Snapping photographs or making images?

A friend of mine said a few days ago that he was just a snapper and liked taking snaps. This got me thinking about what photographic challenges I would like to set for 2014. Photography should be more than taking snaps because we want our images to say something meaningful, whether that be to express a feeling or to promote an issue we feel strongly about.

In this regard we don’t take photographs but rather we make images.  My last blog contained twelve images, one taken in each month during 2013.  I now question whether some of them were snaps or images which I made!  From those twelve images I have selected just one which I want to talk through.  By doing this we learn from our decisions. How did I make the image, what choices did I make and why?  Lastly what was I wanting the image to portray?  Here is the selected image:

Dundonald Banner Parade

The image was taken at a banner parade in Dundonald last August, I used a Fujifilm X Pro 1 camera fitted with a 35mm lens.  To make the image I moved in quite close and my objective was to use a narrow depth of field, in this case f4.  I wanted the background to be out of focus, yet to be sufficiently discernible to show the context of the image.  The near rim of the drum is in focus, while the far rim is out of focus.  I actually focused on the side of the man’s face.  The light of the drum shell is reflecting light on the man’s face making the image stronger.  These factors were all considered in just a few seconds before dialling in the camera settings and releasing the camera shutter.

Could I have taken it better?  Probably, the second drummer is too much in focus relatively speaking.  I don’t like the lamp post in the background and I could easily take it out in Lightroom or Photoshop, but I have left it in.  The image is a documentary image and it is un-cropped, it is exactly how I framed it even to the point of chopping off the top of the man’s head.  As a documentary image it works very well as a monochrome, better than in colour as colour can be distracting.  For comparison a monochrome version is below.  The composition is tight and stops the eye wandering out of the frame.

Dundonald Banner Parade

Lastly what was I trying to achieve?  The lambeg drum is a potent symbol of Ulster unionist culture, the man’s stern expression complements the message portrayed by the image and for these reasons I think it works.  I took many images of the banner parade that day and most of them did not work in the way this one does!

The challenge for 2014 is therefore to make more powerful images that convey something meaningful.

 

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission

 

A country Orange parade

This is the first Orange parade that I have photographed this year.  The annual Mini Twelfth in the small town of Saintfield in Count Down provides a very different setting compared to that found in Belfast.  Signs of protest, aggravation and alcohol abuse are totally absent and a family atmosphere prevails.  Instead of using my usual DSLR gear I used the simple Fujifilm X Pro 1 which is light and easy to carry, its also not as obvious enabling me to move freely around and be relatively unnoticed.

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In moving around I am looking for scenes that are typical of such events, people standing chatting waiting for the parade to get under way, children holding the banner strings and Lambeg Drums which are a particular feature of country parades, notice the man standing studying the drum beat and rhythm.

None of the images are cropped, they are as they came out of the camera and hopefully they are a faithful documentary record of the events at the assembly field.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

Reenactment and Orange Arch opening in Dromore Co Down

In the small Co Down town of Dromore I covered the anniversary reenactment of Sir Edward Carson’s visit to the town one hundred years ago.  Photographing such events are always fun but the main task is to simplify the scenes as you see them through the viewfinder, either by careful cropping or selected use of focus and when there are Scottish dancers performing you really do need to take lots of exposures to be sure to capture the right moments.  The following are a few examples of what I mean:

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It is always useful to show a couple of context shots showing a wider view of proceedings, so here they are:

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All images shown are full frame and have not been cropped in post production.  There is a huge debate among documentary photographers as to whether or not images should be cropped.  For myself I don’t see a problem provided cropping does not mislead the viewer as to what happened.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley.  Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

 

The Burning of Lundy

Today I attended the Burning of Lundy in Londonderry, I had never been to see this annual event before so I was keen to see what photographic opportunities would present themselves.  Late afternoon sunshine brought out the colours beautifully when I photographed Lambeg Drummers, in the background Lundy awaits his fate.

I had to wait until almost 5pm before Lundy was lit, by this time the light is fading fast and a flash unit is useful to balance against the ambient light.  The following are some of the images I was happy with.

This is my initial sift of images with many more left to edit.  I am now looking forward to next year!  Other images available from http://ulsterphotography.co.uk/LundyDay/

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley.  Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

The Photographic Frame

Having returned from abroad we are now getting back to Ulster Photography and to what this blog is about.  In this issue I want to consider the image frame.  All images are created in a spatial context, the camera frame, which is two dimensional.  The image framed may remain unchanged or it may be cropped to make the image more pleasing to the eye.

It is always best to compose the image in the frame and to make full use of the negative or processor size so that maximum resolution is retained.  So when raising the camera to the eye careful attention should be given to the edges of the frame and to what is and what is not included.  In this case I cropped out a narrow strip on the right hand side of the frame to exclude a motorcar!

Having some knowledge of design does help; making use of lines within the frame, or by making use of juxtaposition can greatly add to the impact of the image.  The Rule of Thirds is followed by most photographers, but like all rules they can be broken.  I am reminded of the quotation that ‘rules are for fools and the guidance of wise men’, or women! 

So here is my chosen photograph!

Ulster Covenant 100th Anniversary Parade, Wellington Place, Belfast

This photograph is a re-enactment of Sir Edward Carson, later to become Lord Carson, processing from the Ulster Hall to the City Hall to sign the Ulster Covenant in 1912.  In taking this image I was drawn to a number of features.  Firstly the two parallel ranks of men which frame the edges of the photograph and secondly the Sir Edward Carson look alike in the centre and immediately above him the statue of Dr Henry Cooke (1788-1868) – the Black Man, which stands just in front of Inst in College Square East, a clergyman who became involved in politics.

