Author Archives: Concentrik1

Assignment 3

This series was made at a local community initiative called The Men’s Shed.  There are over 400 of these throughout the UK and it’s a growing ‘movement’.  The aim is to help alleviate loneliness and isolation among men, particular those in older age groups who may find themselves alone later in life.

The Sheds provide a mutually supportive environment along with craft-based activities, mainly woodwork and metalwork but any personal hobby may be pursued.  The activity takes place in the day, usually twice or three times a week and offers an opportunity to socialise with others in similar situations.

Many of the participants are widowers, some are recovering from health issues or other life-changing events.

I learned of these groups by searching the online listings of charities operating in my area.  I wanted to find a community which had some similarities in the life circumstances of the group members.  At first I was preparing to contact the group coordinator by email to explain my own interests and introduce myself as a photographer.  Having considered this approach a little more carefully I decided against the email and simply turned up on spec.  I think people form instant opinions of others based on the first few minutes of meeting and emails give the recipient a lot of time to imagine unnecessary problems

Having arrived at the building I asked about what was occurring before seeking out the ‘coordinator’  I have a tendency to try to impart too much information at once, so I was careful to explain myself in small chunks.  Having someone turn up asking to take pictures is unusual in most circumstances so I had my approach well-rehearsed.  This gave me a bit of confidence, but in the event I deviated from the initial plan pretty much right away.  I was offered tea, biscuits and was pleased to find myself the object of some polite curiosity as a very mature student.

I have some background in wood- and metalwork, so I was able to ask some pertinent questions whilst commenting favourably on the works in progress.  At the same time, I didn’t want to cause much disruption so arranged to return the following week to start photographing those present.

When I arrived it was clear that everyone had been primed.  They were most cooperative and I was able to circulate quietly, taking pictures as the men worked.  Interesting conversations ensued; seclusion was a common theme, shortage of meaningful contact with family, particularly children was normal.  I heard about the difficulties associated with a lack of purpose.  The men had, for the most part, been industrious and often ambitious through their working lives and leaving gainful employment behind meant a loss of self-esteem.

The common bond of joint endeavour though, in the sense of making and producing work through collaboration and in company was unanimously welcomed.

The pictures which show the men engaged in their work were made in natural daylight.  There was some fluorescent influence but it was minimal and not really detectable in the results.  The portraits were made in the confines of the workshop against a simple black backdrop clamped to anything handy.  Lit with one 18″ beauty dish with a scrim over it.  No reflectors.

I wanted to make some portraits with a sense of dignity and pride.  The tools, where visible, were being used moments before and I asked the subjects to hold on to them, partly to add some context and also to give them something to do with their hands.

The group have asked for copies of the files to use in their publicity material, which I will gladly provide.

April 19th 2018 – I&P Part 3

Although this is titled part 3 it’s about the other parts as well.  I decided to switch tutors earlier in March.  The request got lost in the system but while I was waiting I did attend to several of the coursework items.

I decided not to slavishly work through the coursework in sequence, rather to take it on as a whole, keeping drafts of the different sections without committing them to the blog.  I haven’t done the assignments out of sequence, but I keep a OneNote page for each of them, adding ideas and thoughts as they occur.

I think this is helpful – considering the module in the round.  I have often found that learning relating to one part influences thought in another and this doesn’t always happen in sequence.

I’m still hoping to submit I&P for the June assessment event.



I have interpreted the brief for this exercise a little more liberally than usual; I have taken the ‘background’ to mean a setting.  I’ve also gone a bit off-piste with the background orientation.  Most backgrounds are vertical, running from the ground to some indeterminate point in the ‘above’ area.  For this short series I have made the ground the background by picturing the subjects from above.

In doing this I have pretty much eliminated one aspect of the generally accepted view of portraiture – the faces.  It raises a question though – is it a portrait if you can’t see the face? When it comes to the relative size of the face in a photograph we are quite tolerant as viewers.  A big close up, tight enough to lose the ears is a portrait.  We’ll accept the term even when the face is tiny, seen at quite a distance.  As long as it is readily identifiable as a face – there are facial features – we’re happy with the definition.

When only the tops of heads are visible the definition is stretched.  But other factors arise which may add to the personal nature of the picture. The field is profoundly flattened and relevant objects appear to be placed around the subject with equal significance.  They all have the same relative size in that they are not diminished by their front-to-back positioning.  Mostly they are actually in contact with the background.

