Art of Photography

Rob Townsend


Assignment 5: tutor feedback

Got my feedback report on my last AOP assignment today and it’s mostly good!

Following is the ‘Overall comments’ paragraph:

“I am glad you enjoyed this assignment and you are quite right to be proud of your finished picture story. The previous assignments lay the foundation of knowledge for you to be able to produce work such as you have presented here. As it stands the assignment is perfectly fine but I pointed out below a few areas where you might consider either slight edits to individual images or changes in the edit. You are 90% of the way there already, I have just recommended some final tweaks to give the story a finished and professional feel.”

The comments can be summarised as follows – and the reworked images and updated layout can be found here:

  • Use of same image for cover (cropped) and inside spread (full) – added nothing
    • Now changed for another image (giant coffee cup head)
  • Image 2 had a spot of sunlight leaking in from the top, bit distracting
    • Rather than crop this out – as that would break up the semi-circular arch that acts as an internal frame, which to me is an important element in the image – I tried instead to tweak the image with a selective brush of highlight / exposure value reduction, to blend in with the surrounding blue sky
  • Tighter crop needed on photo 6 (Acrobat) to make this a more effective portrait – too much space around in original
    • Cropped in updated version
  • General suggestion to try different layouts – mix of portrait and landscape format, number of images per page / per double-page spread
    • I confess I’m not minded to try many more different layouts, as I put quite a lot of work, and rework, into the submitted layout – and to some degree it’s subjective and you have to settle on something!
    • The tutor did advise summarising my editing workflow and thought process in a blog post – I did this to a limited degree in an earlier preparation post so I’ve gone back and enhanced that rather than starting a new post on the same subject
  • I was horrified to see that my tutor found a few typos! I pride myself on good writing skills, so must have had an off day when I wrote up the assignment ;-)


Assignment 5: reworked images

Based on tutor feedback I have reworked two of the images, and replaced a third. The revised magazine layout is below in slideshow format and linked as PDF version (new browser window/tab). The downloadable zip file has been updated accordingly. Before submission time I will do a refreshed version of the whole post, with the reworked images and layout included, with links to the original and this explanation of the rework, to show the progression.

Please click on the first image to start a full-screen slideshow.

Nice Carnival 2014

All of the amended/replaced images were on the spread of pages 2-3.

Photo 2:


2. Here they come! The floats start arriving down the Promenade des Anglais, not yet fully assembled

The original had  a spot of sunlight leaking in from the top, which was a bit distracting.

Rather than crop this out – as that would break up the semi-circular arch that acts as an internal frame, which to me is an important element in the image – I tried instead to tweak the image with a selective brush of highlight / exposure value reduction, to blend in with the surrounding blue sky:


2. Here they come! The floats start arriving down the Promenade des Anglais, not yet fully assembled

Photo 5:


5. Charlotte, Queen of Gastronomy

My tutor pointed out that essentially repeating the cover image, albeit with a looser crop, didn’t add anything.

I replaced it with a different image:

05 Cup - replacement

5. Very French – giant dancing coffee cups!

Photo 6:


6. One of the many daring street acrobats

 Here the tutor simply recommended a tighter crop on the head and shoulders:


6. One of the many daring street acrobats

I’m happy that these amends improve the individual images and the overall presentation.


Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative


In this final assignment imagine that you are about to illustrate a story for a magazine. You have a cover to illustrate, and several pages inside (create between 6 and 12 images – you can choose). Even though there may be no text, you should write captions (of any length) to explain and link each picture.


Please note that this post includes three images that were updated based on tutor feedback, so this is the final version of this assignment. For reference, the images replaced are both noted inline below and included in before and after versions in this explanatory post.

Small versions below for online viewing. Larger versions and contact sheet in a downloadable zip file.

UPDATEtutor report uploaded.

Thumbnails of the images as laid out in magazine style are below – please click on the first image to start a full-screen slideshow.  A separate PDF version can be opened in a new browser tab/window if preferable.

I chose as my theme the annual Nice Carnival, in particular the main parade that takes place just before the end of the carnival fortnight. I envisaged the output to be an 8-page photo supplement of the type one may find in an issue of a magazine.

Please take a look at the images in this photo-story format before reading the page-by-page analysis below, to avoid being overly influenced by knowing my intentions!

