Collecting: Crowds – Learning log

REFLECTIONS AGAINST ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills:

I have applied my learning from Part Two projects and exercises, have used different focal lengths, a variety of viewpoints, varied the aperture for different purposes and remembered to consider the backgrounds carefully even if they were to be blurred. I was careful not to distort subjects with focal length and viewpoint and moved towards them when necessary.

I believe I developed some good observational skills whilst shooting on the streets, although this is obviously only the beginning of my journey. I was pleased with many of my compositions and only cropped two of my final images and that was only marginal.

Quality of outcome:

I hope that I have presented my work in a coherent manner and that it makes sense to the viewer. It is hard for me to be subjective about how well the series works and the individual photos, as much as I tried to distance myself and “kill my babies” however I am still of course involved and subjective; this must be a hard skill to develop. I chose during the capturing process to develop the lens work towards local street crowds, when I could have chosen, crowded transport or tourist crowds; did I concentrate my lens work ultimately in the right area.

Demonstration of creativity:

I set out to experiment particularly with aperture, viewpoint and focal length. I was pleased with my results when setting a variety of apertures for effect, and fairly satisfied with my results using different focal lengths. I did experiment a lot with viewpoint but I don’t think that this was reflected in my final images and this tells me that this is an area that I need to persevere with, to get better results.

Context:

It was important that I prepared well as I was going to be collecting for the assignment when on holiday and so when on location would not be able to devote myself solely to the assignment. My preparations, research, reading and mind-map of foci that I made helped me enormously to be focused on the brief and my ideas when I was able to shoot for the assignment. I would repeat this exercise for other assignments even if they were to be captured under more ideal circumstances. I continued to read and reflected on my images as I collected them which I had not done for assignment one – This helped to keep me on course.

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Collecting: Crowds -Learning log

CROWDS EDITING THE IMAGES

On returning home I set about reviewing the hundreds of images that I shot; the first task was to separate my “crowd” shots from my others. Whilst sticking mainly to the brief of a variety of focal length perspective and aperture, I found that I had captured various types of crowd shots: dense, expansive, rural, urban, pedestrian, traffic, vehicles, in various purposes, shapes and colours.

I searched for a combination of visually pleasing and well composed shots. I was forced to abandon a few images that I found interesting and effective as I had inadvertently shot them in portrait mode.

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I then selected the images that I found most powerfully represented crowds, with emotion, social context and energy; at that point I decided to abandon the tourist shots and focus on the local crowds. These were some I abandoned:

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I had read about the need to “kill your babies” whilst editing and went about ruthlessly subtracted the images which weren’t so strong, even if I had invested a lot of time or energy collecting them, such as those taken at the railway station:

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And those of cramped vehicles:

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IMG_8584At this stage I rejected some of my aerial shots as although I wanted to include this perspective they were not as strong as the others individually:

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Next I eliminated the images that did not have a good balance and geometry or contained unnecessary clutter, retaining those with layering, some interesting detail. From those that were left I began looking for a set of images that could form a series with a connection and flow, as well as fulfil the technical brief. I wanted a set of images that communicated strongly the essence of crowds, with a common theme or connection; so eventually settled on the images that were mainly shot during one visit to Jodhpur’s streets and central market. I felt that they had a continuity of place, time and colour and also conveyed a variety of emotions and purpose. From these I once again checked for strong individual images with impact, knowing that you are only as good as your weakest image and lastly I ensured that these demonstrated a variety of viewpoint, focal length and aperture.

So I ultimately chose as a common theme for my series, an idea that I had had during my preparations: Crowds with a variety of purposes and energy.

 

Collecting: Crowds – Learning log

POST SHOOTING NOTES

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!

 

Collecting: Crowds – Learning log

THE BRIEF

Create a series of between six and ten photographs from one of the following options, or a subject of your own choosing: Crowds, views, Heads.

Use the exercises from Part Two as a starting point to test out combinations of focal length, aperture and viewpoint for the set. Decide upon a single format, either vertical or horizontal. You should keep to the same combination throughout to lend coherence to the series.

A series should reflect a single coherent idea, even though the individual photographs will be unique. For this assignment you’ll make a collection of photographs using a combination of lens techniques that you’ll decide for yourself. Your tutor will evaluate the series in terms of its technical skill but also on how well the assignment works as a whole.

PREPARATIONS

Knowing that I was about to spend 3 weeks travelling through Rajasthan India it made sense to seize the opportunity and shoot the images for my assignment whilst there. For that reason I chose the subject matter of crowds. I have travelled to the region before and so had a good idea of the situations that I would encounter and was confident that I would collect plenty of images.

The challenge for me was being focused and prepared whilst on location, as I would also be capturing images for our travelling album and myself (architecture, individuals, views etc.). I was also very aware that I should not fall into the trap of thinking that images taken in such a location would be interesting in themselves and should therefore be very sure that they fitted the brief and were strong in themselves.

Research

I began by exploring the theme of crowds, looking at definitions and others images. The definition that stuck with me was “A crowd may be definable through a common purpose or set of emotions” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crowd (Accessed 15.10.15).

I browsed some online images of crowds such as: http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/photos/crowd?excludenudity=true&mediatype=photography&phrase=crowd&sort=mostpopular (Accessed 15.10.15).

http://www.gettyimages.co.uk/detail/photo/new-york-city-time-square-people-walking-high-res-stock-photography/127810433 (Accessed 15.10.15).

