Tag Archives: photography

Photography Repetition

35mm photography project where students explore various forms of repetition as the subject to their work.

A History of Photography

Photography, which is based on the Greek φῶς (phos), (genitive: phōtós) meaning “light”, and γραφή (graphê), meaning “drawing, writing”, together meaning “drawing with light” gives us the means to record and examine our day-to-day activities. Unlike the casual glance, which often “sees”  only the major elements of a scene, a photograph records the tiniest details. It then allows us time to study and understand each minute element. A photograph preserves what the memory cannot. It captures a scene with detailed accuracy, allowing us to share with others an accurate view of that same scene, even many years later. And under the unbiased scrutiny of the camera’s eye, all details in that scene are accorded the same importance.

The magic ability of light to transmit images was apparently first casually noted by the Egyptians some ten thousand years ago. Hiding from the fierce sun in their tents and huts, the Egyptians noticed that when light reflected from objects came beaming through tiny holes in the walls, the colored image of an upside-down camel or person was projected onto the tent wall. Inspired by this experience to experiment with ways to capture and preserve images, they became the first “photographers.”

5TH Century B.C.- In China, Mo Ti, records the principle idea of the camera: that the reflected light rays of an illuminated object passing through a small hole in a dark enclosure result in an inverted, but exact image of the object.

Aristotle, The famous Greek philosopher first described the formation of a crude optical image in about 350 B.C.  He observed that when a beam of light was allowed to enter a darkened room through a small hole, an image was formed. By holding a piece of paper six inches or so from the opening, he was able to capture the image. Though blurred and upside-down, the image was recognizable.

1038- Arab scholar Alhazen describes a working model for what would later be known as the camera obscura (Latin for “dark room”).

CAMERA OBSCURA– Illustration of a camera obscura observing a solar eclipse in January 1544. The design was based on principles discussed by Aristotle many years before. (Photograph cour­tesy Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

IMAGE IN THE CAMERA OBSCURA– The image that appeared on the inner wall of the camera obscura was upside down and backward, but the proportion and perspective did not change. (Photograph courtesy Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Leonardo  da Vinci – Early in the sixteenth century, the Italian painter and engineer da Vinci diagrammed in his famous Notebooks the workings of a camera, complete with instructions on how to use it.

The camera obscura- The phenomenon that Aristotle described, Alhazen describes, and da Vinci illustrated became known as the camera obscura. This term, meaning “dark room,” was introduced by the Italians, whose painters were among the first to make practical use of Aristotle’s discovery. In the early 1500s, Italian painters used the camera obscura to improve proportion and perspective in their paintings. During the next two hundred years, many improvements were made in the basic camera obscura. A glass lens that greatly sharpened the image eventually replaced the simple opening, the camera was made smaller and more portable, and mirrors were added so that the image was projected in an upright position.

A PORTABLE CAMERA OBSCURA- Portable camera obscura made in Germany during the 1640s. This sketch shows the camera, which was made of wood and canvas, with an inner box of paper, where the image was formed and drawn. The artist entered through a trapdoor in the bottom. To move the camera required four individuals-one on each corner.

By the early 1700s, the basic optical equipment necessary for manufacturing a camera was available, and the camera obscura had come to look much like the basic camera of today. But the solution to the basic problem of preserving the camera’s image continued to elude scientists. It took an additional 120 years to solve that mystery.

LATE 18TH-CENTURY CAMERA OBSCURA- This table model had a glass lens to correct the image, so that it appeared upright on the screen. The lens could also be extended for close-up work. This camera was designed for use indoors and, because of its size and weight, was best used for motionless subjects. (Photograph courtesy Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Making the Image permanent-  During the 1700s, several people were experimenting with chemicals that were sensitive to light, using as their tools combinations of different chemicals. The biggest challenge facing photographers was to find a fixing agent that would make the images permanent.

Johann Schulze – A German professor of anatomy, Johann Schulze, was experimenting with the manufacture of phosphorus when he discovered that a combination of chalk, aqua regia (a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids), and silver nitrate turned purple when exposed to light. By the process of elimination he discovered that silver salts were the darkening agent. Unfortunately, however, he failed to make use of this discovery. The credit for applying Schulze’s results goes to Thomas Wedgwood.

