Tag Archives: The Photographer’s Story

Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative

The brief:

In this final assignment imagine that you are about to illustrate a story for a magazine. You have a cover to illustrate, and several pages inside (create between 6 and 12 images – you can choose). Even though there may be no text, you should write captions (of any length) to explain and link each picture.

The cover picture will need some of the techniques of illustration that you have been experimenting with. The picture essay will be more of a narrative. This means that, as you will be using several photographs to illustrate the main body of the story, you will have the opportunity to spread the load of the story telling among them. Different images can deal with different aspects of the subject, or you might choose to nsert a linked series of photographs that show something happening in sequence. Remember that some of these photographs will be seen together on the same pair of pages. You can use this to set one image off against another, sometimes the juxtaposition of two appropriate images can be telling.

Any theme which has a narrative element could be a suitable subject for this project. … Remember that a narrative will contain the element of time – hours, days, weeks or maybe even just seconds.

I have had the idea of photographing Finn Slough ever since my friend mentioned this unique place to me around the time I was busy with Assignment 2. I had never been to the place, had no idea what to expect and just put it on the backburner. While I was working towards Assignment 4 the idea of shooting in this location really started to percolate with me and I decided to do a bit of online research into the place.

Finn Slough is really off the beaten track, not a tourist destination at all and I was actually surprised to learn that many people who have lived their entire lives in this city have absolutely no idea that this place exists. The information I found on it was scant to say the least. Just a a historical write up on a couple of sites and one or two blogs I came across. I have included a map of the location as a reference, but this is not part of my narrative. It is simply there for a bit of context.

I have omitted EXIF data under the photographs as they do not form part of a narrative. However, the information is available here in a table for references purposes. For the same reason I have not provided a commentary on each image as I have done in the past. If it is necessary, then I’m happy to add it. I have included a PDF of the images below and have been cognizant of Clive’s remarks in the OCA fora that it is best to keep the layout simple. I am not a graphic designer, nor a layout expert, so I am taking that advice on board.

My post processing was mainly confined to highlight, shadow and contrast adjustments, a little bit of clarity and vibrance, setting of white and black points and lens corrections and of course sharpening.

Finn Slough

Finn Slough


 

Finn Slough

a memory of how things were

Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

In the 1890’s a group of Finnish immigrants came to the city of Richmond and settled at the junction of what is now called No. 4 Road and Finn Road. The immigrants initially worked as loggers and coal miners while they were saving up money to buy land that had access to the mighty Fraser River so that they could fulfill their goals of becoming fishermen.

Richmond is an island that is below sea level and at that time the dykes were all hand built. The land where the Finns initially settled was close to the Fraser River, but not situated next to it. However, houses had to be built on pilings due to the levels of the high tide where the levels of the river would rise and flood the farmlands.

The drawbridge at Finn Slough which provides access to Gilmour Island. During high tide residents going out in their fishing boats have to remove the vertical planks in the middle of the bridge to enable the boats to pass through to the other side in order to exit to the Fraser River.

The drawbridge at Finn Slough which provides access to Gilmour Island. During high tide residents going out in their fishing boats have to remove the vertical planks in the middle of the bridge to enable the boats to pass through to the other side in order to exit to the Fraser River.

The Finns eventually moved next to the river to what is now known as Finn Slough. The Finns needed places to store their gill nets and built net sheds next to their new houses on pilings.

By 1910 more Finns and Scandinavian immigrants had settled in Finn Slough. The second wave of immigrants was not as wealthy as the original settlers as they had fled the repressive regime of Russia in poverty stricken Finland. As a result they were not able to buy large parcels of land and many either slept on their boats or in the net sheds.

The settlement originally comprised of about 70 dwellings, but has dwindled to about 30 in present times.

Finn Slough is a swampland and has been designated as a wetland, with some of the dwellings being situated on the nearby Gilmour Island. The residences on Gilmour Island are accessed by a drawbridge and access to the houses is via a boardwalk that has been built over the swamps.

What is left of Finn Slough today is a memory of how things were1, but more importantly it is now an example of how a community can self regulate itself and co-exist with nature in harmony.

 

Western view of Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

Western view of Finn Slough at high tide just prior to sunrise

A Finn Slough resident tends to her pot plants on her deck in the early morning hour.

A Finn Slough resident tends to her pot plants on her deck in the early morning hour.

High tide and sunrise over Finn Slough, with the Cascade Mountain range in the distance.