Nice Carnival 2014

Rationale and intentions:

Overall, the messages I wanted to get across – or more correctly described, the emotions I wanted to evoke – were the senses of joyawe and interaction that the carnival embodies. These are the emotions that one feels when there at the time, and I wanted to get across the sensations of being there from beginning to end – from the anticipation, through the building up of the scale of the event, then focusing on human interactions, and finally the ‘back down to earth’ feeling of the carnival leaving town.

I wanted to highlight the different behaviours of people – both the performers and the crowd – out of their normal daily context, ‘letting their hair down’. Specifically, I wanted to evoke the feeling of the performers and the crowd starting off as two separate entities, but ultimately coming together such that everyone is a participant in one way or another, and the boundaries between performer and spectator get blurred.

In terms of specific selection and sequencing, I paid attention to eyelines. I felt that these helped to support the underlying element of interaction that I was trying to show. I have noted below where this is evident.



1. Cover (without magazine text overlay)

  • My fundamental intention for the cover image was to illustrate the concept of ‘joy’ and I consider the universal symbol of happiness to be the smile! So I wanted a smiling face
  • However: I wasn’t happy with the shots of smiling (human) faces taken at the time of shooting, as the backgrounds were too distracting and I had to fall back on cropping one of the giant figure shots that I used as an inside image – with a clean blue background
  • Once I’d found my cover image, my aim was to disguise the scale of the figure, so that it wasn’t clear whether this was a doll, a life-sized figure or (as was the case) a giant carnival character towering over nearby buildings… I wanted to give an indication of the contents but add a tiny bit of intrigue
  • This image helps to establish a strong, vibrant colour palette from the start, which suits the subject matter and is carried throughout the series

Pages 2-3:


2. Here they come! The floats start arriving down the Promenade des Anglais, not yet fully assembled [note: reworked image, original here]


3. The crowds line the promenade, getting in the mood with their colourful costumes and wigs


4. Bring on the dancing girls! In between the parade floats are troupes of dancers and marching bands

05 Cup - replacement

5. Very French – giant dancing coffee cups! [note: replacement image, original here]


6. One of the many daring street acrobats [note: reworked image, original here]

  • The intention here was to start to build up the event, with an element of anticipation – the floats starting to arrive, the crowd lining the streets…
  • … then picking out details of the performers and the floats themselves, denoting that the event had properly started
  • Performers and audience stay separated at this stage; I wanted part of the narrative to be the coming together of the carnival folk and their spectators, as the unfolding interaction is a big part of the experience; in the end we are all participants
  • Eyelines, page 2: the bent over figure top-left looks down to the waiting crowd, who in turn look to the performers on the right hand page
  • Eyelines, page 3: the triangle of the dancer’s costume points down to the acrobat, who looks up at the queen, who in turn looks up at the dancer – forming an implied triangle

Pages 4-5:

Flower Queen

7. Catch! Following one of the major carnival traditions, the ‘queens’ of the flower parade floats throw out armfuls of mimosa for the crowd to catch, in what is known as the “Battle of the Flowers”

  • Here I wanted to give a feel for the scale of the event, and start to introduce the element of interaction between performers and audience
  • In the magazine layout format I chose a single large image, like a centrefold pull-out poster, bleeding right to the edge of the page and with the caption inset rather than underneath
  • The left-to-right dynamism and the motion implied by the thrown flowers gives the impression of both action and (in conjunction with the explanatory caption) interaction
  • Eyeline: the flower queen gazes diagonally down into the space where the viewer can imagine the crowd being – implied by the angle of the hand and the trajectory of the thrown flowers

Pages 6-7:


8. The 2014 carnival parade in full swing in the main city square, Place Massena – this year’s theme: food!

Serene Head

9. One of the more serene giant head figures gets in close with the audience

Face Within Face

10. An occupational hazard of being a performer: silly string attacks!

  • The idea on this pair of pages is to show the carnival parade in full swing, and in particular the interaction of the performers and the crowd, which is an integral part of the experience
  • The first image juxtaposes the giant figure of the gingerbread man with the throng below; prior images have either depicted the performers or the audience, so the point of this image is to unite them and to give a sense of the huge scale of the spectacle
  • The image below this also depicts the performers in conjunction with the audience, but in this case a one-on-one encounter – this juxtaposes with the gigantic scale of the photo above
  • The opposite page zooms in on the face-hole in the front of one of the giant carnival figures… to see the ‘man behind the mask’; I also wanted to include an ‘evidence of action’-type shot, in this case showing the aftermath of a silly string attack (also showing evidence of interaction between crowd and performers)
  • As well as showing evidence of action, the mass of silly string caking this and the previous image indicate the passage of time, which should further aid the sense of moving through the narrative
  • Eyelines, page 6: the giant gingerbread man’s eyes look down towards the crowd, supporting the juxtaposition of scale, while the lower image has a very obvious diagonal two-way eyeline between the giant head and the spectator

