Culminating Activities - Part 5 - Reflection - The Skills I Wish to Further Develop

If I have learned anything over the course of this class it is that there is always room for improvement. Therefore, I know that I have some weak points when it comes to my photography, and it is these weaker skills that I wish to develop further.

In the future I wish to first gain an even greater understanding and ability to apply the elements and principles of design as I beeive thm to be essential to not just photography, but all forms of visual art. Second, I intend to experiment more with black and white photography as I really enjoyed Ansel Adams’ and Yousuf Karsh’s capabilities with it, and wish to be just as capable in that medium in the future. Third, I want to further practice planning, setting-up, and taking portrait photographs as I realize that I have little experience in that area of photography, and wish to rectify this. Finally, I intend to keep practicing and experimenting with Photoshop in order to improve my current level of ability, and my confidence with the program.

Culminating Activities - Part 5 - Reflection - Most Challenging Aspect of the Course

I believe the aspect of the course that I found most challenging was the Photoshop portion of the course.

I rarely use Photoshop, because I try to take my photographs the way I want them to be in the end. Therefore the most I’ve used Photoshop on my photos in the past was usually when I needed to do a minor cropping to one of my photos. Other than that, my experience with Photoshop going into this course was pretty much nil. Therefore, when we began the Photoshop portion of the course, I was quite apprehensive. I was uncomfortable with the program as I had used it so little, and the many tools that were available to use really confused me. Fortunately, we began with some instruction on the basic tools for had we not I would’ve been lost. It was through much trial and error (with emphasis on the error), that I learned how to use Photoshop.

Having now overcome the challenge of learning the basics of Photoshop, and applying it to my work, I feel more comfortable with the idea of using Photoshop in the future. I also believe that this knowledge will be very useful to me for any future photographic endeavors. I only hope that I will one day have less dependency on the undo button.

Culminating Activities - Part 5 - Reflection - My Two Best Photographs

I believe that my two best photos are Portrait #1, and By the Light of the Moon.

Portrait #1 was my first submission for the portrait assignment, Assignment 7. It depicts my younger brother, Joseph, in profile view, looking out over the water. The best aspect of this photograph is the lighting, as my brother in back-lit by the sun, and side-lit from the sunlight reflecting off the water before him. The bright back-lighting gives my brother an almost unearthly glow, whilst the softer side-lighting lights-up my brother’s face and prevents the photograph from being a silhouette shot. This unusual lighting scheme amplifies the photo’s use of contrast by giving my brother a bright, and defined outline. This outline makes the photo appear almost unreal, and yet it was not edited in any way. Overall, I believe this photo to be one of my best photos, and probably my very best portrait shot.

By the Light of the Moon was one of my submissions for the shape and form assignment. It depicts a moon partially blocked by some clouds, and framed by the silhouette of some branches. This photograph is a great example of the element of shape, as the silhouetted branches appear two-dimensional due to them being back-lit by the light of the moon. The photo is also somewhat symmetrical, and it makes good use of the principles of contrast and value. There is a great deal of contrast between the branches, moonlight, and moon, which makes the image rather eye-catching and engaging. There is also a great deal of value in the various grays of the clouds between the bright moon and dark branches. This value helps to soften the image preventing the contrast between the branches and moon from being overwhelming. It also helps to add interest to the sky region of the photograph by ensuring that the sky is not simply one flat, boring, shade of gray, but many. One of my best, most difficult to take, and most popular photos, By the Light of the Moon is a photo I shall continue to be proud of for years to come.

Culminating Activities - Part 5 - Reflection - Three Things I Learned in this Course


There are many things I learned throughout this photography course that are of great value to me as a photographer. However, I feel that the most important were about the elements and principles of design, portrait photography, and how to use Photoshop.

