Catalyst – Photography Assignment

The following are my 5 photos for submission for Media Objects photography assignment, and the 500-word reflection. I will also be sending the 5 photos to you (my tutors) in a separate email, in case WordPress compresses the photos.

Water

Water

Earth

Earth

Sun

Sun

Love

Love

Heat

Heat

I approached the given theme ‘catalyst’ by reflecting my interpretation of it. For me, catalyst is first and foremost changes in chemistry. This led to me to think about growth and decay – the life cycle of a plant. However, as the project called for still images, and I had a limit of five, I could not do time-lapse – not did I have the time to do so.

I thought about the aspects that affect plants – namely the four elements. I altered ‘air’ to ‘sun’, because sunlight is key in a plant’s growth. For the 5th photo, I borrowed Captain Planet logic, and went with ‘heart’, or rather ‘love’. That is, the loving enjoyment of the fruits of labor – eating. Digestion is also a chemical catalyst.

Water and Earth are simple too approach but hard to execute. At different ends of the spectrum, water and earth respectively are ever moving, and completely stationary.

To capture the fluidity of water, I had to use high shutter speeds to capture the droplets to prevent blur. My main focus as a new photographer was composition and lighting, and I am very proud of this photo as the best of my series, because of the lighting of the water droplets.

I chose to capture a sprout in the soil in order to create a dynamic narrative to a still subject. This was done with a shallow depth of field in order to focus on the sprout. The same idea was behind ‘love’, by focusing on the details of the food items. Weber influenced the composition of these two photos when he said that “the most important part of any picture is a clearly recognized center of (picture) interest” (38), which is why I placed both focal items about one-third away from the edge of frame (86).

Sunlight is difficult for me to capture on camera, due to the fickle nature of light. I opted to show light through shadows instead. I am not happy with the clutter that I left in the photo, and should have removed some items to create a less noisy photo, but composition wise, I chose Weber’s suggestion to use lines as strong compositional guides (68), and used the shadows heavily to lead the eye to the focal point.

Perhaps the worst photo of the lot is ‘fire’, or ‘heat’. The lighting conditions were poor, I did not choose good camera settings for the photo, and the planning wasn’t done, meaning the photo looks amateur. I am quite pleased with how the steam wraps around the handle of the spatula.

Overall, I am happy with 3/5 photos, which I deem to be satisfactory as this was my first time taking photos while putting creative and technical considerations into practise. On my friends’ behest, I shot entirely in a 50mm prime lens in order to force myself to think of composition and positioning more, and I very much appreciate the difference in mindset this makes. On my next project including photography, I will be focusing more on lighting as well as staging a good photo.

References

Weber, Ernst A. Vision, composition and photography. Berlin; New York: de Gruyter, 1980. Pg 36-39; 44-45; 58-59; 68-69; 86-87)

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The Thief – Single Shot Video Assignment

The single shot video task required a minute-long unedited sequence depicting a 3-line story. Bobker asserts that “in a single scene uninterrupted by cuts, the character of the image can be changed by simply moving the camera in, our, and around the players”, meaning the focus should be on the composition and utilization of the frame and camera to tell the story (Bobker, 60).

Having never used a camera before, this was an opportunity to get hands on experience. As a result, I had to learn to operate the basic steady camera movement, since natural movement of frame can “change the character of the image” (58), but to move it unevenly draws attention away from the action and towards the act of the spectacle itself. This was my central concern upon the beginning of filming.

The 3-line plot, centering on the theme “success”, was shown thus: A girl stops to take a phone-call, and leaves her bag open. A thief comes along and pickpockets a wallet. He walks past her and around a corner, successfully having stolen the wallet.

We chose to follow the thief around a corner, because it creates a sense of depth in the video. Since the clip takes place against a giant wall, there is a flatness to the image. By allowing a character to move from afar to near, and creating an illusion of a z-axis, the audience is drawn into the depth of the frame (59). Furthermore, we chose to end on a low-angle shot, in order to frame the successful thief as being powerful. The changing angles – from straight on to low angle – also creates a sense of height within the frame.

We also opted to first focus on the girl, then move slowly back to reveal the thief – who was seen in the background earlier. In this way, the camera movement and frame acts as a character in itself – ie, the vehicle of the audience’s gaze – and also allows us to tell the story through visual alone. By tracking slowly across a blank wall, and finally revealing the thief’s face, it allows the audience to know exactly what is happening, and create a sense of tension, without needing audio. We also focus on an outstretched hand about to pickpocket – centered in the frame, and moving slowly – because it also creates tension.

The tension is furthered by showing both the thief and the girl within frame after the theft. As the thief moves along the z-axis, the frame moves to show both characters while focusing on the thief. This also softens the flat 2D feel of the earlier wall-tracking.

I am proud of the camera movements when tracking along the wall to reveal the thief, then the follow of his outstretched hand, because I feel this portion especially drew the audience into the gaze. However, the flat 2D wall-tracking was tacky, and did not make good use of spatial techniques.

Reference:

Bobker, Lee R. “Composition.” Elements of Film. New York: Harcourt Brace Jonavich, 1974. 55-61. Print.