Category Archives: ASSIGNMENT 3: The Decisive Moment

Assignment 3 The Decisive Moment: Rework Post Tutor Review

Preface
The following is Assignment 3 that has been reworked after the tutor review.  It is presented as if it has been written first time through and does not try to compare or contrast the differences between the first and the second versions.  The reason for this is it would (a) detract from the point of the Assignment and (b) anyone reading the Assignment afresh would see how it is supposed to be rather than a comparison between two articles giving a justification for changes.  However in fairness the structure and overall direction of the Assignment has changed little.  Key changes are

  1. The number of images has been reduced from seven to six.  The image North Parade, Southwold, England has been removed because it did not really fit in the set.  In my original submission I argued that it should be in but upon reflection, that although a good photograph, it should be removed.  An interesting lesson in harsh picture editing perhaps in that even if it is good is does not mean it will make the final cut if the context is not right.
  2. Two pictures Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France 1 & 2 were substituted.  Again this was not due to the picture composition or quality but the context was weak compared to others to choose from.  This was in direct response to the tutor review (as mentioned earlier) where I was challenged to:

a) Consider image selection in more than just pure compositional values. Ask the question does the image “linger in the mind after the initial viewing”? In other words is there depth to what is being viewed or is the image nothing more but a compositional exercise.

b) Consider image selection in terms of empathy: Can the viewer for some form of empathy with the subject in the image or are we so far removed that the subject just becomes a compositional element?

As a result they were replaced with Cheseaux Gare, Switzerland and another from Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France.


The Decisive Moment

Background
In this Assignment I try to determine in if today’s society where everyone is far more picture and image conscious there is still room for ‘decisive moment’ images to exist. Or is the genre passé and the images become a cliché?

It could be argued that perhaps Cartier Bresson himself realised that the decisive moment had run its course.  While there is scant evidence to support this statement Cartier Bresson gave up photography for the last 30 years of his life and returned to his first love, art.  Although he saw the camera just to be a way to instantly draw he may have considered he had exhausted all possibilities with this medium.  Maybe after taking so many of similar type images he himself felt they were not fresh anymore in their appeal and perhaps even somewhat trite.

Yet when we look at all different media today decisive moment pictures are still present and there for all to see.  I would argue that perhaps many of these pictures are created more by accident than design which is probably just down to sheer volume of picture recording devices sold.

“humankind’s cumulative picture production total to 5.7 Trillion photographs taken since the first camera was invented”.[1]

So it can be logically concluded that with all these devices out in the world there is a greater statistical chance of more people being in the right place at the right time to produce the right image. However as counterpoint to this as Freeman (2011) states

“Ease-of-use and ease-of-taking guarantees that there will always be a huge majority of ordinary, uninspiring photographs”. [2]

There again does it actually matter the final image was not purposely created? I would argue not, providing the image captures all the elements of the decisive moment.

Yet with that said our curiosity and interest with the decisive moment remains, insomuch as the Cartier Bresson’s original book The Decisive Moment (Images à la Sauvette) was republished for the first time since 1952.  Clearly there is demand and the publisher sees money to be made.

From my images most were not ‘accidental’ in that 4 out of 6 were selected from what I call Group 3, ‘Knowing When to Photograph’, where I have composed the scene first and then waited for a subject to enter the frame at then release the shutter at the right time.  To me these are the most reminiscent of Cartier Bresson’s work and I feel demonstrate that the decisive image does still work today.  However there is the argument that this actually was not true to Cartier Bresson’s meaning in the book Images à la Sauvette because this is popularly translated as Images on the Run.  In other words all his images were taken on the fly rather than planned.  Both observation and Bresson himself says this is not always entirely true as mentioned in the original research for this Assignment (Click for link).  An interesting point is that while Images à la Sauvette is popularly translated as Images on the Run I asked a number of my French colleagues what they understood as Images à la Sauvette in modern parlance. While there was no one unanimous answer (proving there was no absolute direct translation) they majority favoured Caught Red Handed.  If this were true it does put a different perspective on Cartier Bresson’s work in the book.

Before looking at my images in detail it is interesting to note that Clayton Cubitt in his article On the Constant Moment (2013) argues the “the decisive moment is dead. Long live the constant moment” [3] in that Cartier Bresson was limited by technology in that he could only use one, camera, one lens, and one film thus creating the static decisive moment.  As technology has advanced such as devices as Google Glasses or multiple positioned webcams and infinite data storage means that the decisive moment becomes the constant moment.  Here in this constant moment world we do not record a single point in time but in continuous real time.   He proposes that the photographer is then “freed from instant reaction to the Decisive Moment, and then only faced with the Decisive Area to be in, and perhaps the Decisive Angle with which to view it.” [4]  It is a fair prediction of what the future holds but I would argue that even within this constant moment world there is still room for the decisive moment.

