Thursday, 18 July 2013

Assignment Three: A Photographic Commission

Research into Crossness

The Crossness Pumping Station was built by Sir Joseph Bazalgette as part of Victorian London's urgently needed main sewerage system. It was officially opened by the Prince of Wales in April 1865.

The Beam Engine House is a Grade 1 Listed Industrial Building constructed in the Romanesque style and features some of the most spectacular ornamental Victorian cast ironwork to be found today. It also contains the four original pumping engines (although the cylinders were upgraded in 1901), which are possibly the largest remaining rotative beam engines in the world, with 52 ton flywheels and 47 ton beams. Although modern diesel engines were subsequently introduced, the old beam engines remained in service until work on a new sewerage treatment plant commenced in 1956. Following abandonment in the mid 1950's, the engine house and engines were systematically vandalised and left to decay, which greatly impeded the Trust's restoration/conservation programme.

The Crossness Engines Trust, a registered charity, was set up in 1987 to restore the installation which represents a unique part of Britain's industrial heritage and an outstanding example of Victorian engineering. A large part of the restoration work so far carried out has been done entirely by an unpaid volunteer workforce

I also have a copy of their guidebook which helps.

Yes...this is where I am at and have photos, just need to do the layout.......

Update 23/7/2013

I really must admit to struggling with this whole module, some in part to personal stuff, some in part to feedback I was getting from my tutor making feel like I wanted to just throw everything out of the window and could I be doing so many things wrong after trying so hard? Added to what was going on with my Mum I couldn't face it so downed tools as commented on in previous posts.

Then the usual doubts set in, looking at everything photographed , even personal projects, going to Cologne last year with my daughter, Paris at half term, jaunt into London, there seemed to be nothing original or of good quality, my camera itself seemed alien and everything I had learnt vanished. Picking up again and looking at other OCA student blogs it has reassured me that others feel the same. Only thing is I look at their shots and think why are they worrying, when I look at mine again I still don't feel re-assured!

Trying to choose a photographic commission, a subject that interested me, that would provide photographs to support an editorial feature, stumped me. I couldn't think of anything that interested me at all. I received notification of a new tutor, introduced myself, got a reply and then still had block....confidence at rock bottom. Eventually after exchanging a few emails with a very patient Keith, I chose to photograph Crossness Pumping Station, about which you will hopefully discover more through my photo-story.

Possibly I bit off more than I could chew because the Pumping Station is only open 4 times this year. It does usually have limited opening but due to major renovations is only open four times this year, which curtailed my ability to go back and re-shoot if I decided I didn't have the images I wanted. I think that has been the case but I can always re-visit after feedback. If I become a member for £14.99 p.a. I can visit when the volunteers are there, in the evening, during the week. Also there is another open day in Sept, I am away for the next one at the end of July.

Having previously visited I knew that I would need to take a tripod, due to low lighting, and for the first time used a gorilla pod with a ball head as well as my standard tripod. This proved really useful. Day trip completed, again I had placed myself under pressure with the time frame as my son had been away camping with his Explorer group so I had to leave before closing time to go and collect him. My life at the moment seems to be filled with other deadlines to meet and places to be all impacting on everything!

Proofed my shots, disgusted by lack of variety (in my opinion) I sat on chasing from Keith...but very reply of OMG I still hate everything I am shooting.....his response, don't worry just send me what you have and we will deal with it, that is what I am here for, to give you feedback and help you sort out what is going wrong....(or words to that effect)

So here first attempt at Assignment 3

The brief for this assignment does not call for you to actually create the editorial feature but I thought it would help me to order which images could be used for the opening, main body and closing of the article. Also assist with deciding which images to cull/keep not because they are necessarily the best images but because they work to tell the narrative. However, we are encouraged to think about what kind of layout we would use, there is no limit given on the number of page spreads and we are reminded that usually the photographer would not have control of said layout. I eventually ended up with 4 double page spreads. Due to a layout not being produced Per Se, information that would have been printed as a caption had to be entered on the metadata. This metadata should include, as a bare minimum, the creator, headline and description in the IPTC fields. I usually have a basic template set up and upload images via Bridge. Recently a new PC and newer version of CS6 meant setting up a new one so this wasn't an issue, anything not added at the time of upload can be included later.

