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Preliminary Exercise: The Clandestine Camera

For this exercise, I took photographs of people who were unaware of being subjects of photography.

This exercise was (for me) not a comfortable project.  I therefore decided that I would try to respect my subject’s privacy, as best I could.  At the time I set out to accomplish this exercise it was at the height of the COVID 19 epidemic; so I used this opportunity to take advantage of the situation by targeting those that were wearing face masks.

The next challenge was to find a location that both provided me with the masked people and offered some kind of cover that I could use, so not to be seen.  The solution came in the way of my local supermarket carpark; whilst my wife did the shopping I remained in my car and took pictures from inside the car.  I wore a dark t-shirt and dark baseball cap and relying on the slightly tinted windows I hoped that anyone glancing across to my parked car would not notice me in the darkened interior.  To further my stealth tactics, I decided not to hold the camera to my eye but to rely on the screen on the back of the camera in order to hold the camera to a lower chest level should the outline of my body still be visible.

I was not brave enough to seek out a perfect parking spot for maximum view however, I did find a location fairly close, but offered only two gaps for a clear view between other parked cars and a return trolley port.  I had anticipated that I would need distance between myself and my subjects; so I used a 300mmDX lens on my Nikon D800e FX body.  The DX lens is designed for a smaller format sensor; so it only uses a smaller area of my larger 35mm sensor therefore in effect it increases the magnification of my lens by approximately 1.5x (from 300mm to approx. 450mm).  I also had to compromise on the ISO settings to obtain reliable shutter speeds and also imperfect focus and composition as I had to rely on the auto-focus system and hold the camera in a way that it would not be easily seen requiring the use of the Live View from the back of the camera, quickly releasing the shutter the moment I saw an opportunity.  Another disadvantage of the Live View option is that it lifts the mirror away and has to reset it back before taking the picture this delays the shot by half a second or so.

Whilst conducting this exercise I was very nervous of getting caught and whilst I was confident that the subjects who were queuing to enter the supermarket would not see me, I still ran the risk of being seen by someone walking past or returning a trolley; and on three occasions I did have to quickly conceal my camera when glancing around seeing people close enough to catch me.  I managed to get some photos and I felt a great amount of relief when my wife returned and we had to go.

Published by shauncn512659

Hi, I am an OCA student studying for an Art degree in Photography , my student number is 512659. My e-mail is:

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