Sunday, 11 October 2015

Just a minute....

A lot of people suggest that only in a free society can art truly flourish. While there is no doubt some truth in that, freedom can also be hurdle for trying to create great art.

For example if I asked someone to take a photo of anything, the chances are that the  the huge variety of options would results in an inability to narrow down the available choices to the best shot. It is almost when provided with a free choice, the brain shuts down due to the large number of choices, a bit like a child given free range in a sweet shop.

However if I asked someone to take a picture of say a particular tree, then they could spend ages analyzing the best angle, when the best light would be and different ways of taking the image. By narrowing the options down, it allows you to concentrate on achieving the best possible image.

One such situation is the annual MPS themed competition where you are asked to take images based on a single word. This time it was glass, and I've had a year to try and think of suitable images.

I have to admit not all my ideas proved feasible or even came off as I hoped, but the ones that were meant that I could spend a lot of time trying to get the best possible image.

However yesterday I had an even narrower brief. The website, Kujaja held a project called one minute on Earth. The idea was for photographers around the worldto take a picture at the same time  i.e 10th of October 10:10 a.m and upload them to create a photo book.

I decided to have a go, so I duly went of to my local town, half an hour before the appointed time, to find possible locations.

You quickly realize that this is not as easy as it sounds. First you have to find a spot that is

a) great photographically
b) something to photograph will be there at the specific time.

You also quickly realize that 60 seconds is not a lot of time  to take a photo, and you will only have two or three shots.

In truth it is essential in these sort of situations to have local knowledge since you do not have much time to find possible locations.
As it was, I not sure I got the image I wanted, but the strictures put in made me me think a lot about photographing ordinary daily life.

I also learned a lot taking part, namely
  1.  The best places are those with people in static situations such as cafes's. I feel it should be about the story of what people are doing at that particular point in their lives.Landscape and buildings while important change little through the year, so do little to define a period of time.
  2.  Find a spot and setup 10 minutes before. Do not doubt yourself and try and second guess at the last minute. 
  3. Choose the position for photographic reasons as much as who and what is around e.g. The lighting, angles, etc.
  4. Talk to people around you about the project so that they won't be surprised when you whip out your camera at the appointed time.
  5. It would bea  great opportunity to get a group of photographers together to cover different areas and situations. After all you cannot be in two places at once.
One thing I did do right however was my choice of lens. In 60 seconds you cannot faff about changing lens, so what you have at the start is what you are stuck with(unless you are lucky enough to own multiple bodies).

I could of gone with my 50mm prime, but I felt the photo needed the context so I could not frame people two close and the background needed as much as possible be in focus.

I could of gone with my 28 - 210mm, but in the end  I went with 18-24mm to show as much as the surroundings as possible. While there would be some distortion at the wide, I thought that it would meet the brief best. In the end I think that was the right choice.

This sort of exercise is great practice for those high pressure situations where you get one opportunity for a shot (parties, weddings, sports events) and well worth practicing. While initially I wasn't happy with the shots and felt I could have done better, in the end it came out better than I thought.
10th October 10:10 a.m

Update 16/10/2015

I lately realized that I made a mistake with the one minute photo. Unfortunately I had not read the brief carefully enough and now realise they were looking for outdoor shots that showed the state of the sky and weather around the globe. If I had realised this at the time I would probably take another shot. As it was I am not the only one to get this wrong, and to be honest I prefer my approach. Landscapes are nice, but peoples life's are the greater quantum and I think it is more important to record. As it is, I can probably justify it due to the windows in shot, however there is a lesson to more carefully read the brief in these situation.

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