Three shoots were done eventually, the initial one for inside the building, a second in London to capture the statue of Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the third when the weather was better, to shoot the outside of the building. Fortunately the day I had set aside for the outside shoot dawned bright and sunny, even luckier when I went along workmen were in the grounds repairing a brick wall, a brief conversation with the foreman saw me gain access to the site so I did not have to shoot through the iron railings.

Approximately 150 images were taken in the first shoot, Adobe Bridge was used to upload, add metadata and select pictures - using the star ratings/filtering system. The out of focus, poorly framed, duplicates, and images I thought would not convey anything, were excluded. The initial select whittled my options to 18; images selected were then examined more closely and edited, for chromatic aberration, white balance, clarity etc in RAW. 4 were chosen from the final 2 shoots giving me a final choice of 22 to choose from for the assignment. I re-calibrated my monitor, being a new PC I needed to make sure it was done. The profile once loaded looks very blue but am trusting it. If there is a problem I expect I'll be informed.Having done these edits I realised there weren't as many portrait shots as I would have liked, some of those taken were out of focus or not really ideal for the opening images. This has emphasised even more that I should have taken a check list with me when I went to do the shoots. My head wasn't where it should have been still and I wasn't taking the correct approach for an editorial still. Hopefully if feedback suggests the images need working on I can go back and re-shoot at some point.

More editing was completed in Photoshop, checking for dust spots,  adding a curves layer cropping or cloning out distracting elements and finally sharpening. I was then ready to choose the final set of images based on size, shape and the ability to narrate the editorial. Research was completed to fill out the gaps in my knowledge with regards to the pumping station for the article and captions.

The brief calls for images for an editorial feature, not just a photo story so I've included text on a few of the pages. I think the rhythm and flow of the images work.  I experimented with aperture and time values, size and shapes, wide angle and close up framing. Feedback will again suggest alternatives that work better.

An A3 layout was used in Photoshop to create the double page spreads, guides and grid-lines were used for positioning.

Assignment Three
A Photographic Commission
The brief 

The concept was to take enough images to support an editorial feature concerning the Crossness Pumping Station and its restoration. The images should show a variety of size, shape, focal length and contrast, capturing the atmosphere of the Pumping Station whilst providing an interesting visual narrative.
Equipment taken/used:

Canon 400D
17-55 f2.8 IS USM lens 70-300 IS ISM lens
Compact Flash memory cards
Gorilla pod with ball head
Shutter release cable


I liaised with my tutor to decide upon a suitable topic to cover. The conceptual approach was to show the continued restoration of a Grade 1 listed building and its contents; the world’s largest existing beam engines and to present it in the style of a magazine layout.

Technical specification and delivery method were to be via email, file sizes no larger than .5MB with a word document PDF.

Had this been an actual commission for a real client there are a variety of ways the images could have been sent; larger jpeg or original/tif files could be posted on a disc, images could be uploaded to a website, with a password if there were privacy concerns. Suggested magazine layouts could also be submitted as PDF files either by email or website.  Dropbox could be used but the uploading process can be slow.


A local landmark previously visited I knew that the lighting was poor and I would need to take a tripod. I had been given a Gorilla pod with a swivel head and I took this along as I thought I would use it upstairs where there is an open ironwork floor and setting a standard tripod can be difficult. Also due to visitor numbers increasing during the day I did not want to cause trip hazards. I looked at the website for up and coming open days and for historical information about the site, I noted things I wanted to shoot: the unrestored and restored engines, the outside architecture, close up images of rusted/vandalised items, detail of the ironwork different angles, focal lengths and aperture values.

The shoot
The weather was inclement so I was unable to take the outside shots I needed. Inside shots were taken to the total of approximately 150. I thought I had sufficient portrait style images but this proved to be incorrect when selecting and editing shots. Both tripods were used along with the shutter release cable. Tripods were required due to low level lighting and I prefer not to use a flash. I used my 17-55 f2.8 is usm lens for several reasons. Firstly as it is fairly new and I wanted to get the feel of it, at f2.8 I could obtain more light if needed and also experiment with shallow depth of field. Where possible I used lower ISO as I prefer not to have grain, where necessary I used a tripod.
The time spent on location was shortened by having to collect my son but I know there are 2 more open days this year plus if you ring and speak nicely to the volunteers they occasionally allow people to come along in the evenings when they are working on site. This is more likely to happen if you become a member, which is not expensive and probably worthwhile.
I returned for a second shoot on a better day to obtain the outside architectural shoots and was able to access the grounds.
A third shoot took place on Victoria Embankment to capture the memorial for Sir Joseph Bazalgette. The sun was in the wrong place and was creating harsh angled shadows, I tried using a fill in flash which didn’t work so I waited for a while until the sun moved around and was lower in the sky to obtain the shot I wanted.