Thomas Wedgwood– The great English potter Josiah Wedgwood used the camera obscura to reproduce accurate drawings for his ornamental china and pottery. His son Thomas was the first to apply the idea of light-sensitive chemicals to the camera obscura. Familiar with the camera obscura because of his father’s work and with Johann Schulze’s discoveries about silver salts because of a lifelong interest in chemistry, Wedgwood produced silhouettes of insect wings and leaves on white leather coated with silver nitrate. However, the process was too slow to be used in the camera obscura, and there was no way to fix and preserve the silhouettes. Even Wedgwood’s brilliant partner, Sir Hum­phry Davy, could not come up with a permanent fixing agent.

Joseph N. Niepce– Partial credit for the invention of photography has also been given to Frenchman Joseph N. Niepce, who, after many disappointments, successfully produced the world’s first photograph in 1827. To produce his photograph he coated a pewter plate with bitumen of Judea, or asphaltum, placed the plate in the camera, and made an eight-hour exposure. To develop the photograph, he rinsed the plate with lavender oil. Although the image was far from perfect, it was a milestone in the advancement of the art.

The world’s first photograph, taken in 1827. The exposure time was eight hours, which is why the sun can be seen shining on both sides of the picture. (Photograph courtesy Gernsheim Collection, Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin)

Louis J.M. Daguerre – Another Frenchman, Louis Daguerre, started his own search for the ideal fixing agent when his brief partnership with Niepce broke up. In 1837, after eight years of searching, he found what he was looking for-mercury vapor. Daguerre patented his process as the daguerreotype  process. The procedure involved making an exposure on silver foil that had been sensitized with iodine. Following exposure, the foil was brought into contact with mercury vapor for development. The image was made permanent with a solution of common salt.

Daguerreotype prints were an instant success. Studios were opened, and professional photographers began giving portrait painters stiff competition for business. Gradually, over the years, refinements were made in the lens and in the light sensitivity of the plates that were used. The popularity of daguerreotype portraits leaped when a method was devised to soften the tones and enrich the image. While the daguerreotype represented a fantastic advance in photography, it was far from perfect. The photographs were expensive-two dollars for a single frame. (Later modifications in the process made the prints available at two for twenty-five cents.) The images were so fragile that they had to be kept in a glass case, which made them bulky to store and awkward to look at. Also, the observer had to contend with a metallic glare. Probably the most significant disadvantage was that the daguerreotype images were positive, not negative, images, so it was difficult to manufacture reproductions.

Daguerrotypes could not be photographically reproduced. To make copies, the original had to be transferred to a wood block, from which a wood engraving was made for the printing press. The original daguerrotype was destroyed in this process.

William Henry Fox Talbot–  William Henry Fox Talbot, an English contemporary of Daguerre, made the next major contribution to photography­ production of the first negative image. Working with silver nitrate and common salt (sodium chloride), Fox Talbot produced silver chloride, a compound more sensitive to light than Daguerre’s sensitized foil plates. Fox Talbot coated paper instead of glass or metal plates, to produce the first negative image in August 1835. Despite his disappointment at public indifference to his discovery, Fox Talbot made numerous experiments to perfect the process. While working to improve his technique, Fox Talbot discovered the latent image- an invisible image formed on film after exposure but before development. Fox Talbot realized that the resulting negative would enable him to reproduce the photograph easily. In 1841 Fox Talbot obtained a patent for his process, which he called the Calotype.

The world’s first paper negative was taken by Fox Talbot in 1835. It is a view of a window in his home at Lacock Abbey. {Image on Left} (Photo­graph courtesy of the Fox Talbot  Museum, Lacock Abbey, England).

FOX TALBOT: LATTICED WINDOW, AUGUST 1835 {Center Image}  (Photograph courtesy of the Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, England)

THE LATTICED WINDOW AS IT APPEARS TODAY {Image Right} (Photograph courtesy of the Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock Abbey, England)


Digital photography is an ideal medium for anyone who enjoys creating abstract visuals. Why? Because digital cameras provide endless possibilities when it comes to the exploration of viewpoints, shooting variables and compositional options. Plus, digital images can be easily linked to a software environment where further effects can be applied and considered.

