Exercise 20 – Busy traffic

This exercise is to show people in a busy place. We are asked to take some time in the area we choose, which can be indoors or outdoors. Time should be taken to research the space and how people flow around the space. We can take a slow exposure if needed to show some type of movement in the people.

(click on any image to enlarge)


This is a busy street in York near an area called The Shambles. You can see how the people are in close proximity to each other, but all have their own agenda be it walking down the street, looking in the shop windows, searching for items in a bag or talking to partners. The tight street forces people to be very close and this in effect makes everyone slow down as rushing in this tight space may not be possible. Adding to this the old street is bending towards the middle which also brings people closer together, making the flow more into the centre part of the street.


This shot of a York market shows the numerous types of buildings in the area, from old brick on either side, more modern buildings in the car and temporary market stalls. The people in the image have plenty to look at as they walk down the cobble street, from flower markets, stalls and even a place to take a break and have a pork sandwich. The area is very open in the centre, but it can be seen to filter into tight spaces as one enters the stall market area. Thankfully the closed roads will allow pedestrians to make use of the cobble street while taking in the sights. This makes the main flow of the people take to the street before branching into the enclosed stall market.



Exercise 19 – A single figure small

In this first exercise leading up to assignment 4, we are asked to take a photo (the notes do not mention how many images)  of a single figure which is in the image, but at first may be so obvious to the eye. Such a shot maybe inside church or such a place that shows the size of the building or area.

(click on any image to enlarge)


For this first of two images showing a person (or people) in a large space I have taken this image from a building in Glasgow called The Kremlin. I am standing at the top of the stairs looking down and the persecutive make the the viewer first look around the wooden banister or handrail, then as the eye searches the rest of the image we fall down to almost dead centre at the two figures walking across the centre floor. This is very subtle but although the figures are very small they could almost become the focal point of the image altogether.


This second image again in the Kremlin building in Glasgow, we can see the main focal point is the building with leading stairs, and the large lion head which is almost the size of a person. As we look around the image the eye is drawn to the high colour red, which then turns out to be  a person looking at something with her back towards the camera. Although very small in relative size to the overall image and lion head, the future is still very noticeable due to the colour and just being offset slightly on the rule of thirds.

Exercise 17 – The users viewpoint

The task for this exercise is to choose from two or three buildings designed for a particular activity, and attempt to capture the area from the users point of view. This could be with the use of focal length and various viewpoints, either low or from a different angle.

Click on any image to enlarge.



This image is taken from the inside of a University. The close crop to the left makes the viewer wonder where the stairs lead to, and what may lay behind the archway. I waited for some time for a person to walk down or up the stairs but no-one came through. The image was converted to B&W to bring out the strong lines and shades only B&W can show.



At first glance this image may seen like any normal front living room, but after a closer look the first thing that appears different is the furniture and decor is old. As the eye leads up the stairs we can see a person sat on a chair. Is the owner of the house, apartment, or a guest? The low viewpoint helps the eye scan into the image and then up the stairway. This si in fact a museum situated on the Wales, England border. I had to wait for some time for other visitors to leave the room so I could get a clear shot. However I couldn’t do anything about the lady on top of the stairs, but later thought this would make an interesting addition to the shot.



A normal stairway? Maybe not. We can see the pictures on the wall are very old and in fact are antique. Taken in the same museum home as the previous photo, this is a stairway leading up to the main bedrooms. The old wooden carved banister leads the eye down the stairs while taking in the large pictures of what seem to be family members of the household from time gone by. Where do the stairs lead down to, and what is on the next level leading up to the left side? An old wooden chest on the stairway makes you wonder what may lay inside and what treasures maybe hidden, if any. Again I had to wait some time for the stairs to become clear of foot traffic. I found a high viewpoint looking down the stairs worked better than standing at the bottom looking upwards.