Page 8:


11. The parade is over, the crowds disperse. There’s ticker tape and confetti everywhere!


12. And now it’s all over for another year, and the giant decorated floats go back from whence they came…

  • For the remaining images I needed to show the carnival parade finishing up, to conclude the narrative
  • The top image shows empty seats and a thinning out crowd in the background, but still focuses on the ‘fun’ aspect of the carnival, as the crowd starts throwing the remnants of the ticker tape and confetti around
  • The feeling I wanted to evoke here was the sense of ‘not wanting it to end’
  • The closing image acts as a counterpart to the opening one; a shot of a float moving away from the camera; the solitary (and unexcited-looking) worker sat on the back seemed to sum up for me the sense that: it’s over – back to reality
  • I slightly dialled down the saturation on this last shot as a subtle signifier of the ‘back to reality’ feeling

I hope that the images and my intentions did match, to at least some degree. I worked hard at the pre-visualisation and the subsequent selection and sequencing to tease out the narrative arc in the series.


I found this assignment more enjoyable than the last couple, not simply because I was interested more in the subject matter (having visited the carnival a dozen or so times, it’s a true highlight of my year), but also that I found it to be more of a stimulating creative and intellectual challenge. Whilst the shots were taken over a relatively short space of time, there was much more preparation and pre-visualisation than in the previous assignments, and following shooting, lots of selection, structural and sequencing work to mould the images into the shape of the narrative I was seeking to project. I enjoyed this aspect of the assignment more than I expected to; it showed me that there is more to photography than just taking the pictures.

Evaluating my submission against the Assessment Criteria:

  • Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills:
    • I am largely happy with the technical execution of the images (with one notable exception, see below) – there were some challenges with low direct sunlight for much of the shooting time, but I am happy that I worked around these and/or selected the images that minimised the risk
    • The bright daylight meant that I could work with low ISO and fast shutter speed for the majority of the images, keeping them nice and sharp – except in cases of deliberate depth-of-field decisions (pictures 4, 6 and 9)
    • The cover image: I kicked myself after the event that I hadn’t taken more close-up images of smiling faces to choose from; there was one smile image that I originally intended to work with, but I ended up rejecting it due to the messy background – leaving me with the need to select a fallback shot… which ended up being a crop from a larger torso-length image as I’d neglected to take a facial close-up [moral: if you know you can’t go reshoot – always have a backup shot]
  • Quality of Outcome:
    • I am happy with the quality of the overall outcome on what I believe are the three significant levels: first, in terms of individual images selected; second, in terms of the relative positioning of images to form elements of the narrative when seen together on the page; and third, how the whole collection hangs together as a coherent piece
    • I put a lot of thought and effort into how the images would be presented in a published layout, and it was important to me to actually see through the visual mockup aspect of the exercise (see below) so that I could produce the best presentation I am capable of – I was as fussy about (and as pleased with) the magazine-format PDF of the whole piece as I was about the 12 individual photographic images
    • I believe that in this assignment more than any of the others, my communication of an idea (message, mood, emotion) was both more considered and ultimately more successful
    • Regarding the application of knowledge, I am satisfied that the outcomes demonstrate the learnings of this section; I feel that the outcomes are superior to the ‘dry run’ exercises on similar themes that I did in the run-up to the assignment itself
    • I was mindful to ensure that the learnings of the first four sections of the course weren’t neglected; I paid attention to framing and composition, to geometry and graphical elements – lines, shapes, primary and secondary points of interest, where the eye moves around the frame and so on – to colour combinations and to the use of light and shadow
  • Demonstration of Creativity:
    • I was very conscious of the need for creative subject and composition choices in this situation, lest the series end up just looking like a set of tourist snapshots – and so I hope I succeeded in finding the more interesting ‘ways of seeing’, especially in the detail shots (4, 9 and 10)
    • In terms of narrative creativity, I was interested in using my own experience of previous carnivals to guide the unfolding story arc, and to me the interesting part of the event is how the performers interact with the crowd, and how the parade starts off as more of a one-way spectacle (with spectators behind barriers) but once into the main square, descends into a mass of performers and spectators mingling together (photo 8) so that you really feel part of the carnival and not simply a watcher… whether this comes across to the uninformed viewer sufficiently is the measure of how successful I have been in this narrative creativity, but from my point of view I feel that I was at least thinking creatively in this respect!
    • This was the first assignment that had me printing out, folding, cutting and repositioning bits of paper to mock up the visual representation – starting with post-it notes before I’d even finished selecting images – so that I could get a real physical feel for how the end result would hang together coherently… for the first time on this course I felt that I was being ‘creative’ in the most traditional ‘arts-and-crafts’ sense rather than just moving pixels around!
    • In terms of how much this represents any evolution of my ‘personal photographic voice’, I remain unsure – I know which of my images I prefer, and what these have in common (I am attracted to shape-centric compositions – the semicircle in 2, the triangle in 4, the lines around the eye in 6, the implied triangles in 7, the concentric circles in 10) but to what degree this is ‘my style’ I feel unqualified to say at the moment… I’m not aware of much that is particularly distinctive in terms of either aesthetic style or a ‘way of seeing the world’
  • Context:
    • As previously noted, I spent quite a bit of preparation time on research, first on photo essays generally (using an amalgam of various online lists of ‘key shots’ that make for an interesting narrative) and secondly on a couple of respected examples: Martin Parr’s ‘The Last Resort’ [1] and Robert Frank’s ‘The Americans’ [2] and while the influence from either may not be at all obvious, I did find them very insightful and useful at the planning stage
    • In addition, I found the ‘Stories’ chapter in John Berger’s ‘Understanding a Photograph’ [3] to be very enlightening in a more philosophical way, in terms of how images relate to each other as fragments of a story, and how the connections between them are, in part, made by the viewer
    • I wrote a few posts detailing my preparation and post-shooting work: starting with a general preparation piece, followed by a shooting list post, then a post at the end of each of the first and second shooting days, followed by a detailed explanation of my workflow – how I selected, structured and sequenced the images
    • As ever, I found the experiences and outputs of other students on this assignment, and the contact of my ‘virtual classmates’ on the same section, to be invaluable in helping me feel more able to tackle the challenge ahead, and to inspire me to do as well as, or better than, what has gone before me