Image Selection

Theme
As said before four of the six images are selected the images from the 3rd Group as this is the closest to the feel of Cartier-Bresson’s work.  The linking theme here is that all the photographs contain the element of compositional anticipation in that the frame was composed first and the subject then entered the scene afterwards.  In other words they are not by chance grab shots.  With that said a couple of the images were taken almost instantly after seeing the frame as the subjects walked into the frame.

Portfolio Balance
In this assignment we are asked to deliver the images as physical prints.  As these will be looked at individually, the criteria for selection can be different from those that will be looked as a set.  Stronger single images are allowed to be more dominant although there still needs to be a balance through the set else they will come across as 6 to 8 very good but discrete individual images.

Orientation
Again as being separate images I was not concerned with a balance of orientation in that they all must be landscape format, or 3 landscape and 3 portrait format etc.  Therefore format was ruled out of my selection criteria.

Consistent Ratio
In line with Cartier Bresson’s thinking I have tried to compose full frame.  In a few cases cropping was necessary but in doing so I have retained the original 3:2 format.  Therefore images selected will need to be in this ratio for a consistent feel through the deck.

Subject Balance
Although the subject or subjects are the key focal point I did not want them to dominate so they should not take up more than 20% of the frame.  This will stop the subject becoming so overpowering and taking away from the compositional geometry of the rest of the frame.

Technical Competence
Each image had to be of an acceptable technical quality. e.g. tone, focus, sharpness for the subject contained. Therefore the representation of movement through blur would be acceptable.

Composition
Finally each image had to be compositionally pleasing in that would the viewer feel comfortable observing each image.  While this is a very subjective area it is usually immediately obvious if an image is compositionally ‘wrong’ compared against common norms.

Image Presentation

Titles
I have consciously decided not to put any title other than location.  For these images I believe a title can be very distracting and draw the viewer to the wrong conclusion.  This thinking is based on the fact I recently submitted a grab shot of a group of youths to a constructive criticism photographic forum for review, which as part of the submission process requires a title.  To me the subject matter and composition had the feel of an album cover or pop/rock group publicity shot and therefore titled the image ‘The Band’.  It was interesting that the returned criticism was judging picture against the title (in that how good or not it was a picture of a band) rather than an image itself devoid of label.

Besides guiding the viewer there is also the danger that the title may also slight the viewer’s intelligence.  Pictures entitled Sunset or Tree on Horizon will not add any value clearly when the picture is of a sunset or a tree on the horizon.  Hence again putting weight to the argument that the location will inform the curious but not bias the thought process.

Final Presentation
To produce a high quality image is a complete end to end process.  The capture and processing are down to the camera and software, while the printed output is a combination of printer, paper and ink.  With these images they will be externally printed, and printed on a high grade paper with a matt finish.  My research has shown that this is more favourable to black and white images as there is less reflection and the tones render very well.

While the images are requested to be separate individual high quality prints I will also supply a small photo book.  This will act as a sequence guide and contain the title on the opposite page.

While they will be individual images the sequence is still important.  The mathematics dictate there are 720 ways of sequencing 6 images (factorial 6, 6!) therefore it could be argued that it is almost impossible to get right.  My approach was to print small versions of the pictures and keep arranging until I was happy with the flow.  My guidelines were I did not want the images to have too much of a contrast between one and the next and there was some overall compositional flow between them.  I also noted that Cartier Bresson started the book The Decisive Image with a bold ‘portrait’ oriented image.  I suppose like an opening paragraph of a book it is this that both sets the tone and draws you in. Also first impressions do count.

The final three sequences were:

Option 1

  • Built the sequence so there is a ‘portrait’ either end to replicate start and finish so as to act as an end stop
  • Started with a light tone picture and finished with a dark with the images in between getting progressively darker.
  • Tried to pair up similar compositions of object from follow on images e.g. doors, openings, floors and stairs.

Capture_01[1]

Option 2

  1. A sequence of ‘landscape’ followed by the two ‘portrait’ to keep images in like shape sequence
  2. Try to group the pictures in pairs as with common theme (i) shadows; (ii) groups; (iii) pavements
  3. Try  to keep each picture. in a balanced composition of the  next

Capture_03[1]

Option 3

  • Build up the sequence so there are two ‘portrait’s at the end so as to act as an end stop
  • Keep subjects in pairs of roughly the same size
  • Start and end with the most contrasty image

Capture_02[1]

I selected Option 1 as my preferred sequence

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Images

The structure of this section will:

  1. Show each individual image
  2. Give commentary of the image
  3. Show a before and after where the ‘before’ is the compositional framework that I saw in anticipation of the subject entering the scene and the ‘after’ is the final image. What is interesting to note that in 5 out of the 6 images I feel are strong enough to be could be standalone images in their own right, but not on the theme the decisive moment. It should also be noted that my Lightroom cloning skills are at the very early stages of development, therefore the before is illustrative rather than a perfect picture.
  4. Show a representation of where the eye is compositionally directed.