Let your personal tastes and ever evolving instincts for composition and aesthetics tell you what makes for a good abstract image. Take a look at other people’s non-realistic photos for inspiration and ideas. Investigate works of abstract painting, sculpture and design

Software makes it easy to explore far-flung visual interpretations of photographs. Photos of ordinary scenes and objects have been converted into abstract compositions through the application of one or more basic Photoshop filters.

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There is vast potential in many architectural details for abstract and semi-abstract images.



A swimmer-less swimming pool, as seen from a 9th floor hotel balcony.


A feeling of late evening urban bustle is caught in this abstract nighttime cityscape.

This richly colored organic composition was captured by aiming the camera through a cup of ice water.

Photos such as this could be used within layered digital works of art  and further enhanced using adjustment layers and filters in Adobe Photoshop.


Below are examples of what can be done with images manipulated with a variety of Photoshop adjustment layers and filters.

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Threshhold and solid color treatments have been applied to make dramatic changes to photos of a piece of fabric and a wrought iron gate. Apply the threshold effect a an adjustment layer so that you can freely reconsider and readjust its effects until you are ready to finalize the image.

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A Range Rover’s radiator (far left) was used to create the image next to it. Photoshop’s THRESHOLD command was employed to convert the original into a high contrast image. The result was colored with the SOLID COLOR effect.

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A gradient map adjustments were applied to these two photos to create the richly colored images. Investigate the outcomes that occur when using the GRADIENT MAP’s ready- made palettes, as well ad the effects that result when you input colors of your own.

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The WAVE filter and HUE/SATURATION adjustments were all that were needed to turn this photo of an ordinary airport tarmac into a colorful pop-art abstraction.

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The form of a traffic cone was isolated using Photoshop’s SELECTION tool, treated with the INVERT filter, colorized with HUE/SATURATION adjustment layer, and then cloned to create the pattern.

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The photograph of a swimming pool’s cool steps were transformed into a smoldering composition above on the right by applying the INVERT command and a color-strengthening CURVES adjustment. The image was also rotated 180°.

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To create the ringed composition at left, a photo of a textured sheet of metal and the bronze door of an elevator were first joined, and then treated to multiple applications of the ZIGZAG filter. The colors were re-tuned using HUE/SATURATION controls.

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Finally, in this sample a photo of a tower-top scaffolding has been turned into a non-representational blur by applying the MOTION filter (set to ‘zoom’). The original image’s palette was shifted with a HUE/SATURATION adjustment layer.

Altering Reality

Most photographers use their camera to capture images of nature just as it is found.

How about rearranging reality in some way to create a work of environmental art? And then, once you are done with your creation, how about taking a series of pictures to record your effort?Screen shot 2013-07-20 at 8.12.45 AM















Above is an example of using a scattering of weathered yellow bricks mixed in with the natural stones on a beach. This beach scene at low tide became a prime choice for a series of pictures to be made. Several armloads of the scattered bricks to build a pathway that connected the jumbled rockery with the smoothly rippled expanse of sand became the focus to this series. The semi-precious arrangement of weathered bricks contrasted nicely against its surroundings and pointed neatly to the islands beyond.

Once the improvised sculpture was finished, the camera was retrieved and a number of shots from a variety of viewpoints were taken. The glare of the late afternoon sun provided an attractive bed of light for the bricks as they receded into the distance.

Take a look at a book or website about the environmental sculptures and photographs of Andy Goldsworthy. The resourcefulness, ingenuity and artistry evident in Goldsworthy’s art speaks volumes about the creative process (as well as providing endless ideas of how we might use our time when we find ourselves on a beach, in the woods, or in a field with some time on-and a camera in- our hands).

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Think of this kind of activity as artistic cross-training. And just as athletes keep their minds fresh and their bodies in shape by taking part in a wide variety of activities, a photographer’s creativity can be vitalized and expanded when it is applied to a broad spectrum of artistic ventures.

Also consider applying this reality altering exercise on a smaller scale using the items found on your desk or in a drawer at home. This same concept of the outside environment can be applied towards the inside environment.