To summarise: this has probably been my favourite assignment, and the one of which I am most proud. Between the start of AOP and this assignment, I have learned a lot, and believe that I have applied what I have learned, and demonstrated an improvement in my photographic skills and outcomes.


1. Parr, M. 2012. The last resort. Stockport: Dewi Lewis
2. Frank, R. 2008. The Americans. Gottingen, Germany: Steidl
3. Berger, J. 2013. Understanding a photograph. London: Penguin Classics


Assignment 5: selection, structure and sequencing

With this assignment it feels like the shooting is less than half the job! First there was more preparation involved than previously, and now there’s quite a bit more to do at this post-shoot stage than there was in the previous assignments.


I’ve edited the photos down in two passes so far, and it still needs a third pass to get down to 12:

  • First pass: I immediately deleted the several near-identical versions of the same shot I got on day 1 when I used Burst Mode a little too much, and also removed a smaller chunk that had really obvious technical issues (out of focus, over- or under-exposed, tree obscuring subject etc…)
    • This got the total usable shots down to just under 400
  • Second pass: I worked through the images one-by-one in Lightroom, using the Rating function to quickly identify the images that stood out
    • This gave me a longlist (4* and 5*) of 68
    • And a shortlist (5* only) of 17

To get to the final selection of 12 will need to take into account a few criteria:

  • The thinking on structure and sequencing that I summarise below
  • Cross-referencing back to the shooting plan that I prepared (without following it slavishly)
  • Juxtaposition, balance etc generated by the specific sizing, ratios (vertical/horizontal) when arranged into a photo layout style as per the brief – and to what extent they support the aims of the series

So rather than thinking of the final selection as being a task of how to get the shortlist down from 17 to 12 (i.e. simply discarding the five ‘weakest’ shots), I am treating the challenge as that of getting the series to work together as a narrative. This might entail revisiting some of the longlist (or even the first pass 400).

To help with the final selection I’ve put a bunch of post-it notes on the wall by the desk… to remind me what I’m looking for, how to judge the candidate images.



