The object of this assignment is to plan and execute a set of images of people in some form of meaningful activity. This could be work, sport, a stage performance (music, drama), or at a social event. You should produce a set of approximately 10 final, selected images, and you can choose between depicting the same person (or small group) at different kinds of activity, or different people at the same single activity or event.
Concentrate especially on two aspects: on telling moments, and on ‘explaining’ the activity (which means choosing viewpoint, framing and timing to make the actions as intelligible as possible).
In your learning log:
- Critically assess your finished work. Consider each piece individually
- Identify what has worked well and what has been less successful and analyse the reasons for this.
‘Rugby is a hooligans game played by gentlemen’ – Winston Churchill.
For this assignment I decided to photograph a local rugby match. I wanted to test myself against a sport that is fast paced and busy, and that also contains a significant amount of player interaction as I think this could produce some interesting and varied images.
The key factors to pay close attention to are:
Viewpoint – This was somewhat restricting as we had a designated area for spectators and were instructed to stay behind the barriers. Other than that, I was able to move freely up and down the sidelines.
Framing – With rugby being such a fast paced game framing was fairly difficult as I was viewing the game through the viewfinder of my camera and could not rely on my peripheral vision to follow the ball. However this was easy to adapt to after a while.
Timing – Again there were difficulties similar to the above so to make sure I didn’t miss any crucial moments I put my camera into continuous shoot mode so I could get 6-8 split second images of the activity. This should, in theory, mean I would not miss the perfect shot.
After shooting the match the first step was to select my strongest images based on certain criteria: mainly activity, viewpoint and framing. As I was shooting in burst mode I had over 100 images in total, and filtering out the weaker images was tasking as they were taken split seconds apart which meant the differences were very acute.
I wanted to include a varied set of images of the players in different activities so once I’d filtered down my images I then sub-categorised them. The categories were: warm up, runs, tackles, trainers/coaches and scrums. With 5 separate groups it was easier to select my final images.
Equipment wise I had decided to take the essentials only so that I would not be taking up valuable shooting time changing over lenses etc. So, I took my Tamron multi wide-angle/telephoto lens and my Nikon telephoto lens and my monopod. I decided on my monopod over a tripod, as it’s easier to pan motion with and move up and down the sidelines.
I kept going back and forth as to whether I should convert my final images into black and white. There’s something very dramatic about black and white photographs and I felt this could be applicable to my selection. However, after much deliberation I decided to keep them colour as it was more difficult to distinguish between the home and away teams once converted. Had their kits been opposing colours i.e. black Vs white, blue Vs yellow, this may not have been such a problem.
All photos were shot as NEF files (raw files). As mentioned in previous assignments and exercises; shooting in raw gives me so much more control later on in the editing phase. The images retain much more detail than when shooting JPEG. I set my camera to its pre set ‘sport mode’ as this did not seem like the appropriate situation in which to shoot in my preferred mode of manual. I was conscious of missing great photographic opportunities if I was constantly changing my settings, and reading light levels etc if shooting in manual. Also, camera creators are creating these settings for a reason. Even if I’m fully capable of using manual mode, that doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t take advantage of these features.
I’ve presented the images in the order in which they were shot. I did this to keep with the theme of ‘telling a story’ and having a narrative. It may not be immediately apparent, but I wanted to do this in order to preserve continuity.
All but one of the images are landscape. This was not so much a conscious decision, but something I later picked up while sorting through my images. It was purely because with the camera being held horizontally, I could see more of the action and follow the fast pace of the players and ball much more easily. Also the majority of the movement/action is lateral from the viewpoint of the spectator sidelines so this made more sense. It was only as the players were setting up for the ‘line out’ that I rotated my camera vertically to capture the height of the scene. I could have cropped more images to be portrait, but did not see this as overly important.
One of the biggest obstacles I faced, technically speaking, during this assignment was that my lenses (when zoomed in to optimum zoom) produced unavoidable grain/noise. Had I been using more expensive equipment, this could have been avoided. I could have used less zoom while shooting, moved closer to my subject (this wasn’t an option as I’d have had to walk on the pitch) or zoomed and cropped in on the image itself in the post-processing stage – I tend to avoid this in general, as I feel you still lose image quality.
Home Team Huddle
A significant part of every match – the pep talk huddle. I feel this portrays the bond between players and you can feel the tense/adrenaline vibe. Centred well, the viewers attention lands directly on the players, and a huddle like this is synonymous globally with a pre match pep talk. It symbolises the beginning of a match.
A Tangle Of Bodies
This tackle was at speed. So much so that number 18 from the away team was flipped upside down. I like how symmetrical his body positioning is with number 6 from the home team (his grappler). This emphasises the close physicality and it is evident that this image is mid tackle, but it leaves room for intrigue as to the actions that built up to the specific frame.
I really like the balance of this shot. Mainly because a scrum involves the same number of players on each team, but also because the meeting of teams is in the centre of the image. I would have perhaps liked it to have been slightly more angled to the right so I could have captured both teams more parallel to my position, but it’s so hard to anticipate where these actions will take place, and the spectators area is restricting at times. Also the aim of a scrum is to gain a tactical advantage by one team turning the scrum, hence the unpredictability of a precise clean angle.
