For this project research and prepare in advance for an organised event at which there will be plenty of people and in which I can confidently expect to be able to photograph freely and with variety.
I originally took the above brief at face value and when I visited the Thames Festival I took a great variety of shots – literally hundreds. However, when I came to make my selection and re-read the brief, in the context of its preceding paragraph about structured situations, I decided to try and tell the story of just one of the events within the festival, a performance at one of the stages, rather than the whole of the festival. Should I get feedback that this is not the right way to go, then I have plenty of suitable images to re-present this project.
In my opening image I’m simply trying to set the wider context of the stage, the audience and even the fact that it’s raining at this outdoor festival. The signage on the stage provides information as to what the event is and the boy on his father’s shoulders provides foreground interest. The ‘tooing and froing’ within the crowd and their relative lack of engagement with what’s going on reflect the fact that the festival is at its early stages and neither it nor they have really got going.
Moving in to provide details of the saxophone player within the band provides more information about the event. He knows that I am photographing him and this can be seen within his eyes. The image also says something about the performance, maybe he’s nervous or maybe a daytime gig in front of an itinerant crowd isn’t firing up his enthusiasm! I considered simplifying the background in Photoshop but decided these details were important to understanding the ‘place’.
It’s stopped raining and the crowd has become bigger and more engaged. I’ve used a long lens to add to the feeling of a tightly packed crowd and to draw attention to the reaction of one particular spectator whilst providing the context of those around her.
The rain is back but the crowd are generally good humoured. I managed to get right up to the edge of the stage to look back at the audience for this image. Given the fairly random nature of people’s positions and expressions at any one point in time, I’ve done my best to carve an interesting moment out. Hopefully the framing works reasonably well although in this situation it’s inevitable that people around the margins of the image are going to be cut off.
The concert and festival attracted interesting characters who were clearly passionate about their music and image. This first gentleman was one of a pair of music aficionado’s who would dance along in their own inimitable fashion to the amusement of onlookers. In this instance, I turned round from shooting the performers on stage to catch this gentleman – hence the very high ISO, (it was a grab shot and I didn’t remember to change it). As I was also in shutter priority mode, for the stage shots, this made the background depth of field rather sharper than I would have wished.
The final image in this series is another portrait of one of the enthusiasts, (this time a dancer I think), in the audience. This man’s shirt, hair and tattoos all seem very characterful and out of the ordinary . I saw a number of interesting characters during the day and so it seemed appropriate to include one in this series – they were characteristic of the event.
Overall, this particular assignment generated a lot of learning points. Some that stood out were:
- anticipation – what’s going to happen next, where’s the best place and viewpoint?
- having the right lens at the right time – for the first time I wished I had been carrying two camera bodies
- taking lots of images – I didn’t use the motor drive but when reviewing my ‘contacts’ there were many ‘just nearly’ images where a short sequence of shots could have caught the critical expression
- organise/simplify the content of the image through framing, focal length and depth of field
- look for what stands out – the unusual, the colourful etc etc
- storyboard the event in advance so that I know the narrative that I am working towards and how much of it I have covered as I shoot.