Structure & sequencing

I’m thinking here in terms of the different approaches one could have to weaving a narrative structure through a set of images covering this kind of event. There are a few variations (not mutually exclusive):

  • Purely chronological: not planning on doing this – in fact I’m actually blending photos from two consecutive days
  • Visual depth: start wide to set the scene, move to medium context shots, move further to portraits and close-ups on fine details
  • Give a sense of the actual occasion, in terms of how it builds up to a peak of excitement/scale/grandeur/awe and latterly how it ‘comes back down’ – in a way this is a blend of both of the above, moulded to the particular event

I’m erring towards the last option there: without looking at the pictures I sat down and tried to visualise how best to get across the ‘shape’ of the story… the top blue post-it note above best shows the effect I am seeking:

  • Start with individual details (e.g. a float arriving, the crowd waiting)
  • Add in more contextual details (e.g. individual performers)
  • Big (double-page spread) image showing the scale of the whole event, shot wide and high
  • Focus back on contextual details, this time on the interactions between performers and crowd
  • Finish with obvious indicators that the event is over (people leaving etc)

To further aid the sequencing and layout task, I made a non-pictorial 8-page mockup out of folded A4 paper and post-its:

This helped me enormously: it helped in terms of not only testing out the ‘story arc’ concept to the images, but in two additional ways:

  • Layout: relative sizes of images, combination of portrait and landscape ratios etc
  • Juxtaposition: how to position images together on facing pages; I’ve added notes to the spreads for my own benefit, as follows:
    • p1 (cover): the hook shot!
    • p2-3: build-up / anticipation
    • p4-5: awe / spectacle / scale
    • p6-7: people / reactions (joy, excitement) / interactions
    • p8: comedown

Once I’d laid out the photo-free mockup above, the final selection became easier, as I started seeing how each image could fit in.

Then in a few more iterations I played about with various layouts on screen. For the ones that I was getting increasingly happy with, I started printing them out on A4 and then folding to A5 size so I could see what it might look like as an actual magazine supplement. This helped me enormously.




If you can make it out, you’ll see that I changed a couple of the pictures during each iteration, as it was seeing them positioned together that made me realise which ones worked and which ones didn’t. I got second opinions from my wife throughout. After the last version above I did one further set of changes, including the cover crop, which formed the submitted assignment.

I must say that this approach was a real eye-opener for me. I’m not wholly sure that I’d go to this extent on many assignments, but the nature of this one – where layout and juxtaposition are important – led me to go down the physical mockup route. It really helped me visualise the end result.

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Assignment 5: shooting day 2 and more lessons

Review of yesterday

After looking through the 700+ images from yesterday (!) and hacking them down to a more manageable 190 I attempted to build a set of images that I could use for the assignment if the second shooting day went awry. Truth be told, while I could indeed have built a decent set of a dozen images from yesterday’s harvest, I was glad to have today to have another go. I was missing a few key shot types from my shooting plan: I didn’t have a decent establishing shot and I didn’t have enough portraits of the participants. And I had too many closing shots to choose from.

Fundamentally, the limitations of shooting from the roadside (mostly over people’s heads) and the lack of variety in subject matter (the floats generally adhered to a formula of extravagant floral display + pretty girl) meant that there was an underlying sameness that led to a lacklustre narrative. It didn’t scream “joy! excitement! awe!” like I wanted it to.

So I think I might rescue one or two of the best images from yesterday and weave them into the story I’m constructing out of today’s photos.

Lessons from today

Today the weather was bright and sunny again. Perhaps too sunny…! We paid extra for seating with an elevated view, which paid dividends in terms of getting a better viewpoint on the event, especially with the telephoto lens. I had an aisle-end seat so could move around a bit more than I expected, allowing variations on the viewpoint.

The main issue was that the terrace of seating was at the east side of the city square, and so the low afternoon sun was in the audience’s eyes for much of the event. Some good light was achievable by shooting off to the side, parallel to the seating rather than perpendicular. However, there was still an element of harsh shadow that one had to work around.

About three-quarters of the way through, I abandoned the seats and got down into the crowd, right in the thick of it. This gave me an opportunity to shoot in more favourable lighting conditions, and also to get more eye-level views on the subjects I wanted to capture.

The main lesson of today was: read the brief properly! For some reason I had in my head that the assignment required up to 15 shots. Turns out it’s a maximum of 12. So the editing task just got slightly tougher.


Short version is: I reckon I have more than enough good, relevant shots in the bag that will allow me to build a compelling narrative that will evoke the emotions that I am seeking in the viewer.

