Green Park, London. On my way back from the Palace - yes the Palace (and you'll have to look at Assignment 2 to know why) - and I came across the most wonderful assortment of lunchtime activities going on. Honestly, I could have stopped for hours to watch the impromptu show unfolding in front of me. I can’t imagine the picnicking couple on the park bench (above) were too keen on having their lunch hour hijacked by the fitness enthusiast though. Green Park was the perfect opportunity to capture some images for this exercise...
Here's what i learnt from this exercise… - A public place really needs to be very public for me to blend in and go unnoticed. I first tried this exercise in the grounds of St Alban’s Cathedral. It was too quiet and I stood out like a sore thumb. - In a busy enough environment, no one cares if you have a camera - especially if you are in ‘tourist mode’. - There’s plenty of diverse life and activity from chatting on mobile phones to kick-boxing. - Be very, very careful shooting where kids are involved. Best avoided actually… - As with all street photography, time is of the essence. But at least in the park you have the space to watch, consider and predict. Not so easy when you are in among the crowds. - And if one shot or grouping doesn’t work out - there will be another one along any minute!
An organised event
St Alban's street market. I chose this venue for the exercise on an organised event to ensure I and the opportunity of going back a second time if necessary. This would not have been easily possible with a performance or sporting event. As a street market I also had the advantage of getting into the action rather than just watching from the sidelines.
Here's what i learnt from this exercise… - There are many similarities with with a 'Public Space' exercise; a public place really needs to be very public for me to blend in and go unnoticed. In a busy enough environment, no one cares if you have a camera - especially if you are in ‘tourist mode’. It's worthwhile developing a storyline before you start shooting, rather than clicking away and hoping that a story presents itself afterwards. By being clear about the intentions from the outset - and ideally creating a required shot list beforehand, the results will undoubtedly be better. - In a busy place there should be plenty of opportunity finding the shot. i tried changing location several times and tried to be as patient as possible in each place. - Despite this, it's hard to find variety: again, pre-planning is very useful.
Standard focal length
There's a toboggan run stretching between Courchevel 1850 and 1500 and if the snow is right it makes for a fun alternative to skiing. At the end of the afternoon it turned out to be the perfect place from which to watch riders set off - and complete this standard length exercise.
Here's what i learnt from this exercise… - Shooting at a standard length (which on my DX format camera was around 52mm) is harder than both wide and long focal lengths. Whilst it's true that the mid length focal distance provides for some separation, it's hard to compose and shoot in the time needed. - It's also easier for people to spot me. At 200mm, I can comfortably stand away from the action to be unobtrusive. At 17mm I am so close to the action people don't realise I am shooting them (especially when shooting from the hip). But at 52mm I'm somewhere in the middle. It felt more awkward somehow. - Yet a standard length is very nice visually - not distortion common with wide angles and no bokeh common with telephotos. - So it's worth persevering with my technique just to feel comfortable at this focal length.
Close & involved
Courchevel. The Croisette meeting area was the perfect place to get right into the action at the start of the skiing day. As I learnt at Camden Market people were generally far to busy to bother about me taking surreptitious photos. Using only wide-angle for this exercise allowed me to get right into the action and also to improve my ability to shoot from the hip, albeit with mixed results.
Here's what i learnt from this exercise… - People were usually too busy to notice me. - Shooting from the hip at wide angle can yield good results, but it's difficult to maintain a level horizon. - It's possible to raise the camera most of the way to my eye and shoot from there. Anyone who notices me thinks I'm not photographing them. - It's all about the life and action going on around me. With this type of shooting it's very difficult to create perfectly framed compositions.
Courchevel, France. In this exercise standing back allowed me some time and space to look for images. This is in contrast to the earlier exercises where I got 'into the action'. Using a longer length lends allowed me to shoot unseen from a distance and take my time about it. The longer focal length here added the facility of drawing the subject away from the background - especially when using a wide aperture.
Here's what i learnt from this exercise… - A long lens allows me to look further afield for my subject. - It also gives me a little more time to consider framing, light, exposure and so on. This is not easily possible at a wider focal length. - The characteristics of the longer lens can be useful in setting the subject apart from the surroundings. However it's important to decide if that is what is wanted. A blurry background might look nice, but it removes detail and takes the subject away from the context. Depending on the assignment this could be counter-productive.