Tuesday, 15 April 2014

About Bokeh and Depth of Field

I am learning photography. I'm not quite obsessed (yet) but I want to get the kind of images BurdaStyle magazine has. And I want to get it with my camera (I will not buy a DSLR yet, I will not buy a DSLR yet...). I'm pretty sure that it's largely to do with skill and composition, so I'm gradually working on that. (My Sony RX100ii has an auto framing mode which is helping me to learn about framing and composition by showing me how my photos can look better by cropping etc.)

One of the things I want to achieve in my photography is bokeh (blurry background). The things that affect this, according to the Internet, are sensor size, aperture (f numbers), and distance.

Now, I realise that DSLRs will give you much more bokeh than any compact camera (with the possible exception of the full-frame Sony RX1 which costs about £2700 and I'm not paying anywhere near that), but I find that I can get good bokeh with my new Sony RX100ii sometimes. Of course, I wanted to find out why I was getting better bokeh at sometimes than others. I knew it had to do with aperture (how much the camera squints), and distance from the camera. Last night the phrase "depth of field" finally hit home and I realised that it's about relativity.

To demonstrate for yourself how depth of field affects bokeh, hold out your index finger in front of you and focus on it as you move it towards an object that's in front of you, and then towards your eyes. As you move your finger towards the object, the object will come more into focus, and as you move your finger closer to your eyes, the object will get blurrier (that's bokeh).

This is what happens in photography. The better your sensor and lens, the more pronounced these effects will be because your camera has better eyesight. If you try the above experiment while squinting, you'll see what a difference quality of camera and lens makes.

The bigger your subject, the greater the distance will have to be between it and the background because the camera must be farther away from the subject to get the whole thing in the frame. The reverse is true as well: macro shots have great bokeh because there is very shallow depth of field, i.e. the subject is close the camera, so the background is far away compared with this distance. 

I think there must be a ratio for this, but it will vary from camera to camera. I think on mine, the distance from the subject to the background must be at least four times the distance from the subject to the camera to get good bokeh. 

Here are some images that demonstrate the idea, and that I took last night when I was figuring bokeh and DOF out:

Above you can see how the closer the usb stick is to the camera, the blurrier the tissue gets.

Above, you can just see how the closet I am to the camera, the blurrier the printer and books are. It's not as pronounced in these images because the distance isn't very big compared with me.

It also helps if the background has bright lighting with different colours, like if you're standing in front of a backlit tree or some fairy lights. You'll have to Google image for that though.

I'll add more about photography as I learn it and actually understand it, but I can't say that will happen very regularly! : )


Thursday, 10 April 2014

Module 7 Begins: Independent Study

This module technically starts tomorrow, but Beth (our tutor) uploaded our module guide today to i-learn. We all have ideas about what we're going to do, and have been thinking ahead since we were told about it at the beginning of the last module. Basically, we get to make up our own brief. Mine is quite an ambitious one: pop-up sewing pattern company. I think I can do it, and I'm already a bit ahead because I developed the concept for my first pattern collection and collected the research images for my sketchbook on Tuesday night after I watched The Great British Sewing Bee.

The concept is The Secret Garden Tea Party. I want to make a collection of 3-5 patterns sized for little girls aged 3-6 years old. I know it's not a large age range, but I've only six weeks on this module, counting Easter break.

I've written my brief now so I'll take to to Beth tomorrow.

I've just been looking at our Development Diary brief (as set by Beth). We have to keep an A5 diary/journal and document all of our progress including: photographs, design sketches, illustrations, colour samples, fabric swatches, and stuff about any trips we make as part of our project. It sounds a lot when you think of it all at once! And all of that has a word limit of 3000, with leeway of 10% either way (careful word-counting will need to be done as I go along).

The "learning outcomes" are the grading criteria. Each module had different ones, and each brief within the module may have different ones. The Development diary brief requires that we use the skills we've learned so far in a "range of media to articulate ideas and concepts within the independently-conceived and generated, tutor approved fashion and clothing design project", mesh different inspirations etc. into the design project, and relate our design projects historically or contextually (to make sure we make good use of what we learned in module 5: Historical and Contextual Studies).

