Assignment 5 revisited

May 22, 2011

iso 200

The handle of the dish with the greens is intruding into the vertical space above the subject, blurred in the DoF but still intrusive. Not a lot I can do to repair this, I’m not about to completely re-do the recipe.

iso 200

A nice, clean image, in my opinion. wide-open aperture chosen to give a limited depth of field.

iso 200

This image corrected from the original post, the wooden spoon cropped out of shot. A more closed aperture this time to give a little more DofF but still having it trail off to a soft background.

iso 200

Back to the Max-aperture in this one for a more pronounced Bokeh effect. I was advised to lighten the highlights a little, which I’ve done.

iso 200

No real criticism for this image, a keeper.

iso 200

Another one with little or no criticism from my tutor so left alone. I have been using a max-aperture of f/2,8 in most of these images to recreate that “cookbook” image look rather than a “technical handbook” illustration. This shot was actually more of a technical illustration and therefore, by using a mid-range aperture setting, sharper from front to rear.

iso 200

Again no problems with this image. f/8 was the choice or aperture due to the top-down nature of the shot.

iso 200

Another “no problem” shot. Left as-is.

iso 200

This is a replacement image. I totally agreed with my tutor when he said the original was “disappearing out of shot” to the top-left and it was duly binned. f/5 giving a subtle blur to the background while keeping the main subject reasonably sharp from front to back.

iso 200

Back to max-bokeh for this “atmospheric” shot of the final finish.

iso 800

The original top-down shot of the finished plate was indeed flawed, not sharp from pie to knife & fork, wrong choice of f/stop. This replacement is much more of a pleasing shot, the use of bokeh adding to the atmospheric “cookbook” style of imagery.

iso 800

This final shot of the series was intended to show the whole eggs through the pie. At f/5,6 a little less wide open aperture for a sense of bokeh. Could perhaps have done with an even more closed-down aperture, say f/8 for a touch less bokeh, but I ate it all so it’s too late now.


Assignmnet 5; Panned!

May 22, 2011

Tutor’s report (my own comments in red)

Overall Comments

Thanks for the link to your submission for you final assignment for your personal project, which I think is quite a clever approach. The idea of choosing the stages in a recipe is incredibly easy and yet I have never come across anyone who has used it before. The area of cookery photography has developed to a very high standard since Mrs. Beaton’s days when the illustrations were usually hand painted.

It is quite a good subject for your project because it depicts the progress from one stage to another in the preparation of the dish. Some subjects for this assignment could take a while to complete requiring the collection of images over a period of days or weeks but in your case the pressure came from completing the recipe and setting up and taking the images in the time it took to prepare the food or slightly longer, at least.

The project created some technical problems because your aim was to make the ingredients and the finished product appear succulent and appetizing. Comparison with the work of professionals in this field has raised expectations of quality to a high level and the evidence can be seen in many publications and the media.

You will notice that my analysis of your work by the criteria on which your work is marked has changed slightly due to a revision to match it to the current standard of the final assessment.

