Assignment 3 Brief

Assignment three The decisive moment

  1. Prints

    Send a set of between six and eight high-quality photographic prints on the theme of the ‘decisive moment’ to your tutor. 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.

  1. Assignment notes

    Submit assignment notes of between 500 and 1,000 words with your series.
    Introduce your subject and describe your ‘process’ – your way of working. Then
    briefly state how you think each image relates to the concept of the decisive
    moment. This will be a personal response as there are no right or wrong answers in a visual arts course. You’ll find it useful to explore the photographers and works referenced in Project 3, if you haven’t already done so. Don’t forget to use Harvard referencing.
    Post your prints, no larger than A4, to your tutor together with your assignment notes.

Reasoning for submission of photographic prints for assignment 3:
The OCA strongly encourages students to submit a print submission for assessment (this is mandatory in Levels 2 and 3). Sharing some prints with your tutor half way through the module is an opportunity to get feedback on print quality. If you’re hard pressed to submit the prints you don’t have to send the whole assignment, you can send a selection and submit the rest of the series via blog or in the usual way that you’ve agreed with your tutor.


Project 3: What matters is to look – Exercise 3.3

Exercise 3.3

  1. What do the timeframes of the camera actually look like? If you have a manual
    film camera, open the camera back (make sure there’s no film in the camera
    first!) and look through the shutter as you press the shutter release. What is the
    shortest duration in which your eyes can perceive a recognisable image in bright
    daylight? Describe the experiment in your learning log.
  2. Find a good viewpoint, perhaps fairly high up (an upstairs window might do)
    where you can see a wide view or panorama. Start by looking at the things
    closest to you in the foreground. Then pay attention to the details in the middle
    distance and, finally, the things towards the horizon. Now try and see the whole
    landscape together, from the foreground to horizon (you can move your eyes).
    Include the sky in your observation and try to see the whole visual field together,
    all in movement (there is always some movement). When you’ve got it, raise your
    camera and take a picture. Add the picture and a description of the process to
    your learning log.

  1. Unfortunately the only film camera I have is a Nikon EM, which is an aperture priority semi automatic 35mm film camera. With the back open the shutter speed automatically defaults to 1/1000 sec and all that can be perceived is a brief flash of light. The only other speed settings are bulb (shutter stays open as long as the shutter button is depressed) and manual 1/90th sec setting for using a non TTL flash. Even when set to 1/90th sec the flash of light from the shutter is slightly longer but I am still unable to perceive a recognisable image. So the shutter speed would have to be a lot slower for me (personally) to be able to distinguish an identifiable image other than a vague shape. Maybe as slow as 1/2 sec or 1/4 sec. Without having the camera capable of setting these shutter speeds I am making only rough assumptions which for an experiment is not good enough.

2. Looking out of the study window I perceived the:

  • flat roof
  • caravan
  • driveways
  • cars
  • trees
  • roads
  • houses
  • telegraph pole & lines
  • sky

Taking in the whole scene there appears to be some natural framing and negative space. There is no wind so there is no movement in the trees and the clouds also have no distinguishable movement in the bright sky. I listen and hear a car door slam down the close and its motor start. From that I know it must come out of the close in front of me. I raise my camera to focus on the space between the two trees near the entrance to the close. I press my shutter as the car moves through this framing as shown below.

Out the study window

I believe that the purpose of this exercise is to help us to attune ourselves to our surroundings and to gain a level of spacial awareness that helps us to detect and act on movement within our peripheral vision. But for me it is not just sight but sound (as in the sound of the car, or people talking, sound of the wind in the trees etc.) and a level of gut feeling. All this Henri Cartier-Bresson called luck, but for me he was a man with amazing spacial awareness and sensitivity to his surroundings that borders on a 6th sense.

A link to my handwritten notes on my opinion of the Decisive Moment is below:

Notes on the Decisive Moment 

Project 2: A durational space – Exercise 3.2

Exercise 3.2
Start by doing your own research into some of the artists discussed above.
Then, using slow shutter speeds, the multiple exposure function, or another
technique inspired by the examples above, try to record the trace of movement
within the frame. You can be as experimental as you like. Add a selection of shots
together with relevant shooting data and a description of your process (how you
captured the shots) to your learning log.

