Reflection journal

Week 1:

Best image from first week of photo journalism

My first week of photographic journalism highlighted one thing to me, my A-level in photography was as useless as I suspected and I still can’t take a good photo which gives me a lot to work on in the upcoming weeks.

During this seminar we went out to find ‘someone with an instrument’ to produce our first story on. Myself and Joe Burn headed to Briggate, notorious for news worthy buskers. Whilst taking images I tried to focus on composition and detail which would compliment the story. I think the image above is the strongest because it highlights a lot of aspects covered in the writing side; the expressions, the street, the instruments and the overall composition sort of resembles a stage which is a clever play on the busking story (unfortunately this was accidental). As this was the first ever seminar I’m glad we happened across such a good mistake as it has highlighted to me the importance of really thinking about the composition and framing of images and how this can add to the story telling effect.

Things to work on – Getting good at photography, understanding composition.

Week 2:

Holly Beattie (me)

My initial realisation during week 2 of photo journalism is that I am no more destined to be in front of the camera than behind it.

This week we discussed different image formats, the difference between is essential to know when uploading images for digital publications or if they are to be included in a printed publication. The three main image formats we looked at were…

Gif – Graphics interchange format was created in 1987 to provide a colour image format as opposed to black and white. Gifs can support 256 colours and are able to be compressed to decrease the file size without reducing the quality. The main usage of gifs in recent years has been their animation ability. Gifs are able to support 256 colours per separate frame which means multiple images can be used to create a moving animation. The downfalls to gifs are that 256 colours is nothing compared to the 16.7 million colours supported by JPEG and therefore are not of as much of a high quality and should be avoided when using images with fine detail or a lot of different colours.

JPEG – Joint Photographic Expert’s Group is widely accepted as the default format for images on the web, cameras and on mobile phones. It supports 16.7 million colours which is close to what experts say the human eye see’s in. JPEG is also able to compress to small sizes which makes them quick to download but more compression degrades the quality of the image. Every time a JPEG is edited and saved the image is compressed further which removes data from the image. This is something I will have to be extremely cautious of and can tackle this by only saving the final copy of the image once it is fully edited or by using programs which allow you to edit without altering the images quality. As JPEG is supported in all major web browsers this will be the image format I will use most regularly.

PNG – Portable Network Graphics was created as an improved version of gif and also supports lossless data compression. PNG only supports RGB colour palettes as it was created for image transfer using the web. It does not support the CMYK format and therefore could not be used to create images suitable for print. I will mostly use PNG format for graphs and similar images containing large blocks of colour. It’s main advantage is supporting a transparent background which is not supported by JPEG.

Other points to remember – The Leeds Hacks style guide informs of how to present images within an article. The majority of images should be landscape and scaled to 640×480 pixels. An images scale can be edited in Photoshop where you can input the pixels directly into the image resize tool. If any images are being printed they should be saved in CMYK format, an image will save/download in RGB format. All images should include Alt Text for the visually impaired, required under the Equality Act 2010.

Things to work on – Experiment with layout of first blog post, buy a camera.

Week 3: Experimenting with aperture, ISO and shutter speed

This week focused on aperture, ISO and shutter speed – the three main elements you can change on your camera to alter how an image will look.

Aperture – refers to how wide the lens opens so that light can hit the light sensor. Aperture is measured in ‘F stop’ and would be written as such eg, F2.8. The smaller the F number the wider the lens opening so F32 would only let a tiny amount of light in compared to F2.8. The main effect aperture can be altered for is to achieve a shallow depth of field. The higher the aperture the more light let in but the image is less focused, this effect is used to create a shallow depth of field where one object/ part of the image will be in focus and the remainder of the image will be blurry. As shown above using a high aperture I made some parts of the image focused and some parts blurry. A low aperture such as F32 would make the whole image focused.

Shutter speed – determines how long the shutter is open for which also controls how much light enters the camera. By experimenting with shutter speed and aperture you can create different depths of field.

Above are some images I experimented with. I used a high aperture for both F4.8 and a different shutter speed. The first image had a faster shutter speed, the background is slightly blared whilst the subject is in focus but the image is fairly dark. On the second image I used a slightly quicker shutter speed and a lower aperture my original aim was to make the image lighter but it also made the background slightly more blurry. Meaning to create a more shallow depth of field I should use a high aperture with a faster shutter speed but as in this case it depends on what the light conditions will allow.

I also found that being closer to the subject you are focusing on gives a better depth of field, when I shot images of the subject from far away the effect didn’t work.

ISO – sets the light sensitivity of your camera. A lower ISO such as 100 should be used for lighter conditions and the number should increase for darker conditions but the higher the ISO the grainier the image. I experimented with ISO from the first image as I was shooting indoors with such a low ISO the images were coming out very dark but once I changed to a higher ISO the lighting of the images improved.

