Category Archives: Part 3

Assignment 3: The Decisive Moment – Exercise 3.2 (part 1)


Having done a fair amount of research into the “pioneers” of street photography for this assignment I wanted to get a feel for contemporary photographers and how they approached their craft.  I was blown away by the quality, style and artistry of modern photographers.  It isn’t hard to see the influences of the “Old Masters” such as Cartier-Bresson, Capa and Adams to name but a few, of the Decisive Moment in many modern photographers work.  For me the interesting thing is how they then use it to develop their own unique style

Thomas Leuthard

Thomas Leuthard  particularly caught my attention in the way that he captures the essence of ordinary life and the candidness of his work.

What is street photography? It’s not that simple to explain. Sure you can go to Wikipedia and find an answer there. In my words, it’s the documentation of life in public in a candid way. Nothing is setup, nobody was asked and it will never be the same again. It’s like holding up a mirror to society. It’s a single human moment captured in a decisive moment.

Leuthard T. (2011)

Valerie Jardin

I particularly liked the way Jardin  uses structures as well as reflections and candid shots for context.  Like Leuthard she also writes and shares her expertise freely.  Her work helped me make a final decision between colour or black and white.

When is color preferred? The color can be an integral part of the story, which also means that a black and white conversation would take away the most important component of the image, and it would not make any sense. Jardin V,

Diane Arbus

I made no reference to Arbus in my last assignment and having  long admired her work of and her ability to capture the most unusual and interesting aspects of life I felt she deserved a mention.    An on-line biography of her quotes:

“ During her wanderings around New York City, Arbus began to pursue taking photographs of people she found.” Editors

Whilst her photography does not quite fit with the received definition of the decisive moment as she quite obviously sought out her “subjects”  As Eric Kim  points out, we can learn a lot from her about street photography.

Arbus was not always comfortable about the type of people she photographed earning the question by some of whether she (or we who view her work) was voyeuristic or not.   That said there is no doubt that some of the expressions tell such as story that they may well be classified as a decisive moment.

Lee Friedlander

As part of feedback from assignment 2 I researched Lee Friedlander to help me understand composition and how he used reflections and objects to dissect the frame to lead the eye around the image.

His work is challenging for me because he often dissects the frame in places where I wouldn’t have even considered and might have discarded shots that I have taken (I will come back to this in the Reflection section).



©   Lee Friedlander, Knoxville, Tennessee, 1971



©Lynda Wearn, Molyvos 2012

While I am not suggesting that this is a good shot in any way I am now thinking having reviewed Frielander’s compositions that if I had positioned myself in a slightly different position so that the ladder and sail had somewhere to lead the eye to, the fact they are in the middle of the shot would not have been important,

A few of the other photographers I researched:

  • Rui Pahla
    • Influenced by Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Besson, Pahla an amateur photographer, takes some of the most inspiring and candid street photography I have seen.  He has the ability to get in close and capture shots which seem to reach into the souls of his subjects.
  • Vivian Maier
    • Another American photographer although born in Hungary and spending most of her youth in France, Maier’s use of reflection in self-portraits is inspiring. She photographs herself at work, at the hairdressers, shopping and in car wing mirrors.  In fact almost anywhere and she obviously carried a camera with her most of the time.  Maier died in 2009 aged 86 and I have not been able to find anything written about her on the web. – Accessed 29.2.2016
  • Eric Kim
    • Eric Kim is a young photographer photographer from Berkley, California who has a mission statement:

“My life’s mission is to produce as much “Open Source Photography,” to make photography education accessible to all.” Access 2.3.2016

A prolific user of social media Kim has interviewed many photographers and it is through the interviews published on his website that I was introduced to many of the photographers that I researched.  He describes himself as a teacher of photography but in fact he himself is a great photographer and has been interviewed in his own right.

  • Gerry Winogrand
    • Winogrand another favourite of mine was a prolific street photographer who left behind an enormous archive legacy.  He was described as always being on the streets and hated the description of “Street Photographer”.  He did not think that photographs told a story but did think that the photograph should be more interesting and more beautiful than what was photographed.   Eric Kim on 10 Things Garry Winogrand can Teach you about Street Photography – Accessed 3.3.2016 
  • Helen Levitt
    • Levitt has been described as the most celebrated and least known photographer of her time (Wikipedia – Accessed 3.3.2016.  Her photographs taken on the streets of New York of ordinary everyday life; children at play, adults in conversation and shopping and elderly people observing her intention was not to tell a story nor to document social history but to capture what was visually interesting in the poor neighbourhoods she worked in.  Levitt continued to work into her 80’s and died at the age of 96 in 2009.