When looking at the detailed commentary there are two process themes that run through the series:

  • Vantage point: high or low with only one picture at eye level
  • Time for correct subject to enter the picture. The average is about 10 minutes between composing the ‘before’ and taking the picture.  This can seem like an eternity when waiting

1) Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy
Taken from a high vantage point of my hotel balcony.  This shot was all about patience.  I saw the compositional value of the straight lines of the street light and the gutter and wanted to place a subject at the right point.  This was a very busy road with traffic and pedestrians.  I had to wait over 15 minutes until the conditions became ‘right’ with the added bonus that by luck the lady stopped and looked up at something.  The viewer is left wondering what has caught her eye or even distracted her from crossing the road

For my part I like the clean approach of this image in that there are only 4 compositional elements present.  The lady, the road, the lamp post and the gutter.  Also the nature of the optics causing the lamp post to lean into the picture is far stronger than if this had been a more flat geometrical image.

Perhaps Cartier Bresson’s words “It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression” ring true for this simple composition

Capture 07

Before and after

Capture 007

Visual Plan

2) Cheseaux Gare, Switzerland
 Cheseaux Gare, Switzerland

This is one of those almost accidental shots, in that chance entered the prepared mind.  It was taken in the underpass of a provincial railway station.   During research I had seen the potential of what the underpass could compositionally offer and would just have to wait for the right subject to enter the frame at the right time.  As I was fiddling to set up my camera I became aware of people in front and just took the picture.  The process could be described as an instinctive grab shot.  I had no time to check or set up the camera.  I thought nothing of that shot and carried on setting the the speed, aperture, and camera set up and continued with what I had originally set out to do.

It was not until I reviewed the images in Lightroom did I see the potential if this image. In theory everything is wrong with it.  It is out of focus, the subjects are blurred, but not enough to usefully represent movement,.  Also the verticals are out of line because of the use of a wide angle and a low vantage point.  However for me this adds strength to support the two subjects. There is a mystery with this image because what we as the viewer (and in fact myself as the photographer) do not know is the relationship between the pair of women.  On first glance there is the illusion that they are a pair who know each other and are chatting, but the more we look it is if they are travelling in opposite directions as if one is shooting a glance or giving a comment as they pass each other.  While we can speculate, this will remain an unsolved mystery because as soon as I took the photograph I turned my attention back to setting my camera up and when finished the subjects had gone.

It could be argued that an underpass is a bit of a clichéd location for the backdrop of a shot however for me it was full of the geometrical compositional opportunities I desired.  What adds to this shot is the low vantage point as I was actually on the floor at the time sorting my camera bag out.  This gives a different dynamic that if it had been at eye level.  Also I decided not to correct the verticals in Lightroom as I would have normally done.  The ‘corrected’ image lost some of that dynamism of the original.

For me this image is more than just about the pure compositional values because the relationship of the mystery of the subjects does  “linger in the mind after the initial viewing”.

Gare

Before and after

Capture 05

Visual Plan

3) Musée des Confluences (2), Lyon, France

Musée des Confluences, Lyon, France

I had walked around the museum for a while and had spotted the potential compositional value of the alignment of the door, grill and two lights.  I waited for a long while but nothing was right to get the any form of decent picture.  It was a very busy thoroughfare and the timing was just not going to happen. As chance would have it that much later as I was preparing to leave two ladies were standing talking. The one on the right was looking at some artwork on the wall just out of picture and her friend started walking away.  The question for me was when should I fire the shutter for the greatest compositional impact? The obvious was when the lady was being framed by the dark door.  However I dismissed this as it was a little too obvious and felt the picture would have an unbalanced geometrical weight. I wanted the lady directly under the light as it would both give a repetition of theme of the two light with subjects under and also would fill the left hand space.  For what seemed like an eternity I  waited until she was in the right place.  In this case fortune favoured the brave because in those three or four seconds any of the subjects may have moved into different positions or someone could have walked into or across the shot..

For me this image is everything I wanted it to be.  I got the timing right and as shown in the Visual Plan below the relationship of the way the eye through the picture to the right hand lady that acts as a backstop and bounces your eye back into the picture give a greater weight to the composition.

But like the previous image this is more than just a composition exercise we as the viewers are left wondering what is happening here.  Are the subjects friends? Has one walked off after an argument?  What are they doing there and what are they going to do next? Yes this could be argued that these are questions you could ask about anyone in any photograph. However here I think that it is the position of the compositional elements that lend more weight to these questions in order for the image to “linger in the mind after the initial viewing”.

