Coursework,  Coursework 5,  Learning Log

Exercise 5.1: The distance between us

Brief

Use your camera as a measuring device. This doesn’t refer to the distance scale on the focus ring. Rather, find a subject that you have an empathy with and take a sequence of shots to ‘explore the distance between you’. Add the sequence to your learning log, indicating which is your ‘select’ – your best shot.

Response

As the world opened up again I unexpectedly got the opportunity to visit one of my favourite events to attend; Goodwood Revival.

This felt like the perfect opportunity to explore this exercise. I have not been around crowds of people for so long, and I was intrigued to see how back to normal an event like this would be. For over a year now we have all been told to stay 2m apart from each other, wear masks, avoid busy areas. This was the first time I have been somewhere where this guidance appeared to go out of the window! This made me very wary of the risk of catching the virus, but in all honesty, it was so nice to once again be around people, people enjoying themselves again, that the benefits of the relative freedom felt like they outweighed the risks.

I went into this exercise wanting to try and portray this feeling. The feeling of being in crowded places, surrounded by people enjoying themselves, and witnessing humans connecting with one another once again. A feeling of normality uninhibited by coronavirus and social distancing.

I also wanted to find some scenes with depth to show both closeness of people in the grand scheme of things, but also to demonstrate the scale of crowds.

My plan was to capture lots of crowd photos. I particularly wanted to get a crowd shot of the tunnel that runs under the track as it’s always a congested area. I was really pleased with the shot I got in the end (Fig. 2). I wanted a wide aperture and shallow depth of field so to try and encourage the eye through the photo not just to have all the information contained within a very deep depth of field. However I feel on reflection having much more of the crowd further away in focus would have been better for this image. I do like the sense of scale and depth provided through the tunnel with the wall lights, and the fact the area beyond the tunnel is well lit to bring focus through and out the other side.

Technically I struggled a little at times. The light wasn’t great and I found my camera wasn’t always as quick to focus as I would have liked on occasions, or it focussed on a different subject than intended and then the moment was lost. This did work in my favour for Fig. 1 as I explain below. But given that it was moments of human interaction I was setting out to photograph this did frustrate me as I missed many opportunities.
Also, I decided to put a UV filter on my lens to protect it as much as anything else, but realised halfway through my walkabout I’d actually fitted the polarizer filter. I didn’t have a bag or anything with me so didn’t want to remove the filter and leave it open to damage but I quickly forgot it was fitted and therefore forgot to adjust it for the images. I feel this has contributed to my over exposed skies and I haven’t used it correctly for best effect in my photographs.

I found that it was very difficult to shoot large crowds without people looking into the camera. It seems people are used to lots of photographers around, but are more aware of the camera when it’s not pointed at an obvious subject such as a car. I tried a few times to discreetly get a shot but on review I noticed that a few people had ‘caught the eye’ of the camera.
This can be seen in Fig. 2 where one of the out of focus gentlemen in the foreground seems to be looking at the camera. I feel this doesn’t detract from the image as with him being out of focus you can’t see if he is definitely looking into the lens. Fig. 7 also has someone looking at the camera, and in this instance I think it completely ruins the photo. I included the image in the short list as I really wanted to include one of the people dancing and enjoying that connection with each other surrounded by lots of strangers. But the people seated next to them have quite blank expressions and by looking into the camera it seems to somehow eclipse this fun and I’m left with more of a feeling of awkwardness.

In comparison, Fig. 1 has a chap smiling at the camera and doffing his hat. At the time of taking the photo I was actually trying to capture the interactions between the small boy on the bike with the adults next to him and hadn’t noticed the happy couple next door. By chance my camera auto focussed onto the smiling man at this point, and I actually love how it captures the seemingly genuine happiness of him and the girl sat with him. I then find my eye wonders around the photo a bit more to take in the scene and we realise it’s a busy motorbike paddock where young and old are standing chatting bikes! It bothers me slightly that the young lad is out of focus due to the shallow depth of field, but actually I feel of all my selection of images this photograph is one I connect with most.

It shows happiness, normality, and for those who have been to Goodwood Revival, it’s very representative of the atmosphere of the event. But on top of all this, the connection of the smiling chap with the camera actually puts me as the photographer back in the image, and I now become part of this scene rather than just an observer. It reminds me about Cartier-Bresson’s quote in documentary about the conversation between the photogrpaher and the subject.

On reflection, I feel this was in fact the whole point of this exercise.

Image select:

Fig. 1

Further images:

Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7
Fig. 8
Fig. 10

To take forward:

Start: Taking time to assess the whole scene before clicking the shutter. Learning how to use a polarizer filter!
Stop: Worrying about people looking into the lens. Defaulting to a wide aperture and shallow depth of field.
Continue: Looking for the connection between people. Considering depth within my images.

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