Exercise: A public space

BoudKat4

For this exercise I also shot a busy area of Kathmandu. I selected a TLR medium format camera as I had such success using this for the earlier “standard focal length” exercise in this module. I find a TLR camera with a waist level viewfinder affords a certain subtlety and stealth when shooting people in public places. It is unobtrusive, people can recognise it and if they do it is often a topic of discussion since these cameras are rarely seen these days. I asked a couple of people for portraits and for the rest I shot subtly and on the move. I chose to walk around Boudhanath stupa an important pilgrimage site for Tibetan Buddhists. It was extremely crowded but I could sense some order in the activity, there being layers of different types of people walking around the stupa – tourists, pilgrims, police, street vendors, shop owners and beggars. To help convey the colour and activity I chose medium format Velvia, a slide film known for its vivid colours and exceptional level of detail particularly in 120mm.

BoudKat1

The above shot was taken on the move – unfortunately the TLR camera I was using is prone to light leaks and double exposures. The band of overexposed film on the right is a double exposure from not advancing the film far enough due to a faulty film counter. However I still love the colour and composition, and with the other shots in this small series conveys something of the varied activity going on at the location.

BoudKat3

This shot was taken slightly later as is noticeable from the changing light in the frame. I also observed the location served as a meeting spot for local people, or just a place for individuals to sit in quiet contemplation. Though it is crowded with people and nearly always busy, it is a reminder of the spiritual nature of the location for many people.

BoudKat2

For the last shot, I asked permission from an old lady sat just beneath the stupa in shadow. I surmised that she may have been a pilgrim as is evident from her clothes and religious beads in hand. I noticed that she too was sat alone and looked quite sad in her contemplation. Once I had taken the shot she did gesture and try to talk to me but unfortunately the language barrier prevented me from finding out more about her. The TLR camera here cropped for me due to the film counter problems, but I actually like how it is cropped so let’s call it a happy accident!

Boudhanath is an extremely crowded and often stressful place, but this exercise enabled me to notice the people away from the tourists and internet cafes, and my images show the diversity of people present there everyday. I hope that this activity continues after the devastating earthquake last month, as it is an important place not just for pilgrims but also for the local people in Kathmandu.

Exercise: A public space

Exercise: An organised event

Rx100014

For this exercise I shot a Nepali wedding procession on a Kathmandu street. Whilst this was clearly an organised event – a procession complete with band and processional car for the bride and groom – it drew a lot of spectators so photographing it was extremely difficult. Before shooting I tried to pinpoint the most prominent players in the scene, that was the family, bride and band. The above image (from what I understood) was the father.

Rx100020

The image of the bride above was a difficult one to capture due to the attention she received from spectators. I shot from a variety of angles with my 35mm camera with a 35mm lens until I settled on this shot.

Rx100023

Things moved surprisingly fast on the busy street and before I knew it the procession was ready to move on once the bride had taken her seat back in the car. Spectators on the street were getting mixed up with those in the procession making it difficult to distinguish who was who.

Rx100028

The shot above was captured just before the procession moved on. I thought the red jackets of the band really made them stand out in the busy, colourful street, and whilst the procession stopped the band laughed and joked with one another, intermittently playing tunes at random, not sure whether they were required to continue playing or not. This moment encapsulated the entire sequence of events for me, confusion, colour, an overload of people and sound. My choice of a 35mm lens with 35mm colour film I thought was correct, though in such a scene in future I would have preferred to have a variety of focal lengths to choose from. A high quality zoom lens (18-50 or 18-75mm) I feel would have been the perfect gear for the scene.

Exercise: An organised event

Exercise: Standard focal length

Portra-6

For this exercise I selected my Rolleiflex camera for some street photography and walked around a busy Seoul market. I had to do this exercise before the tele and wide angle exercises to wait to borrow a long lens and wide lens (as I lack both).

Portra-5

The Rolleiflex has a 75mm F3.5 Schneider lens, but this in 35mm equivalent is somewhere between 40-50mm due to the 6x6cm medium format negative. The Rolleiflex is a fantastic camera for street shooting and is made to feel all the more discreet by its waist level viewfinder. To most people I’m sure it would look like you are merely fiddling with a box.

Portra-8

Gear aside, the standard focal length with 12 shots per roll and quite a slow lens really forces you to slow down and observe the scene. Like the last exercise I usually stand around and wait for significant moments to emerge, and a busy market place is perfect for finding these moments.

