Re-approach of the brief and new assignment idea.
(Part I can be found here)
For my headshot series I wanted to follow the same line as on the initial idea, research wise. I wanted to communicate something personal and integrate image and written word, so decided to document a day and a half of my life through headshots.
I work as a nursing assistant and often do night shifts. Normally, I would not go to bed after my shift and will try to keep myself awake till the following night. My diet goes off the window and at the end of the day (and a half) I do not even feel like a person. I thought I could come up with an interesting set of images that would show the changes on my face together with some brief notes of what I have done and eaten, and the time the images were taken.
I set up a light and the tripod in one of the rooms and kept it closed so nobody would interfere and the distance between me, the camera and the light source would remain as stable as possible throughout the process:
As I did not have space for a second light or a reflector, I tried to place the single light as parallel and close to the camera as possible, to get my face features illuminated in order to appreciate the changes from one photograph to another. I did not have a remote shutter release so the biggest challenge here was getting my face in focus. Other problem was finding the right spot to get my face framed properly and in a similar position for all the shots.
Technical approach and planning
After mounting the camera on the tripod at a hight suitable to take a self portrait while standing, I chose my camera settings. When working with external flash I would normally choose the settings (aperture between 6-8, ISO 100, white balance set to “flash” and shutter speed between 125 and 250), take a test shot and bring the power of the flash up or down (or using flash compensation on camera, again depending on the kind of light I am looking for and the power of the flash unit I am using) till I get an exposure that I am happy with. So I started with:
Shutter speed: 1/160
Focal length 42mm
I used these settings till IMG_6226, where I closed the aperture till f/9, in order to ease the process of getting my eyes in focus. I adjusted the power of the flash from there and once I got the exposure right, I took some more shots until I figured out what position I needed to be in and also experimenting with my facial expression. I resolved to stay away from smiling too much and remain as neutral as posible so the effects of poor diet and sleep could be seen in a clear way and not conditioned by my expression. I planned in advance at what times I was taking the shoots (after certain activities) and documented my food and beverage intake and the main facts occurring in between the shots.
The technique I used to get my face in focus without a remote shutter release was as follows:
- using the self-timer of the camera (10s) and selecting an AF point that would fall on the lines of my eyes, I place one hand on the spot were my face was meant to be while pressing the shutter down half way.
- when the light on the camera indicated that focus was found, I was pressing the shutter fully and positioning myself on the same spot where my hand was, working better when standing slightly ahead of that spot.
Here are the contact sheets of the whole shoot (with the final nine images marked in red):
Selection of images and notes
I noticed that, as the day was progressing, it took less time for me to get the shot right. This was partly because learning the exact way to focus and position myself improved with practice but also because the more tired I was getting, the less picky I was about the way the image looked and I was happy with a focused centered photograph.
The criteria for choosing the final images was:
- 1 image per period of time documented.
- in focus.
- as centered as possible.
- similar position to the previous shots to keep the continuity of the series.
[I called the series “Almost 36” because that is the gap between the first and the last image (35 hours and 43 minutes) and also because I will be 36 next month and I thought it was a brilliant coincidence for a self portrait project.]
These are the images selected and their annotations:
Wake up time: 6:40 a.m
Left the bed at 7:15 a.m
Strengths and weaknesses
I was positively impressed with the final result as I think it reflects clearly the ups and downs of the day(s) documented, exactly as I felt they happened. While taking the photographs, my impression was that the project was worthless as I thought I was looking exactly the same in every image. However, when I reviewed the photographs at the end of the experience, I could see how much my face and expression was affected by the lack of sleep and uncontrolled intake and how the tiredness builds up along the way, which was the main thing I wanted to communicate with the series.
As weaknesses, I would point out the lack of light bounced on the right side of the face, with would have made the portraits more flattering.
Overall I am pleased with what I am presenting. It has been also a good exercise for me as I am quite self-conscious and I was totally out of my confort zone. I reflected about publishing the images, whether or not I would regret it, what would people think about me… only till I saw the series as a whole and instantly loved it and left all these questions aside. I feel I have succeed only because I have put a little bit of truth out there (the truth about how hard it is to be a nurse and have a family life, the truth about how terrible someone can look after sleeping…and after not sleeping) and because I have found the courage to publish a picture of myself in such states.
How could I develop this further in the future.
It could be developed in many ways and I feel that more personal work like “Almost 36” will come. As I mentioned above, I do feel somehow liberated and willing to experiment a bit further by documenting little happenings in life through photography and trying to make it interesting.
Perhaps a more exhaustive approach to the specific times when the photographs were taken (every hour, every two hours…) would have helped and, although impossible in my current situation, it might be something that could be applied to future projects of similar nature.
Another idea that came to mind and that would be interesting to come back to is taking a similar series exclusively with available light, so the time of the day would be reflected also on the image and it could be guessed by the quality of the light and not only by the footer of the photograph.
Looking at the overall work on Assignment 2, I consider I have fulfilled the Assessment criteria. I have documented all the process, taking notes of the mistakes and finding alternatives for both meeting the brief and solving technical challenges.
I think I have shown a good level of technical skills and that I know my camera and understand the concepts reviewed during Part I and II. I do tend to explore different options in order to achieve the results I expect.
In the end, the requirements of the brief are met. I have presented a series of nine headshots, created by showing a degree of technical skills and although my first approach to the assignment could not progress in the way I wanted, I have managed to come up with an interesting set of images that are also working as a whole, communicating an idea and showing continuity.
I was concerned about the feedback I would get from my tutor if I would have followed my initial idea but I am now more confident as I perceived the final work submitted has a good professional feel to it.
Overall, I have enjoyed greatly working on this Assignment and I am looking forward for feedback and new challenges in Assignment 3.