My own reflection on assignment 3, The Decisive Moment, prior to submission:
Technical and visual
During the shoot, I applied what I’d previously learned about aperture and shutter speed, applying different depth of fields to either isolate the main subject or to bring the full scene into focus. Also, I experimented with slower shutter speeds to blur motion against static objects in a scene, though those shots didn’t make the final edit.
I am pleased with the visual impact of the photos that made the final edit and even some of those that were considered during the edit. However, I feel overall that I took too many photos and need to use more discretion. Fewer photos would significantly reduce editing time.
Quality of outcome
For part one, the focus is on the presentation of the learning log, in a coherent structure. This has evolved as I’ve progressed and I’ve had to work at understanding some of the technicalities of WordPress and it’s plugins to achieve the look I wanted for the blog. During this assignment I’ve discovered the use of ‘galleries’ to display more than one image in a blog post. The online user experience is much better using these than inserting several individual images into one post. Also, my WP theme seems to be somewhat erratic in its display of the output when inserting several single images.
I chose an experiential approach to this assignment, ie what would it feel like as a photographer to follow the principles described by Cartier-Bresson (see Reflections on the decisive moment). The main things I discovered during the shoot were:
- Focusing on the moment, waiting to see what happens around you, without searching for a specific image is meditational. Despite hours photographing, it is not tiring. In this state you naturally notice more about the environment around you – the different states of people, the flows from one-place to another, the characteristics of people who gather in certain places, the distinctions between adjoining areas.
- It is difficult getting close to people with a standard lens unless they are so busy that they do not notice what you are doing, or they are in a place where they are expecting photographs to be taken in any case, eg an event of some kind. Cartier-Bresson mentions that when asked by his Russian hosts what he want to see, he responded that he wanted to see ordinary people who were so busy they would not notice him photographing. I use tricks of body language to try to make it less likely that I’ll attract the attention of subjects, but I would like to consider different approaches of engaging in this style of photography, these could include the use of a longer lens, direct engagement with the subject but distracting them out of posing in some way, use of technology (eg firing the camera using a remote app).
- In processing the images using a significant amount of manual dodging and burning to individual areas in LR, rather than relying on general adjustments, I found that they have a more subtle feel and that the process forces attention on what is happening in the photo. It also takes much longer to process.
There was perhaps not much creative risk in deliberately following the principles and approach suggested by Cartier-Bresson, however, it was a valuable learning experience. What did try during the shoot was deliberately blurring the motion of people against static objects (eg M&S clock in Kirkgate Market and a parked bicycle on Briggate – see contact sheets), however these photos did not make the final edit.
My learning log has been busy during this assignment period, including some substantial reading recommended by my tutor. I have found this valuable it is changing my mindset to a more considered approach to photography, thinking about why; what do I want to show; what is the message; what lies behind what I am seeing. Particularly in the context of documentary/street photography I’ve considered the analysis of Solomon-Godeau and those she references (see post Inside/Out).
Bresson HC (1999). The Mind’s Eye, writings on photography and photographers. Published by the Aperture Foundation, New York.