Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 3

Reflecting on Part three – Traces of time and Assignment three…

As with my previous posts, this post summarises what I have learnt from part three and Assignment three of the course, with the aims: 1) to embed the learning for future courses and projects and 2) to act as a review and reflection tool which gives ease of reference to the learning points.

So to summarise the feedback received:

  • Experiment more using the exercises to inform assignments,
  • avoid repetitive subjects and compositions (as appropriate),
  • check the frame and internals for unwanted items,
  • ensure the images are on sharp where they should be,
  • give both sides of an argument before stating yours, and
  • take care with which practitioners are referenced; they should be published in either national or international magazines or who have won competition awards.

Following tutor feedback I have included within this post my re-work of image 6 – The Jump, an experimentation with overlaid images and my response to the work of Tobin Yelland and Giovanni Reda.

Image 6 – The Jump

I have adjusted this image by re-cropping to exclude the concrete ramp and to lift the shadows so there is more detail in the trousers.  I have posted below the original image together with the re-worked image to show the difference the re-work has made.

image 6 _MG_5029

web_MG_5029

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By re-cropping the image it adds a sense of space below the skateboarder and gives the impression that the jump is higher than it appears in the original image.  By lifting the shadows it gives a more informed image as you can now see the detail in the black areas.

Tobin Yelland (born: 1970):

A commercial/fine arts photographer from America, whose childhood interest in skateboarding led him from his hobby in photography, capturing fellow skaters and the sub-culture surrounding the skating scene mostly for skateboard magasines, to a full time professional portrait/lifestyle/skateboarding photographer of some 20 years.

Notably he has worked with some large brands synonymous with skateboarding and others which are alternative lifestyle/culture focused.

Tobin uses a fish-eye or straight lens and his website showcases a lot of black & white images.  Most of the subjects in the online images have been photographed mid trick, which makes for a more impressive capture.

In an interview with Huck Magasine, Tobin says:

“I think finding the perfect moment to take a photograph is all about knowing that person really well,”

I can relate to this, as when I have worked with a model for the first time there is always a honeymoon period where you are both getting used to working with each other.  It takes some time to build a good rapport and on a first shoot you might get a handful of natural relaxed shots, however, come the 3rd or 4th time working with the same model it’s so much easier to get a lot of really good natural shots.

Also I think with action photography you really need to be au fait with the activity so you can anticipate the moves, tricks, positioning of the subject/s that you are photographing.

Giovanni Reda (born 1974):

A photographer and filmmaker from Brooklyn, NYC who has been photographing skateboarding and portraits and people for over 20 years.

Curiously his main website does not have any write up about the artist only photographs from his different projects but I found an interview with him on the ilovecreatives website which contained far more information on Giovanni the person rather than showcasing his work.

You can see from his colourful images online that he also sometimes uses a fish-eye lens which is quite popular in this genre of photography.  He also an external flash to either accent a particular subject, give a bit more light to enable a higher shutter speed to stop motion or to create some interesting shadows.

The interview reinforces the notion that to improve your skills you have to be persistent and practice, Giovanni says:

“I keep my camera with me and I shoot a portrait every day.  I need to keep myself busy and my creativity flowing.”

This raises an interesting point about keeping yourself creatively challenged as a photographer.  Whilst being on the course, a couple of times I have noticed online posts from other students who have sought advice because they have lost interest in taking photographs.  It’s a weird feeling not wanting to do something that you love to do but I have to say I have been there too.  This, of course, can happen with any pursuit e.g. you hear about writers block all the time.  It must be part of the human condition, however, I am in agreement with Giovanni, the key is to keep going and take a photograph everyday if you can and that will keep you continually in the creative mindset.

For the purposes of my Assessment submission I have provided an A4 print of the re-shot image 6.   This now completes my work, re-work and reflection of part three/Assignment three.

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – Tutor Feedback

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – Tutor Feedback

Please find below my tutor feedback which has been provided in full as instructed by my tutor.  My responses to the points that have been raised will be in square brackets to differentiate between the two.

Overall Comments

It was good to see that for this submission you have gone out of your comfort zone and photographed skaters, feeling that this would best describe the decisive moment in photography. I know you had done some research on the subject matter beforehand and this has helped you to understand the subject, although I believe there were a few missed opportunities.

Looking at the portfolio of images you have sent me, they show a developing style and you have certainly considered colour, composition and focal length. There is a lack of experimentation within the work and some of the photos are a little repetitive, especially when several photographs feature the same skater! I am sure you can research a little further on this and develop more creative thinking skills and experiment with overlaying images or motion blur, to name just two examples.

