Oxford School of Photography

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Monthly Archives: April 2014

Magic In The Middle Kingdom: Michael Steverson

On the fabulous Faded+Blurred we find this article


China has always seemed like a fascinating place to me, both for the exotic culture as well as the chance to capture images that are unlike anything I’ve ever photographed before. For the past 8 years, documentary photographer Michael Steverson has been living and working in China’s Southern Guangxi Province, photographing the wonderful contrasts that exist in a country with feet planted firmly in both a more traditional rural way of life as well as the urban landscape of progress. His portfolio is filled with the wonderful colors, textures and faces that populate the Middle Kingdom.



You can see more of this series and other pictures by Michael Steverson here

What Are The Ethics of Digital Manipulation in Photography?

No there is no answer and we keep returning to this debate because it is at the core or image making in the 21st century. We have reported and commented on it a number of times in this blog here was the last, and this from a couple of months ago

Lightstalking has an article on this and interestingly fronts it up with the image of the Cottingley Fairies


As Jason Little says:

From the moment we’re old enough to play games with other children, we’re told that cheating is bad. The same principle follows us throughout the rest of our lives, but as we grow it takes on far greater implications and applies to so many more situations than a simple schoolyard game of hide-and-seek, hopefully exhibiting itself in personal, academic, professional, economic, and all other aspects of life.

Because no one likes cheaters and liars, of course.

The Case of the Cottingley Fairies

In 1917, two young girls age 16 and 10, residents of Cottingley, England, made the first of an eventual five photographs that showed Frances, the younger of the two cousins, posing delicately amongst a quartet of fairies.

Yes, fairies. Like Tinkerbell.

The girls claimed to have seen the fairies down by the stream where they often played. And for anyone who scoffed at their assertion, they had photographic proof to offer. It didn’t take long for the cousins’ astonishing photos to reach the rest of the world; some looked upon the portraits with nothing but disbelief, while others believed the images to be real. Chief among the believers was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes, and avid spiritualist who was convinced the girls’ photos were legitimate evidence of psychic phenomena.

Even if you have never previously heard of this affair, you can probably guess with reasonable certainty where it’s all headed. Frances’ and Elsie’s photographed were eventually revealed as fakes, with the fairies being nothing more than cardboard cutouts that had been pinned to the girls’ surroundings in a variety of creative ways……….

However, if your intent is to create fiction, then do whatever you want, just be sure that your motives are clear to your audience. Only when a photographer presents his or her work with the intent to deceive should we call into question their professional/artistic integrity — their ethics.

We all know fairies aren’t real. The idea that there is a universal set of rules or an objective reality to which artists must adhere at all times is just as much of a myth. Do what makes you happy, yes; but also make sure you can proudly stand by the merits of your work as well.

Big question what do you think, read the rest of the article here and have your say

Photography Oxford Festival

You may already be aware of the planned festival of photography to be held biennially in Oxford, this year is the inaugural year so expect the next in 2016. Here is what they say about their plans

Photography Oxford was established in the Spring of 2013 to deliver biennial festivals of international photography in Oxford. Its founder and director is the photojournalist Robin Laurance . The first festival takes place over three weeks in the autumn of 2014.
The festivals, exhibitions of the work of leading photographers complemented by talks, panel discussions, films and workshops, will increase the opportunity for regional audiences to engage with world class photography. Importantly, it is the intention of the Photography Oxford team that Oxford becomes the place not only to celebrate photography but also where the many issues surrounding photography at the beginning of this 21st century are discussed and debated.

Welcome and thank you for coming to the web site of

If you enjoy taking photographs and enjoy looking at photographs, and if you have ever stopped to consider how photography informs our daily lives and influences the way we see the world, then you have come to the right place. In 2014 Oxford will be a world class city for photography when PHOTOGRAPHY OXFORD launches the first major new photography festival in the UK for many years.
The 2014 event, which will run for three weeks from September 14th to October 5th, will be the first of a series of biennial festivals. Our festivals will bring together the best photography from around the world, featuring all the photographic genres from fine art to the edgy realism of photojournalism. Engage with the festivals and you will be entertained, informed and amazed.

The free exhibitions will be complemented by talks, debates, workshops and films. And for those who want to pit their skills against the professionals there will be an opportunity to do just that through a project open to all-comers.


