The user’s point of view

Spaces/rooms/buildings often have multiple users, and how they use the space will  therefore  be varied. When taking my photographs I tried  to consider these different facets , and how each user utilizes it individually. 

The Minack theatre in Porthcurno Cornwall is an outdoor theatre built into the cliffs overlooking a bay. It is a spectacular setting for performances , both for audience and actors. Additionally daytime visitors can wander around the impressive space that comprises the Minack.                       

 It is easy to take many photographs here, but how to show it from the users’ point of view?  Viewers of a performance are going to have a different viewpoint and observe their surroundings with a different perspective than perhaps a daytime visitor. The actors who perform here will obviously have another totally different point of view. I went to an evening performance and also returned later the following week as a daytime visitor to try and capture images that express a visitors viewpoint. Trying to capture an actors’ angle was more tricky, I had to try and think more laterally.

Being in the audience meant sitting on the outdoor terraces that surround the stage. From a users of point of view how well you could view the performance depended on how big the person was sat below you! Additionally the view beyond the stage is part of the scene enjoyed by the visitor, and therefore another aspect to consider including in the frame. Hence my photographs depict what I (the user) could see from where I was sat. Including people in my photographs is sometimes, I feel,  integral to understand the space from a users viewpoint. But does this make the images more about the people using the space rather than the space/building itself? As this is how a Minack theatre user views, and experiences,  performances  I feel it justifies their inclusion in the frame. If I had taken photographs of the stage, minus actors and the surrounding spectators, this would give a false representation of the users (my) point of view as a member of the audience that night. 

From a practical point of view photography was allowed but no flash, as the performance ran from 8-10pm I needed a reasonably fast lens and chose my 28-75 F2.8. I have got a couple of faster F1.8 prime lenses but wanted the versatility of a zoom .  As this exercise was about the space/building I did not take my longer lens, but regretted this as I really would have liked to get some close up shots of the performers’ on stage, even at 75mm it was impossible from where I was sat to do this. It was also difficult to keep taking pictures and enjoy the performance at the same time. Another problem was the gentleman sat in front of me to the left, he was quite tall and was also  taking photographs that he kept reviewing , I kept trying to see what he had caught!

F5.6          1/100                ISO 400   @ 28mm            Shade WB

F5.6             1/30                 ISO   400   @ 30mm

F5.6             1/160               ISO 400     @28mm       Custom WB @ 6881

Returning to the Minack the following week for a daytime visit I realised how different even an individuals perceptual experience can be of the same space/building .  With no performance taking place I was able to wander around the theatre that the previous week had been full to capacity with an audience and actors. Although busy there were far fewer people around than had been at the  evening performance.

The wonderful view across Porthcurno  is the obvious thing a visitor notices when first arriving but the most  striking initial visual feature to me, and what I chose to photograph to  represent a daytime users perspective, was the view from the top of the rows of stairs  cut into the cliff side that the visitor must use to look around the theatre  . I hate heights , the visible emptiness of the rows of seats somehow heightened the expanse and steepness between the top and bottom of the space that is the Minack theatre. The previous week with the seats occupied I was not too concerned about the height , or my safety. I was far more cautious on my return visit——–no people to break a fall! Below are  2 images taken from the top of the theatre.

 F8            1/320             ISO 200           @ 28mm     Daylight WB

@ F10

The image below was taken from the stage area looking back up towards the top of the theatre, this is also the view an actor on the stage must see, with an audience filling the seats it must be quite an experience acting on such an unusual stage.

F10            1/400           ISO 200        @ F10

The Gwelva landing is in Marazion, Cornwall, a space consisting of a seating area at the top and via steep steps for reaching the boats that ferry to and from St Michaels Mount at high tide The seating area is  also popular with visitors and locals alike for simply sitting and watching the world go by. I have tried to show both of these varied aspects in my images, trying to capture them from the users viewpoint. The Gwelva can be reached through a passageway from the main street in Marazion, and also at low tide via the beach. The view overlooking the Mount is breathtaking making this a very popular space to sit, contemplate, and enjoy a Cornish pasty whilst doing so. I visit Marazion at least twice a year and was here for 2 weeks in June hence it was easy to keep returning to this space to photograph it. The seats at the top of the landing are often very busy during the summer and although most visitors have cameras I felt uncomfortable sometimes taking photographs of them, I preferred to return later in the day when it was quieter with fewer people. If the tide is high enough the boats arrive at the landing space down below the seating area and this is a great vantage point from which to take photographs  of the boats and their human cargo arriving without being too conspicuous.     

The images below are intended to represent the viewpoint from the seating area of the Gwelva. I took the first three photographs whilst sitting on the benching area to try and recreate how the space is seen from this perspective. Taking images this way did not produce the most attractive viewpoint, but  I wanted to capture a view that conveys what is seen when simply gazing, without too much concern about the beauty of the place.

F8       1/320            ISO 100       @ 75mm

F6.3        1/640           ISO 200         @ 28mm

@ 47mm

I wanted to show another aspect of how people use the Gwelva landing.  Arriving by boat at the landing point must be quite daunting for some users. The step from a boat onto the bottom Gwelva landing is quite steep and looking up towards the seating area from the boats the distance must seem even more exaggerated .This is the aspect I most wanted to capture.As I did not use the boats myself I took the images below from the top landing looking down towards the boats as they ferried passengers back and forth. I concentrated on trying to get images that show the occupants of the boat looking towards the landing space, possibly thinking how well they would be able to negotiate getting of their vessel. A better viewpoint would obviously have been from the boat itself looking up, but I decided trying to photograph and deal with a boat were too much (I feel seasick just watching boats). However the images  give an indication of how this space is used.

F7             1/400                ISO 100              @ 70mm

F9            1/500                 ISO 100                      @73mm

F9      @ 73mm

The image below, taken when the tide had gone back out, shows the view from the bottom of the Gwelva landing looking back towards where the boats land and passengers alight. Not a spectacular image.

F9          1/320            ISO 100          @  28mm


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