Gesture takes on a novel appearance and the positional relationships between figures assume a particular dynamism. The reach of an arm, which in normal view may be foreshortened, is seen as a dramatic stretch.  The viewer is pressed into making unfamiliar inferences, prompting a new kind of engagement.

The objects surrounding the figures are plainly laid out. They do not obscure each other and are arranged like a map.  Now that I’ve mentioned the ‘map’ word it feels even more like an abstract, somewhat disconnected representation of the people depicted.  The flattened perspective renders the scene quite dispassionately and as viewers we have a privileged position from which we can examine the contents of the frame and relate them to the subjects.




Assignment 2

The photographs in this assignment are selected from a current project which has been a while in the starting.  I had the idea of portraying visitors and holidaymakers in the coastal town of Lyme Regis in a recognisable context – the beach hut.  Lyme has a whole row of these and they are popular with families during their days at the shoreline.


I was thinking about using a hut as a kind of impromptu ‘studio’ but I was a little wary of the reaction I might get from the town council, so like a proper law abiding citizen I wrote to ask for their approval.  Several weeks went by without a response so I called to ask about progress, only to discover that my request was to be put before the Tourism and Leisure Committee at the next meeting.  Undeterred I arranged to attend the meeting in case there were any questions – indeed there were.  I was called upon to give a full explanation of my intentions, reasons, possible uses, health and safety implications along with evidence of appropriate insurances.  I had expected it to be a shoo-in; I was wrong.  In fact a couple of councillors voted against what had become a ‘motion’ although the proposal was approved by the majority.  So that was all right then….  But hold on,  not so fast…


This resolution had to go to ‘full committee’ for final approval.  This turned out to be a formality and the project was given the go-ahead.  To be fair, most people were enthusiastic and encouraging while the dissenters were, I think, just a bit perplexed.


I had hoped to use a variety of huts in the void hours or occasional days left by people who handed their keys in early.  This idea proved unworkable because the business which held the hut ‘concession’, who handled the issue and return of keys, maintained that there was never any void time.  From Easter to Guy Fawkes, no hirer ever returned their keys as much as an hour before time.  Apparently.


By this stage in the year it was too late to make a weekly booking in my own name – as I mentioned, they are popular – so I set the project aside over the off-season.


Come March 2018 I resolved to go under-cover.  I hired a hut without admitting my purpose and duly set about preparing it as a pop-up studio.  Then it rained.  A lot, because of course it was a bank holiday at the English seaside.  Despite this I managed to squeeze in a few hours when the rain let up to get a few pictures towards the series.


The concept involved placing people in a space which was identifiable with the location.  I had originally envisaged some accompanying text with each photograph, disclosing what the subject would normally be doing at that same time but on a work day, the point being that both pilots and pensioners lose the trappings of position when on holiday.  As I thought about it more carefully I began to go off this idea; it felt trite and contrived so I neglected to question people on the matter of their usual occupation, concentrating on the portrayal aspect.


My initial impulse to ‘dress’ the setting faded as well, to the extent of removing any seating for most sitters.  People’s reactions to a beach front ‘pop-up’ studio were interesting.  I had expected people to engage with me as a result of the door hanging posters which announced the enterprise but the reaction from passers-by was consistent disinterest.  People saw the signs, possibly commented, but walked straight on past without breaking step.  In fact they studiously avoided even glancing inside.  I put this disinclination to engage down to innate suspicion of being fleeced.


I had been warned off ‘soliciting’ by the council – they were concerned about obstruction and crowds – but in the end this was the only way I could get people to engage.  I approached them in the fashion I had employed doing previous street work – direct and slightly obsequious, but well short of creepy.  I think.  I was fortunate to have Glamorous Assistant present to give some authenticity to the proceedings and reassure passing parents that nothing untoward was in progress.  Nobody said “NO”; not a one.  Some were confused but ultimately compliant.  Most were enthusiastic and good humoured.


As time went on I managed to feel my way into an approach which I think suited the project.  As I mentioned earlier, I stripped the interior right down and had people standing, except where space or conflicting heights called for a stool.  Later I even left that out, just letting the subjects appear as they actually were, without posing or direction.  All I asked was that they tried not to look directly at the camera, because I was developing a one-way gaze feel.


