Welcome to March!

Welcome to March on Mother Nature! As you can see, I have decided to go retro with the article image and do it up in the inspired style of Sonic Mania, considering that Sonic Mania is set to be released within the next few months. There is news just around the corner surrounding Sonic Mania and Project Sonic 2017, which I am excited about and I honestly cannot wait to get my hands on Sonic Mania when it comes out. If Project Sonic 2017 gets an official title and if there’s all-new gameplay featuring both Classic Sonic & Modern Sonic, then I shall consider the possibility of buying the Project Sonic 2017 if it lives up to the hype. I know SEGA & Christian Whitehead both have one heck of a great year ahead so I am pretty sure they will exceed our expectations any which way.

The next few weeks are going to be much busier considering my Summative Assessment deadline for the Self-Directed Curiosity Project is right near the end of this month, so I will be making sure to work my socks off as I am so determined to pass and bump last year’s grade up to a Merit or Distinction at least. Also, I will be working harder than usual over the course of the next few weeks as I have a GCSE English Speaking & Listening Assessment coming up which I am currently preparing for, so I hope it goes well, so fingers crossed! Meanwhile, I will be making sure to put all of the hard work in with my GCSE Maths coursework as I seriously want to pass this time around.

Spring is ready to embrace its beautiful side and with the clocks going forward towards the end of the month, it is safe to say that Mother Nature will blossom with vibrant colours and displays. Not only that, but with the temperature of the weather slowly going back to normal, I cannot wait to enjoy the lovely Spring weather once again. The clocks are set to go forward as part of Daylight Saving Time on Sunday 26th March 2017 at 1:00 AM so I thought it would be wise to let you all know in advance so you know exactly when the clocks go forward.

I should warn you as I read something a short while back for when the clocks went back that if you have any devices with Airplane Mode switched on, such as an iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, Apple Watch and any Android devices and smartwatches, then it’s recommended that Airplane Mode must be switched off very briefly in order for every device’s clock to go back or forward an hour. I am prepared for the clocks to go forward so to speak, but even so, why waste time when you make the most of it by making the best out of it?

If I am able to find the free time over the next few weeks, I may consider doing some drawings that I can publish on here, or if I head out to certain places in and around London over the next few weeks to photograph anything nature-based for my coursework, then I will make sure to publish any photography work I produce on this website.

Until then, Welcome to March!

Alex Smithson

Welcome to February!

Welcome to February on Mother Nature! As this month is expected to be just as busy as last month, it’s safe to say this month will be a lot busier considering I have a mock exam just around the corner, but also because I will be making sure to get out more and make use of the free time I have on my days off to photograph nature-based places for my Self-Directed Curiosity Project.

I should note I will be publishing less frequently considering I have a lot of revision and coursework to do, but also because I will be dedicating a whole lot more of my time to my studies, as I’ve only got the last few months of my education to think about, so I will be making sure to make use of the free time to head out to places that I can photograph for my coursework and publish any collections I can create on this website so that I can at least say I’ve worked hard and gone the extra mile to showcase my passion for photography, as well as nature and other core areas of photography.

January sure flew by real fast. I hadn’t realised how busy the beginning of 2017 would be, but I am pleased to say I have worked hard and done the best I can in the space of the first month of this year. February will be no different because I am used to being busy and I would rather work hard and achieve the best I can and also work on publishing articles for Mother Nature as I love to stay active. Inactivity and me simply don’t go together unless I decide to take a break and relax and recuperate, but still, I love to keep as active as possible so that I can have the energy to balance my coursework, revision and publishing articles for this website effectively.

Still, I will be making sure to dedicate more of my time to my studies, but I will try to publish articles here and there when I can find the free time.

Until then, welcome to February!

Alex Smithson

Welcome to September!

Welcome to September on Mother Nature! As this month is set to be quite an interesting month considering I’m progressing onto the final year of my two-year UAL Level 3 Diploma Film & Photography Course, it’s safe to say that this month will be quite a busy one for me indeed.

