Exercise: Busy Traffic

In contrast to the usually-empty place from the last project, some locations are almost
always busy, with a constant flow of traffic. Railway stations, bus stations and airports
are obvious examples, but in these days of tightened security, many are effectively out of
bounds for photography.

Giving this due consideration, choose a busy location, interior or exterior, and find a
viewpoint that will give you a satisfying composition as well as a good sense of the
nature and function of the space.

Spend some time watching how the flow of people works — the patterns they make, any
surges or lulls in movement and numbers — and how this can contribute to the
composition of the shot.

Aim to show the ‘busyness’ of the place, which might involve altering the composition,
perhaps changing the focal length of lens, or experimenting with a slow exposure.

For this exercise I chose a busy shopping centre in Leeds. I wanted a viewpoint that would incorporate some sense of the layout and design, while also demonstrating the ebb and flow of the foot traffic. By positioning myself on the top floor I was able to capture the top level, but my main focus was the shoppers on the ground floor.

I varied my shutter speed slightly as I wanted to capture subtle movement. Had the shutter been open for too long, I’d have missed the shoppers movement entirely.

If the shutter speed was too quick I’d have frozen the movement completely.

This first shot served as my ‘test’ shot. I then decided to have a slightly longer shutter speed to create some motion blur.

Most people are now blurry, with the odd exception of someone remaining still – the man in the blue shorts at the counter to the left shows this.

What is evident in all 3 pictures is the congestion or ‘bunching’ of people underneath the escalator. This is because it was the main route through the shopping centre, so as expected, would be congested.

Using a wide angle lens meant I was able to squeeze as much of my surroundings in as possible – emphasising the sense of scale. I like the effect this had on the railing to my right – it’s somewhat warped more than the human eye observed (it was curved slightly) but I think this adds a creative feel.


Exercise: Making figures annonymous

Take some photographs that include a person or people in a particular place, but
deliberately make them unrecognisable and, as a result, less prominent.

Make between two and four photographs which use different techniques to achieve this.
To reiterate, a successful image will be one that is primarily about the place, but in which
one or more figures play a subsidiary role to show scale and give life — to show that it is
in use.

I had hoped to put a little more distance in this shot, but even standing on the other side of the road (there was a row of houses directly behind me) meant I was fairly limited. I used a fairly wide angle lens as I wanted to capture all 5 people standing at the bus stop. I do like this image though. The positioning and poses of the bystanders creates an interesting dynamic. I especially like the lady stood with her back to the bus shelter on the far left. Unless you knew or were able to recognise these people, there is a strong sense of anonymity.

This next shot has a vast distance between me and my subjects; rendering them unrecognisable. The shadows cast by the trees also helps to make them anonymous as it makes them blend in more with the darker colours and shades of the background. The man is wearing black which also helps to make him less visible. I used a wide angle in order to fit as much of the gorgeous surroundings in as possible.

The technique of making people appear in silhouette form serves extremely well in making people anonymous. This is demonstrated in this image. I wanted to capture the rolling mountains in the background while also including enough of the black foreground and silhouettes to balance out the image.

Another way of obscuring peoples identity is to shoot them from behind, removing all sense of recognisable features. I shot this image in black and white as I felt the fact that his clothing was monochrome would add another level to the image. The bridge in the background is light greys and whites which contrasts nicely with the darker greys/blacks of the decking he’s standing on, the railings and his outfit colours, hair and phone.

Adding blur is another way of making people anonymous. Too long a shutter speed and you may miss capturing the people completely, while a short shutter speed may still result in recognising the person/people. Here there’s just a small hint of blur, but enough to make the players on the move unrecognisable.

Exercise: Balancing figure and space

Draw on your photography so far in this course and on the techniques you have learned,
to vary the balance in any one picture situation. Aim to produce two images, using the
same general viewpoint and composition, varying the balance of attention between the
person (or people) and the setting they are in. You can combine this exercise with any of
the relevant earlier ones, if you prefer.

For this exercise I wanted to highlight the shift in attention when making a subject smaller while also increasing the amount of background and focal area. In the first picture my model is balanced well with the tree trunk, and nicely framed by the leaves and branches of the willow tree. She is positioned in the middle of the frame. The background is still intriguing and apparent, but the main focus, as intended, is my lovely model.

By placing my model further away, but still in the centre of the frame it has shifted the balance significantly. The background is much more apparent and in focus, therefore shifting the balance of figure and space – the attention on both model and background are more or less equal.

Bruce Gilden – New York


Once again, while researching street/people photography I stumbled across award winning photographer Bruce Gilden. The quote above really says it all – Gilden gets up close and personal with his subjects; often resulting in incredible facial expressions and almost confrontational body language.

His New York City series caught my eye, and his use of flash really makes his subjects facial features almost jump out of the image. It instantly makes them the main focal point of the image.

Gilden’s ongoing project ‘Faces’ is an astonishingly raw example of society, age, income, social status and personality. Again the use of flash really emphasises the facial features. It is well worth a look:


Paul Bence – Street Photography

I stumbled across another article offering advice on street photography by Paul Bence.

The article below offers some great tips on what and what not to do. I’ve noticed some big similarities with the advice on street photography.

I love the style of Paul Bence – he gets so up close to his subjects, and often shoots through windows which creates a lovely urban feel. He captures great expressions on his subjects, and the eye contact between them and the camera evokes emotion.


Exercise: Selective processing and prominence

Select one image that you have already taken for an earlier project, an image in which
the issue is the visual prominence of a figure in a setting.  For this exercise you will use the digital processing methods that you have available on your computer to make two new versions of this image.

In one, make the figure less prominent, so that it recedes into the setting. In the second,
do the opposite, by making it stand out more. Possible selective adjustments are to
brightness, contrast, even colour intensity if you are presenting a colour image.

The actual technique will depend on the processing software that you use, for example
Photoshop or Lightroom or Aperture, or any other. The tools available to you will also
depend on whether or not you shot the image in raw format. You will need to find out
which of several methods you can use.

For this exercise we can use a previously taken shot, so I wanted to see whether I could shift the attention of my small lone figure at the top of Yosemite waterfall. Considering the backdrop is quite spectacular and the main focal point of the image, I wanted to see if it would be relatively easy to bring the figure to life more.

To make him less prominent I upped the contrast and the shadows, thus creating darker shadows and obscuring him a little bit more.

To make him more prominent I lightened the foreground including the space he’s positioned on and the space before him. I lowered the contrast to make the background stand out less.

It was a fairly difficult picture to achieve this with, but I feel he is more obvious in the second shot.

I’ve also included an easier photo to demonstrate this with – my niece. In the first shot I’ve darkened the image, making her blend into the background more. I’ve then done the reverse and brightened the image and upped the contrast to make her stand out from her surroundings.

Drew Hopper – Street Photography

In my quest to gain more confidence when photographing people I began researching photographers and forums giving advice and tips on how to overcome the fear of photographing strangers.

That’s when I came across an article written by Drew Hopper – an Australian landscape and travel photographer. Here Drew gives 10 top tips for getting over ‘the fear’ and includes examples of his travel photography.

Not only is this advice stellar, but his imagery is incredibly evocative.

His use of colours really make the images ‘pop’ and I like the vignette effect he’s applied to several of the shots.

His use of camera angles are enviable, and produce some really great shots. For example the aerial angle used to capture the fruit and veg seller.

Here’s the article:

Tips for successful street photography

Along with the link to Drew’s website…………well worth a look. What an amazingly creative photographer.

Drew Hopper Photography