Workshop Week 5

Introduction to Still Image project: An Uncanny Photograph


Umbo (Otto Umbehr), Beach Life, 1930, Museum Ludwig / Agfa Collection


In this image, by photographer Umbo, the eye is tricked into a false reading. What is that reading? There is nothing unsettling or strange about a group of people lying down on a beach, yet this image somehow unsettles the mind. Can you work out how?

Uncanny can be understood as a ‘disquieting strangeness’. Can you find, or create, a ‘disquieting strangeness’ within your series of photographs?

Please review the requirements for the still image project outline


1) Identify any cultural reference to the term “uncanny”. For example you might start by exploring psychology (Hint: Freud), painting and photography.

2) List any definitions of the term uncanny that you find.

3) Conceptual development: Explore and document how the quality of ‘uncanny’ might relate to concepts discussed in the week 4 and week 5 lectures.

  • What might be ‘referenced’ by uncanniness?
  • What might an uncanny object symbolise?
  • What is the relationship between death and uncanniness?
  • Is there any realm of knowledge linked to the quality of being uncanny?
  • Is there a relationship between science, between an objective gaze and uncanniness?
  • Is there an everyday domestic relationship with uncanniness?

4) Consider the following quote:

” Freud’s ‘The “Uncanny”‘ essay can be summarised as making a single proposition: the uncanny is something repressed which recurs — a habit already noted in surrealism”
[David Blake, Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent, 2004, p. 39]

5) Consider the following list of uncanny themes

(extrapolated from Freud’s essay, and quoted from David Blake’s  Photography and Surrealism: Sexuality, Colonialism and Social Dissent, 2004)

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Basic digital photography

  • Basic camera function
    • Lens, image capture (film or digital signals)
  • Basic photographic principles
    • shutter speed
    • aperture (f-stop)
    • ‘film’ speed (ISO)
    • focus
  • Differences between digital and analogue technologies
    • gathering and organization of data
    • light through lens
    • light -> analogue information on film (physical/ chemical)
    • light -> coupled-charge device -> digital data (signals)
  • Digital imaging considerations:
    • white balance (colour temperature on film)
    • file size
    • resolution
    • formats jpg vs raw etc.

Photography exercises

In groups of 2 or 3,

Exercise 1 (of 6)

  • Delete all images
    • MENU button > ‘play icon’ > Delete All Images
  • Find how to change
    • Aperture (Av)
    • Shutter speed (Tv)
    • Film speed (Sv)
    • White balance (WB)
  • Set Camera mode to
    • Automatic (P)
    • Manual (M)
    • Aperture Priority ()
    • Shutter Priority ()

Exercise 2 (of 6)

  • Choose an object (from your bag, from outside, or…)
  • Work out how to FIX the ISO setting so that it doesn’t change (important!)
  • Choose the Aperture Priority program on your camera.
  • Take 2 identical photos that have only one difference:
    • one has a high depth of field
    • the other has a low depth of field

Hint: This effect is more pronounced when the subject matter is within a metre of the camera lens.

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Exercise 3 (of 6)

  • Using the same object, get a fellow student to run behind it (or do some kind of fast movement)
  • Set the camera to Shutter Priority.
  • Again, take 2 identical photos:
    • one with a slow shutter speed (slower than 1/10th of a second)
    • the other with a fast shutter speed (faster than 1/200th)

Hint: Perhaps try to use a tripod! Make sure the camera stays still for the slow exposure.

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Exercise 4 (of 6)

  • Identify the difference between these two photos
  • Take the same photo twice, both must be rear-lit
    • one photo must have the face unexposed
    • the other must have the face perfectly exposed

Hint: The flash is involved!



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Exercise 5 (of 6)

  • Photograph the same photograph 3 times.  Change the ISO settings to: 100 , 800  and 3200 ISO
  • Open on your computer and note the difference
  • What do you notice (from a colour perspective) about the high ISO setting?

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Exercise 6 (challenge!) (of 6)

  • How was this photo done?
  • Can you reproduce something similar?

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Digital image editing

Working on computers (Photoshop), introduce:

Exercise 1

  • In Photoshop, work out the resolution of the images you have taken
  • Crop one of your photos to make a better composition

Exercise 2: colour manipulations

  • Adjust the colour balance to make your photo ‘cold’
  • Then desaturate it (take the colour out of it a little)

Exercise 3:

  • Rotate your image
  • then invert it horizontally

Exercise 4: image compression

  • Export as a JPG of around 1000px wide
  • how much smaller is your image?
  • What made the image smaller? a reduction in size or the JPG compression? Find out.

Task (outside of class)

  • With the selected object, map your ideas
  • Bring objects to next class with ideas of how it will be photographed

Equipment/ set up/ materials

  • 6 − 8 Digital still cameras
  • 6 − 8 Tripods
  • Objects to photograph/ for settings
  • Materials for backdrop

One thought on “Workshop Week 5

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