights, the flower is now more visible. For this can lid, the exposed side was painted black, in hope that it would re-invert the collodion-silver nitrate reaction, but was not necessary.

tintype photography mixed media

The third attempt at printing on Tintypes was fairly inadequate: the skull being barely visible and the focus was moved before taking the image, resulting in the skull being off centre and blurred. In order to improve, a correct exposure and use of lights must be implemented as well as precautions against moving the camera.

tintype tin can mixed media

Again this image of peacock feathers is underexposed. However, this time there is far more evident detail within the photo, being able to see individual hairs. It could have been further improved if the can was placed in a better position to capture the anticipated image of the feathers’ eyes and being further exposed.

photograpph of tintype pocket watch on a tin can

This attempt is a great improvement on the last, due to the greater detail and visibility of the pocket watch. It seems that greater contrasting colours – such as black and white – are far more visible upon the glossy, silver surface of the can lid. This image is slightly over exposed and needs the lighting to be corrected.

tintype on tin can

The 6th attempt at working with cans was a slight improvement upon exposure and lighting. However, it is obvious that there has been camera movement during the exposure. This is simple to counter, however what is more obvious is the lack of attention to composition of the image; centring and enlarging is necessary.

tin can tintypetintype on a tin canflower photograh tin type on tin can

These two images are significantly superior to the other images: the detail to which the pocket watch is depicted is quite impressive, yet it lacks the perfection to composition which would improve it.

The image of the hibiscus flower is well exposed, focused and composed, possibly the best example yet.

binh dan a level photography research

Binh Danh.

Born in Vietnam in 1977, only 4 years after the end of the Vietnam War, Danh emigrated to the United States IN 1979. He studied as one of the youngest artists having been invited into Stanford University’s Master of Fine Arts program, truly an outstanding achievement, in comparison to the possible outcome of being a Vietnamese citizen forty years ago.

Danh uses a specific organic technique of his own invention to create his art, the style of which is referred to as a chlorophyll print. Positives of photographs are placed onto leaves, and then covered with glass to be exposed to sunlight for a period of days. If he is satisfied with the finished piece, it will be encapsulated permanently by being cast in a solid block of resin. The processes used in his work represents his “interest in the sciences and photographic techniques.”

Binh Danh investigates his Vietnamese heritage and the joint memory of war, both in Viet Nam and Cambodia – work that, in his own words, deals with “mortality, memory, history, landscape, just-ice, evidence, and spirituality.”

By imprinting faces of war casualties and anonymous soldiers from the conflict, Danh encapsulates Remnants Of history in the biological DNA of Plant Cells, Incarcerating their memory in Art; their already lifeless existence dependant on the survival of the grass and leaves.

There is a harmony in the fact that they have not only returned to the earth in death, but also in memory.

Quoting Danh: “The portraits are witnesses to History and they speak to us, holding us accountable. To honour these Lives, I made altars of the dead – a Place where we can meditate on history, the present Moment, and Our own Mortality. I believe that even when faced with the truth that we will die someday, we can live a good life and do well for others.”

Danh has also concentrated upon the Cambodian Genocide and the Khmer Rouge occupancy. While travelling in South-East Asia Danh went to the S21 ‘detention prison’, walking within the walls in which thousands were executed and tortured, now covered by the portraits of its victims. The following poem below is of an American University Professor’s trek across the killing fields.

The Chancery Tree

At the killing field, Choeung Ek, no bells are rung. In a tall stupa, piled skulls cannot blame or resent this staring crowd-emptied bones without tongues.

Pathways lead between excavations begun and abandoned. The plain is scarred with shallow dents bordered by trees where children climb the rungs.

In a low building, victims’ photos, hung in rows of black and white, draw the murdered present. I scan across the peering eyes, struck dumb. Back outside in the glaring sun, leaves are stung with images—faces risen, called up and sent to green the tree of knowledge rung by rung.

See, they return: In the wide ditch new grass has sprung where bones still lie, shaded by the tree’s broad tent. When a breeze moves, leaves whisper what they’ve become.

The bark is torn. Against this trunk executioners flung the bodies of children. Bullets, costly, were rarely spent. We climb the tree of knowledge rung by rung. O I perceive after all so many uttering tongues.

a level photography research

Angelica sati Kobashi.

