Category Archives: Assignments

The parent category for assignment work.

Assignment 3 – The (in)decisive moment

Brief

Create a set of between six and ten finished images on the theme of the decisive moment.  You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’ or you may choose to question or invert the concept by presenting a series of ‘indecisive’ moments.  Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, event or particular period of time.

Decisive Moment

After researching some photographers I decided that I wanted to try something different to the usual street scenes for this assignment. Coinciding with this assignment I discovered that a traditional steam fair was going to be in the area. I thought that this would make quite a different and challenging setting for my assignment. I wanted to create a photographic series capturing peoples reactions and expressions in an unusual but fun scenario. After walking around the fair I decided that I wanted to concentrate on the reactions of people on the Waltz.

Although my original location changed the overall concept stayed the same. I wanted to pick out people from the crowd. I found that Philip-Lorca DiCorcias was very influential to me in this photographic series. Similarly he took the concept of street photography down a different path choosing to concentrate on the individual rather an entire street scene. His work had an intimate voyeuristic element to it. The individuals he photographed were unaware their image was being captured leaving them unguarded with a natural expression reflecting their personality and inner thoughts.

This type of street photography is in contrast to that of Henri Cartier Bresson, who tended to capture images of groups of people behaving naturally rather than picking out an individual. However, both photographers tried to make themselves merge into the background allowing them to capture peoples natural behaviour, rather than the subject being aware that they are being photographed which naturally leads to the subject posing.

Although Henri Cartier-Bresson and Philip-Lorca DiCorcia tried to stay unnoticed when capturing their images I took a slightly different approach. Because this event was a family event and there would be a number of children around, I decided to take on board something that Don McCullin highlighted in his exhibition at the Tate. Don McCullin would ensure he was noticed by his subject prior to taking their photograph as a way to obtain their permission.

‘… he nevertheless describes having sought approval from his subjects, ensuring that he was close enough to his subjects that they knew they were being photographed; even trying to look them in the eye to gain their tacit permission.’ (Mavlian, 2019:15)

Having this in the back of my mind I made myself obvious to the people on the rides as they got on. I did this so that any parents or teenagers may approach me and ask for their images/images of their children to be deleted. However, I didn’t feel that being obvious in this situation altered peoples reactions once the rides started due to the speed of the ride combined with their adrenaline and excitement.

In order to capture the images I was looking for, I remembered Philip-Lorca Dicorcia saying in the Youtube video we were directed to watch in our course literature, that he set up his focal range and then waited for people to enter the focal range in order to capture the image. This is something I had taken onboard. Prior to the ride starting I set the focal range with a high shutter speed and then released the shutter when a cart entered the focal range. To enable me to do this without changing my focal point I used back button focus.

One thing that I had not realized on the day was that the in camera Noise Reduction had been switched off resulting in the images containing more noise in the shadows than anticipated. When processing the images I was only able to increase the shadows by a fraction in Lightroom as it was altering the skin tone. However, I was able to increase the shadows in Photoshop allowing me to maintain the skin colour.

Fun at the Fair

Reflection

Whilst I do not feel these images are as successful as my previous assignment I believe I have managed to achieve what I had set out to capture and have obtained some good images.

As discussed previously when processing the images I struggled slightly with bringing up the shadows and reducing the noise. This is due to the in camera noise reduction being switched off in error. Although I restricted the ISO to ISO 2000 normally the D850 can handle a higher ISO without too much of a problem. This mistake challenged my processing skills and I learnt a new way to increase the shadows in Photoshop without damaging the skin tone too much, which is a useful skill to learn.

If the steam fair had been in the area for longer I would have spent more than one afternoon there focusing purely on the Waltz. This would have allowed me to review the images at home enabling me to to pick up on any errors, for example the Noise Reduction being switched off, and to see where I could improve when I returned.

I took a large amount of photographs during this assignment. I did this, so that if the images from the Waltz didn’t come out how I envisaged I would have images from various rides to use. Due to the limited time I had I was acutely aware that this was a one time opportunity to use the fairground for the scene of my assignment and I effectively created a back up photographic series.

I found the light quite challenging as the daylight ranged from bright sunlight to very dark cloudy overcast light. The artificial lighting on the Waltz was created by warm incandescent lighting in contrast. I wanted to capture the effect of the warm lighting on the ride so I decided to set my white balance to midday sun without any clouds using a grey card. I feel that this has come out well without making the skin tone of the subjects too yellow/orange.

Overall this assignment has been quite challenging for me. I have not used shutter priority on the D850 before and struggled with the lack of control I have had with the aperture not allowing me to choose the exact depth of field I would have liked and envisaged for my image.

I have made a significant improvement in my confidence when it came to photographing strangers on the street. However, I still have a way to go before truly start to relax.

Contact Sheet – Waltz

Bibliography

Mavlian S
(2019)
Don McCullin
London
Tate Enterprising Ltd

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Assignment 2 – Collecting

Brief

Create a series of between six and ten photographs on one of the following subjects:

  • Things
  • views
  • Heads

Collecting

After reading the brief, I had a few different ideas for a photographic series.  One of which came about during a conversation with a friend, who is suffering from Cancer. I discovered she wished she had asked me to document her journey from the start. As a result of this conversation, I had the idea to do a photographic series on Living with Cancer, to which she agreed.

I wanted to reflect the reality of cancer in my series.  I did not want to shy away from the hard images that are rarely seen as I felt this would not do the subject matter justice.

