A4 Contact sheets of all images

These may take a few moments to download. Click to open full size. Contacts were made from Lightroom then annotated on my tablet and saved as jpgs. I tried a variety of approaches when shooting – boxes in the wider landscape, interference with boxes, intentional camera movement and documenting the phone itself.


A4 draft for peer review

I put these images on the OCA Critiques for review. Link is here for OCA students and staff. The thread covers from initial attempts onwards. As it is a closed forum I am not reproducing replies here.

I am including the same set of draft images here and would value comments. Thank you. I have chosen the brief “The beauty of artificial light”.


Following Simon’s comment below, here is the unedited version of the ceiling shot to show the colours as the camera captured them. I desaturated the yellow and orange channels and made small adjustments to the tone curve to return the colours to closer to how I saw them inside the phone box.

testset2alt ceiling-6232



A4 development notes

This post will be updated as I work through A4. It is based on exercise 4.3 for which I photographed a red telephone box in Calne.

I used an OS map to identify phone boxes and then did daylight recces to check that the box was still there and the light working. Actual shots were fitted in with normal commitments where possible or otherwise I would just pop out at night with my tripod and remote release. I kept notes as I went and uploaded photographs to lightroom as I went.

Here’s a cut and paste from my box log on Evernote.

15/2 Bigbury bay, overgrown. mobile & camera
17/2 Calne precinct, double boxes, one unlit, mobile & camera. Panned shot. There is another box just off the main road, on the right, by the pub.
17/2 Facebook post
18/2 Avebury Trusloe, at the end of a drive, phone, lit
18/2 Avebury – by the Henge Shop, phone, lit, machine behind
18/2 Rushall (parking at village hall), information booth, not checked
18/2 – garage at the roundabout on the way to Pewsey, not checked Turning off the side road.
18/2 – on right as you go into Pewsey, information booth, lit, no obstructions.
18/2 -note from Holly – Wroughton, opposite pub, phone box also food bank
18/2 Lacock – past post office – phone booth but out of order, broken receiver. Ironic given conservation status of village.
19/2 Layby on the road from Chippenham near the garage, just before the turning to Bowood/Rowde Lit vandalised but well located.
21/2 Marlborough bottom end of High Street, different light but good condition and not too obstructed. By PO has no light. On A4 has no light. Photos taken of High St one.
22/2 journey to Corsham and back. One just past the Harp & Moon pub, in a layby. One in a layby near Corsham? One at the end of a garden near Corsham Court. There might be more in Corsham itself, check on Tuesday evening.
23/2 Bath (daytime recce). Most boxes are replicas with no phone and no light. No point in photographing them for this set.
23/2 One by Coconut restaurant not lit. One by the caravan turning/pub well lit and good location
24/2 Chippenham station, well lit, good location, see separate note with image
28/2 Photographed the Corsham phone box near Corsham Court. Others had failed lights. Good shots of top panels and trippy motion.
1/3 Photographed the Bishop Cannings box. It’s pending removal. Pouring rain, full darkness needed hi-vis in dark layby. Unsuccessful photo showing rain, but insect shot was good.
2/3 there is a national telehone kiosk collection at Bromsgrove. Need to email and ask for light details.
3/3  White Hart Calne – good. smeared glass reflected light better. Reshoot moss and Follow On Call button?
6/3 Bowood layby – images not good, road too busy, layby too busy, box overgrown, couldn’t open the box door.
6/3 One by the caravan/pub turning – got there to shoot but realised there was no phone in there even though the light was working (it’s normally the other way round…)
11/3 – conversation with Andrew Hurley of the National Telephone Kiosk Collection about phone lighting. urls are http://www.avoncroft.org.uk/


Options are to take straight shots of box in landscape, to consider the differing uses of phoneboxes eg phone, tourist information, defibrillator, mini library (appealing but a bit Sunday supplement) or to abstract/macro slightly and concentrate on the light and the box itself. This latter is the one appeals, but I will take landscape type shots as well.

Need to get all the shots before the clocks change. Need to get lots of shots (see A3 feedback), need to remember hi-vis and sturdy shoes for layby shots.

Start looking at research. There was less research for this one, compared to what I’ve done for earlier assignments. Most people know what a phone box is, especially those who grew up with them. Also, the Nick Turpin work on night buses gave me a very clear idea on what feel I wanted the final images to have, and I honestly didn’t feel as if I needed much else, or if adding more research would improve the final work.

I decided to concentrate on functional red boxes that contained both a working phone and a working light. I photographed details, not landscapes. I wanted to emphasise the light, the red. It became apparent that there’s an ecosystem supported by many boxes – insects, snails, mosses, weeds, brambles, strange green things growing through the paint on the inside of the ceiling. One evening shoot was a complete write-off – the first, beautifully lit box had no phone inside and therefore didn’t meet my criteria, and the second, in a layby/bus-stop on a busy road was over-lit from the traffic. The door had jammed shut and the photos just didn’t work.