Before the start of this course I had had a basic knowledge of the elements and principles of design, and was used to using this knowledge to critique other artists’ work. I did not, however, have much practice with applying said elements and principles to my own work. This course changed that. By having assignments on each element of design in which I had to actually take photos that made good use of the element, I feel that I had good practice in applying these elements to my work, and gained a better understanding of each individual element. For any artist, such knowledge is invaluable.

I also appreciate the knowledge I gained in this course when researching a portrait photographer (Yousuf Karsh). I belief that portrait photography is one of my weak points in photography seeing as I rarely take portrait photographs, and plan them out even less. I believe that the greater understanding I gained of portrait photography through my study of Karsh, along with the practice I received while working on my 6 portraits (assignment 7) has made me a stronger portrait photographer. I no longer find the idea of planning and taking these pictures to be as difficult as I did originally. Clearly, a little practice goes a long way.

The final thing I learned in this course that I felt was of great use to me was the knowledge of how to use Photoshop. I’m not a master with this program or anything, but the knowledge I gained by way of the introductory assignments, as well as the effort I put in my later assignments in applying said knowledge has made me more capable and confidant with Photoshop. For example, I no longer look at the magic wand tool and think “what on earth is that supposed to do?” Seeing as I had little experience in Photoshop prior to this course, I believe this knowledge has made me much stronger as both a photographer, and as an artist.

Photo of: Joseph
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #6


This photograph was taken at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). When we were in the medieval armor and weaponry exhibit, I noticed the similarity in height of the suit of armor on display and my little brother. I got the idea in my head that would spawn this photo, and asked my brother to stand in a specific spot and bow slightly to the suit of armor. Once I was pleased with the symmetry of between the armor and my brother, I took this photograph.

The photograph portrays the principle of symmetry very well. not only is there a symmetry between my brother and the armor, but the photo itself is divided in half by the glass boundary of the display-case.

The photo also makes good use of colour. The complementary colours of blue and orange are represented by the blue tiles in the armor display-case, and the orange background of another display-case.

When taking this photo I couldn’t help but think that the young men of today (like my brother) come to see armor like this in museums, and yet once upon a time boys their age were wearing it. This thought kind of scared me.

Other than a minor cropping in order to center the divide between my two subjects, this photo is unaltered.

Photo of: Joseph
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #5

This portrait of my little brother was also taken on Halloween. Like my self-portrait, this photo makes use of the light from my pumpkin in order to light-up the subject’s face. Overall, it is a good composition that makes good use of the elements of contrast, value, and colour.

This photograph also makes good use of the element of line. This use can be seen in the natural, vertical lines on the pumpkin, the varying lines formed by my carving of the pumpkin, and the angled lines that make-up the outline of my brother’s face.

I love the effect that the light from the pumpkin has on a person’s face, and will therefore be sure to further experiment with this concept next Halloween.

This photograph is unaltered.

Photo of: Me (Cheryll)
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #4 - Self Portrait

The above self-portrait was taken on Halloween (hence the pumpkin and the elf ears). Whilst handing out candy to little monsters, I realized that it would be a good idea to take a photo of my pumpkin seeing as I put a few hour’s worth of my time into it. So, later in the evening, once the street was silent, I got my camera and took a few shots of my pumpkin. I then got my uncle to take this photo of me and my pumpkin. I was hoping that the light from the pumpkin would light-up my face in an interesting way, and I was not disappointed.

I really like the near-symmetry of this photo as it appears balanced, and yet not enough to be unrealistic or predictable. My sightly crooked elf ears add to this effect, and better the composition by taking up some of the space on either side of my head. This space would normally lack anything but background, so this change from the norm adds interest whilst providing the eye a new path to follow.

I also really like the contrast provided by the lighting in this image. The contrast between the dark pumpkin and the light from the carved regions, between my light face and dark hair, and between my dark eyes and the lighter skin around them is striking.

Originally, I had planned to change the background of this photograph. However, I really liked the way the horizontal lines of the blinds in the background were intersected by the angled lines of my elf ears. The use of line in the background also worked well with the lines formed by my pumpkin carvings.The problem was that the blinds seen in the background only went from the left-side of the image to about halfway on the right-side. The rest of the background on the right-side was formed by the dark bricks that surrounded the window. To combat this, I used the clone stamp tool to make the blinds cover the whole of the background instead of just a part of it.