Feedback on assignment


  1. The arrangement of the ingredients is neatly spaced and the square dishes and mats line up with the sides of the frame. The texture of the eggs and the red onions is good but the composition would have been improved without the use of the dish with a handle which is an out of focus intrusion. Agreed, wrong choice of dish, one without a handle would have been better.
  1. The choice of the colour of the bowl for these ingredients is a happy one but there is a serious depth of focus problem. Only the front area of the contents of the bowl is sharp. The choice of an f2,8 aperture for this shot was a deliberate one, I wanted to create a shallow depth of field in this image, an artistic fall-off of focus. Have you used sharpening on your images? I cannot tell with accuracy in your blog how sharp they are. For static subjects the assessors will expect really crisp definition. A band across the middle of this shot is sharply defined, the pronounced bokeh softening the front and rear of the frame.
  2. I like the glistening lardons in thiscomposition I think it is the quality that is expected to make the food look appetizing. If you decide to include the spoon then it should be clearly part of the composition, lying along the top edge it looks like an afterthought. Good point, I could crop it out.
  3. The preparation of the dough is a vital stage in the operation and your arrangement is good but there is a focusing problem again, a deliberate aplication of shallow depth of field for artistic effect, I could have shot all these images from a fixed gantry directly above the subjects at f11 in a light-tent but I feel that might be more suited to a science project than a visually pleasing cook-book and in my opinion you could have printed your subjects with reduced brightness. Not sure if I agree there, the wooden tabletop is kind of dark, I wouldn’t want to go darker than that.
  4. The rolling pin and pastry is a good image and I like the humour in your description of this stage of the process.
  5. This image is quite a good semi-abstract representation of another stage in the process and the sharpness of the whisk emphasises the texture of the nutmeg and the black pepper.
  6. This image is another good shot of a stage in the recipe and although the bowl was deep enough to build the quiche you have avoided too much shadow from the sides.
  7. There is no problem with depth of focus in this image and the texture of the pastry is good. The egg-yolks have a good shiny quality.
  8. It is a pity that this image is trying to escape out of the top left corner of the frame agreed, bad cropping, would look better from top-down, as with some of the others but the textures of the top of your pastry cover, the knife and the egg yolk are well rendered and stand out effectively against the work surface.
  9. Without any exposure details I cannot comment on the aperture you have used in this image should I include a (seperate) list of exif details with all these assignment images? Easily done if that;s required but there is serious depth of focus problem. Again, the bokeh for artistic effect. I didn’t want to produce a technical exercise, rather an image that pleases the eye. If the bokeh is too extreme, ok, maybe f4 instead of f2,8 but I certainly don’t want it pin-sharp from front to back.
  10. A good layout in this image but unfortunately the depth of focus left the knife and fork very soft agreed, my mistake. This top-down shot should have been sharp all the way through, wrong choice of aperture which is something the assessors will notice immediately.
  11. The final product looks very appetizing but you have suffered from the same depth of focus problem. Once again, a deliberate choice, perhaps not as effective in this shot, with hindsight, but certainly not an oversight in technique. I am wondering if you used a tripod for these shots or whether they were hand held which may explain why there is such a shallow depth of field by the setting of too wide an aperture. I started with a tripod but found it too restricting, what with the various angles, distance to subject and indeed location (kitchen hob and diningroom table), The wide aperture was not a consiquence of being hand-held in low light, there was plenty of daylight from behind the subect, a flash unit to the left-rear of the camera and white foamboard to the right. I would like you to come back to me about this issue because this is basically a good idea which is spoiled by a simply curable problem. I would like to stress that the aperture chosen, and therefore depth of field aquired, is a concious choice in my photography and not a technical erro, excepting where I have acknowledged that fact here above.


I know by your previous work that you possess the photographic skills but the success of this assignment has been has been damaged by the shallow depth of focus used. Bokeh.


Your choice of subject is quite original, you have arranged your subjects generally well and they are well illuminated.


You will gain credit on one hand for your choice of an original idea but the assessors may feel that there is not enough variation between the individual images. “A cohesive series of images”, this, to me, suggests a certain similarity between them.


Your images carry the impression of the appetizing quality of the food that you describe.


In your learning log you have described some details of sharpening in Photoshop and some images of a cat but it should also refer to the books, exhibitions and other learning material you have researched in your studies. Point taken. I will go back and add refferences to the various books I’ve read, galleries I’ve visited, tutorials I’ve taken and seminars attended It is important to refer to any other related learning experience you have gained outside the course because the content of your learning log will carry a maximum of 20% of the marks at assessment.

You have not supplied any exposure details in your assignment which frustrates the provision of more advice on the origin of any flaws in your images. Please advise; should I always attach a list of exif info to all submitted images?

Suggested reading/viewing

This is your last assignment and you will be moving on to another course soon so I would suggest that you should try to find a copy of ‘The Photographer’s Eye’ by John Szarkowski published by the Museum of Modern Art because you could find it an interesting read.