Born in 1968 – Kobashi has fond memories of her parent’s cameras, becoming familiar with the function and process of photography from a young age. It was not until 1998 that she professionalised, studying photography at Senac-Ceatel. Know her work has been seen globally.

Like Binh Danh, Kobashi employs a specific organic technique referred to as a ‘chlorophyll print’. Positives of photographs are placed onto leaves, and then covered with glass to be exposed to sunlight for a period of days. Once transferred, it is encapsulated permanently by being cast in a solid block of resin. The image does not fade as there will always be a distinct significant discolouration between the exposed and unexposed areas.

The images which Kobashi used from her travels have been specifically picked to contain the most contrasting black to white areas, often employing natural light or shadow, which gives the best outcome upon the images in comparison to an extensive grey-scale.

Kobashi’s image of a traditional Japanese archway seems to be purposefully transferred on to the leaf with the ‘point’ aiming quite belligerently towards the Sky – perhaps in a biblically symbolic gesture. The image also possesses an apparent sense of Death: the dying leaf, the empty Veins and within the image itself appears to be a Smoke or dust cloud which instantly brings to mind – in Conjunction with the definite Japanese architectural features – the two infamous Atomic bombs which fell upon Japan in 1945. The composition seems to suggest imminent danger, as well as the characteristics of the leaf as if looking over her shoulder, running away.

The combination of the veins and the webs has close links with cliche elements of life and death: The green of the leaf subsiding to a withered demise, then crested with an item symbolic of death and Haunting. What is more is the Construction and relationship between the texture of the leaf’s Veins and the patterns of the web. While the leaf is a very high standard example of a chlorophyll print, in my own project the idea of presenting own past adventures and travels or the people in my life appeals far more than arbitrary still life images, even if only having a special meaning to myself.

chlorophyll print a level photography project

chlorophyll print a level photography project

After a multitude of failed attempts that died without leaving even a trace of an image this was the first acceptable result to come from the project. On this leaf there are three images, taken from a trip to Ukraine. The initial idea was to produce a collage of images upon leaves, each depicting a trip or memory; a gesture to my personal belief that even after the process of death and withering, the memory and influence of a life will live on imprinted on the leaf.

The reason for which I originally chose mixed media as my title was due to my interest in expanding upon my work in unit 3; experimenting with more materials and zanier subjects. The project of mixed media as a whole was built upon creating a relationship between organic and man-made matter: initially, the skeleton captured upon a man-made Tintype, then the objects upon the cans (including the skulls, flowers and pocket watch) and concluding with a combination of organic-organic images as well as a fusion of organic-man-made images.

The fusion of human portrait on organic plant matter possesses an amazing temporality, light creates the initial portrait, through photosynthesis light creates the image on the leaf and ultimately the light will destroy the leaf and the image with it. From a conceptual point of view the piece represents the inevitability of death. The beauty captured in the image fades which could also represent the temporality of beauty and how all good things must pass.

In the future, I would like to expand the project to experiment with a wider range of natural materials. What would be even greater would be to travel to places around the world collecting different species of plant and returning to chlorophyll print images of the people, places and experiences which were part of the adventure.

Additionally, if the Tintypes project was to continue I would like to further trial different – more obscure and strange materials. With it, I would also like to photograph landscapes (like those of David Mitt Adams) which relate to their origin or their former purpose. For example, employing the rusted chassis of scrapped vehicles or with larger wooden frames, like Prifti’s work, on the scale of fence panels or sea groins.

chlorophyll print a level photography projectchlorophyll print a level photography projectchlorophyll print a level photography project

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What is a stop? Seriously though, what the fuck is it…

 

A stop is a doubling or halving of a number associated with exposure. That’s it.

 

ISO: 100 to 200 is one stop. Amount of light has doubled. One stop difference.

Shutter speed: 1/250 to 1/125 is one stop. Amount of light has doubled. One stop difference.

Aperture: f/5.6 to f/4 is one stop. Amount of light has doubled. One stop difference.

 

ISO: 800 to 400 is one stop. Amount of light has halved. One stop difference.

Shutter speed: 1/60 to 1/125 is one stop. Amount of light has halved. One stop difference.

Aperture: f/11 to f/16 is one stop. Amount of light has halved. One stop difference.

 

Why does it go from f/11 to f/16 – that’s not half or double?

BECAUSE MATHS

It is a quantitative ratio, go wikipedia if you want to read about the technical and mathematical principles.

Visit the in depth page on what is Aperture to get all the info.

