A Photo Story – Cheltenham Guardians Shoot 1

On Saturday 28th January, I joined the Cheltenham Guardians on one of their patrols. I was out with them from 11pm-4.30am. This time period allowed me to be on scene for several fights as well as watching the Guardians help women on their own, people who had had too much to drink and were unwell and helping people get home safely. This even included Terry (the leader and founder of the Guardians) pay for one gentleman’s taxi home.

For this shoot, I used a Canon 70D and took a 24-105mm lens, a 50mm lens and a speed lite. During the time I was with them, I shot a total of 137 images. This was less than I was expecting for such a long shoot, however I had to be wise and chose my moments to not draw attention to myself and not to provoke certain situations. As well as this, the Guardians told me that it wasn’t a particularly busy night. From these 137 images, I formed an edit of 24 images. These included portraits of the Guardians on shift as well as general documentary photography of the people they helped.

Pictured below is a contact sheet of those 24 images:contactsheet-001

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The portraits above were some of the first images I took. I was able to do this because it was the start of the night, and as a result it was quieter. I used a 50mm lens with a speed lite for the portraits as there was low lighting. The flash illuminated the subjects’ faces, separating them from the background. I think they were successful and the uniformity of the 3 images makes them work well as a set. I intend on going out with the Guardians on a few more occasions, and I expect there to be different volunteers with the exception of the founder, Terry. This should enable me to take a series of portraits in the same style and place, ultimately making a complete set of images.

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This was the first incident of the night. The woman was intoxicated and being looked after by the men pictured before the Guardians stepped in. The men asked me not to take pictures of the woman, so I decided to step behind the bench they were sat on. This worked in my favour as I could still document the Guardians working, and the lighting was slightly better because there was a shop window directly behind the bench. As I couldn’t take pictures of the woman’s face, I decided to try and document different aspects of the event. I noticed sick on the woman’s shoes, so I dropped down to take a picture of this. I think this worked well, however the lighting wasn’t as bright underneath the bench. As a result, the image is quite noisy. If I was to re-shoot this, I would use flash to brighten the image of the feet. Because this was the first incident, I was more wary of what I could get away with, and so I didn’t try it.

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This girl was alone at the top of Cheltenham waiting for a taxi and a bus shelter. The Guardians got out and guided her across the road so that she could get a taxi. I decided not to get out of the car, but instead to shoot from the window. I think this set of three images provides its own short photo story and has a narrative which makes them more successful. I particularly like the natural framing that this gave my images. I was also pleasantly surprised by the lighting as I expected it to be considerably darker. This was a good way to take images documenting the Guardians’ work without the subject realising I was doing it. I think he weakest image of the three is the middle one. Although it is sharp, the marks on the window I shot through make it seem like it is not.

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This was the only occasion on the shoot that two women asked me why I was taking pictures of the intoxicated woman without her permission. After explaining, I was considerably more wary of taking images of her. The lighting here was some of the best of the night, although it was coloured. This resulted in my images being more noisy. Use of flash would have improved the lighting but it would have drawn more attention to me. I decided against it, particularly after the girls had noticed me taking photos. I think the second image of these two is stronger than the first, although I think it’s a bit too saturated. This can be edited in post production as I shot in RAW. Having said that, I like that the first image provides a general view of the whole scene.

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The subject in this image was intoxicated and therefore was not aware that I was taking pictures of him. However, I did not use flash because there were a lot of people watching, so I didn’t want to create more of a scene. In hindsight, I should have taken this opportunity to use flash to light the situation better. As a result, the image is very noisy which is disappointing. The tungsten lighting also makes the image very yellow. This cold be corrected during post production, but I don’t think anything can be done about the noise.

For my next shoot, I am going to try and get physically closer to the Guardians to get more close up shots. As well as this, I will try to use flash more to reduce noise and improve lighting in my images. If I get the opportunity, I will shoot through the car windows again as I thought this was successful. As previously mentioned, I will try to get more portraits of the Guardians to make a ‘set’ showing the volunteer team. I have also decided that I’d like to focus more on photographing lone women as this fits into my research on the ‘India Protocol’ that the Guardians are working on. If the photo story is published in the right magazine, this would help  draw attention to women who are left on their own, and encourage friends not to leave their friends.

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