These images were all shot in Manual mode but I will experiment with the other settings to discover which will be best for my project.

Things to work on – Creating a shallow depth of field, camera settings.

Week 4: 

This week we experimented with Photoshop and learnt how to prepare our images to make sure the photo’s are as good as they can be and fit for where they are being used.

The first step to preparing images is rating them, this can be done using using windows file explorer simply by putting all of your images into a folder and using the star rating tool to rate each image and then viewing the images in order of rating to see your best ones. This will be a useful tool in organising my images and making sure I use the ones of the highest quality.

Above is an example of a before and after image I edited in Photoshop. The most important editing skill to remember is to edit shoot and edit in RAW to ensure the file isn’t changed when repeatedly opened and saved as a JPEG and also to use the layers tool to edit. This allows you to edit specific effects on a layer without it directly editing the photo and allows you to easily edit or delete an effect at any time.

Using a specific grid when cropping is also really useful, the original image already followed the rule of thirds grid but it was helpful when cropping to see the grid to be able to stick to the rule of thirds. There are more complex grids you can use with I will familiarise myself with and attempt to shoot in that grid format originally instead of edit it to the grid.

I think being able to adjust lighting and size in Photoshop is extremely effective (as displayed above) and can really help details in the image stand out more. I think the edited image is much stronger than the original as it is brighter and more focused on the subject.

Size guidelines to remember:

Body of online text 4:3

Instagram format 1:1

Social sharing images 2:1

Online image width 640px

Things to work on: Editing in Photoshop, revise grid formats

Week 5: 

This week we finished the ‘stories from the city task’, I wrote up the main dialogue from the person I interviewed and inserted the edited images. Completing the task made me realise how important strong images are and appreciate that Humans of New York/ Leeds would not be successful without a strong image that tells just as much of a story as the words.

We also looked at different types of Photojournalism. There are two main types; Editorial photography and photo stories.

Editorial photography is where images are used alongside the text of a story to support it. I am more interested in photo stories for this module and would like to experiment with how much an image can make a story.

For my project I will be focusing on sport photography and reportage. I think sport photography is an area where you can really make a photo tell a story. By documenting real sports as they happen you are able to catch live expressions and movements that editorial photography cannot. This is an area that interests me as journalism alone tells the audience something but journalism accompanied by images allows the audience to experience the story they are reading.

I have been in contact with Leeds Roller Derby team and am looking into this area for my project. I think this would make an interesting feature as it is a fairly uncommon sport but a really interesting one. If I can shoot high quality images of Leeds Roller Derby team I will be able to document the intricacies of the sport, the effort that goes in to the sport and the emotions felt by the team. In this case the images will be the main part of the story, the words will provide further detail but all you really need to know will hopefully be shown from the detail in the images.

Week 6:

This week I prepared my pitch for my final Photo Journalism project. In my pitch I have detailed that I will be documenting a local roller derby team covering themes of women in sports, roller derby as a rising sport, its origins, its rules and regulations and the efforts of those involved in the team.

I also looked at other sport photography to get an idea of what sort of images I should be photographing. I found that the main focus of most sport photographers is the emotions portrayed by competitors. In most cases the facial expression is what drives the narrative behind the image and makes the images strong. Sport photography that doesn’t focus on a specific subject but rather documents a whole group isn’t as strong in creating a narrative as it is just documenting a common image that we see all the time in sports and doesn’t drive a specific story.

For example

Mark Pain bike photography
Mark Pain photography of a group

This image of a group of bikers taken from Mark Pain’s website doesn’t offer much of a story. It would compliment text describing the team or the sport but as a stand alone image it doesn’t show or tell us anything new.

Mark Pain fencing photography
An image taken from Mark Pain’s website of a fencing match

Where as this image tells a story. Without knowing anything about the sport or the competition or the competitors it tells a story of victory and loss. We can tell the subject on the right is the champion and the subject on the left hasn’t been victories which often from sport photography is the only story we need to know.

I have contacted the Leeds Roller Derby team and will be attending one of their training sessions next week.

Week 7:

This week I attended a roller derby training session where I took test images of the team and interviewed a team member to get a better understanding of potential issues to address in the project.

Roller derby team photo
Image of the team lined up in roller derby training

I took several test shots in manual and using the sport feature of my camera. I mainly focussed on getting the lighting right as the room was quite dark so it was difficult to capture movement in a good light. The image I took didn’t demonstrate much of a story but helped me observe the team and understand the dynamic better.

I spoke to one of the team members when I attended the training session who informed of some of the issues she would like to see highlighted in the press.

