Exercise 15 – A public space

“For this final exercise, transfer your attention from an organised occasion to a semi-organised public space. Some of the most accessible and usable from a photographic point of view are public parks. A public beach is another possibility. Instead of a single event, there will be a variety of things happening, even if not all of it is particularly active or focused”.

For this last exercise before my main assignment I took photos of a Donkey Derby event. I wasn’t sure if the event was going ahead as rain was forecast, but I took my camera along and although we did get some rain in parts, I managed to complete the exercise.

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Spectators and organisers arrive at the Donkey Derby event, and despite some local rain all were happy to prepare the donkeys for the first of the mornings race…all in good fun of course.

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One of the events among the donkey derby was a warm up followed by a demonstration of Judo from one of the local clubs. While the instructor showed some of the children students how its done, and they soon got a chance to get their own back!

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The races were held all in good spirit, with some fierce competition even though this was all in good fun and for charity. (No animals were harmed during this event!)

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Part of the charity event included dogs chasing a false rabbit on a pulley which was hand turned. Straw was used to stop the dogs crashing into the machine should they catch the rabbit.  While some couldn’t manage to hold on, some other fury friends didn’t want to let go.

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Some of the local folk having a blast and a chin wag. Then after its all over what better way to end the day with a nice picnic, along with a few cups of English tea in the fields before the rain returns.


This was in interesting event to photograph. I included photos in order of the event from start to end, although I never saw and presentation for the winners of the actual Donkey Derby so I couldn’t take any photos for that portion. All images were taken without the knowledge of the people involved. I had a medium zoom lens which enabled me to be as close or far away from the subjects as needed.




Exercise 14 – An organised event

“For this exercise you will need to research and prepare in advance. Look for an organised event at which there will be plenty of people and in which you can confidently expect to be able to photograph freely and with some variety”.

I was due to attend an off road motorcycle course at a future date, but the organisers and one already arranged prior to my start date, so I decided to go along and take photos which was in every way an organised event, with plenty of opportunity to take lots of action pictures of people unaware.

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Riders arrive at Hatta Fort Hotel, near Dubai. Bikes are prepared for the off-road course held by BMW which requires removal of wing mirrors, windshield, bike side boxes and other small parts that risk getting damaged during the two day course.

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After a full safety brief and discussion on riding techniques and handling, the riders took to the trails, lined up at the start and prepared for a hard day of off-run training.

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Some of the off road techniques proved difficult and dirty work at times. Some found it hard so all that was left is to push..not easy with a 240kg bike. Others gained confidence showing off some of the gained skills with a thumbs up after a hard first session.

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While the riders had a deserved break, the instructors showed how to move a bike on the side stand, as well as some preventative off road maintenance should it ever be required. Then it was back on the bikes for part two…the mountain stage.

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The riders were briefed on the mountain stage and the techniques required to negotiate hills and rocks. Before the start the riders walked the course in remove any loose rocks that may cause falls or bike damage, and to plan out the best course of action.

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A tough section of the course caused some of the riders to lose control and fall…all part of the learning process! As the riders tried to lift the bikes, an instructor came over to demonstrate how best to lift a 240kg bike from the ground without hurting body or bike.

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The final hours after two days proved a great improvement for the riders, seen here by showing off with a hands-off control manoeuvre and a ‘wheely’ from one of the instructors. A final group picture ended the course with very happy riders and a certificate to take home with new off road experiences gained.


This was an exciting project for me as I love my off road biking also. Because I was not due on the course until a later date, it gave me time to take the photos and as the course was taken in a closed off location, I could easily move around without getting in the way of the riders. Various focal lengths were used during the picture taking process and some post processed into black and white for different effects.





Exercise 13 – Standard focal length

The brief. “The concept of ‘standard’ and ‘normal’ in lens focal length is that the view approximates to what you would see with the naked eye. This is a very loose idea, as a camera image is fixed and framed, while our eyes are constantly scanning and we have an awareness of a much wider area around the part of a scene that we are paying attention to”.

So why use a standard focal length lens?

They’re cheap, very cheap compared to many other high end lenses. They are usually very small and light, making them easy to carry in a small bag or pocket. Apertures can be small such as f1.2, f1.4 etc giving a nice depth of filed or ‘bokeh’. Due to the low f-stop they are a great lens for low light photography.

Field of vision is very close to the human eye so the image is as we see it to the naked eye in terms of composition.A lower focal lens would need to be used on an APSC sized camera due to the approx 1.4 to 1.6 x increase.

Below are some images taken with a standard 50mm lens on a full frame camera.

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Here are three examples of people taken with a standard lens. Each one taken in a different environment, i.e., indoors, outdoors and outdoors at night.