Museum 1

Before and after

Capture 04

Visual Plan

 

4) Galleria Sabauda (1), Turin, Italy – Stairs

Turin, Italy

This shot was a taken from a low vantage point on a busy staircase.  Here I was trying not to make the image look too clichéd with a silhouette of someone walking up the stairs positioned on the thirds.  Again it was a case of a long wait to get the timing right for the lady going up but as she was in the right position a man came running down and for me compositionally added to the picture.  As conditions were bright I was using a fast shutter speed that has frozen the moment.  Ideally it would have been great if the lady was frozen and blur was shown in the gentlemen but as is it I am happy with the result.

I very much like the tonal range in this image as it again just stops it from being a silhouette shot.   The grain in the marble subconsciously takes our eye through the picture.  Also for me there is a little compositional subplot in the arches in the bottom left hand corner.  Besides giving a sense of depth to the picture, it links to the subjects is asking the question what is beyond, where has the lady come from and what is the man rushing on to.

Capture 01

Before and after

Capture 001

Visual Plan

5) Triq San Gorg, Spinola Bay, Malta

DSC08740

Again taken from a high vantage point this shot again required patience.  Even without the subject I saw the strong composition value of this scene.  The eye is drawn down the lamppost and shadow and up to the staircase to the plant and up the further staircase all accentuated by the harsh sunlight giving deep black shadows which I particularly like.  The issue here was in fact a lack of people walking by.  As with a previous image this took about 15 minutes before the right person at the right time.  It could be compositionally argued that the man should be a little further back in the space and walking more into the picture.  My argument here is the position is correct as it fills the space between the curb and the stairs.  Also I like the fact he is walking out of the frame and that we cannot catch his vision.  It gives the photograph an element of mysterious purpose; what is on his mind and where is he going.

Capture 04

Before and after

Capture 004

Visual Plan

6) Galleria Sabauda (2), Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy

I saw the effect of strong backlight on people passing this busy corridor.  I deliberately set myself a long way down the way so as to get a real sense of depth and to ensure the subject just became a silhouette but just enough still to give a sense of purpose and direction of the subject.

Again with this shot it was a case of timing and a little luck.  Many people passed in two and threes but just was not the right composition. This person passed and I knew I had the right shot.  The distance between the two walls (walking into some space), the position of the legs, the body stance and the sense of purpose are all there to make this image.

What I like about this image is how the banner/flag either side of the corridor have narrowed the gap down hiding both where he is walking to and from and also stopping the arch window being too symmetrical.  It breaks the flow slightly so the eye slows down to look and think about the subject.  Also by fortuitous luck rather than design, during processing I noticed the foreground line in the floor.  Initially I was disappointed but then realised that again it subconsciously acted as a barrier to stop the eye racing off down to the end of the corridor.  Effectively it accentuated the depth of the corridor by giving the image a foreground rather than having all the action at the back of the scene.

Capture 02

Before and after

Capture 002

Visual Plan

References

[1] Ahonen, Tomi T (2014) [Online]
http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2014/08/camera-stats-world-has-48b-cameras-by-4b-unique-camera-owners-88-of-them-use-cameraphone-to-take-pic.html  [Last accessed 18 May 2015

[2] Feeman, Michael (2011) The Photographer’s Vision P13 Focal Press

[3] [4] Cubitt, Clayton (2013), On The Constant Moment [Online]
http://claytoncubitt.com/blog/2013/5/13/on-the-constant-moment [Last accessed 18 May 2015]

Assignment 3 The Decisive Moment: Reflection Post Tutor Review

As with other assignment feedback, I will keep the detailed comments private but in summary the overall feedback was positive in that there was a clear understanding of the requirement, research was comprehensive and the work was presented and reflected upon in an effective manner.  The recommendation was made to move on to Assignment 4.  I feel the comments given were very fair and gave me thoughts for alternative directions rather than the obvious.  The comments also confirmed where I am in terms of development and what I need to do for the future.

In summary the changes needed to the assignment are:

  • Technical work on some of the images: for example correction of blown highlights
  • Consider image selection in more than just pure compositional values. Ask the question does the image “linger in the mind after the initial viewing”? In other words is there depth to what is being viewed or is the image nothing more but a compositional exercise.
  • Consider image selection in terms of empathy: Can the viewer for some form of empathy with the subject in the image or are we so far removed that the subject just becomes a compositional element?

Also changes required to research and investigations:

  • Explore and develop my arguments further either within current research or in the future
  • Support suppositions with relevant sources

These changes will be made and a revised Assignment 3 and any supporting research will subsequently be posted.

