Oxford School of Photography

insights into photography

Monthly Archives: July 2013

Light of Faith

brighten up your day with these images from the Great Steve


So if you follow us regularly you will know that our man in Damascus, John Wreford is now our man in Istanbul. In this article with  he tells us something about his life in Damascus before he was able to leave and about where he needs to be now.

….[It started when] I was about to leave for a short trip for Cairo. I have residency in Syria, and to leave you have to get an exit visa. When I went to the immigration office to do it, I discovered my name was on the computer. In Syria, that’s a euphemism for being wanted by the secret police. I spent the next three months trying to leave.

Eventually, I got permission. It’s ridiculous, these lists. They didn’t tell me what it was. One suspects that they were worried I was working as an undercover journalist. They gave me permission to leave, and according to the stamp in my passport, it allows me to go back. But there’s a big risk. You need little excuse these days to lock someone up. The handful of foreigners still left in Damascus are all having trouble……..

R&K: And Istanbul is now full of your Syrian friends?

JW: Yes. It’s actually quite amusing. I lived in the old city of Damascus, and I had a small photo gallery, with a friend, in the touristy area. I knew everyone. As the war went on, a lot of them left, and it was all new faces in my neighborhood. But a lot of the people working in the tourist industry, selling carpets and so on, they’ve all come here to Istanbul. When I arrived here, it was just like walking around old Damascus, saying hi to all the old familiar faces……..

JON_219509©John Wreford

…..JW: For the last two years I lived in Syria, I’ve not been able to photograph anything, and this of course is frustrating. As a photographer, as a journalist, Syria is something personal. If my situation had been different, I would’ve done it differently. I would’ve come in through the north and photographed the Free Syrian Army.

But I was already in Damascus, and I felt it important to stay, to understand what was going on, to be part of it. The media has often gotten it very wrong, or just not reported things. There’s a lack of attention paid to ordinary Syrian people living their lives.

As a photographer, the most natural thing would be to photograph the most dramatic fighting. But living there, I feel like it’s a small part of the story. It’s important and integral, but it’s not the whole story…..

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 14.33.41©John Wreford

R&K: We’ve been reading a lot about the fall of Homs and the government’s new momentum. Are people worried they’ve lost?

JW: This is my issue with the media. It always needs a new headline. At the beginning of war, there was a lot of attention on refugees, and then it just stopped. It was the same at the beginning of the Iraq war: attention at first, but two years later nobody cared. But after two years of being a refugee, the story is considerably worse.

But of course the media needs to move on to something different. With Syria, you have the taking of a town, the back and forth of the opposition and the regime, the changing face of the opposition and so on. For the Syrians, though, it doesn’t really affect them……..

Read all of this interview with John Wreford here


Conflict Photography Workshop

One area of photography that we over here at OSP Towers have no experience in is conflict or more accurately war photography and I honestly hope we never will gain that experience. So we can’t teach a course in staying alive (cue Bee Gees) but there is such a workshop running and here are the details

The main aim of Conflict Photography Workshop is to familiarize the participants who may be considering going to work in hostile environments, specifically war zones with the various threats they may encounter and to educate them on how do deal with these dangers and to work with a higher degree of safety and security.

No professional soldier is sent to war without extensive training. Photographers who operate in exactly the same battle space without any training, experience or proper preparation put themselves in increased danger and potentially put others around them at risk also.

Even basic training and forward planning can minimize the risks hugely.

Instances of extreme danger often last only seconds or minutes and can arrive without warning. Ones chances of surviving are multiplied if one has already properly prepared themselves for the danger and has a preplanned course of action ready.

The team of instructors have a combined experience of more than 60 years spent working in many of the most dangerous places on earth including Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Chechnya, Syria etc… Not only has their work appeared in every major publication in the world and they have received numerous awards for the work including multiple World Press, POYi and the Pulitzer but most importantly they also have real time, first hand knowledge of dealing with the multiple threats and extreme risk associated with working in these war zones. 

Over six days participants will receive both theoretical and practical training in everything from Battle Field First Aid Drills and IED awareness through to editing, captioning and ethical behavior as well as how to work, survive and maintain themselves and their equipment in the field whilst covering combat operations. 

This workshop will not ‘qualify’ you to work in a conflict zone nor are we actively encouraging people to enter dangerous situations but we do guarantee that by the end of this unique course you will be far better equipped and prepared for doing so.


Further information here


Eye Witness

The Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens

Here is a novelty, but at $500 an expensive one. This is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor with a kickstarter (Kickstarter is a new way to fund creative projects. We’re a home for everything from films, games, and music to art, design, and technology. Kickstarter is full of projects, big and small, that are brought to life through the direct support of people like you. Since our launch in 2009, more than 4.5 million people have pledged over $718 million, funding more than 45,000 creative projects. Thousands of creative projects are raising funds on Kickstarter right now.)


