Module 2, Chapter 8: Using Your Camera



Activity 2.8.1: Make an alphabet in photographs. Use your camera to take photographs in your local environment to represent each letter of the alphabet.


I wanted my alphabet to be of things in the environment that look like letters, rather than examples of actual letters, or letters I created using sticks, stones, writing in sand etc – but it was fun to explore those areas as well, and I have a few snapshots ready for another collection. I used man-made and natural shapes, because I thought it might be difficult to stick to one or the other, but I’d quite like to separate them out and fill the gaps in each category.

Mostly I’ve cropped the pictures, to make the letters more obvious, but others were more apparent uncropped. You may need a bit of imagination with some of them, and you’ll have to ignore a lot of the backgrounds. I’ve used edges, and solid shapes, and empty spaces within things, and a couple were flipped or rotated because I could see the shape I wanted, even though it was upside down or back to front, so I’ve included a key.



A Shadow made by trees on the ground. Not sure how clear this will be.

B Patched surface on footpath.

C White fungus around base of tree.

D Window (rotated).

E Cracks in a wall.

F Telegraph pole.

G Part of floor tile pattern at Worcester Cathedral.

H Strata in rock on a Devon beach.

I Smeaton’s Tower on Plymouth Hoe.

J Part of an exercise machine in Castle Grounds, Tamworth.

K Pine needles on pavement.

L Edge of a bench.

M Arches at the Old Grammar School, Plympton

N Bicycle rack.

O Flower centre.

P Street light (in Great Yarmouth, I think)

Q Another bicycle rack (sorry).

R Willow leaves on the pavement making a perfect letter R.

S The ‘Barbican Prawn’ sculpture at Sutton Harbour, Plymouth, which isn’t a prawn at all (it has a cormorant’s feet, a plesiosaurus’ tail, the fin of a John Dory, a lobster’s claws and the head of an angler fish), but it makes a jolly nice letter S.

T I couldn’t resist this shot of a broom resting against woodwork on a boat, in Weymouth. It looks rather surreal I think.

U Carving on a stone (a font or something perhaps) in the garden at Hereford Cathedral.

V Road marking.

W Marks in the sand at Ulverston, Cumbria. They are quite natural – the sand there is too soft and sinky to venture very far, so I shot this from a safe distance and cropped it in and enlarged it.

X Strange marks in the sky – cloud or vapour trails. Not sure how clear this will be.

Y Tree in the Castle Grounds.

Z Tree trunk (again).

Extra Activity 

I’ve added in a few of my other photos, because I like them so much – here are some As, and a lot of Os, and a couple of Cs.


Personal Evaluation

I enjoyed this activity tremendously, and I’m fairly pleased with the results although, as always, I’d done some things differently – I could have been more imaginative, and selected different photos for my alphabet, and got better angles for pictures, and improved my cropping. I carried it out over a period of time, while I was working on other chapters, so it kind of did itself really – I usually have a camera in my bag, and I always snap away while I’m out and about, because I like taking photos, and I like to keep a record of where I’ve been, and the changing wildlife in my local area. Some letters, like O and I, were there in abundance, but others were much more tricky. It was like a treasure hunt, and even my husband got caught up in the project – he was quite triumphant when he spotted the more unusual ones, including a Q! Some things could have provided more than one letter, but I’ve tried to get some variety.

I’ve ended up with a lot of spare photos – deciding which ones to use was the trickiest part of this task, and in some cases I have letters I liked better, but I decided to use what seemed to be more unusual things, like the shadow A, or the X in the sky.

This activity really made me take time to look around at the man-made and natural environment and, surprisingly, it made me consider the shape and design of letters far more than any of the chapters in this module. There are fabulous features out there which could be used for some unusual or highly decorative letters, and I would love to try and use some of the letters I found in some other way, or even to create a complete alphabet from one of them.

Health and Safety

  • Don’t trespass on other people’s property.
  • Don’t put yourself at risk trying to get a perfect shot (eg not walking on those shifting, soft, muddy sands at Ulverston).
  • Don’t get the camera wet.
  • Keep camera on a strap, to prevent dropping it.

About chrisharding53

I'm a former journalist and sub-editor who loves needlework, reading and writing, and is still searching for the Meaning of Life, the Universe and Everything. Until I find the answer I'm volunteering at an Oxfam Book Shop and learning about Creative Sketchbooks!

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