As for the techie stuff, it was mainly about balancing the strong exterior sunlight with the darker interior.  The back of the hut was five stops darker than the front doors.  I put a gold reflector in the roof, held up with drawing pins.  To each side, a speedlight pointing up to the reflector, but flagged to prevent spill direct to the subjects.  Later I took the flags away partly, because I liked the hot light. If I return to this I will use translucent flags, probably in the form of ‘trace frames’, big enough to prevent the edges throwing shadows.  It’s a bit tricky because the space is so small and the subjects end up being rather close to the lights. The background is a decorators dust sheet, very heavy twill and a kind of khaki brown which matches the wood of the hut.


All done at 200 ASA, 1/320th (the Olympus max synch speed) and between f11 and f13.  The flashes were both at 1/4 power.  Handheld because who knows what chaos might result, pedestrian wise, from the indiscriminate use of a tripod.


As has become my custom, I gave each subject a card with my email address, also inscribed with a heartfelt thank-you and the time and date of their picture (so I know who they are).  They frequently contact me for a JPG, which I am delighted to supply.


My views on this idea are mixed so I would self-assess it as follows:

  • I wouldn’t ask permission again, I’d just go ahead, do it and talk my way through it if challenged.
  • I have realised that my initial (crippling) fears about approaching people are 98% unfounded.  That other 2%, you know who you are…
  • It works as a portrait series – the representations are quirky and engaging.  Documentary it ain’t.
  • There is a LOT to learn about photographing people and much of it has little to do with equipment and technique.  Not that that’s a reason to ignore those aspects, they are important, but they shouldn’t get in the way.
  • I didn’t want to portray people in a way which held them to ridicule however faint.  But I wanted to allow something essential to appear, conveying some intrigue and internal tension within the frame.  Just one of the pictures gets some way towards this.










3.1 Mirror / Window from archives


Well that was an interesting trawl through my photographic history.  I don’t have my film/print archive at the moment – it is being skillfully curated by my daughter – but I suspect I would notice strong similarities between that and the digital version.  The earlier would feature mainly kids and wine.  The later digital, sea and food.

Categorizing photographs on the basis of mirror/window is tricky at the best of times, more so in the case of personally taken pictures.  The very act of making the photograph places the photographer somewhere between participant and observer, not least because of the necessity to actually be present at the time.

I have categorised my own choice by identifying those pictures which I participated in as ‘mirrors’ and those at which I was largely an observer as ‘windows’.  A noticeable feature of the ‘mirror’ pictures is their singular lack of meaning for an observer without knowledge of the context surrounding them.  A patch of sea, for example, looks very much like any other* to the casual observer but for me it may hold deep significance.

This is a problem, for me at least, with a good deal of contemporary photography.  The images rely for the most part on support from the maker, in the form of explanatory text.  This is because they are profoundly ‘mirroring’ the photographer’s experience, which without common experience is meaningless for the viewer.

So what can we say about a photograph?  How can we articulate it’s effects?  We have a limited range of responses at our disposal; mainly we can give voice to the content and to the form.  We may allow our personal experiences – our commonality – to influence our interpretations.  But each of these responses lean heavily on the ‘mirror’ aspect because our responses – the ways we perceive a picture – are deeply influenced by who we are, and how we got that way.  It might be fair to say that every  photograph ends up a mirror.

* Not really. Each patch of sea is unique and reveals important (if you’re on it) information about the circumstances surrounding its appearance.

IP 2.1 Individual Spaces

Three subjects in their individual spaces.  These pictures are from a project I’m doing about disappearing crafts, once commonplace skills which have either been displaced by industrialisation or no longer attract an economical demand.  I’m aware of the implications of self-plagiarisation so these three pictures have been taken during my time on this particular module, not retrieved from older work.  They’re an integration of my ‘personal’ work and my ‘college’ work.

Making the arrangements to take the photographs is one of the most awkward aspects; aligning people’s diaries involves a fair bit of adjustment.  But once people have committed I’ve found that they are quite cooperative.

These three subjects are certainly in their individual spaces; they are surrounded – even hemmed in – by the evidence of their activities and enthusiasms.  Most of the people share an intriguing characteristic, surrounded as they are by masses of materials and equipment they keep one tiny area of workspace clear; this is where the making happens.