The Lomography Petzval Lens attached to analogue Canon and Nikon SLRs.

In the 19th Century, the vast majority of photos were shot with the extremely popular Petzval lens. The lens was invented by Joseph Petzval in Vienna in 1840 and had a huge impact on the development of photography. Photos shot with a Petzval lens are immediately recognizable for their sharpness and crispness, strong color saturation, wonderful swirly bokeh effect, artful vignettes and narrow depth of field. The totally distinctive look of Petzval photos is all about the fantastic lens design that gives you the satisfaction of the instant optic experience that goes far beyond using photo editing software and filters.

For this Kickstarter project, we are reinventing the Petzval Lens for 21st century photographers and videographers. It doesn’t matter whether you shoot analog or digital; the brand new Lomography Petzval Portrait Lens is designed to work withCanon EF and Nikon F mount cameras. So, for the first time, you can easily get the fantastic Petzval photographic look with 35mm analog cameras and DSLR cameras too. This will bring with it a whole new world of possibilities; from shooting Petzval photos with your 35mm SLR or DSLR, to creating amazing DSLR movies with the lens!

The Petzval Portrait Lens is a high-quality glass optic; it’s a must-have lens for anyone looking to enhance their creative potential and turn every photo into a timeless artwork.

Expected delivery date of the lenses is on February 2014. However, we are confident to have the first 1000 lenses shipped out by December 2013.

The Story of The Original Petzval Lens

When the original Daguerre & Giroux Camera was introduced in 1839, it used a lens designed by Charles Chevalier. This camera marked the very beginning of modern analog photography and was of fundamental importance. But Chevalier’s lens had several problems. It had a slow, small aperture of f/15; this meant that even in bright sunlight, exposures could take 10 minutes or more.

Joseph Petzval was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Vienna and worked on a rival lens design which was introduced in 1840 (by the way, as well as being the place where Petzval lived, Vienna is the home of Lomography!). At f/3.6, Petzval’s large aperture design was about 20 times faster than the Chevalier lens and produced photographs which were extremely sharp at the focused area.

Obviously, the original Petzval lens was designed in order to work with the cameras manufactured in the 19th century. Most of these cameras were large-format analog cameras. It’s extremely hard to find a Petzval lens today which works easily with smaller format cameras. The new Lomography Petzval Portrait lens changes all this and allows you to enjoy the magic of the Petzval lens optic using your analog or digital SLR camera.




Another batch of tutorials, links and tips




©William Eggleston

From Toad Hollow via Lightstalking we bring you a whole basket of useful links

Things in the world of photography have never been so exciting!  Another terrific week rolls by us here and Toad Hollow Photography has been busy curating a fresh list of links to tutorials, reviews, special features, collections, great photography and really interesting blogs to share.  There’s definitely a little something here for everyone, taking a wide look at all that’s gone on this past week.  We really hope you enjoy seeing the pictures created by some of the most talented artists out there, as well as the feature articles shared here by the Toad.  Toad Hollow Photography I am a fine arts photographer that specializes in HDR techniques. Please feel free to visit our Limited Edition Prints site, our Online Gallery or our lively Photoblog.


Macro Flower Photography Tips for Eye-Catching Photos – this brief article discusses some key points for capturing flowers close-up using macro techniques.  The techniques talked about are illustrated with some really great shots helping the viewer to visualize some of the results.

Exposure Guide Infographic: Road to Exposure – a set of three infographics posted on Dakota Visions Photography’s site visually shows the reader the relationship between the holy trinity of photography settings; ISO, shutter speed and aperture.  The relationship between these technical elements is directly related to the results produced and this brief and simple article helps to remove some of the mystery regarding these key issues.

The HDR Panorama Workflow – whether you’ve got a minute or an hour, this presentation is sure to share something with you.  This one minute and fifteen second video shows master artist Martin Perhiniak as he goes about creating a stunning HDR panorama.  This quick presentation is sure to show even the most seasoned veterans something interesting about post-processing, and for those looking for more, you could probably step through it frame by frame to pull out all the details.


Fstoppers Reviews The Rokinon 24mm f/3.5 Tilt-Shift Lens – if you’re looking to get into the tilt-shift game in photography but have been held back by the price tags for lenses, this article discusses a new lens that is significantly cheaper than the Canon and Nikon equivalents.  Mike Kelley goes into great detail with his review, including a batch of sample photographs that do a terrific job of illustrating key points…….




