Friday, 31 August 2012

An opportunist moment

Luckily I had my camera on me last night at a show. This enabled me to get a shot or two that I had been struggling a bit to find and it occurred very unexpectedly.

   The show was actually comprised of several acts at a pub where they performed different kinds of acts from comedy to music. I really enjoyed myself but that's another story! What I got as a bonus was a couple of shots showing a shift in balance between the person and the place.

1. Emphasis on person
   I got many other shots of the performers in their acts but fortunately I had my camera ready for this first, comedic act. Importantly, one of the doors to the pub was still open at this time so I could get a photograph where the balance between place and person was with the place (as seen in photograph 2.)

   With photograph 1. I closed in on the person on the stage so that he was clearly the main subject with the rest of the stage providing the backdrop for him and taking a subsidiary role.

   I thought photograph 2. was clever and unconventional in that it used the place to 'frame' the person so he was still a feature of the photograph but was small enough in the frame that the place came to the fore.

Lastly I was pleased that I had 'thought on my feet' to take the second photograph through the door as described above but I was also a bit annoyed that I hadn't shot in the raw format as the lighting was very tricky.
2. Emphasis on place

Helen Levitt

Wow! I have recently purchased a book of photographs by Helen Levitt with her name as the title after discovering some of her work on the Internet. I came across a few of her photographs at accessed on 11 August 2012. As you might be able to tell (from the first word in this post) I was quite inspired by the work on the Interenet and later in the book. It encapsulated everything I had been working on in this part of the course, even though I kind of wish I had come across her work for 'People Unaware' where it would have been a bit more relavent perhaps. This was because her work was based around street photography with less emphasis on buildings.

   I found her work inspiring because of the vibrancy throughout - not only aesthetically (especially the colours) but also in  meaning; with wonderful humour prevalent and the essence of the streets of New York, where the photographs were taken, captured beautifully in my opinion.

   I would say Helen Levitt's work has come at a timely moment to inspire me as I start preparing for the fourth assignment. There will be lots of colour at the place I am planning to photograph at, which was a major feature and strength for me of her work. I thought also the composition, including the size the people took up in the frame, was something I could learn from as it sometimes helped to suggest a sense of place.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

The virtues of having your camera accessible when you're out and about!

Today I learnt a valuable lesson in regards to capturing a moment you're not expecting. I knew this was mostly applied with street photography but today I found it comes in useful when you are looking for a certain photograph but you end up with a completely different but equally effective one compared to the one you intended to take.

   More specifically I was looking to make figures anonymous by the means of photographing people from above, which I thought was a different treatment to this kind of photograph. I eventually got the overhead photograph as well but only after finding a scenario where people were made anonymous by facing away from the camera. This unexpected scenario occurred at a busy train station that I happened to be getting off the train at. All the people had to take the same exit from the station. I thought this would be a typical situation of people facing away from the camera and so anonymous. The people photographed were also in multitude, which added to the effect of anonymity as none of them stood out as individual.

1. People exiting a train station
2. Inside the station but from above
   My one regret about this session was that I wasn't shooting in the raw format at the time, which I felt was a shame as the scene was high contrast where post-processing of the raw file would have helped. However, I thought this was a good lesson for me and a good advocate of the raw format on digital cameras (that have that feature).

    My main objective for this session I managed to achieve as well, which was to photograph a busy place, although from the fairly unconventional angle of above. This was to make the people less prominent and to show them in the light of just a part of a place, rather than the place being just a 'backdrop' for the people. The reason I chose a busy place was so I could use one of the techniques suggested in the course - small and many, where the people were less prominent.

Another use of the 'blurred person' photograph effect

Knowing I was using an effect in a photograph that had a lot of visual impact was one of the reasons I chose this treatment again. Also I thought the focal length and composition were significantly different in this photograph to the Wembley Stadium photograph to make it stand out on its own in comparison.
1. Bustle in the city

   The main feature that struck me about this photograph when looking at it again was that the people, just about distinguishable as blurred figures, added to the space rather than dominating it. I felt I had gotten the balance of how blurred people were nicely between being too blurred and so therefore indistinguishable and not blurred enough where they might have become the main subject of the photograph.

Friday, 17 August 2012

An anonymous accent

1. A solitary figure in the morning
Well, I finally managed to complete one exercise of 'People interacting with place' that had been at the back of my head. In the process of doing so (showing a person as an accent in a subsidiary role in a landscape setting) I also captured the person as anonymous; the project I was then exploring.

   I felt the silhouette figure going for their morning walk in the park was just discernible as person and captured enough of the viewer's attention as to be apparent. Therefore I thought it was a successful accent in the setting and also a good example of an anonymous person as they were a silhouette against the morning Sun. The monotone colours of the scene (green and black) contributed to making the person stand out as an element of the photograph too in my opinion.

A very busy place

I decided to take advantage of the massive inflow of people into Wembley stadium during one of the days of the London 2012 Olympic Games. They had come to see a football match and so I thought I would try to capture all the vibrancy and colour as best as I could. I also remembered what I had found in the previous post regarding the relationship between focal length and ease of composition. This meant I could easily get the shot described below quickly lined up well.

   My main objective of course was to try to convey how busy the walkway leading up to the stadium was. I decided to use a deliberately slow shutter speed to induce motion blur on the people walking up. There was an interesting discovery I found as I took a few shots with a slow shutter speed. This was that the people closest to the camera blurred visibly a lot more than those further up the walkway and so further from the camera. This had the pleasing effect, for me at least, of leading the eye up towards the stadium.

   That lead me to my next point, which was that I thought I managed to convey a sense of place as well. This was because as the eye 'travelled' upwards from the blurred people to the not so blurred people the last thing it settled on was the extremely distinctive arch of Wembley stadium at the top of the frame.

1. The walk to Wembley stadium
   As far as the technicalities of the photo went I used a stack of a neutral density filter along with a circular polariser to get a slower shutter speed. I also used the maximum aperture value of f22, the lowest ISO value possible of 100 and a wait for cloudy weather (rather than sunny) all just to achieve a shutter speed of 1.6 seconds. However I felt this shutter speed was good at blurring the people sufficiently to create a sense of busyness without blurring them so much as to make them indiscernible. I knew there would be diffraction coming into the photo by using such a small aperture as f22 but I felt it was a necessary compromise to reach the slow shutter speed.

Using a short focal length on a wide angle lens

I read in 'British Journal of Photography' - August 2012 that wide angle lenses give you lots more composition alternatives than telephoto: 'Within a metre or two of a portrait subject, you could find a dozen angles and 'Fit a 135mm portrait lens and getting the same range of angles requires access to a convenient cliff, half a playing field and perhaps a first-floor window.' - D. Kilpatrick (2012), British Journal of Photography, August 2012, Volume 159, Incisive Financial Publishing Limited, London SW1Y, 4RX, page 87.

   While flicking through people interacting with place I found something that made this relevent to the course in the busy traffic exercise: M. Freeman (2009) - 'Aim to show the 'busyness' of the place, which might involve altering the composition'. I 'only' had the kit 18-55 lens as my widest focal length lens to play with at 18mm but in my opinion that was quite adequate for the moment.

   With the idea that I could change the composition more easily with a wide angle lens in mind I became on look-out for a busy place and knew I wouldn't have far to look with the Olympics occurring in the city I lived.