There is a range of exhibitions, talks, films and other activities, you can find details at their website or follow them on Facebook

The Grace Of Nuance: Dan Winters

Another helping from the excellent Faded + Blurred, this time the wonderful portraits by Dan Winters

Some people might say that Dan Winters has an amazing photographic style, that you can tell at first glance if he took a particular photograph. His signature lighting style, the red and green tones he uses and the dramatic expressions he gets from his subjects are all part of how he shoots. He would say it is more of a sensibility than a style, however, saying that a style relates more to the technique and materials used. A sensibility would be what you bring to every shoot no matter where it is or what tools you use. Whether you call it a style or a sensibility, though, you can’t deny Dan Winters is an artist.

I found Dan Winters’ work fairly recently. I think the first image I saw of his was his portrait of Tupac Shakur. Even though Tupac wasn’t looking into the camera, I found the image mesmerizing. Image after image in Winters’ portfolio captivated me. Though he is well known as a celebrity photographer, his portraits of “regular people” are every bit as engaging and are treated with the same level of care and reverence, a word Winters uses often to describe his work. “I like the word reverent for portraits”, he says “and I think we need more of that reverence for people and for their own experience and their own path and the way that they’re represented.” Though I am not a portrait photographer, if I were, I would love to be able to take the kind of portraits that Dan Winters takes; portraits you can get lost in. I love that Winters avoids the stereotypical “look at me, I’m famous” celebrity portrait. Rather, he tries to do something purposeful, something unique. Whether he’s catching Stevie Wonder without his glasses or carrying Sandra Bullock on his shoulders to place her in a tide pool or capturing Brad Pitt playing Rock Band. Each photograph reflects not only the time and effort he puts in, but also his profound love of the creative process. With his years of experience it would be easy for him to just stick with what he knows and make every shot the same, but he takes each portrait assignment as a very personal challenge…..READ MORE





dan-winters-05bMore to see and read here


How to Jumpstart Your Photography With Self Assignments

From down under and Lightstalking we find this sound advice. During our most advanced course, Intermediate Photography, we recommend working to themes or assignments so this article is like music to our ears

As photographers who wish to improve our art, chances are we always looking for opportunities to practice our craft. The problem is, our practice sessions are not always very educational. While we may have the best intentions, without a little planning, we may not be getting everything we could be from our time spent behind the camera. Whether you’re purely a hobbyist, an up and coming professional, or a seasoned expert, supplementing your craft with self assignments is a great way to augment your skills.

A self assignment is just as it sounds, an assignment created by you and assigned to yourself. Depending on your level of expertise and what style of photography you enjoy doing, the actual scope of the assignment will vary greatly. For example, a novice photographer will most likely have different goals than a full time professional.

Self Assignments For The Hobbyist Photographer

If you’re just getting started in photography, you don’t want to overdo it by asking too much of yourself right from the get go. Like anything, when you try rushing your education, you start cutting corners and missing things. At this stage of the game, it’s critical that you take your time and understand the fundamentals as you are building the foundation for the rest of your career as a photographer.

For hobbyists or novice photographers, a self assignment should be about getting you to think critically about how you are going to go about taking a photograph. It should have you thinking about the workflow of your practice time. Give yourself a project that falls within the realm of your interests–food photography, fashion, portraiture, whatever it is that you enjoy photographing. READ MORE


by Pixel Addict, on Flickr


Sublimely Mundane: Uta Barth

On the ever interesting Faded+Blurred I found this for you, you will either get it or you won’t



At first glance, the photographs of Uta Barth may not make much of an impact on you – then again, you may find them to be utterly compelling abstractions of color, form and texture. Since first discovering her work a couple years ago, I have found myself to be in the latter category. I am fascinated by her work, much in the same way I am by the work of people like Mark Rothko or even some of the work of Willem de Kooning from the 1940s – it’s the lack of any concrete Something that I find interesting, though Barth is really the only photographer that I can point to that affects me in the same way as the aforementioned painters. Bill and I discussed her on an episode of On Taking Pictures as part of a larger discussion around what does and does not constitute photography. While her work may be easy for some to dismiss, it is exactly the deceptive simplicity of the work that gives the photographs their strength – challenging the viewer to immerse themselves in their own perception to fully engage with them.