 

Stops when associated with Aperture

– The scale of f/numbers (or stops) progresses like this: f/1, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32, f/45, f/64, f/90, f/128

– Opening up or stopping down by one full stop doubles or halves the amount of light getting to the film or sensor.

– Opening up refers to making the aperture bigger (or the number smaller)

– Stopping down refers to making the aperture small (or the number bigger)

aperture stops

 

Stops when associated with Shutter Speed

– The scale of shutter speeds (or stops) progresses like this: 1/4, 1/8, 1/15, 1/30, 1/60, 1/125, 1/250

– Doubling or halving the number, doubles or halves the amount of light getting to the film or sensor.

shutter speed stops

 

Stops when associated with ISO

– The scale of ISO (or stops) progresses like this: 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600, 3200, 6400

– Doubling or halving the number, doubles or halves the amount of light getting to the film or sensor.

iso sensitivity stops

 

A third of a stop is a thing

 

Technology allows for minute adjustments in exposure, not just in full stops.

A full stop of aperture would be f/4 to f/5.6

Modern lenses allow you to make changes in increments of a third of a stop.

For example: f/4 – f/4.5 – f/5 – f/5.6

f/4 – f/4.5 is an increase of a third of a stop.

 

Pics credit: https://photographylife.com/

 

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You need to create good quality research, but what does that mean?

In this article I will go over the nuances of good quality research for your photography A-Level to help you maximise your potential to gain marks.

The example I have used is from a student who achieved an A grade in her unit 4, her project was Portraits. I have only used sections of the book as examples, this is not the complete project.

First, artist research.

A level photography research Robert MapplethorpeA level photography research cindy sherman

Why is it good?

Style is consistent, the student has a clear visual identity. The content is consistent, each photographer deals with similar ideas and themes, namely, questioning identity through portraiture.

 

A level photography research francesca woodman

Further research

A level photography research feminism

If you truly love a subject, you will want to know everything about it.

This project deals with image, representation of women, self discovery and feminism. Rather than only researching the photographers themselves, the student chose to research the topic of feminism itself, going beyond the first layer of research and adding depth to the project. This in turn informed the student of the ideas behind the movement, the ideology of feminism and helped underpin and add weight to the creative decisions made within the project. Research is your opportunity to show off all of your relevant knowledge. Depth of knowledge and a sophisticated use of language are key to accessing higher marks.

Flow diagram

a level photography ideas flow diagram

Why is it useful?

It informs the reader of your thought process and allows them to understand the creative decisions you made and how you generated ideas.

IT’S SCRUFFY!

You are not making a portfolio, it is a work book. It does not have to be clean and polished. Scribble, doodle and make notes. Make sure that the evolution of your ideas is obvious.

This is particularly true of unit 3. It is important that you demonstrate how your ideas are being generated, how you are influenced by others work and then the outcomes you intend to create. This also shows how you are refining and developing an idea, a key part of the mark scheme.

a level research photographic theory

Photographic theory

If you intend to study a creative subject at degree level, you will encounter the world of conceptual art and be encouraged to explore it. Advanced students should be exploring this as early as possible. All children are remarkably good at analysing photographs and art work, GCSE’s often educate that ability out of them as it is too focused on teaching facts.

Everyone can analyse and interpret art, you just need the right tools.

Photographic theory and conceptual art will add further weight to your investigation. In the same way you would quote an extract of Shakespeare when analysing his work, referencing photographic theorists will add weight to your argument and lead you further down the line of questioning. Unit 3 is an exploration of an idea. You are developing and adding to your knowledge, the more knowledge you have, the more sophisticated your work will become. The highlighting of the text clearly shows the parts that are relevant to the students work, they then use these later in the project when interpreting and developing their own work.

a level photography identity projecta level photography portraiture project

Why is it good?

Constant questioning leads onto further development of the project. The student can then create new thought diagrams and new test shoots all based around the questions raised from this shoot, and the project continues to develop. Based upon in depth research of feminism, identity and John Berger, the philosophical elements of the project emerge in the writing. The photographs are self portraits, exploring ones identity is extremely personal and again is part of the marking criteria.

a level photography project identity

The final passage is detailed, well constructed and demonstrates a strong command of the English language and application of a specialist vocabulary. The final passage is open ended, all art projects are ongoing and always evolving.