This is a stairway taken in a small village in Wales, which is a residence area into a set of apartments and houses. The bright red stairs leads the eye up into a series of doors, with each set of stairs taking the person to separate levels. I like the colours of the red stairs and blue door which seem to compliment each other, and the large red balcony on the top seems to balance the red stairs on each side of the frame. I thought of taking this shot from front on, but I liked the lines of the steps from this angle better than a flat shot. A low shot would have made the converging verticals too severe so I remained at eye level for this one.



This shot taken in a gallery shows a lot of negative space, which leads the eye to the person situated in the background of the frame. The eyes are helped into the frame with the wood grain of the floor, which brings the eyes onto each statue piece and then finally onto the framed pictures on the wall. I would have liked the person in the shot to be not so central, but the figures in the picture on the left of the wall help the viewer to look back in to the frame as they seem to be looking at the person walking. One wonders what the central statue piece is on the floor, is was in fact a figure of a dead horse.



Taken in some office buildings, I waited for my friend to walk by while I placed the camera in a low position on the floor. I didn’t have a camera with a tilt up screen as I was using a Canon 5DMK3, so I set the camera to what I hoped would be a medium DOP at F11 in the hope it wouldn’t focus on the floor nearest the camera. I took a few shots as the two people walked by towards the doors ahead. I positioned the camera so the black squares on the floor would lead towards the figures walking.


An interesting exercise and at times found the viewpoints hard to decide on. I was sometimes unsure if I would be able to take images of something that was situated outdoors, such as the shot of the red stairs, but after looking at some other students images this seemed to be acceptable.


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.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[128], [129], [130]

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.

[131], [132], [133]

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.

[134], [135], [136]

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.

[137], [138], [139]

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.

[140], [141], [142]

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.

[143], [144], [145]

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.

[146], [147], [148]

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 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.

(click on any image to enlarge)

[102], [103]

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!

[104], [105]

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.

[106], [107]

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.

[108], [109]

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.

[110], [111]

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 5 – Eye contact and expression

This exercise requires the students to take series of images which include and show eye contact, and how this can effects the interaction between the viewer and what we think the subject is thinking especially when looking outside the frame.

This was a hard exercise for me, mainly because over the last four exercises I have only used one subject which has been my wife. Timing is everything and I never seem to be able to get hold of a new subject (person) when I am available due to work. However on this weekday afternoon I got to capture some images of a friend who works at a motorcycle shop.

I placed Maroune near the window in a chair so natural light was coming from the window. I thought about using some fill flash but decided the natural light was enough to fill the shadows. The tricky bit would be as Maroune has tanned skin I would need to ensure I overexposure by half a stop otherwise he would come out too dark, especially with the lighter background i was using.

Eye contact is really everything in a portrait, and I learnt a long time ago if the eye closest to the image is not in focus you can forget the shot. I had my subject sit in a chair and ordered him to make various poses for the camera. I also made sure the camera was on multiple exposure as shots like this are bound to turn out with some images taken when the subject is blinking. I moved around so not to feel too static and talked to the subject all the time so they couldn’t think too long about having a camera pointed at them.

I asked my subject to look away from camera and directly into the lens to give various poses and keep them busy and mind off the camera. I also asked him to make a few different faces, but this turned out to be too false, so I made him laugh and waited for the time he had more natural facial expressions.

Images taken on Sony A7 (click on any image to enlarge)



For this first image I had Maroune sit on a chair and look away from the camera while having his shoulders slightly facing away, thereby not having him too square to the camera. Questions could be asked as to what is he looking at, or is he talking to someone just out of frame for example.



This image shows the subject looking straight into he camera lens. Now the attention is is directly with the view looking a the picture, almost as if he wants or has your attention and you are in a one to one conversation.



A natural expression makes the viewer and certainly the subject feel as ease. The sale was created just by talking to the subject while shooting multiple shots to make sure the eyes were not caught closed. Again the subject could be smiling at something or someone which makes the viewer ask questions.



