Category Archives: 4 – Assignment 4 – A Sense of Place

Assignment 4 – Tutor Feedback

In places, I thought the feedback from my tutor of this assignment was a little harsh although in retrospect I accept that many of the points he makes particularly those about shallow depth of field and too much blur is correct. I was a little concerned about this when I was taking the pictures but was concerned about introducing too much noise much noise.  Looking back given the subject matter I think I could have go away with a higher ISO.

I also appreciate the comments on needing to include at least some shots with a wider perspective to give more of a context to the activities I have capture in the more tightly framed shots. this is something I will  focus on doing better in my final assignment.

My tutor raise the issue of cropping and shows some example of how pictures could be improved by different crops and I agree that individually his crops are better than mine. However, perhaps wrongly I always try to keep the aspect ratio the same for all the pictures in a set. Maybe I should change this approach?

If I was doing this assignment again I not sure that I would choose a subject like Borough market again? Probably, not my work suffered from the poor light in many areas and as the feedback points out it is hard to create pictures that depict Borough Market and not any random market. I tried to emphasise the location by including the Borough Market name that is on most stalls but this doesn’t really stand out in many of the shots.

Before I started work on my final assignment I did some research on Vanessa Puntener and Martin Parr as suggested by my tutor.

The full set of my tutors comments are available here

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Assignment 4 – A Sense of Place

I selected Borough Market as the theme for this assignment and I have tried to capture the essence of the market by including pictures of the stalls, stall holders, cafés and the public who visit the market to buy or just to eat at the numerous cafes, street food vendors and the increasing number of up market restaurants. I took these pictures during two visits to the market once at the end of January and the other in early April. When I planned this assignment, I had in mind producing a set of images for an article about Borough market in a foodie magazine. As I wanted to take picture with something of a street feel I was not thinking of a high end very glossy magazine that would typically use artificially lit posed pictures but rather one of the increasingly common regional free food and lifestyle magazines. Where I live there is a magazine called Feast which is printed on relatively low quality paper and often features pictures similar to those I had in mind.

When I was planning the pictures I wanted for this assignment I thought about capturing the number of people who visit the market, the crush of people at popular times and the characters who work on the stalls. I decided to take hand held pictures using a high ISO. In some cases this meant relatively low shutter speeds so there is some motion blur to capture a sense of the bustling crowds and the expansive gestures of the stall holders.

When I first saw this picture, I had a thought that it could be called the face of Borough Market with the stallholder gazing intently out of the frame over her cakes towards a potential customer apparently unaware of the two policemen rushing past the other side of her stall. I could also image the possibility of positioning the title of the article over the area where the two policemen are walking.

This picture focuses on the products on sale, in this case artisan bread. People come to Borough Market to buy food stuffs that are not available in the typical supermarket. This stall had a great display of breads and I like the way the people in the background recede into the distance giving some idea of the size of the market.

 

The best fishmonger of 2016! This picture really capture the character that you see in many of the stall holders. In this case, the fishmonger is deep conversation with a customers who is only partially visible as a black blur in the bottom right of the frame. Perhaps this would have been a better picture without the blurred figure in the foreground but I liked the combination of the certificate, the fishmonger and the sign for the next-door stall and if I had waited for the scene to clear I would have lost the fishmonger’s expression which I think is a key feature of the picture. I could also have used more depth of field to sharpen the image of the certificate and sign but that would have meant the central figure would not have so obviously stood out.

I like the activity in the picture, the stallholder packing something, the woman in the background opening her handbag. I also like the colours of the goods in the foreground. The triangle formed by the woman in blue, the stall holder and the couple apparently about to buy something also give a sense of depth and draw the viewer eye towards the people and other stalls in the background.

I think of this picture as “making a choice” I like the expressions of the two women on the right who seem to be agonising over what to buy (this was a stall selling cupcakes). The girl on the foreground on the left is perhaps a little too much out of focus but in a way that just adds emphasis to the other figures.

 

Borough Market is not just about stalls selling gourmet food there are many cafes, restaurants and street food stalls. Maria’ café is one of the most central and well known. I like the way the woman in the foreground seems to be passing on a secret to her partner, perhaps a derogatory comment about the food?

