Category Archives: Coursework

Assignment 5: People and Place on Assignment

For the fifth assignment, I had to select my own project with the proviso that the subject should be related to the material in the People and place module. I started out with some grandiose ideas but then common sense prevailed and I realised that I would need to choose a topic that could be developed around a location that was close to where I live so that I could easily visit it enough times to obtain a satisfactory set of pictures. As I live in an area that is popular tourist destination in summer I decided to work around the idea of people holidaying in Britain or taking a staycation as the popular press likes to say today.

Within ten to twenty miles of my home there are many different types of holiday destinations, firstly there is Burnham Market or “Chelsea-on-Sea” as many locals refer to it which is dominated by affluent second home owners mainly from London.  Then there are coastal towns being rapidly gentrified like Wells-next-the-Sea, several wild life sanctuaries visited by keen bid watchers and finally Hunstanton a traditional British seaside resort.

In some ways Burnham Market would have been an interesting topic showing how the upmarket shops and restaurants and often ostentatious displays of wealth make it very different to other surrounding towns and villages. However, in the end I decide to focus on Hunstanton and try to show what a holiday at a traditional British resort is like in 2017.

Client Brief

I wrote my self the following brief for this project:

Deliver 8-12 photographs that document what people could expect from a holiday in Hunstanton in 2017. To illustrate one of a series of magazine article about the different types of holiday destinations in East Anglia. This is not intended to be a series of articles marketing resorts by glossing over the realities of life with dramatic sunsets etc but rather a true picture of what each these resorts are like. Neither should the pictures resemble those used in marketing brochures or on postcards.


Following the feedback from my tutor on my last assignment I looked the work of Vanessa Puntener a Swiss photographer who has produced several projects around life in the Alps and Martin Parr’s famous work “The Last Resort”. It was not my intention to try and create a vision of Hunstanton that was as bleak as Parr’s vision of New Brighton. Although for many years Hunstanton has always been a little shabby and in places a little run down it has never had the piles of litter in the streets that Parr shows in New Brighton. Hunstanton is a small resort town and over the years it has largely survived on day trippers and caravaners it has never suffered the level of depravation that has been seen in larger resorts.

My original intention was to create a set of pictures of people obviously enjoying themselves on the beach, the promenade and around the town. I didn’t wat to take pictures of the sunsets the area is famous for or the gardens along the cliff tops that appear in every brochure published by the local tourist board.

When planning the shoots for this project I started off by writing lists:

What makes a good holiday, eg

  • Sun, sea and sand, pony rides, fun fair, amusement arcades, entertainment, food

Key places in Hunstanton, eg

  • Beach, promenade, gardens, stripped cliffs, beach huts, golf, crazy golf, bowling green, sailing club

What do we associate with seaside resorts, eg

  • Fish and chips, café’s, ice cream parlours, souvenir shops, rock, colourful buckets and spades, nets for rock pooling

Merging items from the different lists I ended up with about 50 ideas of shots I could try and capture: eg

  • Families on the beach
  • Eating take away on the promenade
  • Colourful displays in shops
  • Looking out from pub or café
  • Panic in beach hut
  • Water sports eg Sailing, kite surfers

I spent a lot more time preparing for this assignment that I have done in the past and while I did not end up capturing pictures that fulfilled many of my initial ideas having a list of potential subjects did help me focus on areas and not wander around just looking for a shot aimlessly.

Taking the Pictures

I visited Hunstanton six times and took more than a thousand pictures while working this assignment, I was there in bright sunshine, cloudy conditions, rain, high winds all the kinds of weather you get at an east coast resort in summer. What became increasing clear to me over the first two shots is that whatever the weather few people seemed to be enjoying themselves. There were many more miserable people than happy people. Initially I went out looking for happy scenes but it increasingly became clear that the more interesting picture were those of people who were not obviously enjoying themselves and gradually my theme moved to the grim reality of seaside holidays and far away from my initial concept.

