Week 9 – Preparation for Exhibition

A considerable amount of my time this week was spent arranging for and making decisions about what photographs to include in my local exhibition.  Of course, that was tied closely to which photographs I would be including in my Work in Progress portfolio, my Oral Presentation and the Landings on-line exhibition.  I was successful in obtaining space in a local cafe/ deli which is also about to begin exhibiting another local artist’s work.  Her artwork is Scottish themed and tends toward the abstract, but her subject matter and palette are somewhat similar to the work I proposed to exhibit.  The owner’s of Grace Deli were quite excited by my work and were also keen on keeping some on after the exhibition period.  My work would be allocated wall space in and around that of the other artist in three main areas.  The idea behind my exhibition is Coul Links:  From Above, Beneath My Feet and In Between thematically breaks nicely into the three areas.  Final placement and choice will depend on the other artist’s installation which is supposed to happen later this week and I have selected a mix of A3 and A4 sized prints to allow for some flexibility in final placement.

I met with a local framer who will be mounting my work on backing with simple white matting. We decided simplicity and uniformity for this short exhibition was prudent.  Works to be left after the exhibition for sale will be framed and mounted with matting that is specifically appropriate to the individual piece.

With quite a lot of photographs from which to choose, I had to consider several aspects.

  1. How much space would I have?
  2. How would that space and the things around it affect the perception and context of my work?
  3. What would appeal to the owner’s and clients of the café given there is at present a high level of tourist trade as well as local clientele, and how can the presence of my work be beneficial to the owners?
  4. Since the Coul Links story is yet largely unwritten, which pieces of my work would indicate the direction it is heading and showcase the quality of my work to date?
  5. What could I get done in the short amount of time using only local and personal resources without losing sight of the other requirements of this module that must be completed by 24 August?

I hope I have chosen well, but that is what this experience will be about: going through the process, evaluating the outcomes and being better prepared for the next time.  This is relatively unplowed ground for me as it is only since beginning this course that I have been showing my work and contextualizing it in various ways.  I don’t expect this one to be perfect and I do expect to learn from it.  I also hope to have a bit of fun along the way.

The exhibition will begin with an opening reception on the evening of 16 August and run from 17 to 24 August at the Grace Deli in High Street, Dornoch.  I extend my gratitude to the the owner’s, Donald and Lorraine Goldsmith, for their support and generosity in offering their establishment to me.

Week 9 – Guest Lecture with Welby Ings

I have attended or listened to the majority of the guest lectures during the MA to date and I have to say I found Welby’s lecture to be the most relevant, informative and practically useful one to date.  His discourse on methodology and methods backed up with tangible examples in his work made for a very well spent hour that helped me make more sense of what I am doing and how to proceed with further enquiry.  Some of my notes follow.

What is a thesis?

  • To position an idea.
  • A practice led thesis could be non-written work.
    • It cannot be objective because we are central to it and it is therefore subjective

Method vs Methodology

  • Research Methodology
    • Must show basis for moving knowledge beyond current state of your practice
      • Task completion vs. real research
      • Quality of research
    • Research Methods are merely your tools while methodology is the toolbox and how you use the tools
    • Practice led research is qualitative (action) research
      • Histiography
      • Narrative inquiry
      • Ethnography
      • Auto-Enthnography
      • Heuristic inquiry
        • Discover/ find using accrued knowledge to find your way through uncharted territory through trial and error. Relies on tacit knowledge. *Michael Polanyi, The Tacit Dimension (1967) and work by Clark Moustakas
        • Methods of heuristic inquiry
          • Observation and notation
          • Experimentation in materials and processes
          • Reflection in and on action
          • Critical feedback
          • Organizational and analytical matrices from the social sciences

In the end he encouraged us each to find the inherent research potential in ourselves.  It was an inspiring lecture and one I am very pleased I did not miss.



Week 8 – Reflections

This week was given to more experimentation and to finalising a venue for my exhibition in August.  While I feel strongly that the longer-term story based on my project is on solid footing and will be able to be told, it will take some time to get there.  So, I have been trying to find ways to make work in the interim that is more contemporaneously interesting as well as being a potential element in the ultimate story of Coul Links.

I also continued my reading after finishing Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography with two short books by Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist and Show Your Work, and I am reading Berger’s Ways of Seeing.  The more critical theory I read it seems that everyone has their own view on the topic and there isn’t any universality of thought.  Nonetheless, I am finding these reading somewhat thought provoking and they are providing me with a different vocabulary for thinking about and discussing my work.

Case in point, I asked two tutors for thoughts on some of the experimental work I had done this week.  While both were encouraging and supportive of my efforts to push myself, I got diametrically opposed opinions about the work itself and which of the test cases was most interesting and effective.  Fortunately, my own thoughts aligned reasonably well with one of the tutors.  On a related note, after a few weeks of working with tutors in Surfaces and Strategies I find myself looking at my photos during post processing wondering what I can take out of them.  While some of that can be done with cropping, some of it requires me to use Photoshop and I am seeing my skills and confidence with that tool improving as well, though there is still much room for improvement.