The lines in the image create a triangle and there is symmetry within the frame.  The juxtaposition of the statue with the Carson lookalike and more importantly the juxtaposition of political concepts between the politics of the two figures work well in this image.  These factors combined make this image a keeper in my view.

As always your comments are welcome.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley.  Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Editing Photographs

This past few days I have been very busy covering the Ulster Covenant centenary events in Northern Ireland.  Last Wednesday with a colleague I covered a concert in the Ulster Hall, which was the subject of my previous blog, on Friday I covered a lecture given by Lord Professor Bew in Bangor Abbey and on Saturday I attended the huge procession, which made its way to the Stormont Estate in east Belfast.

I ended up with a huge number of images, on Saturday alone over 1300 raw image files, presenting me with a large editing task.  So how do you cope with editing hundreds and hundreds of images down to a manageable number?

Fortunately programs like Lightroom make the task so much easier.  The first task was to add the metadata information to the images and luckily this just takes a few minutes.  Once this is done the real editing can begin.  On a first sweep any images that are clearly out of focus are immediately deleted.  Then back to the beginning for the second sweep.  Any images that strike me in any way as possible keepers are flagged.

Flagged images are those images which strike me, for example, as having a particular colour saturation that I like, a certain coming together of lines in the composition of the image, a recognisable landmark or feature, a known personality, an amusing depiction or anything else that strikes me.  These images are given a higher rating and its back to the beginning again.

On each sweep the numbers of images reduce and so on this next sweep any images that appear similar are removed and hopefully at this stage a manageable number of images are left.  Here are some of the images that were selected.

William Crawley, Dr John Bew and Lord Professor Paul Bew at Bangor Abbey

At Bangor Abbey I just took around eight or nine images and this was the one I picked so this is straight forward.  However at Stormont Estate on the following Saturday I took 1310 photographs.  By following the steps I described above I reduce this number under 50 which were submitted to the parade organisers.  

Before the parade arrived there were shots to be had, spectators arriving and programme sellers.

Arriving early!

 

The Programme Sellors

There was entertainment for the waiting spectators, here Scottish country dancers perform.

Scottish Country Dancing

At one o’clock the head of the parade arrived and soon reached the top of the processional avenue just below Sir Edward’s Carson’s statue.

The Grand Master is in the centre between the two flags.

It is difficult to imagine the scale of the crowd present.  At the end of the proceedings as the parade left at 4.30pm the end of the parade was still arriving from Belfast.  The following image taken from the platform gives you some idea.  In the distance you will see the parade still entering the gates at the bottom of the processional avenue.

Police were estimating that between 60,000 to 65,000 attended.

This image was taken with a 70-200mm lens set at 70mm, a wider angle lens would have given a wider view, you will notice that the left hand side of the view is excluded.  However I wanted to use a longer lens that would close up the distance so that you could see clearly to the bottom of the avenue.

Two members of the Northern Ireland Assembly carry the banner!

All images were taken on a full frame DSLR camera and are un-cropped, they appear as they were taken in the camera.  

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley.  Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Fill the Frame!

To my mind photographs that fill the frame have more impact!  Because the wider context is not shown the viewer is compelled to ask questions, such as where is this and what is going on?  The famous documentary photographer, Robert Cappa, once said “… if your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough”.

With this advice in mind here are a couple of images I took recently!

Choice of lens or using your feet to get in closer is the answer!

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

What makes a photograph work?

What is the difference between a photograph and a snap?  What exactly is the photographer looking for when wandering through a crowd when there are images all around you waiting to be taken?

The French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase – “The decisive moment” which he described as the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as the precise organization of forms which gives that event its proper expression.”  I think the photograph below captures this decisive moment – what was the joke that was obviously shared and what role did the second person in the scene play?

This photograph was not posed, it just happened, yet it contains strong lines.  The position of the two heads aligning with the diagonal of the cross gives the image an added strength.  The banner in the image and the people in the background provide a clue about the context in which the images was taken – a 12th July Orange parade, in this case it was in Ballynahinch County Down.

A moment in time – Ballynahinch County Down

In this image it is both the decisive moment and the strong diagonal line that gives the image its strength.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Marking the Ulster Covenant

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Solome League and Covenant and many events have been planned across Northern Ireland, which will culminate with a major festival in the grounds of Stormont Estate planned for the end of September, to mark this significant centenary.

At the end of June a colourful parade took place in Portadown, when the granddaughter and great grandsone of Lord Craigavon unveiled a commerative memorial in the town centre.  The following pictures tell the story.

The Colour Party assemble in front of St Mark’s Parish Church

The Obelisk to the left awaits its unveiling

The Colour Party and Standards are now assembled

The Granddaughter and Great Grandson of Lord Craigavon

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley. Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.

Providing the wider context!

In my last blog I talked about excluding elements from the photograph as a means of forcing the viewer to want to find out more.  The photograph I used was tightly composed to exclude other details and following my last blog I was asked for more information about the image used and what brought it about.

In this blog I have provided the wider context by including other details in the image and by providing other images from the same shoot.  The first image below was taken just before the image I used in my last blog and immediately much more information is included in the shot.  See below:

Ulster Covenant Anniversary Parade in Banbridge, Co Down, Saturday 30th June 2012

Another way to provide context is to use more than one photograph so that various elements of the occasion are covered.  In this case the head of the parade leading off and the final image of an exhibition in the local hall and a symbolic resigning of the Ulster Covenant.

The parade sets off

Exhibition in the local Orange Hall following the parade.

A useful way to tell a story is to use the picture essay technique, if you found this helpful please do let me know.

All images contained on this website remain the property of Roger Bradley.  Images may not be downloaded, reproduced, copied, projected, or used in any way without express written permission.