Assignment 3 The Decisive Moment: Reflection Post Submission

Of the three assignments completed so far I found this one the most enjoyable.  It is not that the others were not thought provoking or challenging but with this one I found that I really immersed myself in the research, thought process and subject matter.  Perhaps subconsciously I was back in a comfort zone or alternatively maybe I have discovered part of my voice in this genre of image creation.  Overall I believed I have met the criteria therefore would judge my work at the detailed level as follows:

Demonstration of technical and visual skills – Materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills. (40%)

  • Technical skill: All in focus, all exposed as I wanted then, all level, depth of field as I required with the correct tonal qualities
  • Observational skills: As my research shows I did not go for the obvious and built my images up in three learning groups, with each group building on the other.
  • Design/Compositional skills: All the pictures are as I wanted them.  During shooting I made a conscious decision as to the correct orientation (landscape or portrait) for the image and tried where possible to keep true to Cartier Bresson in that I composed the image full frame in the viewfinder so as there would be little or no cropping afterwards.

Quality of outcome – Content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas. (20%)

  • I feel I have produced images that show visual qualities that allow the viewer to connect with the theme of the decisive moment and reflect the feel of Cartier Bresson’s images.  I also feel that each image works both stand alone and as part of a distinct sequence.  There is one image that I highlighted in the text that may be removed from the final submission as it does not represent a human but an animal.  I think I need time to reflect more on this but more than likely will remove it.
  • From the tutor comments on previous exercises I have given much more thought to the sequence and hanging plan and had tried to express my thoughts more both in the text and visually through annotated diagrams.  In a strange way I find this akin to maths in that while you can easily get to the answer that is only part of the solution, the workings out are what really counts in this case the thought process.  I feel that I am understanding a little more with each exercise completed.

Demonstration of creativity – Imagination, experimentation, invention. (20%)

  • I believe that the images presented the reflect the question in that I have thought hard about what I wanted to represent, and in doing so created both an interest and a curiosity with the viewer regarding the subject.  Also I tried not to fall into the too obvious cliché trap.  However some of these clichés were perhaps in group 1 of my images but still acceptable as pictures.
  • What is interesting is now that the work has been completed, I am still seeing all around me images that would fit in with this assignment.  Therefore the learning from this is that this assignment has left a legacy in my ability to see an image.  Perhaps the danger is that all future images will have a subconscious decisive moment feel about them.  I have to be careful with this so it does not restrict any future creativity in other assignments.
  • What I have learnt with this assignment (which is perhaps an extension of my work with crowds in Assignment 2) is that most of the time people are actually extremely predictable.  In my group 3 shots where I framed first in anticipation of the subject entering and exiting the frame at the right time and position, very rarely failed.  Once the subject was in the frame the secret was just for me to know when to press the shutter.  Very rarely did this not work out. I think this predictability in people will be an important learning point for the future.

Context – Reflection, research, critical thinking. (20%)

  • For this assignment much research was done.  For me the secret here was not to read about Cartier Bresson’s technique more just to study the images and ask myself what worked and why I liked it and conversely what did not and why I did not like the image.  Besides Cartier Bresson’s work there are many other modern images on the internet that were viewed.  Some of them were conscious exercises in copying his style other more accidental in nature but all good reference points.

Based on the experience and assessment from previous assignments I would consider this a pass but how much I have no idea but as always there is certainly room to improve especially so in the selection and sequencing.  I know from the tutor review positive suggestions will be made for improvement and as always appreciate the constructive criticism.

Assignment 3 – The Decisive Moment

Background
In this Assignment I try to determine in if today’s society where everyone is far more picture and image conscious there is still room for ‘decisive moment’ images to exist. Or is the genre passé and the images become a cliché?

It could be argued that perhaps Cartier Bresson himself realised that the decisive moment had run its course.  While there is scant evidence to support this statement Cartier Bresson gave up photography for the last 30 years of his life and returned to his first love, art.  Although he saw the camera just to be a way to instantly draw he may have considered he had exhausted all possibilities with this medium.  Maybe after taking so many of similar type images he himself felt they were not fresh anymore in their appeal and perhaps even somewhat trite.

Yet when we look at all different media today decisive moment pictures are still present and there for all to see.  I would argue that perhaps many of these pictures are created more by accident than design which is probably just down to sheer volume of picture recording devices sold.

“humankind’s cumulative picture production total to 5.7 Trillion photographs taken since the first camera was invented”.[1]

So it can be logically concluded that with all these devices out in the world there is a greater statistical chance of more people being in the right place at the right time to produce the right image. However as counterpoint to this as Freeman (2011) states

“Ease-of-use and ease-of-taking guarantees that there will always be a huge majority of ordinary, uninspiring photographs”. [2]

There again does it actually matter the final image was not purposely created? I would argue not providing the image captures all the elements of the decisive moment.