I revisited Sergey Larenkov’s work this week and was directed towards work by Richard Barnes in which he photographed Civil War re-enactments, and work by Deborah Baker.

Nothing in what I have done or read is changing my core methodology with respect to my project, but I believe aspects of the macro work I have been testing and the experiments this week with a model “playing” the course routing in its current natural state and repeat photographing the same perspectives when the new course is finished.

I am working somewhat in parallel in curating my WIP Portfolio, my Landings exhibition, my local exhibition(s) and a September one day speaking engagement where I have been asked to show my work.  I need to get this decided quite soon for the exhibitions so I can get on to the elements of this term that are graded. I have also been asked to leave some of my work on display for sale in the venue that will host my primary exhibit.  It is an entirely new thing to think about how to value my work.


Richard Barnes: http://www.richardbarnes.net/projects/#/civil-war-1/

Deborah Baker: https://www.crafts.org.uk/Makers-Directory/Baker,-Deborah.aspx

Berger, J. (1972).  Ways of Seeing. London: Penguin Books Ltd.

Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd.

Kleon, A. (2012). Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You about Being Creative. New York: Workman Publishing Company.

Kleon, A. (2014). Show Your Work: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered. New York: Workman Publishing Company.


Week 8 – Pushing Boundaries

After reading Vilem Flusser’s Towards a Philosophy of Photography and considering many of the comments from my tutor about my work being somewhat predictable and expected, I have been pushing myself to find photographs that have not been taken and that are unexpected, and to find my own unique voice as a photographer.

Since my entire project was fundamentally “predictable” in that it was focused on repeat photography and wildlife photography, two areas where it is exceedingly difficult to be particularly unique, I thought I might have to consider ways to be more creative in my approach.  One of the interesting aspects about the planned golf course at Coul Links is that it is already largely there and while different grasses will be planted in specific areas, the topography of the land will not change dramatically.  The teeing grounds, bunkers and greens along with most of the fairway contouring have been formed by nature over centuries.  In fact it is entirely possible that people have already played golf on this links land just as they have been doing on the Dornoch Links 3 miles to the south for over 400 years.  What if the ghosts of golfers past are lurking and just waiting for their links to re-emerge and be again uncovered from the overgrowth that has occurred in recent decades?

In a radical departure from my normal “indexical” (Sontag, 1977) and ontological approach to my work, I wondered “What if a ghost of a golfer were wandering this ground today along the proposed routing of the new course?”  An idea for a variation on repeat photography formed in my mind; “Could I photograph a golfer in traditional garb with hickory clubs of 100 years ago on the Coul Links proposed routing today, before any changes are made and then come back after the changes are made to take the same perspective with a golfer in contemporary kit?”

First Tee-8224
The First Tee

In this first photograph I desaturated the colour about 70% to give the photo a feeling of being in the past.

First Tee2-
The First Tee

In this and the following photo, I left the colour levels as shot and dissolved portions of the golfer’s image to  create a ghost-like effect, but left the feet and hands in the present as if the ghost were enjoying walking and playing a game on once familiar ground.

Second Tee2-
The Second Tee


Second Green Approach-
The Second Green

In this photo I used a combination of the dissolved golfer’s image, again keeping the hands and club in real time and desaturated the image slightly.

Tenth Tee-8226
The Tenth Tee

In this last image, I used the desaturation technique again to a slightly lesser degree to preserve a better feeling of the landscape while conveying the aesthetic of an older photograph.

I am not certain yet which of these techniques carries the most impact, though the surrealism of the dissolved images feels perhaps too much a departure from my practise.  The desaturated images when paired with the future images on the completed course will convey a lovely sense of the Links (the sand based stretches of ground that serve as the link between the sea and the arable land beyond) then and now, as well as the links to the history of golf in Scotland which has been played on this type of land for more than 500 years.  It is a departure from the strict natural history dimension my project has had, but I believe it has merit in the ability to show the landscape in a some way other than the “postcard” photograph and convey the story of the transformation of this place in a different way.


Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2
Sontag, S. (1977). On Photography. Penguin Books. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2


Week 7 – Reflections

This week’s lessons revolved around publications and the various forms they might take with our work.  We were tasked with creating a dummy book that I discussed and posted in my previous post.  In my webinar with my tutor Michelle Sank, discussed the need for more thoughtful and perhaps non-traditional graphic design and provided me with some references to research.  I was aware that given the limited time and the fact I started with the idea of doing a Zine exhibition guide and along the way morphed it into more of concept for a three part book that it lacked the necessary attention to graphic design.  When it comes time to do a full blown book for my project I will have to seriously consider using a good graphic designer as it is an area in which I have limited experience.