My final selection of twelve photographs is show below followed by my reflections on this work.


The twelve pictures below capture a view of a holiday in Hunstanton, they portray it as quite a grim experience in doing this I am not trying to be disrespectful to the people in the pictures or to the town rather I hope I have captured the experience for some people that is very different from that pictured in tourist publications.


Chalet Life



True Grit



Is that rain?



Before the rain






Wishful Thinking



Why isn’t it like yesterday?






Why am I here?



Even the dog is suffering



I take my dog everywhere



Time to go home?



I tried in this series of photographs to capture a vision of the reality behind the glossy picture people often have of seaside holidays. I have shown these pictures to several people and the overwhelming response I get is how grim and depressing they make Hunstanton and its holiday makers look. I have not captured what I had in mind when I wrote the original brief but I believe that I have created a set of pictures that capture the experiences some people get from a day by the sea.

If these were to be used to illustrate a magazine article it could not be one that was promoting the pleasures of a holiday in Britain. Perhaps they could illustrate an article charting the gradual re-emergence of British resorts as they pick themselves up from what were much worse times twenty or thirty years ago.

One of the difficult decisions I had was whether to select these pictures or a set that showed a more positive side of Hunstanton. In the more than 1000 pictures I took during my visit to Hunstanton there are a lot of happy people enjoying themselves. However, the more times I visited the more I was struck by the number of miserable people and eventually I concluded that this had to be my theme.

As I said in the introductory text above I did a lot more planning for this assignment than I have done in the past. As I knew the town from many visits in the past I could plan several locations for shoots along with the pictures I hope that I would get in each one. In general, I believe that this really helped although in many cases I never got the pictures I had visualised as I was creating my plans. However, I do think that during this assignment I have learnt the value of planning and returning to a location several times. In many of the earlier exercises on this course I just walked the streets with some vague ideas of what I wanted to shoot and while I got some good shots it did take much longer than the more focused approach I used here. Making several visits enabled me to review the work I had and identify gaps that I needed to fill in a narrative and to be able to reshoot ideas that had not quite worked.

Thoughts on the pictures

In “Chalet Life” and “True Grit” I was trying to capture the determination people have to enjoy themselves on a seaside holiday. Perhaps “True Grit” is really about the determination to redo things that the woman had done in the past?

Rain is an ever-present feature in a British holiday, “Is that Rain” and “Before the rain” try to show how people try and work around rain.

“Inclusion”, today the seaside is a very inclusive place; young, old many people from different ethnic background and to me this picture really captures this theme. Whoever you, whatever your problems you can come to the seaside

“Wishful thinking” and “Why isn’t it like yesterday?”, some days the traders along the promenade have bad days either the weather is bad of perhaps it is just that no one shows up. Years ago, the beach would have been packed every day in the summer and café’s full but those days have ling gone.

“Resting”, “Why and I here” and “Even the dog is suffering” are trying to question why people come to Hunstanton when apparently, they hate either the seaside or the people they are with. Do they have some sense of duty that causes them to visit or are they just trying to relive happy childhood memories? With resting I did consider cropping out the child on the right hand side but in the end I preferred the picture with the child there

“I take my dog everywhere”, I couldn’t resist this shot, why take your dog in a push chair to play bingo? The inside of the arcade also really reflects the faded glory of many of our seaside resorts.

“Time to go home”, I think this picture sums up the thoughts of many people who visit seaside resorts when the weather is less than perfect.

As I said at the start of this post I did look at the work of Martin Parr and Vanessa Puntener at the time I was starting on the assignment. While I did not go out and try reproduce the style of either of there artists work Puntener’s work did encourage me to include some wider shots to give context to the my images and show that these are photographs of a seaside resort. As I said previously I really did not want to create a Parr like vision of Hunstanton but perhaps there is more Parr influence here that I was consciously looking to include. The amusement arcade picture and the couple ignoring each other outside the Chalet have some echos of picture included in the last Resort but I was not thinking about this when I took them.