As I prepare to embark on my final year of the two-year film and photography course, I will also be retaking my English & Maths GCSE courses, as I ended up getting a D again in English, following results day which took place most recently. It does mean, however, that articles and anything else that is not college-related will have to take a backseat as I am ultimately keen on wanting to succeed in the GCSE English & Maths subjects.

I can safely say that I will not be publishing articles as often as I want to, as my education takes full priority over writing and publishing articles, and I want to be able to succeed and pass both subjects, but also pass the last year of my film and photography course, considering that this year will be my final year of college.

However, if I can find the free time, I may be able to publish at least a few articles depending on any free time I get, that is if I do get free time this time around, considering that this final year of college is going to be full-on and a whole lot tougher than the last two years. All I can say is that I can only apologise in advance if you don’t see much of articles from me over the course of this year.

I’m prioritising my time effectively like I have done this past year, but making sure this time around to put my GCSE English & Maths Courses, including my Film & Photography Course first before anything else. Writing and publishing articles can take a backseat now as I want to be able to pass the GCSE Courses and my Film & Photography Course as it’s my final year at Croydon College. I am also doing this because I want to be able to head into a job as soon as I finish education.

I wanted to lay this all down on the line now so that all of you know what to expect ahead of my final year of college. I will be starting my first day back at Croydon College on the 12th September 2016.

Until then, welcome to September on Mother Nature!

Alex Smithson

Weekly Log 6 (Tuesday 17th May 2016 – Thursday 19th May 2016) – Final Major Project

Bringing the Final Major Project Weekly Log collection to a remarkable end, here is the final Weekly Log from the Final Major Project, which reflects on what I did in the final week of the Final Major Project, as well as to what I did over the entirety of the Final Major Project.

Research / Context

During the course of the sixth week, I started to get together my research, which were the Chosen Photographers presentation, including the Photo Research presentation, including my experimentation photographs that I have taken over the course of the past six weeks since the beginning of the Final Major Project. Based on the previous set of photographs I took of my first subject for Shoot 5, I took my sixth and final set of photographs, but this time of my fourth and final chosen subject. The location that I chose to take the sixth shoot of photographs was the car park, opposite Croydon College, as I had previously developed my experiments there when I took my fourth set of photographs but of my third chosen subject. The car park opposite Croydon College was the location I strongly believe was best suited for taking my sixth and final set of photographs, as I was able to use the settings I adjusted on the Canon EOS 1200D correctly to take my photographs of my fourth and final chosen subject and I also felt that there was a dramatic improvement in the way I took my photographs, based on my reflection of Shoot 5. In terms of the research and photographic experiments I have done, I have made sure to pick the best photos that I have taken, as I will be presenting the photographs that I feel are my best for the show, which I will also want to count as my final pieces for the first year of this two-year Film & Photography course.

Practical Tasks Done

As I wanted to make sure that my sixth and final set of photographs were of the correct standard that my previous experimentation photographs were at, I did make sure to set the exposure for my photos correctly, including changing the light setting to Cloudy, given the damp and dismal weather conditions during the course of this last week of photo experiments. I also made sure to keep the ISO below no more than 400, to ensure that my photographs are of the best resolution and lighting where possible and I also made sure to set the aperture and white balance correctly so that my photographs would come out the way I wanted them to look.

I did initially find taking these photographs of my fourth and final subject difficult at first, as I was worried that because of the damp and dismal weather conditions, this would affect the photographs I would take. These photos were difficult to take initially given the areas of lighting in and around the car park, so I did make sure to think very carefully about the variety of locations around the car park that I could use.

What worked well for me was I was able to produce most of these photos to a much better standard than to how I did my previous photographic experiments, as some of the photographs I took of my fourth and final chosen subject didn’t need to have the curves adjusted in Adobe Photoshop, including not needing to have the levels changed. I did feel that Shoots 4 and 6 had that standard of photographic exposure that I wanted and I feel pleased with the overall result that I have managed to achieve.

To improve on this in the future, I will be making sure to choose a better location next time for taking my photographs, that’s including setting the exposure, the aperture, the white balance and the light setting correctly, so that I stand a better chance of producing a set of photographs that will be of the best quality where possible.

