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 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 2.2

Exercise 2.2
Select your longest focal length and compose a portrait shot fairly tightly within the
frame in front of a background with depth. Take one photograph. Then walk towards
your subject while zooming out to your shortest focal length. Take care to frame the
subject in precisely the same way in the viewfinder and take a second shot. Compare
the two images and make notes in your learning log.

As you page between the two shots it can be shocking to see completely new
elements crash into the background of the second shot while the subject appears
to remain the same. This exercise clearly shows how focal length combined with
viewpoint affects perspective distortion. Perspective distortion is actually a normal
effect of viewing an object, for example where parallel train tracks appear to meet
at the horizon. A ‘standard lens’ – traditionally a 50mm fixed focal length lens for
a full-frame camera (about 33mm in a cropped-frame camera) – approximates the
perspective distortion of human vision (not the angle of view, which is much wider).
A standard lens is therefore the lens of choice for ‘straight’ photography, which aims
to make an accurate record of the visual world.

Below are 2 shots I took near the South Bank Friday lunchtime with my Fujifilm X30 compact camera. The pair of images are framed on the sign. They were all taken with:

  • Aperture priority
  • ISO 100
  • f/5.0
  • Fujifilm X30 equivalent 35mm focal lengths of:
    • 112mm
    • 28mm

Tenison Way – Focal length 112mm


Tenison Way – Focal length 28mm

The difference in the view between these two images is striking considering the fact that the subject occupies the same space in the frame.

Project 1: The distorting lens – Exercise 2.1

Exercise 2.1
Find a scene that has depth. From a fixed position, take a sequence of five or six
shots at different focal lengths without changing your viewpoint. (You might like to
use the specific focal lengths indicated on the lens barrel.)

As you page through the shots on the preview screen it almost feels as though you’re
moving through the scene. So the ability to change focal lengths has an obvious use:
rather than physically moving towards or away from your subject, the lens can do
it for you. The other immediate difference between the shots is the ‘angle of view’,
which also depends on the sensor size of your camera. Use the sequence to try to
get a feeling for how the angle of view corresponds to the different focal lengths
for your particular camera and lens combination. Which shot in the sequence feels
closest to the angle of view of your normal vision?

Does zooming in from a fixed viewpoint change the appearance of things? If you enlarge and compare individual elements within the first and last shots, you can see that their ‘perspective geometry’ is exactly the same. To change the way things actually look, a change in focal length needs to be combined with a change in viewpoint.

Below is a sequence of 5 shots I took on the South Bank Friday lunchtime with my Fujifilm X30 compact camera. The sequence does give the appearance of travelling through the image. They were all taken with:

  • Aperture priority
  • ISO 100
  • f/5.0
  • Fujifilm X30 equivalent 35mm focal lengths of:
    • 28mm
    • 35mm
    • 50mm
    • 85mm
    • 112mm

Of all the images taken, the image taken at a focal length of 50mm appear to me the closest to normal vision.


South Bank – Focal length 28mm


South Bank – Focal length 35mm


South Bank – Focal length 50mm


South Bank – Focal length 85mm


South Bank – Focal length 112mm



Project 2: Visual Skills – Exercise 1.4

Exercise 1.4 Frame
The final exercise of this project makes use of the viewfinder grid display of a digital
camera. This function projects a grid onto the viewfinder screen to help align vertical
and horizontal lines, such as the horizon or the edge of a building, with the edge of
the frame. If your camera doesn’t have a grid display, imagine a simple division of the
viewfinder into four sections.

Take a good number of shots, composing each shot within a single section of the
viewfinder grid. Don’t bother about the rest of the frame! Use any combination of
grid section, subject and viewpoint you choose.
When you review the shots, evaluate the whole frame, not just the part you’ve
composed. Take the same approach you used to evaluate the point and line
exercises: examine the relationship of elements to the frame. Composition is part of
form and formal analysis will be a useful skill for your exercises and assignments as
you progress through the course.

Formalism: prioritisation of concern with form rather than content. Focus on composition
and the material nature of any specific medium. (Wells, 2009, p.347)
Select six or eight images that you feel work individually as compositions and also
together as a set. If you have software for making contact sheets you might like
to present them as a single composite image. Add the images to your learning log
together with technical information such as camera settings, and one or two lines
containing your thoughts and observations.

Looking at my cameras manuals I found that both were different.

My Nikon D7200 utilises a 4 x 4 viewfinder grid as shown below:


While my Fujifilm X30 offer two options: a 3 x 3 or a 6 x 4 viewfinder grid as shown below:



For this exercise I used my Fuji X30 and the 3 x 3 viewfinder grid. I took two series of images, one within Waterloo Station and the other outside the station area. With each series I focused on composing each image in turn in each sector of the viewfinder grid. Each series shows the full image and highlights the frame concentrated on, then the frame image on its own. I finished each series by composing a picture using each selected image in the position they were originally taken.

Series 1:


Station Composite

Series 2:


Waterloo Composite

My conclusions to this exercise are to consider the whole field of view within the viewfinder when composing your image. It is easy to be suckered into just concentrating on what is at the centre of the frame and not considering what is happening in the foreground, background or edges of the image.

Project 2: Visual Skills – Exercise 1.3(1) & 1.3(2)

Exercise 1.3 (1) Line
Take a number of shots using lines to create a sense of depth. Shooting with a wideangle
lens (zooming out) strengthens a diagonal line by giving it more length within
the frame. The effect is dramatically accentuated if you choose a viewpoint close to
the line.