[On reflection I agree I could have introduced more experimentation in to my series and used some different techniques to support my take on the decisive moment. I limited myself by being too narrow-minded in my approach which created broadly similar images.  I have taken note of this and will try to improve in future assignments.]

Feedback on assignment

Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Quality of Outcome, Demonstration of Creativity

1 – I can understand why you have cropped this original portrait image, to a landscape image although I think it would have been improved if you had waited another second and got the skater higher up in the air at the point where he pauses before coming back down on the ramp. This would have ensured that the frame remains in portrait and you can appreciate the skill of how high they go up into the air. As it is, it appears as if he is achieving only a low level skill down on the ground which doesn’t come across as particularly impressive in the photo. However, I like the shape of his arms which you have captured, along with the lighting on his back which emphasizes the tattoos. The boy on the bike in the distance is a little distracting because he is a strong figure in red but he is not looking at the skater in the foreground (he appears to be looking at someone else to the right which we cannot see, along with some other people in the audience).

[There was a lot going on in the skate park that day and with the crisscrossing of the skateboarders it was difficult to get shots of isolated subjects doing their tricks, so it was a case of take an opportunity whilst you could. Maybe I was taking a too clinical approach and should have included multiple skateboarders.] 

2 & 4 – The skater in image 2 features quite a lot in your work so be careful of your subject choice. We would normally recommend you re-visit this skate park or change to another one, in order to get a variety of skaters. Again, this appears to be a rather low level trick at the point you have captured. I appreciate he is about to mount the pole (sorry, don’t know the technical terms!) but it would have been better to wait another couple of seconds in order to capture the moment he is in the air. The concentration on the face is excellent and he looks pin sharp with his muscles tense. Image number 4 is a better shot for the skater’s stance so you were probably aware of this. Try not to include two shots which are similar when submitting a portfolio as one is always going to be weaker than the other, so you are in effect, competing against yourself and you need to show discernment that you know which is the strongest image. There is quite a harsh black shadow across the face of this skater which you need to avoid.

[I have noted that in a series of images (or a portfolio) you should avoid similar compositions and include different and varied subjects to be more successful.  I need to watch out for harsh shadows across important parts of the image.]

3 & 5 – Again, we have the same shot so you need to show discernment in your choice. There is an interesting use of long shadows in both of these images and this could have been developed further, perhaps highlighting it in your written analysis. The skater in image number 3 doesn’t look pin sharp on the print. I would always recommend that you blow your images up to 100% in Photoshop to identify if there is any softness. This may have been an opportunity for some motion blur as experimentation. Image number 5 is a much stronger image due to the shape of the skater in the foreground who is the key point of focus and he almost appears to be dancing with a decisive moment well captured. Your eye does drift into the ‘deflated’ skater in the distance (I would have preferred him to have been looking at the foreground skater rather than looking down) but the lighting and long shadows make this image more interesting and I could see this being used in a commercial setting / marketing material.

[I have taken these comments on board in particular regarding; not submitting similar compositional images and that images need to be pin sharp.]

6 – The same skater again but you have a well captured pose. I would revisit the bottom section of the print to look at cropping or remove the concrete ramp / paving in the foreground as it is too distracting. I like that there is more depth of field in this image but you have lost some detail in the dark area of his trousers.

[I will re-visit this image in post, as suggested, and include it in my re-work blog post.]

7 – Same skater again and I am not convinced he is sharp, although I do like the way he is framed in between the pillars. Did you consider overlaying the same skater on one image so that there are several of him doing various different tricks? This could have shown good use of experimentation.

[I need to experiment more when putting together my assignments…. I will try to loosen up my approach and thinking going forwards.  I will include an overlaid image in my re-work blog as suggested.]

Coursework – Demonstration of technical and Visual Skills, Demonstration of Creativity

I notice you experimented with slow shutter speeds in one of the exercises, with some successful results. It is important that you utilize what you have learnt in the exercises into your final assignment. This would show more evidence of experimentation in your final shoot, rather than compartmentalizing the exercises instead of integrating this working methodology into your assignments.

[I have noted the importance of using the exercises to inform my assignments.]

Research – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis 

You have identified some relevant photographers who have photographed skaters, however be careful who you research. One of the photographers has work which I feel is particularly weak and is not a good example. Try to ensure you find photographers who have had work published in national / international magazines or have won competition awards. You may want to look at the work of Giovanni Reda who uses a fish eye lens, overlays the skater onto the city and also photographs skaters at different times of day and night. There is also an interesting interview on vimeo with Tobin Yelland which you may find interesting as he photographs skaters but there is also the bigger concept of youth culture which is evident in his work.