  • Whip It brought roller derby into the mainstream but portrayed it as a rough sport rather than showing the skill needed. – Through photography I could capture and demonstrate the high level of skill put into the sport.
  • The team members aren’t given the credit of other sports team members. They train 3/4 times a week, go to the gym every day and cater their diet around the sport but it is seen as more of a hobby. – I could document certain team members in their efforts to become great at the sport and explore their motives for it.
  • It is a women dominated sport. – This could open up numerous issues. Is this why it doesn’t get as much air time as other sports? Highlight the strength of the women.
  • Hot Wheels and Roller Dolls joined to make the Leeds Roller Derby team which is a very unique situation and hasn’t happened in roller derby before as there is so much rivalry between teams. – Document the rivalry of the two teams, any separations between them still? Does this impact competitions? Are they stronger together?

I took hundreds of test shots using different apertures and shutter speeds to trial using a shallow depth of field and produce the best lighting. I will be selecting the best images from this shoot and practicing editing techniques in Photoshop to enhance the images.

Week 8:

In last weeks session we learnt about narrative in photography. A photograph can be defined as a text, just like any other story, as it can provide a narrative. In narratives there is a process of encoding and decoding a text. The author will encode the text, for example:

Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange
Migrant Mother Dorothea Lange

Dorothea Lange shot a close up image of the woman so the audience can see the lines on her forehead, the pain in her eyes and her drawn expression. By encoding the text in this way the author is presenting the preferred reading of the text, that this woman is struggling in the Great Depression. I believe it is much harder to encode a text in photography in order to portray your preferred reading because if I didn’t know this image had been taken in the Great Depression I would just think the woman was facing some hard times and struggling in life. This is close to what Lange was trying to show and would be a negotiated reading with the viewer. However it wouldn’t be difficult to take an oppositional reading and think something like, the mother is sad because she has to raise two children alone. If an oppositional reading is taken then the meaning behind the photograph completely disappears. Whilst it would still be a great piece of photography it would be meaningless in its purpose of trying to convey a specific meaning.

In my roller derby project I had wanted to convey the intensity behind the training, the skill it took to be part of the team and the empowerment of women. The best scene to shoot these images would be at a competition where the team would be putting in their best efforts and I would be able to capture the series of emotions team members felt through the competition. I wasn’t able to attend the competition due to work which led me to look at my original test shots and make a decision whether I could portray my preferred reading to the audience by shooting at practices and if these images would be strong enough to construct the narrative of the story rather than just accompany the text. I decided that the images I had taken, and similar images I would take, weren’t strong enough to drive the narrative of the story.

Roller derby test shot
Woman falls in roller derby training and sits defeated

Whilst the above image, especially if it had been taken at an angle that captured the facial expression, demonstrates a specific narrative. The woman feels defeated as she falls, this shows there is a lot of skill needed to compete professionally and as in any sport there are defeats. But because this was taken in training and not in a competition environment I am not able to portray my preferred reading to the audience because the image is taken in the wrong context.

I decided to explore a story I had been following in skateboarding to see I could put the aspects of sport photography I had learnt about to use.

Hyde Park Skatepark
Images taken at Hyde Park skate park

I wanted to explore the controversy around skate boarding being entered into the next Olympics. I contacted The Works skate park in Leeds who are planning on building a section of the skate park with 2020 in mind. I was invited to meet one of the coach’s to learn more about the competition side of skate boarding as opposed to the community side we see in Hyde Park. After visiting Hyde Park skate park to try out some test shots I realised again it was going to be very difficult to portray a particular narrative through sport photography. Which led me back to the drawing board with project ideas.

Week 9:

In the search for the perfect project where I would be able to fulfill my goals of producing a photo story where the images drive the narrative I thought back to some of the photographers that impacted me most in A Level photography.

Lifestyle photographer Alex Webb photographs captivating images of real life situations as they are happening. The image below is captured candidly and portrays several different narratives. Each persons facial expression tells a different story, the area they are in tells a story, the fact they are all in the same image together tells a story and one of the most captivating things about these types of images is that they are true depictions of real life.

Alex Webb photography
Image by Alex Webb

Despite the fact the image is just a simple depiction of real life the photographer has clearly thought about composition, lighting and shutter speed. The infrastructure is central, a moderately slow shutter speed has captured the movement of the children and the mid shot has captured all of the facial expressions effectively.

This type of lifestyle photography instantly makes me think of my home town Grimsby. The sights you see when walking around Grimsby are picturesque, families drinking on old sofas in the street, kids playing bare foot in the road, mother and daughter sharing a tinnie. I don’t say this derogatorily but more admire the personality of Grimsby and Cleethorpes. Whilst the streets are lined with litter and the shops have closed down the people are still brimming with life, some have become victims of the deprived town whilst others have embraced it and find joy in the smallest of things.