The images I have taken below demonstrate converging diagonal lines both physical and virtual which give the appearance of depth.


Image 1: Down To Lynmouth


Image 2: Footbridge


Image 3: Minehead Train Station


Image 4: Blackwater Line


Image 5: Brompton Cemetery 1


Image 6: Brompton Cemetery 2

Exercise 1.3 (2) Line
Take a number of shots using lines to flatten the pictorial space. To avoid the effects
of perspective, the sensor/film plane should be parallel to the subject and you may
like to try a high viewpoint (i.e. looking down). Modern architecture offers strong
lines and dynamic diagonals, and zooming in can help to create simpler, more
abstract compositions.

The images I have taken below demonstrate parallel lines both physical and virtual which leave the frame, promoting a sense of mystery and dynamism.


Image 7: Equator


Image 8: No Loitering


Image 9: Position Closed


Image 10: Sea Posts & Telegraph Lines


Image 11: Snails Pace


Image 12: Tourist Rush

Review your shots from both parts of Exercise 1.3. How do the different lines relate
to the frame? There’s an important difference from the point exercises: a line can
leave the frame. For perpendicular lines this doesn’t seem to disrupt the composition
too much, but for perspective lines the eye travels quickly along the diagonal and
straight out of the picture. It feels uncomfortable because the eye seems to have no
way back into the picture except the point that it started from. So for photographs
containing strong perspective lines or ‘leading lines’, it’s important that they lead
somewhere within the frame.

The use of perpendicular lines provide a sense of depth by drawing the viewer; into the distance and out of the picture in the case of images 3 – 6. Where as image 1 draws the viewer down and image 2 leads the viewer up.

While the perspective lines in images 7 – 12, rush the viewer out of the frame, either horizontally, vertically or diagonally. The eye seeks a way back in trying to make an unconscious connection external to the image back into the frame. Diagonal lines add a sense of action to the image.

Project 2: Visual Skills – Exercise 1.2

Exercise 1.2 Point
The point is the most fundamental design element. It has to be small within the frame and its position is generally more important than its form (see the example of the white polystyrene cup underneath the chair opposite).
(Photography 1: The Art of Photography, p.72)
1. Take two or three photographs in which a single point is placed in different parts
of the frame. (A ‘point’ should be small in relationship to the frame; if it’s too large
it becomes a shape.)
How can you evaluate the pictures? How do you know whether you’ve got it
right or not? Is there a right place and a wrong place for the point? For the sake
of argument, let’s say that the right place shouldn’t be too obvious and that
the point should be clear and easy to see. As there’s now a ‘logic’ to it, you can
evaluate your composition according to the logic of the point.
As you look at the pictures you might find that you’re also evaluating the
position of the point by its relationship to the frame.
2. Take a number of images in which a point is placed in relationship to the frame.
Can you find any place where the point is not in relationship to the frame? If it’s
in relationship to the frame you can place a point in any part of the picture and
the picture is balanced.

You could think about the two parts of this exercise in a different way, as ‘test
pictures’ versus ‘real pictures’. The only purpose for the test pictures is the
exercise: you can analyse them according to the criteria and get the expected
answer. But ‘real’ pictures are not so easy to analyse. What are the criteria for
‘relationship’? (We’re hoping that you’ll shoot the rest of the exercises in this
course as real pictures, not test pictures!)
As you review your photographs, observe the way your eye ‘scans’ the surface of the
image. Note how:
• a point attracts attention out of proportion to its size
• the eye looks for connections between two points
• placing a point close to the edge seems to animate both the point and the frame.
Print out two or three of your point photographs and trace the route your eye takes
over the surface with a pencil. Then try the same with a selection of photographs
from newspapers or magazines (or the example above). You should notice that each
photograph seems to have its own tempo. Add the traced photographs to your
learning log together with brief observations.

1. Below are three points within images whose frame encompasses the whole image.


Image 1: Central

This point is perfectly symmetrical within the image. However with no other points of reference to other elements to guide the eyes it appears somewhat static and lifeless.


Image 2: Off Centre

This image lacks the symmetry of the central point but challenges the eyes to seek balance. Again with no other points of reference to other elements to guide the eye it makes it hard, but this positioning adds a sense of dynamism.


Image 3: Towards The Edge

Further moving the point away from symmetry  increases the sense of dynamism and also the effect of apparent movement. This would be further accentuated if the image contained other points of reference.

2. Linking points and their position within the frame.


Image 4: Sheep & Horses

In the above image the eyes and mind seek to join points and to make shapes. It also errs towards grouping items of similar shape, contrast or colour. In the above image the eye groups the two horses as a straight line and the three sheep as a triangle. An additional triangle is also created between the two horses and the closest sheep. The two distant sheep also balance with the horses in the foreground. The sheep also denote depth with the difference in scale between the Sheep in the foreground with those in the distance.

Exercise 1.2 Points 2.jpg

Image 5: A Day By The Beach By Any Means

In this image the eye forms a triangle between the cyclist, the family and the seagull. The image is balanced visually by the cyclist and the family. Also narratively between the push bike and the wheelchair. The offset nature of the seagull adds a dynamic element and draws the eyes upward to the sky.