[I have provided some further research within my re-work blog post in response to the comments covered here on photographers.  I note the point that the photographers included in my research should be good examples.]

Learning Log – Context, reflective thinking, critical thinking, analysis 
www.liz515728.wordpress.com

I would like to have seen you immerse yourself more into the subject with regards to your contextual research. Some evidence of research into youth culture would have been beneficial to get a bigger understanding of the subject matter, even down to the clothes and fashion.

[I have noted the comment on including more relevant contextual research.]

Suggested reading/viewing – Context

You have agreed with Cartier Bresson that the decisive moment is just ‘luck’, however, it is always better to try and find some other opinions from photographers, writers or theorists who contradict this point of view, with quotations to back this up… and then state your opinion. I know some photographers who say it is certainly not luck, but a great deal of planning and years of expertise!

[I have noted the comment that the alternative argument for a point should also be represented even if it is not agreed with, to give balance.]

Pointers for the next assignment / assessment

⦁ It’s all about the light in photography and you have shown elements of this in your skateboarder series. I would recommend you build on this element of your photography to make the images stand out due to the lighting technique or techniques which you have used
⦁ Consider experimentation at all times

[I can understand the feedback given and hope I can learn from the feedback given and apply this learning to future assignments.]

Follow this link to my re-work blog post, which follows up on the comments provided above and any re-work of images.

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End (following on from Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle)

Please note: My tutor requests that my final Assignment image submissions are provided as A4 prints so the jpegs below are only of web quality.

I have attached a separate sheet providing the image summaries including the technical data and why I captured each image as one of my ‘decisive moments’. 

Please note: Due to the focal length of the lens some of the images have been cropped and for some the orientation has been changed to improve composition.  

So here are my final selected images for my Decisive moment, together with their technical specs (the text beside each image accompanied my A4 prints):


Image 1 – Life Imitates Art
Technical Details: ISO 250 1/800 sec. f/2.8 20mm
I wanted to capture the body art of the skateboarder against the graffiti on the walls/columns of the skate park. The dappled light from the afternoon sun, coming through the trees, created a highlight on the skateboarder’s tattoos.

image 1 _MG_5016

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Image 2 – In Anticipation
Technical Details: ISO 320 1/800 sec. f/5 40mm
In skateboarding there is a moment of anticipation just prior to a trick being executed. I wanted to capture the skateboarder’s pre-trick expression and posture.

image 2 _MG_5152—-
Image 3 – Levitation?
Technical Details: ISO 200 1/800 sec. f/5.6 17mm
I was taking shots of the skateboarders riding their boards along the pole, trying to capture their exit tricks. Cartier-Bresson said in ‘L’armour tout court’, “It’s always luck. It’s luck that matters.” I feel there was an element of luck in capturing this image.

image 3 _MG_5096—-
Image 4 – Leap of Faith
Technical Details: ISO 320 1/800 sec. f/6.3 50mm
There were a few skateboarders who were trying more elaborate tricks and jumps. I liked the commitment I felt from this skateboarder who launched himself into the air aiming for a landing on the pole. I also like the red of the bottom of the skateboard.

image 4 _MG_5134—-
Image 5 – Deflated Skateboarder

Technical Details: ISO 200 1/800 sec. f/7.1 17mm
Initially your eye focuses on the skateboarder to the right of the frame but there is more; who are the shadowy spectators? What is the story with the deflated looking skateboarder left of the frame?

image 5 _MG_5112—-
Image 6 – The Jump
Technical Details: ISO 400 1/1250 sec. f/2.8 35mm

This image was taken at a different part of the skate park with more advanced ramps. I wanted to capture a compact fully airborne jump and this skateboarder had a praying mantis style jump which captured my imagination.

image 6 _MG_5029—-
Image 7 – Contemplation

Technical Details: ISO 400 1/800 sec. f/3.5 50mm
This was the run/route back from the main trick area, time for contemplation, thought and re-energising. I liked the lighting giving form to the skateboarder’s body.

image 7 _MG_5048

And here are my contact sheets for this Assignment:

contact sheets-1

contact sheets-2

This completes my Assignment three submission from a course requirement perspective. Please follow this link for tutor feedback.

References:

Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wordweb.info. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle (following on from Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning)

Practitioner:
I carried out some initial research on skateboarding and skateboard photographers working within the field to get an understanding of the different approaches which could be taken with my images.  The link to this research can be found here, rather than including this review in my Assignment post.

