People and activity.

Assignment 2 ready to be posted at last it seems to have taken me ages to complete and write up my notes.

For my second assignment I have chosen to depict a May Day celebration that was held on the beach at Marazion, Cornwall, May 3rd 2010. Planning to photograph an event in England leaves you at the mercy of the British weather, but I was lucky enough to have sun and blue skies all afternoon. The weather certainly helped achieve the bright saturated colours I wanted to capture. Using a tripod was impractical for this session but I was able to use a quick shutter speed throughout the afternoon.  I  had 2 lenses with me, a 28-75 F2.8 and a 70-200 F.4.However the brightness of the light and the reflection from the sea did occasionally cause havoc with metering and created unwanted shadows.  Another practical problem I encountered was how to change my lens without sand getting into my camera. I wanted to try and use a variety of focal lengths so decided the extra hassle was worth it. The challenge was to anticipate and capture telling moments, and also present a cohesive narrative of the day.  I took 499 images, thank goodness for digital technology! 

 May Day has pagan origins, a day of celebration, and for ancient druids the 2nd most significant date in the year. The maypole is a symbol of the arrival of spring and new growth. Flora, the goddess of flowers, was worshipped in Roman times. The group who were performing the Maypole dance were members of a circle dance group, the oldest recognized form of dance.  They were a quirky but friendly bunch, this made the event more comfortable for me to record. Members of the public were also asked to join in their celebrations. Jane Bown states “I honestly think that all my best shots were taken on holiday” pg 54“Unknown Bown 1947——1967”  Observer Books London 2007. I certainly  found I was  more relaxed and felt less conspicuous taking  candid photographs for the exercises, and this assignment, whilst away from home on holiday . I am not as confident as Jane Bown that they are my best images though! There was a carnival atmosphere to the day and my personal agenda for this assignment was to capture the  joy, zest,  energy, and eccentricity of the event. Tony Ray-Jones’s images of  English traditions during the 1960’s   encapsulate  the quirkiness often associated with the British . “Today his name is virtually unknown outside photographic circles, but Tony Ray-Jones was arguably the person who shaped a generation of British photographers”. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/04/in_pictures_the_english_by_tony_ray_jones_/html/1.stm>

 Suzy Prior is a photographer I have become aware of recently, she  “records England and its idiosyncrasieshttp://www.suzyprior.co.uk/ ,  her  genre  is comparable to the work of Martin Parr.  I love the bold garish colours of their chosen subject matter,  I have tried to use colour constructively throughout the assignment.  Martin Parr’s images of the British and their peculiarities have been criticized by some as being unfeeling and sardonic, his use of “a ring light even in daylight conditions” creates “a merciless, shadow-free portrayal” pg 194, Icons Of Photography The 20th Century, Prestel Publishing Ltd London 2005 . He counteracts these accusations explaining “ I am only ever interested in showing the world as it is……..I disguise my humanism by making it look like   entertainment ” http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/visual_arts/article3751217.ece

 Photographers, Helen Levitt and Robert Frank, also recorded the world around them , their style may differ but both “did not photograph anything other than what they found” Pg 54 Roswell Angier, “Train your gaze: A Practical and Theoretical Introduction To Portrait Photography” ,Ava publishing 2007. However I rather like the sentiment of Ray-Jones: “Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think that perhaps it is possible to walk like Alice, through a looking-glass, and find another kind of world with the camera.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/04/in_pictures_the_english_by_tony_ray_jones_/html/5.stm>

Link to images on Flickr below. 

http://www.flickr.com/photos/judybach/sets/72157624112711463/

Follow the Jester.

F6.3       1/640      200mm    Daylight WB     ISO 100

Choosing how to present a photographic narrative can be tricky. The preliminary image sets the agenda for how the story is going to unfold. As stated in my introduction this is a light-hearted , not serious, recording of a high-spirited afternoon.  The jester is a symbol of fun and entertainment and therefore my initial image. He represents the tone of my assignment.  Using a long focal length isolates my subject in the frame eliminating any information about his whereabouts. I want  to make the viewer curious about where, and what , this narrative is about. 