About 3/4 of the way through photographing boxes I put a draft set of images up on both my blog and the OCA critique board. I took the comments on board, reshot some images, and decided in some cases to keep the original or at least not change it much. I removed one image that a tutor said reminded him of amateur work. After reviewing my newer work I returned to contact sheets of early shoots and found some images that I thought would work better. Reshooting is actually quite hard – there are different kinds of dark, and the red paint can turn orange or purple at the wrong time. Plus it never seemed to be raining when I needed it too. I’m trying to resist the temptation to over-do this work, it is so delicate and fragile and the set is easily unbalanced with too heavy a touch.

George Tice – link provided on OCA board – mono image of an isolated illuminated box in New Jersey. So beautiful but hard to reproduce here – so much clutter and street lighting around boxes. Layby box could work but would have to be late as the road is so busy there.

I emailed the Avoncroft museum who house the National Telephone Kiosk Collection and asked if they could put me in touch with anyone who could answer some questions on the lighting in boxes. They were very helpful and put me in touch with Andrew Hurley of the Collection who was kind enough to answer my questions over the phone. I was keen to get a bit of background information about the light and the boxes.

My selection process is still something I need to work on. I tend to work in lightroom, flagging the images I want to consider, then using a combination of star ratings and tags to narrow the selection down.



Exercise 4.3 The beauty of artificial light

Out of sequence – my camera is at the repair shop and I am catching up where I can.

Feedback from my tutor has a couple of times now included that I need to include more of my workings out, my ideas, my working process. So let’s try it out here, while I try to banish anxiety about not doing a complete blog post all in one go.

I had an awful lot of ideas for this one, I very much like artificial light. From memory, my candidates were:

  • My local Lidl and its bright lighting indoor and out, and the way that bright lighting illuminates a glass fire-door and the shoppers and goods visible through it.
  • Light fittings display in a local homewares shop
  • Portraits of girls inspired by text in a book by Angela Robbie about the “luminosity” of young women and girls.
  • People climbing at a local climbing wall (but this one would need flash)
  • Chippenham railway station, which has a long in-used platform hosting a fully functional photo booth, which is illuminated and has a curtain that blows in the wind.

Some of these are easier to organise than others. My tutor was positive about them all and provided some very useful research suggestions (to follow in another post). I still struggled to feel engaged with any specific idea. Test shoots were a bit meh, especially those taken on a mobile phone. I like situations where you have indoor light outside, especially in small man-made structures like photobooths. I also wanted a concept that would allow me to add layers of meaning. I was curious about how best to interpret the brief. Just photographing light is hard without a subject to show how the light behaves. Yet as soon as you include a subject, or too involved a narrative or landscape, the role of the light can diminish to being just another component in the image. How to find a subject and light that reinforce each other, where the light is an intrinsic part of the subject and vice versa? I suppose neon and LCD/LED signs come into play here. It’s worth saying at this point that I was (and remain) pretty committed to developing this exercise for Assignment 4. I know that technically I should do the other two exercises and then decide, and I’m of course open to the possibility of changing my mind.

Driving through local villages, I was taken by the way that Wiltshire still has an abundance of red telephone boxes, many of which still cast their welcoming glow, even though their functions have changed. They are life landmarks for so many of us, from private calls to boyfriends to illicit drinking. They are landscape landmarks too, still marked on Ordnance Survey maps and often linked with bus stops, or more often pubs. Their light changes depending on the weather – rain and fog – or the way they misted up in accordance with whatever activity was being conducted inside and the external temperature. They have somehow remained resolutely British, as we moved into and now out of Europe. They are treasured by their communities, and many have been taken into community ownership.

So this is the current exploration. My criteria is red phone boxes with a functioning internal light, photographed after dark. They don’t have to house a functioning phone. I want to photograph inside and out, inwards and outwards, in different weathers, abstract and faithful, small details and the whole picture. I don’t want to make a set of landscapes all including a phone box. I might do a bit of playing with flash inside the box, but this will be in addition to the other shots. I’m going to commit to this post with a small set of images taken of a pair of boxes in Calne without a tripod, whilst I waited for my daughter’s class to finish. They are simply test shots and there are dozens more on my mobile, but I think they show some of my thoughts so we’ll start here.

Editing to complete the exercise with thoughts on the difference of the quality of light from the daylight shots in ex 4.2. Daylight varies through out the day, in a phone box the light is on 24/7. That doesn’t make it consistent all the time, but makes it less inconsistent. From the outside a phonebox has a gentle glow, but this is partly because the light is filtered through either dirty glass or dirty plastic. Inside, the light is very bright around the light fitting and ceiling but rather less so in the lower corners and near the floor. It’s quite a harsh light and not one you’d want to be exposed to for long. When you’re in a phone box the outside environment that you see through the glass is also filtered in the same way and that is why external artificial lighting such as signage, car lights and traffic lights can look diffused and softer. When I was photographing inside the boxes I didn’t see any shadows, whereas daylight was full of them. The temperature of the light was quite different too. I think like many I am almost attuned to artificial lights after dark and inside and find it hard to describe the differences. I wouldn’t make a colour portrait of someone in a phone box without substantially adjusting the white balance whereas that would be much less of a concern for a daylight lit portrait.