Unit: 1 The Camera: Film or Digital

Task 1 Depth of Field, Selective focus AC (2.1,2.2

For the end of term task for Unit 1 in the RHACC Level 2 Photography Course, the task was to choose a place near our home to explore urban or landscape photography using a variety of approaches. I chose Kew Gardens, and decided to focus in on Christmas at Kew, the annual light display.

Task 1: Depth of field, Selective focus (LO 1,2,3)
(to address Assessment Criteria (AC) 2.1, 2.2, 3.2)

These are my 3 images in response to the title using depth of field and/or selective focus.

  • Working with aperture to create required depth of field.
  • Working with manual focus in order to create required focusing point.

For the first photograph, of lights in the lake at Kew Gardens, I used a zoom lens 70.0-300.0 mm f/4.5-5.6 with a tripod, shutter speed of 0.4 seconds and 100 ISO for less grain/higher quality.  I had lens on an aperture to create sufficient depth of field with as much of the picture as possible in focus. I loved the reflections created in the lake. From my position on the bank, it looked magical but through the camera lens, even more so. Manual focus here was easy – simply preset to infinity – but of course with the camera on M.

The second photo, of a winter bud, I switched to a 105mm f/2.8 micro lens and also moved from night time to mid-afternoon for better quality of light. Set at aperture f/4.8 so the soft-focus effects would not be too great at the edges of the bud, nevertheless I was able to achieve sufficiently shallow depth of field at 100 ISO to allow for fine detail of the softly unfolding bud to emerge in the photo. It was only in processing the pic with Camera Raw and then Photoshop that I realised a synthetic blue thread of nylon, blown no doubt in the wind, was on the bud. So I used healing brush editing tool to remove it.

The third pic shows an opened autumnal bud, with the fluffy cotton and seeds ready to blow away in the wind, from the Japanese Garden in Kew Gardens. The near-abstract nature of this image in micro appealed to me. With f/4.2 and shutter speed of 1/250, and in a soft breeze, it was hard with this one to get the right part of the image in focus. The only solution in the end was to fire off several pix until one emerged that looked “right”.

Focusing was the crucial element to making these latter two pictures work, and the most difficult. The only possible way was manual focus, then to move the camera gently backwards and forwards within a small margin of a cm or two, while visually checking the focus through the viewfinder to find the ideal time to press the shutter.

Task 2 Shutter speed AC (2.1, 2.2) (LO 1,2,3)


These are my three images in response to the title using slow or fast shutter speed techniques with:

  • Multiple exposures
  • Movement
  • Painting with light

For the first photo I used lens 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 on a tripod with exposure of 3s. This was a mirror ball snowman at Kew Gardens with the trees behind lit with eerie blue light. The ghost effect in the foreground was achieved by asking another visitor at Christmas at Kew to walk slowly in front of the camera past the snowman while the shutter was open.

The second image was taken with the same wide angle lens f5.6 with exposure 1/4. I asked a family if their daughter would hold her rotating light sparkler in front of her, to give the colourful effect of moving light with the twinkling ‘light cathedral’ in the background.

The third image, painting with light, was of the light “doorways” we passed through at the start of the Christmas at Kew winter light display. With the same wide angle lens, allowing me to get quite close to the gates of light, at f5.6 with an exposure of 2s I was able to move the camera gently literally to paint the camera sensor with fine lines of light from the separate bulbs in the display. It took several goes to get this right, with the lines appearing in focus and not blurred. The clue to getting it right was to have the camera on manual (as with all the above) so as to allow for consistency of focus during the longer exposure this type of photography demands.

Task 3 Final take AC (3.1, 3.2) (LO 1,2,3)

Here I present a series of present a series of five images in response to the title using photographic techniques I have become familiar with during the course of the preceding exercises. My aim was to explore light and landscape in the context of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.

For the first photograph, I used the wide angle lens and a long exposure of 6s with the camera on manual focus on a tripod lowered as close to the ground as possible (LO 1, 2 & 3). It was a matter of taking repeated photographs to get the combination of light, dark and colour as dramatic as possible as the lights passed through a wide variety of different colours. Processed in camera raw to increase contrast and sharpen slightly.