The Decisive Moment: My Thoughts (Research Point)

Before you go any further, give some careful thought to the ‘decisive moment’ debate and note down where you stand (at the moment, anyway) in your learning log. You’ll come back to this in Assignment Three.


I have struggled with this because when I first read the “definition” of “The Decisive Moment” as described by Henri Cartier-Bresson, I instinctively felt it was too narrow and whilst I admire Bresson’s work I do not necessarily agree with the amount of luck or intuition required to capture these shots.  In fact it seems that Bresson himself “set up” the shot if only by identifying the frame in which he wished to capture a “moment” and then waiting hours for it to appear!  To me the “decisive moment” in a literal definition is something that is in the moment and as such may well be missed because it is fleeting.

To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.

– Henri Cartier-Bresson,Foreword,” The Decisive Moment

Bresson made the term famous because of his ability to capture such shots and in doing so influenced photojournalism in the 20th century.

However, Ghazzi in an article suggests that the term is “more a cliche than a reality even for it’s creator”.  He goes on to say however, the decisive moment cannot be ignored because of the impact it has had on photojournalism.  The decisive moment is a small and unique opportunity for a photographer to produce interesting and sometimes humorous moments through the lens. (accessed 25.2.2015)

There is nothing in this world that does not have
a decisive moment.  Cardinal de Retz (b.1613 – d.1679)

Source: The Decisive Moment: Understanding Convergence | FYNN[i]

The concept of the decisive moment is difficult to understand as it can be interpreted in a number of ways and the difficulty in capturing the elements that Bresson describes can be a mammoth task with a lot of luck thrown in.  For this reason some question the literal translation of what is meant by the decisive moment.

Eric Kim[ii], in his zonezero blog “Debunks the Myth of the Decisive Moment”  (accessed 28.2.2015)

In his blog Kim, publishes the contacts sheets of several of Bresson’s shoots which show that he did not just turn up at a location and capture the precise moment in one shot.  It appears from the contact sheets that he took several shots of the scene from different perspectives taking many shots to get that iconic one. This is also the view of  John Barbiaux[iii] in his article Setting the trap for Great Shots. (accessed 28.2.2015)

Where he too has studied the Magnum Photos contact sheets and concludes that Cartier-Bresson would wait at the perfect set up and the perfect subject to enter the luck involved. scene.  Barbiaux also suggests that choosing the right scene reduces the amount of luck involved.

A google search for Henri Cartier-Bresson contact sheets revealed that many of the Magnum and other photographers used this method to choose the decisive moment. (accessed 28.2.2015).

With that in mind I was more comfortable with the concept.

[i] Fynn S (2012) “The Decisive Moment : Understanding Convergence”, SudioFynn  September 2012

[ii] Kim Eric (2014), Debunking the “Myth of the Decisive Moment””Eric Kim Street Photography Blog , May 23, 2014

[iii] John Barbiaux (2015),  Street Photography.

Exercise 3.3 (Project 3 – What Matters is to Look)

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.

Using an inherited 1960 Kodak 66 iii a self-erecting folding camera and an optical viewfinder.

The camera has a Kodak Anaston lens mounted in a with a Anaston 75mm, f4.5  lens with a 5 speed shutter (1/200, 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/10 + B) and which used 120 film (12 exposures).  I set the camera on B to ascertain how the mechanism worked.  This camera has a telescope type optical view finder but does not have through the lens viewing.  I therefore, opened the back to and looked directly through the lens.

Kodak 66iii -001

Starting with the 1/200 setting and a wide open lens of f4.5 I worked through the shutter speeds and at 1/50 I had my first glimpse of the subject.  The camera also has a double exposure prevention setting and I had to remember to re-set the camera between each shot.  This involved setting the shutter lever and “winding on the film”.  At 1/8 the subject was clearly visible.


Kodak 66iii -012

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.

For this part of the exercise I decided to experiment and incorporate the exercise into a trip to a shopping mall to begin shooting for the assignment.

I chose a first floor position looking down the mall and which had a large poppy installation in the centre.  My eye was drawn to the poppy installation and I decided to try to capture a panorama view  which included the installation.



ISO 200, FL 27mm (4/5 crop sensor – 54mm full frame equivalent), f5.3, 1/100sec.


