Category Archives: Learning

Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo Essays with Mike Hill

Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo EssaysA while ago I came across an online course on narrative photography on the Craftsy website. It is a short course with 6 lessons about narrative photography and it was offered at a special rate, so I purchased it. Mike Hill, the photographer, teaching the course steps you through two different photoshoots, explaining how he does certain things, and why –  basically stepping through his workflow. The first shoot was done indoors where he was able to use mainly ambient lighting while the second shoot was done outdoors in fairly harsh sunlight. Hill emphasizes the importance of getting those close up detail shots which add context to the narrative. He also explained the importance of having the subjects step him through the process of what they do before beginning the shoot. In this way he is able to build a rapport with his subjects prior to the shoot and this helps to relax them more.

He offers very little direction to his subjects, but lets them work as they normally would. Occasionally he gives slight direction by asking them to repeat a particular action or to shift position slightly to expose more of their materials they are using.

After the completion of both photoshoots, Hill steps the viewer through his workflow using Lightroom –  how he edits down his images to a manageable number, the basic retouching he performs, creating collections and then the final edit and export process.

It was a handy, informative little course to do and has helped refine the narrative process in my mind.


Hill, Mike. Narrative Photography: Storytelling with Photo Essays. [webcast, online]. Craftsy Online Classes. Colorado. 1 hour 56 min 7 secs. Available from:{} [Accessed 28 February, 2015]

The Invisible Black Background

While doing research on the concentrating light exercise in Part 4 I came across this video on how to create a black background and a chiaroscuro effect using only flash, maximum shutter speed and controlling the aperture. A really neat trick to have in one’s bag of tricks.

Photography Technique: The Invisible Black Background [ webcast, online] Glyn Dewis 20/05/2013. 4 mins 40 secs. (Accessed 23/1/2015).

Building and Using DIY Lighting Gear

Creative Live has some wonderful online workshops that run free during the day on Pacific Standard Time from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm and then is repeated (again for free) right afterwards. I was lucky enough to catch most of Kevin Kubota’s workshop on Building and Using DIY Lighting Gear. In his workshop he covers a variety of subjects, from rules of lighting, building a scrim, v-flats, triple reflector v-flat, v-flat window box, building a snoot, lighting with a flashlight, making a beauty dish, tube lights, ring light and photo booth, to name just a few. He also demonstrates how to use everything. as well. It is really amazing that one can pretty much build effective studio equipment for a nominal amount.

A free preview can be seen on this website:


Kubota, Kevin, 2014. Building and Using DIY Lighting Gear [online]. Creative Live. Available from: [Accessed 22 December, 2014]


Hands-on Workshop: Thinking Abstract

Last night I attended the North Shore Photographic Society’s workshop on abstract photography. The workshop was presented by husband and wife team, Russ and Wendy Kwan. We had been requested to bring in 1-3 depictions of “love” and “hate” without including any recognizable subject matter.

We were then divided up into groups and were forbidden to touch or discuss our own photos, however we could handle and talk about our fellow group members’ photos. We then mixed the photos up and proceeded to divide them as we thought into “love”, “hate” and “don’t know” piles. This process involved quite a bit of discussion as we had to justify our opinions to each other and I found this quite an enlightening process.

Once we had done this, we then had to arrange each pile in order of least representational to most representational. Once this was completed we rotated through the groups with the instructors to view the other photographs and offer our opinions and input. It was interesting to observe the various  groups’ connotations of love and hate. At this stage, the photographers who had photographs in the “don’t know” piles were invited to offer explanations as to their thinking and it was interesting to see that most of the “don’t know” photographs had not followed the classic depictions of love and hate. They were representative of more subtle connotations. One of my photographs of hate landed in my group’s “don’t know” pile. It is an image of frost on a windscreen, taken from inside the car. The ice had formed very delicate patterns that consisted of striations, curves and sharp points. To me hate can take on many different forms. One the one hand you have classic hate, for example of two warring nations, and on the other you have the cloaked hate of a “friend” who, to your face is friendly towards you, but will stab you in the back when you look away. The ice on the windscreen represented this kind of hate to me – the duality of the soft curves terminating into the sharp barbs. Russ, the instructor, then mentioned that it is these types of photographs that draw one in to look closer. With abstract you should not “get it” straight away, you need to work at it. What means one thing to one person will mean something entirely different to another.