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These images show people at work. The first is a workman with a blow torch in the streets of Dubai. The second is workmen loading a dhow on the waters of Dubai Creek. The last its the camel riders working out the camera before a morning race. Some of these images may work better with a longer lens, but again this shows the viewer how the images looked to the naked eye.

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The last set of images show people posed. These images are taken in the mountains of Hatta and by the ocean in Fujeriah.


The 50mm lens, or sometimes known as ‘the nifty fifty’ can be a go to lens for just about any type of photography. It can be used for portraits, landscapes, street photography, indoor, close up (ok maybe with a close up adapter or lens kit) and night due to its low aperture setting of around f1.8 or lower.

It can be carried with little required storage space and is very light. It also makes the photographer move his/her feet. Sometimes we can get very lazy and find it better to just adjust the zoom ratio rather than look around and change perspective.

Many pro photographers state we should just have only a standard lens fitted to our cameras for a month or so and go out and take photos. This is a great way to teach us viewpoints, angles and gets us out of the lazy way of taking photos that is so easy with zoom lenses.

Exercise 12 – Close and involved

The brief is to “Switch lenses (or adjust focal length) to the widest angle that you have. A true wide-angle, judged from its visual effect, is around 28mm or less. One of the uses of a wide-angle lens is to be able to cover a large subject area in one shot, but here concentrate instead on using it close to people, and try to achieve a sense of putting the viewer right inside the situation — as you will inevitably be! From the point of view of comfort and confidence, this is quite a challenging way to shoot, but try your best. As with the previous exercise, note down both the problems and the advantages created by working with a wide-angle of view from very close to the people you are photographing”.

I have added a selection of images after looking through my Lightroom images, with a search for 10-20mm lenses.

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These two shots of Elaine show how you can use a wide angle lens to get up close, but care has to be made that you don’t put facial features or limbs out of proportion.

In the close up photo of Elaine on the chair, if I had got any closer it would have made her face and nose look two enlarged. Also any limb such as hands or feet in the frame would look enlarged if positioned in the foreground.

The photo of Elaine getting ready to ride her road bike was taken from a low angle to make more use of the foreground as the sky was grey and boring. Not getting too close while using a wide lens has brought the car and path into the frame giving a sense of place.

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The use of a 20mm lens is able to shoot the surroundings of this image of Dave relaxing by a beach. Although you cannot see his right hand fully, the items on the table such as the coffee and the cigarette packet give clues as to his choosen relaxing activity.

Donna on an Abra on Dubai creek brings you into the picture with the use of a 12mm shot. Being careful not to get so close again as to put any part of the body out of proportion means we can see and feel the landscape and location.

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At first look this may seem like just a photo of a truck. But looking closer you can see the feet of two workmen who have decided to take a quick afternoon nap in the back of the truck. Again the angle of the lens shows the location and where the truck is parked, tucked into a corner of the street.

Elaine was standing next to these Arabian horses in the desert. The 18mm view has allowed Elaine to be shown close to the horses and riders, thus bringing the viewer up close an personal with the subjects.

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I like these two images of a talented artist taken in Lincoln recently. The artist was painting in a local art shop and signing ltd edition copies of some of his paintings. The wide angle lens brings the viewer into the frame as if standing next to the artist. I particularly like image [118] where the wide angle has allowed me to include one of his paintings, a girl who is looking down at the artist signing an order form.


In comparison using a wide angle lens on landscapes, interiors, architecture etc is easy. Bringing people up close however is a little more difficult, as we need to ensure we don’t position the lens close to limbs or faces which would bring them out of proportion.

I don’t normally use a wide angle lens on people so close, but prefer to use a longer focal length allowing me to keep my distance such as in an earlier exercise in this blog. But this exercise has pushed me out of my comfort zone and give me working knowledge of what does and does not work.



Exercise 11 – Standing back

Depending on your choice of lenses, select a medium-long focal length, ideally between 80 mm to 200 mm full frame equivalent. If you happen to have a more pronounced telephoto lens (300 mm or 400 mm for example), you might find it more interesting to do the exercise with this extreme focal length.

What practical difficulties do you note? Because of the extra distance between you and your subject, you may have found that passer-by and traffic sometimes block your view. And what special creative opportunities do you find that a long focal length and distance have given you.

For this exercise I went to a local pro golf event. I had a very long 28-300mm Canon tel-photo lens which I knew would get me close to the players and other interesting people at the event.

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On the first photo I was looking at this caddie and just as I took the picture someone came in front of the camera. You can just see the sleeve on the bottom left of the image. A second attempt was more successful and in the end I preferred the pose the caddie gave…deep in thought!

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Using a longer lens I was able to pick off people form afar. The first was during a live TV interview of one of the lady professional players, and the second was of pro-celebrity golfer and comedian Jim Davidson.

