The second full day back at college for the second year of the photography degree course I’m doing and, BAM, we’ve got an assignment already.

This assignment calls for us to introduce ourselves to our new tutor in a much more fun and imaginative way than just verbally (not that my peers say much in class anyway).

The idea is to get a box, suitcase or other similar vessel and fill it with items we feel best describes who we are, or want to be, as individuals. I initially had the idea to use a battered old suitcase, simply because I think they look cool. I would then walk around the house looking for items I class as being mine as these would, surely, best describe me as a person.

I soon realised that the battered suitcase I had up in the roof wasn’t going to be big enough for all my crap. Luckily though, during the summer break between my first and second years of the course, I’d started playing airsoft (running around in woods dressed in camouflage shooting 6mm plastic BB’s at other bigs kids like me). Now, with airsoft, we use realistic-looking guns to shoot the 6mm plastic BB’s and these RIF’s (realistic imitation firearms), as they are known, need to be transported securely and not on display as the world we live in today sees people being very scared of things like that. Because of this, I have a large case known as a ‘hard case’ for transporting my stuff and it proved to be perfect for this job.

The title image is just a crappy camera phone shot but it shows what I’ll be submitting as my final piece. We need to shoot the final image(s) on film (which should be fun as I can’t remember much about that process from year 1, D’OH!) so it will end up being black and white instead of colour as the images at the start of my process are.

What Does Each Piece in the Case Represent?

┬áLet’s have a quick look at what’s in the case and see who I am.

The flag in the back-left is that of the county of Yorkshire. I put this in there as I’m originally from West Yorkshire and we’re supposed to be proud of being from there (I can’t say I am overly much).

I must admit that I’m rather partial to a drop of rum but am also equally at home drinking beer. Generally, I’m not fussy. The Storm Troopers are scattered around the image as I was a massive Star Wars fan when I was a kid and still enjoy it today. I also like taking photos with these little fellas in like I did in year 1 with Everything Stops for Tea.

The DVD’s are there to show a general overview of the type of films I like to watch. These range from old black and white Sherlock Holmes films with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce to Sci-Fi and war films. I also like a suspense thriller from the master himself, Alfred Hitchcock. Deadpool is in there as it’s got to be one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen. The humour in it is spot on for me.

The photography business book shows where I’d like to be in the near future; running a successful photography business.

The jersey and football are front and centre of the case as I absolutely love American football and have done since 1985. I’m a Cleveland Browns fan and my dream would be to make a living photographing the NFL both on and around game days (community projects and training camps etc.). This would mean a massive upheaval for me and my family and so I can’t see it happening but, hey, it’s good to dream, right?

The image above just shows that I have an interest in photography (surprise, surprise) and shows that I’ve picked Canon as my brand of choice. Seeing as I only picked a camera up for the first time a couple of months before starting this degree course, I’m chuffed to be in a position to be using such good equipment (no, I don’t believe it makes me a good photographer).

I quite like the image above as it shows a portion of the case that describes me well; a typically grumpy dad. It also shows my love of the VW scene which I like to indulge in at weekends during the summer by attending VW-themed weekend festivals around the country in my VW T5 campervan.

This final close-up image shows another Storm Trooper but has been included to emphasise the bag of BB’s I use when I play my hobby of airsoft. This hobby is, basically, me running around the woods, a warehouse or an abandoned factory at the weekend shooting my mates with 6mm BB’s from out of realistic-looking guns. In this image, I have placed my Sig Sauer pistol and bag of BB’s which clearly has the word ‘Airsoft’ on it. This is in there to help explain that I’m not some nutter who has a collection of assault weapons in my house waiting for the zombie apocalypse. The Bolle protective eyewear in the final image is also an attempt to show this. I’ll try to place them so that the word ‘safety’ on the strap is showing.

The image above (also the title image) is something like what I hope to achieve with the 35mm camera. The two large guns are my airsoft M4 and AK74 assault rifles and the large book is one that I happen to have out of the college library at the time of this assignment. It is a collection of Larry Burrows’ Vietnam war photos. Being a war photographer is something else I’d love to be as the potential to catch stunning and moving images in such circumstances must be huge. The sheer emotion, destruction and brutality of war make for some truly incredible documentary images.

Initial Shoot

I’ve now shot the project on my chosen format; 35mm, but am not sure the location was ideal for the setup.

As can be seen from the two images of the location and setup of the shoot, I had to place the box (in this instance it was my gun case) on the backdrop in a position that would hold it in place. This meant having it right up against the material to stop it flapping about in the breeze that was coming around the corner behind the set.

Because of this, I’m not entirely sure the images are going to be any good due to shadow falloff onto the backdrop and whether in some of the images the backdrop may have wrapped around the edge of the items (the stocks of the guns). I took quite a few shots from slightly different angles which included from ground level up to standing on the ladder you see in the images above. I may get away with it as the backdrop is white, but time will tell.

At the time of writing this, I’m at the point where I’ve developed the negatives and now need to produce a contact sheet and start printing to see if any of the eighteen shots I took have worked. Hopefully, I can crack on in the next Photo Tech 2 lesson to find out!

Printing the Image

Ok, even though I kind of enjoy working in the darkrooms and watching my images develop, I would have to say that I don’t enjoy it so much when things don’t go straight-forward. I would say that this is simply because I don’t have enough experience with the processes of film photography. Anyway, after spending 4+ hours in the darkroom trying to print my image, I came away with nothing to show for it but I did feel that I’d got back into the process of it all after not having done it for nearly a year.

I decided to go back into college on a day off to finally get the image printed. I did this in about an hour and a half after I’d spent a bit of time picking out a better negative to use.

Now, I wouldn’t say that I was pleased with this print if I’m being honest. I think the word ‘satisfied’ is more appropriate. I say this because I could have got it in sharper focus and should have exposed it for longer as it looks a little grey, to me. Maybe I should have also knocked the grade up from 2.5 to 3. Anyway, it is what it is now, and after a total of about 6 hours in the darkroom trying to get this one single image done, all I can say is that I’m glad this assignment isn’t a summative one. I am glad I’ve done it, though, as it’s been more about me reintroducing myself to the developing/printing process. This is a good thing as it should have me more prepared for the next assignment.

The Print Settings

Because the image had many different tones to it, I had to expose it for quite a while and do a bit of burning-in in places.

The settings on the enlarger were:

  • Aperture: f8
  • Overall exposure time: 70 secs
  • Grade: 2.5

It would have been nice to just have to expose the whole image for the 70 seconds but, hey, that would’ve been far too simple. The bottom-left, where the photography business book and DVD’s are, needed an extra 40 seconds, the top-left, where the flag is, needed an extra 20 seconds, and the bottom-right, where the Storm Troopers are sitting on the bottles, needed an extra 17 seconds.

The bottom-left could have done with about another 10 seconds on top of the 40 but, to be honest, I’d used enough of the expensive 12×16″ photography paper and what felt like an age getting to get to this stage so walked away after getting this far.