THE DECISIVE MOMENT – KIDS WILL BE KIDS
I undertook quite a bit of reading for this assignment and watched the Henri Cartier-Bresson documentary. Please see my notes and research sections on my blog https://joysphotographyblog.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/notes/.
I have also attended some exhibitions since beginning the course and wrote these up and in some cases also reflected on how certain images met the requirements of ‘The Decisive Moment’. See https://joysphotographyblog.wordpress.com/category/research-reflection/exhibitions-books/
I have found this assignment the most difficult so far. I felt I wanted to portray ‘decisive moments’. My first idea was to do something with wildlife as I was going on holiday to Costa Rica and thought I might get some action shots of wildlife doing something interesting. However, once there I found the lighting very tricky with dark jungles and sometimes dark skies or at other times very bright skies which made it hard not to get just silhouettes. I found the requirement to use shutter priority mode made it almost impossible to be quick enough to re-set the camera in these conditions so decided against this and used manual or automatic which meant I was unable to carry through on this idea. Interestingly our last speaker at the Isle of Man Photography Society (09/01/2017), Jeremy Paul who is a wildlife photographer and painter, gave a presentation on Costa Rica and also commented on the difficulty with light in the area.
I next turned to the idea of street photography. Taking photos of people is completely out of my comfort zone so I wanted to take candid shots where hopefully people wouldn’t realise what I was doing. My first attempt was in Edinburgh where I set the camera up on a tripod and sat on a monument. Behind me was St Giles cathedral. I took photos using the remote app on my Iphone so to all intents and purposes I wasn’t actually taking photos but was playing with my phone. On this day there were two types of people – those demonstrating the busyness of their lives rushing by me and then the tourists who stopped to take photos of the monument and cathedral. Even while taking the photos I felt bored and after two hours my rear end was numb from sitting on cold concrete so I gave up. On reviewing the photos that evening I didn’t feel excited by them although I think they could’ve been described in the same way as Pantall describes Graham’s work (see Notes section).
My second attempt at street photography was no better. On a grey, cold day I went to the Prom in Douglas, Isle of Man. On this occasion I tried to use a small compact camera that does still allow shutter priority mode. There weren’t many people about other than the odd dog walker, runners and cyclists. The biggest excitement on this occasion was when a dog took off from the beach and then seeing the panic on his owner’s face when he finally realised after eventually looking up from his mobile phone. While this may have been a ‘decisive moment’ others were sadly lacking so again I came home with some unimaginative photos.
Finally, my third attempt and I was pretty despairing by this time that I would get anything that was going to demonstrate ‘the decisive moment’. I initially based myself close to Marks & Spencer on a seat down a side street from the main shopping Strand. Again to start with I seemed to be getting people rushing around doing their Saturday morning shopping. I then noticed a young girl nearby using the engraved paving stones in front of me to play hop scotch and got the idea that children do seem to be more action oriented. I took a few in this area and then a photo of a man throwing a stick for his dog. Unfortunately taking this photo attracted the owner who decided to come and speak to me – this lead to him trying to convert me to his religious beliefs! As soon as I could I made the excuse to go and have some lunch. On return the gentleman in question was still hovering so I decided to try another spot and headed to the Prom – it was a lovely sunny day although chilly but there was a lot more action going on than in my previous attempt. I decided to concentrate on children – on the whole I tried not to be obvious but on occasion either the child or parent did see what I was doing – interestingly none challenged me regarding my taking photos of their child. I had made sure I had my student ID on me in case of any questions.
I did end up having an ethical discussion with a colleague at work a few days later when I mentioned the assignment to her. She questioned the fact I would be putting the photos on a public blog and was somewhat upset when I said they would be going on a University blog. She said she has deliberately chosen not to place photos of her young daughter online and felt I was ethically in the wrong for not having sought consent to do so. I did prior to putting this assignment on line check the legal aspects and read an article by Lyndsey Dobson (http://lindsaydobsonphotography.com/blog/photographing-people-and-children-in-public-places/ accessed on 12/02/2017). While the article is based on English/Welsh law generally speaking the Isle of Man tends to follow English law in many aspects and I don’t believe it would be dissimilar. I couldn’t find anything specifically relating to the Isle of Man law online.
