Jug­gling move­ment

Here’s an ex­am­ple of fit­ting to­gether dif­fer­ent ac­tions to ex­plain the whole

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

Amore fluid kind of sit­u­a­tion that calls for a jig­saw-like fit­ting to­gether is when the ‘units’ are mov­ing in­de­pen­dently. The only con­trol you have is us­ing an­tic­i­pa­tion to help you move your cam­era po­si­tion as they move.

These shots were taken on a tea plan­ta­tion in Sri Lanka, at the end of the morn­ing shift, when the work­ers weigh the sacks of leaves and then trans­fer these to large sacks that will then go by truck to the fac­tory. In re­portage pho­tog­ra­phy, it’s the kind of sit­u­a­tion where you’d typ­i­cally want to cram as much in­for­ma­tion as pos­si­ble about the process into a sin­gle frame. That way, one shot will do the job, rather than hav­ing to run a step-by-step se­quence.

Fit­ting the pieces to­gether

Briefly, there are three things go­ing on in this area, The first is that one by one the pick­ers put their bas­kets on the weigh­ing hook, which is at that mo­ment held up by two women. In other words, the peak of that ac­tion is when the two weigh­ing women raise their arms fully, and that’s the time for shooting. Next, each picker emp­ties her bas­ket onto a pile of leaves, so there’s a peak mo­ment there too, when the leaves tum­ble out. Fi­nally, the leaves are then scooped up into sacks for load­ing onto the truck (out of sight). This ac­tion doesn’t have such an ob­vi­ous peak, but there are arm move­ments and body stances that may look more graph­i­cally dynamic than oth­ers. The aim is to get each of these co­in­cid­ing in a sin­gle frame – not so easy to man­age visu­ally as, for a start, the mo­ments of the weigh­ing hook be­ing raised and a woman emp­ty­ing her bas­ket hap­pen to­gether only oc­ca­sion­ally. With all the to-ing and fro-ing in the scene, get­ting these and the leaf-scoop­ing neatly sep­a­rated takes some dodg­ing around for the right cam­era po­si­tion. This is the fit­ting-to­gether part of the shooting. An ob­vi­ous choice was to use a 24mm wide-an­gle lens from this po­si­tion so that the three ac­tions were in a se­quence from back­ground to fore­ground – and to use an aper­ture of f/16 to give enough depth of field to keep ev­ery­thing in fo­cus.

If you’re shooting ‘through’ a scene like this, it makes good vis­ual sense to use one or two of the fore­ground ‘units’ as fram­ing de­vices – they can be at the left or right edges (or both) cut­ting into the frame and act­ing like the pro­ject­ing wings of a stage. As it hap­pened, there were usu­ally two women at any one time scoop­ing leaves into sacks, which left me with four ‘ac­tive units’. A sen­si­tiv­ity set­ting of ISO500 en­abled shutter speeds of be­tween 1/160 sec and 1/200 sec, which was just enough.

So, a seem­ingly or­di­nary and ev­ery­day ac­tiv­ity can be­come, for the cam­era, quite an in­tense op­er­a­tion. Ul­ti­mately, perfection is un­likely, but to make up for that there will be unexpected lit­tle fram­ings and com­bi­na­tions of shapes. In to­tal, I shot 93 frames over the nine min­utes that it took for this op­er­a­tion of tea weigh­ing and trans­fer­ring.

The frame I fi­nally chose had, for me, the best com­bi­na­tion of ac­tions. The key was the weigh­ing ac­tion in the back­ground, and it had to read clearly. Af­ter that, I looked for a good teaemp­ty­ing ac­tion in the mid­dle ground, and two graph­i­cally strong figures close to the cam­era left and right.

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