Assignment Two- People and Activity
Assignment Criteria: 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, or at a social event. You should produce a set of approximately 10 final images and you can choose between depicting the same person at different kinds of activity, or different people at the same single activity or event.
For this assignment, I decided to use a parade in a seaside town in Ireland called Bangor. I felt that the parade would offer me a wide range of people in varying activities all attending or taking part in the parade. In preparation for this assignment, I did a practice photo-shoot of the first of two walk-throughs of the parade. I positioned myself in a café directly above the proceedings- providing me with a bird’s eye view of the parade. This enabled me to gain insights into what the parade entailed, the subjects I wanted to capture, and ideas on composition and framing. You will find this preparation here.
I also did a great deal of research into the ideal focal lengths for portraits, and how these varying lengths effect portraits differently. You will find this research here. From this research I gained a large amount of knowledge in focal lengths, and decided that telephoto and standard are the two best lenses for portraiture. However it is good to note the pros and cons of both these focal lengths, and thus, how these effect the subject’s appearance and also how well they relay the relationship between the photographer and subject. I took all these points into consideration in this assignment, choosing the telephoto lens to capture this parade. I used my 55-200mm lens; providing me with both a (close to) standard focal length, and a telephoto focal length. This zoom lens enabled me to capture groups of people, as well as close-ups of a single person or subject.
I also carried out detailed research into photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Capa. These photographers provided me with a well-rounded insight into street photography; both showing contrasting approaches and techniques. I noted that they both felt it was important to get up close and personal with your subject; Robert Capa’s mantra being; “If your photos are not good enough, you are not close enough.(1)” I also learnt that diagonal lines show action well, framing and composition are vital and must be approached with great consideration, values in grayscale can be used to make the subject stand out, and capturing the ‘decisive moment’ of action makes or breaks a photo. As you can see, I learnt an invaluable amount from this research, and it provided me with an abundance of fundamental knowledge upon entering this assignment.
Therefore, upon beginning my assignment, I had already captured the parade once, and so was well prepared for the actual shoot itself. You will find my final ten images below, along with a critical analysis of my finished work and how well I feel I did. I chose to capture and edit all images in colour in order to show the vitality, excitement and variety of bright colours in this parade. (Please note; when viewing the images, I have noticed that they appear in much sharper focus in larger viewing. To do this, simply click once on the image itself.)
Image 1- (ISO 400, f5.6, 1/250) The parade was about to begin, and the crowd were waiting expectantly. In my practice shoot, I captured three little girls waiting for the parade to commence; however I noted that their expressions didn’t show the excitement of the event very well. Therefore, I adjusted this for the second run-through and captured this charming old couple. The old man’s expression is great, and really shows off the anticipation well. The direction of the lady’s gaze also draws the viewer’s attention to the fact that the parade is about to begin. I used spot metering and took an exposure of the old man’s coat in order to get the correct exposure. I am happy with the outcome of this shot, and feel that the composition and framing is good. The focus could have been sharper, but I improved this as the shoot went on.
Image 2- (ISO 400, f5.6, 1/1000) This image is a good opener to the set of parade images as the parade was celebrating 400 years of the Bangor Town Charter. 400 years ago the town was first issued its charter by King James I and so to mark this occasion, the parade was centred around a Bangor 400 theme. This image shows that well. The diagonal line provided by the sign creates a sense of movement throughout the frame; drawing the eye from the bottom to the top of the frame nicely (as learnt in my research into Robert Capa). The shallow depth of field has worked in removing the distraction of the background to a certain degree. The distracting background obviously could not have been improved any more through framing, as the streets were full of people; giving all angles the same result. However, I feel that the busy background in this shot highlights the excitement and buzz around the event. Perhaps I would adjust the framing slightly to incorporate the whole sign, but other than this, I am happy with the framing, composition, focus and angles in this shot (all aspects I have been working on in this module).
Image 3- (ISO 400, 1/1000, f5.6) I quite like the bizarre feel to this image. The strange expression on the young girls face matches her strange outfit well, creating a mysterious and unusual shot which moulds into the unusual parade well. The focus in this shot is great, and it is solely on one of the young girls- with the other in soft blur. I love the vibrant blue and silver colours which jump out at the viewer in this shot. I emphasised this by increasing the contrast of the young girl slightly. The fact that the subject is looking directly at the camera creates a strong connection between the viewer and subject; another strong aspect of this image. All in all, I really like this albeit slightly strange image, and feel that technically the focus and exposure are spot on.