"Hate" depicted by ice on a windscreen

“Hate” depicted by ice on a windscreen

The workshop was concluded with a screening of Russ and Wendy’s own work which was outstanding. Russ uses a motif of the movement of the sun throughout his work and he did not reveal how he made his images, but did mention that he did not use any big stopper filters. I’m thinking it might be some kind of pinhole photography if he is using a long exposure during the day for a few hours. Wendy’s work was extremely interesting. She showed us a series she had documented when a certain housing project went under demolition in Vancouver in the 1990’s. She used a Holga camera to make multiple exposures of the demolition period which spanned about a year and her images are very emotional, very layered and full of meaning, as opposed to the straight documentary she had originally started off with when she began the project.

I have a better appreciation of abstract photography now, even though the workshop just barely scratched the surface. It was just enough to whet the appetite to experiment, which is a good thing!


New Mythographs: The Photography of Russel Kwan and Wendy Kwan [online]. Available from . [Accessed 20 January, 2015]

Light terminology

It’s now November and I’m beginning the section on Light – so much more to learn. I started a Vocabulary section back in early March and added to it in April I believe, so there are a few more terminologies that I should add now. These are all related to light. As I work through the light section of this module, I will come back and add to this posting.

  • transmission – light that has passed through a subject, e.g. clear glass
  • refraction – the bending of light rays as the light passes through a subject from one material to another
  • diffuse transmission – the scattering of light waves in random directions, e.g. when light hits thin paper. An object that aids diffuse transmission would be a diffuser cap for a flashgun. Light is absorbed, reflected and transmitted.
  • absorption – light that is never seen again (absorbed by the subject and emitted as a heat source). An example of a light absorbing material would be black velvet.
  • reflection – light that strikes a subject and bounces off
  • diffuse reflection – same brightness regardless of the angle of view. Light is reflected equally in all directions. White things produce diffuse reflection.
  • inverse square law – intensity of light is inversely proportional to the square of the distance. For a visual (and better) explanation check out this video by Mark Wallace.

  • direct reflections – a reflection of the original light source
  • the angle of incidence = the angle of reflectance – light rays bounce off smooth surfaces at the same angle that they hit it.
  • family of angles – direct reflection are only visible to the eye within a limited range of angles – basically the angles that produce direction reflection. Important because it determines where we should place our light source.
  • polarized direct reflection – a reflection that is half as dim as a direct reflection due to the absorption by the polarizer.
  • perspective distortion – when viewing a three dimensional subject where the part further away appears smaller than the part that is closer to the viewer, which in turn appears larger.
  • tonal variation – the light and dark areas in the subject. Ideal tonal variation should include a partly shadowed side, a shadowed side and a highlighted side.

Reference List

Hunter, Fil et al, (2012). Light—Science & Magic An Introduction to Photographic Lighting. 4th ed. Oxford: Focal Press

Wallace, Mark (2011) Digital Photography 1 on 1: Episode 59: Inverse Square Law: Adorama Photography TV [online, webcast]. Adorama TV. Available from: 12 mins 15 secs. (accessed 12 November, 2014)

Scrapbook/log – Colour

I am slowly trying to develop my scrapbook into a creative tool. I have to say that I’m finding this rather difficult as I’m not a journal type person, so it is a constant battle to remember to collect stuff for the scrapbook. It is complementary to my blog, which is my main reporting tool. My scrapbook is a place where I made study notes, scribble ideas and collect interesting images and record some personal ideas and inspiration. The images shown are part of the work I have gathered in preparation for assignment 3 – colour. A lot of my annotations are actually under the images (having pasted only the top half down to make sure I would have enough room to scribble in). Its very much a work in progress.


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Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour

I was doing some research on colour and came across this extremely enlightening lecture by Professor Pete Vukusic from the University of Exeter. In this lecture he explains the colour spectrum, how our eyes see light, infra-red light, colour blindness, mixing pigments, interference, iridescence,  photonic makeup, neo-impressionalism, pointillism, just to name a few. This lecture definitely opened my eyes to light and colour and how complicated the workings of each really are. Definitely worth the hour to view this video.

Reference List

Lecture, Prof. Pete Vukusic. Light Fantastic: the Science of Colour [webcast, online]. Institute of Physics, Exeter University, UK, 2007. 1 hour 05 mins 11 secs. (accessed 1 September, 2014)