Selection and editing
Images were uploaded and selected using Adobe Bridge.

Proof sheets were created using filters 

 This was done for all three shoots  

Metadata and descriptions were added to all images either via template on upload or additional information added later via Photoshop File>file information 

Final images chosen
Opening images –

 18mm f8 ISO 100 1/160 - handheld

 24mm f14 ISO 200 3.2 secs - tripod

28mm f11 ISO 400 0.5secs – gorilla pod

Main body of images -
Spread 2

21mm f11 ISO 200  0.4 secs -  gorilla pod

 17mm f8 ISO 100 6.00 secs -  gorilla pod

 31mm f5 ISO 400 1/25 - handheld

 21mm f2.8 ISO 400 1/25 - handheld 

 23mm f2.8 ISO 200 1/50 - handheld
Main body of images – spread 3

 43mm f2.8 ISO 800 1/80 - tripod 

 55mm f2.8 ISO 400 1/40 - handheld

 42mm f8 ISO 200 2.5 secs - tripod

 46mm f5 ISO 400 1/25 - handheld

 28mm f3.2 ISO 400 1/40 - handheld

 20mm f11 ISO 200 0.8 secs – gorilla pod

Closing images – spread 4

 17mm f5.6 ISO 200 1/5 - tripod

140mm f8 ISO 400 1/50 - handheld

17mm f5 ISO 400 1/13 – gorilla pod


With the final set of images there was a little manipulation with some, cloning out distracting elements, cropping, converting to black and white and on the outside shots 2 exposures were taken and layers were used to get the correct exposure/colour of the sky. My 17-55mm is new and as yet I haven’t bought a polarizing filter for it.
However for the image below I used several shots to achieve the final result.

I deliberately used a slow shutter speed to get the ghosting effect however it took several attempts to get the desired effect of people going down the stair. Unfortunately I also had distracting “ghosts” to the side therefore I combined several images and used layers/layer masks to hide/remove them.


In conclusion I don’t think I did as badly as I felt I had.  On reflection there were enough images to complete the assignment although I do believe I could have had more portrait style. In the end there were enough shots with contrast and variety of size, shape, colour, depth of field and focal length to provide interest and complete 4 double-page spreads for an editorial feature. I know I took far too long in completing this assignment and had it been a real commission I would have missed the deadline! A mixture of other demands on my time and mainly lacking in confidence were to blame.

If I were to do this shoot again I would make sure I had a check list of not only images I wanted to shoot but as a reminder to take more portrait shots. I’d remember to set my camera to take 3 shots using exposure compensation to help with getting the correct exposure rather than having to complete adjustments in Photoshop after, although using the in-built camera meter worked most of the time. This new lens seems to suffer less with chromatic aberration than the standard kit lens but on a very bright day there was still a little so I need to re-do the exercise to discover at what point it starts to appear.

Below are the final double page spreads.

Spread 1

Spread 2

Spread 3

Spread 4

Now finished I am happier with the images than I was at the start. I still think I need a decent portrait shot for a possible opening shot because if an image was required for the front page of a booklet or magazine I don't have one.

*update feedback Here
*update reworking Here


  1. Look forward to seeing it.

    1. It's up gratefully received!

  2. 2013 blog output doubled in one month Jan!

    I created the editorial feature when I completed this assignment and found it helped my thought process enormously, putting me in the editors seat made me think about what I the photographer was contributing.

    I have really struggled with PWDP, it's mix of "real world" assignments that still require academic consideration has left me bewildered and frustrated at times. I also changed tutors part way through because of my deferment and like you my 2nd half tutor is a Keith and very patient and constructive he has been too.

    Good luck with pulling everything together :-)


    1. I know! Hopefully it will continue apace now that I have a few weeks break from school and have got my head back into it...spreads now uploaded. All I need to do now is do the mini write up and email the images to Keith...oh and add descriptions to my metadata!