In hindsight I think it probably works better if the research is included within the Assignment narrative, this way it is easier to reference, explain influences in context and demonstrate the research done in a more holistic way.  As I work through the other degree modules I think this approach will be expected.  That said Expressing Your Vision is the start of my journey and in this respect these are the things that are to be explored and better understood whilst working through the course so I feel that my journey is helping me to find my way through to the best working methods going forwards.

My research prior to this assignment was mainly online skateboarding photography and ‘How To’s’ on YouTube, to see what settings were most successful – references given below.

Self Assessment / Strengths and Weaknesses:

This was a new area for me working with moving human subjects as opposed to moving vehicular subjects and I did find it a little difficult being in such an open public space taking photographs of unknown subjects, so for me this was a big learning curve.  The longer I was there though the better, it became easier.  I made a point of connecting with the skateboarders at the end of the session and took an email address to send on the images that I had taken for their reference. Had I had more time I should have made several visits to the same location but this was not possible on this occasion.

What worked well?
The location provided a lot of compositional choices. I wanted to achieve: frozen motion, interesting action compositions and be receptive to, and work spontaneously with, a new activity which I had not been involved with before. I think my approach generally worked well and I captured some good images. I agree with Cartier-Bresson’s view that there is luck involved in photography, especially when you are trying to capture a frozen moment of a high speed activity that also has to obey all the photography ‘rules’ when time is against you.

What didn’t work so well?
I think I needed to explore taking images at different times of the day to see if I could get less contrasted images. As with all these techniques acknowledge practice makes perfect. I’m not sure I felt that comfortable with using shutter priority mode as I like to have full control over my image capture but I can see why it is needed/easier in some circumstances.

Please follow this link for the next section – Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The End.

References:

Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wordweb.info. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning

Course:  Expressing Your Vision

Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Beginning

The decisive moment is not a dramatic climax but a visual one: the result is not a story but a picture. (Swarkowski, 2007, p.5)

You know it’s funny. You come to someplace new, and everything looks just the same.  (Eddie in Stranger Than Paradise, Dir.Jim Jarmusch, 1984)

Brief:
Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme the ‘decisive moment’.  

Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be.  Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day.  a building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept.  Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

Format of my Blog response:
As with previous Assignments, where text from my official response to my tutor has been included I will highlight this to enable you (the reader) to distinguish between what is just ‘chat’ i.e. my ‘thoughts’, and what has been ‘submitted’.  This will help contextualise my tutor’s response/critique and any rework that is/has been requested.

Initial Thoughts:
I thought for a while about the subject of this assignment and knew I wanted to do some action photography, in particular the ‘frozen moment‘, so this is the direction I took myself (and my camera) in.

For this assignment the requirement was to set the camera to shutter priority mode and to submit a collection of 6-8 high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’.  I have chosen to submit 7 images for this assignment (printed on gloss paper, with a 1.5cm white border and a 2pt black stroke) with the linking theme of skateboarding.

I chose skateboarding as I had seen some skateboarding photographs online and knew it would be very different to my normal subject choice and potentially challenging. I felt this subject would;

⦁ provide me with the opportunity to try something different, out of my comfort zone;
⦁ have scope to cover not only this assignment but also potentially future projects;
⦁ give me a platform for technical experimentation i.e. it would benefit me to familiarise myself with the location, the skateboarders and the activity.

To add to this I have a skateboard park close to where I work so the subject was also accessible, important if you might be going back several times to experiment or do any re-work.

Part three of the course is heavily focused on the decisive moment and exploring what that means in terms of photography. In Barthes’ ‘Camera Lucida’ he observed “that a photograph can be the object of three practices (or of three emotions, or of three intentions) : to do, to undergo, to look” [Barthes, 2006, p9] in other words you have the photographer taking the image (the “operator”), you have the subject of the image (the “target”) and you have the people who view the image (the “spectators”).

The reason I reference this is because I struggled with what the ‘decisive moment’ was and to whom it related. The word ‘decisive’ means “Determining or having the power to determine an outcome” [Wordweb]. I had already ruled out spectators as they do not have any impact on image capture. This left the operator and the target. I concluded that it was the photographer as the operator who determined the outcome as they are in full control of when the shutter button is pressed and what image is captured.

Technical Approach and Techniques:
For this Assignment I used my current favourite lens, which I had used many times before so felt comfortable that it would give me the performance I wanted for this exercise/assignment.

From a technical perspective I used a Canon 70D with a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 lens. This lens gave me the most flexibility out of the lenses that I own, as I could vary the focal lengths according to the required proximity to the “target”, although at times I found 50mm did not get me close enough to the action.