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Using a long lens for the first image of the golf bag has allowed the background to be totally of of focus, so the minimal DOP has taken away any distracting background, while at the same time allowing me to take the capture from an area not open to the public.

The second image of Tiger Woods would have been better, had it not been for other public spectators walking in front of the image. One draw back of being far away from the subject allows others to impede the shot at times.

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In the next two images we can see how distractions in the foreground can sometimes add, or take away from the overall effect of the image. The first photo of the two golfers would have been better without the intrusion of a caddie caring a flag, blocking the image. The second image of Tiger Woods is good as a single image should it have not had other people in the shot, but the people in the foreground asking for his autograph add to the atmosphere of the image giving it a sense of place and what Tiger is doing.

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In these last two images, we see two examples of using a long tele-photo lens taken at two different distances from the subject. The first is still on a high tele-photo setting, but being close has allowed me to get really close up on the face of Tiger Woods. The second is again using a long setting of 300mm, but this time not being able to get into the closed off area where Tiger was signing his card and autographs I was able to still capture an image which tells a story. The fact he was elevated on the stand stopped any other person walking into the image and blocking off the shot.


Using a long focal length lens certainly helps get up close to most subjects, but the disadvantage means that if you are situated back from the subject you stand the risk of others people, or objects blocking the view. This is apparent when you maybe on the same level as your subject.

Given the right position however allows the photo to be cropped if needed and cropping out in camera what other distractions may have otherwise been in the picture. Of course we maybe able to crop in post, but the other advantage of a longer lens is being able to get very close to the action or subject.



Exercise 10 – Capturing the moment

The brief for this exercise was “The mechanics of this exercise are simple, but the results are many and varied. Find, as for the last exercise, a ‘comfortable’ situation, possibly even the same location. For this exercise concentrate on bursts of activity, from which you try to capture a ‘best’ moment.”

I decided to use the same bike show that I had for the first exercise in this project. I watched as a bike stunt rider performed his tricks (which were impressive) on his modified motorbike. This guy was part of the Redbull sponsored stunt rider team and was here on visit just for the Dubai bike show.

I watched as he throw his bike around a closed off track watched by spectators. He had another partner who was equally impressive doing similar tricks. I took a series of shots during the 10 min show and broke it down into a single image which I thought showed off the bikers skills the most.

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One of the event organisers was walking around filming the stunt bikers as they performed tricks to the crowd.

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As a pair, the stunt riders worked closer and closer together making tighter turns, as the rear wheels skidded on the tarmac and the front wheels almost locked together.

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Making the most of the closed track, one of the riders started to make the stunts more daring.

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More impressive stunts.

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From the total stunt show and one small mishap from one of the riders (not serious) the riders split up and I focused on the best of the two while he did his tricks.



For me this was the ultimate stunt for the riders in the total set. Standing on the handlebars, moving around a closed track, while keeping perfect balance…very impressive!


This was an interesting exercise making you think about what best shows off a final set of images. Many of the stunts were impressive, especially when you see it done just a few feet away, and not on the TV or internet.

Exercise 9 – Developing your confidence

For the first in the new projects entitled ‘People Unaware’, we are to “choose an outdoor situation where there will be lots of people and activity, and in which you will feel confident using a camera”. The brief further states “Take as many photographs as you comfortably can in one session. When you review the photographs afterwards, recall the comfort level you felt at the time, and consider to what extent this helped you in capturing expression and gesture.

For this exercise I went to a local event which was a motorcycle show. I took my Sony A6000 with two lenses, one a wide angle and a long tele-photo to help me pick out the subjects without giving much away in terms of my positioning and causing subjects to be distracted by the camera.

Click on any image to enlarge:

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In this first selection I was keeping my distance and watched as people talked and moved around the show. One group of guys where looking at the motorcycles on display and talking to one of the owners. Sometimes just standing still and waiting for people to pass was a good option and not so conspicuois.

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On the next group of pictures I observed as a photographer took photos of children and riders against a green screen. It was easy with so many people around to watch others taking selfies and talking to each other without the risk of been seen.

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As you can imagine, I took my time with these shots!!! Two models were having a photo session with another pro photographer, so I could easily sit in the background just behind the main photographer and take photos (as others did) while the girls did their thing. I moved around to get side and front views while the session took place.

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On this last set of four photos, I watched a lady photographer as she also moved around much like myself, taking pictures of folks at the stalls and generally around the bike show. I also watched as one famous biker being filmed so I took a photo of the interview taking place as well as a behind the scenes shot of the cameraman.


This was a fairly easy way to take photos of people in an open area without risk of being seen or becoming conscious of my presence to others and thus feeling embarrassed. Using a long tele-photo lens helped me keep my distance from the subjects and close in from afar without too much detection.