I think these are six strong pictures but do they fulfil the brief of the assignment? I believe that they capture the character of Borough Market, they feature a variety of subject matter, food, traders and customers but perhaps there were opportunities that I missed. I have discussed some of these below when commenting on some of the pictures I chose not to include in my final six. The assignment talks about variety of scale and I have that to a degree; some tightly cropped portraits and some views that show stalls in a context but the location of the market under railway arches made getting a very expansive view difficult.

As well as the top six pictures above I also selected six reserves shown below, I am a little concerned that these are just ‘more of the same’ although I have included one or two that are quite different

I took several pictures like this, people staring longingly at the food on sale with crowds and the colourful canopies over the stalls receding into the background. This one has colour, great expression and a clear view of the products on sale but I feel the stall holders back in the foreground makes it not good enough to be in my top six.

 

I also tried a lot of shots like this showing the magnificent displays of food on sale. This would be a great picture to accompany the right article but I am concerned that there is nothing that really ties this to Borough Market it could be a scene almost anywhere in the country.

 

I wanted to include picture of people visiting the market and this one showing a man wearing two pairs of glasses really stood out. This was taken on a very cold overcast day at the end of January and it is hard to see why anyone would need sun glasses. I think the impact of this picture is a little diluted by the expression on the face of the woman in blue, she really doesn’t look like she is enjoying her food.

This is some ways a classic market scene, the stallholder looking happy having made a sale and the customer happily discussing his purchase. I feel it is a little let down by the labels on the cupcakes in the foreground being a little out of focus. This is a case where more depth of field or perhaps moving the plane of focus forward a little could have improved the picture

This another picture of the same group I included above selecting the cupcakes they want to buy. However, I find the woman’s face and teeth in the middle of the frame a little distracting. I did burn in this area a little during post processing to make the face less distracting but it still isn’t quite right.

 

This one is like several of the other images as it captures a stall holder serving a customer. It is a little different in that the structure of the building is visible in the background rather than the crowds and other stalls. I also like the way that the second stall holder appears to be looking out for new customers.

 

As with all shoots there were several ideas that I have thought about in advance that didn’t work out on the day. I think with more visits to the market I could make these ideas work and probably produce a series of photographs with a better narrative. I believe that with any project it is worth analysing what didn’t work as well as documenting things that did. I have four example images below that illustrate themes I wanted to include but which just didn’t work out.

I really wanted to capture an image that emphasised the street food on sale at Borough Market. However, in practice this proved difficult, the vendors were often in very dark areas and the customers in full light so it was hard to faces of both the vendor and customers. In this example, the vendor was in deep shadow but the customers were in an open bright area. Perhaps I could have used flash here but I don’t really like doing that in street photography and in this case bright reflections off the metal pans would probably have overpowered the image. I have thought about actually darkening the vendor to almost be a silhouette and just have the picture focus on the food and customers. That might be an interesting exercise but I don’t think it would fit with the other pictures in this assignment.

People eating street food was another idea I had, I quite liked this image it gives a good idea of the surroundings. However, the way the couple are frozen in the image eating their fish and chips is just not attractive. Perhaps if I was taking pictures that comment on British life I would use it but in this context, it just seems wrong.

I also wanted to be able to capture a contrast between the bustle of the market and the street food vendors with the high-end restaurants that surround it. While this is a nice through the window shot of people enjoying a restaurant I couldn’t get the reflection of the market in the glass that I had wanted.

I also did get a picture I really like that showed the surroundings of the market. It is located in and around railway arches and wide angle shots usually suffer from the very variable lighting, often images have large dark area with a very bright area where there is an entrance. I took this picture in one of the entrances to the market which is one of the few areas where there is a glass roof and hence more uniform lighting. However, it is a very busy thoroughfare and despite returning several time I could not get a grouping of people in the frame that I really liked.

Looking back over this assignment I now wonder if I have chosen the six best pictures or whether I would have been better to have a more focused theme. Perhaps I should have just included pictures of stall holders and other people working at the market to produce a submission based on ‘characters’ of Borough market. In the end, I am happy that the broader theme works in this case.