Critical Analysis

For my critical analysis, I did make sure to refer to all of the research I have gathered over the course of the Final Major Project, including referring to the photographic experiments I have developed over the duration of the Final Major Project. As the photographic experiments I’ve done on my first, second, third and fourth subjects have developed over the course of the entire Final Major Project, I have noticed that I have been able to produce my photographs better each time, and when there has been the odd occasion where certain photographs I take may end up possibly fuzzy due to camera shake or being underexposed or overexposed, I have made sure to rectify any mistakes I’ve made in taking certain photos by improving on them better for the next time. August Sander, Fazal Sheikh and Thomas Ruff’s photographical works have influenced me and inspired me to create my own concept throughout the whole of the Final Major Project and I also feel that the level of research and experiments I’ve done, including doing extended research by taking notes from the Barbican Gallery have helped me to produce the concept I wanted from the very start to the very end of the Final Major Project.

I feel that I have developed and bettered my understanding over the entirety of the Final Major Project, as I have been able to reflect on the experiments I’ve done, including the research I’ve gathered to produce my own concept for my Final Major Project, which has been based around Facial Expressionism. I also feel I have developed a better understanding of my own concept, which was influenced and inspired by the three chosen photographers, August Sander, Thomas Ruff and Fazal Sheikh, and I now have a clear intention of the final pieces I will be producing for the show, given that I have the best photographs available to use now for digital printing. My concept has, from the very start, been genuine and I strongly believe that I have developed my confidence better with camera work, including getting a better understanding of the settings I can use to produce a better photograph or a set of photographs for experimentation, and I strongly feel that the photos I have chosen to use as my final pieces are ready for printing and are also ready for hanging for the show in June.

This Final Major Project Weekly Log set has officially come to a remarkable end. I hope you found all of these Weekly Logs interesting, and if so, please feel free to submit feedback. All feedback is much appreciated.

Alex Smithson

Weekly Log 1 (Tuesday 12th April 2016 – Thursday 14th April 2016) – Final Major Project

To kick off the Final Major Project Weekly Log series, here is the first Weekly Log from the Final Major Project.

Research / Context

During the course of the first week back, I started doing some extensive research based on the three photographers I chose that were based on my influences for this Final Major Project. The photographers I chose that I would do research on were August Sander, Fazal Sheikh and Thomas Ruff.

I created a research presentation based on their work, as well as picking out at least 9 images that I felt would influence me for my final piece. As I want my final piece to be of a person expressing at least 6 different emotions, I looked at Thomas Ruff’s works, including August Sander’s work and also Fazal Sheikh’s work, as some of their photographs grabbed my attention, based on the concept I have in mind.

In the research presentation, I had made sure to research on the web about Wide Aperture and Small Aperture (just to save confusion), as this would give me the ability to make sure that the photographs I chose from the three chosen photographers were correctly labelled with the kind of aperture that they were taken at. Luckily because some of the photographers works I chose were Small/Wide Aperture-based, I had made sure to combine them both together, creating a mixture of both Small Aperture & Wide Aperture.

Practical Tasks Done

As I wanted to make sure to gather a lot of relevant research together for this Final Major Project, I did some extensive research on Fazal Sheikh’s work, and the notable photograph that still sticks in my mind from when I first saw it was of the: “Afghan girl born in exile, Afghan refugee village, Urghuch, North Pakistan, 1997”.

I did initially find it difficult to find some good photographs from the three chosen photographers that I intended to do research on, as I wanted to make sure to pick the correct photographs that I felt would work with what I want to produce for my final piece towards the end of the project, though I had to tread very carefully when I was doing some extensive research on Thomas Ruff’s work, as some of his photography work was known to be pornographic, and not for the faint-hearted.

What did work well for me was I was able to find a good range of photographs that August Sander, Fazal Sheikh & Thomas Ruff took, as their works have the strong connection that I want, as some, if not most of their photography pieces have strong emotive connections, as well as signs of movement in their photos too, which is useful for me as the concept I have in mind is to create 6 different emotions as well as the first emotion being normal, but to also create movement as well, as I want emotions and movement to be combined together.