You have created an assignment based on a good idea that has been let down badly by a fairly simple error. I am sure that you could put this right in a reshoot and I would like you to contact me so that this result can be improved before you submit for assessment. You have made good progress I would not like your final mark to be affected by this problem. Please get in touch as soon as you can.

Assignment 5 requires a coherent series of 10 – 12 images of the student’s own choice and making.
I love to cook and often take pictures of what, and how, I’m cooking. I’d love to put together a photo-recipe book some day.

Egg & Bacon Pie (with a difference)

An old favourite, certainly one of my favourites.
A sort of quiche with a lid on, but then different, and extra-special!

Ingredients include;
Chopped bacon,
6 eggs (+1),
a bunch of spring onions and a couple of red onions,
a good handful of both chopped parsley & chives,
about 100gr creme fresh and a knob of butter for frying.
The pastry is dead easy;
300gr self raising flour and 150gr butter, that’s it!

Put the chopped bacon into a hot, dry, frying pan (it’ll fry in it’s own fat).
While that’s browning chop the red onions medium-chunky (that’s a technical term we chefs use, roughly 2,1mm x 3,2mm is close enough) and the spring-onions into fairly thin slices, greens and all.

Remove the browned bacon bits with a slotted-spoon to a dish, so as to leave the oil behind.
Having carefully retained the bacon oil, chuck it away and wipe the pan,
we don’t need it.

Melt a knob of butter in the pan, gently, no browning, and soften the red onions a bit.
Before adding the chopped spring onions which only need a minute or so stirring through to wilt them.
Turn off the heat and add the bacon to the mix, along with the fresh herbs.

Now the fun bit!
Put the oven on 170 degrees C. I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit, why don’t you come and join us here in the 21st century?.
Whizz the flour with the butter in a kitchen whizzer. If you haven’t got a kitchen whizzer you’re going to have sore thumbs coz it’ll all have to be rubbed in until it looks like this, “breadcrumbs” they say but I can’t see it myself. Then add enough cold water, while it’s whizzing, for it to grab a hold of itself and rumble round like there’s an old shoe somehow got in there.
Then take it out and divide the old shoe into 2/3 1/3 (base & top).
They say let it rest for a while at this stage, in the fridge, but I always found it harder to roll out after it’s done that.
So I don’t bother.

Dust your surface, the rolling pin, the dough, your shirt-front, the windowsill and your left eyebrow, and roll out the bigger of the two lumps until it fits your (greased) spring-form with a fair bit hanging over the sides. Roll out the smaller lump likewise but cut it to fit just right for the lid.

Separate one egg-yolk from its white and keep to one side. Add another (whole) egg to that egg-white and break up with a fork. Stir-in the creme fresh (stir, not whisk, we’ll have none of your “stiff peaks” here thank you very much) and some seasoning – black pepper and a quick rub of nutmeg should do nicely.

Now for the build.
Add about 2/3 of the bacon, onion and herb mix to the pie and drizzle over about 2/3 of the creme fresh and egg mix.

Crack all the eggs into the bowl containing the saved egg yolk. You did save it now, didn’t you? Check for bits of escaped eggshell, I hate bits if eggshell, in anything. Pour it on top of the first layer if bacon-cream goodness, try to spread out the yolks evenly, good luck with that, they’re slippery buggers.
Then sprinkle over the rest of the bacon stuff and drizzle the last of the cream mix over that.

Wet the inside of the pastry with a little brush & water and press in your perfectly fitting pastry lid so it sits securely. Score lightly with a blunt knife (every kitchen has one), stick on a couple of artistically created pastry-leaves.
Trim off any huge excess of overhanging pastry, you only want about 2cm over the edge. Then brush the inside of the pie crust with a little water and fold the flap in on itself, crimping and pinching all the way around. Paint liberally with egg-yolk mixed in a little water, this gives the pastry a lovely golden finish, we hope.

Into the pre-heated oven for one hour. It’ll rise a bit, maybe even a lot, some might have said too much, but after that cooking hour it needs to come out and sit quietly for another half hour on the counter before attempting to de-tin it. During this “rest” it should sink back and settle a bit. I say “should”, as long as you stirred, not whisked, the egg-whites.

