Monday, August 9, 2010

10. Moment and gesture

Finding a comfortable situation in which to capture moment and gesture was pretty easy.  The 2010 World Cup presented a golden opportunity to follow the joy and frustration of football fans as they watch the games on large screens in public areas.  4 years ago the world cup was in Germany, with Munich being one of the primary cities, holding the opening game and a semi-final among others.  It was at this event that the idea of fan zones came of age,  where very large crowds of people could gather to watch the games.  In Munich these fan zones were inevitably in the beer gardens, many of which can seat well over 5,000 people. At the last world cup I spent many happy afternoons photographing the fans, particularly during Germany games, here are a few images from the Germany Sweden game (Germany 2 - Sweden 0, in the round of 16)

The last group of girls, seemed to be there simply to pose, they were totally uninterested in the game.  They even approached me and asked if I was shooing for the local newspaper, sadly I had to say no. However, this was one of the first times I had been approached by someone whilst taking pictures, I thought I was going to be criticized, and was surprised that they were actually very happy to be photographed if there was a chance of exposure in the paper.

Four years later the beer gardens once again showed live coverage of the major games.  I headed to one of the larger ones, the Chinese Tower, in the middle of Munich's Englischer Garten.  This beer garden had a huge screen with viewing for 1-2,000 people.  The game in question was Brazil versus Holland; Munich is home to many Dutch and Brazilians so there was guaranteed to be plenty of colour and intense interest

24-70mm, 52mm, 1/125, f/4, ISO 400

24-70mm, 70mm, 1/80, f/4, ISO 400

A key advantage of this setting was that everyone was seated and very much fixated on the screen. This offered great movement, but within a very limited space.  Groups and individuals were not going to move more than a few feet from where they sit and so capturing the moment was a case of choosing a target and waiting for the action to develop.    

I had my 5D Mk II with me and was using either the 24-70mm f/2.8 or 70-200mm f/2.8 IS lenses (plus 1.4x extender).  I have photographed a few public events and have found that once I pull out one of Canon's white lenses, I am instantly viewed as somehow a professional and get access to areas I shouldn't be in.  In this case the area in question was to the side and behind the screen (closed off from the fans because of the cabling and technology), however, I was invited by security (without asking) to hop over the fence and shoot from this restricted area.

This meant that I was facing the crowd, but out of their eye line and so very much free to shoot.  The major drawback was that this pushed me a little away from the crowd meaning that a telephoto focal length would be necessary, the 70-200 was not quite long enough and so for some shots I have added the extender taking the lens to 280mm.  Another challenge was anticipating the moment, especially as I could not see the action the crowd was following.  As it turned out the ebb and flow of noise and peoples posture told me all I needed to know.  The final limitation of my position was that I was in the same plane as the fans and so whenever anything happened my view deeper into the crowd was obstructed by people at the front.

Having said all of this I had an ideal location and simply had to wait for the action to unfold.  The following photo's were all taken during the first half in which Brazil had a goal disallowed and then scored.  I could only stay for this half, so missed Hollands fight back and Brazil's defeat, however, I got the shots I needed and some very good experience in the act of anticipating the moment.  I have mixed in a few photographs, which whilst they are less to do with gesture, they have much to do with expression and the emotion of the experience.

My first photographic comment is that it was an extremely hot day, 30 plus, and many people were improvising what shade they could manage as well as drinking copious amounts of beer to keep cool.

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/1500, f/4, ISO 400

70-200mm, 98mm, 1/45, f/8, ISO 400

These two images illustrate another issue I had shooting the fans, the difference between full shade and direct sun was up to 5-6 stops.  This is why I kept the ISO at 400, to ensure that the shots taken in the shade would have a fast enough shutter speed to capture the action.  I also set the camera to partial metering to ensure that the exposure would be determined by the center of the image, knowing that I could have very light or dark parts of the frame.

Moving onto the action, the following 3 images are of the Brazil fans at the point that Brazil put the ball in the net and then the crashing realization that the referee had disallowed the goal:

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/3000, f/4, ISO 400

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/4000, f/4, ISO 400

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/3000, f/4, ISO 400

My next photo is also a gesture, but this time a gesture of the face, a knowing smile possibly laughing at Brazil's failure, although given that the Germans really hate the Dutch when it comes to football, the smile may be more rueful than joyful.  This is 1 minute after the preceding photograph.

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/250, f/4, ISO 400

This is a good example of the type of image I was hoping to create, a single figure in focus set amongst a large crowd of people.  The selective focus really draws the eye to the figure in the frame.

My next shot is a dutch supporter in the front row as Brazil break forward on the way to scoring

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 400

Brazil score, the guys in Yellow go nuts again and this time it sticks:

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/6000, f/2.8, ISO 400

The Holland fan goes back to his beer, luckily in Munich beer gardens the minimum quantity is a liter glass, so he has plenty of refreshment to work through his pain

70-200mm, 200mm, 1/500, f/2.8, ISO 400

Another Dutch fan sitting at a table with his son, says it all:

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/350, f/4, ISO 800

Someone looks for divine intervention and at this stage it did look as if Holland would need it

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/350, f/4, ISO 800

Brazil go on the attack again and you can see the tension in the face of the following fan, he is really on the edge of his seat, arms raised waiting for the release that a goal would bring:

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/3000, f/4, ISO 800

My final photographs are a sequence of 3 images taken just before half time, picking out a single Brazilian fan once more revealing the agony of being a football fan:

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/8000, f/4, ISO 800

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/8000, f/4, ISO 800

70-200mm plus 1.4X, 280mm, 1/250, f/4, ISO 800

The final photo, taken on the turn of half-time, is a precognition of the final outcome!

My conclusions; an organized location such as a football match offers great material for observing the gamut of emotion available to the human being.  It is all there on display, joy, excitement, anticipation, disappointment, misery, fatalism...  What is needed from the photographer is patience, constant appraisal of conditions and positioning and fast relfexes.  

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