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Photo of: Joseph
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #3


The portrait of my younger brother seen above was taken at Christmas. I set it up so that the tree was lit-up and visible in the background, and my brother was facing the camera over the back of the couch. I included the upper portion of the couch in the composition because I thought it added to the image, and looked suitably festive.

I really like the calm, natural colours depicted in this photograph. The greens, beige, creams, and browns all go very well together. Also, the small amount of red in the couch is set off nicely by it’s complementary colour, green.

I did a major editing job on this photo by using the clone stamp tool to rid my brother of his acne (and one of his fingers because it was annoying me). This turned out to be a more ambitious undertaking then I had first assumed, as it was really difficult to get an even skin tone whilst ensuring that my subject’s face had the proper amount of shading on his cheeks (given the angle of the lighting). It took a lot of effort, and more use of the undo button then I am normally used to, but I believe that the final product turned out rather well.

I included the original image with the altered one for comparison.

Photo of: My Uncle (wearing a mask)
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #2


The above photo depicts my uncle wearing a wooden mask. It was taken out on our front porch with the lighting being provided by our porch-light. In this way, my uncle was front-lit by the light. This enabled his figure to be quite clear and eye-catching as the nighttime background of the street was very dark. This provided a great deal of contrast between my uncle’s figure and the background, and makes his figure appear more distinct.

I decided to add a ball of flames to my subject’s hands in order to make the image more creepy and complete (because the mask wasn’t scary enough). To this effect, I dug around in the picture folders on my computer until I found some of the pictures I took of the campfire we had in Muskoka over the summer. It took a lot of work, and numerous tools (magic wand, eraser, scale, duplicate layer, reflect horizontally…ect.) but I was eventually able to form a suitable ball of flames from one of my fire photos. I then photo-shopped the fire into the photo of my uncle, and made some adjustments until the ball of flames in his hand looked as natural as a ball of flames in someone’s hand can look.

I am very satisfied with how this photo turned out, and will continue to be so as long as my uncle truly lacks the ability to throw fire-balls.

Photo of: Joseph
Photo by: Me (Cheryll)

Assignment #7 - Portrait #1


This is a portrait photograph of my younger brother Joseph. In the photo, my brother was back-lit by the sun, giving his outline an almost unearthly glow. The natural light was reflected off the lake-water causing it to also light-up my brother’s face, and preventing the shot from being a silhouette. In other words, the lighting in this shot could not have been better.

The contrast between my brother’s darker figure and his immediate surroundings is emphasized by his glowing outline. This contrast also draws one’s eye, and makes the photo a great deal more interesting. The photo also has a subtle transition from the darker, left side to the lighter, right side, with my brother himself being the middle ground of varying values.

The glowing outline of my brother makes him appear somewhat separate from his surroundings, making the photo appear a little bit surreal. For, my brother looks like he belongs where he is, and like he doesn’t at the same time.

Overall, it is a fascinating and well balanced photo, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.

This portrait shot remains unedited as there is not a single thing I would want to do to change it.

Culminating Activities - Part 3 - Visual Messages #2

The photo above depicts me and my kobo e-reader, both curled up asleep (with the lights on) at 3:21 in the morning.

Has this actually happened? No. However, a few years ago I read from 1:00 a.m. until the following evening. But, to be fair, that occasion was special seeing as the final Harry Potter book had just been released and I picked-up my copy at midnight. Trust me, there was no way I could have slept that night.

The visual message depicted above is greatly exaggerated. When I read, I tend to forcibly put away my kobo around 1:00 a.m. at the latest, and if I have schoolwork to do I don’t touch the kobo until it’s done.

I am usually responsible when it comes to my reading habits… really.