The other part of the module is the practical one: design or make. Of course, I'm technically going for both. So I need to make:

  • a research file
  • an A3 sketchbook: 10+ pages with images, fabric, annotation, draping on the stand, designs, drawing inspiration
  • A3 Design book (this is the "scruffy book" for coming up with ideas)
  • A3 Final Design board: designs, techs done on Adobe Illustrator, fabric, inspiring imagery
  • A3 mood board: images that sum up the collection
  • Pattern folder: content page, labels, master pattens, final patterns, all in clear wallets
  • Toiles with linings and made to a high standard
  • Final garments in clear dress bag(s), labelled with name and course
As you can see, I have a lot to do and the earlier a start I get, the better. Oh, did I mention, the patterns have to be clever and push my limits? Pattern Magic will be coming off the bookshelf again. : )


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Assessing my own work

As part of this module I have to assess my own work and professionalism. In a nutshell I'm not impressed with myself, but the grades I got on my last module were the proverbial kick up the backside and I can see that late nights (doing my work I might add) and late mornings catching up on my sleep do not work for me. I am one who needs to work with the rhythm of nature. I also need a routine -- chaos is so unproductive.

Anyway, as I'm likely going to be self-employed after I graduate (and my next module will be practice anyway) I'm being a one-woman-band on this project. I'm doing my own designing, pattern-cutting, sourcing, photography, modelling, and presentation work. That's a lot of hats to wear but I want to get a lot of skills. Even if I end up working for someone else I ought to have at least a basic understanding of what the other people in the company are doing so that I can communicate and work better with them.

Therefore I'm learning photography. I've bought a Sony RX100 II compact camera. I know it's not a DSLR or even a 4/3rds, but it does enough for me to shoot some (hopefully) professional-looking photographs of my work. I've got to learn about composition and lighting and all that, but my new motto is "one thing at a time"; I can't do everything at once and I'm not going to try -- I'd just go crazy!

The way we're doing this module (when we're at the college) is to do our CVs etc. in the morning and our competition work in the afternoon. I find this way of working better because I concentrate on the task at hand and actually get work done. In a way, it's like colouring in one section of a drawing at a time instead of trying to colour them all in at once with different coloured pens. You can see how much calmer and more efficient that would be!

At the end of the module...

The other thing I have improved on (and will continue to improve upon) during this module is concentrating on what I'm doing. It's really the only way to get anything done. It's easier for my mind to wander when I'm on my computer because Google is only a click away, but I just have to do what I'm supposed to do instead of Googling other interesting things. : )

I also find to-do-list-writing helpful for concentrating the mind. You can look at your list and think "well, I can get at least these two things done" and then find that you can get some more things done as well (depending on the tasks of course).

As I'm working as a freelance pattern cutter now, I have set aside Saturdays to work only on that. The other six days of the week are for my coursework. This allows some flexibility for course-related work experience. This coming Saturday (the 12th April) I will be working on a fashion show in Beverley though, so my freelance work will have to be on Sunday this week.

I'm also beginning to feel more professional by organising my branding and my employment packs, and learning to do photography. Being able to present a professional image really boost your confidence, but must, of course, be backed up with actual efficient work. : ) There's real pleasure in being tidy and productive, you know!

It has occurred to me that when photography and styling join forces, they are more powerful than politicians. The images in adverts and the media, I think, have more influence over our conscious and subconscious decisions than any amount of 5 minute "vote for me" adverts before Emmerdale. It really fascinates me and motivates me to learn more about photography and styling. It will really help my next project look professional.

The last part of "the journal"

This post will be the last in this series (sigh of relief). I know it's not been edge-of-your-seat kind of stuff and thank you very much for sticking with me. It's really a way of submitting my work for uni, so you're actually seeing part of my homework. : )

Saturday, 5th April 2014

Hand-in day is Tuesday and I have a few things to do prior to that. I have to:
  • re-do my illustration again
  • organise my case-study file
  • complete my New Look work experience report
  • update my blog (just this bit)
  • print tracing paper page
  • bind sketchbook (do this on Tuesday)
  • write links blog post in a PDF or email them to Beth
  • Employment Packs
Thankfully, these are mostly small jobs. The illustration will take the most effort/time. As today is Saturday, I have been working on Camilla's pattern, and I'll do the module work tomorrow and on Monday. I have ordered a garment bag but it wouldn't have got here in time even if I'd paid for express delivery, so I got free delivery and it will come by Thursday. I'll have to leave the dresses in my portfolio box until Friday.