Michelle asked to see a few of the photos of my most recent work in a larger size.  I am continually amazed at how differently she sees photographs and how quickly she is able to identify elements to remove or crops that make the photo have stronger impact.  I am a bit stuck in what I know, not because I want to be there or am uncomfortable elsewhere, but rather I am still finding my way through the labyrinth of photographic practice en route to discovering my own unique voice.  Michelle was encouraging and felt she has seen a definitive shift forward in my recent work and I have been experimenting with both different techniques i my macro work and different moods in my my post processing.  Some of the specific ideas she gave me about photos were almost startling to me and turned what I thought was the main focus of the photo on its head by telling me they were to predictable and in Flusser’s vernacular “familiar and redundant.”  I made the changes she suggested re-cropping and or removing elements from the photographs.  I have to admit those changes did indeed change the feeling and impact.  I need to find a way to see more photobooks and acquire in my own mind what is familiar in the genres in which I work.  How can my photos, again in Flusser’s words, become “informative, improbable images that have not been seen before?”  I’ve work yet to do, but the journey is begun and I am moving forward.



Flusser, V. (1983). Towards a philosophy of photography. English. London: Reaktion Books Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-9406(10)62747-2

Week 7 – Publications

This week’s course work had a number of tasks.  First we were to look at our personal libraries or pilebraries as the case may be and share an image with our classmates.  It was interesting to see people’s varied interests reflected in the books in their collections and how and where they kept them.  My collection here in Scotland is relatively small as most of my books are still in the U.S., but the ones I have clearly reflect my interests and the books I have been reading as part of the MA.

The second task for the week was to amass “all” of the work made to date and put it “on the wall”.  That proved to be a tall order given I have a huge number of photos related to my project and the time and expense were prohibitive.  Furthermore the repeat photography elements, while they show subtle changes in the landscape do not yet in my opinion have enough context in just a few months to tell the story I hope to tell.  However, there was enough demonstrable change to print and arrange some examples that show where the story might be headed.  I also printed a good many examples of the the other categories of photos that fit the themes of Coul Links; From Above, Below and In Between.  From this collection we were to curate and organise into something that could be become a publication in some form.


The final task of the week was to create a “dummy” publication.  This was admittedly a bit of rushed attempt, and what started as a concept for a Zine type publication of an exhibition guide began to look as though it could well be the beginnings of one or more bigger publications.  Having decided to do a local exhibition I likely will publish a small exhibition guide using the only the photos I am exhibiting.  This exercise though helped to coalesce concepts that will be more relevant as I move closer to my FMP and the outputs I envision as my project progresses both during and after the MA.

I created the book just with A4 printer paper bound with a few stitches of thread.  It was organised around the themes mentioned above and used the cyanotypes I did a few weeks ago as section breaks.  It is conceptual at this point and requires refinement into a final form or forms and there would be words to accompany either an exhibition guide or a larger book.  Once the dummy was assembled, we were to video it and share it in preparation for the week’s webinar.  Here is the link and password.

Dummy Book video

Password:  Falmouth

Week 6 – Reflections

I entered the week thinking that I would do an exhibition in addition to the Landings 2018 and then part way through began to doubt whether there was time and an adequate body of work to do it justice.  By the end of the week I had convinced myself to only do the online exhibition and to do planning about a physical exhibition.

Work I made during the week and a subsequent conversation with Gary during his office hours convinced me to reconsider again and pursue a local exhibition.  I believe I have enough work from aspects of my overall project to mount a small exhibition.  The focus will be more on the place and its inhabitants than on the larger repeat photography aspects of grander changes to the landscape, though I may include a few elements in a triptych or polytych.

I find my work evolving during this module.  My focus in past has largely been up and out looking at birds and the landscapes they inhabit.  I also have produced images with rich colours and postcard lighting.  Of late, I have rediscovered the intricacies and rich biodiversity of the world  beneath my feet and a technique in which to capture that world in a more complete way.

Bombus pratorum-22

Hover Fly (Episyrphus balteatus)-25


While I was shooting macro work I suddenly found myself in the middle of a flock of sheep being moved from one pasture to another on Coul Farm.  While it was very much a current event, in and around the dilapidated steading buildings, it evoked a feeling of the past with a single shepherd and his dog working this herd as has been done for hundreds of years.  It also struck me that if the golf course goes ahead, it will be a thing of the past on this particular plot of land.  When I was processing the images, it felt wrong to use my normal approach in colour and yet monochrome didn’t work either.  I found a point of desaturation that was not quite complete that created real impact to the photos.

Coul Farm Sheep-2

Coul Farm Jake and his flock-7582-2

I am confident that these and other images from my WIP will make a good exhibition that will appeal to the people here in Dornoch who will see it.


