Brief – Create a series of between six and ten photographs on the theme of crowds
On approaching this task I chose the theme of crowds as I have always been drawn to street photography – and living in London the subject matter is readily available. Within this theme I explored varying viewpoints, changing focal points, static and moving subject matters and playing with technical approaches to guide the eye. With reference to the earlier exercises and research I found one of the most useful tools here was to change the f-stop to allow a single focus to be enhanced, or to incorporate all of the action within the shot. For my final collection I chose to focus in on one aspect of the crowd. To do this I worked with a larger aperture setting f-stop 1.8 and used the 85mm focal length. The only adjustments required for each shot were then the shutter speed and iso.
On approaching my ‘Crowds’ collection for assignment 2, I explored the possibility of two different directions. My first train of thought was to use the influence of such artists as Salgado and Burtynsky and attempt to create an expansive set of images where all aspects of the ‘action’ were in focus and accessible. I like the idea of all the details of a crowd seen offering the suggestion of a myriad of individuals’ stories in just one picture. I explored using a very low aperture and various viewpoints to create this effect. I found that the image became too ‘flattened’ and rather than encouraging the eye to scan all of the details within each image, the aesthetics became less enhancing through an overcrowded space.
My second approach was to use a very wide aperture and attempt to focus in on just one element of a crowd scene, using the action around to contextualise and/or enhance he individual ‘story’. To capture a single moment of action in the style of Bresson, but with the frame filled with life around it. This is an area that I have investigated before and am definitely drawn to. I worked with an 85mm focal length and 1.8 f-stop. This produced the shallow depth of field that I wanted to lead the eye to the main subject matter. I then played with a selection of viewpoints. I played with the idea of placing a tilted camera at ground level, but in order to bring individual’s faces in as the main focal point I found eye level worked best. I placed the main focal point in the centre of the picture for images 1, 2, 3 and 4. Then the final two images have a slightly different composition – with the relationship between some of the crowd members being more apparent.
In image 1, the single direction of the walkers around the couple taking a selfie under an umbrella has helped to mark them out. My biggest disappointment in the image is the male’s face being partially covered by his hand. The contradiction in their happy countenance, compared to the rain splattered determined walking crowd also singles them out for the viewer.
Image 2 has echoed this approach slightly in the crowd around the central figure appears to mostly on the move, while he is static and cut off from those around him while his attention is focused on his phone.
Within the ‘shopping’ context the next two images contradict each other with first the vendor being the focus, then the next having the produce as the focal point with the shoppers less apparent but still crucial in creating the energy within the frame..
I think image 5 is my favourite of the series. Again placing the main subject centre frame, his stillness has been enhanced with the blurring of the moving traffic behind him. Be able to use a slower shutter speed due to his inactivity created this enhanced feeling of movement around him. This has led to him being slightly less than sharp.
The final two images, more by chance than design, have brought more individuals into focus. This was because of their parallel positions within the frame. Through the shallow depth of field both frames ensure that the eye is drawn to the crowd members closer to the camera. In the first of the two pictures this has resulted in enhancing the separation between the individuals and this captured moment in their lives. The second image suggests a reaction from two individual’s either side of the kissers are reacting to this moment of intimacy.
The use of the wide aperture and short focal length worked well in honing in on a small aspect of a busy frame in each case. I think perhaps a slightly narrower focal length, but retaining the wide aperture could enhance this even more by allowing better coverage of the ‘crowd’ action within the frame. Another consideration that might enhance the images generally, and give a closer identity as a set, would be to be more uniform in where I placed things within the frame. Although images 1, 2, 3 and 5 appear to have more in common in this instance, there is still variation in distance from the lens. The final two images sit slightly apart in their composition as they bring the narrative of more individuals to the fore. However the image that sits least comfortably for me is number 4 due to the lack of human content centre stage.
Canon 5D mkii, 85mm, f-stop 1.8, iso 200, shutter speed 1/320
Canon 5D mkii, 85mm, f-stop 1.8, iso 100, shutter speed 1/200
Response and reworking
In preparation for the final assessment I found myself drawn back to this assignment. Partly because I was not happy with the level of exploration that appears in the blog in terms of the actual photographs, and partly because I lost some of the final images when my hard drive crashed. I also took some more time to read through my tutor’s feedback on this assignment. There were some areas that needed addressing. One of these was on the technical side. Using just the two prime lenses that I owned at the time limited my ability to focus clearly on crowds. There were also questions raised in relation to the ‘orange stall’ and ‘shop interior’ image in terms of creativity and composition.
I now have a new lens, and decided to hit the streets again and attempt to expand on my selection of images for this project. The new images played more with the idea of ‘crowds’ as an body, rather than picking out specific individuals.
As my final selection I have therefore decided to replace the two previously mentioned images and add the escalator, reflected crowd and graffiti tunnel silhouetted figures.
A crowd shot at Brixton Tube. I am pleased with the symmetry of the composition, with the opposing direction of the figure adding a different dimension. Sharper focus on the faces would improve the image.
The graffiti tunnel on Lower Marsh offers interesting possibilities in terms of colour and vibrancy. I wanted to focus on the crowds drawn here rather than the art work. In exploring different exposures I enjoyed the way the silhouette suggested that the crowd was one joined being.
I wanted to capture the distorted reflections of the crowds walking towards The Southbank. The difficult aspect was incorporating non-reflected figures in the foreground without blocking out the mirrors. The best result was to have a single figure at the edge of the frame. Unfortunately ensuring the reflected figures were sharp led to fuzziness on the foreground figure.