Exercise: Exploring Function

For this exercise I’m required to find an interior space either domestic or public, and focus on how it is intended to be used. I need to analyse the purpose of the space, and consider how many different aspects/activities there are. Having made my analysis I need to make a carefully considered photograph of the space to put across the way it works.

For this exercise I chose a coffee shop setting – a place I feel has multiple purposes/functions:

  • A meeting place
  • A business
  • A relaxing environment
  • A place one can go to to work i.e with a laptop (customer point of view)
  • A place of work (employee point of view)
  • A busy place
  • A place that sells products

This image is by no means an overly creative or thought provoking image, but I think it demonstrates the function of the interior space well. I wanted to fill the frame with as much of the space as I could in order to show all aspects; the staff, the customers, the products for sale, the way in which the counter separates the staff from customers and the high ceiling and brightly lit environment. The floor space to the left of the image shows that the space has not been crammed with seating, but provides enough room for people to queue comfortably at the till area, and browse the products on the shelf on the left.

 

 

 

 

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David Spero

My tutor introduced me to the work of David Spero (www.davidspero.co.uk) and I’ve found his work, especially his Church portfolio to be extremely thought provoking.

For part 3 of this module we are to look at spaces and buildings and how people use them and interact with them. I had been considering photographing local Churches.

Spero’s Church work completely goes against the conventional ideas and interpretations of Churches. When we think of Churches, we think of historical grand buildings adorned with colourful stained glass windows depicting stories from the Bible. Ancient buildings filled with artwork, paintings, furniture and objects that have been preserved and kept for many many years. The iconic smell of these old buildings, the cold air and hollow echoes that bounce around the hand crafted places of worship.

Spero has sought out the modern day worship halls that simply look like normal buildings. They are normal buildings. A place of worship does not need to be grand and fancy, it’s about the relationship the followers have inside these buildings that matters. David has used examples of buildings that you wouldn’t look twice at.

Here’s several of my favourite images from his collection:

These images highlight the rawness of inner city places of Worship; their unkept surroundings, shared building space and uninviting appearances. Perhaps all the grandeur and elegance of your stereotypical Church is unnecessary and irrelevant when it comes to Faith…

Architectural Photography

It is paramount that I realise from the offset that part 3 is NOT architectural photography……..

With that in mind I feel I need to have a clear understanding of architectural photography and how this type of photography can be avoided.

Wikipedia defines architectural photography as:

Architectural photography is the photographing of buildings and similar structures that are both aesthetically pleasing and accurate representations of their subjects. Architectural photographers are usually skilled in the use of specialised techniques and equipment.

The first permanent photograph ever recorded was also the first architectural photograph as it included buildings. The photo was View from the Window at Le Gras by Nicéphore Niépce taken in 1826 or 1827.

Shortly after, photographer William Henry Fox Talbot began photographing buildings, and his image of a latticed building taken in 1835 is well known.

By the 1860’s architectural photography was becoming more and more established, and by the early 20th century photographers were using diagonal lines and bold shadows, paving the way for creativity to be incorporated into architectural photography.

Photographers then began to develop certain techniques to enhance their subjects such as perspective control, emphasising vertical lines, and using a deep depth of field.

Architectural photography can be both interior and exterior.

Interior photography tends to use both ambient lighting and interior lighting. Often additional lighting is used to improve subject illumination as the principle subjects rarely move.

With exterior photography, the available light is used more, and sometimes incorporates added ambient light from other buildings, street lights, or moonlight. There tends to be the inclusion of the surrounding landscape to enhance the compositions; such as flowers, trees, statues etc which help lead the eye to the subject.

Below are some interesting modern architectural photographs which, while inspiring, are examples of the techniques I will be trying to avoid throughout this section.

Lensball

I’ve recently been engrossed in a personal photographic project using a prop called a Lensball. (http://www.lensball.com/getlensball)

This spherical ball produces some stunning reflections within it, and has really boosted my creativity recently. It has now become a ‘must pack’ necessity whenever I’m travelling with my camera.

Here are several of my images:

Assignment 2: People & Activity

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.

Scrum Interlink

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.

Winning Sprint

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.

Foul Play?

 

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.

Catch 22

 

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.

 

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Assessment criteria

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.

Context:

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.

Exercise: Standard focal length

My favourite lens for portrait/people photography is my  50mm Nikon prime lens. This lens has been said to be a crucial part of a photographers kit, especially when it comes to portrait photography. The lens produces some of the sharpest images out of all my lenses.

Advantages of using a prime lens:

  • The main advantage for me is the image quality.
  • The lens is extremely light as it’s small. A great advantage if you’re shooting for hours and changing location. Heavy equipment can sometimes be a disadvantage after several hours.
  • The speed of this lens is significantly faster than others.

Disadvantages of using a prime lens:

In all honesty I didn’t find any major disadvantages from a technical point of view other than you have to move more and approach the subject as you cannot zoom. This can cause some discomfort for both the photographer and the subject.

The other disadvantages are:

Cost (it was one of the most expensive lenses i’ve purchased to date) and it means purchasing multiple prime lenses to cover several focal lengths.

With the fixed focal length it can mean you change lenses more frequently when on a shoot.

 

 

 

Exercise: Close & Involved

As a general rule I would not immediately consider a wide angle lens for people photography, unless it were street photography and I was trying to fit as much of the background in as possible. It’s a must have lens for landscape photography as you can fit so much more in.

It is important to be aware of the distortion caused by using a wide lens, and this distortion is predominantly apparent in the corners and sides of the frame. So with that in mind I would imagine it is best to put the subject fairly central in the frame, and also fairly close to the camera.

I’m very aware of not placing body parts such as arms, shoulders, chin, nose etc closer to the camera than other parts as this can cause distortion. Usually portrait photography is a flattering form of photography, so this is something that should be avoided.

However this technique can be used to create a dramatic effect. For example if you were photographing a boxer you may want to position him/her with their hands closer to the lens in order to make the hands/fists look larger.