The trick now is to cut a slice right through an egg-yolk so it looks great on the photo.
I hit one in about the third attempt.
Served warm, with a simple salad of watercress with a couple of drops of that ancient Balsamico we brought back from Collevoccio dribbled over.
Cold’s good too, but it didn’t last long enough to cool down.

Eet smakelijk!

Ex. 25; A web gallery

March 23, 2011

The internet is an extremely powerful tool in “getting your images out there”, unmissable these days in fact.

A couple of things need to be considered when setting up a web-gallery; the character of the web-page, it’s “look”, and the quality of the imagery contained within it. Images need to be prepared for web display, ie; resized to fit the available space and compressed to an extent that will allow them to be loaded into the viewer’s screen quickly without compromising image quality. It can be a fine line.

The website’s character needs to be clean, simple, uncluttered and easy to navigate. Concentrating the visitor’s attention onto the images visually and making this as straightforward as possible as far as site make-up is concerned.

I decided on a WordPress template that was simple and dark. I removed a number of “gadgets” and “widgets” to make it even more clean and simple. It consists now purely of the HomePage;

, , , with a link to the gallery part of the site (top right), which I thought was a little small & out of the way so I added an active word link “IMAGE GALLERY” using the larger H2 text to the main body of text.

Clicking on one of the two links navigates to the Gallery Page, where there are clickable thumbnail images. I think it’s fairly well known these days that clicking on smaller images leads to that image being expanded so I left out any instructions to that effect, opting for the cleaner look.

The expanded image shows on its own page. Navigation consists of clicking on the image itself to advance to the next picture or a “forward” and “backward” thumbnail imediately below the main image.

Here is a link to the WebGallery.

Whether to sharpen an image, or not, and by how much, is always a difficult question. Over-sharpening can produce some undesirable effects, like halos around edges, which may be less apparent during the process.

The purpose of this exercise is to work out the ideal amount of sharpening to produce a pleasing paper print to compare the visual differences between sharpening on screen and in print.

Sharpening in PhotoShop usually makes use of the “unsharp mask”. It contains three values;

Amount (the strength of the effect)

Radius (the size, in pixels, of the effect)

Threshold (protection of smoother areas, such as sky or skin)

All sharpening adjustments should be made at 100% magnification in order to better judge the extent and effect of the sharpening.

So here we need to take an image that has not yet undergone any sharpening. This is the original image;

And now a version of that image with a minimal amount of sharpening applied;

This at 100%, 1px and zero threshold.

A version with a little more sharpening added;

100%, 3px, 0-threshold

And one with a lot of the sharpening effect used;

100%, 5px, 0-threshold

Next – to have these four images printed (my R3000 is still in the post) and compare them with their on-screen versions.

Noting the differences;

Which degree of sharpening is most appropriate for the image in print form;

Digital photography is all about work-flow. It doesn’t end with the taking of the photograph, indeed it just begins at that point. (digital) Images may be displayed in two ways, print or in a web-gallery.

Backing-up image data is an essential step in any post-production work-flow. Backing up in another media (CD, DVD, Memory stick) and in another location (think fire/flood) is extremely important, think how you’d feel to loose all that work to a computer failure or break-in and theft of your laptop/pc.

A decent (photo) printer is pretty much a “must” at this stage in the course and I’m seriously considering buying this one;

The Epson Stylus R3000

This baby will kick-out gallery quality prints, when using the right quality paper and assuming the printer is calibrated with the monitor.

Assignment 4, Real or Fake

February 18, 2011

This assignment required me to demonstrate my own stance concerning altering content and the  viewer’s perception of an image.

To do this I was to complete a project which lies in the middle ground of the real-versus-fake argument.

I was to explore the areas of adjustment and/or manipulation that would make the image successful and describe the techniques I employed, along with my ethical justifications.

Image manipulation is as old as photography itself, probably much older. The cave paintings, thousands of years old, may or may not depict the ferocious beasts roaming around the plains at that time, were their horns really that ferocious? and were there actually that many out there? Or was there some “poetic license” involved within our brave and artistic cave-dwellers.

