AS Photography: Covert and Obscure

Last Updated on April 2, 2023

This article features an AS Photography Coursework project by Kareem Al Saady, from Doha College, Qatar. The work was based on the topic ‘Covert and Obscure’ and was completed for Edexcel AS Level Photography (9121) in 2014/2015. Kareem was awarded full marks (80/80) for this component, Unit 1, gaining 100% for AS overall.

After exploring foundation tasks into line, shadow, space and shape, Kareem pursued his own avenues of enquiry, linked to the theme Covert and Obscure. Manipulating coloured light and shutter speed, Kareem captured a wide range of light trails (painting with light) which he later combined with flash photography on location. Utilising portable battery packs, the student was able to work within the landscape closely with the objects found there. Implementing the human form was the next step after being inspired by photographer Benjamin Von Wong. These experiments led to studio work and complex Adobe Photoshop editing to create energised supernatural entities which exuded power.

Investigating line in photography
A series of sketchbook pages investigating line, exploring the way this directs attention, creates texture and pattern, and separates form. After analysing line in the photographs of others, Kareem creates his own photographic works.
medicine and pills
In this series of photographs, Kareem explores the large volume of medicine consumed by modern humans, arranging pills on plates and in long lines to emphasis the quantity swallowed.
light shadow photography
Here Kareem begins to investigate shadows, while discussing compositional devices such as the rule of thirds and symmetry. Images are black and white only, allowing emphasis to be placed upon line, tone, form and texture.
creative photography of hands
After analysing the work of photographer Mark Dein, Kareem uses a 60mm f/2.8 Canon macro lens to shoot extreme close-up photographs of hands, enabling the fingerprint patterns to be captured (fingers were placed in baby powder prior to photographing to help exaggerate the texture). Due to the small aperture used, these images utilise an external light source, as shown in the diagram above.
Analysis of Robert Polidori photography
This series of work begins with an analysis of photography by Robert Polidori, who produces meticulously detailed photographs of human habitats and environments, with recent work exploring population and urban growth. Responding to this work, Kareem visited local labour camps, recording old machinery and interior work rooms, using powder to replicate smoke, under different lighting conditions. A fast shutter speed was used to capture the powder in motion.
Photos of abandoned vehicles and machinery
This photo shoot continued the mechanical theme, capturing the interior of old, derelict busses and vehicles. Kareem initially experimented with a fisheye lens, in order to capture a wide scene and fill the frame, and to purposefully distort the scene. He carefully documents his lens and aperture choices, commenting on lighting conditions and composition as images are recorded. Black and white photographs have been selected for some of the works, in order to emphasis the sense of abandonment and desertion.
Julian Cash light painting
Here Kareem begins to investigate the light painting portraits of Julian Cash, before outlining how light painting works. Kareem writes: “The way light painting works in basic forms is to strictly limit the amount of light that can hit the sensor or film on a camera. Because of the small aperture and under-exposed images, a slow shutter speed is able to be used, however…[]…it is important to keep in mind…[]…that a light painting photograph often looks better when the image is underexposed, so that the colour and bright light trail contrasts the dark and bland background.”
light painting technique
After the analysis of Julian Cash’s work, Kareem begins experimenting with light painting, exploring various lighting strategies (such as using a torch to spotlight plants during the exposure).
light painting portraits
Kareem then prepares for a ‘light painting portrait’ shoot, using a mannequin head to trial lighting and composition. The face is lit using a flash gun off-camera, firing at low power from above. A strip of LED lights, attached to a metal rod, creates the swirling light painting. After initial experiments, a model was brought in to replace the mannequin. As within the remainder of the project, Kareem includes diagrams to illustrating the lighting and camera position in relation to the subject.
light painting photography ideas
In this series of photographs, Kareem investigates various light painting photography ideas, adding streaks of light landscapes filled with abandoned machinery, creating a beautiful contrast between the vibrant light trails and desolate remains.
Benjamin Von Wong fire paintings
Kareem begins this series of work analysing the photographs of Benjamin Von Wong, discussing the use of ‘multiplicity’, an editing technique where multiple elements are merged into a single work, often to create sequences. Kareem then composes dramatic photographs of sparklers spun in circles, creating rings of fire. Kareem then photographed actual fire (please note that students should never attempt to recreate such photos without close teacher guidance)!
light painting ideas
In this section of the project, Kareem begins to narrow down ideas, linking together successful elements from the previous investigations.
projecting images onto skin
Continuing to explore photographing light, Kareem begins projecting images onto a model, as if it was part of their skin.
digital development photography
Here Kareen completes a photo shoot using studio lights to illuminate the edges of a figure. These images are then manipulated using Adobe Photoshop, to represent a ‘pixelated explosion’ – as if energy is exploding from the subject’s body. These works link to the exploration of light and energy in earlier works.
Developing ideas in AS Photography
Continuing to explore editing techniques, Kareem creates densely patterned images, exploding from a human form. Some of these shapes are filled with additional surface textures and pattern from bokeh light and shattered glass.
hologram photography
Kareem writes: “The idea of this image was simply a hologram. The reason behind this is because holograms are made of light photons and EM waves, and light has been a very consistent theme in this project, from LED lights to fire and projectors.”
Final piece, AS Level Photography
In the final sequence of development, ideas from earlier investigations are combined. The final outcomes highlight the human figure, with an explosion of digital light filling the frame.


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