Monday, 7 February 2011

Project 9: A comfortable situation

On Sunday, I was able to spend a few hours in Manchester during the celebrations for the Chinese New Year, a perfect opportunity to take photographs of people ‘unaware’, in a comfortable situation.  There were thousands of people, stalls, parades, performances, and hundreds of other people taking photographs!  Having already spent some time doing photography in less comfortable circumstances over the last few weeks, this felt fine.  Apart from simply using the opportunity to record as many people-related images as I could, I wanted to partly concentrate on taking images at telephoto lengths, with an eye on Project 11, and also look for ‘Moment & gesture’ opportunities, in line with Project 10.  So, although this post is on the topic of Project 9, other useful images emerged from the day.
In terms of process, I used the DSLR throughout, initially with an 18-200mm zoom lens, then with an 85mm prime lens, and briefly, with a 10-20mm wide angle zoom.  Reflecting first on any problems or issues – using the 85mm, to ‘step back’ took some thought and patience when the streets became very crowded.  You can see a potential image, but there will almost certainly be people in the way, so you have to either wait and wait, by which time the shot has gone, or look for different angles (or give up and move on, of course).  This is a good example.  I saw the chance for a composition incorporating the striking and colourful paper lantern.
I waited for a time whilst this group was at the stall, moving in closer for the second of these two, but having a clear view at a time when they were composed in an interesting way was proving too much of a challenge, as these two shots demonstrate.  I went round to the other side of the stall and waited for an opportunity from that direction, which resulted in this image.

It’s better than the previous two, but in low light I had the 85mm lens at F2.8 to get a reasonable shutter speed, so depth of field needed t be a choice of one or the other.  I chose the lantern as the main subject of focus, and it makes for a colourful composition, but the two figures at the stall are probably too much out of focus to make it a really interesting shot.
Using the wide angle in very crowded situations, and shooting, ‘up close and personal’ would be the alternative, and here are a couple of examples from another part of the session.

 Indifferent, and differential light was also an issue – dull overcast conditions; artificial lighting at the stalls; and stage lighting for the performances.  I’m reasonably pleased with these two, below, but adjusting the white balance afterwards to get the right colour for skin tones etc has proved a challenge, and probably still isn’t quite right.
I feel that I was able to get a good variety of images – looking away from the main show, for example and photographing those watching (and those watching the watched, in some cases).
There were the shows themselves, of course.

In some images, the people are, perhaps secondary to the overall ‘scene, but they need to be an integral part of it to make the scene work successfully, as in these.

Then there are the opportunities for ‘observational’ images, sometimes with a little ‘joke’ in them.

And, finally, here are one or two others from the day, adding to the variety.

I have interpreted the purpose of this project as getting out and taking some photographs in a comfortable situation – going for variety and observation to see what I could come up with.  It was a perfect environment to put this into practice, and I’m happy that I have learned a lot.  I have not used the compact camera or the ‘hip shot’ at all – but then that is the difference between a busy, comfortable situation where taking photographs is normal, and some of the more demanding situations that I have been working in the last few weeks.

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