Yet with that said our curiosity and interest with the decisive moment remains, insomuch as the Cartier-Bresson’s original book The Decisive Moment (Images à la Sauvette) was republished for the first time since 1952.  Clearly there is demand and the publisher sees money to be made.

From my images none were ‘accidental’ and selected from what I call Group 3, ‘Knowing When to Photograph’, where I have composed the scene first and then waited for a subject to enter the frame at then release the shutter at the right time.  To me these are the most reminiscent of Cartier Bresson’s work and I feel demonstrate that the decisive image does still work today.

See https://swissrolly.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/research/

Before looking at my images in detail it is interesting to note that Clayton Cubitt in his article On the Constant Moment (2013) argues the “the decisive moment is dead. Long live the constant moment” [3] in that Cartier Bresson was limited by technology in that he could only use one, camera, one lens, and one film thus creating the static decisive moment.  As technology has advanced such as devices as Google Glasses or multiple positioned webcams and infinite data storage means that the decisive moment becomes the constant moment.  Here in this constant moment world we do not record a single point in time but in continuous real time.   He proposes that the photographer is then “freed from instant reaction to the Decisive Moment, and then only faced with the Decisive Area to be in, and perhaps the Decisive Angle with which to view it.” [4]  It is a fair prediction of what the future holds but I would argue that even within this constant moment world there is still room for the decisive moment.

Image Selection

Theme
I have selected the images from the 3rd Group as this is the closest to the feel of Cartier-Bresson’s work.  The linking theme here is that all the photographs contain the element of compositional anticipation in that the frame was composed first and the subject then entered the scene afterwards.  In other words they are not chance grab shots.

Portfolio Balance
In this assignment we are asked to deliver the images as physical prints.  As these will be looked at individually, the criteria for selection can be different from those that will be looked as a set.  Stronger single images are allowed to be more dominant although there still needs to be a balance through the set else they will come across as 6 to 8 very good but discrete individual images.

Orientation
Again as being separate images I was not concerned with a balance of orientation in that they all must be landscape format, or 3 landscape and 3 portrait format etc.  Therefore format was ruled out of my selection criteria.

Consistent Ratio
In line with Cartier Bresson’s thinking I have tried to compose full frame.  In a few cases cropping was necessary but in doing so I have retained the original 3:2 format.  Therefore images selected will need to be in this ratio for a consistent feel through the deck.

Subject Balance
Although the subject or subjects are the key focal point I did not want them to dominate so they should not take up more than 10% of the frame.  This will stop the subject becoming overpowering and taking away from the compositional geometry of the rest of the frame.

Technical Competence
Each image had to be of an acceptable technical quality. e.g. tone, focus, sharpness for the subject contained. Therefore the representation of movement through blur would be acceptable.

Composition
Finally each image had to be compositionally pleasing in that would the viewer feel comfortable observing each image.  While this is a very subjective area it is usually immediately obvious if an image is compositionally ‘wrong’ compared against common norms.

Image Presentation

Titles
I have consciously decided not to put any title other than location.  For these images I believe a title can be very distracting and draw the viewer to the wrong conclusion.  This thinking is based on the fact I recently submitted a grab shot of a group of youths to a constructive criticism photographic forum for review, which as part of the submission process requires a title.  To me the subject matter and composition had the feel of an album cover or pop/rock group publicity shot and therefore titled the image ‘The Band’.  It was interesting that the returned criticism was judging picture against the title (in that how good or not it was a picture of a band) rather than an image itself devoid of label.

Besides guiding the viewer there is also the danger that the title may also slight the viewer’s intelligence.  Pictures entitled Sunset or Tree on Horizon will not add any value clearly when the picture is of a sunset or a tree on the horizon.  Hence again putting weight to the argument that the location will inform the curious but not bias the thought process.

Final Presentation
To produce a high quality image it is a complete end to end process.  The capture and processing are down to the camera and software, while the printed output is a combination of printer, paper and ink.  With these images they will be externally printed and printed on a high grade paper with a matt finish.  My research has shown that this is more favourable to black and white images as there is less reflection and the tones render very well.

While the images are requested to be separate individual high quality prints I will also supply a small photo book.  This will act as a sequence guide and contain the title on the opposite page.

While they will be individual images the sequence is still important.  The mathematics dictate there are 5,040 ways of sequencing 7 images (factorial 7, 7!) therefore it could be argued that it is almost impossible to get right.  My approach was to print small versions of the pictures and keep arranging until I was happy with the flow.  My guidelines were I did not want the images to have too much of a contrast between one and the next and there was some overall compositional flow between them.  I also noted that Cartier Bresson started the book The Decisive Image with a bold ‘portrait’ oriented image.  I suppose like an opening paragraph of a book it is this that both sets the tone and draws you in. Also first impressions do count.

