3 March 2013

Aiming for an 'A' - Part 2. People Problems.

My 'A' is bearing down on me, and I am feeling the pressure.  Although the Assessment day is in May, I have rather a lot of things happening between now and then, and I still have a lot of work to do before I have a panel I'm satisfied with.

Photographing bells was never going to be easy, but it IS interesting.  I now have pictures of bells being produced, bells in towers (from above, alongside and below), churches, ropes and ringing chambers.  But I am struggling to get across the 'people' aspect.  It's a part of the panel of critical importance, because bells have been rung by hand in this country for over 400 years, and they still are.  There are some challenges for me in getting people shots, some of which are:

I am not a regular 'people' photographer...

Ringing chambers usually have horrible lighting and flash is not exactly welcome when a band is ringing.

Bells create movement in towers.  Not the obvious movement - ie. the bells swinging - but movement of the entire tower!  Yes, lots of towers move as several hundredweight of bells are rung inside them.  This makes long exposures tricky...

Ringers are moving quickly as they ring, and hands or ropes frequently cover faces at the key shutter-pressing moments.

Access and angle for your shot is frequently difficult with limited options as to where you can safely be messing about with a camera.

Oh, and ringers often look extremely focused, which doesn't translate brilliantly in a photo.

A previous set of pictures of ringers got the comment 'they're all a bit blurred...' from our Tower Captain.  My carefully chosen slower shutter speed, specifically picked in order to blur the ringers' arms and thus show the movement clearly didn't achieve the desire objective.  This is part of the reason why I changed my approach, and set out to try to get some less obvious pictures of people ringing bells.

Here is an example:
This picture was taken in Devon.  The ringing chamber has a glass wall between it and the church. The glass reflected the stained glass behind me, the clear glass windows of the church can be seen beyond, and in between the band of eight ringers can just be seen.  I rather like this image - taken quite unplanned with a compact camera (Canon G11) when I heard the bells being rung while out for the day - but I am not sure it is ARPS material.

One noticeable change between preparing for my LRPS and my APRS panels is that for my 'L' I built the panel from pictures I shot as a regular part of my photography.  I photographed the things I liked and found interesting, and each time I caught an image I liked especially I would 'park' it in my LRPS folder on my computer, ready for review as part of my panel.  This approach resulted in a panel which I felt was a good reflection of 'my kind' of photography at the time of submission.  Three years on, I find my photography has changed, and so I think for me the advice to wait after the 'L' (& take time to enjoy it!) was wise.

For the ARPS I have had to be far more structured in my approach to producing the panel.  My statement of intent (SOI) has helped with this (blog post to follow!), and I have had to go out with much more specific photographic goals in mind.

I went on a ringing tour recently.  Ringing tours are common as bell-ringers like visiting new towers and ringing the bells they contain.  On this tour, twenty-two of us spent the day travelling from tower to tower and ringing, and I took my camera along with the specific aim of shooting people for my 'A'.

As the biggest 'ring' on this tour was eight bells, this meant that after a while the other ringers got used to me clambering around with a camera, and I ended up with some interesting shots.

At the moment, my shortlist includes just one of the resulting images, and I am still unsure that I have sufficient 'people involvement' in my shortlisted images folder - but at least I now have some to choose from.  I am about to send off some pictures for comment using the RPS's 'advice and guidance service' and I will post about the results in due course.

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