2 Getting Up

Some people need help with the most basic functions.


The purpose of this photo is to show that even the most basic of human functions can be difficult for some people. Help is needed not just with getting on and off the toilet but also sometimes medication is needed.

I wanted to show the aid that is used to help people on and off the WC. I know that this is not a promising subject for a photo but everyday objects and scenes have made successful photos (by William Eggleston for example).

I thought that to have an impact it needed to almost fill the frame and not be shown as part of the bathroom along with the basin etc. The natural light was coming from a window in the wall behind the WC which made it difficult to use that as a lighting source, so I thought it best to use a flashgun which I set on a tripod to the left of the camera position. I experimented with different positions for the flashgun using it both with a diffuser pointing at the subject as well as pointing it at the ceiling to bounce the light off. I preferred the results that came from using the flash to the side of the camera as I think that the shadows created add a little to the composition.

Knowing that the toilet suite was blue I wanted a differently coloured object to signify the medical assistance that is sometimes needed to help with using the toilet. I used a box of medicine that was orange and which provided a complementary colour to the blue of the pedestal and the wall tiles. I tried placing the box in different positions within the frame, but it seemed to work best when placed on top of the cistern in the centre. It believe that it adds a focussing point for the attention when viewing the image

In my Learning Log I had commented on photos shown in the May 2012 edition of the British Journal of Photography taken by Julian Baron. He deliberately overexposed his images of politicians as a comment on their relevance (or otherwise!). Although I would be doing it for a different reason, I thought that it would be interesting to try overexposure – ‘washed out’ could be a good description for a bathroom – for this image, it would make it seem a bit more clinical and make it a bit less like a normal, routine, function.

I deliberately overexposed some images by setting the flashgun to a higher setting than required. I think that this adds a slightly surreal effect to the picture and makes it seem a little out of the ordinary, which for some disabled people the whole process is.

My intention in this photo was to suggest that some people need help with the most basic of human functions – even these can be a struggle.

Technical alternatives

I chose to use a flashgun to light this shot as it is easily portable. Using it off camera on a tripod meant that I could create the shadows that I think add to the image. I did try using bounced flash to give more even lighting, but I think the side lighting is more successful.

I chose to use my 35mm lens as the size of the bathroom restricted the lens that I could use – a longer focal length and I would not have been able to include the whole of the toilet in the frame. I could have used my 18-55mm zoom lens but as the 35mm gave the framing that I wanted, then I prefer to use a prime lens rather than zoom.

Technical information

Lens: VR 35mm F/1.8G

Focal Length: 35mm

Aperture: F/11

Shutter Speed: 1/125s

Exposure Mode: Manual

Flash gun: Nikon SB700

No adjustments have been made to the image.


How could this image be improved?

Perhaps I could have made more of the items surrounding the pedestal (the spare toilet roll, brush etc.) and arranged them more carefully rather than just leaving them where they happened to be.

What have I learned from taking this photograph?

I had wireless triggers for my studio flash, but this was the first time that I had used them with a flashgun. Taking the flash off camera and mounting it on a tripod opened up new possibilities for lighting the scene and enabled me to use side lighting for this photograph.

1 Cover Photo

This is a story of the difficulties faced by elderly and disabled people in their everyday life.


I wanted to start with a still life showing the things that were important to my elderly relatives or have influenced their life, but that also gave a sense of time passing and mortality. My initial list of things to include was ‘medicines, disability, fruit, clock, calendar, books’. To be set on a natural wooden background with strong side lighting to suggest a setting sun.

I decided to look through previous images, mostly paintings, which included some of the above topics. I searched Google Images for still life, fruit, book and found several images that I thought attractive. I particularly liked an image by an artist called Fred Marsh that is titled ‘Kettle, Books and Fruit’.


I decided to try to create my own version of this image, not a straight copy of the painting, but an image based upon it.

I replaced the kettle with a globe to signify the international nature of my family (my father in law was born in India, my wife in Pakistan). It also signifies the passing of time as in the earth turning on its axis every 24 hours. In some of the early photos I took I tried spinning the globe before firing the camera shutter to give a slightly blurred effect to signify the passing of time.

I kept the apple and grapes from the original painting but substituted an orange and banana for the pears. Fruit has long been used in Western Art to symbolise mortality and that is my intention here, the inclusion of the very ripe banana in particular. The books I chose to use tell something of the story to follow –my father in law had been diagnosed with dementia and over the period in which I was producing this assignment we were researching the various care options for him. The title of the upright book demonstrates this. Both my father and mother in law are disabled and the parking permit has been included to signify this. The books on the art of India and the specular reflection on the globe next to Pakistan are intended to reflect the international nature of my family and the people affected by this story. Medicines seem to take up an inordinate amount of time  and importance in my relatives’ daily life, so the medicine boxes are included in the centre of the still life arrangement.