“My work is always first and foremost about perception.” – Uta Barth

In 2012, Uta Barth became a MacArthur Fellow, which is a prize awarded annually by the MacArthur Foundation to those individuals who “show exceptional merit and promise for continued and enhanced creative work. Fellows each receive a no-strings-attached stipend of $500,000 (raised to $625,000 in 2013) that is paid out over five years. Past winners have included artists, writers, biologists, economists, composers and in 2011, Jad Abumrad, the co-host ofRadiolab, one of my favorite podcasts. For more than 14 years, Barth has used the internal environment of her home as her exclusive source of inspiration and subject matter. “If I am interested in light and perception and this visual acuity to the mundane, fleeting, ephemeral everyday kind of information,” she says, “there’s no point in me going out to seek that out.”



Read more on this article here

Amazing Photography Links to Read With a Coffee

I am not sure the coffee is the pertinent part here, if you prefer tea or a beer that would be OK too.

Those nice people at Lightstalking bring this collection of tutorials and reviews from those equally nice people at Toad Hollow Photography

It has been a fabulous week online in the world of photography, and Toad Hollow Photography has been very busy searching for the best links to tutorials, reviews, special features, collections, great photography and interesting blogs to share here with everyone.  This week’s list contains some great posts and images, and we hope you enjoying checking out these links from these very talented folks as much as the Toad did in bringing this list to you.

bill-brandt-34-288x350This is a favourite Bill Brandt picture and has little to do with the wonderful tutorials brought by Toad Hollow Photography

Here is a taste of the tutorials:


Rules for Perfect Lighting: Understanding The Inverse-Square Law – this is a very detailed and highly technical article that goes into great depth in discussing this important theory behind light.  Bits of the article may be lost on those who don’t possess a deeply mathematical background, but the overall post will produce a deeper understanding for the reader, no matter your background or education.

How to Photograph Lightning, From Start to Finish – a detailed and in-depth article that takes the reader from start to finish on the hunt for great lightning photography.  Each nuance of the practice is discussed, from safety issues in the field to how to capture the shot to post-processing techniques to really make the image pop.

The Importance of a Focal Point in Photo Compositions – this is a great tutorial discussing in pretty good detail the importance and use of a focal point in image creation.  This brief series of points will expand the horizon for most who read it, helping you to take your photography to the next level.

How Camera Angle Affects Body Shape – this brief tutorial discusses camera angle and it’s importance in composition when shooting people.  Great shots accompany the article, illustrating quite nicely the points being shared and discussed.

Best compact system camera: 5 premium CSCs tested and rated

From those good ol’ boys at Digital Camera World

Want a small camera that’s big on performance? We compare five of the best compact system cameras on the market.

 Nobody really enjoys being burdened by the weight of a heavy backpack stuffed with a big camera body and even bigger lenses, especially when venturing off the beaten track or travelling.

Compact System Cameras, or CSCs, have therefore become increasingly popular.

They offer the crucial advantage of interchangeable lenses that were previously the preserve of full-blown SLRs, while often being only a little larger than compact cameras.

As such, they boast DSLR-like versatility in a more streamlined package.

There’s an increasing number of high-end CSCs that are designed to give enthusiast and pro photographers the type of control they are used to, but in a smaller camera. Which one makes the best alternative to a heavy SLR?


Best compact system camera: 01 Fujifilm X-E2

Price: $899/£759

Not just an update to the X-E1, this new Fuji camera boasts some desirable enhancements compared with the older X-Pro1.

The newer generation 16.3Mp X-Trans image sensor, for example, includes phase-detection autofocus as a supplement to regular contrast-detection AF.

The X-E2 also has a faster burst rate of 7fps compared with the X-Pro1’s 6fps, and a higher-resolution, 2,360k-pixel electronic viewfinder.

There’s also a pop-up flash, as well as a hot-shoe and Wi-Fi connectivity.

SEE MORE: 10 camera techniques to master in 2014

There’s no PASM dial as the camera uses ‘automatic’ positions on the well-implemented shutter speed and aperture selectors instead, along with a neatly positioned Exposure Compensation dial offering up to +/-3EV.

There are no scene modes either, which is a clear indication of the ‘enthusiast’ aspirations of the camera.

Given the comparative newness of the X-E2, the lack of a touchscreen LCD is a little frustrating, but the Quick menu system makes for easy adjustments to most shooting settings.

