Photo essays and projects


4″, f/11, 35mm, ISO 200, Big Stopper and circ. polariser

The internet has, mostly, been a marvellous thing for enthusiast photographers, not least because images are readily available for our viewing and educational pleasure.  Although there is still nothing quite like seeing an image in print, we no longer need to buy a magazine or go to an exhibition for our daily dose of photo inspiration.

Wreck on Bognor beach

1.6″, f/7.1, 70mm, ISO 200, Big Stopper and circ. polariser.

As most of us have realised, however, volume does not equal quality and discernment is a skill we must develop to become better photographers.  One of the difficulties in our way is that fact that most photosharing sites, like Flickr and 500px, reward the high-impact, stand-alone image.  Often, subtler images, that reward a more lingering gaze, are overlooked in the frenetic world of internet attention spans.

Groynes on Bognor beach

2″, f/8, 70mm. ISO 200, Big Stopper and circ. polariser.

Recently, I have found myself enjoying Adobe’s image-sharing site, Behance, not only because overall the standard of imagery is high, but because Behance is geared towards projects rather than stand-alone images.  This is where the professionals hang out and, perhaps because they tend to be working on commissioned projects, the site abounds in sequences of images, connected visually and creatively into cohesive wholes. If you have not yet found Behance, I recommend a visit.  Just select photography from the ‘creative fields’ drop down menu and soak up the gorgeousness.

West Sussex seascape

20″, f/11, 70mm, ISO 50, Big Stopper and circ. polariser.

Inspired by what I have been seeing there, I have started to make sets of images, linked by style, subject or even colour.  The five images posted here were all taken on the same day last week when I had to be in West Sussex.  The weather was stormy, with sudden bursts of bright sunlight in front of heavy skies, so I decided to exploit that changeable feeling, deliberately using a variety of shutter speeds to capture the sea’s mood.  By afternoon, the weather had eased but I attempted to carry the morning’s colour palette into the afternoon’s shoot, at Selsey Lifeboat station.

West Sussex seascape

1/60, f/11, 16mm, ISO 50, Big Stopper and circ. polariser.

Incidentally, the second image is of a wrecked portion of WW2 mulberry harbour that has been rusting away on Aldwick beach for seventy years.  Believe it or not, I grew up literally a stone’s throw from this wreck but have only now bothered to photograph it.  Sometimes we overlook the things closest to us.

21 thoughts on “Photo essays and projects

  1. That sounds like work . . . I just snap away and throw a bunch of stuff on my blog to see what sticks.

    . . . I’m still waiting for adulation and awards to roll in.

    Seriously, one of the reasons I am beginning to near-hate the so-called 365 projects is two-fold. The first is that people just throw stuff up there.

    For example “I sat too long on the toilet, and ran out of time, so I snapped a picture of this towel. I think it expresses the tears of mankind dried into the cloth of time.”

    And I’m being generous here; often it’s just the picture of a towel without the philosophical musing.

    The other reason is often there is no narrative to the photo. You get a snapshot of something, and it may even be beautiful, but you get no information other than what you see. Fine as that goes, but after a while they all blend in. I started my untitled series specifically in response to those types of presentation.

    Mind you, not to say all of them are crap. Many show people really putting effort into the craft. But many more are towel-like.

    Anyway, you certainly inspire with your photographs . . . and make me want to go out and buy a Big Stopper. Did you go with cork, or rubber?

    • Yes, 365 can be a bit of a ‘this is my breakfast today’ kind of thing. That was not the sort of project I was talking about. (I don’t think you seriously thought that was the case anyway.) Actually, I did a 365 way back in 2009. I set myself the challenge of only taking photos that I would have thought worthy even if I was not doing a 365. A tall order. I have not done it again.
      As for the Big Stopper, well, there’s a lot more cork in my life than rubber (read into that what you may). But you might like this video, in which they use welding glass and elastic bands as a (much cheaper) alternative:

      • I’ve seen that series of hacks, and might adapt some, but welding glass has a tint to it (at least the ones I’ve seen).

        As for the 365 projects, some I’ve seen early on were really clever, with people purposefully planning a year-long series loosely tied together. Once everyone jumped into the bandwagon (heavily promoted by WordPress and every other photo and blogging site), the quality drastically dropped.

        But yes, I was not specifically talking of 365 as a project.

        I like to occasionally do series (self-defined projects), and those get planned out a bit more (tripod, backdrop, lighting, etc.), but for the most part I enjoy the narrative-photo combination, both for reading and for producing, that comes from just going out and photographing unplanned discoveries.

        I’ve had a number of “projects” I’ve shot for my ex-employers (product shots for their website, done for no fee), and I’ve learned I don’t like the restrictions/requests people have because they don’t usually match my vision of what to do and what would look good, so while they end up happy as pigs-in-old-excrement, I typically end up not being too pleased with the end result.

        . . . I would probably not do well in a commercial environment unless I had a lot of latitude, did not have to see or speak to the customer, and never heard from them other than receiving a check . . . then again, if I were to choose a way to make money, I think I would prefer writing (it’s a more solitary endeavor).

