My Major Project Study from February - June 2009

I am going to use this blog to present my development of new ideas leading up to the final presentation of my work for the Summer Show in June 2009.

The blog will take you through all of my:


Background Reading

Equipment Lists

Technique Write ups

amongst many other things which will come together to form my Major Study project to later be submitted to Plymouth College of Art as part of my Foundation Degree in Photography.

As for an idea for the project, I have given it a considerable amount of thought since my lecture group were told about this project just before Christmas 2008. During the Christmas break I decided to have a bit of a brainstorm about possible ideas I could persue for the duration of the Major Study project.

To come up with some ideas, I decided to make a list of criteria that the idea had to meet, these are:

Relevant to my own personal interests
Inclusion of new techniques previously untried
Potential of background research into techniques or subject studied
Allow me to express my own skills and personality through the photographs I produce
I want all of my ideas to take into account, these specific requirements which I have set myself for the Major Study project.


Local Life
This idea would involve me utilising my local knowledge in Devon and travelling to events around the area, where I would shoot photographs of selected activities at each of these events, showing the care and attention which has gone into organising the event, along with some of the attending public who are enjoying the event.

Local Produce
For this idea, I would aim to visit several local food producers and photograph the ‘making’ of the product from the start to finish and then present these photographs as a series, depending on how shoots went at different locations, I would need to decide whether all of my photos would be sourced from the same location of whether several locations could be linked together.

The Night Sky
For this idea, I will shoot photographs which include the night sky as a working part of the photograph. In the past I have seen photographs where the photographer has used the stars to create ‘circles of light’ above relatively plain objects, but due to the long exposure of the photograph, the object has been lit in an unusual way, as lighting comes from sources scattered throughout the immediate landscape and from above.

My Project Proposal
For my Major Study Project, I propose to shoot images which show the massive expanse of the sky above the Earth.

What will the photographs feature?
Each photograph will feature the night sky on a clear night so that the stars can be seen above the foreground object, which will be a very prominent structure, either man-made or a natural landform. The foregorund object needs to be able to link to the stars above by almost pointing the viewer’s eye up into the sky above, which will contain a beatiful vortex of swirling stars.

How will the photographs be shot?
I will shot the photos using my digital SLR camera and possibly a film based camera (more about this in the ‘equipment’ blog entry), with a remote shutter release which allows me to shoot the photo for an unlimited amount of time, giving me some amazing star trails above the foreground subject.

How many images are to be produced?
I will produce as many of these images I can, but unfortunately this technique’s productivity is largely based on the quality of the evening I go out, if it is cloudy, I won’t get any photographs, it’s as simple as that. However, I can still use this time to perfect my locations and subjects which i want to photograph when the sky is clear, as it has to be clear several times between now and the end of this project.
As a number of images I expect to produce, I want to get around 2-4 images of a very high quality which will be good enough to present in the Summer Show in July 2009.

Why do I want to do this?
I ahve had a keen interest in astronomy since I was younger so this project gives me the chance to get out there and capture the night sky in a mysterious way. Star photography is very much a play with lighting as the stars act as little spots of light which rotate in to an amazing vortex effect if you stay on location for long enough. Many amateur photographers have had a go at this and clearly have improving skills as they have progressed, so I want to try my best to become skillful at this technique and eventually share my technique with other people too.

The Night Sky
As my ideas change and time progresses, I have decided to move towards the idea of photographing the night sky, as I have always had a fascination for the stars and how they can potentially make an interesting photograph, but haven’t really had much of a chance to get out there and shoot some late night photos which show either the stars in their purset form, or with civilisation as a backdrop.

To assist with my quest for some excellent photos, I decided to carry out some online research of my own to see how other photographers have photographed the night sky.

I decided to search with Google and see what I could find and came across a website called Dan Heller Photography ( which hosted photos taken by many amateur and professional photographers from around the world.

I found this example of an amazing photo taken from Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which is shown on the right.

This photo was originally shot on Fuji Velvia film which brings forward the argument of which medium I should use for the final images; I will discuss this in more detail at a later date.

Fact File
Canon EOS 1v Body
EF 17-35mm f2.8 lens (@17mm/f2.8)
Velvia film (rated at 40ASA)
3.5 hour time-release exposure
As for one of the first images, I can see that this effect will take lots of skill and determination to achieve, but I set a photo like this as a target for myself over the next few months; obviously some factors cannot be undertaken, such as the climb to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, or perhaps the ability to conduct a 3.5hour exposure, although the latter may be possible before the submission date.

Photograph Analysis
In my own opinion, this photograph is amazing, it shows sheer determination by the photographer to produce a decent photograph and I believe I can produce a high quality piece of work which will compare in quality, to this photo.
I can immediately see that perseverance and skill are required to produce a result which will be suitable for show in the summer so I will need to get out there ASAP and build up my own skills ready to shoot some final images which will wow my lecturers and coursemates.

This photo is well composed as it features several items in the foreground while having an amazing backdrop of the star trail, the photo follows the same rules as the photographer would follow during the day for a day time composition,regarding where the tents are positioned, almost in a ‘visual pathway’ which leads the eye into the enormity of the star trail behind.

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