Friday, August 27, 2010

Assignment 2: Submission

Assignment 2 brought a very different challenge to that of the first assignment, both technically and compositionally.  From the very start of the People and Place course I had identified the annual Christopher Street Parade as a likely subject for Assignment 2, the colour and energy of this event shouted out to be photographed.  However, unlike the first assignment in which I could plan and choreograph each shot, a parade was a moving target in which the participants have no compulsion to work with me.  Having said that, the average transvestite (if such a person exists) is more than happy to pose for the camera and in fact the bigger challenge is to get shots that are not posed. 
The other key difference was time, the parade would last around 4 hours, during which I would have to complete 10 photographs that meet the standards of the course and illustrate the event in a meaningful way.  I did my homework, identifying the route and went along quite early to stake out a location with good sight lines.  The parade also look a long loop around Munich city centre using the inner ring road and I knew that I would be able to catch the parade in roughly 3 different locations, by running across the centre of the city and intercepting the parade once again as it came the longer way around the circle.
I decided to give my new APS-C Canon EOD 7D a work out, rather than use my very familiar 5D full frame camera.  My rationale was that I would be shooting from a distance and the extra reach provided by the smaller sensor equipped camera would help.  This was a mistake as I was not used to the tolerance of the auto-focus system or the cameras noise handling, both of which were very different to the 5D and as a result my keeper rate was lower than I wanted.  I opted to travel light and simply carried two versatile zoom lenses an EF-S 15-85mm f/3.5-f/5.6 IS and an EF 70-200mm f/4.  As I would need to maintain a high shutter speed with moving subjects IS on the longer lens would be unnecessary.  A couple of times a flash gun would have been useful for fill, but I do not like blinding people without first asking them politely first if I can!  Again in retrospect using f/2.8 zooms might have yielded better image quality, but at the price of a much heavier kit.
My plan was to work the parade as a street photography exercise, looking for colour and action, including the occasional candid portrait.  The brief asked for images that explain the activity and for telling moments, I will explain how I feel the images I have selected meet these needs in the notes accompanying each photograph.  I also have one or two images, portraits, that fall a little between the two requirements.
The day was very warm, around 25-28 degrees, but overcast with occasional sun resulting in very varying shooting conditions, any shots including the sky blew out and I was forced to reject some good moments as too much white invaded the frame.  Another aspect of the parade that I had not anticipated was that it was very participatory, anyone could join in and march, including photographers, thus I was able to get much closer than I had expected.  This enabled me to capture images at a wide range of focal lengths, but never wider than 35mm (56mm on FF), my style is more stand off than in and close.

Photograph 1 – “Dykes on Bikes”
70-200mm, 149mm, f/4, 1/350s, ISO 100
Explaining the Event

Leading the parade was a group self-titled “Dykes on Bikes” a lesbian (and gay) motorcycle club, led by a leather bikini clad rider on a colossal Harley.  This photograph was one of the few that I could take from a distance without people intervening.  The photograph illustrates an element of the parade, but at the same time captures a moment of sheer joy at being there, the second biker in the left hand column is clearly having fun.  This photograph also shows the diversity of the parade.  Whilst there were transvestites and black leather and studs groups, the bikers are representative of the normality of a gay lifestyle. 

Photograph 2 – Guys
15-85mm, 85mm, f/5.6, 1/90s, ISO 100
Explaining the Event

This photograph captures the excitement of the parade, the music volume in this shot was deafening and the whole crowd was moving in time.  Compositionally the frame within a frame brings focus to the 6 guys in the truck, but the red hands in the foreground draw attention to the interactions within the parade.  I also wanted to show the juxtaposition of the outrageous parade with the formal conservative architecture in the background.  Focus is a little off as the shutter speed was too low for a moving image, I should have increased the ISO, however, I do not think this distracts too much from the image.

