Exercise: Standing back

For this exercise we are to use a telephoto lens and position ourselves far back from the action/subject, then note the advantages and disadvantages.

I actually used a telephoto lens for the previous two exercises:

Capturing the moment

Developing confidence

The benefits of using a telephoto lens:

I think the main advantage of using a telephoto lens while photographing people unaware is that it is so much less intrusive. I didn’t feel as uneasy as it can put a comfortable distance between the camera and the subject. So much so, that sometimes they are totally unaware of your presence.

Framing subjects is significantly easier with a telephoto lens, and you can avoid getting other people in the shot at times by using a tight zoom.

Something else I’m fond of is that when you’re significantly zoomed in it creates a shallow depth of field, which creates a blurry background – making the subject stand out more, and creating a pleasing aesthetic element.

The disadvantages:

People notice a big lens. While its more comfortable to step back from subjects, people are much more aware of cameras with big lenses. This can make them feel uneasy, and it can make the photographer feel as if they’ve been caught out trying to sneakily take peoples pictures.

Telephoto lenses are sometimes bulky and heavy. They require more effort when carrying around for a significant amount of time.

Telephoto lenses are often harder to hold still when zoomed in which can produce blurred shots. A way around this would be to use a tripod, but for street photography this would not seem like a suitable option, unless you were looking for a fixed position at a location. Sports games would be a good example of this.

A side issue with the disadvantage mentioned above is that you need a faster shutter speed to eliminate the possibility of camera shake.

Lastly the photographer can sometimes feel disengaged from the subject. The distance between both parties can often be evident in the image. If I had used a smaller lens it may have captured more of the action/environment/atmosphere making it feel like the viewer was in the action, rather than observing from a distance.

Advertisements

Paparazzi

Paparazzi definition on Wikipedia:

Paparazzi are independent photographers who take pictures of high-profile people, such as athletes, entertainers, politicians, and other celebrities, typically while subjects go about their usual life routines. Paparazzi tend to make a living by selling their photographs to media outlets focusing on tabloid journalism and sensationalism (such as gossip magazines).

Much like the previous post on photojournalism, the paparazzi are aiming at capturing the perfect moment, and therefore work at a quick pace, and often revert to auto modes in order to have the best shot with the best settings (fiddling with aperture and shutter speeds would most likely be time consuming and add pressure.)

One of the more frowned upon areas of photography – the paparazzi are deemed as social vultures that often invade celebrities personal space, follow their cars, and generally try to get as close to their subjects as possible with many ending up being punched or knocked to the floor.

There seems to be a huge invasion of privacy when it comes to celebrities children being photographed, which in many cases results in the celebrity lashing out, perhaps rightly so….

Photojournalism

Wikipedia’s definition of photojournalism:

‘Photojournalism is a particular form of journalism (the collecting, editing, and presenting of news material for publication or broadcast) that employs images in order to tell a news story. It is now usually understood to refer only to still images, but in some cases the term also refers to video used in broadcast journalism. Photojournalism is distinguished from other close branches of photography (e.g., documentary photography, social documentary photography, street photography or celebrity photography) by complying with a rigid ethical framework which demands that the work be both honest and impartial whilst telling the story in strictly journalistic terms. Photojournalists create pictures that contribute to the news media, and help communities connect with one other. Photojournalists must be well informed and knowledgeable about events happening right outside their door. They deliver news in a creative format that is not only informative, but also entertaining.’

Photojournalism is an area of photography that fascinates me, and one that I hope to one day have a career in. After reading the introductory sections of ‘People & Place’ I realised how applicable the information is to photojournalism. I find the ethical aspect very interesting, and that it needs to be an honest and impartial representation of a certain situation. The photographer is essentially photographing a moment in time, and that is all. I would assume for such fast paced environments they would probably have their cameras set to some form of auto or pre programmed setting so they can concentrate on their subjects and framing etc.

Here’s just a few thought provoking images when I searched for ‘examples of photojournalism photography’ – Included in these examples is possibly one of the most iconic images for The Vietnam War – a photograph of Phan Thi Kim Phuc (called ‘Napalm Girl’) photographed by Nick Ut.

Many of the examples are black and white – perhaps due to the date of the photograph, but also as black and white photography can have a deep thought provoking sense of drama and intrigue. That being said, there are more and more colour examples of photojournalism used today, perhaps as it is a truer representation of capturing the moment and not eliminating any details.

Exercise: Capturing the moment

Find a comfortable situation, possibly even the same location. For this exercise concentrate on bursts of activity, from which you try to capture a ‘best’ moment.

When you’ve finished shooting, review your images and pick out those that, for you, best capture a particular moment. Make notes in your learning log explaining your choice.

For this exercise I chose a Morris dance in the centre of town. It was a brief dance, lasting only a few minutes, if that. This meant that I’d have to be organised and work efficiently in taking my photos.

The setting meant I felt extremely comfortable. There were numerous people taking photographs, and the dance is a form of entertainment that welcomes photography. This meant I was very at ease. It also meant there was a crowd, so getting into an advantageous position was a little more difficult.

The brief itself can often make one think that they have to photograph some big action, for example, scoring a goal in football or something similar. I decided I wanted to capture much subtler moments, and had noticed that several of the dancers displayed their badges on different areas of their hats. I wanted to capture these badges as best I could, while the men got ready to perform their dance.

As well as the badges I wanted to at least try to incorporate the stick hitting – something synonymous with the traditional Morris Dance.

