Collecting: Crowds – Learning log


I prepared for the capturing before I went on location; I decided to shoot landscape images as I thought this would better convey crowds, I knew that I should experiment with viewpoint focal length and aperture and had ideas how I could use these. What I couldn’t predict completely were the situations and subject matter that I would come across. I hoped to within the theme of “Crowds” convey some emotion, the social context, something visually attractive and good geometry and composition. I knew if I was to capture most of these I would need many “decisive moments” and for this I would need to shoot a great many images.

I had plenty of opportunities to capture crowd images – Tourist spots: palaces and forts. Local places: markets, streets, roads, level crossings and villages. I also went out of my way to visit railway stations in the hunt for crowds. I became a student of the habits, shapes, emotions and purpose of crowds.

I was able to shoot fresh ideas and images, as everything that I came across was unique and new to me. I shot what I found interesting, although after reviewing the images each day I developed a next shoot shopping list of perspectives, viewpoints, focal lengths and apertures to experiment with or capture. Sometimes I used a stream of consciousness to capture the emotion of a scene, sometimes I used zone focusing when working rapidly to capture at a particular focal length. I tried to fill the frame with interesting elements, but within this was searching for details within the crowds. Often I found the right setting for a good crowd image and then waited for the crowd to be the right shape or for some action to occur. I found that I was often capturing some backs of heads, as crowds don’t often present in a row, but tried also to include facial shots to convey emotion and engage the viewer.

After a few days I realised that I was capturing two types of crowds, tourist and local, but continued to shoot both so that I could decide which to use when editing later. I found it tremendously hard to stick to shooting crowds in landscapes only, as was my plan, instinctively turning the camera to portrait view to capture some images – of course these had to be discarded.

As I was essentially on holiday with a schedule not designed around the needs of my assignment photography, I was frequently shooting in the harsh light in the middle of the day; however I tried in these situations to use the shade of the streets and buildings and I was sometimes able to shoot late in the day when the light was fading.

I was very glad that I had read around the art of street photography before the trip and researched some expert photographers in the field. I spent some time shooting in rural villages where I learnt a lot about engaging with subjects close up. Often they were glad to pose when they saw my camera, which of course was not what I wanted and I learnt to employ techniques I had read about how to capture then additionally “off guard” (like waiting until they were engaged with something else, or pretending to focus elsewhere). From these “up close” situations I gained useful experience of forming a relationship with subjects and capturing respectfully, which gave me more confidence when shooting in urban situations. I found I had the converse problem when capturing tourist crowds, as they would often be reluctant to cross or enter my field of view, apologising, when I was actually waiting for them to enter the frame!



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