Autofocus isn’t blindingly fast, but it’s pretty respectable.

One of the benefits of Fuji’s X-Trans sensors is that they don’t need an anti-aliasing filter (which reduces the risk moiré patterning, but at the expense of slight softening of images), and this brings the potential for sharper, more detailed images.

The X-E2’s images look very natural, especially in the standard, Provia colour mode, with rather more vibrancy being delivered in Velvia mode.

Retention of fine detail is impressive, at least at low ISO settings.

When using higher ISOs, image noise is kept well under control, but fine detail and texture are slightly smoothed out.

Score: 4/5

See all the other best cameras here

10 common wildlife photography mistakes

From the always entertaining Digital Camera World Magazine

Wildlife photography is one of the most demanding subjects to photograph. The subjects are elusive, and the techniques require precision. But it’s not impossible.

In her latest post our head of testing, Angela Nicholson, takes a look at some of the most common mistakes that photographers make when shooting wildlife photography and gives some advice on how to overcome them.


Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 01 Subject too small in the frame

One of the main problems with photographing wildlife is that the vast majority of species don’t like to be close to humans.

This means that we need to employ some cunning and very long telephoto lenses to make the subject a reasonable size in the image.

Professional wildlife photographers spend a lot of money on their kit, selecting top-end cameras with high continuous shooting rates and impressive pixel counts.

These are matched with high-quality long telephoto lenses with focal lengths of around 300-500mm that enable them to frame a subject tightly from a distance.

Even with this kit, however, the most important assets that a pro wildlife photographer has are an understanding of the subject and the time and patience to wait for the right shot.

Timing is far more important than the ability to fire off a series of shots in super-quick succession.

Camouflage and hides are a great way of getting close to a subject, but you need to know where to set it up. Research your subject to find out where you need to be and at what time.

Discover its habits, where it lives, what it eats, when it has young and whether it has protected status.

You need to know enough about your subject to be able to photograph it without it being aware of your presence.

PAGE 1 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 01 Subject too small in the frame
PAGE 2 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 02 Subject not in focus
PAGE 3 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 03 Subject blurred
PAGE 4 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 04 Poor composition
PAGE 5 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 05 Subject looking the wrong way
PAGE 6 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 06 Feeder in view
PAGE 7 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 07 Depth of field too shallow
PAGE 8 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 08 Birds underexposed
PAGE 9 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 09 Poor lighting
PAGE 10 – Wildlife Photography Mistakes: 10 Subject disturbed

Go here for all the best in tips on wild life photography

Lytro Illum camera lets users refocus blurred photos after shooting

Second version of the ‘light field’ camera looks and feels like a traditional camera, but may make fixed focus a thing of the past

A new camera promises to shoot “living pictures” by capturing the light field of an image, allowing users to refocus their photos after taking them.

Lytro’s Illum camera resembles normal mirror-less cameras like Sony’s NEX cameras, but uses the company’s new 40-megaray light fieldsensor instead of a traditional camera sensor. The light field sensor captures the colour, intensity and direction of every light ray flowing into the camera, rather than simply the colour and intensity of the light hitting a traditional camera’s sensor.

The result is a digital image that can be refocused after the fact using the light field information to accurately recreate the image focused on a single point, viewed in 3D or used to create custom animations potentially including those involved in virtual reality.


“With Lytro Illum, creative pioneers — ranging from artistic amateurs to experienced professionals — will tap into a new wave of graphical storytelling,” said Lytro chief executive Jason Rosenthal. “By combining a novel hardware array with tremendous computational horsepower, this camera opens up unprecedented possibilities to push the boundaries of creativity beyond the limits inherent in digital or film photography.”

Lytro Illum
Refocus photos on a single point or create 3D images using one lens. Photograph: Lytro

Illum is Lytro’s second attempt to revolutionise the way we take photos using light field technology to allow photographers to refocus their photos after taking them. Its first Lytro camera, released in 2012 based on technology developed by the company’s founder while studying for a PhD at Stanford University, resembled a fat lipstick in shape rather than a traditional camera, which made its adoption more difficult.

The Lytro Illum features an 8x optical zoom lens, with a fast shutter speed and a constant f/2.0 aperture, which ensures a high level of light enters the lens for clear photos.