Thursday, 28 October 2010

Initial Ideas

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm fairly useless when it comes to this blog malarkey. I'm usually too busy taking photos, or coming up with convoluted schemes for taking those photos, to actually get around to posting anything. I'll try to do better in the future and be a bit more consistent.

Well I promised Marie I'd finally post my initial ideas up, so give me a few minutes of your time and I'll explain my thought process thus far.

Most of my classmates have already picked their final themes, or are at least very close. I on the other hand, have been struggling to pin down exactly what it is I want to do. I'm sure given an unrestricted budget and an endless amount of time, I could come up with a sufficiently impressive idea. Unfortunately, I have neither! 
Although these restrictions have forced me to compromise on the complexity and scope of my theme, I'll do my best to make sure they won't compromise the quality.

If an idea's worth doing, it's worth doing well

When it comes to planning, I like to be meticulous, to be sure an idea's fully formed before I release it on an unsuspecting world. That's why it's taken me so long to actually write this post. you wouldn't believe the number of drafts sitting in my blogs memory. So, where did I start? 

Marie recommended we try and add some coherency to our nascent ideas by drawing up a mind map, that seemed as good a place as any.

 I listed as many different forms of portrait photo as I could think of, then expanded on each with at least one idea. As you can see they're very basic, but I just wanted to try and get the ball rolling. After speaking with Marie again and showing her what I'd come up with, she told me to pick two of the ideas and see if I could develop them in to something that appealed to me. Of all the things I'd written, the studio and documentary ideas sparked the most interest.

Documentary Photography

I've always been a fan of documentary and street photography. Though street photography can be just as formally arranged as any studio portrait. I think a hastily snapped clandestine photo, or impromptu blink and you'll miss it shot, will often convey far more about a persons true character, than hours spent in a studio with even the most easy going participant.
The same goes for documentary photography. How many times have you seen an amazing picture, where the photographer happens to have come across a group of refugees, or a wizened old crone with a captivating gap toothed smile? That's the sort of connection I'd want to make with the person viewing the picture.

The plan would have called for multiple shoots, over several weeks. At first, I'd have tried to take as many candid photographs of the market traders as I could. I'd have tried to capture establishing shots of them in the early hours while they were setting up their stalls, and then again throughout the day whilst dealing with customers. Before finally getting them packing up. After taking these informal shots, I'd have introduced myself to them and explained what I was doing, hopefully then, they'd have allowed me to take some of the more formal documentary style shots.

Obviously for the candid shots I wouldn't have been able to take too much equipment. People might suspect something, if I started assembling a tripod next to them and taking light readings from their face.
I'd have taken my D80 camera and all three of my 4GB memory cards, I know that sounds like overkill, but something might happen to one and you never know how many photos you're going to take! I''d have fitted my 18-135mm lens, because the extra focal length would have allowed me to remain unobtrusive. 
When it came to the more formal photos, I'd have been able to pack a little more heavily. Again, I'd have taken my D80 and all three 4GB memory cards. As far as lenses go, I'd have still taken my 18-135mm, (you never know when that extra focal length will come in handy), but I think I'd have used my 50mm lens for some of the close ups. my larger lens would be able to take similar pictures, but the 50mm is designed to be as sharp as possible at the sort of focal length I'd want. plus it has a much wider aperture available, should I need it.  To help me get the sharpest pictures possible, I'd have also taken my tripod and remote shutter release. I could probably have used the self-timer function, but the subject might have been annoyed by the wait, they're there to work after all. Lastly I'd have packed my pop-up reflector. The reflective surfaces would have allowed me to add a little extra light when needed, and the black surface would have dampened any unwanted ambient light.

Although I really like this idea, there were a couple of reasons why I eventually went with the other option. Firstly, if you read many of my other posts, you'll notice a common problem...the weather! I wasn't willing to risk failing this course, because of the vagaries of the British climate. Markets are only on twice a week, and if the gods were against me I'd have been unable to get the photos required. Secondly, in order to get the morning shots, I'd have had to get in to town incredibly early. Whilst I wouldn't have had a problem with the lack of sleep, unfortunately I wasn't going to be able to fit it in to my work schedule. 

I'm aware that's an awful lot of information for an idea I've already consigned to the dustbin, but I'm not sure how detailed these things are supposed to be. Sorry!

Studio Portraits

Everyone still with me, good! I'll try to make this as brief as possible, and even include a picture or two to relieve the monotony.

This idea has gone through a number of different iterations, but I'll start by explaining the first idea, then explain the evolution in another post. I won't go in to as much equipment detail here, as that will also be covered in the other posts.

 One of my favourite photographers has always been Brian Duffy. I love the clean and simple approach he has to many of his portraits, it's often just the subject and a plain  background (more of this in a future research post.)

Photo Duffy © Duffy Archive

Now, even with all the best will in the world, a monochrome picture against a white/black/grey background, isn't going to get me a distinction on my certificate (I appreciate I'm being ambitious, but that's what I want.) So I reasoned that I would have to try and keep the general feel of those photos, but add a twist. That twist came in the form of accent colours.  I'm not claiming this idea is original, or in hindsight even particularly interesting, but it was all I could come up with at the time. 

Achieving this look would require the extensive use of props and the careful selection of certain items of clothing. I'd initially thought to use a single colour for the accents, thereby helping to form a single unified vision. I subsequently decided to use a selection of colours, as this would make each individual picture unique, whilst still adhering to the main theme.

Although this style is relatively easy to produce with a minimal amount of post processing in photoshop. My main concern, was that when done well, this look can be extremely effective, but when done badly it can make even the best picture look cheap and tacky. In the end, I just wasn't confident that I could guarantee a sufficient quality of images.

As you can see, this was the framework of an interesting idea, but it just wasn't enough. There's definitely one element I'll keep though. I'm firmly in favour of an all studio shoot. Mainly because, unless something has gone seriously wrong (or you're the victim of some sort of biblical reckoning), it very rarely rains indoors. It also gives me complete control over every aspect of the set-up and photos.

Phew, we made it. Well done!

I'm afraid there's much more to come, but you go get some rest for now. I'll try to keep the next post under a thousand words. No promises though.

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