Collecting: Crowds

Niki South Student number: 514516

Final images

Anticipating  _MG_5259 usedAperture: f/5.6, focal length: 35mm, Exposure 1/2700 sec

Travelling_MG_7280 usedAperture: f/9, Focal length: 300mm, Exposure 1/500 sec

Directing   _MG_5914Aperture: f/5, Focal length: 30mm, Exposure time: 1/125 sec

           Riding  _MG_5050 used            Aperture: f/8, Focal length: 73mm, Exposure time: 1/500 sec

Gathering  _MG_6009Aperture: f/11, Focal length: 32mm, Exposure time: 1/85 sec

Carrying and dropping_MG_6079 Aperture: f/6.3, Focal length: 103mm, Exposure time: 1/125 sec

Meeting  _MG_6936 used     Aperture: f/5, Focal length: 66mm, Exposure time: 1/85 sec

Embracing   _MG_6020              Aperture: f/6.3, Focal length: 162mm, Exposure time: 1/320 sec

               Crossing _MG_5591 used  Aperture: f/14, Focal length: 300mm, Exposure time 1/400 sec

Waiting_MG_6482Aperture: f/5.6, Focal length: 82mm, Exposure time: 1/100


Collecting: Crowds

Niki South Student number: 514516



This assignment coincided with a holiday travelling round Rajasthan, India, so it made sense to choose a theme for images I could collect there. From previous travels to India I had a good idea of the situations and environments that I would encounter and crowds was the obvious choice.


I explored definitions of crowds, the one that struck me was “A crowd may be definable through a common purpose or set of emotions”, (accessed 15.10.15).

I browsed images of crowds and found in the work of Syd Shelton’s “Rock Against Racism” exhibition many images offering interesting viewpoints of crowds, ( Accessed 22.10.15).

An interview of Andreas Feininger broadened my knowledge of perspective: (Accessed 10.10.15)

I also researched street photographers, in particular Alex Webb, Garry Winogrand and William Klein.

 From this research I knew when collecting crowd images I should:

  • Develop a feel for the emotion and rhythm of the crowds
  • Use colour to portray emotions
  • Show the context of the crowd
  • Fill frames and layer interest
  • Shoot in the “thick of things”
  • Use various perspectives

I had to be focused on location, it was a holiday, also I must not fall into the trap of thinking that images taken in such a location would be interesting in themselves, I created a mind map of foci to use organised into reminders:  viewpoint, focal length, aperture, fact and form, context and perspective. I set out to shoot crowds with different purposes and emotions.


To ensure I collected a variety of viewpoints, focal lengths and apertures, I reviewed my images daily to form a “shopping list” of the next to capture or explore. I tried to fill frames with interesting elements, as well as details within the crowds. Often I found the right setting for a good crowd image, then waited for it to be the right shape or for some action to occur. Sometimes captured backs of heads, but also included facial shots to convey emotion and engage the viewer. Occasionally I used zone focusing when working rapidly, to shoot a particular focal length and sometimes concentrated on an interesting perspective. Most often I was shooting on the move, hand held and predominantly used my telephoto lens as it presented  as compressed, not because it helped me to zoom from afar; I became confident at shooting from within a crowd and engaging and isolating individuals within a crowd close up.

How these techniques affect the images:

Anticipating: I chose a low viewpoint and a wide angle lens to accentuate the line of the barrier pole leading to the clustered shape of the small crowd.

Travelling: To capture the detail of the crowd crammed in this moving van I used my telephoto lens at a long focal length and worked fast before it disappeared from my range.

Riding: I used a medium depth of field to give a broad view of the crowd as well to enable me to capture interesting facial expressions. Shooting at eye level from within the crowds to helped to bring an sense of involvement and immediacy to the image.

Directing: I zone focused and was probably lucky to get the depth of field that I did with this aperture; it picks out the ineffectual traffic controller as well as the traffic mayhem.

Gathering: A deeper depth of field and a wide angle allowed me to show detail across a large area, whilst using a viewpoint slightly above the level of the crowds enhances the depth of the image and crowds.

Meeting: I experimented with the shallowest depth of field that my lens would allow at this focal length to isolate a subject, keeping an awareness of the background composition, knowing that even though I intended it to be blurred it would add context and interest.

Carrying and dropping: I noticed this man carrying and dropping cauliflowers so set a wide aperture to lift him from the crowd.

Embracing: I used the same aperture to capture this detail, but set the subject in the middle of the composition to promote the intimacy of the moment within the chaos of the crowd.

Crossing: An aerial viewpoint provides a different perspective of the crowd, however even with this long focal length I was surprised at the motion and emotion still apparent in the crowd.

Waiting: I chose a relatively shallow depth of field here to separate the detail of faces in the midground from the foreground which adds depth.

Link to shooting & editing notes:

Link to learning from lens exercises:


What worked well:                               

  • The research and reading beforehand and my mind map helped me enormously when on location.
  • I experimented when shooting on the streets, my confidence increased as I tried various techniques.
  • I was able to mix patient with spontaneous shooting; I hope that I’ve shown that I have an eye for detail and good visual awareness.
  • I believe I have created a series of images that communicates the essence of crowds, with continuity of place and colour that also conveys their emotion and purpose. I hope that they are now interesting individual images as well as a series.
  • I applied learning from the lens exercises. I think my particular successes were the variety of viewpoints and apertures used for different purposes, consideration of the background element even when it would to be blurred, and care not distorting subjects with focal length and viewpoint but moving closer to them.
  • I only cropped a couple of the images and was pleased with many of the compositions.
  • Having revisited my series and editing post tutor feedback, I have now “killed my babies” but retained my voice, I hope.

 What didn’t work so well and how the series might be improved in the future:

  •  My focus was on aperture and control of focal length, I would like to combine this with shutter speed and ISO to gain greater control over the final image. In particular I would like to experiment with blurring images.
  • I intend to continue to broaden my reading and research as this will give me further development ideas.
  • Forming a series; this is the area that I felt less confident about initially and revisited after the initial assignment. I think I have learnt not to over complicate things but to follow my instincts; however further reading and research will help to develop my confidence in reading and evaluating images and sets of images.


Collecting: Crowds

Niki South Student number: 514516


My tutor feedback was thought provoking and useful. He highlighted lots of strengths such as my planning, the quantity and range of pictures taken, the variations of camera position and framing and my critical analysis. The main area that needed development was to select an effective set of images from such a range, as he felt that I had omitted some interesting images during the editing process.

Having stepped back from the assignment for a while, I believe that I concentrated too much on trying to create a series with a theme (a journey through a town) in addition to that already running through them (Indian crowds). I have now revisited the images choosing those that show a variety of crowd dynamics, depth of field, perspective and shutter speed but most importantly interest.

In my final set I have retained five of the original images (directing, gathering, carrying, embracing and waiting), added five from the contact sheets  (anticipating, travelling, riding, and crossing) and swapped one of my “meeting” images for another. I do feel that with these changes the set is stronger.

My major learning from the assignment is how to select a range of images that can be drawn together by a common theme, to produce a coherent body of work that tells a story. To do this I must learn to trust my instincts, develop my own vision and voice when editing, just as I trust my instinct when capturing.

Link to work submitted to tutor:

Link to learning log collecting:

However these mind map summarise the narrative of the preparations, post shooting and editing notes contained in the learning log:


IMG_1551 mind map preparations

Post shooting notes:

IMG_1552 mid map post shooting

Editing notes:

IMG_1556 mindmap editing 2