The visual message portrayed by this photograph can be broken-down in the following way:

The girl in the photo has a kobo e-reader.
The girl likes to read in bed.
The kobo has a sleep-mode which it enters when left idle for a certain amount of time.
The girl has fallen asleep.
The kobo has fallen asleep too.
It is currently 3:21 in the morning.

The overall visual message: The girl in the photo loves to read.

The idea for this visual message came about when my uncle pointed-out how ironic it would be if I took a picture of both myself and my kobo sleeping.

I had to edit this photo in Photoshop because in the original image, the “sleep mode” was too small and difficult to read. Therefore, I took a close-up shot of my kobo, cropped everything but the screen, and overlaid it onto the original photo making adjustments until it fit seamlessly.

It took more work then I was expecting, but I am really proud of the final product.

Note: This photo was not taken at 3:21 in the morning.

Culminating Activities - Part 3 - Visual Messages #1


This photograph portrays the visual message of the extent to which we sometimes allow technology to interfere in our lives.

In our commercial society, we often feel like we just have to have the newest phone, computer, or game system. Maybe it looks cooler, or has newer features. Perhaps that phone comes with a better talk and text plan. Whatever the reason, we really want to have this new technology. And it isn’t like it is detrimental in any way, right? I mean, that new phone can connect me to not only my friends and family but the world, seeing as it has access to the Internet. Isn’t that amazing?
It is pretty amazing… until you are on your computer and realize that you are chatting with your brother through Facebook when he’s only one floor below you. And even if he weren’t currently in the same house as you, wouldn’t the conversation be easier (and provide a better connection between the two of you) if you called him instead?

Sometimes the technology meant to keep us connected can have the opposite effect. After all, humans are lazy, and therefore we tend to take the easiest route to reach our goals.

It will be easier to call my friends then to actually go see them, so I’ll call them… Then again, it isn’t like I have that much to say… I’ll just text them instead.”

The easier it is to connect with people, the less connecting we actually do.

The photo above is an exaggerated portrayal of the whole “messaging my brother when I could just as easily go and talk to him” situation. To that effect, instead of having us separated by a fight of stairs whilst carrying on a stupid and meaningless conversation, I depicted us as being separated by about a foot (and two phones) whist carrying on a stupid and meaningless conversation.

I used Photoshop to display our “on-going” conversation. Don’t we look so connected?

Photo by: Cheryll (Me)

Culminating Activities - Part 2 - Photo In the Style of Ansel Adams #2


Having been taken in Muskoka over the summer, this photograph depicts a faint cloud, a clear expanse of water that is disturbed by some ripples and lily-pads, and some towering trees that disturb the sky and are reflected in the water. It is a very picturesque shot.

I believe that this photo of mine is a good reflection of the style of Ansel Adams who I studied earlier in the year. Like Adams’ photos, my photo showcases the beauty that can be found in nature. And therefore, just like Adams, I cannot take full-credit for this photo; for, nature provided the scene and my job was merely to ensure that I did it justice.

I believe that the great amount of contrast and value in my photo is also reminiscent of Adams’ work. All of his photographs had great contrast between light and dark regions which served to draw the eye, and varying grays that balanced the image and provided details. My photo does the same. The contrast between the trees and land, and the sky and water captures the viewer’s attention, whilst the varying grays tone the image down enough that the contrast doesn’t overwhelm. This use of the element of value also provides the trees, land, and the ripples in the water with detail and definition which makes the overall photo more interesting.

Adams was also known for doing minimal editing to his photos. He tried to take his photos the way he meant for them to be seen. I also tend to take my photos this way. Therefore I believe the above photo to be a good reflection of Adams’ style of photography, as the only editing I did on it was to turn it black-and-white. I did this so that the photo would lack the distraction that the use of colour can be, would emphasize the elements of contrast and value, and so that it would be more akin to Adams’ photographs seeing as he had been limited to black-and-white at the time.