To improve on this in future, I want to make sure that I can gather more photographs of their works together, and to develop the concept on paper, so that I can make my concept become a real idea that I want to produce for when it comes to producing the real final piece.

Critical Analysis

For my critical analysis, I wanted to make sure that I had gathered the correct information together, given that the research I’ve done so far is based on the concept I am keen on producing for my final piece. The research I’ve gathered has helped me as this will now give me a clear idea of what I will be producing for the second week.

I do feel that I have applied my own understanding of the research I have gathered, as this will help me to start producing my first set of experimentation photographs based on the concept that I want to produce for my final piece. I also feel strongly that the concept I have in mind will work as long as I have the research there, including the experimentation photographs, as these will help me to piece together the final result that I want to achieve from my real final piece when the final week of the Final Major Project commences.

This brings the first Weekly Log for the Final Major Project to a close. Please make sure to check back soon for the second Weekly Log from the Final Major Project.

Alex Smithson

Weekly Log 6 (Tuesday 9th February 2016 – Thursday 11th February 2016) – Stop-Frame Animation Project

Bringing the Stop-Frame Animation Project Weekly Log collection to an end, here is the final Weekly Log from the Stop-Frame Animation Project, which reflects on what I did in the last week of the Stop-Frame Animation Project, as well as to what I did over the entirety of the Stop-Frame Animation Project.

Research / Context

Following the work that I did in the fifth week of the stop-frame animation project, I started writing up my proposal for this project, as well as to what I would do, including what kind of materials I would need, including how my sock puppet would be useful for the stop-frame animation film, given that I did some research on the Shaun the Sheep Movie, as well as doing some further research based on anthropomorphism and stop-frame animation.

I feel that the research I’ve done so far, including the development of my sock puppet, and the development of my storyboard will relate to my experiments, as I will be able to use these to create my own 30-second stop-frame animation film.

To develop my understanding, I did some extensive research on the Shaun the Sheep Movie and also anthropomorphism, as I wanted to find out how they were able to apply human-like features to the characters in the film, as well as how they created the mise-en-scene for certain parts in the film, including how they adjusted the lighting for different parts of the film as well.

Practical Tasks Done

As I want to be able to move on to doing my final stop-frame animation film, I wanted to storyboard my ideas first by planning out a map of my character, given that my sock puppet character is based on a teacher who is suffering from severe depression after receiving the sack from his job, which leaves him feeling like as if there is nowhere else for him to turn. As my puppet is anthropomorphic (as it has human-like features), I wanted to make sure I could use the puppet’s body movements as a way for me to brainstorm my ideas for my storyboard, so that when it comes to the real thing, I will be able to have a genuine idea as to how I want my 30-second film to turn out.

What I did initially find difficult was that I did become a little stuck with storyboarding, considering that I hadn’t done storyboarding for some time, so I did need to use my sock-puppet to brainstorm the ideas I wanted to put into drawing form.

What worked well for me, however, was I was able to use my knowledge of storyboarding, as well as the research I’ve gathered to create my storyboard, but also have some captions to go with my drawings, as this would help me create more emphasis by using those captions to draw more than one character. In this instance, my sock puppet character, and a different sock puppet character that any of the students in my class developed themselves. A different sock puppet character would also come in handy as this helped me to use my ideas to bring another character into the frame, but the kind of character that would be supportive of someone who is suffering from depression.

To improve, I want to be able to make sure to take certain bits out of my proposal that may not be relevant, and only keep in the relevant information and research, as well as the sock puppet character that I’ve developed, so that this can give me a better chance of being able to produce my final stop-frame animation film.

Critical Analysis

When it comes to composition, I wanted to make sure to adjust and get rid of certain parts of my sock puppet character that didn’t fit well with it, as well as how it could affect what I want to produce for my stop-frame animation film. In this instance, I had made sure to cut the knot I made around the sock puppet’s neck, as I felt that this restricted the sock puppet’s lack of head movements.