Photograph 3 – Bored
15-85mm, 85mm, f/5.6, 1/90s, ISO 100
A Moment

These guys simply looked bored with the whole thing, perhaps the effect of a long hot day and a few beers; it was time to ratchet down the energy a little.  The feathers of the right hand figure convey the colour of the parade, but contrast strongly with the very neutral, almost disapproving stare behind the pink glasses.  This image contrasts very strongly with the energy of the second photograph, capturing a quiet moment.

Photograph 4 – Aztec and Devil
15-85mm, 35mm, f/4, 1/125s, ISO 100
A Moment

This is a “moment”, the black clad Aztec looks lovingly at his diabolic partner, their hands entwined around their whip. The costumes are outlandish, the chains suspicious, but the look is the photograph.  Paint the same expressions on a conventional male/female couple and we would see this very differently, but it is the same.

Photograph 5 – Looking at you
70-200mm, 104mm, f/4, 1/350s, ISO 100
A Moment

From this angle can we be sure, male female?  However, the look of disapproval on the lady in the background clearly indicates that all is not as it might be.  When he turned around it became quite clear, that was a very tight bikini!  The transvestite is in mid-step and very clearly posing, we cannot see his face, so all facial information is provided by the slightly out of focus observer in the back ground.  Facial expression is very important in how we interpret people.

Photograph 6 – sau
70-200mm, 200mm, f/4, 1/250s, ISO 100
A Moment

By far my favourite photograph in the submission, it captures the spirit of the parades participants as well as a couple of extra threads.  The almost trance like look on the subjects face combines with the relaxed expressions of the spectators, creating a positive image, however, the letters in the background, spell out SAU, the German word for a female pig, perhaps a sentiment of the more conservative Munich residents who oppose the march. 
These are the also the first three letters in the shop sign sauter, Munich’s largest professional camera dealer and where much of my salary ends up, partly why I was in this location to shoot.  Compositionally I cannot decide whether it would be better to have more separation between foreground and background or whether the overlap between the subject and the guys in the background helps to emphasize the fact that this is a parade.  I also cut off the arm just below the elbow, a cardinal sin, but one I think I got away with here.

Photograph 7 – Attitude
70-200mm, 70mm, f/4, 1/500s, ISO 100
A Moment/Explaining the Event

This is the first of two portraits.  This guy is an image of contrasts, the chain and razor blade necklace combines with the combat pants, but the feathers and the fan – interesting juxtaposition.  He stopped right opposite me scowled and then slowly tilted his head as I shot several frames, creating a threatening stance and expression, but diffused by the spray of blue and pink feathers.  A quick smile and then he carried on.  This image is a moment, but one in which subject and camera briefly conflicted.  The union jack T-shirt in the background echoes the spray of feathers.

Photograph 8 – Orange
70-200, 200mm, f/4, 1/350s, ISO 100
A Moment/Explaining the Event

The second portrait is more of an explanation than a moment.  He was one of several bald headed guys painted from head to foot in bright yellow and orange.  He stopped and looked at me, but very briefly, there was only the chance for a couple of shots.  The head and shoulders framing makes for a very conventional portrait, but reflecting in his sun glasses can be seen the parade. The photograph also maintains good colour balance between the green and the orange. The beer bottle he is holding provides some dynamic balance.

Photograph 9 – Less than Angelic
70-200, 70mm, f/4, 1/1500s, ISO 100
Explaining the Event

This is an odd juxtaposition between this incredibly muscled macho man and his feathery wings, perhaps symbolic of the softer side of male personality.  Eye contact might of helped, although the reflective sun glasses would have hidden the eyes, in fact I like the fact that his head is bowed reading the leaflet in his hands, makes the shot more active rather than a simple portrait.

Photograph 10 – Preacher
70-200, 200mm, f/4, 1/750s, ISO 100
A Moment

I am still puzzling over this guy; he more or less led the parade railing away at everyone.  I cannot decide whether he was deeply religious and protesting at the life styles being celebrated or whether he was an exercise in irony and part of the gay community.  Nevertheless he added much colour to the event, the cross and cow bell round his neck, the rather strange Jesus T-shirt and the stuffed animals all combine to ask questions about what he is trying to say.

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