High tide and sunrise over Finn Slough, with the Cascade Mountain range in the distance.

Virginia, one of the residents, decorates her house with found flotsam and jetsam items that come in on the tide. She recycles as much as she can, reusing wooden beams from houses that have fallen into disrepair.

Virginia, one of the residents, decorates her house with found flotsam and jetsam items that come in on the tide. She recycles as much as she can, reusing wooden beams from houses that have fallen into disrepair.

Residences east of the drawbridge. The brown building on the left is named “Sisu” which means “persistence” in Finnish.

Residences east of the drawbridge. The brown building on the left is named “Sisu” which means “persistence” in Finnish.

A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat makes an early morning voyage past Finn Slough to one of the harbours on the mighty Fraser River. The fishing boat, Eva, lies moored safely to its dock. Eva is 28 feet long and was built in 1937.

A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat makes an early morning voyage past Finn Slough to one of the harbours on the mighty Fraser River. The fishing boat, Eva, lies moored safely to its dock. Eva is 28 feet long and was built in 1937.

Sign on drawbridge: Enter at your own risk. Finn Slough was built as a working fishing village (1890) and was not designated as a tourist destination. Please beware (be aware) uneven walking surfaces and other potential dangers. www.finnslough.com

Sign on drawbridge: Enter at your own risk. Finn Slough was built as a working fishing village (1890) and was not designated as a tourist destination. Please beware (be aware) uneven walking surfaces and other potential dangers. www . finnslough.com

A couple sits on the deck in the afternoon spring sunshine. The gentleman is sharpening his axes, while his wife is enjoys a snack and reads the Sunday newspaper.

A couple sits on the deck in the afternoon spring sunshine. The gentleman is sharpening his axes, while his wife is enjoys a snack and reads the Sunday newspaper.

The Mermaid III fishing boat lies abandoned amongst other debris at high tide.

The Mermaid III fishing boat lies abandoned amongst other debris at high tide.

The fishing boat, Eva, lies stranded on the mud in front of the Dinner Plate Island School house at low tide.

f8, 1/250, 26mm, ISO 100
The fishing boat, Eva, lies stranded on the mud in front of the Dinner Plate Island School house at low tide.

The entrance and exit to Finn Slough and beyond the might Fraser River that provides a livelihood to thousands of people along its banks. At low tide no boats are able to exit the Slough. Since this is a tidal area, fishermen have to think ahead when the fishing season starts.

The entrance and exit to Finn Slough and beyond the mighty Fraser River that provides a livelihood to thousands of people along its banks. At low tide no boats are able to exit the Slough. Since this is a tidal area, fishermen have to think ahead when the fishing season starts.


The PDF version of this narrative can be seen here. The wide image (A reminder that the past has caught up with the present, as a Seaspan ferry boat …) is intended to be a double page spread.

ASSESSMENT CRITERIA

Demonstration of technical and visual skills (materials, techniques, observational skills, visual awareness, design and compositional skills)

My equipment used for this assignment were my 18-55 mm, 55-200 mm and 70 – 300mm lenses and tripod. I have tried to use elements of all previous assignments in this assignment, from contrasts to elements of design, colour and lighting. I did not use any artificial lighting in this assignment, but relied on natural lighting. I was able to varying my exposure times as I was shot just prior to and during sunrise on one day, so used long exposure during these times. It was a bit nerve wracking standing and moving in the dark on an old narrow bridge with no railings, the boards of which were dotted with holes just the perfect size for a tripod leg to fall through.

Quality of Outcome (content, application of knowledge, presentation of work in a coherent manner, discernment, conceptualisation of thoughts, communication of ideas)

I am rather pleased with my set of images. Ideally, I wish that I could have submitted 15 images for the narrative, as I feel that certain key elements would have been more clearly interpreted. Finn Slough is a place that has a lot of story to tell and I did have to leave some good story telling images out. What I wanted to illustrate right from the start was the difference in appearance of this location during the tides. I have therefore, repeated an object, namely the Eva boat in high and low tide settings as the low tide image with the thick mud was what I most wanted to convey and this vantage point was the only one that really lent me that opportunity. I did find that with each visit to Finn Slough, new ideas popped up, not to mention new material to shoot. I chose not to apply a linear approach to this narrative as I think mixing up the low tide, high tide, sunrise and afternoon shots create more of an engaging dynamic to the narrative and lends a bit more mystery to the story. As mentioned above, I have been mindful of Clive’s comments in the OCA fora and his advice given on Flickr to keep the presentation simple. I am not a journalist or graphic designer so have chosen to follow his advice on this and have kept my narrative’s layout very simple. I think my narrative’s text and captions reads well and have tested it on a few colleagues to see if my idea was communicated.