The final three sequences were:

Option 1

  • Built the sequence so there is a ‘portrait’ either end to replicate start and finish so as to act as an end stop
  • Started with a light tone picture and finished with a dark with the images in between getting progressively darker.
  • Tried to pair up similar compositions of object from follow on images e.g. direction of walls and stairs.

lay 001

 

Option 2

  1. A sequence of ‘landscape’ followed by the two ‘portrait’ to keep images in like shape sequence
  2. Try to keep the subject reducing in size through the images until the last one is used as an end stop.
  3. Start with the most compositional complex image and finish on the simplest.

Lay 002

 

Option 3

  • Same as Option 1 to build up the sequence so there is a ‘portrait’ either end to replicate start and finish so as to act as an end stop
  • Keep like objects apart e.g. stairs
  • To make as much contrast between the images as possible to have no link at all

Lay 003

I selected Option 1 as my preferred sequence

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Images

The structure of this section will:

  1. Show each individual image
  2. Give commentary of the image
  3. Show a before and after where the ‘before’ is the compositional framework that I saw in anticipation of the subject entering the scene and the ‘after’ is the final image. What is interesting to note that in 6 out of the 7 images I feel are strong enough to be could be standalone images in their own right, but not on the theme the decisive moment. It should also be noted that my Lightroom cloning skills are at the very early stages of development, therefore the before is illustrative rather than a perfect picture.
  4. Show a representation of where the eye is compositionally directed.

When looking at the detailed commentary there are two process themes that run through the series:

  • Vantage point: high or low with only one picture at eye level
  • Time for correct subject to enter the picture. The average is about 10 minutes between composing the ‘before’ and taking the picture.  This can seem like an eternity when waiting.

1) Piazza Carlo Emanuele II, Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy
Taken from a high vantage point of my hotel balcony.  This shot was all about patience.  I saw the compositional value of the straight lines of the street light and the gutter and wanted to place a subject at the right point.  This was a very busy road with traffic and pedestrians.  I had to wait over 15 minutes until the conditions became ‘right’ with the added bonus that by luck teh lady stopped and looked up at something.  The viewer is left wondering what has caught her eye or even distracted her from crossing the road

For my part I like the clean approach of this image in that there are only 4 compositional elements present.  The lady, the road, the lamp post and the gutter.  Also the nature of the optics causing the lamp post to lean into the picture is far stronger than if this had been a more flat geometrical image.

Perhaps Cartier Bresson’s words “It is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression” ring true for this simple composition

Capture 07

Before and after

Capture 007

Visual Plan

2) Musée des Confluences (1), Lyon, France

Lyon, France

This museum was full of geometrical compositional opportunities yet the difficulties I had to overcome were (a) it was very crowded and (b) to stop the pictures looking like recording visitors at a museum.  To overcome the crowd issue I used a high vantage point to isolate out individuals as best as I could.

I saw the compositional value of this location and it must have been about 20 minutes before this shot happened.  Originally I was hoping that someone would walk across (either in or out the scene) on the intersection of the bottom left third but this never happened or not as I wanted it.  This gentleman slowly walked in from the right in deep thought, changed direction and stopped for a split second to look ahead was the perfect time I judged to take the shot.  Two seconds later he had gone and the scene filled with a crowd of people.

Compositionally I am pleased with how the subject is framed by the curved walkway set against the straight lines of the walls and the floor.  This photograph is not technically perfect in that there is an amount of softness almost misty feel to the bottom of the image.  This is caused by very out of focus railings that I was leaning over.  While the narrow depth of field did not allow the capturing any direct image there was enough to leave a trace of the railing.  Similar to the slight out of focus on the left had side of Cartier Bresson’s of Gare St. Lazare perhaps.

Initially I was disappointed with this and thought about cropping this out but it would have destroyed the dynamics and balance of the image.  Therefore this has consciously been left in an I think on reflection adds a further dimension to the picture in that its gives a slight voyeuristic detached view of the man and his thoughts while we observe afar from a peephole.

Capture 06

Before and after

Capture 005

Visual Plan

3) Musée des Confluences (2), Lyon, France

Lyon, France

Again from a high vantage point I saw that children liked to run a long this high walkway.  For this image I consciously wanted to represent movement.  Rather than show a moving object against a sharp focused background I wanted to get a total feeling of movement so I decide to pan the image.  Having not much experience of this technique and only using experiences gained in a previous exercise I gave it a go.

Timing for this image was crucial in that I had to anticipate the subject and follow them through with the camera and take at the right time.  For me this image is everything I wanted it to be.  Movement in the background, and movement in the child caught in the right running stance.  It could be argued that the subject should have been placed more on the top left third to show running into the space rather than being near the centre.  In this case being near the centre does not matter as it adds to the sense of movement of where the child has come and where he is going.  Careful observation will show that the subject actually is slightly off centre enough that our brains do not try to dissect the image in half.  Also the fact that he is running into a wider space from where he has come from compounded by the strong directional lines surrounding the walkway obviates this central tendency focus.

