Taking a lead from HCB’s comments about the role of chance and luck in the Decisive Moment and inspired to an extent by Paul Graham’s work “The Present” referred to in the course material I next want to try taking a series of images from fixed sites over a period of time, regardless of what might be happening in front of the camera, to see what crops up. This is also a way of exploring the question that I posed in my earlier post on what I think of the idea of the decisive moment (Part 3 The decisive moment – where do I stand?) about what happens before and after that moment.
I shot the first attempt at this at one end of the main shopping street in Hexham. I did not unfortunately have the opportunity this time to repeat the exercise at other locations as the weather started to change for the worse. I will though try some other places later as opportunity permits.
I tried two approaches to this: first shooting with a 50mm lens; then using a longer lens, set at 135mm to isolate just part of the scene deeper in. In both cases the camera was on a tripod, in the same position for both, and the shutter was operated automatically using an interval timer so that what was captured was not chosen consciously by me. The pictures were taken at 20 second intervals and it is striking how much each scene changed within such a relatively short time.
50mm, all at f/8, shutter varying from 1/60 to 1/80s
135mm, all at f/8, shutter varying from 1/25 to 1/30s
In addition, on the way back to the car, I took a few more shots (all at 50mm with varying shutter speeds and apertures) in a similar vein to those taken in Newcastle as discussed in the previous post.
As with the sequences shot earlier in Newcastle I think the results of this shot are a little uneven. Nevertheless there are a few I find interesting.
The sequence shot at 50mm was somewhat marred by the Big Issue seller who features too much and too large (I could hardly ask him to move!). Nevertheless there is one shot that interests me from a compositional point of view, both from the point of view of HCB’s ideas about geometry and chance:
The seller forms a strong anchor on the left (his head is cut off because I set the tripod at quite a low level, deliberately to shoot under the gaze of anyone passing close). All of the figures are then concentrated in a narrow band across the middle of the scene, pretty much in line with the sign boards, telephone box, bike racks and waste bin. The change in the road surface, from flags to cobbles, forms a strong leading line into the scene, and the flags themselves are unaccountably unoccupied creating an area of stillness in contrast to the visual busyness of the upper left half of the photo. None were deliberate, just pure chance.
Just for comparison I also had a look at this shot in black and white but feel it needs the colour, in particular the red jacket, for impact.
With regard to the Paul Graham idea, I think on reflection the interval between shots was perhaps a little too long but there is nevertheless at least some evident continuity between pictures. There one particular sequence of three that strikes me most.
f/8, 1/25s f/8, 1/30s
The lady in purple with the dog can be seen receding (or at least in the second shot her dog is just visible) but I like the way that suddenly in the second shot, the only one where this happened, the entire view is otherwise blocked out by people crossing the street.
Lastly I quite like this shot for the apparent incongruity of the man who seems disproportionately large – even allowing for perspective he towers over the other people in view. The colours are also quite striking, being strong and different from anything else in view.
The final sequence, again looking through archways is also a bit of a mixed bag. My first impression though is that I think the image has some merit.
I like there way it fits nicely in the rule of thirds (more by luck than judgment perhaps!)- there are three distinct area, top to bottom – and I like the way the strong vertical of the man is continued by the market square cross, and that the two of them link to top, dark section within the arch, to the flags in the lower half. The man also fits in a neat line of strong verticals from the edge of the notice board on the left to the lamppost and edge of the arch on the right. I also think this one works better in black and white – there is not a great deal of colour in the original but again I fear it does little more than act as a distraction. Monochrome gives a much stronger focus on the compositional elements.
I want to have one more shoot, in a few days’ time at the Northumberland County Show, to see what else I can do, and perhaps revisit some other sites in Hexham. Before I make a final selection and reflect on the assignment as a whole – and perhaps look again at my thoughts n the idea of the decisive moment – there will therefore be at least a third post on this assignment.
Unfortunately the shoot at the county show did not go well! The weather was not great which did not help – I saw couple of people using plastic bags to protect their cameras but I did not have one with me. I also did not fully anticipate how excited my wee dog (a BT) would get when confronted with the largest group of Border Terriers he has encountered until now when we went to watch the judging of the terrier classes. Fourteen month old terrier and camera, in the rain, are not an ideal combination! I therefore had to scrub this idea – but had another one for the following day, to be reported on anon.