Monday, 23 December 2013

Assignment 5 Covering an Event

The Rochester Christmas Festival 2013 included several events beginning with a Dickensian Costume sale on the 9 November followed by a parade and the switching on of the Christmas Lights on 16 November, a Christmas Market set up in the Castle grounds on Saturday, 30 November and Sunday, 1 December
Friday, 6 Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December, Friday, 13, Saturday, 14 and Sunday, 15 December with the Dickensian Christmas Festival running Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 December. It was my intention to capture the atmosphere, entertainment and events of the whole lead up to the Dickensian Christmas Festival to hopefully showcase the fun that the vendors and organisers have bringing this event to life as much as the spectators have watching and participating in it. Whilst capturing this event I had to be mindful of the shot list and possible publication of the images, most likely to be the local newspaper online edition which offers images for sale to the general public and Medway council who use images to promote the events both online and the physical publication of leaflets and programmes.

Covering all these events meant I could obtain a good selection of images fitting my shot list criteria, get to know some of the organisers and groups attending the festival, discover what parking facilities were like and do site reconnaissance.

Dickensian Costume Sale 9 November

First Selects

Costume Sale first selects using Adobe Bridge star ratings

Final Selects of this event
Victorian costume broach

Firemans whistle

Opera hat and evening coat

Black beaded choker

Epaulette detail in a military uniform
The room had less natural light that I had been led to believe and not wanting to use my flash (which in hindsight I think I should have done) I used a fairly high ISO and large aperture, anticipating there being a few people there I didn't want to cause a H&S issue by using a tripod, due to this I was quite disappointed by the final results, they were a bit grainy for my taste, and I only selected a few images that may possibly get into the final  event portfolio but even then only the second batch rather than the first select images.

Small Dickensian Parade and Switching on of the Christmas Lights 16 November

First Selects

First selects using Adobe Bridge star ratings

A link to a flickr set of some of these images can be found here for showing on my learning log I'll include a few below:

Rochester High Street

Rochester Castle

Building the stage

Bauble with reflection of High Street

Dickensian Character

Dickensian Character




Street entertainment

Jack Sparrow look-a-like and magician

Collection for Rotary Santa Fun Run

Covering this event gave me the chance to see the parade route that would also be used for the main Dickensian Christmas Festival and work out where a good vantage point would be. I could also see what the lighting conditions would be like at various points, what direction the sun would be coming from where the gaps in the shops were and anticipate how difficult it might be to shoot when there would be large crowds. I found out how hard it was to shoot an actual parade, panning if the characters walked too quickly, practised pre-focusing on a certain spot and also remembered to turn the focus onto the crowd from time to time. I also remembered to bring pencil and paper to take names for captioning. Although happier with this shoot I looked forward to the other events to capture more street entertainment and other characters. Several of the groups approached me and asked if they could have my details or take theirs so they could possibly use my images on their webpages this included:

Chris Moor - Jack Sparrow
Vendor Organisers - Fieldstaffs Antiques for use on their blog
Street Dancing - Vibe Dance
Rotary Club - Santa Fun Run
Sandi Digby - Footsteps in Time for a record of the event
Steam Punks -

feedback was positive:

"Thank you for the link to your photos, they are brilliant!  I have forwarded the link to the people featured in them, I hope that is ok." - Sandi

"Thank you so much. Great stuff. Dwain" - Vibe Dance

"Thank you for  this link and the ability to download the pictures.  There are certainly some very impressive images and you have sent them to the right contact for the Santa Fun Run." - David Hatcher Santa Fun Run

"Hi Jan…thank you so much …they are excellent pics….I know Capt Jack & the dancers will love them and I'm delighted with them all, especially the ones that have the shop in! If it’s ok with you I’ll send them to the lady who organizes the dancers and Captain Jack and also put them on my blog" - Jane Fieldstaff Antiques

I subsequently received another email from Jane "I've sent them to the lady who organized the dancing outside my shop….she was delighted with them… We do loads of photoshoots at the shop, so if you ever want to use us for your project you are most welcome….we're always looking for good pics of the shop!"