Image 4- (ISO 400, f5.0, 1/320) I had spotted this man during my initial run-through preparation, and had planned to capture him in my assignment images. My planning came together, and I kept a look out and captured this man with his great historical costume, and specifically his very nice hat! I was able to get an accurate focus; being certain to focus on the eyes. I had previously had problems with this zoom lens, having not known that the aperture depth is significantly reduced in telephoto focal lengths. However, through practice, and my research into focal lengths I learnt that this was indeed the problem, and have begun to improve in this area. In this image, I angled the shot in order to frame the subject with the light building in the background; using a loose variation of Robert Capa’s grayscale values technique by having dark subjects against light ground, or light subjects against dark ground- making the subject stand out more. I further used ideas from my research into Capa by increasing the contrast of just the subject in editing to make him stand out from the rest of the scene. I am pleased with this shot technically, and feel that it is a strong image that shows the costume and historical theme of the event well.
Image 5- (ISO 400, f5.6, 1/1250) The young boys in this image were carrying boxes of fruit to sell; symbolising the old-fashioned markets of Bangor 400 years ago. This image could be construed as ‘cluttered’, however I feel that it shows nicely the busy-ness and excitement of the parade. The focus is specifically on the middle boy; with the other boys also locked in focus. Again, I feel my improvement in focussing with this lens is evident; and the subject is accurately in focus. I used a mid-tone in this image to calculate the exposure, and this seemed to work well. In editing, I again selected the main subject’s and adjusted contrast on just these selections in order to make them stand out. I am relatively happy with this shot, but do not feel that it is the strongest of the set.
Image 6- (ISO 400, f5.0, 1/1000) I loved this shot, and had planned to capture this large head after spotting it in my initial run-through. I had planned to frame the subject in such a way as to point the lens in the sky; gaining a plain background. This is a very interesting subject; the importance of a good subject being a key point which I learnt from Cartier-Bresson. The light background works in making the large head stand out further; again using Capa’s technique. I positioned the subject slightly off centre so as not to create static in the frame. I am very pleased with this shot, and feel that the quality of outcome is high. The focus is very strong and the composition and framing are exactly how I planned.
Image 7- (ISO 400, f5.0, 1/1000) This tall man was the town crier, announcing to the crowd that the king was coming. For this shot, I knelt down and pointed the camera at an angle to the subject in order to make him appear even taller and more impressive. The background again in this image is somewhat distracting, but this is reduced through the shallow depth of field. I could have eliminated this distraction altogether had I just captured a torso portrait; however I wanted to capture the subject’s activity accurately, showing that he was shouting, announcing the arrival of the king, who we can see in the background. This shot tells a story nicely; providing a strong narrative of the history of the event. Again the subject is just slightly off centre in this shot- preventing static.
Image 8- (ISO 400, f5.6, 1/1600) For this shot I was able to angle the lens in order to get the subject against the sky. I captured this shot, then upon quick reviewing, noticed that the hat wasn’t fully in the frame. Therefore I adjusted the framing and incorporated the entire hat in the shot. However, when I opened both images on a larger screen, I noted that the subject’s expression in the better framed image was very poor, and he looked angry. Therefore, knowing that the subject is the most important part of an image, I compromised slightly on framing. However, I do think this is a good shot; mostly helped by the plain background which really makes the subject stand out- making him appear almost like he’s flying! I again increased the contrast on just the subject which further made him ‘pop’ out from the background.
Image 9- (ISO 400, f4.5, 1/1600) This was one of my favourite images from this set. The dazzling costume, and bright colours catch the viewer’s attention immediately. These colours are emphasised through the plain background; created by angling the camera in such a way as to produce a sky background, further strengthening this shot. The pose of the subject is also very strong, and in fitting with this bold character well. The subject is looking directly at the camera which creates a nice connection between the subject and the viewer. This connection is furthered by the standard focal length of 55mm which provides a feeling of contact between photographer and subject. This technique is used by photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. The following quote shows the positives of using both telephoto and standard focal lengths when shooting portraits; emphasising why I chose to use both for this assignment. “Beat Streuli uses a long telephoto lens so that he can track his subjects on the street without them being aware of his presence. This is a departure from the practice of street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson or Garry Winogrand, who used shorter focal-length lenses, thereby creating a potent feeling of possible contact or interaction between photographer and subject.(2)”
Image 10- This was the last float of the parade, and the Boat reads “Bangor Boat”. I felt that this was a nice concluding image to this set, as the boat is theoretically ‘heading off into the distance’ away from the camera. The composition of the image; framed in such a way as to capture the back of the subject’s head, portrays a sense that the subject is leaving. The diagonal lines created by the top of the boat and the possible angle of gaze cause the viewer’s eye to move swiftly across the frame, creating a sense of movement. This teamed with the careful framing which cuts part of the boat off, and simply captures the back of the boat, gives the viewer a feeling that this boat is leaving the frame. I am very happy with this shot, and feel that it shows my improvement in framing well.
For easy image viewing, please see gallery below;
(1) DAVENPORT, ALMA (1991), The History of Photography: An Overview, UNM Press
(2) ANGIER, ROSWELL (2007), Train your gaze; A Practical and Theoretical Introduction to Portrait Photography, AVA Publishing