In this exercise the task was to pick a situation involving people and record the scene from the moment it first caught my attention through to the final best image. This runs contrary to my (and I’m sure most peoples) approach of working out the best shot and then taking it only when everything seems right.
I decided to go somewhere where there was likely to be people related activity, Covent Garden in London always comes to mind in this situation and you can never be sure quite what you are going to see. I arrived to find an act already part way into a ‘show’ and proceeded to record what I saw from the moment I arrived.
As I arrived, a complicated conversation was taking place between the street performer and a small German child, picked out of the audience to operate the music but with apparently no command of English. I started with my 18-55mm lens, trying to capture the whole scene although in retrospect I wasn’t focusing on anything particularly to grab attention.
In this shot I went a bit closer, the situation wasn’t improving and I actually quite liked the ever so slightly tighter framing emphasising the communications gap between the parties, emphasised by the street performer’s facial expression and body language.
I moved location in the crowd and went to portrait to capture the unicycle, this shot wasn’t the best as the street performer is slightly cut out.
Still with my 18-55mm lens but now with music controller and performer now working in harmony, the show could begin and I framed them together as a result.
I began to realise that this show wasn’t about the stunt, it was all about the character of the street performer so I went to my 70-300mm zoom as with the crowd growing, I wanted to be able to get closer. This shot is probably one of my favourites of all of them as I liked the crowd looking on, slightly softened by a shallow depth of field and the smiling performer sharpely in focus.
The street performer began an extended routine of getting undressed for the eventual act, I zoomed out to get all of him in frame.
A slightly tighter show, I did wonder in retrospect whether going even tighter for just the lower half of the body would of been funnier.
The street performer pulled from the crowd a ‘volunteer wife’ to hold his machetes! I slowed the shutter slightly as I wanted to get a bit of sense of his constant and manic movement (hence the blurred feet). There was so much going on at this stage I switched back to the 18-55mm lens when a gap in the crowd allowed me to get closer to the action.
I decided to go back to the zoom, the character continued to be the key focus providing the interest. It was clear at this stage the actual circus stunt (juggling machetes on a unicycle) was indeed a very small part of the show. This is my favouite shot, grabbing the street actor with those mad wild eyes.
The debacle of getting aboard the unicycle began, three further volunteers to assist. With my 70-300mm zoom, I was a bit too close to get the whole unicycle in shot even after switching to portrait again.
I decided instead to make the most of the zoom.
Finally he was aboard.
I moved back in the crowd trying to ensure I still had a clear view. Getting behind a few small children gave me line of sight so at 70mm I could get the whole unicycle in using a slower shutter speed to get a bit of blur and create the sense of movement.
I was caught by surprise when the umbrella opened and out came confetti, just managed to grab this. Shot slightly overexposed in the sky.
And so, with his ‘wife’ looking on, the machetes were passed up for the juggling (which lasted all of 30 seconds). Wrong lens again for this shot really!
So better to get in tight although I didn’t quite get all the machetes in the frame.
I like this, again shows the character is the interest. The downside however is without the unicycle (and for the casual observer), its not obvious what you’re looking at, could be a man just standing!!!
Just to prove he really juggled. Shot a bit too tight as you’re left with just cut off heads in the crowd.
This was taken back with the 18-55mm after another swop, the performer descended from the unicycle. Again I wanted the ability to get the movement and the crowd and I could see what he was going to do so a quick lens change and a move in my position in the crowd gave me this view. Although its not as tight on the performer, I like this as he’s still clearly the focal point.
And finally he gathers the spoils, the facial expression says he’s really quite human after all!
I really enjoyed the exercise although it presented me with a number of challenges, I swapped lens way more than usual and I found that the way I saw the scene changed, there was no right answer as to what was best as some shots needed the tight framing and others the space of wider shot. Overall however I think its the performer himself that was the star and looking at these shots again now, its those that capture him that look best to me.