      • Yes, you’d have the adjust the colour if you used welding glass! I thought it was fun though. There are still some excellent 365s out there. It’s just harder to find them because of the volume. I agree about commercial projects and am glad that my income isn’t photography. My post was really only intended to share an approach that I have been playing with lately. And to mention Behance because I have enjoyed it and not many people seem to know about it. My intention was not to demean other approaches.

      • I did not take it as demeaning other approaches. Besides, no one should stick to only one approach.

        I took the article as pointing out there is something to be gained by both planning photo shoots and how they will be presented.

        It need not be elaborate. I’ve done a number of posts stemming from dedicated drives (meaning, I take camera, a few lenses, and head out in the back country roads for two hours). After I get back, I break up the photos into specific narratives, and post them in separate blog posts.

        I took the point of the article as supporting taking some care in how one presents one’s work. As I said, I prefer some type of narrative.

        In case you have not seen it, this is a ‘after the fact’ narrative from some shots I had:

      • And so they did. Restored now. Amazing how perfectly good comments from a recognised follower can end up in spam when an increasing number of spam comments get sent to me to approve!

  2. I think it really depends on what drives an individual’s photography.
    A bunch of chocolate box pictures from different photographers can wear thin but I think if an individual were to sit down and look at their portfolios they may well find ‘projects’ hidden in the multitude – indeed a process of going through a mass of images may throw up the start of a project.
    I think one thing that is useful, should somebody decide on going project based, is the ‘project statement’ i.e. write down what you’re trying to do, modifying as the project goes along but always have the raison d’etre in the back of the mind.

    • Yes, there are definitely projects to be found in a portfolio, but I suppose I am more talking about the pre-determined project here. It’s a different approach and, it seems to me, involves defining your aims in advance so, yes, a project statement is a good idea. One thing it definitely helps with is sorting out differences in the client’s and the photographer’s understanding of the project. I am currently working on a series highlighting the work done by volunteers on a local canal and I can tell already that we have slightly different ideas of what the project entails. I can adapt, and that’s all part of the challenge, but so much better and more efficient to clarify from the start.

      • Clarity of purpose is important of course, but it’s also a good idea allow wiggle room.
        Of course, where possible reviews against the objectives are always worthwhile during a project – depending on the circumstances of course – where proposed outcomes can be adjusted and adapted.
        Good luck with your project.
        By the way did you catch the short article in the BBC prog yesterday – it may be on iplayer – “Museums at Night” – Rankin id a one day project on some allotments.

  3. I’ve never been fond of purpose-driven challenges of any sort. To me, photography is what gets me outside, seeing the world in a way that’s very different from what I see (or more likely don’t see) when I leave the camera behind. I never know what I’m apt to encounter, though it seems that I have come up with a series of waves… though those were never preplanned in any sense.

    I also like to look back to see how my shots have changed over the years. Or how my mood affects the outcome (I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately and I believe the photos reflect that.) I love your approach and it works for you. I’m afraid if I attempted it, I’d give it up in a hurry. Then again, I’m just in it for the fun.

    I definitely don’t like the silly WP challenges at all. It’s all about style and preference, I believe.

    • Hi Gunta. Preplanning is just one approach and I was merely suggesting it as an idea. I thought people might like to visit Behance because I have enjoyed it and not many people seem to know about it. My post was not supposed to suggest that a spontaneous image-at-a-time approach is wrong. As for challenges, I am not into them either and wasn’t really advocating that although I know for some they are enjoyable. I have been a bit surprised at the negativity in responses to this post and seem inadvertently to have hit a nerve, which certainly wasn’t my intention.

      • Ahhh… you’ve hit a nerve for sure! Don’t know about anyone else, but I suspect I was being defensive about my less than serious approach to photography. I have this tiny, nagging voice that keeps telling me I might do so much better if I just applied myself, but at my age I figure that the whole point is to have fun! If I were to guess, I suspect it was your second paragraph that did seem to imply a bit of criticism of more casual approaches… but it’s all objective in the end.

        Having said that, I need to add that I’ve truly enjoyed watching the journeys (literally and figuratively) that you’ve taken. I suppose there’s a touch of envy shining through in my response. Don’t give it another thought.

    • Thank you very much. I am glad you enjoyed them. They are a bit different from my usual style but I had a lot of fun making them. I hope you enjoy Behance. I do. I haven’t quite the nerve actually to post any of my images there. I just soak up the inspiration.

  4. I have never thought about this approach, but it definitely works for you…well, I might add. It was also interesting to read comments from others not so enchanted. I took an online art class once where the project focus (multiple shots from multiple angles) was encouraged so that we could better illustrate what we wrote about in our approach to the theme of the assignment. I thoroughly enjoyed those challenges, but it’s not something that I think about naturally. I guess I am more focused on using photographic illustration to describe why, how, or what is happening in nature. Thanks for writing such a thought-provoking post.

  5. This series of photos are beautiful and the theme that brings them together is really, really strong.

    I used to think of myself as an enthusiast photographer, but I’ve lapsed so much in the last couple of years. I really want to pick up my camera and get back on it. Going to hop to Behance to get some inspiration me thinks.

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