Imagine that you are on an assignment for an intelligent, thoughtful travel publication that is demanding a considered, in-depth treatment. Aim to produce sufficient images on a specific location to fill, say, six pages. This would mean about six final images as chosen, but at least twice this number of good publishable images from which to make the final selection. Aim to show the character of the place and of the people who live there with as much visual variety as possible.
I felt like I really needed to concentrate on what it is exactly that the brief is asking of me. I realised very early on that this would not be images that are similar to what you may see in a travel brochure. I’m not photographing gorgeous white sandy beaches to entice people to visit, but rather capturing the charm and raw beauty/feel of a certain location. It is not tourism promotion.
With this cleared up I now had to find my location. I had several places in mind that would fit the brief but having recently relocated up north I wondered whether I could explore the unknown and capture my images at the same time. I didn’t want somewhere too remote (Yorkshire has some incredible scenic spots) or I may find it results in my final images being relatively similar. I also wanted the option to to capture people – so a remote Yorkshire Moor would not guarantee this.
I decided to settle on Horsforth – an area I moved to last month. Having been busy with the move and work, I felt I hadn’t fully explored Horsforth, so found this to be a great opportunity to explore my new surroundings while completing this assignment.
Horsforth is a suburb of Leeds, and is gorgeously leafy and green. I wanted to incorporate this feel in my images, while also capturing the sense of community. While it may be an area of Leeds; a bustling metropolitan city undergoing a huge revamp, Horsforth feels like its own little town/village. There is a strong sense of community and togetherness.
There’s a lovely big park on the outskirts of Horsforth (Horsforth Hall Park) and within the park is an incredibly well kept and beautiful Japanese garden. This garden attracts many locals and tourists who come to enjoy the peace and serenity that it offers. I wanted to capture as much of the garden as possible, so I used a wide angle lens, and looked for a position that would offer many different elements such as the lily pond, the bridge and the native plants. The red of the bridge contrasts so well with the lush greenery.
As I previously mentioned, I wanted to capture the nature and rural elements that Horsforth is renowned for. I wanted to, if possible, photograph some aspect of wildlife. While exploring the hidden corners of the park area I noticed this little guy watching my every move! I really like the composition of this shot. The foreground detail (squirrel and tree texture) is in crisp focus and virtually splits the image straight down the middle as it contrasts with the soft blurred background. I wanted the background to be blurred but only slightly as you can still make out the formation and shapes of the objects in the distance. It really highlights the sense of Horsforth.
Horsforth Cricket Club
There’s a strong sense of community, and it’s magnified by the clubs and groups that are available for both the young and old to be a part of. The cricket club is situated in the middle of the park allowing all and anyone to watch the training and games. While the predominant focus is the action of the cricketer mid run, they viewers eye gradually moves attention to the club in the background where parents, friends, family and the public watch on. You get a sense of the cricket club building itself – nothing too grand or modern; a typical community building.
The main street in Horsforth is just that; a small stretch of street bustling with independently owned businesses, cafes, bars, pubs and shops. In recent years it has developed a few chain branches (Costa Coffee, Pizza Express, Greggs) but I wanted to focus more on the independent side that could be more responsible in pulling in visitors. As with any small town, you cannot always guarantee an influx of people, but this highlights the quiet serene vibe evident in Horsforth.
There’s a vast array of pubs here, all with different styles and themes. This bistro really caught my eye with the bright red umbrellas contrasting with the traditional brick wall synonymous with Leeds and The North. I timed my shot to include the three pedestrians passing by all with roughly the same spacing in-between them. I like the variety to this image – male, female, young, old. It highlights the range of people living in Horsforth.
Truly Scrummy Cafe
One of the most popular cafes on the main street is the ‘Truly Scrummy Cafe’ which had an influx of people passing in and out of the doors. I wanted to capture the quaint feel of this small town cafe, so decided to photograph it from the outside capturing both the customers inside, the passers-by and the street tables. If you look closely you can see a range in age of customer – highlighting how versatile and much loved it is amongst both the old and young. I had photographed several images from a side angle and wanted to incorporate a head on image, and this seemed to be my perfect subject.
I feel that these 6 images are my strongest, most varied set illustrating the sense of place in Horsforth. I’ve included below several other images from the shoot that didn’t quite make it into my final selection. There was lots of deliberating over which images would end up in the final selection, and it was by no means an easy task. I was aware of incorporating too many images that did not include people, yet the interior cafe shot did not seem as strong as the others in terms of demonstrating the ‘sense’ of place.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
I am generally happy with the overall technical and visual execution of this assignment. In order to demonstrate the ‘sense of place’ I had to make sure my pictures were as aesthetically pleasing as possible. This assignment is meant to entice people to visit a certain area, so I wanted to make sure they were visually appealing. This meant I decided on using a wide angle lens at times to capture as much of the scene as possible, and finding the best, most interesting viewpoint. I wanted to incorporate a sense of variety too – and feel I have achieved this.
I did not want to have to rely on too much post processing (brightening the sky, colour correction etc.) as I was aware this may make the images look too processed and fake. Personally I am not enticed by images that are over processed, and I wanted to photograph Horsforth in its truest form.
Quality of Outcome:
I am very satisfied with the quality of the outcome. These images do feel like a set, and all have a sense of continuity. I think this was because each image was photographed with relatively the same weather conditions. In terms of the individual images I’m happy that each one of my photos is a strong representation of my brief, and the images are able to stand alone, as well as part of a series.
Demonstration of Creativity:
In my last assignment I tried too hard to ‘think outside the box’ and this resulted in missing the brief. So for this assignment I tried to follow the brief in a simplistic yet creative way. I wanted my creativity to be somewhat more subtle, as I felt this would suit this kind of brief more. I looked for quirky angles, nice framing options, and characteristics that would amplify my shots. I often try so hard to make my work different that I get carried away and drift from the original task.
In terms of developing my personal voice this assignment gave me the opportunity to really get swept away in my concept and execute a more natural, in depth set of photographs. I didn’t want to (nor could I) over plan or over think my content/subjects. I explored my new area with my camera seeking photographic opportunities then and there rather than pre-planning them. This, for me, worked very well. I enjoyed being ‘put on the spot’ so to speak.
Since my last assignment I’ve researched in quite substantial depth urban/street photography to get an idea of how best to approach my issue with confidence when photographing the public. I’ve studied several techniques
I find myself studying my surroundings and people much more since doing this assignment. I am constantly seeing great photographic opportunities – mainly to do with people for once – and am building up my confidence greatly. It can be something as simple as someone sipping coffee in a coffee shop window, but I’m always finding myself viewing the world through my metaphorical lens. There are photographic opportunities everywhere!