The photos all demonstrate a moment where some kind of action is going on. I haven’t been as strict about geometry and form as Henri Cartier-Bresson and have done a minimum of cropping on the set I finally decided to submit for the assignment. I did originally have another set printed but had tightly cropped them to just include the immediate action but having read the discussion on the forum (https://discuss.oca-student.com/t/the-decisive-moment/3755 accessed on 29/01/2017) decided against that set. This final set therefore had some more interest in terms of other people in the background – some of these were watching the action. Like Henri-Cartier Bresson I opted to use black and white in order to accentuate the action.
Focal length: 96mm, 1/400, f6.3, ISO 400
As can be seen I used a relatively fast shutter speed in order to capture the action, the camera chose a slightly wide depth of field to throw the background out and I increased the ISO to 400 as the action was taking place in a shady area. The photo may have been better if the girl was facing the camera but I felt there was some interaction with the lady in the background which added interest. Unfortunately the path going through the middle has blown out and the detail lost in the paving in that area. I think to fix this I would have needed either to use the HDR facility on the camera or to have taken two exposures and merged them (probably unsuccessfully due to the movement of the child).
Focal length 105, 1/800, f7.1, ISO 800
This photo was taken in the same area as the first. In this instance the little girl who had a mask on had decided to chase the pigeons. Although I had changed the settings to up the shutter speed and ISO there was still the problem of the light horizontally through the image although some of the detail is now captured.
Moving onto the Prom – there is a little play park there which led to the next photo.
Focal length 105 mm, 1/800, f.5.6, ISO 400
As the light was brighter down on the Prom I took the ISO back down to 400 but continued with a fast shutter speed in order to capture the action. How many children haven’t tried to climb a slide rather than slide down it! This did nearly end in disaster as there was another child at the top trying to come down – I wasn’t able to capture this piece of action as the boy’s father intervened to remove his son and was in between me and the boy.
Following this I sat down on a seat at the edge of the paved area of the Prom and tried to blend in as much as possible with my camera. This was largely successful as generally the children were intent on what they were doing.
Focal length 105 mm, 1/800, f11, ISO 400
The camera for this one set an aperture of f11 which helped to keep the picture sharp as the girl on the bike was a bit further away. I have vivid memories of my first attempts to ride a bike having fallen off into the rose bushes in the centre of our garden when I realised no one was pushing me any longer!). I liked the encouragement Dad was giving this young girl.
Focal length 102mm, 1/800, f7.1, ISO 400
This little toddler was a gem – in fact there were probably several decisive moments as can be seen from the contact sheet – he initially stood facing me, contemplating whether to jump or not. I chose this one as the fast shutter speed had captured the splashes and the sense of force of him jumping in the puddle.
Focal length 105, 1/800, f.11, ISO400
Again the little girl in this photo was a bit further away. She much like the toddler had appeared to spend time deciding on whether to get what looked like brand new wellies wet – she had paused and given them a good look first.
Focal length 58, 1/800, f9, ISO400
I believe this teenager did clock me taking the images as he continued to do wheelies up to this point – my first photo of him was considerably further back. Again the fast shutter speed has captured the action.
Focal length 105mm, 1/800, f8, ISO400
In many ways this is my favourite shot as I love the expression on the skateboarder’s face as he sees the ease of the young girl on the scooter. In fact a bit like Henri Cartier-Bresson I hadn’t realised he was in the photo at the point of taking it. I had taken quite a few of him earlier skateboarding in the area where I was sitting but thought he had moved off with his parents.
As can be seen from the file info information for each image, once on the Prom I essentially left the shutter speed and ISO at the same setting. It was interesting to see how the aperture changed and this appeared to relate to my focus point and how far away the subject I was capturing was.
I enjoyed capturing the children in action and feel that overall this set of images captures the idea of ‘The Decisive Moment’ although not meeting all the standards Henri Cartier-Bresson set himself.
Printing – I don’t own a photo printer as I rent a bedroom while on island so don’t have the room for a lot of stuff so have to send my printing to the UK. I have used a particular colour lab over there for some time but it is difficult as I am unable to print my laptop to the printer and the prints (particularly in black and white) tend to come out darker than on my screen. I did up the brightness on each image this time. I actually also sent my first (cropped) set to another lab which offered free calibration – I think the print quality was better but they were twice as expensive as the first lab so when I decided to redo the set I reverted to the usual lab. However, I will bear the difference in quality in mind when preparing for assessment.