I followed this poor man relentlessly always hoping to get a better angle of view. His colourful clothing and demeanour  epitomised what I wanted to capture. The bright sun caused me some problems that fill in flash may have prevented, though at this focal length may have been impractical.  His face is slightly shadowy, unlike Martin Parr I chose not to use flash! I took perhaps better images of him than this but felt that this one was the most representative of how I wanted to introduce  my set of images.

Green goddess.

F8   1/460     75mm     ISO 100      Daylight WB

My second image of the series includes more background detail, still not a great deal, but  reveals to a small degree more information about the place, and the activity, of my narrative .The green tones of her attire are a colour associated with spring and spiritual belief.  I found framing quickly  and getting the best possible shot   difficult, revealing moments pass rapidly. I found capturing the moment sometimes meant sacrificing technical accuracy. The angle of light again created shadows across my subject’s face.  I feel its an art to react swiftly and also consider the artistic aesthetic  at the same time, Henri Cartier-Bresson is the master of ” the decisive moment”. I do not think I will ever be able to achieve such excellence but find his work inspiring and something to aspire to. 

 Reviewing the image in my browser I was very tempted to crop  and exclude the figures  just visible at the top of the frame. I often crop my images to remove what I perceive as unwanted elements and distractions, I like a tidy frame! I have been trying very hard throughout project 2 to try and remedy this. Hence I felt on reflection that the horizontal lines of the steps leading away from the beach and the receding figures at the top lead the eye up and around the frame.  The diagonally framed ribbons and my subject’s eye line are intended to  create movement across the frame. 

I am pleased I resisted cropping, and I have tried throughout this assignment to frame at the time of shooting. Not always that easy though, and cropping can be used to enhance and add extra emphasis on a particular detail.

Marazion Maypole dance

F6.3   1/800       28mm    ISO 200   Daylight WB

I really wanted to include St Michael’s Mount in at least one of my images, it is a beautiful place, and also an unusual setting for a Maypole dance.  It places my subjects in a recognisable location participating in a public event.  Exposing correctly was a bit of a nightmare ,relying on the in-camera meter was not ideal. The brightness of the sky, and reflected light from the sea, meant some shots were underexposed, and others, if I compensated for this,  overexposed the sky. Hence I decided it was better to underexpose  but also bracket as a precaution.  I always shoot shot in Raw, but it makes life much easier, and saves time, if the exposure is correct  at the time of shooting. This photograph is intended to begin to piece together the strands of my narrative and the jester is included within this group shot to depict the growing circle of his followers.

Queen of May for the day

F8    1/250    42mm      ISO 100       Daylight WB

 This is the second  of two frames I quickly took as my subject turned to look straight at me. Until I reviewed the images on my computer browser I had no idea of the facial expression I had caught, her look is full of delight. This is the only image of the narrative where my subject is looking directly out of the frame towards the viewer. As the fabulous Jane Bown said “when somebody looks you in the eye, eyeball to eyeball, it’s pretty amazing” pg 104  “Unknown Bown 1947——1967”  Observer Books London 2007. The colour orange emits energy,  and the deep saturated warm  tones of her bizarre  hairstyle and the cooler hues of the sky complement each other , intended to create maximum  impact. I like this image, it captures for a brief second a glimpse of individual happiness and pleasure, and shows, I hope, the exuberance created by the event .

Tangle and Twist

F8    1/320      28mm      ISO 100     Daylight WB

I feel this image really creates a sense of activity and of being involved right in the middle of the action. I made an error in my framing though, I really wish I had  included the lady with the green cape and laurel headgear more in the frame. She is just too far on the edge for my liking, I only had to move to my left, or further back. I was so intent on getting up close and including as many figures as I could I forgot to check the composition. At this stage in the event the participants were enjoying themselves immensely, I actually enjoyed getting  close to the action. I feel this is a real progress for me, my confidence has grown and I can appreciate the benefit of getting “close and involved” pg29 Photography 1: People and Place Open College of the Arts. What I really need to concentrate on, and practice, is getting close and still being able to frame effectively. Working through this section of the course has been sometimes uncomfortable, however  prior to completing the exercises  I would never have got this close.

Man in a trilby.