5 – Selective processing and prominence

 For this exercise I used a picture that I took as part of a series in January when I was working on a project based on winter in a British seaside resort which I was considering using for my fourth assignment. In the end I didn’t use these picture but this one seemed a good subject for this exercise. I do not particularly like this picture but when I took it I liked the idea of the fluorescent green jacket worn by one of the walkers brightening up what was a cold and dull day.

In the original picture the figures are quite prominent although the sea wall to the right does tend to make a viewer look into the distance away from the walkers.

To try and make the walkers more prominent I have lightened the rocks in the above their heads and the sand to their left. I also used a graduate filter to darken the sea wall so it is less distracting to the viewer. I obviously could have tried cropping the image to make the figures more prominent by removing the distracting sea wall but I felt that would not satisfy the brief for this exercise.

Making the figures less prominent was difficult given the bright jacket the man of the right was wearing. In the picture below I tried to make the people less obvious by adding emphasis to other elements on the frame. I started by adding a graduated filter to darken the sky, increase its contrast and saturation giving a brighter blue sky with the wind farm in the distance becoming more obvious. After this I darkened the rocks so they become a much more dominant feature. I also increased the saturation of the red ice cream banner in the top right and used a brush with a high clarity setting to add some texture to the concrete wall and path in an attempt to add something visually interesting to what was a dull area of the frame.

While the figures are still an important part of this frame I believe that they are much less prominent than in the original frame.



4 – Balancing Figure and Space

The brief for this exercise was to produce two pictures from broadly the same viewpoint that vary the balance of attention between a person and the setting they are in. I took the two pictures below on Ely station while waiting for a train. They were taken a few minutes apart from within a few feet of each other.

In the first picture I wanted to capture the idea of someone walking down the platform on their way home after a day at work.

While in the second picture I was trying to capture the overall ambience of the station with a few isolated figure waiting to their train. I think I really took this picture a few seconds too late, the train is just arriving at the platform but it has slowed down enough that the motion blur is not evident. If I had turned a little further to the left  and capture the train 20 yards or more early when it was going faster the picture may have been more successful.

These were two of the first pictures I took shortly after getting an iPhone 7 plus and when I took them I was really trying to work out what the capabilities of the camera were in low light as well as looking for pictures for the exercise. If I took these pictures again I think I would choose to do it in brighter light because or choose a different scene because I think the high level on noise reduction applied by the iPhone have reduced the sharpness to a level I am not completely happy with.

3 – Making Figures Anonymous

Over a couple of months I walk around taking many pictures in which I trid to use anonymous figures to add interest to an image without making them the dominate feature of a picture. I tried the various techniques discussed in the notes and include the four very different images below as examples.

Motion Blur

In the picture below I wanted to capture the shape of teh spiral stair case in isolation of its surounding with the geometric shapes of the wooden stairs, the black rails and concrete walls dominating the image. In the end I felt that the blurred images of people walking up and down added interest and an element of softness that was missing from the rather stark arhitecture.


Small and Many

This pictures shows the crowds in Convent Garden reflected in the stainless steel facing on a building. the steel plate is not perfectly flat and has visible joins beween panels so it adds additional interest to the image and further anonymises the figures.


Partly Obsucured

In this picture the woman walking round behind the blankets or wall hangings gives a sense of sclae to this picture would otherwise be missing. Without the figure there would not be a sense of how large these pices really were.


Facing Away

I like this picture because it really tells a story, the three girsl are taking a rest on a decorated swinging garden seat, presumably after a hard days sopping judging by the bags at their feet. The woman in muslim dress seems to be staring at them wishing they would move on so she could take a rest as does the woman fiddling with her phone on the right.



2 – Busy Traffic

The Burlington Arcade

For nearly two centuries the  Burlington Arcade between Piccadilly and Burlington Gardens hs been an exclusive shopping destination in the west end of London. It is a relatively narrow covered shopping arcade which is usually busy at weekends but on a Sunday afternoon about a month before Christmas it is jam packed. I took the picture below just after dusk, i wanted to give the impression of a large number of people and use the Christmas decorations to give a sense of the length of the arcade. I also wait for a slight lull in the crowd so that there a some unobstructed views of shop windows on both sides of the frame to show the sort of goods on sale.