I was able to explore the work of Syd Shelton in his Rock Against Racism exhibition whilst attending the East London photography Festival on October 24th (http://autograph-abp.co.uk/exhibitions/rock-against-racism  Accessed 22.10.15) and found in his images many that offered interesting and different viewpoints and focal lengths of crowds.

In preparation for shooting I decided to research street photographers, as I knew that much of my capturing would be “on the hoof” on the streets.

Street photographers

Alex Webb uses strong colours and emotion when capturing his images. Webb said of Mexico and Haiti “these are places where colour is somehow deeply part of the culture, on an almost spiritual level”; indeed I knew this to be so with the location where I would be shooting and expected to use it to capture the intensity of a crowd situation. He “stumbled upon a way of working in vibrant, saturated color” (Alex Webb: Rendering a Complex World, in Color and Black-and-White, Estrin. J 8.1.13 http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/01/08/alex-webb-rendering-a-complex-world-in-color-and-black-and-white/?_r=0 Accessed 20.10.15), I thought that I would probably do the same working with colour in Rajasthan.

Webb “takes complicated pictures of complicated situations” (Alex Webb: More is more, Dyer. D. 14.5.11, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2011/may/14/alex-webb-magnum-photographer-geoff-dyer  (Accessed 20.10.15). Webb uses layering to create depth in his images, often with strong foreground, midground and backgrounds. Leading the reader into the image and fills his frames with many subjects. He rarely planned his shooting and shared “I sense the possibility of a picture. It might be a group of people, it might be the look of a corner I can’t say what it might be until I see it. It’s all about having a feel for the street.” (Estrin. J. 8.1.13).

Garry Winogrand was a prolific photographer Street photographer, constantly searching for subjects and situations “Life, for him, was the energy of the street in all its unruly momentum” (Garry Winogrand: the restless genius who gave street photography attitude, O’Hagan. S. 15.10.14 http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2014/oct/15/-sp-garry-winogrand-genius-american-street-photography (Accessed 21.10.15). Winogrand did not mind being noticed, “many of his reluctant subjects only seem to register his presence at the very moment he presses the shutter” and stare at him in a “slightly bewildered fashion”: I would like to learn to be gutsy but respectful when shooting on the streets.

Interestingly there is a “Winograndian” logic to his compositions, an instinctive grasp of the geometry of a good photograph” (as above). He was interested in the rhythm of the streets and the people who created it, I will need to find the rhythm of the crowds on the streets. Winogrand was also an advocate of emotionally detaching yourself from your photos and often left an extended period between shooting and editing for this reason, he said “photographers mistake the emotion they feel while taking the picture as judgement that the photograph is good”. I should remember this when editing. For more of his images see http://www.atgetphotography.com/The-Photographers/Garry-Winogrand.html (Accessed 21.10.15).

William Klein the photographer wrote a series of books about cities in the 60s, New York, Rome, Moscow and Tokyo “filled with raw, grainy, black-and-white photographs that caught the energy and movement of modern urban life with scant regard for traditional composition”, (William Klein: ‘I was an outsider, following my instincts’. O’Hagan. S. 28.4.12, http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/apr/28/william-klein-interview-sony-photography Accessed 21.10.15). In New York he captured the ethnicity of people and in his images represented their culture. “His images came from the thick of things. He was often working down on the pavement at the eye-level of the kids he was photographing…in Klein’s New York people press themselves up against the lens, dancing around the photographer, pulling faces, pretending to shoot each other, or the photographer, with toy guns”, (Photography: William Klein, P. Strathern, 23.10.11, http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/photography-william-klein-1178874.html Accessed 21.10.15). He filled his frames with emotions, actions and his compositions were innovative and often intimate.

I also viewed an interview on Andreas Feininger which was suggested by my Tutor as an inspiration on perspective and photography: Andreas Feininger BBC Master Photographers (1983): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23UjjfnlDDc&app=desktop (accessed 12.10.15).

This you tube interview of the photographer Andreas Feininger, as my Tutor suggested, inspires you to consider different aspects of perspective and the use of lenses. He talks about photography as “freezing the moment”. Feininger talks about the superiority of the camera lens over the eye as it is not fixed, the eyes sees only rectilinear whereas the camera sees cylindrical (panoramic) and spherical ((fish eye). He believes photographs interpret as well as represent reality and so widen the viewer’s sense of reality

He uses photography to show you things that you otherwise wouldn’t see, in particular using the telescopic lens for small objects. He also uses the telescopic lens to change perspective, to compact masses, to create monumentality. Feininger also uses the wide angle lens for distortion to create a strong feeling of depth.

Feininger prefers to work in black and white as he likes the contrasts it gives, the shadows that give depth and feels that it can make stronger statements. When asked what makes something visually attractive, he suggests: interesting, eye-catching, something that speaks to you or tells you something and suggests that you should select your technique as a graphic means of expression (a means to an end).

His portraits are interesting as they are symbolic and abstract representations, his images of nature as they show you things that you’ve not seen before focusing on structure and pattern.

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

For the rest of my preparation I created a mind map of reminders of foci to use when on location organised into the subheadings: Technical, Fact and form, context, senses, perspective, viewpoint, focal length and aperture see below:

IMG_1417 mind map prep