As part of Assignment 2 I took a number of images around Waterloo station in which I was attempting to capture images that evoked the chaotic movement of commuter crowds. The following images were all taken handheld due to the restrictions regarding tripods within Waterloo Station. I tried various combinations of; height, angle, focal length and exposure. I think that the images evoke movement and provide the traces of time I was attempting to create.

Blur 1

Blur 1 – Focal Length 450mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 2

Blur 2 – Focal Length 123mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 3

Blur 3 – Focal Length 123mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2 sec at f/22

Blur 4

Blur 4 – Focal Length 90mm, ISO 400, Exposure 1 sec at f/22

Blur 5

Blur 5 – Focal Length 217mm, ISO 400, Exposure 2.5 sec at f/22

Blur 6

Blur 6 – Focal Length 450mm, ISO 400, Exposure 1/15 sec at f/6.3


Project 1: The frozen moment – Exercise 3.1

Exercise 3.1

Using fast shutter speeds, try to isolate a frozen moment of time in a moving subject.
Depending on the available light you may have to select a high ISO to avoid visible
blur in the photograph. Try to find the beauty in a fragment of time that fascinated
John Szarkowski. Add a selection of shots, together with relevant shooting data and
a description of your process (how you captured the images), to your learning log.

The following series of 3 images were taken at covent garden during the performance of a street artist. I was lucky to have a seat and be able to carefully use my tripod discreetly.

The 2nd of the three really captures the action but  the 1st and 3rd provide context and the series works really well as a triptych.

artist 1

Artist 1 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

artist 2

Artist 2 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

artist 3

Artist 3 – Focal Length 27mm, ISO 800, Exposure 1/1000 sec at f/4.0

Post processing involved aligning and cropping images in photoshop. Followed by conversion to black & white and a few minor adjustments.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.5

Exercise 2.5
Find a subject in front of a background with depth. Take a close viewpoint and zoom
in; you’ll need to be aware of the minimum focusing distance of your lens. Focus on
the subject and take a single shot. Then, without changing the focal length, set the
focus to infinity and take a second shot.

The closer you are to the subject, the shallower the depth of field; the further from
the subject, the deeper the depth of field. That’s why macro shots taken from very
close viewpoints have extremely shallow depth of field, and if you set the focus at
infinity everything beyond a certain distance will be in focus.

As you review the two shots, how does the point of focus structure the composition?
With a shallow depth of field the point of focus naturally draws the eye, which goes
first of all to the part of the image that’s sharp. It generally feels more comfortable if
the point of focus is in the foreground, although there’s nothing wrong with placing
the point of focus in the background.

These two images were taken at the end of my road. The first focusing on the top nodule of a post box. This sharply focuses on the foreground and throws the background out of focus. The Second focusing on infinity puts the background in focus and throws the foreground out of focus.

They were all taken with:

  • Aperture priority
  • ISO 100
  • f/5.0
  • Fujifilm X30 equivalent 35mm focal length of:
    • 56mm

Post box and up the road – Short focus


Post box and up the road – Long focus

I can see that playing with the point of focus will effect the depth of field. This will be a useful technique to limit or restrict attention to elements within the image.

Project 2: Lens work – Research point

Research point
Do your own research into some of the photographers mentioned in this project.

Look back at your personal archive of photography and try to find a photograph that
could be used to illustrate one of the aesthetic codes discussed in Project 2. Whether or
not you had a similar idea when you took the photograph isn’t important; find a photo
with a depth of field that ‘fits’ the code you’ve selected. The ability of photographs to
adapt to a range of usages is something we’ll return to later in the course.

Add the shot to your learning log and include a short caption describing how you’ve
re-imagined your photograph.

Looking at the six recommended photographers, I selected one who demonstrated images with a deep depth of field and one who demonstrated images using a shallow depth of field.

First I looked at the work of Fay Godwin, especially those challenging the environment. I chose the image below from her work and one from my own that also shared a large depth of field and was also challenging what I had witnessed:


“Countryside of Brassington Derbyshire” – Fay Godwin

Fly Tip

Fly Tipping – Perry Tatman

For my shallow depth of field example I was attracted to the work of Mona Kuhn. In particular the use of a tilt-shift effect that provided a sliver of shallow focus. My attempt at this type of shallow focus follows:


“Grand Falls”  – Mona Kuhn


“Lynmouth, Devon” – Perry Tatman

Reference (2017). [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Mar. 2017]. (2017). MONA KUHN. [online] Available at: [Accessed 27 Mar. 2017].


Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.7

Exercise 2.7
Use a combination of small apertures and wide lens to take a number of photographs
exploring deep depth of field. Because of the small apertures you’ll be working with
slow shutter speeds and may need to use a tripod or rest the camera on a stable
surface to prevent ‘camera shake’ at low ISOs. Add one or two unedited sequences,
together with relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your
learning log.

Achieving deep depth of field might appear easy compared to the difficulties of
managing shallow depth of field. We’re surrounded by images made with devices
rather than cameras whose short focal lengths and small sensors make it hard
to achieve anything other than deep depth of field. The trick is to include close
foreground elements in focus for an effective deep depth of field image. Foreground
detail also helps to balance the frame, which can easily appear empty in wide shots,
especially in the lower half. When successful, a close viewpoint together with the
dynamic perspective of a wide-angle lens gives the viewer the feeling that they’re
almost inside the scene.

The following images using the above settings all taken using a tripod. The deep depth of field creates an acceptable level of focus from the front of the image to the back of the image.

The foreground elements coupled with the receding elements provide layers giving a sense of depth and 3D quality.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.6

Exercise 2.6
Use a combination of wide apertures, long focal lengths and close viewpoints to
take a number of photographs with shallow depth of field. (Remember that smaller f
numbers mean wider apertures.) Try to compose the out-of-focus parts of the picture
together with the main subject. Add one or two unedited sequences, together with
relevant shooting data and an indication of your selects, to your learning log.

Wide apertures create shallow depth of field, especially when combined with a long
focal length and a close viewpoint. In human vision the eye registers out-of-focus
areas as vague or indistinct – we can’t look directly at the blur. But in a photograph,
areas of soft focus can form a large part of the image surface so they need to be
handled with just as much care as the main subject.

Don’t forget that the camera’s viewfinder image is obtained at maximum aperture for
maximum brightness and therefore at the shallowest depth of field. Use the depth of
field preview button to see the actual depth of field at any particular aperture. (This
is especially useful in film cameras where you don’t have the benefit of reviewing a
shot immediately after you’ve taken it). It’s surprising to see the effect that a single f
stop can have on the appearance of an image.

This combination of settings provides a very pleasant image with soft dreamy blurred background that really makes the focused object stand out as can be seen from the images below caused by a relatively narrow depth of field.

As can be seen this ‘bokeh’ effect is particularly pleasing with portraits, but it is just as effective with making all objects stand out from their backgrounds.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.4

Exercise 2.4
Find a location with good light for a portrait shot. Place your subject some distance in
front of a simple background and select a wide aperture together with a moderately
long focal length such as 100mm on a 35mm full-frame camera (about 65mm on a
cropped-frame camera). Take a viewpoint about one and a half metres from your
subject, allowing you to compose a headshot comfortably within the frame. Focus
on the eyes and take the shot.

Longer focal lengths appear to compress space, giving a shallower depth of
acceptable sharpness, which is known as depth of field. This makes a short or medium
telephoto lens perfect for portraiture: the slight compression of the features appears
attractive while the shallow depth of field adds intensity to the eyes and ‘lifts’ the
subject from the background.

These settings provide a much more flattering look to portraits especially taken at the same level. The 3 images below show this to quite good effect I feel.

The look is defiantly more aesthetically appealing.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.3

Exercise 2.3
Choose a subject in front of a background with depth. Select your shortest focal
length and take a close low viewpoint, below your subject. Find a natural point of
focus and take the shot.
You’ll see that a very wide lens together with a close viewpoint creates extreme
perspective distortion. Gently receding lines become extreme diagonals and rounded
forms bulge towards the camera. Space appears to expand. The low viewpoint adds
a sense of monumentality, making the subject seem larger than it is, and tilting
the camera adds to the effect as vertical lines dramatically converge. Not the ideal
combination for a portrait shot!

The shots below were taken with my Fuji X30 at its shortest focal length of 28mm. This is wide but not extremely, so the shots while not ideal show some distortion. Unfortunately there were not any high buildings or objects so there is not much in the high background to demonstrate the distortion effect. But the low-lying object do show distortion and parallel lines demonstrate convergence. This does give an impression of grandeur and largesse. But not (as mentioned in the brief) very flatering for portraiture. Though this effect could be used to great effect to make someone look powerful or important if used with care, judgement and good lighting.