Now that the first year (I say year as it is classed as an accepted time to complete the first part) of the seven modules for the BA Honours in Photography, is complete and I am just finishing off the bits to hand in for formal assessment, it has given me time to reflect on how I feel the course has gone for me.
Why did I do this course?
I chose the course with the Open College of the Arts, as unlike the other courses that were available for distance learning, this is one that came with a formal qualification. The other courses were approximately 1 year in total and when reading up about them, it appeared the criteria was very strict in the things you had to do, for example: You had to do work out doing a wedding photography shoot and do things like fashion/modelling shoots. As nice as that is, it doesn’t float my boat and I have no interest in that side of photography, yes it broadens your skill set, but surely when cramming everything into 1 year, doing something that is of no interest, can’t be beneficial.
So after looking at these, and the OCA course, I chose the OCA. To get the full qualification , they say takes around seven years (hence one year per module), and as you progress through the stages, you get more freedom for interpretation, and can start to build your own style into things.
Has it been too much?
I honestly/stupidly thought that I would be able to commit the 8-10 hours a week to the study that they recommend. Had I been in a 9-5 job, Monday to Friday it would have been easy, however being in a 9-5 job (on paper) but having to work away at short notice, weekends and the like, being able to set a standard routine is impossible. Going to work at 7am and not getting home till 9-10-11 (if I got home), does take it out on you and trying to get 1/2 to an hour of work in is hard work (I had a plan of trying to do 1/2 to 1 hour of work a few evenings in the week and then 3-4 at the weekend). Not being able to get this standard time in, meant that I had to revise how I went about the planning. Not being able to get the written side done as I wanted, I would literally have to superglue myself in front of the PC on occasions to get stuff done, and when it came to assignments, I have had to extend the deadline (think my tutor thought I was pulling a fast one) due to not being able to get it done.
On occasions when I knew I was working away (and had some free time), I would take my camera and had Evernote set up on my phone, so that I had the basic information for the next 2-3 exercises, so that if something caught my eye, I could at least get the photographs. This meant that at times, the photography side of it, wasn’t in sequence through out the course.
How much have a learnt?
This could be a very long bit. Way before I started the course I turned my camera to manual mode and started to learn how to do things, this was due to a comment my partner made after I came back after taking photographs of the Supermoon, and she commented that it looked like a white circle on a black piece of paper (thank you for that…..lol) I went onto the Talk photography forum, and posted the photos up, and asked what i should do. They told me to switch to manual and learn from there.
So I had the basics (or so I thought), yes I could turn my camera on, take a half decent photograph, but that was really it. The first part is about getting to know your camera and it’s settings. I think that had I gone through the cameras book learning how to do everything on every page, then I would still be there, I know how to do the important bits and for when I was doing something new, I would use it as a reference as to how to change the settings that were relevant.
Starting with Part One being the Frame, (as I said I knew how to take a photograph), but had never taken any consideration to the framing of the subject. I was no doubt, like most people, get the subject in the centre of the frame and all is good (so I thought), but on working through it, it soon made me realise how flat/boring/normal it was, and just by moving the subject away from the centre, you get an image that has more dynamics to it, and is a pleasure to look at. I had done basic cropping before (again keeping the subject in the centre) but learning how to make the image look a lot more appealing by removing the bits that don’t need to be in the image, again made the image look a lot better.
Part Two is about the Elements of Design. How far over my head was this (I have said time and time again, I am not an Arty person, so things took time to sink in) has it sunk in what I learnt, yes it has. Before I did this part, I would look at things and for example, just see a building. When I look now, I look for the lines, patterns, points, shapes it is never ending, it really opened my eyes up to what I have been missing (does it now make me an Arty person? Think there is a long way to go yet). It has made me more appreciative of what is out there, and has improved my visual stimulus when out and about.
Part Three is about Colour. This is something we take for granted on a daily basis. Colour is all around us, and you only have to look around a Supermarket to see how the colours interact with each other, some designed to catch our attention. Learning about the ratios of what the colours should be, and seeing the different tones and shades of a colour at times did get confusing for me. I can now see why certain colours go with another and how the interaction works well.
Part Four is about Light. I will be totally honest here, I really struggled with the odd exercise, and still do (but I am working on it). I never really gave it much thought apart from is there enough light to take this photograph. Most of us, will go out in the middle of the day to get what we want (I used to), but using this light really makes for a boring and uneventful image (unless you specifically want this), the warmth that comes from early morning and evening sun is so much better and this does come through on the photographs instead of the harsh mid day sun. I much prefer to use natural light, but it has taught me how to make the most of the artificial light that we have at our disposal.
Part Five is about Narrative and Illustration. Again, I felt out of my depth doing this, but I feel lucky living in London as it gave me a good few options for my picture stories. Whilst doing this section, it did open my eyes to why advertising companies did certain things (I would at times think to myself why), but once I was thinking about the images I wanted, it did start to sink in a little.
What I wish I knew more about.
Although this is the “Basic” level for this course, it really would help you if you were competent using Photoshop or associated programs. I rushed in joining the course to save some money on the initial course fees, and had I known, I would have considered delaying starting the course, so that I would become more proficient in utilising the tools available to make this part of Photography, a lot smoother. Having a cataloguing program is also worthy, I went with Lightroom as reading the reviews, it did basically everything I needed with only having to go to Photoshop for more detailed manipulation of images.
I am currently having a little break from the Academic studies. This is while I learn how to become more proficient at things like Photoshop and I also want to do an Olympic distance triathlon this summer and know that it will be difficult to give enough time to both the training and the next module (I also need to think about which one to do). I am hoping to get funding through work, and this won’t be available until the next financial year anyway if I do get it, I also need to look into the Enhanced Learning credits system I am in through the military.
At times I felt pressured having to take specific photographs (this was more apparent with still life as it isn’t something I really enjoy, as prefer to be out in the open with nature making the decisions and then having to do the best I can from that. It will be nice to have a while where I can just go out with my camera and take photographs of what I feel like at the time.