I tried arranging the cloth on which the still life rests in the same way as in the painting, i.e. forming a V shape on the table, but I could not get the same effect as in the painting. Instead I used the sheet to cover the whole of the table.

I arranged the apple, clementine and grapes to form a triangle near the centre of the image. I tried to achieve a similar effect with the book on Dementia and the disabled permit, with the book and permit receding into the scene so that the triangle is formed on the top of the art book on which they are standing.

I liked the lighting effect of the original painting and wanted to produce something similar, so that it looked like late evening light. To achieve this I used a studio flash head at about 45 degrees from the camera position and slightly above the level of the still life scene. I adjusted the position of the light so that the shadow of the globe was cast just where I wanted it, not overlapping the book. The angle of the light is intended to signify the end of the day and to enhance this effect I used a bastard amber gel over the flash to give the colour of evening light. To keep the shadows sharp and give a bit of fall off of light on the edges of the scene I fitted the flash head with a snoot.

My intention in this photo is to suggest;

·         Passage of time

·         Mortality

·         Disability (physical and mental)

·         Medication

·         Nationality

Technical alternatives

Although there was a slight blur when I spun the globe, the fact that I was using flash meant that I could not have achieved a very blurred effect as the flash would freeze movement. I could have used available light with a slower shutter speed. This would have given a greater impression of the passing of time (the earth turning on its axis) but this would have been at the expense of my highlighting India/Pakistan with the positioning of the reflection on the globe. I might also have found it difficult placing the shadow of the globe exactly where I wanted and achieving the effect of the evening light.

Technical information

Lens:                            VR 18-55 F/3.5-5.6G

Focal Length:               22mm

Aperture:                     F/11

Shutter Speed:1/100s

Exposure Mode:          Manual


No adjustments have been made to the image.


How could this image be improved?

I am very pleased with the final image; I would have liked to recreate the V-shape of the table cloth as used in the original painting. Were I to take the photo again I’m not sure that I would use a pink cloth on the table, perhaps a thicker, plainer cloth would be better.


What have I learned from taking this photograph?

This was my first real attempt to tell a story within a single photo and I learnt a lot from it, not least how useful it can be to research an existing image that you like and then produce your own version of it.

Choice of topic–final thoughts on images to create

  1. Cover photo – Still life showing all the things important to life, but also sense of time passing and of mortality. To include medicines, disabled pass, fruit, clock/calendar. On natural wooden background with strong sidelight to suggest setting sun
  2. Morning 1st thing – Want a bleak, simple shot that shows how even the most basic of human functions can be difficult and need assistance. No distraction, a straightforward photo of the WC and chair – perhaps using flash as it is indoors or available light. Maybe flash will be best to give the most ‘clinical’ feel to the image.
  3. Breakfast – to emphasise the importance of medicines. A plateful of pills with toast, butter, jam, coffee, etc., out of focus in the background. Studio lighting or available light.
  4. Morning Read – to show what is important to people – the newspaper, but with references to medicines and dementia interspersed or newspaper articles on dementia, old age, disability – claim forms for benefits, medicine information sheets together with aids – spectacles and magnifying glass. Available light.
  5. Lunch – To show difficulty eating. Meals on wheels discontinued – ready meal no a plate – to emphasise the difficulty/bleakness. Show tinfoil meal on plate – if possible with newspaper article about meals on wheels cuts just out of focus behind. Carton/sleeve of meal just out of focus also. Medicine container next to plate. Special knife and fork if available.. Diffused studio light.
  6. Afternoon stroll – the things needed to get about the house – photo of walking stick or walking frame but close up of hand on the stick. Natural light indoors or out
  7. Cake or biscuit – surrounded by family photos showing importance of support. get well or other cards. Or spoonful of medicines as seen on Taking the Medicine library book..
  8. TV time – arm holding remote – TV beyond – how even things we all take for granted are essential to everyday life for some – other aids in room e.g. walking stick or frame but TV in frame but out of focus. Use flash.
  9. Bed time – stairlift – long exposure to show stairlift going up but blurred due to time exposure – available light? rear curtain flash?
  10. the people – one person on invalid scooter in front of house. Twilight but with flash used to highlight person and leave background a bit darker.

Choice of topic second thoughts

Front page – still life

  1. Breakfast – Plate with pills
  2. Morning read – newspapers, books, medicines leaflet, magnifying glass
  3. lunch – Meals on wheels now withdrawn – ready meal
  4. afternoon – walking aids – walking stick, frame, disabled pass
  5. Evening meal – pill box and cake?
  6. TV time – remote and chair remote
  7. Bed time – stair lift
  8. the people

Emphasis on the aids needed/available, maybe parts of people in the frame but don’t reveal the person until the end. This keeps it focussed on the aids to everyday life – but in last shot personalise it.