For this image I asked Maroune sit in a chair and look at emails on his phone. I kept the phone out of the image so to concentrate the viewer on the face. I cropped closer and just down on the top of the head as this seems to be a good way to bring the focus onto the subjects eyes and face.



Again while sat in the chair, I took a sidewards profile picture. Not a really good example or flattering type of shot, and a bit more like a prison mug shot to be fair if it was not for the arm showing. However the eyes are looking away (at something) which makes the viewer ask questions.



Another position while in the chair shows the subject turning away and looking over the shoulder, as if disturbed from doing something more important, such as office work or another task. I could have had the subject look away but I thought this again called for attention of the viewer to make direct eye contact.



I thought this was a cheeky expression, or one of possible amazement or surprise. Very subjective depending on how you look at it.



For this image I wanted to add a prop to show some form of action, or an act of doing something other than looking at or away from the camera. The background although purposely out of focus gives clues as to the type of work Maroune does, which is a motorcycle machanic and saleman.



Taken form the same position as the previous photo, this image shows the subject in deep thought. Is he thinking about what stock needs to be ordered, or what to do over the coming weekend?



I decided to make this final shot in B&W to take away the coloured background and bright colours from his t-shirt. The image now focuses only the subjects face and what he could be thinking of.


This exercise was fairly hard in terms of getting to sit with a subject. I had no choice but to do this while Maroune was at work and I managed to move around quickly without too much disruption to his workload.

The expressions and eye contact say everything about the images and although the body position can change, the eyes really do say it all. Some points to remember while taking images of people and portraits are:

  • Focus on the eyes. Make sure the nearest eye is pin sharp.
  • Have or make a relationship with your subject.
  • Make or help them relax.
  • Vary the body position when possible.
  • Wait for natural expressions to appear and be ready for them.
  • Use a medium tele-photo lens to keep the image natural without distorting and this is also less intrusive.
  • Watch your background, it can make or break the image.

I now intend to research such famous portrait photographers such as Steve McCurry, Lee Jeffries, Joe McNally, Rehahn, David Lazar and others to educate myself more in facial expressions and composition. Personal reviews of such famous photographers to follow.


Getting started with People and Place

The Brief:

The second part of the ‘OCA Art of Photography’ course degree will concentrate on the subject of People and Place. Within this title will come two main types of portrait actions which include both People Aware, and People Unaware. In order to make the photographer more comfortable with people unaware, we are going to start with people aware to help break us in and become more comfortable.

Many photographers feel too embarrassed or concerned when it comes to taking pictures of strangers without the others consent, and a prime example would be street photography where you point a camera at someone walking by, hoping they either did not see the camera or they just don’t mind and carry on. Most of my work is done in Dubai, a middle eastern country where pointing a camera at someone in the street, shopping mall, metro station or office location may become a problem. When it comes to these situations I will need to be very careful how I go about this part of the course.

For the onset it will be fairly easy to take pictures of some close friends and family. My concern will be the limited choice of subjects without it becoming too repetitive with only a few chosen subjects at hand.

Suggested course reading material has been mentioned in the OCA notes, so I will need to see if these books are available here or if I need to order from Amazon.Co.UK and have them delivered. Portrait I must admit is not something I have a great deal of experience with so this will be a good learning experience for me. In addition Im sure I will  be gaining a lot of information form other web sites and professional portrait photographers.

Some of my  preferred portrait photographers I intend to study are Steve McCurry, whose book ‘Untold- The Stories behind the Photographs’ I already have, Lee Jeffries who is a great for his intense B&W photos, Rehahn, famous for photos taken in Vietnam and Cuba, Joe McNally, always one of my favourite photographers, David duChemin a renowned  Humanitarian photographer, and not forgetting some of the past greats such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, war photgrapher Robert Capa, and Gregory Heisler whose book ’50 Portraits’ is a classic and a must have book.

So onto the second section of my OCA course ‘People and Place. I hope you take time to browse my blogs and please free to comment.