For this final assignment we had to imagine we were to illustrate a story for a magazine! The brief required a cover picture showing some techniques of illustration and 6 – 12 images to be used over several pages inside as a picture essay. Although the brief suggested 3 themes of commodity, light and holidays this was open-ended to any theme with a suitable narrative element.
I decided to base my story on a local, social highlight – a Point-to-Point which is held annually on Easter Monday. This event is organised by The Old Berkshire Hunt and is a fun family day out attracting crowds from far and wide. Rather than concentrate on one aspect of the day such as the thoroughbred jump racing, I wanted my story to illustrate that the event is an enjoyable day out for all ages and put it together as publicity editorial.
I also wanted to highlight how sociable the event is, bringing together racehorse trainers, jockey’s, farmers, local business, Old Berkshire Hunt, bookmakers and spectators of all ages including family dogs! As point-to-pointing is lower key than racing, there are no special passes to race enclosures or hospitality areas, everybody mixes together and the atmosphere is sporting and enjoyable with lots of merriment from well packed picnics and full hip flasks!
I have been to the event many times over the years so knew what to expect with regards to the layout, best places to spectate and take pictures etc. It is also the perfect place to people watch and I am always fascinated with the amount of dogs that go as part of the family day out.
With this in mind, I made a list of all the images I wanted to take and include in my picture essay as follows:
- Old Berkshire Hunt / Master & Hounds
- Location shots / crowds
- Horses – before / during /after races
- People – Jockey / Trainers / Spectators / children / dogs
- Atmosphere – family fun
With past experience, Easter Monday is usually sunny and warm or bitterly cold with wind and rain! luckily this year it was the first really warm day of the year requiring suncream and shades which made the task of shooting these images a lot easier! I took well over 500 images over the course of the day and narrowed this down to a shortlist of 61 and then down to the final 15. The images I decided to use are as follows:
The hardest part wasn’t in choosing which images to use but in which order to place them and how to display them. I wanted each different aspect of the point-to-point to be displayed in different pictures but also wanted a set that sat well together and provided a sequence of things happening (but not necessarily in order).
Looking at the work other students had done, I noticed some had used specific software or publisher to produce a really classy mock-up of a magazine. I have zero knowledge in this area so decided to put mine together in a basic word document. The brief didnt require text, but I wanted to include some background information on how point-to-pointing has evolved over the past 140 years, the Lockinge course and how atmospheric these events are and link this in with my images. I lifted some text from the following websites to use alongside my picture essay and make the feel of a magazine article more authentic.
The final result can be seen by clicking on the link below:
I didn’t find it too hard choosing which images to use with the accompanying text, but I hadn’t completely thought through that the size of image I could use would be limited to the space available on the page with the text! For example on the day of the point my only concern was anticipating what was going to happen through quick observation and composing my images quickly to illustrate the events as they happened. It wasn’t until afterwards I realised about 99% of the images I had taken were landscape orientation. Therefore, choosing images to fit a portrait space were limited to just a few.
Although I had taken a selection of lenses on the day, the only one I used was my 18 – 280 mm lens. This was perfect to be able to zoom in and get close-ups quickly as well as compose distance shots and I was able to choose from images with different focal lengths providing visual interest within my photo essay.
The assignment brief asked us to include a technique of illustration covered in Part five for the front cover. I used the image below not only because it was vertical and would enlarge in the right proportion to fit on an A4 magazine cover but also it is an illustration by juxtaposition.
The huntsman with his red jacket is a symbol or sign of a high-ranking rider with authority in a hunt. Most people would associate this sight with the countryside, seeing the horses galloping across a field or jumping a hedge. In this image, horse and rider are out of context with the field of parked cars and numerous people in the background suggesting to the viewer that there is something else happening as opposed to a hunt. Combining these two elements together emphasises the juxtaposition and piques the interest of the viewer prompting them to open the magazine and find out more.
Similarly,the next image is a scene of the point-to-point but why is there a London double-decker bus destined for Oxford Circus parked in the middle? The reason – it was hired to transport a large party to the event and wouldn’t have made it uphill across a field to park, so was left there! The juxtaposition of these two elements emphasises the event as an attraction where people travel from far and wide for an enjoyable day out, have a drink and let their hair down!
This image is also what is known as The Establishing Image it sets the scene to place the event in context of the environment – rolling green hills and countryside. Taken from a higher vantage point it sets the stage for the rest of the story and I used it at the beginning of the article.
The following 10 pictures come under the category of Action Image. Categorically these are shots familiar to what is seen by the naked eye – not too close and not too distant, but enough to illustrate the action or interaction of the people or place that the narrative is about.
The Portrait Image was the category that I struggled with most as I am just not confident enough to walk up to strangers and ask if I can take their picture I I did however manage to capture the following image of the huntsman on his horse. Standing on the ground at a lower vantage point I was able to zoom in and use the bright blue sky as the background. I think the fact he is not looking directly at the camera and the diagonal line of shade from the peak of his hat helps to emphasis that he is on horseback and connects him in the environmental context.
I took many shots of the hounds and their antics. The sport they are associated with portrays them as vicious and brutal. I was amazed at how docile and well-behaved they actually were. They have been trained to a very high level and obeyed every single command given by the Master’s who incidently knew every single dog by their pet name and there must have been approx 30 in this particular pack.! The docile nature and good behaviour of the dogs was evident when they mingled with the crowds and responded lovingly to any fuss given. I particularly like this image as the nearest hound is looking expectantly at me, emphasising the connection they have with humans as well as being an established part of the pack.
For the final category of Close-up / Detail Image I managed to zoom in on my husbands hands as he was tucking his betting slip into his wallet. I don’t particularly like the image as I think it looks too staged but it does bring the betting element into the story and emphasises the sporting atmosphere of the day.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
I really enjoyed doing this final assignment – it was a great opportunity to put all the compositional techniques that I have learnt over the duration of the course into practice. Documentary photography has always been a favourite genre for me and I love the challenge of going out to find interesting subjects. Having an awareness of what is going on around me has developed my observational skills and instinctively I can now anticipate what is going to happen and react quickly enough to capture interesting images.
Quality of Outcome
I have learnt throughout the course that there is so much to think about when putting together a final set of images. It is not just about taking well composed photographs – it is about taking an idea and growing it throughout the course of an assignment and bringing lots of different elements together in order to produce an informative and quality set of images that will have an impact on the viewer. I have learnt not to rush out and take any old image but to sketch out the idea beforehand, plan a theme, research similar work and have an idea how I want the end result to look. This has helped to make me more productive, cutting down the amount of times I have to go out and take pictures and not taking so many random shots that take time to edit out after.
Demonstration of Creativity
AOP has really opened my eyes to the work of other photographers. Researching other work has made me think a lot more about the context of images and how this is perceived by the viewer. I have just received the coursework for my next module, Context and Narrative and already am buzzing with ideas. AOP has given me the confidence to think outside the box and I’m really looking forward to experimenting with these ideas in order to produce original images that develop my personal voice.
WordPress and blogging was the bane of my life when I first started this course. It has been a huge learning curve creating a virtual learning log as opposed to handwriting a hardcopy. Perseverence paid off though as I’m quite proud of the end results and comments about how easy it is to navigate. I still find it hard to write my thoughts and ideas in a critical way but have learnt to keep a notebook handy and write these down as they occur. This makes it much easier when it comes to writing up exercises and assignments. I have also learnt the hard way that when visiting exhibitions and going to study visits, I should write these up within a week whilstt everything is fresh in my mind. Otherwise the longer it is put off the more of a chore it feels, which does take the edge off the enjoyment gained from visiting these events.