I focused first of all on the people going about their business in the foreground, and then on the middle distance of the platform and the poppy installation and finally on the glass roof and the arched architecture.  There was a walkway on the left hand side with lots of people on it.  This made the shot look very busy and my eye was distracted by this activity on this walk way so I moved as far as I could to the right and placed the poppies that I was originally drawn to on the left hand third.  I liked the contrast between the three areas so I raised the camera and took the shot.

In the editing phase I realised that I had some lens aberration and tried to correct it but this was difficult and when I got the vertical correct the horizontal was skewed.  This final edit is a compromise between the two.

The apex view beyond the poppies gives the impression that there is more to the shot and this was more apparent with the naked eye. In many ways the poppy installation actually changes the perspective of the mall and I would have liked in retrospect, to have tried another shot beyond the poppies as there were other cross platform walkways and I think that may have given a better view of the mall.

I realised the lighting between the foreground and the distance of the roof would be a challenge in terms of exposure but I managed to set the camera to avoid blowing out the highlights.

Overall I was quite pleased with the end shot.

Exercise 3.2 (Project 2 – A Durational Space)

………. 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

Ex 3.2-021

f22@1/4sec., fl105mm, ISO 100

Using an ND filter to prevent glare and aid exposure and using a combination of slow shutter speed and a stack of 10 shots this is reflections in a pond on a very windy day.


f22@0.3sec ISO 100, fl 100mm

This shot is taken through a glass door using a slow shutter speed.  This was the first shot I took and was overexposed.  Later I added an ND filter to compensate for the exposure but I rather like  the effect on this one.


untitled shoot-610

f4,2@1/40sec. FL40mm, ISO 100

This shot uses a combination of burst and panning to capture the motor cyclist sharply whilst throwing the background out of focus.






Project 2: A durational space

In the first part of this project we are asked to think about the problem of capturing movement within a still image.  A number of photographers  attempt to resolve the problem by “leaving a trace of movement within the frame”  and we are then tasked with researching how individual photographers approach this topic.

Robert Capa

Robert Capa is famous for his iconic capture of the D-Day landings in Normandy during WW2.  At first I was sceptical that Capa had deliberately blurred the shots  and I was more convinced the pressure of the situation was more likely to have affected how quickly the photographer had had to decide on camera settings.  However, further research on  revealed that although he used blur in other D-Day landing photos, there are others which are not as blurred.  Additionally there is a shot in Barcelona during an air raid warning where Capa uses the same technique.

via Magnum Photos Photographer Portfolio. (accessed 1/2/16)

So clearly this is a deliberate attempt to increase the intensity of the shot.


Robert Frank

Elevator Girl by Robert Frank Linked image (accessed 1.2.16) is another image cited for is use of motion blur –see final paragraph.

Hiroshi Sugimoto

When I first viewed Contacts film I had difficulty understanding what was happening and what Sugimoto was trying to achieve.  I then looked at his website where under his portfolio tag he provides us with an explanation of what he was trying to communicate.  He wanted to capture a whole movie in one frame and so with a wide open aperture he set up his camera and left the aperture open for the duration of the film.  Because the moving image on the screen is fast the end result is a white screen.  This creative use of extremely slow speeds to portray movement is interesting.  Most photographers using slow speeds  end up with images that are more recognisable e.g. blurred or smoky water, light trails of vehicles, blurring of moving backgrounds.

However, Michael Wesely used shutter speeds of up to 3 years and claims he can use expose for 40 years.  The link in the course notes is no longer available but I was interested to see what such a long exposure produces so I Googled Michael Wesely and found the link below. (accessed 1/2/16)

Some of the interesting aspects of these images is the way the changing light because of the position of the sun over the period of time producing diagonal lines and the ghostly images within the image of buildings and some vague people movement in the Construction of the Museum of Modern Art image.

We are asked to consider “Can the shutter create psychological drama in an image” in the course notes and  Mike D’Angelo’s review of  Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express (1994) commenting on how Wong Kar-Wai turned 22seconds into an eternity  is cited.

The scene in the movie is of a cop drinking a cup of coffee whilst being watched by the waitress who served him.  There is no dialogue and it appears to add nothing to the movie D’Angelo claims that it could be cut from the movie and it would have no effect.  But what is happening in the shot is very powerful, we are in fact led into the thoughts of the waitress because of the expression on her face and the “long” period of time she watches the cop. .

The same could be said of Robert Frank’s “Girl in an Elevator” where a dreamy doe eyed lift attendant is quite obviously day dreaming whilst letting people out of the elevator and the viewer is encouraged to imagine about what. It seems that by capturing movement it is quite possible to create psychological drama.  Francesca Woodman’s use of blurred images to hide her identity and producing a ghostly feel to the shots.  Woodman uses prolonged exposure to produce a surreal feel to the images.