F6.3    1/500        70mm       ISO 100      Daylight WB

Trilby hats are very much a  fashion statement at the moment and  are a symbol of well-groomed elegance, not usually associated with whirling around a Maypole . Hence when this stylish young  man joined in I wanted to capture his enjoyment of an old established pagan ritual. The framing is not  perfect, but does capture movement and the high spirits of the moment. A much shorter focal length would certainly have improved the feeling of involvement and included more of the dancers in the frame, which I feel would enhance the mood and character of the image. A practical problem when photographing an event such as this is that the moment has  often gone before there is time to re-frame and shoot, much less change lens!

Colour Blind.

F6.3  1/400     200mm    ISO 100     Daylight WB

 I just could not resist capturing the conspicuous  colours of this lady’s attire! They demand attention, the red accent of her sunglasses  and the  relationship between the  colours in the frame strengthens the  impact .  The focal length is great for isolating her in the frame, and also gave me the opportunity to compose vertically. I have cropped the image very slightly to exclude half a figure from the left, I feel this helps form a stronger composition.  The bold colours ensure she stands out against the neutral background. This image is very much influenced by Martin Parr and my subject  exemplifies the character of the occasion.

Rhapsody in blue.

F4  1/400    57mm    ISO 100     Daylight WB

This trio of women form a triangular shape within the frame creating movement in an otherwise static scene and were oblivious to my presence whilst they discussed the proceedings and waited for the next dance to commence. I wish I had noticed the lady just visible in the right hand side at the time of shooting, cropping her out did not work, the triangular structure was lost. Blue represents calmness and the harmonious tones of the  hues  present a less busy  colour palette, however the colours are deeply saturated and contrast well with the brickwork behind the women. I  like the textures of the fabrics  and the rather tatty hair of the women. My main subject is the lady in the centre and I also like the concentration on her face as she converses with her friends. Choosing my final 10 images has been especially difficult and I was not too sure whether to include this or not. As  stated I took 499 images , shooting rapidly as the events progressed. A very large proportion of these were not that good, this does make me feel a bit of a failure, but I take consolation in the words of Beat Streuli    “As I do not stage what I photograph……………………..only very few of the photo’s I shoot are actually good enough for what I want them to look like”  “Art Photography Now” Susan Bright Thames & Hudson 2005 Ltd London.

Drum,n Base.

F6.3    1/500   70mm    ISO 100   Daylight WB

This small lad was following the proceedings and as he approached the lady I took my shot.  Like the jester I had followed this lady around and  I really wanted to capture her on her own. However onlookers were encouraged to join in and I like the interaction between these two. The colours are more subdued and are intended to augment the mood of a quieter moment in the proceedings .Her gaze  towards the small boy leads the eye across and down the frame. Another diagonal line has been created that I did not notice at the time of shooting, the out of focus child to the left of the frame additionally creates  movement within the frame. Perhaps this would be a stronger image if this child was more sharply focused?  I also do not think my main subject, the bizarrely dressed woman, is as sharply focused as she could be. I also wish, once again , that I had been physically closer with a shorter focal length. I like the out of focus background but do wonder in I had got closer and wider this would have presented a better image.

Time to go home home.

F6.3    1/500     113mm    ISO 100   Daylight WB

My plan for this assignment was to present a light-hearted look at a fun event, but in life all good things come to an end, and I wanted a more sombre finale to depict this. The child’s facial expression suggests a quiet moment in contemplation, creating a more subdued mood. This was taken towards the end of the afternoon and the light creates texture and depth. The colours are softer, less garish,  I wanted to combine  subdued tones and dreaminess in a single image to capture a more solemn atmosphere.

I feel it is acceptable to include this image as the final depiction in my series, that for the main, captures  exuberant  behaviour and conspicuous colours. Tony Ray Jones depicted his subjects not only wryly but also with “a wistful melancholy ” pg 95 Val Williams  Susan Bright “How We Are Photographing Britain from the 1840’s to the present “Tate publishing, London 2007. Additionally colour is very important to suggest an atmosphere, photographer Joel Meyerowitz uses  colour creatively “by careful selection of subjects whose “colourfulness” is naturally subdued” pg 172 Icons Of Photography The 20th Century, Prestel Publishing Ltd London 2005.This is a favourite image of mine, technically the skyline behind my subject is too bright, the sky has lost some of it’s hue. This was a problem I encountered throughout the day, however the girl and the out of focus maypole dancers would have been underexposed if I had corrected my exposure for the sky. This was the trade off to get the image I wanted.

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