All of which boosted my confidence in approaching people and groups with regards to taking their photos and thinking of them as potential clients.

From this event I also learnt a valuable lesson with regards to my batteries, despite having 2 both are getting fairly old. Even though I kept them in an inside pocket both drained fairly quickly and although I captured the parade and a lot of stage events, compared by Heart FM's Neil Kefford, I actually missed the celebrities, James ‘Diags’ Bennewith and Tom Pearce from TOWIE, turning on the lights with the mayor and the lit up streets. I made sure I bought a new battery before the main event! Check out Heart FM's images here.

Personally it didn't worry me as I am not a huge TOWIE fan, professionally I was gutted! Learning curve though, good learning curve.

Christmas Market and Fair in the Castle grounds

First Selects... well they turned out to be my final selects too as there were not many I chose to edit.

St Nicholas Church, Boley Hill, Rochester

Rochester Cathedral at night

Fun Fair in Rochester Castle Grounds

Rochester High Street Christmas Lights

The Christmas market was not as big or as impressive as previous years which had wooden Swiss style chalet stalls, holly boughs, lights and German craft stalls. Apparently they were very expensive and the following year they pulled out at the last minute, therefore this year  there were not many stalls set up for the first few weekends and those that were there were not especially Christmassy and were just white tarpaulin. Nothing that made for the picturesque or would have encouraged people to attend. I enjoyed using my tripod, cable release and long exposures to capture the lights in and around Rochester. Seeing as I had more on the reject pile this is another area of photography that I need to work on if my intention is to pursue night shots more frequently.

Dickensian Christmas Festival

The main festival itself ran over 2 days, Saturday 7, Sunday 8 December with the Seven Poor Travellers' Procession, City of Rochester Pipe Band, various street entertainers and theatre groups as well as Dickensian Societies being represented. There was to be a main parade at 12 noon on both days as well as a candlelit parade at 4.45pm culminating in Carols for Christmas on the Boley Hill Stage outside Rochester Castle. I attended both as some events were only happening on one of the days and as some ran simultaneously I wanted to try and cover as much as I could. Having been to the Only in England exhibition showing photographs from Martin Parr and Tony Ray-Jones and looking through Parr's book The Conformists showed me how English at leisure and attending special occasions could be photographed. Most of Parr's and Ray-Jones' subjects were captured unawares and often each person was looking in a different direction. Both filled the frame as much as possible leaving very little or no negative space I hoped to take inspiration from these photographers to complete my final assignment.

Sounds easy (she laughs) in total I took over 600 shots, quite a few were easily rejected due to poor framing, out of focus or not being of anything interesting. I completed 3 rounds of selection and whittled them down to just over 60

Some of third selects.
a link to the flickr set is here a sample of which you can find below

Rochester Pipe Band

Getting involved in the carol singing

Ali King from Seven Dials Rapscallions as Mrs Grimes

Tucking into mince pies from the Seven Poor Travellers Christmas Dinner

all I need to do is fine tune this initial set to complete assignment 5....

These are the photographs that I consider "the ones that got away"

Heart FM encourage the heart symbol at the road show, used ambient light, high ISO so very grainy

Carol Concert more use of ambient light, high ISO therefore grainy image

Fake snow at the carol concert, use of ambient light, high ISO lots of grain
Fake snow outside the tourist information office, I love the composition of this but missed the focal point, her hand is in focus...not much else is!

I really liked the last four images, the subject matter and compositions all work within the event I set out to cover but due to high ISO or missing the focus they have been discarded from my final set, this is where I need to work on using flash or even consider a new camera, more and more I am realising the limitations of having an older model where the highest ISO is 1600, images are soft at 400 and at 800 grain is really noticeable at 1600, for me it really spoils the shot.

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