The second photo, of the moon behind the trees, was taken using almost all natural light of the moon at a rare part of Kew Gardens lit up by just a few artificial lights from the front (LO 1, 2) It was quite exciting as it was as if the whole of Kew Gardens had been placed in a studio with artificial light! With an exposure of 3s, on a tripod, and zoom lens of 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 the aim was to capture the colour of the autumn leaves as lit from the front by artificial light, with the natural light of the nearly-full moon coming through from behind. I processed in camera raw but only slightly, to increase exposure.

The third image was of moving flash lasers which when photographed give an impressions of fixed arches of pure light.  Taken with wide angle lens and exposure of 6 seconds on tripod, this needed quite a lot of work in camera raw and photoshop to enhance clarity and sharpness and bring out the colours and increasing exposure.

The fourth image showed a pentagram of natural light – created by lit gas “candles” – which leads the viewers eye towards the artificially-lit trees in the night. (LO 1,2,3). It is dramatic because of the variety and the contrasts of the colours, with the orange of the real fire dramatically outgunning the artificial light in the distance. A wide angle lens with an exposure time of 3s created a sense of movement in the flames which was a vivid contrast to the static lights on the trees. Enhancing vibrance, saturation and exposure in raw added the final touches to the image.

The final, fifth image is my favourite of the whole exercise. (LO 1,2,3) A lone tree is lit green by artificial light. With a wide angle lens and exposure time of 3s, the main challenge here was getting the composition right to create the balanced effect I sought. In the end the simple rule of 3 worked well, but I took many photos with the tree that bit more to the centre or the right of the picture. One problem was a red light in the distance which intruded when the tree was in the “right” place in the composition. However I was in the end able to edit that out seamlessly in Photoshop after enhancing vibrance and exposure – but not too much – in Camera Raw in Bridge.

4. Safe Working Practices (LO4)

Here I discuss safe working practices I identified and used during this project, and the occasions when I needed to request permission to take photographs.

Although there is no law in the UK against taking photographs of any individual, including children, in a public space, this is not as straightforward as it seems. Many places that fall under apparent definition of public space are not actually covered by this law, especially when taking photographs for commercial purposes. Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square for example need special permission for commercial photos. Likewise, special permission is needed to take photographs for commercial purposes in the royal parks – including Richmond Park. (Someone should tell those poor deer!) The Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew is not a public space, it is a registered charity with paid entrance. I was fine taking photographs for this project, which is non-commercial, but had I wished to sell these photographs, I would have needed to obtain permission. Likewise, one of the photographs included a child. I did ask permission of her parents, and said I would email them the photograph. That email included a request for permission to use it on this blog. As they never replied to my email, the photograph I used of the child was one where identifying features were obscured by the light.

Regarding safe working practices, the relevant statutes are the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

Obviously this project is not a professional work project, but for the purposes of this exercise needs to be approached as if it were. So it was important that the photography was carried out without causing risk to any members of the public – or myself.

This included safe practices such as staying within safety barriers put round lakes and other water on a dark and damp night where grass was slippery under foot. Also not getting excessively close to electric light displays in any way that could pose a hazard to anyone. A further aspect that became apparent when walking around with a tripod among large crowds was how necessary it is to control the metal legs of the tripod so they do not bang into people’s arms and legs. Simply managing the weight and dimensions of photographic equipment can be a challenge among large crowds on a dark, damp and breezy night. For example, how to change lenses when there are dozens of people crowding past, in the dark, all wanting to gaze at the same view and snap it on their phones. In the end the only option was to find a slightly less crowded space to kneel on the ground and hope no-one walked over me! One particular lesson learned in this case for the future – buy some cycling gear like luminous arm bands or head band so when I am kneeling down to change lenses etc, I am not simply a dark blob on the ground to be run over (possibly even tripped over, thereby inadvertently causing injury to some child or adult besides myself).

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