A Change Of Pace
I think the feeling of some kind of shift in possession is very apparent in this image. The idea of speed and heightened activity is strong. From a compositional aspect I like the spacing of all the players. Most of their faces are visibly concentrating on the focal point (the player with the ball) and the expression on the player with the ball is also strong. I also like how visible the fallen player is. We know something happened to him for him to have fallen. What is somewhat distracting is the building in the background and the signage. A higher viewpoint or shallower depth of field would have eliminated this, but neither were viable options at the time.
This image is one of the strongest in my opinion. The player with the ball was on his way to scoring a try, and was moving at such great speed that following him through the camera was not easy. This is apparent in his position within the frame. A second later and I’d have missed him out completely. I feel this effect gives the viewer an idea of the speed in which he’s moving. The positioning of him contrasted with the position of his opponent adds balance, as they’re both near the edges of the frame. I like the gradient of blur to the players in the distance, and how the player closest to him is almost in focus, while the players further in the distance are out of focus. Again I feel this emphasises his victory run. The facial expression of sheer determination is another strong aspect of this image.
It’s evident from the player’s facial expression that something’s not quite right. The player looks tense. There’s something happening to the left of the image that, although we can’t see, we can interpret as perhaps negative. An argument, a disagreement etc.
Away Team Possession
I like the juxtaposition of this image. Only one player in the frame about to tackle. The determination on the ball carrier’s face is prominent, and his positioning with his head down reinforces the sense of determination. The hopeful expression of his teammate behind him adds to the story being conveyed.
Ref’s Decision Is Final
It’s obvious by the direction of the referee and players’ gaze that something is happening just to the left of the image. We get the sense of it being something perhaps a little negative, judging by the expressions on the two mens faces. I also like how there’s some interaction in the background, and the aesthetic contrast of the ref’s yellow top against the players green away colours works well and adds depth.
Here the activity is evident, and I like how the body positions of the two players reaching for the ball is almost exactly the same. Several of the players have interesting facial expressions, which tells us, the viewer, of how strenuous that specific frozen moment in time is.
One Vs Six
The first thing I like about this image is how the player being grappled is perfectly in the centre of the frame. His facial expression speaks to the aggressiveness of the situation, and so does that of the player grappling him. I like that out of roughly 6 players, we can only see two faces. You can really feel the tough tussle taking place.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
I am happy with the overall technical execution with the exception of the added noise/grain mentioned earlier as a result of optimum zooming (this is a technical issue rather than a competency issue.) However I tried to use a variety of focal lengths to avoid this problem and also to add variety to my final set of images, but noted that the final selected images are predominantly shot in a ‘telephoto’ style. This was because I wanted to capture the action as closely as possible and to concentrate on facial expressions and finer details.
Quality of Outcome:
I am happy with the quality of the outcome, both in terms of individual images but also as a complete set of photographs.
I feel like each individual photo tells it’s own story, or conveys an action taking place, which was what was asked from us in the brief. The images work singularly but also as a set and there is a clear narrative to follow.
I was wary of including too many pictures that look the same, so tried to vary my final selection, and I do feel like this is an eclectic mix of all aspects of a rugby game. It’s worth noting here that I had thought about incorporating the crowd into my final selection but with the weather being so cold and miserable, the turn out was very few. Had it have been a larger game I would have hoped to have got some interesting expressions from both the home and away team supporters.
Demonstration of Creativity:
I tried to be as creative as possible when it came to composition but was met with some difficulties and restrictions as I was only allowed in the spectators section, and the security barrier was a full piece of metal (had it been railings I could have got some shots from a lower viewpoint.)
There wasn’t much I could do in the way of varying the colours apart from perhaps editing the shots later in post processing, but I wanted the images to be part of a sequence and therefore be relatable in terms of colours etc.
In terms of developing my personal voice, this assignment was fun and exciting. There’s no option to re-shoot a certain action and it’s so fast paced that you have to be all systems go. My confidence in photographing people is most definitely growing, and I am less hesitant to really focus in on the faces of people. I really enjoyed photographing people doing something that they are passionate about, as I feel this resonates in the images.
Since my last assignment I’ve researched several photographers that were introduced to me by my tutor – Garry Winogrand who’s ability to photograph people’s expressions inspired me to pick a subject where interesting facial expressions would be fairly common and Martin Parr who’s relaxed style is intriguing and ‘outside the box’. I’ve also studied photojournalism and the paparazzi, polar opposites in terms of content, but inspiring in technique.
Early on into this assignment I decided I wanted to cover a sporting event, and with rugby being more interactive than say, football, I researched rugby photography to gain some inspiration.
I do still have a confidence battle when it comes to photographing people who are aware, perhaps because I’m apprehensive of some sort of negative interactions or confrontation, but I’m still working on this. Perhaps photographing a sporting event where a person with a camera is not unusual was playing it a little safe, but I was aware of following the brief, and any social, sport, or work event would have presented the same issue.
I will continue to push my comfort levels when photographing people unaware, but also seeking permission and photographing strangers.