Exercise: The journey


Go on a journey. This needn’t be a long journey but make it a journey you haven’t done before. It’s the process of planning and examining what’s there that you’re engaged with in this exercise. What will you record? The transport? The people? The places? Who will you meet?

Produce a series of images in photo essay form. The images must stand alone as great images but reveal more when they are linked together. Make a contact sheet. Analyse the editing decisions you’ve made in your learning log or blog.



For the last eight years or so we have lived a couple of miles from a zoo. And we’ve never been! Which is crazy really. So we’re going tomorrow.


My intention is to make a photo essay that follows my journey into and around the zoo. I want to get over the:

  • Staff: the zookeepers and other workers
  • Visitors: how they react to the animals
  • Animals: especially the primates for their similarities to humans!

I’ll try to follow a reasonably standard photo essay structure:

  • Establishing shot: approaching the zoo (e.g. entrance sign?)
  • Medium shot: hoping there’s nice wide view of multiple enclosures
  • Interaction shots: feeding time?
  • Portraits: close up on a zookeeper?
  • Detail shots: hands (human and/or primate)
  • Closing shot: to be confirmed!

OK, I’ll pause here and update this post once I’ve actually been and taken the photographs.

My images

The following is a selection of the images I ended up with. Click any image to start a slideshow.

What I’ve learned

I’m not convinced that this is a particularly good response to the brief. However, once my original plan fell through due to inclement weather, and I already have another outdoor exercise that I need to come back to in better weather (Getting the Parr feel), I decided to crack on, get it done and move on.

The idea of visiting a zoo and shooting the people rather than the animals was OK in theory, but the cold weather and the out-of-season timing made for a disappointingly quiet experience. Also, the place is quite close by (3 miles or so) so the travelling part of the journey was short and uneventful.

I think what I’ve mostly learned from the experience is that one can plan the shots to a certain degree, but if you haven’t been to a place you will inevitably be surprised by certain aspects of it, for the good and for the bad. For example, I was expecting there to be a big obvious entrance area with a ‘ZOO’ sign and smiling staff ready to check my ticket – but as the zoo is part of a bigger theme park, there is no such identifiable entrance, it just morphs from theme park to zoo. Also, I was really hoping for monkeys! There were apparently some baboons but they stayed indoors due to the temperature. The other realisation once I got there (though I clearly could have thought about this before…) is that taking pictures of people at a zoo probably involves capturing images of children, with all of the ethical / social issues that accompany it. So once there, I made an effort not to shoot too many images where a child was really identifiable. I did leave children in one of the group shots.

On a more positive note, I didn’t know until I got there that one can shoot downwards onto the tiger enclosure, looking out of the windows to the humans outside, thus giving a picture from the tiger’s viewpoint, observing the humans. This made for a nice shot, and it wasn’t planned.

Generally speaking though, I did mostly get shots of the staff and the visitors, which was the main thrust of my plan. So I did follow the plan, broadly, but also deviated from it as the need or opportunity arose. What I didn’t really do is get any sense of narrative, or vary the style and viewpoint of shots sufficiently to make this a ‘photo essay’ – it’s pretty much a slideshow. I’ve done better photo essays than this, I promise…

As subject matter I think it has potential; but not potential that I could fulfil in one 90 minute visit on a sub-zero January morning.

In summary, I’ve learned that it’s good to plan, but don’t expect to stick to the plan!

(I’ve also learned not to stress too much about exercises and to save that for the assignments!)


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