Portra

The standard focal length is also perfect as it is neither too wide nor too close – perfect for capturing small groups of people interacting, or for portraits of single subjects. I can imagine a wide angle lens in a market would be very difficult as it would perhaps capture too much whilst a telephoto lens would capture too little. The photos in this article were all from the same roll of Portra I shot in Dongmyo.

Portra-7

Portra-2

Portra-3

I look forward to the next two exercises and am already thinking about locations that would work with a longer focal length and a wider angle frame. As I rarely shoot beyond 35-50mm focal lengths I am anticipating a steep learning curve!

Exercise: Standard focal length

Exercise: Capturing the Moment

SewolProtest6

I set out to complete this exercise knowing that there would be a lot of activity in the location I had selected. The location was Gwanghwamun Plaza in central Seoul, a traditional centre of protest and anti-government activity as it is located close to the Korean president’s residence and to many government buildings and foreign embassies. The Plaza is currently dominated by activists protesting against what they see as their government’s inept and corrupt handling of the Sewol disaster in April 2014, where a ferry sank off the south coast of Korea causing the deaths of over 300 people including hundreds of school children from the same school. The activists include many parents of the student victims of the disaster, and on the day I decided to head down a group of the parents had decided to undertake a demonstration.

With the nature of the exercise in mind, I looked around for moments that told me something about the people around me, and this didn’t necessarily have to include the protesters in the Plaza. As I walked towards the centre of activity I noticed there were many people about and a few couples walking in the same direction. I had a couple of successful results in capturing revealing gestures, in these two examples the couples embrace or hold hands.

SewolProtest3

I decided to add these to this exercise as I felt these two images provide a stark contrast to the seriousness of the activities in the Plaza and add a bit of context to the city surrounds. Although perhaps “safe” gestures and commonly seen by all of us on a daily basis,  I feel this is a useful demonstration of the “decisive” moment.

SewolProtest4

When I arrived at the Plaza I was immediately struck by the white boiler suits the protesters had chosen to wear, and this immediately made them stand out from the crowd. The Plaza was very chaotic when I arrived, but eventually the bystanders were asked to make room for the protesters and I finally saw the moment to begin shooting.

SewolProtest2

The protesters then proceeded to begin bowing whilst a drum beat, possibly due to their buddhist or other religious heritage, and I suddenly saw many “moments” I could capture. It was finding the moment with the strongest composition, and which told the story of the scene the best that I had to wait for. I worked the scene from a variety of angles and with different timings and finished my roll of film very quickly! The contact sheet of the negatives below shows the process I went through to find the right moment. The image below is what I selected as the defining moment of the protest.

SewolProtest1

Despite what the two previous images seem to say about the scene, it was in fact quite a chaotic location and there were a lot of people mixing with the participants of the protest before and after. I aimed to capture this chaos and waited for the right moment that demonstrated the emotionally charged nature of the event.

SewolProtest5

This was a very difficult location and event to shoot, and I felt it was a great activity to fulfil the objectives of the set exercise. I feel I was successful in capturing the moments that tell the story of the scene, and it also showed me the value of working over a scene and looking for moments from different angles and experimenting with settings to find the final image. The contact sheet below shows my progression throughout the day, and how I ended up with the final series of images.

SewolProtest7

Exercise: Capturing the Moment

Module 2: Developing confidence

For the preliminary exercise, I went down to a local market place near my home here in Korea. It is a bustling place full of activity, and interesting sights and sounds. As a foreigner in Korea you are usually quite conspicuous especially with a camera. However most people at the market are usually very friendly and happy to be in your photos if you ask nicely for a portrait. I took down a 35mm camera and shot a roll of high speed black and white film. I’ve included the original contact sheet and picked out a couple of favourites from the roll.

D-089

Looking at the sheet I can see how I worked some scenes, and though I was quite happy with some of the moments I captured, I wasn’t overly pleased with the finished photos. I walked around the market with my friend Lisa and we found some interesting spots with interesting light and shadow contrast, and I caught a couple of nice portraits I was happy with. The first portrait below in particular captures the friendly and open personality of the old market ladies. As I practice street photography quite regularly, I am already confident with my camera in public places, but as mentioned in places like the local market I do feel somewhat self conscious at times and it can affect my shooting.

dongbu Market 2

Dongbu3

dongbu Market

So a good first exercise as a warm up for Part 2 of the course, and I am looking forward to the next exercise. I learned that despite my seeming confidence with street photography, I can still feel self conscious photographing strangers!

Module 2: Developing confidence