 

  • How to make chemigrams » Photography Project - […] This need to be taught how to learn was put into perspective when I recently conversed with a colleague regarding my own education. When I arrived at University, I genuinely had no idea what I was supposed to do. Assignments were not set in a way I expected, periods between deadlines were vast. What to do with all my time? I was used to an A-Level model, no one gave me the tools to learn how to be a good student. The response from the colleague was a haughty ‘hmph, study!?’. How do you ‘study’. It’s easy when you know how. How many students have you asked to conduct research and they submit absolute garbage. Is it because they are foolish, or because no one taught them first what the point of research is, and second, how to do it so you end up with meaningful answers. To expect children, students, adults to know anything is the undoing of the teacher. To fully understand something, you first need the tools which will enable you to critique, analyse and question in order to develop a meaningful understanding. Check out my article on what is good research. […]ReplyCancel

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Aperture; what are you, tell me your secrets!

aperture

noun
1. an opening, hole, or gap.
“the bell ropes passed through apertures in the ceiling”

When you take a picture, you don’t want it to be too dark or too bright, right? The control of that is called exposure. Controlling the exposure means you control how bright/dark the image is. Aperture is one of the three components of exposure. The other two being shutter speed and ISO. Have you ever wanted to know how to blur the background in a photograph? The thing that controls that, is the aperture. It’s not an effect or an Instagram or Photoshop filter, it’s a mechanical movement within the lens. Let’s get into it.

What is aperture?

Aperture literally means a hole, an opening or a gap. A window can be an aperture, a vent or passage can be an aperture. Because we love the English language and all its subtleties, we must wrap context around a word in order to better understand it.

In the context of photography aperture is: “a space through which light passes in an optical or photographic instrument, especially the variable opening by which light enters a camera”

Basically, a hole that opens and closes, controlling the rate at which light can get in.

If you open the back of a film and press the shutter release, or if you remove the lens from the body and look through it, you can see the aperture. The aperture controls the amount of light that can pass through it and consequently, how much light can reach the film or sensor. Aperture size, and therefore brightness, is controlled by the iris diaphragm. The iris is made up of a number of thin, interleaving blades which rotate to make the aperture larger or smaller. Making it smaller reduces the amount of light that can pass through, making it bigger increases the amount of light that can pass through.

Takeaway: what is the aperture? – it’s the hole in the lens that lets in light

what is aperture

What the hell is an F number?

The aperture ring on the lens is calibrated with a series of progressively increasing numbers that can seem confusing at first glance. The series usually starts at 2, 1.8 or 1.4, and increases to 4, 5-6, 8, 11, 16, and perhaps further to 22, or even 32. The numbers, in fact, are far from random, as closer scrutiny reveals; the series double at every other value. f-stops, or f-numbers are a measure of the size of the lens aperture. Each number though, is not the diameter of the aperture, it is the number by which the focal length of the lens must be divided to yield the aperture diameter. The numbers can be written as f/2, f/16 and so on – f being the abbreviation for focal length. For example, when a 50mm lens is set to f/2, the diameter of the aperture is 50/2, or 25mm. When referred to in speech, the numbers become ‘eff-two’ and ’eff-sixteen’ the oblique line is ignored.

The brightness of the image on the film depends on the combination of the aperture size and the focal length of the lens. A large aperture and a long focal length can transmit the same brightness of light as a small aperture and a short focal length.

This may seem like a very complicated way of measuring the power of a lens to transmit light. However, it has certain advantages. Telephoto lenses form a magnified view of the subject, compared with wide-angle or standard lenses. So the light from a given area of the subject is spread over a larger area of film with a telephoto lens. This means there is less light for any given aperture diameter. The f-stop system gets around this problem because it is independent of focal length. An f-number is a ratio, not an actual measurement, so an aperture of f8 on a 50mm lens admits exactly the same amount of light as an aperture of f8 on a 400mm lens.

This is important when changing lenses. A photographer who is switching from one lens to another can maintain the same f-number on both lenses. If the aperture was measured in millimetres. instead of as a numeric ratio, lenses of different focal lengths would need to be set differently.

Why then the curious progression of numbers? Again the choice is quite logical. Each setting of the aperture ring lets through twice as much light as the one before, so with the lens set at f/4, the image on film is twice as bright as at f5.6, and half as bright as f2.8. This doubling/halving sequence may be familiar – shutter speeds increase and decrease in a similar manner.