How to Get Genuine Feedback On Your Photographs

In many of our courses we set up a blog site where students upload their assignment images. This is to allow us to see progress but also to enable the students in a particular group to interact and comment on each others’ pictures. This is universally seen as a really good process, everyone wants feedback and getting it from your peers who understand what you are trying to achieve is hugely valuable. There are many online sites where you can upload your pictures for comment but these often become very anodyne and the process is one of mutual back slapping. The nice people at Lightstalking have also recognised this as a problem and have introduced The Shark Tank, the name is much scarier than the experience. Once a member of Lightstalking, which is free, you can upload your pictures for constructive criticism, I have looked at the early images and commenters and it is hardly a Shark Tank but I am sure it is useful. Here is what they say about the Shark Tank

When you start getting into photography, it’s very easy to get swept up in the awesomeness and friendliness of the online photography community. People love sharing photos online in places like Flickr and 500px, commenting on websites about how much they love each other’s photographs and getting that instant satisfaction that community and encouragement brings. And that is great.

But there’s also a slight problem with how this has evolved. You see, online there is a very strong convention steeped in manners and not offending people that is very easy to see reflected in photography communities. In many cases, this is a necessary thing to avoid communities devolving into a home to online sociopaths and trolling. And that’s fair enough, but it makes it difficult to get genuine feedback on your photography……

Welcome to the Shark Tank

It’s a problem we have been thinking about for a while at Light Stalking and this is what we have come up with.

We have built a specific sub-forum in Light Stalking called The Shark Tank.

Here’s how it’s going to be:

  1. Only Constructive Negative Feedback Is Allowed – This forum is ONLY for constructive negative feedback. All positive comments will be deleted (see the note below).
  2. A Spirit of Camaraderie and Humour is Essential – We’re all in this together and things can obviously easily get heated if we don’t all approach it in the spirit in which it was intended. Reading this forum with a smile on your face is highly recommended!
  3. A Thick Skin is Essential – It can be tough hearing negative feedback about your images. But remember, we are restricting people – they are NOT ALLOWED to post positive feedback so do not take their negative critique personally. Take their feedback in the friendly manner it is intended.
  4. Give to Receive – If you want critiques on your own photographs, make sure you offer your constructive ideas on other people’s work too.  
  5. You would benefit from seeing images and reading comments but you would get much more out of the process by getting involved so go and have a look.

Click Here: How to Get Genuine Feedback On Your Photographs

Hot shots: FreshFaced and WildEyed photography – in pictures

From dog gymkhanas to Tahrir Square protesters, a major exhibition in London showcases the best rising talent in the field of photography every year – and here’s the pick of the bunch

For more, visit the Photographers’ Gallery until 21 July 2013

Nicolas Feldmeyer, After All, 2012

Nicolas Feldmeyer: After All, 2012Photograph:

Lorna Evans


Lorna Evans: Dog Jumping, 2012

Daniel Mayrit

Daniel Mayrit: An Encounter, 2012

Jolanta Dolewska, Holding, 2012

Jolanta Dolewska: Holding, 2012

See more here

Double exposure: photography’s biggest ever show comes back to life

From The Guardian we learn about the resurrection of The Family of Man exhibition. Giovanna Dunmall writes:

The Family of Man, a groundbreaking post-war exhibition seen by more than 10 million people, reopens in Luxembourg

In 1955, Edward Steichen changed the world of photography forever. When the visionary curator and photographer decided to mount an exhibition to promote world peace and equality after two world wars, he was breaking the mould. He gathered 503 photographs of people from around the world, taken by 273 different (often unknown) photographers, and grouped them by theme. That exhibition, The Family of Man, opened in January 1955 at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where the Luxembourg-born Steichen was director of photography from 1947 to 1961. It went on to tour the world and become the most successful photography exhibition of all time – more than 10 million people have seen it. It will go back on show this weekend in a castle in Luxembourg, after renovation work that has taken three years.

Family of Man changed the way we view photographs today, and how we think about exhibitions,” says Anke Reitz, conservator of The Family of Man in Luxembourg, where the collection has been since 1994. “It is a milestone in the history of photography.” Steichen chose images grouped by themes intended to be so universal that anyone in any culture could identify with them: birth, fathers and sons, mothers and children, education, love, work, death and religion. The images were hung in particular formations, some dangling from wires overhead or attached to poles. The birth photos were arranged inside an intimate circular structure, while theatrical lighting created further drama and atmosphere. Steichen hung the photos without captions. “The exhibition was meant to be understood around the world without the need for words,” says Reitz.  .…Read more

Family of Man

Universal message … Garry Winogrand shot of Coney Island bathers, New York, 1952, from Edward Steichen’s groundbreaking exhibition, The Family of Man. Photograph: Fraenkel Gallery/Garry Winogrand

Family Matters