Assignment 5: People & Place on Assignment- Revised

Sarah’s Comments

After feedback from my tutor from the first version of assignment 5, I decided to revisit this and this is the revised version submitted for assessment.

The Brief


I’d chosen the model flying club for a couple of reasons, I wanted to create a real world situation where it’s possible that I could be providing images for their requirements, also I’d been there in May with my camera supporting my husband who is a member of the club and the other guys with an open day in conjunction with a local model shop who were sponsoring the event.

As my husband is a member, its enabled me to get regular access to the flying field and has provided me with the background knowledge needed to undertake an effective portrayal of a model club and to be able to identify which parts are of most interest to members- both new and old.

In line with some of the other background work I’ve done on assignments, I’ve started by brainstorming what is at the club, what could be photographed and how they all relate.


Undertaking the assignment

I’d sent my brief over to my tutor who advised me to look back over the most successful images from the course and also mentioned some interesting images I’d previously taken of planes at Cosford. As a result, I decided to extend my photography with some stronger compositions and different use of objects within the space and different uses of lenses.


There are plenty of magazines that deal with model aircraft, and having looked through some of these examples, covering events such as the open day I’d attended in May, I was very keen that I didn’t want to replicate these and that the images needed to be more in my style and needed to have eye catching shapes and composition compared to just a record of the flying club. I was also aware that these are to be used online for their website and You Tube channel so it was important that they stood out.


(Example of article in RC Model World)

Interpreting the Assignment

Looking at the brief “the choice is yours within people and/or the place they inhabit”, I wanted to use this and have a mix of both people and place. The place is very much an empty field with fences separating where you fly from the areas used for people not flying and setting up their gear. There is a green metal cabin and some benches, the rest is empty and configured as required. I wanted to capture the flyers with their planes in the air and the concentration needed, the friendly atmosphere and helpfulness, and the large amount of kit required for both IC (using fuel) and electric (using batteries) type of crafts. During flying the field is transformed from one of perfect peace and quiet to one of many different configurations of hardware and tools showing a presence that’s obvious even when the flyer is away from their possessions. Again I’m looking to challenge the stereotype of a model aircraft club by not taking the obvious images and looking to produce a coherent and engaging series.

My thoughts on this were affirmed by a visit to the private view of ‘You never see them like this’ by Tim Hetherington at the Open Eye Gallery. I’d originally been interested to see this as I’m a fan of Don McCullin after picking up a copy of his ‘Shaped by War’ at the local library, I was so fascinated by the images within and wanting to know more about the man and his life in conflict situation, so I purchased his autobiography ‘Unreasonable Behaviour’ a book which gripped me and is still with me in my thoughts a few weeks after reading it. I was interested to see how war and conflict was captured by a different photographer.

The images featured in the series comprise of both people and place, even when people have left a place behind, they still leave a trace such as a comb or an imprint, and while I can’t compare my work to his as they are worlds apart, even at the flying club where people pack their possessions away, there can still be traces left, a position of the fence where it’s been set up, a burn stain on the grass from the fuel used for the planes, little traces of broken planes and propellers etc. Place is essentially something that takes on the characteristics and impressions of the people using it, wherever this may be. A further example of this is the previous work I’d undertaken for the last course of abandoned buildings and will be something that I’ll continue as a theme in my work going forwards

Use of Light

One of the feedback comments from my fourth assignment was about the quality of light at different times of the day. With this assignment, I was restricted to photographing at certain times of the day due to my availability around work, but more by the fact that the flying club only allows IC aircraft to be flown after 1pm at weekends due to noise restrictions and that some days such as Saturdays tend to be quieter than Sundays so there wasn’t always a lot of people or planes to photograph.

Where possible I’ve tried to photograph in strong light, on some days there has been sun and blue skies which allow the colours of the site and kit to really stand out, some days have been very overcast with a grey light, and while I have photographed for the assignment during this, I’ve not been that happy with these, so I have tried to either use those with more tones to the sky, or have composed the image to exclude the sky and to focus in closer on the subject area.

Editing and Contact Sheet

As part of the editing process, I’ve shortlisted a number of images and then printed them as contact sheets so that I could scribble out which I didn’t think met my brief. I usually have physical 6×4 prints made but in this instance, even after shortlisting, I still had a lot of images. Once I’d gotten the short listing done, I ordered prints from an external company in order to keep consistency with the ones that I’d already had done for previous assignments. For this assignment my preferred choice was matte A4 to allow a good size image that wouldn’t be subject to shine and fingerprints as much as a gloss image would be. Once the prints arrived I had one final review of them before working on the order. As you can see from the images, I laid them out and spent some time with them where I kept looking at them, thinking about the connection between the images and moving them until I got a set that I felt worked best for the audience.