Note, though, that large f-numbers let through little light, and small f-numbers, such as f2, admit very much more light.

Takeaway:
– Doubling or halving the number, doubles or halves the amount of light getting to the film or sensor.
– Doubling or halving the f number is referred to as; stepping up; stopping down; increasing by a stop; decreasing by a stop

Depth of field

When starting out in photography, this is often one of the first things that people want to be able to achieve because let’s face it, it looks cool.

Only one plane of the subject – the plane of sharp focus – is rendered absolutely pin-sharp. Subjects close to this plane but not actually in it are recorded less sharply, but they do not snap suddenly out of focus. The transition from sharp to unsharp on either side of the plane of sharp focus is gradual and progressive. In effect, subjects are in tolerably sharp focus not just in one plane, but over a range of distances – a zone of sharp focus. The depth of this zone is known as the depth of field.

Depth of field is directly proportional to aperture, and the depth of the field of focus is at its most shallow at wide apertures. Stopping the lens down to smaller apertures increases depth of field, bringing more of the subject into focus.

When you need the entire image to be sharp, you need to stop the lens down to a small aperture, such as f11 or 16. However, great depth of field is not always desirable, and a photographer may deliberately choose a wide aperture to reduce the depth of field – perhaps to blur an unsightly background behind a portrait subject.

Aperture is not the only factor that influences depth of field. Focal length and subject distance do too. Long focal length lenses (see lens types) have shallower depths of field, and wide-angle lenses more depth of field. This is because long lenses compress perspective and make objects appear closer together.

Shallow depth of field

Here is an example of how depth of field effects an image. A wide aperture of f/2.8 has been used. The image was manually focused so the Baby Blue Hubbard Pumpkins were sharp. Shooting with a wide aperture of f/2.8 has created a shallow depth of field, the effects of which can be seen below. There is a field of sharp focus, in front and beyond that field the image becomes increasingly out of focus.

depth of field in photography example

What better way to explore aperture than with cake? This image was shot at an even wider aperture of f/1.4. The depth of field is so shallow that the flowers at the front of the cake a pin sharp and the icing and lettering at the top begins to be rendered out of focus, a distance of approximately three inches. The flowers in the background are completely out of focus. Shallow depth of field can be a wonderful tool in composition as it can render unsightly objects in the background out of focus.depth of field in photography example

Don’t forget, depth of field also works on objects in the foreground.

depth of field in photography example

Takeaway:
Depth of field is how much of the image is in focus
Changing the aperture changes the depth of field
Small apertures – deep plane of focus
Large apertures – shallow plane of focus
Small apertures – good for landscape
Large apertures – good for indoors/lowlight and blurring the background

Estimating depth of field

On SLR cameras, the lens is set to full aperture until immediately before exposure, the purpose of this is to let as much light into the viewfinder as possible. If it adjusted the light levels as you changed the aperture the viewfinder would become too dark or too bright and composing the subject would become difficult. Cameras have what is called a depth of field preview button. It varies in location depending on the camera manufacturer, see the instructions to find yours. This will set the lens to the aperture selected to give a more accurate depiction of the final image. Personally I’ve never found this particularly useful, but what is really useful is the markings on the lens itself which allow you to calculate depth of field relative to distance.

Hyperfocal distance 

You may have seen that your lens has a little infinity mark on it. When focussed to infinity, the middle ground of your photograph will be in focus, however the potential depth of field at the other end of the scale is wasted because nothing can go beyond infinity. The wasted part of the depth of field can be put to use by positioning the infinity symbol opposite the depth of field marking for the chosen aperture. The entire zone of sharp focus will then be on the near side of infinity and more of the picture will be sharp.

Summary
what is the aperture? -it’s the hole in the lens that lets in light

What’s an f number? What’s a stop?
– The scale of f/numbers (or stops) progresses like this: f/1, f/2, f/4, f/8, f/16, f/32, f/64, f/128,
– Doubling or halving the number, doubles or halves the amount of light getting to the film or sensor.
– Doubling or halving the f number is referred to as; stepping up; stopping down; increasing by a stop; decreasing by a stop

Depth of field

Depth of field is how much of the image is in focus
Changing the aperture changes the depth of field
Small apertures – everything is in focus
large apertures – very little is in focus
Small apertures – good for landscape
large apertures – good for indoors/lowlight and blurring the background

Where to next?

Camera modes: Aperture Priority – you set the aperture, the camera does the rest.

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