I focussed on 4 of the dancers, as trying to capture all of them was going to be too chaotic. They moved quickly and only for a short time period so minimising my subjects seemed like the right thing to do.

I set my camera to burst mode for the stick shots as to make sure I would capture the actual ‘hit’, but used regular single shot mode to capture the badges on their hats, shooting rapidly when their positioning was right.

Exercise: Developing Confidence

Choose an outdoor situation where there will be lots of people and activity, and in which you will feel confident using a camera. Take as many photographs as you comfortably can in one session. When you review the photographs afterwards, recall the comfort level you felt at the time, and consider to what extent this helped you in capturing expression and gesture.

For this exercise I chose a Christmas market where I was fairly sure i’d have a good chance of capturing people unaware without being intrusive. I wanted to fade into the background as much as possible – partly because of my lack of confidence, and partly because this section is centred around photographing people unaware. As soon as people see a camera there is a tendency to act less naturally.

The brief itself is fairly straightforward but I wanted to try to capture peoples expressions as this is something my tutor raised in the feedback for my first assignment.

When I got to my chosen location it was actually much smaller than I’d anticipated and only had food stalls (this meant more photos of people eating than actually perusing through nick-nacks, jewellery or christmas gifts.) However I thought It’d be best to make the best of the situation.

 

I felt quite limited in what I could achieve discreetly for this exercise. The space holding the food stalls was small and somewhat cramped, and planned out in such a way that people walked round in a circle, mainly going in the same direction. In the centre of the stall was a fountain that had been drained – meaning all foot traffic (including me) had to loop round the area.

As it was mainly food orientated I got several shots of people eating and drinking, and less of people engaging in some kind of other activity.

I used a fairly big lens for the majority of this exercise as I wanted to photograph people relatively close up but without being intrusive.

There was one stall owner who saw me taking his photo and didn’t seem to please about it – so I stopped immediately.

Confidence wise I was fairly comfortable in this situation but did feel somewhat limited in what I could produce, creatively speaking. It did become very apparent that after roughly 5-10 minutes people were aware of me and my camera (possibly because we had to loop round the venue) but this did not affect my confidence.

This exercise highlighted the limitations of smaller venues, the pro’s and cons of using a big lens (pro – You can distance yourself from your subject capturing them in a natural environment, con – foot traffic can get in the way of the shot easily and is almost impossible to prevent/predict while looking through the viewfinder of your camera) and of course, the importance of timing. Photographing facial expressions successfully (hopefully eyes open) takes patience and timing.

 

 

Photographer – Garry Winogrand

Another photographer my tutor has introduced to me is Garry Winogrand. His work is a stark contrast to that of contemporary photographer Martin Parr (For link on Martin Parr post please click here)

Garry Winogrand (1928–1984) was born in New York, where he lived and worked during much of his life. Winogrand photographed the visual cacophony of city streets, people, rodeos, airports and animals in zoos. These subjects are among his most exalted and influential work.

Winogrand’s work resembles that of Vivian Maier (please see post here)

They both sought out the interesting subjects and opportunities on the streets of their respective cities in the mid 50s and 60s. Again, their work is simplistic and captivating.

Winogrand has an extreme talent of capturing expressions, something which I aim to improve on in my personal photography.

Here’s a few of my favourites from a huge archive of some of the best black and white portrait and street photography I’ve seen to date.

Photographer – Martin Parr

My tutor introduced me to the work of Martin Parr – a well known photographer with a very unique style.

‘Martin Parr sensitises our subconscious – and once we’ve seen his photographs, we keep on discovering these images over and over again in our daily lives and recognising ourselves within them. The humour in these photographs makes us laugh at ourselves, with a sense of recognition and release.’ – Thomas Weski – pro.magnumphoto.com

When researching Martin Parr I felt a slight similarity to a previous photographer that I researched – William Eggleston. (Please see previous post here)

Their use of colours and everyday objects are so captivating and inspiring, yet so simplistic and raw.

I love the contrasting elements in this image. The older people contrasted with the baby in the pram, the red paintwork against the blue/dark moody sky, the direction of the lady in the background and the direction of the peoples gaze.

The overspilling bin and rubbish on the floor really enforce the feeling of day to day life. The scene has not had anything removed from it, in order to make it more aesthetically pleasing. It’s raw and effective.

This image almost makes you laugh out loud. I love the fact that the woman’s face is almost completely obscured by her hand, camera and of course the pigeons. She’s the main focus of the image, yet we cannot see what she looks like.

This image reminded me very much of a shot taken by William Eggleston of the back of a lady’s head in a diner. Again the face is obscured which, for me, heightens my interest. The colour relationship is very harmonious with the yellow tones contrasting the green of the stall in front of the subject, while the blue and hint of red on her scarf work well together. Of course, i’m assuming the subject is a female, but cannot be sure….another element of surprise.

My favourite image of this small selection. The bright bobble hats add a gorgeous warmth of colour and interest, while also signifying time of year perhaps. The expression on the pigeons face is priceless. It looks angry (if birds can indeed look angry) which contrasts the joyful vibe of the people in the background. This is a sure example of capturing the right moment.

Sometimes I view an overly colourful scene as somewhat distracting and perhaps look for an angle with less colour, or contemplate perhaps converting to monochrome, but with both Parr and Eggleston’s photography I’ve learnt just how powerful a colourful shot can be.