Contact sheet shortlisting process marking those I wanted to use


Having received the prints, I laid them all out and studied them to decide the most appropriate order


After moving the images around and looking at how they connected and flowed, this was my final layout. I liked the mixture of people and then a place image and hoped to tell a story of a day at the flight club through this series.


The Images

Image 1


Merging, people, place and planes, this image shows the flyer running the engine of his plane and making adjustments. It’s a very neutral image in tones, unfortunately this was quite a changeable day with differing light levels, all of the grey and green tones blend in together, with the blue and yellow of the plane standing out. To emphasise the movement, the propeller has some blur on it showing that it’s running and getting ready to be flown capturing one of the stages of model flying and also highlighting the connection between the flyer making the plane operational. Interaction between the flyer and the plane is needed to get them to fly with different fuel sources and techniques needed, each plane needs a different personal touch, the relationship here is symbiotic, shown by the tweaking of the engine, each requires an action to get to the goal of flight.

Image 2


As part of my work in showing the place when it’s busy and has been transformed into a flying field, I wanted to get some detailed images on the kit and planes to complement the general images of the flyers using the space. Showing the relationship between the power starter and fuel required to start the internal combustion engine of the plane in the background. I wanted a composition that was quite striking and showed the box first, and then the plane in the background, but also that it needed to be strong to capture the viewer’s eye and to make this more than just a photograph showing kit. As a result I wanted a strong angle, almost zigzag in form; with real and implied triangles (using some of the knowledge from my previous level 1 courses), the strong colours also help to give weight to the image with reds and yellows featuring, both bold primary colours on the same section as part of the colour wheel so complementing each other. View after view, my eye keeps coming back to the yellow of the plane and the colours popping out at me.

Image 3


One Saturday afternoon I was lucky enough to have the field to myself with only my husband flying, as a result I could break the rules and actually stand on the field to photograph him while he was flying. I took a number of different images, close up portraits and half body images that show the context as he is holding the radio controlling the glider (that is out of sight) After looking at some of the images via my selection process (see contact sheets), I decided that the most effective one to tie in the context of the flying club, was the half body one, you can see the radio and the flyer looking up so it’s clear that there is something happening, conveying an action but also a concentration and respect for the moment of flying. The context of the flying club is there with the field in the background, and the cooling towers just visible. While the towers are not part of the flying club and are some distance away over the canal, they do feature in this series of images as this is the direction that you tend to look at when planes are landing so they tenuously form a part of the place.

Image 4


Flyers usually bring a couple of planes with them, types and models can vary and I wanted to show the contrasts. It would have been very easy to just capture a side on static and flat image of a plane, I wanted to experiment and try a different composition to this. This is a contrast between two different types of plane, and I focused on the silver electric Vampire in the foreground as I loves it strong silver colour and futuristic shape which contrasts with the straight standard tail of the other plane. I tried to get an interesting zigzag shape when composing this to keep the viewer’s eye moving through the frame, and to highlight the bold silver against the green grass. The composition also features real and implied triangles which stand out to the viewer’s eye and helps to keep the interest in the frame.

Image 5


As this image was taken on quite a dull day, I’ve zoomed in to get both the faces and the plane in view, with the dark background the grey sky cannot be seen. This forms part of the set for two reasons; the context is clear- people with planes at the flying club, and also because of the interaction between John with the radio and Al carrying the plane back. This was a new plane that John had been flying, previously owned by someone else so they were discussing how it had flown. I like the prominence of the white plane standing out against the dark tops of the flyers and it divided the image, focusing on the people on the top rights and the space to the bottom left. Al, carrying the plane is the focus point and John is more out of focus as I wanted the attention to be on Al and the plane with John as the secondary subject, as for me it was important to focus on the connection between the person and the plane as part of the hobby of flying.

Image 6


As well as some detailed images of the club, I also wanted some wider views to show the interaction between the people and the place. Sitting at the top end of the field looking down the pits area toward the hut and seating, on this sunny day the most eye-catching thing for me was the umbrella that one of the members had brought to provide some sun protection to his planes. The components of the planes tend to be foam, balsa and film, fibreglass or plastic so on a hot sunny day, they tend to be covered up for protection. For me the umbrella is quite surreal coming out of the ground amidst planes and kit, with the flyers sat down to the right of it, you get a feeling that this is also a place for relaxation and an escape from the daily grind. The fact that the majority of the subjects and people are centred in the image and very much clustered together creates a sense of unity of people and place in one shared but individual pastime, with the contrast of the natural environment of the grass and sky. Flying model aircraft is the hobby but it’s also a place to get away and forget about things with good company, and often there can be days when you just chat, although they are usually bad weather days. The light is good on this image, it’s a sunny day and the sky is blue with the clouds visible compared to some of the duller days that just didn’t catch the eye. As an example of a day at the club, those with brighter light and sunshine will be more effect at appealing to new people than those where it’s cold and windy!

