A set of six images each of which is a decisive moment of light and shadow helping to create a letter which, when viewed together with the other images, can be seen as a whole to make up the word ‘MOMENT’.
Originally I had tried to capture light and shadows on buildings trying to find a peak visual effect, but came up with the idea of ‘writing out’, so to speak, the word moment thanks to an earlier (failed) idea of using letters to write out something for my A1 project.
This idea was then substantiated by research into some contemporary artists notably Shannon Ebnar as well as my own work into Cartier-Bresson.
To find these letters apparently hidden all around me, it was a simple case of having to walk around to see what would jump out at me. Some letters were easier than others, and it has taken a long time to get a satisfactory selection together due to trying to create a homogeneity between both the thickness of the letter (stems) and the visual relationship between the actual individual photos. My thoughts were very much focused on the final effect of the letters together (as well as the individual photos themselves). I found by pre-visualizing the images (like Edward Weston did? Clarke, 1997, p172) and the final effect it became easier to try to find them in my surrounding.
All of these images have been elaborated in Lightroom and there are specific notes under each image regarding my processing.
Technical Considerations and Equipment
I mainly used the 40-150mm zoom (80-300mm Eq) relying on its ability to flatten and help create the desired 2D effect for the letters.
Olympus OM-D E-M10 (MkI)
Olympus 14-42mm (28-85mm Eq) and 40-150mm zooms (80-300mm Eq)
The Decisive Moment
Shot 1 – M (1/1600 at f/5,0, ISO 200, 40mm (Olympus M.40-150mm)
This is a shadow created by the same grill that is used for the other M shot in this series (shot 3). I cropped this heavily to encase the letter within the frame. I wasn’t concerned with image quality as the letter is still represented well, I believe. I used the temperature level in Lightroom to add a different colour (from a dull beige to this more vibrant blue) with the idea of creating a type of colour structure to the final collective image (being blue to start and blue to finish – as can be seen in the contact sheet section below).
This is a decisive moment in the sense that I came across it at a particular moment after having already taken the grill in focus and then spied the shadow on the adjacent wall.
Shot 2 – O (1/400 at f/5,6, ISO 200, 42mm (Olympus M.14-42mm)
Trying to find the letter O was surprisingly more difficult than I had expected. (Possibly due to my more angular vision and diagonal addiction?) This shot was taken with my smaller zoom and then cropped heavily. A definite decisive moment as I was in a hospital and had already been reproached and asked to refrain from taking pictures within the hospital ward before claiming this image. Risky, but worth it, as I had found it very tricky to find an O with the right thickness to work in harmony with the other shots/letters.
Shot 3 – M (1/1600 at f/5,5, ISO 200, 140mm (Olympus M.40-150mm)
As with shot 1 this is a grill/gate used on a window at a school I work at. With this shot I focused on the metal bars as opposed to the shadow of them as with shot 1. I cropped this shot tightly to bring out the letter. As with shot 1 I have used the temperature bar in Lightroom to emphasise the beige wall/light in the background with some added orange filter and colour to the right as it was very pale. Blacks/shadows were added to charge the bold contrast between that soft background and bring the letter to life.
Is this a decisive moment? Apart from the fact of thinking it was hence the capture, there was the added crucial moment of grabbing this shot in a school corridor between lessons, so yes, it is, I believe.
Shot 4 – E (1/400 at f/4,4, ISO 200, 25mm, Olympus M.14-42mm)
Restricting myself to the square crop once again brought its pros and cons. Finding an E that fit snuggly into the square was challenging to say the least. The square working as a structure within which to create the word moment, was less forthcoming when it came to keeping the thickness of the letter stems/strokes uniform. With shot 4 I saw the letter hidden within this ceiling structure but had to work hard to slot it into the square crop. Here I used the clone tool to ‘extend’ the horizontal bars of the E towards the right of the crop. I had to do that as the E just wasn’t easy to find on its own, so that could also be classed as a decisive moment: the decision to intervene, so to speak. Is this cheating, or a demonstration of creativity?
Shot 5 – N (1/1640 at f/4,0, ISO 200, 40mm, Olympus M.40-150mm)
A hot afternoon walking around produced little reward, however, the decision to pop in to see a friend on my travels proved to be decisive as his table revealed this shadow on his wooden floor. A lucky catch, but arguably a fine example of a decisive moment. I had to flip this image in post production, but saw it there and had already flipped it in my mind, so no cheating here really.
Shot 6 – T (1/1600 at f/4,0, ISO 200, 140mm (Olympus M.40-150mm)
When I first saw this building I thought I could capture an E from it. After some struggling in Lightroom I saw the T pop out. Surely a decisive moment, or rather a series of decisive moments from the seeing, capturing, and ultimately the post production revelation as it were. I rotated this image anticlockwise and added some blues to bring out the tiles and seperate the white structure from them bringing the T to life.
The photos as a sequence
This assignment has proven itself to be extremely challenging and very thought-provoking as to what constitutes a decisive moment within the realm of photography. Choosing to move away from the accepted street photography view of the decisive moment and searching for an original take on it (at least for myself) has opened up many creative avenues and questions: Should we just conform to the collective psyche of what the decisive moment has come to represent? What are the benefits of thinking beyond that? What’s in a word (or words)? How can we do things differently and yet remain relevant?
My decision – decisive in itself – to use the word moment plays with the fact that each moment/image I have chosen to include also forms part of that very word which they are related to, has allowed me to experiment with and push the boundaries of the concept of the ubiquitous decisive moment. After all, it is just a way, not the only way.
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