After submitting Assignment 5 I volunteered as a photographer for the main Special Olympics Great Britain Summer Games, and got some fantastic images, so was gutted that I had already submitted my assignment. When my tutor sent his feedback on the assignment, he suggested possibly changing a couple of images, so I took the opportunity to rework the whole assignment and make it all about the Special Olympics Summer Games as a whole (including the Equestrian events) and change the images I submitted, so this is the amended version of the submission.
For this assignment I was to produce between 7 and 12 images to illustrate a magazine article, telling the story with the range of images. One of the images needed to be more illustrative, to be used as the “cover” photo, whilst the other 6 – 12 images should be more narrative, covering aspects of the story.
The suggestions for possible topics were:
- A commodity – the production of something in a narrative format, or maybe symbolic implications of owning something.
- Light – it could be the progression of light over a landscape, or the way light can transform a subject.
- Holidays – it could be either a conventional narrative of the subject, or something more abstract.
- Personal choice – I could also choose something of my own, which is the route I went down.
Planning and Preparation
From the beginning of the Narrative and Illustration section of this course, I had a particular topic in mind for my assignment. A few months ago I volunteered to be a photographer at the Special Olympics Great Britain National Summer Games to be held in Bath at the end of August, and also the Equestrian event in late July. I knew that this would be a fantastic subject to document, both for this Assignment, and also for the athletes involved and everyone involved with the Special Olympics GB.
Having covered a number of sporting events in the past, of varying sizes and importance I was pretty happy with what I would do. My aim was to capture as much of a flavour of the particular events I was to cover as I could, and having spoken to the organisers beforehand I had a good idea of what the events entailed. At the Equestrian event the athletes would be competing in a couple of different disciplines and on the day I was there they would be taking part in dressage, inside an arena, Working Trails which would be outside, and Knowledge and Care of Horses, which would mainly be a question and answer session inside a stable. I would also photograph the medal ceremonies at the end. At the main summer Games I would be covering the Opening Ceremony, to be held at the Royal Crescent in Bath, and also the Aquatics events, and some of the Boccia and Bowls. Having this knowledge prior to the event meant that I could be prepared with the kit I would need and also some of the challenges I would face with exposure and shot types, with the events being in a variety of different arenas with different exposure challenges.
As I would be spending the days running around the events I wanted to keep my equipment to a minimum. I knew that opportunities to use a tripod would be pretty much non-existent, so that saved me having to take that, although I did have it in the car – just in case! I also had the Nikon SB-910 in the car, but due to not wanting to spook the horses or distract the athletes I didn’t take it in as the chances to use it again would be non-existent. In the end my rucksack contained:
- Nikon D800 DSLR
- Tamron 28 – 75mm f/2.8 Lens
- Nikon 70 – 300mm f/4.5 – f/5.6 Lens
- Tamron 10 – 24mm wide-angle lens
- Sigma 8mm Fisheye lens
- Pen and paper for taking shot notes and athletes details.
- Spare battery
- Spare SD and CF cards
Execution and Results
At each of the events I met with my contact on arrival and was shown the different locations for the events and requested a timetable, which included the athletes’ names, so I could keep track of the names of the people I was photographing. At the start of each individual event or race I tried to photograph the timetable and competitor listing so I had a record on my SD card. I then headed out and covered the events in the way I felt captured it all. I wanted to ensure that I covered them fully – not just showing the athletes competing, but to also show them getting kitted up, relaxing, preparing for competition and a few close up detail shots, as well as some spectator participation where possible
The images below tell my story of the events, spread out over the few events I covered, hopefully giving a good flavour of what it was all about.
Nikon D800| ISO 4500| 1/125th Sec| f/3.3| 42mm focal Length I felt that this was a good one for the cover shot – it shows the medal along with the rosette, which is a traditional award for equestrian events and gives a hint of what the medal is for. I originally chose an image that was just a rosette without the medal, but showing the ribbon which said “National Equestrian Games” which, although it stated what the photo essay was about, it didn’t show a medal, which I think is more important to highlight than the text. I took this shot just before the Medal Ceremony in the Dressage arena, where the light levels were pretty dark, hence the high ISO to give me a decent shutter speed, as all my images for the day were hand-held to allow me speed of composition, and also no flash, to avoid spooking horses. Luckily the D800 copes really well in low light, so no major problems, although with some of the images the digital noise isn’t great. The original composition was landscape, so I cropped it to fit a portrait format, more suited to a magazine layout. I cropped it as I have as it has a couple of open areas that could quite easily have text over them (such as a magazine title) without detracting from the main image.