The detail I like about the picture is that his left foot is actually in focus and the movement frozen.  This must have been a combination of the shutter speed used and the fact that the foot must have just reached that split second time in the arch of the swing where it is going to change direction but is neither going forward or backward.

Capture 05

Before and after

Capture 006

Visual Plan

4) Galleria Sabauda (1), Turin, Italy – Stairs

Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy

This shot was a taken from a low vantage point on a busy staircase.  Here I was trying not to make the image look too clichéd with a silhouette of someone walking up the stairs positioned on the thirds.  Again it was a case of a long wait to get the timing right for the lady going up but as she was in the right position a man came running down and for me compositionally added to the picture.  As conditions were bright I was using a fast shutter speed that has frozen the moment.  Ideally it would have been great if the lady was frozen and blur was shown in the gentlemen but as is it I am happy with the result.

I very much like the tonal range in this image as it again just stops it from being a silhouette shot.   The grain in the marble subconsciously takes our eye through the picture.  Also for me there is a little compositional subplot in the arches in the bottom left hand corner.  Besides giving a sense of depth to the picture, it links to the subjects is asking the question what is beyond, where has the lady come from and what is the man rushing on to.

Capture 01

Before and after

Capture 001

Visual Plan

5) Triq San Gorg, Spinola Bay, Malta

Valletta, Malta

Again taken from a high vantage point this shot again required patience.  Even without the subject I saw the strong composition value of this scene.  The eye is drawn down the lamppost and shadow and up to the staircase to the plant and up the further staircase all accentuated by the harsh sunlight giving deep black shadows which I particularly like.  The issue here was in fact a lack of people walking by.  As with a previous image this took about 15 minutes before the right person at the right time.  It could be compositionally argued that the man should be a little further back in the space and walking more into the picture.  My argument here is the position is correct as it fills the space between the curb and the stairs.  Also I like the fact he is walking out of the frame and that we cannot catch his vision.  It gives the photograph an element of mysterious purpose; what is on his mind and where is he going.

Capture 04

Before and after

Capture 004

Visual Plan

6) North Parade, Southwold, England

Southwold, England

From a vantage point above the beach huts I saw people walking along the beach and originally had planned the subject to be people.  Although compositionally strong because of the beach huts almost point towards the subject the image was a little obvious.  I then saw the dog approaching the frame and it was one chance to get this right.

I had chosen a shallower depth of field to emphasise the strong lines of the roofs wanting the background to be slightly out of focus so the subject was not too obvious to the viewer.  Being a dull day therefore needing a slow speed the fast movement of the dog is emphasised by the slight blur.

It could be argued that this one should not be included in the set as it is the only one that does not contain a person.  That is true but I would argue here that the person is implied by association.  Clearly this is not a wild dog running amuck but is a domesticated dog with an owner just out of shot.  The dog has run ahead of the owner and we know and have the anticipation that the owner will follow.

Capture 03

Before and after

Capture 003

Visual Plan

7) Galleria Sabauda (2), Turin, Italy

Turin, Italy

I saw the effect of strong backlight on people passing this busy corridor.  I deliberately set myself a long way down the way so as to get a real sense of depth and to ensure the subject just became a silhouette but just enough still to give a sense of purpose and direction of the subject.

Again with this shot it was a case of timing and a little luck.  Many people passed in two and threes but just was not the right composition. This person passed and I knew I had the right shot.  The distance between the two walls (walking into some space), the position of the legs, the body stance and the sense of purpose are all there to make this image.

What I like about this image is how the banner/flag either side of the corridor have narrowed the gap down hiding both where he is walking to and from and also stopping the arch window being too symmetrical.  It breaks the flow slightly so the eye slows down to look and think about the subject.  Also by fortuitous luck rather than design, during processing I noticed the foreground line in the floor.  Initially I was disappointed but then realised that again it subconsciously acted as a barrier to stop the eye racing off down to the end of the corridor.  Effectively it accentuated the depth of the corridor by giving the image a foreground rather than having all the action at the back of the scene.

Capture 02

Before and after

Capture 002

Visual Plan

 References

[1] Ahonen, Tomi T (2014) [Online]
http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2014/08/camera-stats-world-has-48b-cameras-by-4b-unique-camera-owners-88-of-them-use-cameraphone-to-take-pic.html  [Last accessed 18 May 2015

[2] Feeman, Michael (2011) The Photographer’s Vision P13 Focal Press

[3] [4] Cubitt, Clayton (2013), On The Constant Moment [Online]
http://claytoncubitt.com/blog/2013/5/13/on-the-constant-moment [Last accessed 18 May 2015]