Photo by: Cheryll (Me)

Culminating Activities - Part 2 - Photo In the Style of Ansel Adams #1


I took the above shot in Muskoka over the summer.  I believe it to be a fair imitation of Ansel Adams’ style of photography because like with Adams’ work this photo showcases nature’s beauty, makes good use of the elements of value and contrast, and is (for the most part) unaltered.

First, the subject matter. Adams’ photography was all about the natural beauty one could find in nature, and his photographs were his way of sharing this beauty with others. Like Adams’ work, this photograph portrays nature, and shows that even the most unexpected things can be beautiful. After all, few would look at a dead and broken tree and think "Isn’t that beautiful." It is more likely that they would think it to be sad, and maybe even out-of-place or ugly. Many would try to ignore the sad, dead, and broken tree all together. Yet a true nature photographer would see the potential in that broken tree. They would see it as an accurate reflection of nature, for in nature, everything eventually dies.

Second, the use of the elements of value and contrast. Like with all of Adams’ work, my photograph makes good use of these two elements. It has very light regions (the water), very dark regions (the dead tree), and lots of varying grays in between. The contrast between the dark tree and land, and the light water serves to make the image more compelling. It does this because the difference between the light and dark draws the eye of the viewer to it. The light region and dark region also split the image in half diagonally (bottom-left to upper-right corner) which helps to balance the image whilst providing a path for the viewer’s eye to follow. The use of value in the varying grays of the image helps to ensure that the contrast between light and dark is not overwhelming, as well as to showcase details such as texture that would not be visible in the image otherwise.

Finally, my photograph is pretty much unaltered. Adams liked to take his photographs the way they would eventually be seen, and therefore he made few changes when developing them in the darkroom. My photo was taken this way, as I intended for the way I took it to be the final product, and I therefore had no intention to crop or alter it in any way. With this in mind the only alteration I made was to turn the photo black-and-white as I felt that it would then better reflect Adams’ style.

Overall, I believe this photograph to be a fair imitation of Adams’ work.

Photo of: Frederick H. Varley
Photographer: Yousuf Karsh

Culminating Activity - Part 1 - Yousuf Karsh - Photo Analysis

The photograph seen above is of Frederick Varley, one of the Group of Seven. Seeing how Varley liked to paint portraits, I really like how Karsh’s photograph has him appearing as though he is observing the viewer and contemplating how to paint them. It is also a nice touch that his hand and paintbrush are so visible and distinct. This serves to inform the viewer that the subject is an artist and that the use of their hands is therefore a significant part of their life.

Of the elements and principles of design utilized in this photo, the most prominent are that of texture, value, and contrast. Texture is seen in Varley’s skin, hair, and (to a lesser extent) his sweater. These textures are made more distinct by the use of value in the photo as the range of grays between white and black help to make the age of this painter more clear. The contrast of the shadows playing in the creases of Varley’s face also help to emphasize his age, as well as to give him a sense of seriousness and concentration. The shadows that form these distinctive facial expressions are made more powerful by the angle at which Karsh set-up his lighting.

Overall, this is one of my favourite photographs by Karsh. It’s probably because of the artist in me.

Photo of: Winston Churchill
Photographer: Yousuf Karsh

Culminating Activity - Part 1 - Yousuf Karsh - Photo Analysis

It was this photograph of Winston Churchill that was responsible for launching Karsh’s international career. It was said to have “epitomized the indomitable spirit of the British people,” and was found in (or on the cover of) many newspapers and magazines. The story behind it is that when Karsh was set to photograph Churchill, Churchill refused to put down his cigar. The photo above was taken just after Karsh grabbed the cigar out of Churchill’s hands, and we can see from Churchill’s expression that he was not at all impressed.

First, I believe this photo to have a great use of lighting. The angle of the lighting serves to emphasize Churchill’s expression, create a greater amount of contrast between his hands, shirt, pocket handkerchief, and their darker surroundings, and to light the background up enough so that Churchill’s darker figure does not disappear into it. It is the use of lighting in this photograph (in conjunction with Churchill’s expression) that truly makes it great.