Nikon D800| ISO 1250| 1/125th Sec| f/5.6| 8mm focal Length I wanted to show the grandeur of the venue, whilst also trying to show some of the numbers of people involved and felt that the fisheye lens was a good choice to try and get it all in one shot. I had another shot of the athletes taken from the stage, which was really effective, but it didn’t really show the Royal Crescent, or much about the Opening Ceremony. I needed to wait until all of the athletes were in and sat down before I could get this shot, and then as I needed to be up at the front once the ceremony had started so I was a bit limited as to the lighting conditions for this shot. I would have liked to be able to keep a little more detail in the sky, but that would have left the peope too dark, so I had to sacrifice a little of the cloud detail.
Nikon D800| ISO 360| 1/250th Sec| f/9.5| 155 mm focal Length All the athletes had a marquee where they could relax before the event and get prepared, the support team and family members were also with them to help out where required. It was a great place to go for candid shots of the athletes outside of the competitive arena, and I particularly like the expression on the main subjects face as he puts on a brand new pair of riding gloves, which are a little bit snug to begin with, needing a bit of extra assistance from one of the crew to get them on as they’re so tight. My original crop for this was portrait, but on reflection I’ve decide that a landscape format works better, bringing the focus more towards the athletes expression, and less about the red t-shirt of the crew member.
Nikon D800| ISO 100| 1/180th Sec| f/8| 30mm focal Length I wanted another celebratory shot, to go along with the previous one and liked this high-five between the athlete and their team-mate. The Working Trails competition has a “led” category, where the horse is kept on a line to ensure it is fully under control. The rider is responsible for controlling and directing the horse around the course, but the assistant is there to make sure everything is safe. I like that this shows the teamwork between the two, and the enjoyment that both rider and helper get from taking part. I’d have liked the capture the high-five a fraction of a second later, to get the hands meeting, but I think this still works as the viewer knows what is about to happen.
Nikon D800| ISO 160| 1/250th Sec| f/9.5| 300mm focal Length I wanted a straight forward shot of one of the riders in action, showing their expression, during competition and like this particular on as it shows horse and rider, and is a front on shot of the riders face, showing her expression. There’s also a bit of a lean, showing a little bit of dynamic movement. I think the key to this shot, is what the image doesn’t show – which is that the athlete normally uses a wheelchair. In this photo, and whenever she rides a horse, she has the freedom of the movement and independence – the whole tenet of the Special Olympics is about improving the lives of the athletes, who all have intellectual disabilities and some who also have physical disabilities.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/180th Sec| f/6.7| 8mm focal Length The venue for the Boccia and the Bowls at the university of Bath benefitted from a high gantry spanning the whole of the courts and I felt that this was an great place to get a good overview shot from. I tried with a different lens, but it cropped too much of the overall information out, so the fisheye was great for getting a wide shot, showing both the field of play, and also the spectators. Although the light levels were a bit low, needing a high ISO, the lighting was quite white, daylight balanced, which made the white balance quite nice, with no warm colour cast.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/250th Sec| f/4.6| 135mm focal Length I wanted a shot showing both the Boccia balls and also the competitors so lay down on the floor at the end of the court with a long-ish focal length to compress the distance between the balls and the competitor. I did have a couple of shots where the ball was more obviously moving, but chose tbis shot more for the expressions on the faces. As with the wide shot, the lighting colour meant that there was no real problems with white balance, but there is a bit of digital noise due to the high ISO I needed to be able to maintain a decent shutter speed and aperture.