My biggest challenge now is editing them down from nearly 400 to a round dozen…

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Assignment 5: shooting day 1 and lessons learned

Today I packed up two cameras, four lenses, five batteries and three memory cards for a couple of hours working on Assignment 5.

It’s the first of two days of parades as part of our weekend at Nice Carnival, and specifically today was all about the Battle of the Flowers, a parade of floral-themed floats and other attractions down the Promenade des Anglais.

My plan up until now was to use today as a ‘dry run’ and do the assignment proper tomorrow, covering the main carnival parade. However, I might actually see if I can build up enough images for the assignment with today’s shots, for a couple of reasons:

  • The weather was due to be cloudier today, with tomorrow as the sunnier day; as it turned out, the weather held up pretty well this afternoon, bright and clear, with blue skies and only intermittent wispy cloud cover which didn’t adversely affect the light
  • I realised during the parade that this particular event has more of a built-in narrative, and is more interactive between the ‘performers’ and the crowd – a huge part of the parade is the performers on the floats throwing flowers into the crowd, and the objective is to catch as many as possible (by comparison the main carnival parade, whist offering more visual diversity, is more of a ‘spectacle’ and inherently more one-way in its interactions)

So that’s the good stuff. There are however some valuable lessons that I learned today. I still intend to go out tomorrow and capture the main parade (so ideally I have a choice of two events to cover in the assignment) and will address as many of these as possible:

  • Get there earlier! We thought we’d beat the crowds, but about 45 mins before the parade started there were already no spaces left directly at the roadside, so I had to shoot over people’s heads for most of it; however, the extent to which grabbing a roadside spot would have helped is limited by the fact that…
  • … to get enough variety in angles, shooting viewpoints, focal lengths etc, you need to move around anyway! So even if we’d bagged a good spot, or paid for the elevated seating, that would have led to a series of near-identically framed images and I’d have got itchy feet and been back to shooting over people’s heads. Maybe I should carry around a little box to stand on!?
  • Don’t shoot so darn much! I used Continuous Mode far too much, and my camera defaults to 6 frames per second… so 40 minutes in I’d filled my first SD card – over 500 photos!! Now it wasn’t a big deal in that I had two empty backup cards, but the problem is that I now need to sort through and edit that 500 photos… and in some cases I have 10-12 near-identical versions of the same image!
  • No need to take all my lenses out – I only really need my standard zoom (16-50mm) and my telephoto (50-230mm) to cover all eventualities; my prime lenses won’t get a look in, and the light is so good that I don’t really need particularly fast glass anyway

Right, I’d better get back to editing these hundreds of pictures… :-/

Edit: after sorting through the images from day 1, I’m adding a fifth lesson:-

  • Watch the backgrounds! As I shot from ground level, on the beach side of the promenade, I was shooting mostly against the backdrop of buildings, mainly 4-5 storey hotels. Not as much blue sky as I’d like, and some very busy backgrounds to contend with. In some cases they’re distracting from the subject.

Hmmm, I think I need to do better on day 2…


Assignment 5: shooting plan

I’ve done some research [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] on good practice for photo essays. A few common themes emerged on ‘key shots’ that help to tell a story / support the narrative. Whilst I get that this won’t be definitive by any means, the reading really helped, as I find I quite often need a structure in order to get going (as noted in previous blog posts around assignment prep) rather than winging it as I go along when I’m out with my camera. So I always knew that my prep for this assignment would involve a shooting plan.

Before I get into the shooting list, here are a couple of nuggets that I came to understand better as I worked through some research on photo essays:

Dimensions of narrative:

Whilst the natural way I normally think of ‘narrative’ is that it is chronological, as in beginning–middle–end, I came to realise that it can be really effective looked at on another dimension: more visual… maybe best described as ‘depth’, if that makes sense. By this I mean using the angle of view, focal length etc to ‘move into’ the subject – start wide, move to medium shot, go in close for portrait, go in even closer for a close-up on (e.g.) hands… This was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me, as it gives a way of adding a ‘storyline’ even if the subject isn’t ‘event/duration’ based. Although in the case of my chosen subject, I do think there’s a chronological element to it, but maybe I can blend both narrative concepts with the right sequencing.

Emotional objectives:

From a few different sources it’s become apparent that successful photo essays are effective at evoking one or more identifiable emotions. With this in mind, it’s a good idea to have a clear vision upfront what emotions you want to evoke!

