Assignment 3 – The decisive moment

Submit a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’. Street photography is the traditional subject of the decisive moment, but it doesn’t have to be. Landscape may also have a decisive moment of weather, season or time of day. A building may have a decisive moment when human activity and light combine to present a ‘peak’ visual moment.

You may choose to create imagery that supports the tradition of the ‘decisive moment’, or you may choose to question or invert the concept. Your aim isn’t to tell a story, but in order to work naturally as a series there should be a linking theme, whether it’s a location, an event or a particular period of time.

Whilst I admire the work of street photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, I felt I’d already had an attempt at street photography in Assignment 2 and so I want to explore a different area for my ‘decisive moment’ assignment. I’d taken a shot of a duck splashing its wings in a lake a year or so ago, and wanted to have another attempt at catching water birds at a decisive time.

Researching the work of famous  water bird photographers, I noticed that they appear to take different approaches to their style of shot, for example, Andy Rouse has some creative images taken at sunset so the scene around the bird, or the bird’s reflection is just as important as the bird itself, whereas photographers such as David Tipling and Rathika Ramasamy have their focus on mainly the bird – the scene around it is barely noticeable, it’s the capture of the action of the bird in flight or catching its prey that is important to the image.

I visited Attenborough Nature Reserve with my Canon 5D mk III and Canon 75-300mm lens hoping to capture some fun shots of ducks, geese and swans. The lens chosen has a widest aperture of 5.0, and as I was seeking action shots, I had my shutter speed defaulted to 1/2500, which meant having ISO between 320 and 640. I sat on a log not about 6 metres from the edge of the lake and observed the birds for a couple of hours. During this time I was lucky in that a couple of families brought stale bread to feed to the birds which enabled extra opportunities to take photos of movement of the birds.

I took more than 250 shots over a period of a couple of hours. The best of these can be seen in the attached contact sheets. On examining the shots I made minor sharpening and exposure tweaks in Photoshop and cropped a couple of the images to improve the composition before deciding on my final selection below.

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Image 1: 170mm, 1/2500, f/5.0, ISO 400.  Taken from a seated position.

I like this shot because it captures the interplay between the two geese as one runs away with a slice of bread. The choice of camera setting means the front of the birds are in focus, but the background has a bokeh effect.

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Image 2: 120mm, 1/2500, f/5.0, ISO 640.  Taken from a seated position.

This shot catches the gull midflight with wings elevated as a group of geese fight over bread below it. The background reeds and duck are slightly out of focus.

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Image 3: 200mm, 1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 640.  Taken from a seated position.

This shot catches a goose looking out for potential thieves of its slice of bread. The choice of camera setting means the bird is in focus, but the background has a bokeh effect.

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Image 4: 300mm, 1/2500, f/5.6, ISO 500.  Taken from a seated position.

I like this shot because it catches the moment a goose takes off for flight from the water. The choice of camera setting means the goose and the water movement in the water that it makes is in focus, but the foreground and background has a bokeh effect.

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Image 5: 190mm, 1/2500, f/5, ISO 320.  Taken from a seated position.

This shot captures the majesty of a swan at the moment it rises and flaps its wings. The choice of camera setting means the swan and its wings are in focus, but the background has a bokeh effect.

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Image 6: 200mm, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 640.  Taken from a seated position.

Here a man is hand-feeding a swan. The choice of camera setting means that the hand and swan’s head are in focus, but the background has a bokeh effect. The orange of the swan’s bill adds extra interest.

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Image 7: 80mm, 1/1250, f/6.0, ISO 200.  Taken from a seated position.

I included this shot as it’s different to the others and yet still part of the set. The older brother appears to be talking to his sister as they stand at the edge of the lake looking out at the ducks and geese. Again, the background has a bokeh effect.

 

Contact sheets

contactsheet-001

contactsheet-002

contactsheet-003

contactsheet-004

 

Bibliography

Andy Rouse Photography. (2016) ARWP Ltd. At: http://www.andyrouse.co.uk/ (Accessed on 08 October 2016)

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