Exercise 3.1 (Project 1 – The Frozen Moment)

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.

“There is a pleasure and beauty in this fragmenting of time that had little to do with what was happening. It had to do, rather, with seeing the momentary patterning of lines and shapes that had been previously concealed within the flux of movement.”  (Szarkowski, 2007, p.5)

I find Szarkowski’s quote bit of a challenge.  To capture a single drop of liquid as it makes its journey from source to vessel could be perceived as capturing a “frozen moment”.  Whilst still producing the patterns of lines and shapes that Szarkowski describes. However, it could be argued that a photographic frozen moment characterises all photographs as being a snapshot in time. This seems to be a  widely held belief judging by the number of photography businesses using google called “Frozen Moments” or something similar.

Capturing frozen moments in sport or action photography is an art in itself but can absolutely capture the moment as well as in some images capture the movement in those shots.  As demonstrated by Mark Pain in his coverage of the 2012 Olympics. (accessed 9 Jan 2016).

Both of my images were shot with a Canon 5D Mk III using a Canon Macro 100mm USM lens.

After several attempts to replicate the droplet of water directly into a glass bowl I placed a piece of black card behind the kitchen tap, then balanced the glass bowl on a washing up bowl and upturned pudding bowl.  I closed the blinds and turned off the lights.  I used a Canon Speedlight flash (on camera because I had no way of triggering it remotely).  I rather like the refraction light in this shot.  The only editing I did was to crop it and increase the exposure slightly as it was difficult to correctly expose in such conditions.


single water drop

Image 1 – Single Droplet of Water -shot at 1/125 sec, F13, ISO 100 and using flash.

However, for me capturing an image which fragments time should capture more than one droplet or movement.  Harold John Edgerton demonstrates this repeatedly in his images of golfer, dancers and moving people.   (accessed 9 Jan 2016)

I really like the way these images capture the movement of the subject.

water droplets

Image 2 – A series of water droplets – shot at 1/125 sec, F13, ISO 100 and using flash.
In this exercise I found that there was a conflict of views on how to capture a frozen moment and eventually after experimenting I managed to capture the two images posted here.  I then went on to try to capture the smoke from an incense stick but abjectly failed.  Although tutorials and articles advocated a similar approach to the water droplet shots I failed to achieve a single image. Onwards and upwards and another project for a rainy afternoon.


A couple more that I managed before moving to the sink, both shot with the same settings as previously described.

Project 3: Surface and depth



Read the reviews by Campany and Colberg and, if you haven’t already done so, use them to begin the contextual section of your learning log. Try to pick out the key points made by each writer.

Following a disastrous shoot after the 9/11 bombings when Ruff’s photographs came back from the lab blank he trawled the internet to find archive and used jpeg shots of the event.  He went on to rework these images and in doing so he challenges the realism and our expectation of what to expect from the record.    Whilst this challenge of belief and convention exists and will continue to generate debate, Colberg[i] suggests that it is interesting to look at what the work does. Colberg thinks that book form which he thinks works well, but is less impressed with the very large (“gigantic”) prints of the exhibition,  which he suggests are a “tad pretentious” and also suggests that the idea overly relies on technique.  Ruff is breaking free of the perceived confines of photography and in the process produces amazing images which the photography suggests is “more” but more than what Colberg struggles to identify.  He does however, suggest that the beauty of an image is all that we maybe should expect and to ignore the theory behind the concept appreciating the image for what it is.

Campany claims that Ruff “makes very particular demands of us and offers very particular kinds of pleasure, both aesthetic and intellectual.” [ii], so it seems that this concurs with the conclusion that Colberg reached.  However, Campany is much harsher in his description of the images using such strong emotional words such as “cold and dispassionate, willful, searching and perverse”.  He too acknowledges that the images are beautiful and that they have the ability to produce both an individual and collective response which is difficult to resolve.  Campany also suggests that the images because of the subject matter are unpredictable and are even irrational and anarchic producing “tension and drama” and leaving the viewer to  link the images with the “drama” and “character of modern life”.

[i] Colberg J, (2009) Review: jpegs by Thomas Ruff. Conscientious online website

[ii] Campany, David (2008) Thomas Ruff: Aesthetic of the Pixel [online]. David Campany website. Available from:

[Both Accessed 18 October, 2015]