I decided I wanted to portray this personality in a narrative. The Grimsby Telegraph publishes copious amounts of articles about residents’ displeasure with North East Lincolnshire Council, my friends and family often point out how the town has been further deprived and failed by its council and recently a petition of no confidence in NELC was brought to my attention.

I then researched further into the story and realised there were numerous issues with council expenditure yet to be addressed by the media in the area. Certain articles raised different issues but the whole problem had not be pieced together to show the whole picture. So it was decided my final idea for Photo Journalism would be how a town lost faith in its council.

All research conducted and contacts made can be found in my Research and Contacts blog post.

Week 10:

This week I travelled back to Grimsby to take the images for my project and gather more information. I travelled around North East Lincolnshire, mainly focussing on Grimsby and Cleethorpes because the NELC had just announced new investment opportunities in those areas. Having done prior research into the subject I already had an idea in my mind of what I wanted to photograph and how I wanted those images to look to portray my preferred narrative, however in the style of lifestyle photography I also documented things that I saw as they happened. I was also unsure of the specific areas I would focus on as there is so much to be discussed about the subject but when touring the area the most prominent issues presented themselves.

I took a mixture of documentary photography, lifestyle photography and architecture photography. Although the images of buildings were difficult to photograph in a compelling way I found it was essential to include them in the narrative to provide people with an illustration of what I am talking about. Due to this the photography ended up a mix of images that would drive the narrative and images that would support the narrative.

Man drinking on street
This image shows the personality of Grimsby and the issues residents face. As a stand alone image it provides its own narrative and within a story it drives the narrative and adds a new perspective to be considered.


Welhome Road Museum Store
This image provides an illustration to support the surrounding text. Whilst describing the building and the issues surrounding it in the text is essential to provide the narrative and context the image of the building really drives home the message. In comparison to the image above this shows a scene of natural beauty and excellent architecture. I think it is necessary to include these types of images for the audience to fully understand the issues that arise in the article.

Whilst the scenes of Grimsby and Cleethorpes and the feelings of residents I had spoken to were fresh in mind I put together the structure of the story (which you can view in the blog post ‘Structuring the story’. I decided to structure the story using the images instead of writing the article and then inserting the images as this would provide a more natural narrative.

After forming the structure I wrote the first draft of the article using secondary source information and my own knowledge of the area. The structure and narrative of the story may change when I gather more primary source information. At the minute it is quite bias towards the council but this is backed up with statistics and secondary sources/ When I have reached the council for comment the narrative may follow a more neutral theme or new information may change it all together but because of my use of documentary lifestyle photography all of the images will still be relevant in portraying North East Lincolnshire in a true light.

Week 11:

This week I went back to Grimsby to retake some images. After getting feedback on my architecture photography and researching further in how to shoot the best architectual photography I returned to try and improve the quality of my images.

I learnt how to shoot in RAW and how to manually focus my camera which is two problems I faced when shooting the first time. This ensured my images would be in focus and I could edit them without destroying the original file at all.

I also interviewed Ray Holmes from Carpet Kingdom whilst I was there who gave me new information on the council’s lack of understanding of local businesses and interaction with them.

Some images couldn’t be reshot such as the man on the sofa as it was a candid shot and the scene was no longer there when I returned. I also hoped to shoot the Pleasure Island image from the same angle but without the tree in the way but this wasn’t possible so I had to compromise the angle I was shooting at.

I also discovered more secondary source information whilst I was there that helped with my project and reflected the state of the town from residents. To add to that point the image of the park surrounded by litter was in the exact same state showing how the council haven’t acted as of yet.

Week 12: 

This week I edited my images, gathered more primary source material and published my final article. I had to edit all of my images this week on Photoshop using techniques I had learnt in previous seminars. Most images needed brightening slightly or cropping so they fit better into a grid. Some images such as the man on the sofa were more complicated to work with as I needed to reduce the blur but I tried to edit them as best I could (for more info see editing images blog post).

I then gathered more primary research before producing the final article. I contacted Council Leader Ray Oxby but he couldn’t comment because of purdah which was the same for local MPs. The councillor he passed me on to then sent me a quote from a newspaper article so wasn’t a very informative primary source.

I researched councillors involved in these specific areas and located Matthew Brown and Tom Mickleburgh who both gave me some very good primary source information and led me to ‘off the record’ revelations. These comments were both positive and critical of the council’s investments and so kept the article balanced alongside quotes from Ray Holmes.

I then added the quotes into my final article, edited the original draft and published it making sure all of my images were 640pxls, my images had alternative text and I had used tags and catagories for greater SEO.