The viewer has to trust the presenter of the work – that’s me, the photographer – to the extent that my assertions concerning the subjects are fundamentally true.  I have not placed some random individual in the setting while the craftsperson was out making a cup of tea, nor contrived the whole thing as a composite!

Heather makes clay pipes, the kind in common use until cigarettes and wood pipes took over.  They range from the simple bowl-and-stem design to rather elaborate carved faces, even fictional scenes.  The pipes are mold made in a single block.  They are mainly used in period films such as Downton Abbey and Taboo but a recent order for 200 pipes came from a masonic organisation.  This was an interior picture without the benefit of any natural light.  It’s lit with a single softbox to her left. The foreground remains in focus despite its close proximity because I used a tilt lens.

Natalie is a chemist and this apparatus is assembled in the kitchen of her small terraced house. The equipment is essentially a sophisticated still operating in a high vacuum to produce stannous chloride of extremely high purity.  She sells this compound to electronics manufacturers – it’s used in making screens.  Again, an interior photograph lit with windowlight and a little flash to highlight the glassware.

Phil’s business is planes – not the airborne type but the woodwork ones.  The block, blade and wedge are all handmade and the finished product sells to customers worldwide. These tools are an absolute delight to hold – perfect forms, perfectly made – and I imagine they are very satisfying to use.  Windowlight to Phil’s right, a 6ft reflector to fill the shadows to his left side and a touch of flash to lift what would otherwise have been a rather dingy upper-left corner



IP-2.3 Five Places, One Subject

I took this at face value and found a subject who I knew would be able to identify five different places which had particular significance.  Persuading people to help for a series is more troublesome than for just a one-off, but my choice for this exercise was most cooperative.

There are three interiors and two exteriors.  The outside pictures were made on an overcast day and are rather flat, but the context is one of historical significance so a more reflective, undramatic approach seems appropriate.

The interiors represent current associations.  One was in a pottery studio with appealing natural light, the others needed artificial lighting.  Both were simply lit with a 80cm softbox and gridded dish for main and backlight respectively.

I’ve cropped them square.  No reason other than I think it suits the subject and setting and I like it.


I have learned some useful things from this exercise.  People want direction – certainly during the photography but also in the arrangements.  It’s better to say what I want – and be diverted – than to leave things unclear.

People are concerned about what you want them to do or wear, so even if it doesn’t really matter it’s a good idea to give them something to work on.

Rather than say “It won’t take long”, then feel hurried and under pressure, it would be better to say “I expect to need an hour, maybe less but certainly no more”

Working in confined areas is difficult; highly portable equipment is good but lightweight lighting stands need good heavy weights to keep them safe.

It’s a good idea (for me, anyway) to have a preconceived idea of what I could do. I recce’d the locations I didn’t already know and took some reference pictures.  Even if I changed my mind on the day it was reassuring to know that I was turning up with ready-made ideas and plans of how to achieve them.  As it turned out I used the ideas because they worked and there wasn’t time to improvise.

2.2 Covert

I have reservations  over the definition: can it be a portrait if the subject is unaware of the process and therefore uninvolved in it?  It sounds more like unnoticed than covert, which seems to aim to eliminate any possibility of awareness in the subject.  In the setting suggested – a party – the guests would certainly be ‘aware’ of the fact that pictures were being taken but allow the possibility of being caught ‘off guard’.

Overcoming my innate tendency to dwell on the semantics, I will concede that whatever term is employed, pictures of people are called for and I must settle on a method and setting.

I have decided to keep it simple and non-confrontational.  I cannot recall the last time I was invited to a party so that approach must be ruled out.  My local area is not short on people, though, so I devised a way of observing and photographing them without being noticed as a photographer.

I fashion an eyrie in my practical but slab-like Peugeot 807 by mounting the camera on a tripod, peeking out through the partially open rear window.  The lens is set to its maximum focal length of 40mm (80mm equiv) and manual focus.  I prefocus on a spot in the centre of the frame and set an aperture of f2.8, wide open.  In the bright sun this calls for a shutter speed of 1/3200 so I’ll not be concerned about motion blur.  The lens is plenty good enough to return adequate quality images for web use wide open and I want to throw the background out as much as possible.  I’m also planning to crop quite hard if necessary.