I have come to enjoy my online learning blog and I think it has come along quite nicely. I am still struggling with the physical log, trying to remember to carry it with me, but I have mainly been using it for inspiration images that are copyrighted which I can’t replicate on the online blog along with study notes.

Demonstration of Creativity (imagination, experimentation, invention, development of a personal voice)

I have tried to show the location in all its facets, at low tide with the muddy swamp land dotted with skunk cabbages and grass and at high tide when the waters of the Fraser River push new life into the Slough.

I feel that this set of images (as well as the other 370 odd images I took at this location) is probably one of my most cohesive assignments. I visited the location on four separate occasions at different times of the day and during different weather patterns so I was able to experiment with different natural lighting conditions.  I would have liked to shoot from some other positions along the river banks, but due to access restrictions and swamp shrubbery I was not able to do that. I did engage with one of the residents for quite a while and asked whether I could make a portrait of her outside her quirky house, but unfortunately she declined and did not want to be photographed.

Looking back over the course of this past year, I can see that my photography style has changed and is maturing. I have begun to insert myself into my work as can be seen in the narrative exercise at the beginning of Part 5.

Context (reflection, research, critical thinking)

I have touched briefly on my research into the subject of Finn Slough in my introduction and my research items are listed below in the bibliography. I also made sure to research the tide tables so that I had a clear idea of when high and low tides were on the days that I went to shoot. As it happens these tables also provided sunrise and sunset times, which was a very handy tool.

I was very pleased that I was able to attend more exhibitions during the time leading up to this assignment than in previous ones. The exhibitions that I attended were:

Due to the Capture Photography Festival there have been a few good documentaries on TV on photography which I have watched. I have only reviewed one thus far:

I did an online course on Narrative Photography which I found rather useful in that various workflows were explained in some detail:

The photographers that I researched for this assignment were:

I am extremely grateful to David Hlynsky and Alan Henriksen who both gave me permission to use some of their images for my reviews and also for their encouraging words to me.

Book Reviews:

I feel rather as if I’ve been caught up in a whirlwind during this assignment. I have been so busy going to galleries, taking trips out to the location, doing research and plodding through Sontag. I even usurped two walls in my office and put up my photographs so that I could “live” with them during the edit down process.  This actually proved to be quite useful as colleagues would stop by my office to look at the photographs and pass comments, some of which were quite helpful. It’s with mixed feelings that I come to the end of this course, The Art of Photography. Sad because it is the end of a long road that was both enjoyable and frustrating at times, yet happy and eager to move on to the next course and new discoveries.

References

1. Dorrington, David A Small History of Finn Slough [online] Finn Slough Heritage and Wetland Society http://www.finnslough.com/

Bibliography

2015 Tide Table for Steveston, British Columbia for fishing [online]. Available at http://www.tides4fishing.com/ca/british-columbia/steveston [Accessed 9 March, 2015]

Finn Slough. [online] Biodiversity of Richmond, British Columbia. Available from: http://ibis.geog.ubc.ca/richmond/city/finnslough.htm [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Finn Slough Heritage Area Online Heritage Inventory [online] City of Richmond, British Columbia, Canada http://www.richmond.ca/plandev/planning2/heritage/HeritageInv/details.aspx?ID=167 [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

Ho, Megan (2013) Visit Historic Fishing Village Finn Slough [online] Inside Vancouver. http://www.insidevancouver.ca/2013/08/05/visit-historic-fishing-village-finn-slough/ [Accessed 30 March, 2015]

Short, Maria (2011). Basics Creative Photography 02: Context and Narrative. Lausanne, Switzerland: AVA Publishing SA.

Exercise: A narrative picture essay

The brief:

This project requires you to set yourself an assignment and then photograph it. Based on what you have learnt so far, tell a story of any kind, in a set of pictures numbering between 5 and 15. You could photograph an event that you have researched, or you could choose something closer to home and more accessible or controllable. It could even be something as simple as the preparation of some food….

The way in which you lay out the final selection of photographs is very important. In dealing with a number of photographs, it is not simply a matter of deciding on the shape and size of a single image. The whole reason for shooting a variety of images is so that, when seen together, they work together as a set….

Write a short caption under each picture, describing what it shows.