Burlington Arcade

I like the sense of depth that the Christmas lights and roof lights give this image and the way these contrast with the scrum of dark figures in the forground. It was not obvious to me that many people were buying anything while I was taking photographs and at the time (around 4:30pm) I took this I thought most people looked like they were pretty fed up and really just wanted to go home.

1 – A Single Figure Small

The Aysgarth Falls

The Aysgarth water falls are a popular beauty spot in the Yorkshire Dales attracting large numbers of tourists every day in the summer months. When I took this picture, I wanted to show the beauty of the location but also keep the figure large enough so it is clear she is sitting texting or reading email apparently oblivious to the landscape around her. I positioned the about two thirds up the frame but perhaps a little to close to the right and edge. I wanted someone viewing the picture to be initially drawn to the figure and then look more into the landscape.


It was quite a dull day when I took this picture and that perhaps makes this picture less successful than it could be on a brighter day the beauty of the scene may have been more obvious. Also the overcast day means the trees on the left bank of the river are quite dark did lighten these in post processing but perhaps I was not bold enough?

How Space Changes With Light

This is an exercise that I really wish I had done in the summer rather than in the middle of winter. In the summer, I could have selected a day with strong sunlight and with the sun high in the sky and found a room where the light and shadows changed dramatically during the day.

For this exercise, I choose to photograph the room I use as an office when I work from home and when working on this course. The window in this room faces north west and in the winter the sun is too low to shine directly into the room and cast strong shadows. These pictures were taken one day after the shortest day, a day which was forecast to be largely clear and sunny with some thin patchy cloud. I mounted my camera on a tripod and set it up to take a picture every twenty minutes. To enable the colours in the pictures to reflect the changing colour of the light I set a manual white balance. I selected the cloudy white balance setting this is obviously not strictly correct but I felt that it was the best of the standard settings given the subject matter.

The sequence of pictures started at 8:05am and finishes at 2:25pm (the times on the photographs below are an hour out, I need to update the time set in my camera). A contact sheet showing the twenty picture I took is shown below, a higher resolution version of this sheet is available here.


The first picture is taken just after sunrise, the room was still quite dark and the camera’s matrix metering has exposed for the view outside and made the scene much brighter than was really the case. Through the sequence of pictures, I left the camera set to automatic exposure in the hope that I would get a sequence where the interior had a similar level of brightness and this seems to have worked reasonable well. I did the minimum of post processing of these picture, in the end just setting up a preset in Lightroom to reduce the highlights by the same amount in each picture to get some detail in the scene through the window.

The most obvious change in the lighting through this sequence is the colour, in the early pictures the light is very blue due to this side of the house being totally in shade. In the final pictures the light colour is much warmer particularly in the last picture. The warming of the light during the day is most visible on the white ceiling in the room which starts off very blue and ends up quite yellow. You can also see the area of blue in the ceiling reducing as it gets later in the day.

When looking closely at the sequence the seventeenth image, third from the end, looks like it is slightly out of sequence because the light looks colder than the previous two or three pictures, my assumption is that there was more cloud when this was taken.

In the notes, it suggests taking multiple pictures at each time but given the lighting in this room at the time of year it was taken I didn’t feel that there was much to be gained from this. Perhaps I just choose the wrong room but I don’t really think any other room in the house would have been a better subject.

Looking closely at specific areas of the image it is possible to see changes in highlights and shadows as the lighting changes through the day. For example, the crops below show a growing highlight of the right-hand side of the right-hand monitor. The shadow of the power block on the monitor screen also get more pronounced as the day goes on. I would like to think that the shadow in the folds of the curtain also get more pronounced but I think this is more something that I want to see rather than something that is real.