Nikon D800| ISO 1400| 1/180th Sec| f/13| 70mm focal Length I particularly liked the concentration of this particular boccia competitor and the little “kiss” she seemed to give each ball prior to throwing. I also liked the thoughtful expression on her opponent in the back of the shot, trying to work out her next move.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/180th Sec| f/8| 200mm focal Length After leaving the “Cool Room” where the swimmers prepare for competition, the swimmers would sit on the side, waiting for the previous races to finish. This competitor was sat there, looking at the pool with serious concentration, and I was trying to capture that when she turned, spotted me and flashed a massive smile, which worked really well. I did also have a shot of a male swimmer in preparation mode, oblivious to my camera, but chose this as it has the Special Olympics hat in the background, meaning that it tells the story itself, whereas the shot with the male swimmer had nothing to distinguish it from any other event.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/250th Sec| f/8| 200mm t Length I found it to be a difficult decision to make – deciding which action shot to use for the swimming, as there were so many and in the end it was down to this shot, or one of a female swimmer who was wearing a Special Olympics swim cap, but I felt that the positioning of the swimmers arm in this shot was better, as it didn’t detract from the swimmers face. I also like the dynamic angle of this shot, and the other swimmers in the background, showing the competition going on, and the red lane marker separating the main subject from the other swimmers. I was fortunate that, like the Boccia arena the aquatics centre was lit with daylight balanced bulbs, and also had nice big windows, so there were no white balance issues, although again I needed a higher ISO to cope with the reduced light levels, bringing in digital noise.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/250th Sec| f/9.5| 82mm Length Kierans supporters were some of the more energetic in the crowd, and perfectly positioned to celebrate with him at the end of the race. I positioned myself in this spot as the timing board was directly above my head, meaning that as soon as the swimmers finished their race they looked to my side of the pool, allowing me to get some great portraits of them post-race, and it worked out great that this group of supporters were positioned where they were.
Nikon D800| ISO 2500| 1/180th Sec| f/11| 24mm Length Again this was one of two possible images to use to depict the medal ceremony, with the other one being three team-mates who had Gold, silver and Bronze, but the expression on this swimmers face was great, and it also showed in the background the “1 Big Smile” slogan being used for the Games, linking to the big smile on the medal winner. I do think the background is a little messy though.
Overall I’m pretty happy with how this assignment has gone, after re-evaluating the images I’ve submitted; my main complaint about myself is the length of time it has taken me from taking the images to writing up the assignment! I’ve had so much going on that putting aside time for me to do the work has been a challenge.
Looking at the assignment, in relation to the assessment criteria set by the Open College of the Arts, I need to assess myself on a number of criteria.
Demonstration of Technical and Visual Skills
- Overall the technical aspect of the images was handled well, although due to the extremely poor light levels in some of the locations arena, and the fact that I was unable to use flash meant that I had to uprate my ISO to pretty high levels, bringing quite a lot of digital noise into some the images, which detracted from the interior images a little. This meant that I used less of the interior images than I would have liked.
- Compositionally I think the images work well on the whole, and there is a reasonable mix of shot sizes, with some close ups, some medium shots and a couple of wider images, giving more of a location context to the feature.
Quality of Outcome
- The images in this feature give a pretty good flavour of the events that I covered, and I’m quite happy with the variety in the images, both in shot size as mentioned above, and in subject matter, with a variety of action shots of competitors, wider establishing shots, still life images, behind-the-scenes images and additional shots to support the feature.
- I think ordering the images chronologically suits this particular feature, telling the story of the events, and think that it shows my experience of the Games, as well as the experience of the athletes and their supporters.
Demonstration of Creativity
- As it was more of a documentary feature the images are mainly of uncontrolled action, but I think in terms of creativity I’ve covered the subject well, using opportunities for a little bit more creativity where possible.
- Looking at my Learning Log at http://heidibocalog.wordpress.com/ I still need to look at other photographers work more, and reflect on it, rather than looking at others work and not logging it. I also intend to start looking out for more exhibitions to visit, to look at and reflect on the work of others.
- As this type of feature work was something I had some experience of, I didn’t maybe look at enough of the work of others, as I felt in my comfort zone, both prior to and during the shooting phase of this feature.
- Other than a lack of research on the Learning Log, I am pretty happy with how this section of the course has progressed, and the exercises leading up to the Assignment were very interesting, and enjoyable to do.
Now I’m at the end of this part of the first element of the degree course, The Art of Photography, I’m quite happy with this assignment, Assignment 5 and the four previous assignments. Overall I’ve learnt (and re-learnt) so much, and am starting to get a feel for my “arty” side, which has had to remain suppressed during my RAF photographic career! I’m now looking forward to moving on to the next phase of the course – assuming that I successfully pass this assignment of course!