Assignment #11 – Fire (Podcast 108)

by | Oct 15, 2007 | Art Talk, Assignment, Podcast | 0 comments

Today I’m going to announce the winners of our Documentary/Photojournalism Assignment and kickoff the new assignment with the theme of Fire. I’d like to thank Phil Peck from Bayview, USA for this assignment theme. We have a thread going on the MBP Forum where we have shared ideas for new Assignment themes, and on looking through the thread for ideas, I realised that some countries will be having a Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night on November 5th, so the timing is just right. Also of course, pretty much anyone can make a fire, as long as you’re careful, so this theme does not rule out any of you that don’t celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Let’s though first get right into it and see who won the Documentary/Photojournalism Assignment.

The Documentary/Photojournalism Assignment was a pretty tough one as I anticipated. There were almost half the entries of other recent assignments, to prove this. Still, the quality of entries was very high again, and even if you didn’t participate by uploading or voting, please do go over to and take a look at the album half way down the top page.

Turning the wheel

Turning the wheel

Let’s get straight into looking at the winners though, and in our usual style, we’ll count down from third place. Remember that you can see the images in iTunes and they’ll automatically change as I speak if you are subscribed to the Enhanced version of the Podcast, but if you listen through another aggregator while following on the Web site, you can see thumbnails to all of the images I mention on the Podcasts page. If you use the number that I call out to jump to images by entering it into the field at the bottom of the Podcasts pulldown menu, then all members images that I’m about to call out are preceded by the letter “m” for member. Firstly, let’s look at the third place winning image, which is m6619, from username Saigon, real name Erik Neu from Vietnam, with the image “Turning the wheel”. The first thing that struck me about this image is the beautiful subtle, somewhat classic black and white tones. This is a very well done black and white conversion. As I look through the EXIF data, I see that this was shot with a digital LEICA camera, which is possible contributing to the classic feel of the shot, but this may be just my conditioning and respect for the LEICA system as a standard documentary and street photography camera. I kind of wish I could see more of what the guy is actually doing, but the lathe brings back great memories of turning metal in my school days, which I really enjoyed, and the guys pensive look as he concentrates on his work, seemingly oblivious to the photographer is really nice. Great image Erik, and congratulations on third place.

In second place is image m6539, and congratulations to Sly—-, real name Sylvain Chartrand, with another great image called “Firemen”. Here we see two firemen. A main subject and a second slightly obscured by the first, with the first really quite central in the shot. If I were to point out two things that I’d like to have seen done differently, if it were possible to take a step to the right, to get rid of the guys arm that is coming into the frame on the left, and also recompose to get the main subject to the right, filling a lot of that dead space, this would have been a real classic image. As it is, it’s still a great image and got one of my votes too, so I definitely am saying this with the best intensions. I find the gaze of the firemen right back into the camera very engaging, and the whole scene, somewhat chaotic with people everywhere really draws me into the image. Having said that, the background is very nicely out of focus due to the wide F2.8 aperture used, and I see that there’s some exposure compensation going on there too, which shows that Sylvain was really thinking about the capture. Great work indeed, so congratulations on second place to Sylvain.



In first place, comes a very thought-provoking image, which is m6552, “Unseen Anguish” from rodoherty, real name Rod O’Doherty. I’m not in the least bit surprised that this image won, it really smacked me when I saw it. A great documentary shot! From the comment we see that this is a woman begging in the streets of Glasgow, Scotland, and can also see that this is shot while Quentin Tarantino signs copies of his latest screenplay at a Virgin Megastore around the corner, a nice piece of additional information that helps us to contrast the more fortunate with the less. Technically, I’m thinking that I’d like to have seen a few more centimetres in the bottom of the frame, but apart from that, I have nothing even slightly negative to say about this image. The look on the woman’s face as she holds the paper cup, hoping for a few coins really does show the anguish in the title given to the image. The way Rod has included only half of the two young men that have just strutted past the woman really helps to reinforce the feeling that they have not only totally ignored the woman, but I feel probably even the closeness that they have obviously passed by her is possible even a signal of annoyance at her presence. This could also be another part of the cause of the anguished look on her face, as this situation could have been a little bit intimidating for her. She has obviously though put herself in that position by kneeling far enough away from the wall to the left to get in the way, hoping possibly to win a few more coins from passers-by that way. A tough woman indeed, which doesn’t really surprise me with this being Glasgow. My Dad was actually raised in Glasgow since he was a small boy until his teens, and he told me stories of getting a few beatings from the local bullies because he had an English accent, so he knew first-hand how tough a town this can be to live in. This image really made me think about all of this, and that is to me a perfect example of a documentary photograph – one that gets you thinking. For photographs in general I think any image that can invoke a feeling is definitely on the right track, but for documentary, getting you thinking about societies and the problems many of them face is definitely hitting the mark. Excellent capture and very well presented Rod. Congratulations on first place, and I’ll be mailing you shortly telling you how to get the details to me for your selected photograph from my gallery of which I’ll create and send you an original print as your prize, totally free of charge of course.