I decided to operate from a remote tablet – the cameral allows control by wifi, although the working distance is limited somewhat because of the car’s metalwork.  As it turned out, I was unable to take the photographs from the warmth and comfort of my house, the first floor overlooking the approach of the subjects.  I had to sit in the passenger seat and pretend to read.

There is a slight lag between hitting the ‘fire’ button and the shutter operation, so I needed to anticipate the subject position, but this improved with practice.  The pictures are sharp and correctly exposed.

I spent a couple of hours photographing passers-by.  They would have had no idea they were being photographed right up until the moment of taking, but some – in fact a surprising number – clocked the camera as they walked past.  This feels rather odd to me because they are look as if they are looking at me, but of course I’m several feet away, ‘reading a book’.

I’ve thought about how they operate as pictures.  There is no relationship between me and the subjects so their appearance is a one-way function.  I don’t think they are aware, in the moment, of being photographed, but they are curious about a camera in a car.  Oddly enough, without an attendant operator their gaze appears to show them in the process of making sense of the situation.

As for the content, mostly their appearance in unguarded.  They are not self-aware and certainly not self-conscious; they are simply in the moment, the process of walking from one spot to another.  In the freezing cold.

I was unconcerned about the background in this case, nor was I bothered about the fact that every shot is from the same static position. What did concern me was the implied deceit.  I was well within my ‘rights’, being on my own property, with the subjects on a public thoroughfare with no ‘reasonable expectation’ of privacy.  But I am not satisfied with the results, the photographs themselves, even though they work quite well as documents.  I don’t see anything of value in them, but perhaps my view will alter in the future.  I like the light in a few of them, it’s very bright, pin sharp and there’s a good fill from the white (ish) front of the house.  Some of them look as if they are spotlit, ordinary people engaged in quotidian tasks but lit like film stars.  If I were to expand this as a theme I’d do more in this way, at the same time of day but without the intermittent cloud cover.

Although I don’t really rate this as an approach I don’t feel bad about doing it from the car.  It’s a very useful accessory given the weather and a handy camera platform.  Lee Friedlander managed to gather material for an entire book without ever turning the engine off, so I could be in good company.

None of the pictures are edited except for the crop.


Here are the contacts, at least all the exposures which featured actual people:

A Typology

There’s a little alleyway which passes the front of our house and most days we see a stream of people going by, on their way to the car park, high street, seafront or shops.  They are generally burdened to some extent with their purchases.  Some are regulars whom we recognise, others are holidaymakers or day visitors.  It’s a constant source of interest for people who are a bit nosy (guilty).  The ladies in these pictures have been to the shops and they are toting their acquisitions in shopping bags, the common theme of the photographs.  To expose the theme I chose to select only ladies and photograph them in the same location in very similar poses and positions and at the same time, more or less.  Lunchtime, in fact.

They were all happy to oblige and several chatted for a while.  The sun was bright to the left, placing their faces in shadow to the right so I had my Glamorous Assistant fill with a large white reflector.

In thinking about typologies I assumed there has to be a common thread, something the subjects share though it ‘shouldn’t be too obvious’ – or even visible?  Maybe something which is noticeable because it’s missing, a pic of something which is not there.  (definitely over-thinking now).

But as for not making the series ‘too literal or obvious’, surely that is one of the fundamental purposes of a typology – to reveal and expose the characteristics which underpin the work, rather than to leave it semi-hidden, vague and obscure.  Of all photographic endeavors perhaps a typology is the most literal.

Imagine a series of twenty-five photographs where the connection between them – the type part of the typology – is not obvious. Where the ‘systematic classification’ is not emphasised.  The connection is opaque.  A typology of 25 drummers for example, but without the visible accoutrements of the profession.  No sticks, toms or hi-hats, just 25 blokes who look a bit tired. How successful is that?  Or the Bechers deciding to make a typology of cranes, but through the medium of dance.  It’s only by making the connection thoroughly literal and obvious that the subtlety and character of the series emerges.  It’s like an averaging of similarities, whereby difference becomes apparent.

Assignment 1 – Five Unknowns

Edit:  Scroll down for the revised submission!

For my first assignment in this module I have included images made during a weekend workshop at the National Portrait Gallery.  I am aware that there may be objections to this approach, perhaps along the lines of it not being true ‘OCA’ work and that the subjects were not unknown or from my local area.