The photographers I found most inspirational and influential for this series were Walker Evans and Don McCullin, due to their similarities in capturing the hard realities of life.  They achieved powerful images by using black and white and avoiding the distraction of colour. This is something I thought would work well with my series.

In addition to the above photographers I also took inspiration from Mona Kuhn, particularly in terms of the close framing and depth of field creating an intimacy between the subject and viewer.

In order to capture the photographs I had planned on the first day, I set the ISO to auto to ensure a faster shutter speed avoiding any blur.  Prior to taking the photographs I decided to use a longer focal length for the more relaxed photographs and a shorter focal length for the pained images, which would be slightly harsher on the skin, picking up the subtleties when she winced.  

On the first day I struggled with the lack of space within the room, which restricted my viewpoints. Although I had planned for this, there are many photographs with items in the background which are distracting.  On the second day we staged the photographs enabling me to control the ISO at a lower setting and to move furniture around allowing me to choose my viewpoint and background.

Living with Cancer

Reflection

I have never taken portrait photographs prior to this course, so the whole experience has been new to me.  Because I had planned the photographs I wished to take prior to starting, I managed to capture natural expressions, especially in the eyes on the first day. This was achieved by not staging or posing my friend and leaving her to naturally fall into the positions I was looking for. However, I feel that on the second day I achieved better technical photographs by staging and posing my friend and having a clearer background. This worked really well on the images where I did not require the emotion to be reflected in the eyes.

Although I have made a step forward in incorporating the frame as an active part of the image rather than just using it to frame an image, I do need to work a bit more on this aspect and gain a better understanding.  The other aspect that I feel still needs improvement is standing back and when reviewing my images and deciding which images work best together as a series.

Overall I feel that the I have managed to capture the images I had planned resulting in a powerful photographic series on Cancer through portraiture.

Contact Sheet

Day One Contact Sheet

Day Two Contact Sheet

Assignment 1 – Square Mile

The Brief

Make a series of six to twelve photographs in response to the concept of ‘The Square Mile’. Use this as an opportunity to take a fresh and experimental look at your surroundings. You may wish to re-trace places you know very well, examining how they might have changed; or, particularly if you’re in a new environment, you may wish to use photography to explore your new surroundings and meet some of the people around you.

You may wish to explore the concept of Y Filltir Sgwar further, or you may deviate from this. You may want to focus on architecture and landscape, or you may prefer to photograph the people who you think have an interesting connection to the square mile within which you currently find yourself. You’ll need to shoot many more than 12 photographs from which to make your final edit. You should try to make your final set of photographs ‘sit’ together as a series. Don’t necessarily think about making a number of individual pictures, but rather a set of photographs that complement one another and collectively communicate your idea. You may wish to title your photographs or write short captions if you feel this is appropriate and would benefit the viewer.

Think of this assignment as a way to introduce yourself to your tutor.There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to this brief, as long as you try to push yourself out of your comfort zone in terms of subject matter. Try out new approaches rather than sticking to what you think you’re most successful at.

Square Mile

After reading the brief, I realised that there were so many different routes I could go down to reflect my surroundings in Walthamstow.  Did I want to reflect its history, the regeneration and gentrification, its diversity, the people or what it’s like to live here.  Walthamstow is a vibrant part of East London, with many cafes, restaurants, bars, activities and culture. 

Because the brief allowed a wide variety of options, I first looked at other Photographers work to help realise my concept and focus my ideas, to avoid walking around aimlessly trying to work out how to capture what I wanted to depict. 

Whilst looking at Jay Maisels website I noticed that he made a point of saying that he was asked what he is looking for when he goes out on a shoot.  In response to this he states

My answer is, “absolutely nothing”.  I’m not looking for anything.  I’m just desperately trying to stay open to whatever is in front of me.’ Masiel J (s.d.)

I found this approach fascinating.  Although I had decided on the areas I wished to photograph I did not have a defined image in my minds eye which allowed the series to grow organically.

Whilst researching photographers I found the work of Jon Nicholson and Jay Masiel to be quite influential.  The use of colours in Jay Masiels work portrayed the vibrancy of spaces without the need to overcomplicating the image. Whereas Jon Nicholson’s approach was to angle the frame slightly differently, keeping a fairly short depth of field to portray the hustle and bustle of people.

I began my series organically through spending time in the center of Walthamstow taking photographs of two or three locations I wanted to include.  I found that the common denominator within my photographs was daily life.  As a result, I decided to make my Assignment ‘A day in Walthamstow’. 

I adopted several methods to achieve the photographs I envisaged.  The main one being that when I found a scene I wanted to incorporate, I experimented with different compositions, angles, focal lengths and depth of field.   The most challenging photographs were of Walthamstow Stadium, where I used a long exposure to create the motion blur of the traffic. I used a WB of 5000k knowing that this could be altered in Lightroom.  For the photographs where the background was busy, I used a shallow depth of field to make my subject matter stand out and for the spaces.

Overall, I feel that the composition of the photographs are strong and captured the vibrancy, atmosphere, diversity and lifestyle I wished to capture.

Whilst it was a conscious decision to organically grow the photographic series, in retrospect I do not feel that this has led to the photographs sitting as seamlessly together as I would have liked.  Within future projects I need to think more about how the photographs flow and sit together.

In addition I now recognise that I need to take a little more time thinking about the full composition when attempting street photography, which I found quite daunting as it is outside my comfort zone. 

A Day in Walthamstow

Contact Sheets