Week 6 – Inspiration

In trying to ascertain the species of some of the insects I had photographed with a macro lens, I stumbled across the work of John Hallmen and was utterly awestruck.  I couldn’t understand how it was possible to obtain such clarity across the entire depth of field without diffraction.  As I read an interview with him and subsequently visited his website I learned he uses photo stacking and uses sometimes over 50 images to obtain one.   The image below is an example of extraordinary work Hallmen does in the field and in studio uses both natural and augmented light sources.  He then uses Zerene Stacker to process the series of images.



Completely fascinated by this process and the prospects for my practice I obtained Zerene Stacker and set about experimenting.  As luck would have it on this rainy day, I found a dead moth on one of my window sills and it was a perfect subject for experimentation as it was not about to move.  Tripod, flash, cable release and a 100mm f2.8 lens on my Canon 5D MkIV and off we went.  A total of 18 images in minutely different focal planes were taken at a slightly oblique angle of this moth which is about 2cm in length.  Results of my first attempt are below and quite impressive.

Moth Stacked-17

My experiments continued with flowers and a fly.

Elm Stacked-55Fly Stacked-01White Flowers Stacked-43

This is definitely a valuable technique to employ along with macro photography.  I am looking forward to experimenting with it in landscape work as well.  There might be some interesting effects possible with ND filters and longer exposures at various focal depths and then stacking.

John Hallmén. (n.d.). Retrieved July 8, 2018, from http://www.johnhallmen.se/2016/4/25/morning-stretch

Week 5 – Reflections on One to One Tutorial

I found this a productive session and frankly altogether too short to really discuss all I might have liked to discuss.  Nevertheless, Michelle provided a lot of encouragement and offered some insights and opinions about some of the work I showed.  I was a bit surprised by some and would at some point like to delve further into the “whys” behind the comments.

I can take a technically good photograph, but my usual subject matter is one in which it is somewhat difficult to distinguish one’s self from the other many fine professional and amateur natural history photographers in the world without resorting to gimmicks or excessive manipulations, both of which strike me as antithetical to whole point of natural history photography.  So we return to the question of what makes my work unique and identifiable?  I do not yet have the definitive answer to that question.  My work is becoming more focused on outcomes; that is to say I take fewer photos just to take a photo of something that catches my eye or interests me and consider what will I do with the photo and how does it fit or support an output in some form.  I am much more aware of the need to tell a story with my work.  In some of my projects I begin with with a clear idea of the story line and am able to capture images to support that narrative.  In my research project though, it is impossible to determine how the story will end at this time, and it may be many years in fact before we know the true outcome.  So while there are clear elements to the plot, it is somewhat of a mystery story: who is the villain and who is the hero, do either exist, can nature and man work together in harmony in this instance?

Michelle suggested I look at the work of Stephen Gill and Susan Derges.  I found Gill’s work unappealing, uninspiring and largely uninteresting, both in subject matter and technique.  He is an experimental photographer and he does unconventional things to make his art, for which he is to be commended, and he obviously has attracted an audience, but his art does not resonate with me.

On the other hand, I was fascinated by the work of Susan Derges.  I didn’t realize at first that she specializes in cameraless photography and I found myself wondering how she managed the perspective in many of her photos.  Her work dances along the border between realism and abstraction, and contains just enough of each to capture and hold my attention.  When I then learned that much of her work is constructed in a darkroom I was completely gobsmacked.  Michelle has urged me to consider whether there is a place in my project for something along the lines of the photograms I did in last week’s activity.  Derges work is far more sophisticated than my simple cyanotypes, but it has shown me there are perhaps possibilities of which I was not aware and had therefore not considered.

So the search for Ashley Rose’s unique perspective continues.  Under every rock and leaf there seems another possibility.  Perhaps this is another journey with no final destination, but rather one of exploration, discovery, experimentation and reflection.  Yet another story with an uncertain ending.  Stay tuned for future episodes.


Derges, S. (n.d.). Susan Derges. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from http://susanderges.co.uk/
Gill, S. (n.d.). Stephen Gill Portfolio. Retrieved July 6, 2018, from https://www.stephengill.co.uk/portfolio/portfolio


Week 5 – Exhibition

  • Five key words describing your practice / project.  –  Nature, Change, Overhead, Underfoot, Unseen
  • One sentence describing the aims of the work you might display.  I aim to show elements of a place over time and  how the place itself and its inhabitants react to changes, both natural and anthropogenic.
  • One sentence describing roughly where and what your display could look like (e.g. a white-walled gallery exhibition of 10 small framed prints).  Medium scale prints and panoramas with the possibility of some multimedia elements in a gallery like space in Dornoch, Scotland near where the photos are taken.
  • Two images that best illustrate your practice.
  • Aerial north-0010.jpg
  • Beetle-6713.jpg