I started ‘The Art of Photography’ course on 01 January 2013 and have now completed the introductory exercises of the coursework so I thought this would be a good time to reflect on my progress to date and identify what I need to work on going forward.
What I’ve done:
- read though the introductory sections and part one of the coursework and also the various study guides provided by OCA
- drawn up a rough study timetable as a guideline
- made contact with my tutor
- set up my blog
- introduced myself to other students on the OCA student and other forums
- read the book ‘The Photograph’ (Clarke, 1997) which came with the coursework and have written a review
- completed the introductory exercises
How it went:
Distance learning is not new to me as I studied for my banking exams a few years ago in the same manner, along with the occasional group workshop. However, my studies then consisted of factual learning whilst the requirements of this course emphasise the need for reflection, critical thinking and creativity as well as good technical skills. I admit that I am finding it difficult to write reflectively and critically as opposed to just recording what I see and do in a factual manner. Hopefully these skills will improve as I continue with the course.
Having set up my blog (and that was a learning experience in itself), I still haven’t decided how exactly to organise my paper-based material. I enjoy reading and research but I need to organise the information that I collect. I recognise that I also need to jot down my thoughts and ideas before they hit my blog in final form (at the moment they remain in my head or as a note on my mobile phone prior to being posted online!) so I’ve now bought a sketchbook for this purpose and will make a start.
The exercises, which on paper looked easy, required more thought and planning than I originally envisaged as I decided to try and create images which went further than just meeting the exercise criteria. Whilst I was, in the main, happy with the end results I struggled with the first exercise Focal length and angle of view due to my initial poor choice of composition. I also had difficulties with the exercise Focus at different apertures – try as I might, I just could not get my pictures to show the various bands of sharpness as required, although they do show the change in depth of field in a more subtle way. For a full review of these two exercises please click on the links above.
It took me longer to complete the introductory exercises than I originally planned. This was due to other commitments (which have now finished), bad weather and daily life getting in the way. It may also be that the timetable I drew up at the start of the course is a little unrealistic. I will see how the next few weeks go and then revise it if necessary. I also need to see if I can manage my study time better. Although I would like to finish TAOP within a year I need to be realistic and allow myself enough time to try to do myself justice and also not put too much pressure on myself – at the end of the day I need to enjoy the course too!
What I’ve learned:
- it has been useful to have a quick refresher on some of the basic photography skills and to practice using them in a creative way
- I’ve realised the importance of having some sort of plan before undertaking a set exercise – and of having a Plan B to fall back on
- the exercises take far longer than I thought to write up – writing reflectively and critically does not come easily to me although I hope to get better with practice
- through the exercises I have got to know my camera better and have tried out functions new to me such as using the electronic remote release
- after reading ‘The Photograph’ (Clarke, 1997) I realise that I am drawn to shape and form rather than to the documentary and social aspects of a scene. So I plan to investigate the genre of fine art photography further as this is a direction that I am now interested in finding out more about
What I’ve noticed:
- I now make a conscious effort to slow down when taking photographs, putting more time and thought into a picture than I did previously. I feel that my images are improving as a result
- I’ve started planning my shoots more carefully (it was a bit hit and miss before) which has given me confidence, even though my plans don’t always work out as I expect the first time
- I’ve started to look at creative photography and art journals rather than just the mainly technical photography magazines
- I’m much more aware of my surroundings; I’m now always looking for ideas for possible pictures
- I prefer to ‘find’ pictures outdoors rather than create still-life pictures indoors
- I’m becoming slightly OCD-ish with regards to composition – symmetry, object placement etc. I’m not sure yet whether this is a good or bad thing
- I’m becoming aware of the similarities between photography and art and hope to explore this further, for example Rothko’s use of blocks of colour
- I really don’t like taking photographs outdoors in the cold weather!
What I could do better:
- organise myself more efficiently, particularly as I have limited time
- research other photographers’ work. This is an area that I’m pretty sure that I will enjoy but I need to get started
- improve my reflective writing and critical thinking skills. These areas are new for me and I am aware that I need to work on my lack of expertise in both
- evaluate my work in a deeper way. I struggle with this at the moment but I am hoping that I will find it easier when I am more familiar with other photographers’ work and have researched other photographic theories and concepts. Currently I feel that I do not have much knowledge to evaluate my work apart from against basic photographic skills
- get quicker in writing up exercises and other blog posts
- think ‘creative shot, not snapshot’ every time before I press the shutter release. I’m getting better at this but some horrors still get through
- not to beat myself up if I get a little behind with my study timetable
What I plan to do next:
- complete the exercises for part one
- begin planning assignment one
- re-read ‘Understanding Exposure’ by Bryan Peterson (2010) to reinforce and extend my knowledge of what I have learned so far. Peterson looks in greater depth at many of the topics covered in the course introduction exercises
- organise my off-line research material and start a paper-based learning log to complement my blog
- start carrying out research into photographers that interest me. Having read ‘The Photograph’ (Clarke, 1997) I now have a list of fine art photographers to investigate
- visit some exhibitions and galleries to broaden my knowledge of other photographers and artists
- participate more actively in the various student forums and attend the next OCA study visit that’s of interest to me