Sunday, 6th April 2014

Today I have mostly sorted out my file and done my illustration. I must get the rest of my tasks completed tomorrow. I'm also looking into illustrating as a career option, but I don't think I will choose it ultimately. I'll research it, but I think it will be better as a side-skill.

These blog posts are evidently boring; I think I've lost a follower! The next one I type will be the last in this module, and it's just as well if it's effecting my ratings negatively.

I think this module has just opened up a part of my brain/mind that deals with branding. I'm glad because I shall need it for the next module.

Tuesday, 8th April 2012, half-past midnight

I've got most of what I wanted to do done. I haven't got my CV content improved, or at least I don't think I have; I'll only know as I apply for jobs and internships. I really wanted to work on my employment packs, but I think that will take time that I don't have just now. I have, however, found some interviews with independent pattern designers for my career research and done a job spec for that career. I have also moved some of the hand-written notes to computer format and printed them so they look better. I'd better get to bed now -- I have to be up at 6:50am! : ) Good night.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Module 6: Journal Continues again

29th March 2014

Yesterday we worked at New Look in St. Stephan's Shopping Centre in Hull. I was a "model" which really means that I worked as a shop assistant while wearing the stock (with the tags on). : )  My trend was Tropical Surf. I think I did a good job of adapting the look to be "me". I suspect I'm not suited to a retail environment. It's fine except for the customers, (except that makes it boring), at least in Hull. I don't sound like a Hulldener and I don't think that goes down well.

30th March 2014

As Saturdays are now for my free-lace work I spent yesterday doing that, and today will be busy indeed. I have too much to do to get it all done today, but I'll try to:
  1. finish my dress
  2. print off some business cards
  3. begin my illustration
The dress will take the longest to do because it's mostly hand-sewing to do now.

[That night]
I really need to be more efficient. I haven't even finished embellishing the dress (I had to re-sew the sequins as the design was not symmetrical). Oh I have so much to do tomorrow. I have to improve my concentration/interest in this project -- quickly! I've been distracted with photography. It's taking over. I'll have to put everything in a drawer when I'm working. "Out of sight, out of mind." I'll have to put that to good use.
  • To do lists on the wall
  • Curtains over the bookshelves (calico will do)
  • Camera and Kindle in drawer
  • Plan each module with calendar.
My room feels cluttered, and I'm tired. I'm going to bed. (Written at ten to one the next morning.)

31st March 2014

During breakfast I'm trying some different illustration styles to be more diverse.

5:29 pm
I have done three more illustrations and will as Beth which she thinks is best tomorrow. I still have to finish my sketchbook. I hope I can get the hand of sketch-booking by the end of the course. Maybe I'm over-thinking this, but it is so non-verbal and ethereal that it's hard for me to grasp.

9:10 pm
Tonight I have the following to do:
  1. finish sketchbook
  2. design board
  3. print some business cards
  4. customer profile
I simply won't complete all the task, but I can at least do number 3 and some of number 1.

-- I did them all! : D

Friday, 28 March 2014

Module 6 Journal Continues...

21st March 2014

Today we had a tutorial on sketchbook-making. I'm going to work on paper in future because  I can think better that way.
Sketchbook Method:

  1. Get images
  2. Plan "sketchbook" pages (lay out the images)
  3. Do scruffy work in design book
  4. Put best work and samples into "sketchbook".
If you're wondering why I put the work "sketchbook" in quotation marks, it's because Beth (our tutor) has quite a different idea of what a sketchbook is. I thought a sketchbook was a book you sketched in (crazy I know) but she has a whole different concept as explained in the numbered list above.

22nd March 2014

One feature of good design for a "short" person is that is works with their proportions instead of making them look squat.

"Petite: attractively small and dainty" OED

Also "small-busted" doesn't mean "no-busted". It's just a matter of dressage so thaw the "petite" bust is flattered not flattened. The figure is there, it's just subtler.