However I think it’s a valid submission.  Students are urged to make no distinction between ‘personal’ work and ‘OCA’ work, that they should be one and the same thing.  Central London is a local area to me along with East Devon as I have well established connections in both.  The sitters are indeed strangers and our interactions were just as tentative as any between the newly-met.

A Workshop with Rory Lewis

Rory was the workshop leader over the weekend.  He is fascinated by the paintings of Caravaggio and those other artists who make extensive use of chiaroscuro technique.  We made a number of forays into the gallery itself, studying the lighting effects produced by various painters and selecting elements thereof as inspiration for our own work.

All of the pictures were made with flash lighting and reflectors, mainly shoot-through umbrellas or softboxes.  The boxes were quite small, about 60cm but very close to the subjects, maybe a metre away.



After making the entry above I decided to stick to the brief a bit more closely by accosting some random people on the promenade and taking their picture.

I think one of the purposes of this assignment is to propel the student into the scary world of portraying people who are unfamiliar.  This has some resonance with me – for much of my early life I was terrified of this kind of encounter and probably walked away from as many opportunities as I embraced.  But advancing years have had a mellowing effect and I am no longer concerned that someone may declare “What, you? Photographer? Ha, you’re rubbish, you are!”.  I have also come to understand that this response is very unlikely to occur;  most people are quite pleased to be asked, others are slightly baffled but compliant and the few who refuse most likely have deep dark secrets they wish to conceal.

I have a little ready-made spiel I use when approaching people together with a gracious response should they decline to be photographed.  Explaining I’m a student is a help, presumably since all kinds of bizarre behavior is expected and generally tolerated.  Taking the photograph seems to take less than a minute but the chatting and reminiscing which follows can extend the exchange well into a quarter-hour.

All these people are dog-walkers, or rather people who are taking a dog or two for a walk.  I did the pictures in a couple of sessions over two days, using a rather ugly shelter as a pop-up studio.  I have used it once before for a previous exercise and I consider it my own.  The sun glares directly in as the shelter faces south and the white paint is quite reflective.  I wanted to get a little more modelling in the pictures because with that amount of face-on light the results are a bit flat.  I used a speedlight with a grid to camera right, 45° vertical and the same horizontal.  The exposure is about 50:50 ambient and flash.

Both dogs and owners were very well behaved and responded willingly to direction.  People love talking about their dogs and it was easy to establish some minor rapport.  The dogs who were on their way to the beach were slightly less patient than those coming back!



Assessment Criteria

• Demonstration of technical and visual skills (40%) – materials, techniques, observational
skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills.

Technically these photographs are competent.  Exposure is as intended and no adjustment to the RAW files was required.  They have not been sharpened, squashed, intensified or had the tonal values twisted. They have been cropped to a 1:1 format, a compositional decision made on the basis of personal preference and to establish as far as possible a cohesive shape to the contents of the frame.

• Quality of outcome (20%) – content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a
coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas.

This idea has been done plenty of times before – but not by me.  I think it’s a pleasing group of pictures but if I were to do more I think I’d have all the dogs as close to owner eye-level as possible.  This aspect emerged on its own – I think it would work better because it’s meant to be about the connection between the dog and owner, not about them and me.  Except it unavoidably is, of course.  There is plenty of room for development here should I choose to make more of it.  Dogs appear in many historical portraits in various guises and as both sign and symbol.  In earlier times it was only the wealthy who could afford to keep (feed) a dog so the presence of a pet dog indicated a well heeled sitter.  The dog was a symbol of fidelity and only the nobility were permitted to keep hunting dogs.  I like the idea of riffing on the 19th century portrait-with-dog in a modern sense, perhaps using the kinds of backgrounds and props the artists employed.

• Demonstration of creativity (20%) – imagination, experimentation, invention,
development of a personal voice.

As mentioned it’s not original but it is creative – I did it the way I wanted and in my terms.  The ‘personal voice’ aspect is certainly present, but it’s an echo.  I have wrestled with the PV before and concluded that if can hear it, that’s what counts.  Here it is mumbling slightly but to me it’s recognisable.

• Context (20%) – reflection, research, critical thinking (including learning logs). 

My portrait research and learning has been aided by attending the aforementioned NPG course; for reflection, see above.