Assignment 5: Applying the techniques of illustration and narrative – A day at the Races

…..illustrate a story for a magazine, the cover and several pages.  The cover picture will need some of the techniques of illustration that we have been studying.  So the whole assignment is a ‘narrative picture essay’ and the cover at least, needs to include one or more of ‘evidence of action’, symbols and juxtaposition.  Whilst for some pictures the subject may be the important thing, for the cover picture at least, the image quality needs to be technically good.

One of the hardest things about this was finding a topic which would allow me to incorporate all of the above and could be planned and executed in the time available.  Again I went through the process of brainstorming ideas, only to discard many of them because the timing didn’t work, or I felt they were too simple or too complicated.

I got the chance of a day at Stratford Races and felt this would fit as a suitable topic.   My starting point was to think about the different things that happen at a horse race meeting and the different photo opportunities that would present themselves as well as the pictures I would need to be able to get the story across.  The next stage was to think through some of the technical aspects; what lenses should I take? I settled for an 18-200 and a 70 – 300 telephoto lenses; what shutter speeds would be best, what about ISO?  As it happened it was dull for most of the day so many of the pictures were taken with a high ISO so that I could get a reasonably fast shutter speed.  I hadn’t been to Stratford Racecourse before so although I had made a list of the pictures I wanted and where I would need to stand to get them, such as at the parade ring or at the winning post, I didn’t bargain for the fact that there is a huge screen directly opposite where I stood to see the horses cross the finishing line, or that for much of time I was shooting towards the sun.  I can’t stress how important that planning activity was because although it didn’t all quite work according to plan, I got most of the pictures I needed and certainly understand the areas I’d need to focus on more closely if I were to do this again.  For example,  given the time, I would have gone to a race meeting without my camera as part of the planning process so that I could work out exactly where I needed to be for each shot.  I would also write to the race course in advance to see if I could get access to areas usually closed to the public.  One of the things I did find was that there were photo opportunities that I hadn’t planned for, such as 2 chaps studying the form and an auctioneer taking bids for the winner of as ‘selling race’, you just need to keep your eyes open all the time.  When I first received my TAOP materials and read through the whole course, this assignment terrified me, partly because I’m a little nervous about photography people and partly because some of the ‘illustrative’ photography I’ve seen, might have an interesting story, but the technical skills sometimes seems to be lacking.  I do now have much more respect for photographers who follow this route, it’s not easy but has opened up another avenue  for me to explore further in future.

Some of the hardest things about this assignment were:

  • planning – although I thought I had worked hard on that, it wasn’t really enough and if I did it again I would definitely make a prior visit to the venue.
  • not  in full control of lighting and where I wanted to stand – again a prior visit may have helped me accommodate that
  • trying to tell the whole story in a dozen or so photographs.  This required me to be quite choosy and I may have to reduce the number even further before submitting for assessment

About Anne Bryson

I live in Gloucestershire with my husband Iain and West Highland Terrier, Isla. I enjoy golf, photography and my grandchildren, not necessarily in that order! Having completed a 10 week digital photography course with the Open University in 2010 and wanting to take photography further, I enrolled on the Open College of the Arts BA (Hons) starting with 'The Art of Photography' which I thoroughly enjoyed. Next came Digital Photographic Practice followed by People and Place. In April 2016 I progressed to level two with Documentary and in June 2018 enrolled on my latest OCA course, Landscape.
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