As you can see from my contact sheets and shooting data, I used a few different shutter speeds depending on the speed required to capture the relevant ‘frozen’ moment. Initially my shutter speed was too low and I was getting motion blur, so had to increase this.

The sun was bright and low the day I took the images and formed lots of shadows which provided high contrast conditions. This meant at times it was difficult for the camera to expose correctly whilst maintaining a large enough depth of field to enable enough of the target to be in focus at the speeds they were travelling. Focusing on a moving target was a little more difficult than I had anticipated. As a result I increased the ISO slightly to allow for a higher depth of field. I took the images over an hour or so around early evening so shot partly during the golden hour which gave me some issues around colour consistency.

On the subject of focusing, I wanted both the background and target to be frozen in motion, so I did not want to adopt a panning style approach as this may have caused motion blur. Instead I used a focus point where I knew the skateboarder would be at a given point in his trick/jump (after studying positioning and routes taken through the skate park) and that’s where I focused. I then waited until the skateboarder was in my peripheral vision and used the shutter, in burst mode, to give a better chance of capturing the action frozen and in focus.

Please follow this link for the next section: Assignment three – ‘The decisive moment’ – The Middle

References:

Roland Barthes, 2006. Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. New Ed Edition. Vintage Books.

WordWeb: English dictionary, thesaurus, and word finder software. 2016. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.wordweb.info. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

YouTube. 2016. Henri Cartier-Bresson Part2 – YouTube. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfwNrPX2pvw. [Accessed 30 August 2016].

UK Skateboarding and Photographers

Although I have not yet posted my response to Assignment 3 ‘The decisive moment’ online yet, I wanted to post some research linked to my subject/theme by way of support to my assignment.

I chose to do my assignment on skateboarding for a few reasons but mainly because I had no idea about this activity/sport and thought it would be a good challenge not only on a photographic level but also from a personal development perspective i.e. education on alternative cultures.

To start with I looked on YouTube and found a really great video by Josh Katz – Skateboarding Photography For Beginners, which covers 10 simple steps to getting started in skate photography.  If you are going to give this a go I would definitely recommend this video.

London, and indeed the UK, has a number of skateboard parks open to all, in fact more than I had appreciated, not being into that scene. I chose to focus on the Southbank Skate Park for my assignment as it is easily accessible and the Southbank area is usually buzzing with people most of the time so I wouldn’t feel isolated, which for a lone photographer out of her comfort zone was/is an important consideration.

So with the location chosen I thought I would also carry out some research on UK skateboard photographers.

There are plenty of American photographers covering this genre, so I was ready for the challenge of finding some UK based skateboard photographers thinking that skateboarding didn’t appear to be as popular in the UK as it appears to be in America so the task might have been more difficult.  I think I was wrong…

I found a few UK photographers covering this space, as follows:

Leo sharp : http://www.leosharp.uk/

Leo is based in Cornwall and is an internationally published action sports photographer. Taken directly from his website “His career in skate photography spans well over two decades, with a good proportion of this spent working as full time Photo Editor at the UK’s leading skate magazine: Sidewalk. His work has also been published in many other magazines throughout the world including Thrasher, Skateboarder, Kingpin, Color, Concrete, Manual, Slam, The Skateboarders Journal, The Journal, Sugar, Grey, Monster, North and many more.”

Leo definitely has a commercial look and feel to his images, capturing frozen motion, using a fish eye lens, skateboarders suspended in mid air and by the looks of some of his images, he uses flash use to achieve greater depth of field and sharp focus to his images.

Sam Ashley : http://www.samashley.com/

Sam is a London based commercial photographer who has been published in magasines Sidewalk and Kingpin, which feature skateboarding culture.  Sam’s photographs definitely look commercial in nature.  There is more use of blank space and the environment as opposed to close up shot of the skateboarders.

Jake Seal : http://www.jakeseal.co.uk/about.html

Jake is a freelance photographer based in Leeds and although he primarily covers studio photography he has an interest in skateboarding photography.  His shots are honest and not excessively processed or stylised which I like.  I also like his use of shadows and low vantage points to get a different view of the skateboarders. I was not as adventurous in my images but I did manage to get some shadows in and capture some frozen motion jumps.

I also found an online skateboarding photo magazine: http://skateboardingphoto.co.uk/

Looking at the these photographers work, my images are very different in style, however, the same motifs have been used notably the skateboarder suspended in mid-air, skateboarder sliding along poles or walls and the use of shadows within the composition.