Category Archives: Research and Reflection

Assignment 5: round 2…(TAoP)

After my first attempt with this assignment didn’t quite reach my expectations I was looking for a strong plan B; which I found in the form of the Royal Baby. With such a big historical event about to unfold around me I knew it would make for a great magazine, and more importantly a great narrative.

First things first, I needed to familiarise myself with the location. St Mary’s Hospital is located right by Paddington tube station – so access was relatively easy (manoeuvring through the crowds, that is) and is one stop away from my office which was a blessing, as I could be on baby standby with all my equipment at work with me.

I wanted to gradually build up my narrative and illustrate the growth of interest/crowds/press and police. This required going back almost on a daily basis from the moment the due date was leaked. This could have been hindered by the fact that I have a full time job and can’t drop everything in an instant.

Having assessed the location several times, I made a mind map of where to get good shots, and from certain angles; bearing in mind that the public can only really access a street meant that this was limited, but not impossible.

I took HUNDREDS of practise shots. I had read that the paparazzi and press journalists often put their cameras on auto mode (sometimes auto focus too) to get their shots. I was reluctant to do this, as I wanted to put my skills from this part of the course into practise!!

I had jotted down a rough idea of how I wanted my ‘article’ to look, and the order of photographs etc, so now I needed to focus and actually get snapping!!

Assignment 5 attempt #1

The OCA handbook advised taking time over this assignment, and careful planning. After weeks of throwing ideas around my head I decided on photographing a standard London commute, and capturing people on their journeys – where were they going to? Where were they coming from? Could I narrate their mood using body language or facial expressions?

Photographing people is something that I find rather daunting – where is the boundary for being intrusive? What if the person does not want to be photographed? From the get go I was not going to photograph any children whatsoever. Being crammed on a tube carriage meant that I had to be up-close and personal – something that didn’t come naturally to me. Even using my 50mm prime lens felt too intrusive. If you’re lucky enough to get a seat on the tube, you’re usually sat in a row facing your fellow commuters. This meant that eye contact was at a high, and eye to lens contact was even more so. Even trying the ‘shoot from the hip’ method was not producing the results I was looking for. Had the train been near to empty this may have been different. This was the first of many obstacles I encountered.

The second was camera shake. I hadn’t anticipated just how hard it would have been to get a still shot – the tube jiggles you around much more than I was aware of (usually i’m in my own world listening to music, not noticing how much I move) and this became a BIG problem. I could alter my shutter speed setting, and then crank up the ISO but I didn’t want to produce grainy pictures.

This brings me on to the lack of light. Duh, I’m underground – so there’s firstly no natural light, and secondly, the strength of the artificial light at times was weak (tunnels were a no).

The biggest problem was that I was banned by security for using my tripod anywhere in the stations (health and safety….apparently) which just emphasised my struggle to capture what I had imagined and wanted to produce. I feel that what I envisioned in my head was not unrealistic but unattainable due to these set backs.

As a result of the above I have decided on doing the same sort of theme, but in an easier environment. I still want to push my boundaries of photographing people, but maybe not when they’re sat 2 feet opposite me, looking at my camera like i’m paparazzi.

I did, however, manage to take a handful of interesting shots, which I have included below.

I learnt a great deal from this ‘failed’ shoot, and wonder if i’d researched it a little more if I could have avoided these problems – perhaps by heading to the outer city where it’s not as busy and the trains are emptier, also shooting on over land routes so I can use more natural light.

couple fan long exp mans head people

sleeping tunnel


Henri Cartier-Bresson

I have been researching influential street photographers and Henri Cartier – Bresson immediately popped up all over the place. I found this interesting article written by Eric Kim. HCB almost strips photography of all of it’s technology add ons i.e wide angle lenses, tripods etc and focusses purely on simplicity. The basics. Location, timing and patience – the three things I feel are essential in photography.

HDR (High dynamic range) photography

Having recently joined a photography company I am sifting through archives on a daily basis. I have noticed the influx of HDR images.

High-dynamic-range imaging (HDRI or HDR) is a set of techniques used in imaging and photography to reproduce a greater dynamic range of luminosity than possible using standard digital imaging or photographic techniques.

HDR images can represent a greater range of luminance levels found in real-world scenes, from direct sunlight to faint nebula. It is often achieved by capturing and then combining different exposures of the same subject matter.

Below are some typical examples of HDR images:

hdr 1

hdr 2

hdr 3Personally, i’m not a great fan of this post processing phenomenon. It has an almost comic book like feel, and just looks too fake. There seems to be a lot of debate as to whether HDR photography is a type of art – as it goes beyond re creating something that the eye naturally sees.

We need to bear in mind however, that the images I have used to demonstrate are heavily saturated and take HDR photography to the outer limits. They hardly retain any of the actual image colours, light levels, shadows and highlights.

When done subtly i really think HDR can work. These 2 pictures below have captured the subject as you would imagine seeing it with the human eye, only it has been tweaked here and there to create an all round aesthetically pleasing image. It is a great tool for advertising companies.

hdr 4

hdr 5


HDR photography is something that I want to experiment with, especially with city landscapes. I will not be using such levels as shown in the first 3 pictures, but try to find a subtle balance more like the pictures above.

Some DSLRs come with a HDR function (the camera creates this effect for you) but it can be done manually by taking the exact same shot with different exposures.



John Berger – Ways Of Seeing

My tutor has given me some excellent extra reading resources and i’ve just finished watching a video by John Berger titled ‘Ways Of Seeing’. This is a very powerful video, and even though it is filmed in the 1970’s the topic and material is incredibly relevant in regards to the digital era and photography. I’ve been researching more work by John and have found some very beneficial information.

Here are several of my favourite quotes:-

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”  – John Berger, Ways Of Seeing

All photographs are there to remind us of what we forget. In this -as in other ways- they are the opposite of paintings. Paintings record what the painter remembers. Because each one of us forgets different things, a photo more than a painting may change its meaning according to who is looking at it. – John Berger, Keeping a Rendezvous 

Unlike any other visual image, a photograph is not a rendering, an imitation or an interpretation of its subject, but actually a trace of it. No painting or drawing, however naturalist, belongs to its subject in the way that a photograph does. – John Berger

What makes photography a strange invention – with unforeseeable consequences – is that its primary raw materials are light and time – John Berger

Photographs bear witness to a human choice being exercised in a given situation. A photograph is a result of the photographer’s decision that it is worth recording that this particular event or this particular object has been seen. If everything that existed were continually being photographed, every photograph would become meaningless. – John Berger

These are a few of many very interesting and thought provoking quotes that really make me assess the subject of my photographs at a much greater level. I am recording something to my own choice, to then display to others – I have control over what i choose to include and exclude; this is a topic that John Berger discusses as he demonstrates that by taking a selection or part of a scene you are creating something completely unique. For example, taking a picture of a crowded street, and then taking a picture of a person zoomed in within the crowd to produce a portrait results in extremely different pictures, but of the same scenario.