Unseen Anguish

Unseen Anguish

One observation that I’d like to briefly touch on before we move on is that I found it interesting but almost predictable that two of the three winners’ images were black and white. Black and white really lends itself to documentary photography, because that’s what we’ve been conditioned to with years of this kind of work. It also I feel removes any distraction that colour might add, even though I left my own entry in colour as many of us did. Still interesting I find that these are the images we voted for, despite our own use of colour.

So, let’s move on to the theme for the next Assignment which is as I said earlier “Fire”. It’s a good time of year to shoot for this for some people, as Bonfire Night or Guy Fawkes Night is just around the corner. For those of you that don’t have a Bonfire Night, like me here in Japan, or even if you just think the whole bonfire thing might be a bit too predictable, please do go ahead and make your image of something else. There are of course lots of possibilities, and I expect you’ll come up with many of them in your own interpretation of the Assignment. Please do be careful if you make your own fire to shoot. Don’t burn yourself, your equipment or you house or whatever in your search for a winning image.

I myself don’t really have anything as an example of what you might shoot, but I did have a couple of images in my gallery that at least contained fire. Let’s look at one of them, which is number 374. This is quite an old photograph, shot in the back of a cave at a temple in Kamakura here in Japan. I wanted to briefly say that you will have to be careful of exposure in most cases when shooting fire. If you include a small flame or fire in a part of the scene, perhaps off center, but meter off of a dark area, you will get highly overexposed flames and too bright an image all round. If however, you meter off of a bright fire, your camera may expose the fire either spot on or too dimly, and that will probably make the surroundings totally dark with no detail. The trick is to check that histogram and the preview image on your LCD and adjust as necessary. I believe I shot the image we just looked at in Aperture Priority mode and used minus exposure compensation to stop the flame from burning out, pun intended, because I was metering more from the center of the scene, which was much darker.

Kamakura Candle

Kamakura Candle

Really though, the trick is to capture the glory or mystery of this captivating element, and I’m sure the image that does that the best will be the winner. As usual the theme is open to your own interpretation. Please don’t be swayed by the tiny little flame in my example image. If you want, this can be a raging fire. It’s totally up to you. All of the entries for the Fire Assignment must be shot after this point in time, which is Monday the 15th of October, 2007, and must be uploaded to the assignment gallery by the end of November the 25th, 2007. At that time I’ll lock the gallery for uploads, and start the voting system for this gallery until the end of December the 9th. I’ll then announce the winners in the Podcast released on or shortly after December the 10th. There are some rules and guidelines for the Assignment which I urge you to read before you start to shoot your images. I’ll put a link into the show-notes with a Forum post with links to both the Assignment album and the rules and guidelines post.

Remember that if you do win I’ll mail you with instructions of how to order a print of your choice in the size and paper of your choice from my online gallery at, which will be mailed to your door totally free of charge. We also put all scores into an accumulated total for the yearly grand prize which will be given to the participant with the most votes in around May 2008. I don’t know what the prize will be yet, but it will definitely be something that makes you go wooooh!

So, good luck with the Fire Assignment and remember, don’t go and burn your house down shooting for this. Another quick mention of the Hokkaido Workshop next year before we finish… I am extending the early bird discount of $100 as we still don’t have that many people signed up for the Workshop. The discount will now be left until November the 10th, which is really the latest date that I need to start getting hotels booked etc. I will continue to take booking after that, but at the increased price, as I’ll have to add people individually after the 10th of November. If you are sitting on the fence, or intend to book but still getting the money together, please do drop me a line at or via the forum or Contact Us page at my Web site, and let me know that you will be booking and if possible roughly when. As we stand right now, the Workshop will go ahead, but we really need a few more people to join us to make it worthwhile for both myself and for the other participants. Remember, full details and the buttons to book your place are at and you can also listen to episode 103 of the Martin Bailey Photography Podcast for full details.

And that’s about it for today. So with that, all that remains to be said is thanks for listening, and you have a great week, whatever you’re doing — Bye-bye.

Show Notes

Note: Due to site changes, the scores page and forum are no longer available.

The music in this episode is from the PodShow Podsafe Music Network at


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