Second, I believe the use of the elements of contrast and value to be used to great effect in this photo. The contrast between the lighter regions of Churchill’s hands, face, and shirt, and the darker regions of his suit, make this picture truly striking and eye-catching. One cannot help but find their attention drawn to the previously named lighter regions, as the photo itself is predominantly dark. As for the element of value, it is primarily found in the varying grays of the background and Churchill’s visible skin. I believe that this use of value heps to balance the image a little by forming a middle-ground between the vast amount of black and the smaller amount of white in the image, whilst still keeping the serious (and somewhat sombre) tone of the image.

The last element I would like to point out is the photo’s use of the element of line. I feel that it is the lines formed by the paneling in the background that help to give this photograph a sense of structure. I also believe they add a sense of power to the image by giving the illusion of Churchill sitting in a throne or some other seat of power. Lacking these lines, and the way they practically frame Churchill, I believe that this photo would lose much of its significance and greatness.

For Karsh’s recollection of the taking of this photograph, visit: http://www.karsh.org/#/the_work/portraits/winston_churchill/

Culminating Part 1 - Yousuf Karsh - What I Like About His Style of Photography

My absolute favourite aspect of Karsh’s style of photography is how his photographs do not merely portray what his subjects look like, but also who they are. Every one of Karsh’s portraits seem to have captured a little bit of the essence of that individual, and in this way immortalized them. I hope to emulate Karsh by having my future portraits hold such meaning, for I want to be capable of capturing the truth, instead of the facade of a person.

Though I myself tend to primarily use natural light in my photography, I have a great appreciation for Karsh’s skill with artificial lighting. I love how he is able to use it to set the mood and tone of his photographs.

It is clear that Karsh had a great photographer’s eye, as his use of composition is flawless, and his use of contrast is downright striking. He had truly mastered the various elements and principles of design, and there is not a single photograph of his that I feel is lacking, or could be bettered in any way. Compared to Karsh, I am but a novice when it comes to the effective use of the elements and principles of design, though I hope that this will not always be the case.

Culminating Part 1 - Yousuf Karsh - Style and Influences

Yousuf Karsh had a very powerful, and engaging style for a portrait photographer.

As stated in my biography of Karsh, I believe that his mentor, John Garo, and his time with the Ottawa Little Players Theatre Group had the greatest influence on his style of photography. Garo taught him that it was important to truly see and then strive to portray one’s subject. This had a great influence on Karsh as one of the most prevalent themes among his photos is that they really tell the viewer about their subject. I believe one of the greatest examples of this is his photograph of Prime Minister Mackenzie King. This photograph depicts a man sitting outside with his dog, and reading a book. Upon seeing this rather informal portrait, one would not know that this was the leader of a country, but merely that it was a man who enjoyed such calm moments. In this way Karsh was able to tell us more about Mackenzie King the man, instead of Mackenzie King the political figure.

The theatre group had a great influence on Karsh’s work, as they introduced him to the capabilities and use of stage lighting. With the adoption of the use of this artificial lighting, Karsh was able to really set the mood of a photograph, and to better draw one’s attention to what he wanted them to see. It became a signature part of his style, as most of his photos are lit dramatically in such a way that would not be possible with natural light. One example of his ingenious use of such lighting are the numerous photographs of artists Karsh has taken, for in such photos he uses the lighting to draw some attention to one of the most important parts of an artist, their hands.

It is important to note that Karsh’s subjects were usually the great, the powerful, the talented, and the famous. He liked meeting and photographing such amazing personalities, and through his photographs he was able to share his impression of such great (and yet distant) figures with the world.

With a masterful use of the elements and principles of design such as composition, lighting, contrast, movement, and value, Karsh created numerous extremely striking, and eye-catching photographs. He was able to use such elements to great effect as he created images that could draw you in, make you look where he wanted you to look, and see what he wanted you to see.

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