The first impression I get from your work is your strong commitment to photography and to the course. You’ve worked on this assignment twice, which is not only keen, it shows that the assignment inspired you and that you were prepared to re-shoot it to get it right.
The old train station (see planning and preparation), has a lot of potential and you’ve made some good photos of “meaningful activity” and strong characters, but you’ve clearly struggled with the bright sunlight, which bleaches some of the faces and heads. To remedy this you ought to be able to get some detail back with the Recovery slider in Adobe Camera RAW. I don’t have this piece of software, but will try to redeem some of the images in Lightroom. During the shoot, you could have used a fill flash, which would have allowed you to underexpose the background – more on that later.
I will review the shots made on the building site. I liked the less ‘touristy’ subject and also the interest caused by the discovery of a Roman bone! Having said that, the train photos show your commitment and your observational skills really well and the shot of the large luggage cart is one for your wall! This is good to read, particularly the comment that my observation skills are coming to the fore.
You’ve remained quite close to the subject in your shots of the construction site, and that is good in places, but there were times when a wider, big shot of the whole scene would have given the viewer important contextual information. Try to challenge yourself to shoot more wide views that are as telling as your closer shots. I will take this feedback on board. I intend to return to the site to capture some “wider views”, although I don’t intend to replace too many of my images as the captured moment cannot be repeated.
About editing your work: keep your blog as tidy as possible with only the assignment photos on the assignment page. Other work should be clearly “contact sheets” or “other photos”. I have now separated out all the preparation work and other photos and have reviewed the tabs on my blog for clearer navigation.
Feedback on assignment
Firstly, I like the patchwork sequence you’ve made which says something about the clash of motives on the site. How to handle it so quickly was always going to be a work in progress. Two key elements stand out: 1) the frustration and response of the builders in contrast with, 2) the archaeologists unearthing the bones. You may want to think about how you can order the final sequence to get across this ‘scene’. I will review the sequence in time for formal assessment.
1 I understand why you’ve got this “double take” kind of look, but it shouldn’t be the first image. You needed to start with a wide shot of the construction scene or the ‘find’. See above image of the construction scene.
Although this is a telling image that shows us the location type and the possible role this woman is playing, you have reduced the whites way too much. Clearly her helmet was white. I returned to Lightroom with this one. Her expression needs to be connected to something, which probably means that either the preceding or succeeding image needs to be ‘the find”.
Original shot. Reworked image.
2 Your next image though, is the same woman taken out of sequence. It is not clear why her tapping in boundaries is important. You had to establish that. For example, had you the bones in the foreground and her putting a fence up in the background, we would understand, “Oh yeah, she’s protecting the find”. Note the tone of her helmet here is much more true.
3 A good shot, but we still don’t know why these workmen have had to stop work! Also, because it’s a freeze frame, we can’t tell whether or not the man in the tractor is working or not. In that sense it is confusing. Try to think about the information your pictures get across. But the pose of the man with the spade is really telling and well spotted. You’ve also overdone the de-brightening here too! I have cropped this one so the focus is on the worker with the spade.
4 One of the stronger pictures here because the expression of that man is really impatient. It’s a pity that another man is obscuring him though. It was a case of grabbing the moment, but I agree I could have re-positioned myself for a better result.
5 Perhaps this, maybe wider to include the workmen and the diggers, could be your first shot. It’s sort of mysterious because we don’t know exactly what they’re up to.
Note here the way the eyes move to the group on the right edge of frame. Because of their proximity, you needed to decide to either include them in their entirety or to just frame the two on their knees. It helps if you can – as much as possible – encapsulate the action. I may have to crop this one as I didn’t get a wider shot.
Original shot Reworked image
6 This is an excellent shot that gets right into the heart of the mystery. It could be the first photo of the sequence. Put the waiting workmen after this and #5 and we’d understand what’s going on!
What you’re doing here is showing us two vital things: 1) the archaeologists careful work; and 2) the subject of his work, the bones. Fill flash would’ve helped you here to bring a little more detail out of the darker tones. Although hi-viz clothing does come out super bright. Pleased with this one! I agree it works well.
Fill flash is simply a flash used in daylight to “fill” the shadow areas caused by the sun.
Try this: in Manual Mode, take a shot of the background using a shutter speed not higher than your flash sync (probably around 1/125th of a second) and altering the f-stop. Then use the flash output to control the illumination of the foreground. As you will see if you experiment with this, you will be able to play with the balance of foreground and back- ground illumination because the background will be exposed according to the shutter speed but the foreground will exposed according to the f-stop and the intensity of the flash – which will not affect the background. This is a technique very well used in fashion photography to add‘sparkle’ to models and to lift them out of the background. It can be particularly effective at twilight when your foreground subject is set against dramatic skies. Technical stuff! I had to read this a couple of times to grasp what to do. Pleased to say I now have the hang of it and took the following “before and after” shots of my husband (having dragged him out of the garage, hence his clothing!). It works! I shall practice more, when we get some sun……
7 A simple close detail helps to reveal more of the artefact. The hands are helpfully off to one side!
8 Alas, your words are doing something your picture isn’t doing! Once you identify a vital action in a chain of actions, you should then seek to get yourself into a position to shoot it to show the key subjects. For example, you really needed the ‘soil’ in their hands. We just can’t see what they’re doing. Again, re-positioning would have made a better image. I will discard this shot.
9 This is the best photo of the workmen. It’s very measured and well composed. We get their faces in full view because you’ve positioned yourself well. The folded arms are also telling.
But you could have used near/far compositions to contrast (remember the Art of Photography’s first assignment?) the near archaeologists with the workmen in the background standing around. That would have set up a drama. A good point, something to bear in mind for future.
10 This final image strays from the story because it attempts to wrap it up when the real story is the archaeological discovery. You can cut this one. Agreed!
Learning Logs/Critical essays
You say that you sometimes lost the ‘moment’ fumbling with camera settings. You need to get used to using your camera quickly by practicing with settings that work for you. The most vital one is focus and if you have an autofocus camera, you just need to point and shoot. That’s really what this kind of photography is about. I did have my camera on autofocus, maybe there was some camera shake due to my eagerness to get the shot? I now know I have to be able to quickly adjust the camera settings for fill flash. I will need to practice this.
Your blog is good. You’ve already had it going for a while and it’s pretty large. The research looks good and your writing is honest and intelligent. Just keep responding naturally to the work of other photographers like Vivian Maier and you’ll do well. Excellent! I am pleased about this comment. I am trying hard to get to grips with critical analysis. I have recently purchased the book, “Critical Thinking Skills: Developing Effective Analysis and Argument” by Stella Cottrell.
If there’s one key book about photography from a critical point of view that you should read, it’s David Bate’s “Key Concepts: Photography”. It’s short and lucid. I have read mixed reviews on this book, mostly that it is hard going…I may see if I can borrow it from the library first.