Ever since I was working towards Assignment 4, I have become so cognizant of shadows and the play of light that I have taken to photographing things I would not normally have bothered with before. Which I think is a good thing. I think Kumi Yamashita made more of an impact on me than I realised.

This past month has been rather traumatic for me for personal family reasons which I won’t go into here, but my life has been through some dark patches during this time.  I’ve chosen to do this photo narrative in an abstract form (really stepping out of my comfort zone here) to reflect this period of my life as a means of catharsis. I’m calling it “Shadow Diary of My Day”.

 

the day begins ...

the day begins …
f5.6. 1/500, 35mm, ISO 100

Kitchen Shadows

and so does the daily routine
f5.6, 1/500, 35mm, ISO 100

and the worries

… and the worries
f5.6, 1/250, 55mm, ISO 100

morning perspective ...

morning perspective …
f5.6, 1/640, 55mm, ISO 100

a pause - one last look back ...

a pause – one last look back …
f8, 1/200, 50mm, ISO 100

... off to the hospital

… off to the hospital
f8, 1/320, 42mm, ISO 100

an uphill battle ...

an uphill battle …
f8, 1/250, 65mm, ISO 100

afternoon perspective ...

afternoon perspective …
f8, 1/250, 110mm, ISO 100

Home at last

home at last
f8, 1/250, 145mm, ISO 100

It was my birthday last week

… it was my birthday last week …
f8, 1/60, 80mm, ISO 200

and now we wait ...

and now we wait …
f8, 1/200, 26mm, ISO 100

... the day draws to an end

… the day draws to an end
f8, 1/60, 50mm, ISO 100

I have also created a PDF book for the photo essay (Ex 41 Narrative and Illustration Shadow Diary book reduced). Its nothing fancy, but I just wanted to convey the linear flow a little better.

Very little post processing has been done. It was mainly confined to adding and/or removing a little contrast and adding some clarity. On the two images containing grass (“a pause – one last look back …” and “… the day draws to an end”) I have reduced the vibrance and desaturated the images slightly to better fit in with the muted shades of rest of the set.

Bibliography

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.

The Photographer’s Story: Michael Freeman

The Photographer's Story: Michael Freeman

The Photographer’s Story: Michael Freeman

In preparation for Assignment 5, I decided to read Freeman’s The Photographer’s Story. It is a book all about the art of the visual narrative.  He begins by giving a background to the photo essay and explains the classic narrative formula in depth, the importance of establishing a rhythm of both an emotional and visual variety, to the pacing of the story, and how captions help photographs.

The classic example used for a photo essay is W. Eugene Smith’s The Country Doctor, which was featured in Life Magazine in 1948 and Freeman spends a lot of time covering the theme, agenda, preparation and planning of this shoot, then moves on to the layout and discusses the key shots. Figuring out the rhythm, pacing and opening and closer shots are key ingredients to a successful photo essay and probably the most difficult for a photographer who is his/her own editor as well.

The Country Doctor Layout

The Country Doctor Layout

Freeman then covers the different kinds of stories that occur and how best to treat each category. While some of the criteria are the same for each category, there are criteria that do obviously differ depending on the subject.  There are people stories, location stories, stories about how things are made, commodity stories, stories about activities, collection stories, institution and concept stories.

The final sections of the book are devoted to the picture script which is a visual plan of the shoot covering items such as location, setup, expected activities to shoot, arrangements with people regarding permissions, lighting, interviews and so on.

After making the images, one has to naturally edit the shoot. Freeman discusses the various methods, linking back to the classic example given earlier in the book and then covers the layouts. Progressing on from this he talks about the big photo books and how to work with those and break them down into logical chapters.

Finally he covers the new media methods of presenting a photo essay by using a slideshow. He goes into a lot of detail on how to rework the story for the internet, as the sequencing of the story on the web is linear and thus has to be treated differently to that of a printed essay.

This book is definitely going to serve as my handbook for Assignment 5. Well worth a few rereads as well for all the nuggets of valuable information in it.

References

Cosgrove, Ben (2012). W. Eugene Smith’s Landmark Portrait: ‘Country Doctor’ [online].  Life (Life Photo Essay). Available from: http://time.com/3456085/w-eugene-smiths-landmark-photo-essay-country-doctor/ [Acessed 21 February, 2015]

Freeman, Michael (2012). The Photographer’s Story: The Art of Visual Narrative. Lewes, England: The Ilex Press.