Image 7


In contrast to image 8, this portrait while taken within the pits area of the club, does not show anything that would put it into context, the closest is the out of focus grass in the background. I took a couple of images, one with a wider angle than this but I liked the close in full face image. Bob had been flying and at this point was getting ready to head back, while he did pose for the photograph, he looks relaxed as we were chatting and I was just trying to put him at ease. Having already photographed a number of his planes, he was already used to me with the camera. I’ve tried to use some of the techniques that I’d tried earlier on in this course when looking at portraits, to get the face to stand out. I’ve zoomed in to avoid too much distraction such as the light colour of his hat. I could have used a portrait composition for this but the landscape view allowed me to put some hint of space into this

Image 8


One of the images from a less than perfect weather day, I was thinking about what to include and while this was one image I chose to forego in place of one where there were people sat in the seats, this image showing the wide open space of the flying field with the traces of activity and memories there like ghosts stood out to me. I did try and crop this to focus more on the emptiness of the chairs but it pushed everything together too much and I like the feeling of space and expanse, it adds a sense of almost loneliness, certainly tying in with the fact that on some days you can be the only member flying there. I also like the temporary nature of the structures, aside from the fence partly visible on the right hand side, these are pieces that can be removed and put back in their natural places, and while this remains a record of the moment, there is a transition in the fact that barely anything is permanently anchored at the field and that the same scene will not exist again, as each time there would be some difference, whether its marginal or not. Looking at the colours of the image, they are flat but the sky is quite strong and stormy at that moment and it does command the attention, is a storm due, is that why there is no-one flying or is it just time for a tea break?

Image 9


An action portrait, a new jet was being hand launched and I wanted to capture both the owner of the plane (as it was new he was getting a friend to test fly it) and the plane. It was taken on a weekday evening when the sun was starting to set; as a result it has cast some strong shadows over the image but also given the colours such as that of the grass a warmer hue. It’s a portrait that’s natural and not posed, as while he knew he was being photographed; his concentration is on the plane. The overall tones of the image are very natural greens; the plan with its vivid bright red catches the eye and stands out making you aware that this is the star of the show. If it was a dedicated portrait, I would have used a flashgun to provide some fill in flash. However I feel that this would have affected the balance of the image, and that it would then have turned into a staged images and not a natural representation of the moment.

Image 10


Similar in style to the plane and box image, with this I could see a number of components that make up a typical day at the club. Starting with the fuel and toolbox in the front of the frame, the eye moves in then to see the planes, more kit boxes and radio -everything you need to fly, and then a little later on into the frame, the runway with flyers. I didn’t want the flyers to be clear, I wanted the focus off them so that they were just representative of anyone who is a member. The key for me is the use of the wide pits area to get set up and each flyer picks an area and sets up, each time they visit, it changes. The use of focus partway into the frame allows the viewer to take the abstract pieces of equipment and picture theirs in place of these genericising personal equipment.


I’ve been lucky with my access to the club, I’ve been able to be there on a number of weekend with the camera and as I’ve gotten to know everyone, they are quite relaxed in my presence, as a result I’ve been able to wander freely about the club with my camera. Despite being relaxed, there does seem to be an element of being camera shy and they are certainly more focused on getting photographs of their planes than themselves, despite explaining the reasoning behind this.


One of the difficulties that I had was in getting natural portrait images, I didn’t want posed shots as it needed to reflect the activity of the club and I felt that posed shots were too much like those in the magazine and that I needed something more dynamic. The standard pose of flyers seems to be either bending over planes or peering up at the sky. Due to restrictions at the club, non-flyers are not allowed on the flying field, they have to stay behind in the pits area and this restricted my ability to get some photographs of the flyers.


What started off as an easy subject to work on, at least when it comes to having as much access as needed, certainly provided me with plenty of challenges from weather and light, to actually getting a good mix of images that formed a logical series. With so much free access, I’ve found it hard to know when to stop taking photographs and just to go with the set that I have, after tutor feedback I’ve added a couple more weekend there just to give myself the opportunity to get any extra images,


Hetherington, Tim (2009) Long Story Bit By Bit. Umbrage Editions

Hetherington, Tim (2010) Infidel. Chris Boot Publishing

McCullin, Don (2002) Unreasonable Behaviour. Vintage

McCullin, Don (2010) Shaped by War. Jonathan Cape

Todd, Lindsay (2013) Steve Webb Models Invitational Fly-In. RC Model World September 2013 pp. 30-33

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