Monday, 14 February 2011

Project 10: Moment and gesture

I have referred to moment and gesture a number of times already in my log of this second part of the course.  It is something I have been trying to work on, even in the early ‘experimentation’.  This post looks to bring those various bits and pieces together and explore what I’ve been able to do, and to learn, over these last few weeks.
This simple photograph was one of the first that I took ‘in the street’ and it illustrates the possibility of capturing a ‘moment’, even when taking a quick, reaction shot.  What is in the envelope?  What does her expression mean? And many other questions.
The next shot was also taken during the very first ‘shoot’.  This time it was a question of sensing an opportunity approaching, then waiting for just the right moment to press the shutter, ideally when she got as close to me as possible, but still remaining wholly in frame.  In one respect, it worked well, but it also illustrates one of the problems with quickly ‘grabbed’ shots.  There is movement and blur all over the image.  If the two women to the left, and also the expression on the face of the dog on the left, had been sharply captured, then it could have been a really interesting image.  As it is, the shot was a useful lesson in the dangers of trying to react too quickly.
The same could be said for the next on, too.  I sat for some time watching people emerging from Huddersfield Station, and waiting for interesting interactions with the statue of Harold Wilson.  This was as close as I got to someone ‘mirroring’ the stance depicted in the statue, and it might have worked if I had handled the auto-focus more carefully.  As it is, the woman is out of focus and the shot less effective.
So, one of the first lessons to learn is that capturing a fleeting moment requires patience and care, as well as the fundamental observation of the potential opportunity.  The two images that follow are the best from a sequence shot in Huddersfield, taking advantage of interesting light and shadows.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I waited for people to step into the light because they would be clearly differentiated from the background and from the other people around.  There are a few in the sequence with people ‘half-lit’, or where the shadow didn’t fall in an interesting way.
There is a stroke of luck in the first, of course, with the juxtaposition of the man’s leg and the shadow of the bollard, but the second image is what I was principally aiming for, with the man seeming to walk towards his own shadow as it is projected onto the stone ahead of him.
The next two illustrate once again the combination of observation & patience, with the need to react successfully when the right moment eventually arises.  I had seen this couple on the bench, interacting with each other in an interesting way, as the first image shows.  I waited around to see how the interaction developed, and was eventually ‘rewarded’ when they embraced each other, as seen in the second shot.  The passer-by, tactfully ignoring them and concentrating on his mobile call was an added benefit.  It’s a pity that the shot is from behind, and it is probably a bit too far away to make it a really interesting shot; but some reward for observation and patience.
The Chinese New Year celebrations presented plenty of opportunities for this type of image, of course, and the practice from these other ‘shoots’ helped me to work more effectively on getting the best images.
I have already used a picture of this group of organisers in my previous post, but it was clear they were being sent off about their business by the man on the extreme left.  As they were about to move away, one reached out and stopped his colleague by touching his arm, and my photograph has managed to capture that moment of glance and interaction between them – with the hose adding an oddly absurd touch as well.
I watched these two for some minutes, too, before getting this shot.  The guy on the left is trying to sell mobile phone services, and he has got at least a degree of interest from this ‘punter’.  They were in conversation for some time, but I noticed that the salesman would, from time to time, stare intently at the face of his potential customer, even though he was getting little or no eye contact in return.
The situation was not dissimilar with this couple.  I had spotted his first attempt to tease his girlfriend with the paper dragon, and it was only going to be a matter of time before he tried it again, so I waited, camera ready, and was rewarded with this shot.  I think one point worth noting about these last three is that previous practice had taught me not just patience and observation, but also the need to be very calm and steady when the opportunity comes.
Watching the dance performances at the New Year celebrations also offered the potential for ‘moment and gesture’ images.  This is one that I used in my previous post.  It was as close as I got to capturing the moment when this group was on stage.  Their dance involved occasional poses, but I was a few rows back in the standing audience, so getting a clear view from just the right angle as they moved around the stage was difficult.  I got the pose, but unfortunately it is partly obscured behind the heads of other onlookers.
So, in summary, capturing the moment needs planning (having the camera on the right settings to capture movement, for example), observation, patience, and then a steady hand (and head) when the moment comes.

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