Choice of topic first thoughts

The day in the life seems to give the best scope for doing something a bit different, a bit more creative. Showing the difficulty of everyday life and the aids needed to get through it. Something along the lines of:

  1. cover. A still life with books, fruit and magazines
  2. Bathroom (mobility aids). Help getting up, WC with chair and medicines
  3. Coming downstairs – stairlift
  4. Sorting out the medicines – hand and pills
  5. Breakfast – food and pills
  6. Reading the paper or magazine – Magnifying glass, glasses and paper
  7. Lunch – meals on wheels being delivered
  8. Watching TV over the shoulder
  9. Tea – and pills
  10. Watching TV – holding remote
  11. Bed – pills
  12. The people – outside shot

Initial Thoughts on what Topic to Cover

My initial thoughts on possible subjects for the final assignment

  1. An event, such as during the literature festival
  2. A day in the life, of older relatives
  3. Recipe, illustrating hot to cook/bake something
  4. Places I have lived – previous homes/neighbourhoods
  5. Photos to illustrate a poem

Exercise; Rain

I had to imagine a magazine cover on none subject – rain. I had to produce a single, strong, attractive photo on the subject.

There has been plenty of opportunity to photograph rain these last few months! I considered all sorts of ways of photographing rain (one of my favourite photos of rain was the winner in a competition run by the bank First Direct – http://discover.firstdirect.com/competition/ ).

I took my camera out with me on dog walks in the rain as well as thinking of more abstract concepts or setting up a scene with a hose and sprinkler.

My favourite image was taken on a wet dog walk on Christmas Day.


I was struck by the complementary colour combination of the yellow lines and purple bottle and the arrangement of leaves on the grating.

What have I learnt from this exercise? There has been no shortage of rain these last few months, but thinking up ways to portray it is not all that easy. I think the message from this photo is to take a camera everywhere as you never know what might crop up!

Exercise; Juxtaposition

For this exercise I needed to take a photograph that could be used as a book cover and which illustrates juxtaposition.

I started by thinking of as many book titles as I could and how I could use juxtaposition to illustrate it.

I settled on A Christmas Carol and as the Christmas decorations were just being put away I thought I could use one of them.

One of our glass candle holders has a painted winter scene on it so I placed this on top of the music for Good King Wenceslas. I tried different framing and also experimented with rear curtain flash on very low power. The flash gave better illumination to the sheet music, but I think that the best image is from the candle light alone.

I added the book title in photoshop.


What have I learned from this exercise? I found that by the time i did this exercise I was hardly thinking of the technicalities of the photo, they seemed to come by instinct. I spent far more time thinking of book titles and how to illustrate them – it was also great fun!

Context and Narrative

Learning Points from Basics Creative Photography 02; Context and Narrative, Maria Short, Ava Publishing, Lausanne, 2011.

“Context can be described as the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement or idea. In photography the word context can relate to the contents of the photograph, its placement in relation to words or other images…”

“The word narrative means a spoken or written account of connected events, a story that can convey an idea, narrative techniques can be employed to build and develop the story, hold the attention of the audience and enable them to relate in some way to the story and its intention. A story told through photography can exist as a single stand-alone image or as a series or set of images. Therefore, the context and narrative of a photograph can work in a variety of ways to enable effective visual communication.”

“Communicating intention – key questions:

  • Do you actually need to photograph the subject itself; can you communicate your intention by referring to, implying or photographing around it?
  • If photographing the subject itself, ask yourself how important is location, time of day, quality of light, equipment and materials in relation to the concept.
  • What do you need, or want, to show and share with your audience and how are you going to do that?

Exercise; Symbols

The idea of this exercise is to find symbols for a number of concepts.



Possible symbols: Plant growing, Measuring chart or ruler

One of the photos I took for the elements of design course would perhaps be suitable as a symbol for growth


The height chart used for measuring children could be used in a photo to signify growth, particularly if it has been marked to show increases in height.



Possible symbols; An overflowing glass, a plate piled high with fatty foods

A photo of the plate piled high with fatty foods could be used in an obesity prevention poster!



Possible symbols; Handcuffs, broken glass

The handcuffs could be used in a still life photo to indicate criminality. The broken glass could be from a house or car window to indicate that there has been a break-in.



Possible symbols; Finger placed against lips, a pin dropping

A photograph of a pin dropping could be used to signify silence (as in it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop).



Possible symbols; empty purse with a few pennies in front, a bank statement all in red ink

The photograph of the empty purse could signify poverty, particularly if a few odd pennies were scattered in front of it as if they had just been shaken out.


What have I learned from this exercise? It is very interesting to think how you can express abstract concepts, this is good practice for the assignment in this part of the course.