As my chosen theme is a carnival, I’m intending to produce a set of images that evoke emotions such as:

  • Joy
  • Excitement
  • Awe

Shooting list

The following shooting list – a consolidated version of the variants I saw on a few websites – is what I’m planning to work to. It’s a framework rather than a dogmatic structure, so I’ll still be alert to any opportunities that arise, and will select the best sequence of images at the editing stage.

Hook / lead shot:

This is the image that attracts your viewer. In the case of a magazine article, for example, it could be the cover image. A good hook image is creative, inviting the viewer to look further, but without giving away too much. It should create a certain amount of intrigue, not simply interest.

For my chosen subject of a carnival parade, I’m thinking along the lines of a close-up of one of the giant papier mâché heads.

Establishing shot:

A wide shot taking in the overall environment of the essay subject. This is usually the first shot in the sequence, or certainly early on, as this helps to establish the beginnings of the narrative from a visual journey point of view.

I’m working on being able to get a nice wide shot of the start of carnival, maybe taking in multiple floats and some element of the waiting crowd, as this should help set the start of the narrative both visually and chronologically. My plan is to include 1-2 such images.

Medium shot:

This is the first part of ‘moving in’ to get closer to more detailed examinations of specific subjects. The objective here is to place one or more subjects in the context of the surroundings already established. It’s about starting to home in on points of interest, either characters or objects that illustrate the theme – and start to convey the desired emotions.

At the carnival I expect to be spoilt for choice on this kind of subject. Shots of floats against the crowd, people on floats against their colourful backdrop etc. I should be able to come up with 2-3 of this type of image.

Detail shot:

This kind of image gets in close, to give a sense of place, a sense of being there ‘in the thick of it’. It should help to create a sense of intimacy, that serves to anchor the unfolding story.

A close-up of one of the carnival float heads is one idea. A crowd shot with some interesting people is another. One of these could also echo or in some way relate to the cover image – maybe a larger version of something cropped tight for the hook shot? I think 1-2 of these will be about right.

Portrait shot:

Usually a reasonably tight headshot, to give personal insight and a human angle to the unfolding events.

I envisage several opportunities for this. One specific idea that springs to mind is to get a clear shot of the face of one of the performers wearing a papier mâché head costume – the ‘head within the head’ concept. Also some of the crowd dress up in extravagant costumes so that might give me some options too. I should be able to do 2-3 of this type of image.

Action shot:

Where appropriate, an image capturing an activity with inherent movement can be powerful in evoking the emotions desired, especially positive emotions (joy, excitement).

One obvious idea is part of the flower parade – the people on the floats dismantle the floral displays and throw flowers to the crowd to catch. With the right shutter speed and good light you can get amazing shots of flowers soaring through the air. I’ll settle for one good action shot.

Gesture / interaction shot:

Kind of a more subtle version of the action shot, in my mind anyway. What this requires is some kind of interplay between two characters in the setting, to give a flavour of the kind of activity / interplay between characters that form part of the overall story.

I do have a particular type of shot in mind for this: I envisage capturing one of the carnival performers interacting with a member of the crowd. I hope the shot turns out something like how I see it in my head…

Closing shot:

Self-explanatory; indicates the end of the narrative. It should provide some kind of obvious resolution, visually or chronologically, and leave the viewer/reader in no doubt that the series of images has wrapped up here.

For the carnival I am thinking something like: the back of the last float going off into the distance; or the crowds thinning out; or the street cleaners moving in to tidy up.


Nice Carnival 2014

Nice Carnival 2014

While I started this post before we set off from the UK, I wrote the middle bit on the plane, and finished it when we arrived in Nice. Now my biggest concern is most definitely the weather!

Today (my on-location prep day) it’s been unexpectedly stormy: torrential rain, thunder, lightning – the lot. Now, the forecast for tomorrow (the Battle of the Flowers parade) is better, but still cloudy, and for Sunday (the main Carnival parade) is more sun than cloud.

So my current plan is:

  • Treat Saturday as a ‘dress rehearsal’ and aim for a full set of shots needed to deliver the assignment – as a fallback in case the forecasters get it the wrong way round and Sunday is the worse day!
  • Go for the full set of shots on the Sunday, as (a) the main Carnival parade is more visually diverse, and (b) the supposed better weather.. but with the Saturday shots in the bag if it all goes horribly wrong

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