I have made sure to improve this by cutting the piece of thread that I tied into a knot off, so that I can give my sock puppet a chance to move its head up, down, left and right, as I’ve felt that this will gradually improve and speed up the animating process when it comes to producing my final stop-frame animation film. I have also done this as I wanted to make sure that I could use its body movements for some ideas that I could use for my storyboard.

I feel that my research/contextual studies that I have gathered over the course of the stop-frame animation project can be applied to help me develop my experiments, as I can use all of the research and ideas I’ve gathered to produce my final ideas before proceeding onto making my final stop-frame animation film.

This Stop-Frame Animation Project Log set has officially come to an end. Check back soon for the first Weekly Log from the Final Major Project that I did back in April.

Alex Smithson

Weekly Log 2 (Tuesday 10th November 2015 – Thursday 12th November 2015) – Ghost Stories

Continuing on from yesterday’s first Weekly Log that I published which was based on the Ghost Stories Project, this second Weekly Log will outline key details based on the further research I did during the second week of the Ghost Stories Project back in November last year.

Research / Context

During the course of this week, I continued to watch the 2002 Japanese film, Dark Water, following the previous week’s lesson, and despite how powerful the film was, I was able to use the film to relate my thoughts and ideas to my own experiments, and I was also able to create two mind maps in one that would focus, one on the Dark Water 2002 Japanese film, and two, on the word, Uncanny, and how a large variety of words would relate and connect to the word, Uncanny.

The Kuleshov Effect was and also is a film editing montage effect that was demonstrated by the Soviet film-maker, Lev Kuleshov, in the 1910s and 1920s. The Kuleshov Effect was and also is a mental phenomenon by which the viewers would derive more of the meaning from the interaction of two sequential shots, than from just a single shot caught in isolation. Why did I use the Kuleshov effect? I used the Kuleshov effect shortly after re-shooting the videos that me and some of the other students had done to piece together the video footage, to create my own film montage, but in the similar style that Lev Kuleshov did his works during the 1910s and the 1920s. I also felt that by using the re-recorded footage, I was able to apply the Kuleshov effect to my film editing montage, as well as my own form of film work.

To develop my own understanding of the processes or the image meaning in particular contexts, I watched the 2002 Japanese Film, Dark Water, and I also noticed that there were a lot of camera angles, and I believe that there was a sequence, a cut, a shot, a point of view (the focus point that focuses mainly on the subject whilst showing them from a certain viewing angle or focal point) and a dutch angle, as there were quite a lot of different viewing angles, especially when it came to the way the film was done.

I felt that I understood much of the camera angles that were used when it came to this film, and I felt that by watching the film, this helped me to re-shoot some more videos with my group so that we could head back to the drawing board and then, in turn, this would also help me to re-experiment with creating my own film montage using the Adobe Premiere software program.

Practical Tasks Done

How did I do it? I did it by making sure to do my first experiment with two fellow students in my group, and all three of us felt that we should reshoot our film montages by expanding our group to about 5-6 more people, and this helped me and the other two students in question, as this helped us to expand our film montage, and to also give us more of a chance to make the process of our videos better by adding emphasis to make our footage look and feel more convincing. The processes that were used was cutting and also film (video) montage.

What was difficult? What I generally thought was difficult when it came to doing the first experiment was knowing how to choose which bits I wanted to keep in and which bits I wanted taken out, but I was given guidance as to how I could keep some footage in but take out some footage as well. I was also shown where I should save them, and how I can keep my experiments safe, so that I could prevent my work from being lost.

What worked well? What I generally thought went well on one of the experiments was that I was able to put more emphasis on the footage by making it appear to be scary or ghoulish, that means using some audio to emphasise the concept of what the video was about, and what kind of build-up in emotions there were.

How could I improve it? I could improve it by making sure that I make the video footage longer, but not too long, as I want to be able to make sure that my video is done to the right specifications, so that my video is given a bit more time to do itself justice, in other words, I want to make sure it isn’t too long so that I can give everyone a chance to experience the full build-up of the plot of the video before it concludes with something that’s ghoulish and scary at the same time.