23rd March 2014

I spent much of yesterday working on my sketchbook plan. I'm not pleased with it, but I think knowing how to improve it will only come with practice. I'll just have to work with it because I haven't the time to be a perfectionist now. I'll get it digitised and completed today, and try to plan my photoshoot this evening. If I've time I also want to get the illustration done, but that might have to be tomorrow.

Little Star

In velvet black, in dead of night,
A single star shines its light,
And all the world who never saw,
Stare open-mouthed at beauty in awe.

The little star, she shines up high,
Not big or brash or loud but I
Can hear it softly, sweetly call,
"You're beautiful" to all who're small.

24th March 2014

Yesterday I did some sketches/design development for my sketchbook. I must get the rest done today. I find it most inspiring to work in a real sketchbook, rather than loose sheets of paper. I can still have the images separate (that's possibly better), but just work is better in a real book.

I need a way to binding my sketchbook. Something conceptual. Jewellery chain with diamond and star charms, or sequins. I can make the "look" whimsical and elegant if I alter the sequin pattern on the dress to be curlier. Maybe I can add some pictures like circles (which seemed to crop up quite a lot in the design book).

Reminds me of Arabian Nights

26th March 2014

Yesterday I made a plan of the next tow weeks and stuck it to my bedroom wall. I'll include it in my head-in so I don't have to write it here. Today and tomorrow will be spent in making the dress, and U want to get a couple of hours of sketch booking in too. for the sake of speed I'd rather hem by machine and as the dress will be backed I may be able to blind-hem by machine quite easily. I'll try a sample. If it doesn't work out very well, I'll hand-hem.

I wonder if I've any silver embroidery thread? If not I'll use gold. I want to print out a pattern envelope too. That won't take long.

[That evening at ten to nine].
I didn't get as much done as I wanted to do. I corrected the pattern (took ages somehow) and cut out most of the velvet pieces (one to go). Tomorrow I must finish cutting the fabric and at least begin making the dress. If they can do it on The Sewing Bee, I should be able to do it. : )

27th March 2014

Got most of the dress finished. Just hand-sewing to do now.


Thursday, 20 March 2014

Stars Dress Toile

I forgot to mention in my previous posts that I have made a toile of the Stars Dress for the DiversityNOW! competition. Why is it called the "stars dress" you ask? When I was coming up with ideas (meaning standing in front of my long mirror pinning the dress I was wearing into different looks) the pins reminded me of stars, and I thought "stars are tiny, and people admire them for their beauty, just like petite, small-busted women" and I got my angle for the design. I'm going to make it in black or dark navy velvet (backed of course) and embellish it with beads. I also have to correct some issues with the pattern so I've got a lot to do. If I can't get it made in time, I'll just have to decorate and submit the toile.

Here are the photos:

The pockets pattern is quite similar to the one I used on my French Dart Shift Dress, but I had to include a sewn-on pocket facing to facilitate the extra width I put into the skirt part (that's why it sticks out with showing my hands in the pockets).

I figured out how to get a French dart sheath dress. It works best if you use the pivot technique for transferring darts. You just pivot on the bust point until the full waist dart is pointing towards the hip at the side seam. As long as the now-French dart doesn't end in a point at the seam, I think it should be alright. It's hard to tell how the fit would be if I hadn't added the pockets because the bias seams on the pocket facings and so on might have stretched during sewing. : )

(Yes, I'm not a natural in front of the camera but I'll have to improve quickly because I'm my own model (and probably photographer) for the photo-shoot.)

Here you can see a few issues with the fit. I think I'll lower the under bust shaping a little; it's rather unflattering like this, wouldn't you say?

The back neck somehow ended up way too high and I need to lower it by about 3-4cm.

The sleeves took a lot of paper-draping, but given the end result, I think I might as well have just used the original sleeve head and added a seam to get rid of the ease.

I want to add beads or sequins along the French Dart line and along the neckline. The French-dart ones will look like the tail of a shooting star. : )

I've also been working on my illustration. Here it is so far:

It's a combination of pencil, ProMarker, watercolour, and Photoshop. I like it anyway, even if it doesn't look like a professional did it.