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






Collecting: Crowds – Learning log


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.


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.

Collecting: Crowds -Learning log


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.

_MG_6214.jpg                         _MG_6236

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:





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:




And those of cramped vehicles:



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:



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


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!