In 1917 Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths took and published a number of photographs depicting, they said, the fairies at the bottom of their garden. Many people, for years, believed that they were 100% proof of the existence of such “little people”, some still do believe. The camera, after all, cannot lie!

Photograph; Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths

Much later it was admitted by the ladies that they were indeed paper cut-outs and double exposures. This, on the ethical scale of photographic manipulation is clearly at the “unacceptable” end of things. Pictures created & manipulated, intended to deceive the viewer into actually believing something that is not true.

A more modern example of image manipulation to achieve a certain goal is that of Photographer Brian Walski in Iraq;

Photograph; Brian Walski

The Los Angeles Times fired Walski over this picture for violating their code.

As you can see by the two original images below he combined the two pictures to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing final result. The context wasn’t changed, the pictures were taken  just seconds apart, but it was considered totally unacceptable (of a journalist, in that situation) to manipulate images in that way.

Photographs; Brian Walski

I believe he was wrong to have attempted to get this past his picture editor, to pass it off as 100% authentic, but is it morally, ethically wrong? I don’t believe it is. If he’d cut and pasted the entire soldier into the scene with the refugees it would be a lot more serious but as it is, we can see that the soldier was stood there amongst the refugees, his hand is raised, he has a weapon, the man is there carrying the child. The end result is not “fiction”.

The question arises; what if Walski had been a war-artist and had painted the scene on canvas. Artists often paint from memory or from a series of photographs, combining many elements to arrive at a final result.

Images do not need to be (digitally) manipulated to cause controversy. The context behind the picture, the “back-story”, is often equally important.

Photograph: José Luis Rodriguez

The Natural History Museum stripped José Luis Rodriguez of his £10,000,- prize and title of Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2009 after it was discovered that the picture “The Storybook Wolf” was not, as described, of a wolf in the wild, caught leaping a gate after months of patient tracking of the beast through the forest, but of a trained, tame animal, hired-in from the Madrid wildlife park.

Clearly a massive breach of ethics here. A deliberate attempt to pass something off as something it totally isn’t, but not digitally manipulated in any way, the wolf was there, it jumped the fence, a photograph was taken.

Images that are clearly “constructed” to achieve an end-result, that are not intended to deceive the viewer into believing something that is not,  fall into the “acceptable” category, as far as I’m concerned;

Illustrations for advertising are often (heavily) manipulated. Images are “constructed” to illustrate a point.

Manipulation on the scale of my example here is clearly not an attempt to fool the observer into believing something that isn’t true, and is therefore ethically acceptable, in my opinion. I didn’t go into outer-space, become a huge J-cloth wielding God and attempt to polish our planet, honest.

My starting image was from the NASA website, where they kindly provide copyright-free images of this kind.

The moon wasn’t needed in this montage, so I removed that and extended the area of black, to the left of the image, to accommodate the text at a later stage.

Next I photographed my arm/hand holding the yellow duster. I used a black background for ease of selection and separation later.

This was then selected. I created a copied-layer and changed it to Black & White, boosting the contrast. Then I made the selection using the magic-wand tool and tidied up with the polygonal selection tool, adding and subtracting where necessary to achieve an acceptable selection. I could have used a layer-mask but with the background being black it was fairly straightforward to do it this way. After selecting the original (colour) layer I then deleted the B/W layer and then the selected background part of the image was also removed.

This selection was then introduced to the image of the Earth. . . . .

. . . . . . and dragged into position.

I then added a little drop-shadow to create a bit of separation, ensuring the light source was coming from the same direction as in the image.

Next, the two parts of the image needed to have the same colour/contrast, the same “look & feel”, so I copied each layer, added some Gaussian blur, changed the blending mode to “overlay” and reduced the opacity of the blurred layer. The same treatment to each section of the image equalizes their tone.

The text added . . . . .

. . . . . . and given a little “Fx” treatment, along with a little stary “glint”, Job Done!