Critical Analysis

In terms of composition, that’s including framing, the positioning of objects, the line, the tone, the cut, the pace and more, I wanted to make sure that I could create my film montage in a format where it gets to the point of what I’m talking about, but not something that’s in your face, in other words, I wanted to make sure that I had the right amount of cuts, and I also wanted to make sure that the pace of the video footage was balanced, so that my own experiments would be done to just the right standards that I wanted them to be at.

I feel that my research/contextual studies based on what I’ve done so far can be applied to help me develop my experiments further, and I also feel that I can apply my research/contextual studies to develop my experiments further by making sure that my experiments improve each time, so for example, if I make a mistake or I don’t add as much video footage in on my first experiment, I can then improve on that by doing more than one experiment, so that at least I can say that I improved my film montage experiments each time to get the final result that I wanted.

I also looked at FilmMakeriQ.com to look at the two videos below:

  • The history of cutting, the birth of cinema and continuity editing
  • The history of cutting, the Soviet theory of montage.

This second Weekly Log from the Ghost Stories Project has officially come to an end. Make sure to check back soon for the final Weekly Log from the Ghost Stories Project.

Alex Smithson

Photo Moment: May the Force Be With You.

A picture like this can tell a thousand words.

When me and two fellow classmates were producing our final photos for our final stop-frame animation film yesterday, one of my fellow classmates brought in a set of Star Wars Figurines, from the likes of Jar Jar Binks to Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi, and yesterday came the Storm Trooper, which was stood on my friend’s Manfrotto tripod, and I took the opportunity to take this photo, which was originally in colour, but because the Star Wars Storm Trooper character was the main character in this photo, I decided to put my own spin on this photo by changing it to black and white first after taking it in colour with the Camera+ app (recommended), and afterwards, I used the Instagram filter, Sutro, to make further edits to the photo, and the photo above is the final result that I achieved.

Below is the photo in full, and is of a high-resolution, which is perfect as a Laptop/PC Wallpaper or Screensaver, and it can also be used as an iPhone, iPod touch and iPad wallpaper, and works on all Android, Mac and Windows devices.

{"focusMode":1,"deviceTilt":0.0211772508919239,"qualityMode":3,"macroEnabled":false,"whiteBalanceProgram":0}
Storm Trooper – Star Wars

Do you like the final result of this photo I took in the photography studio at Croydon College?

Please feel free to feedback what you think in the comments below.

Your feedback is much appreciated :-).

Alex Smithson

© Croydon College 2016.

© The Croydon College Logo is Copyright of Croydon College. Permission has been granted for the logo to be used on here. No Copyright Infringement Intended.

Croydon Photography

On Thursday, I headed down to some parts of Croydon with some of my classmates from my UAL (University of the Arts London) Level 3 Diploma Film & Photography Course, as we were doing some filming for our project which is currently based around Ghost Stories.

Whilst me and the small number of the students in my group were filming, I thought this was the perfect opportunity to snap some photographs down Surrey Street Market, Crown Hill and also around Croydon.

The concept of our film was that one of our students would play the part of someone who is depressed, and also on the edge of it all, like as if they wanted to just end it all and never experience it again, but on a more serious note, the concept was about needing an angel to be there for that person who may have been almost bullied into silence, but was stopped from going to the point of no return. The angel would be the natural healer, by being there to pull the victim out of danger, and also out of harm’s way and also out of the midst of it all so to speak.

But back to the subject of things, just after we finished filming, despite having to re-shoot a scene because of one member of the public waving at the camera (which wasn’t supposed to happen despite us all telling him not to do so until we concluded filming), which resulted in a scene becoming useless for video editing, we did a re-shoot of the same scene again, and after we finished re-filming that scene, I thought it would be a fantastic idea to snap these photographs.

Colour Photographs (Original)

Chosen Edited Photographs (Black & White)

Have we actually finished filming? Yes we have, and I’m absolutely pleased to say that the way the production of this film has gone, it has gone well despite a small faux pas moment from a member of the public, but aside that, me and my group absolutely enjoyed filming for this project, despite the weather conditions.

Please feel free to leave feedback on this article based on what you thought of my photography work that I did in Croydon on Thursday :-).

Alex Smithson

Device used to snap these photographs: iPod touch (5th Generation)