Teaching Materials - Exercise

When the balls hit the board (The “critical moment” in photography)

Name of Artist Educator: Enoch Cheung
Level:
Excercise Category: Photographer's eye, Self-awareness

The critical moment in photography is the decisive moment the photographer must be attuned to in order to capture the essence of an event. What do you regard as an attractive moment? Can you foresee that moment?


Concept / Inspiration:

How does it look like when a bullet passes through an object? In order to capture this moment, scientists and photographers have made successful attempts years ago to create high-speed photography shots. Photography is an extension of our eyes. With the help of our camera, we are able to capture what we cannot see properly, such as high-speed objects, as well as to freeze a moment in time. Curiosity often leads to more creativity and more outstanding images.

The critical moment in photography is the decisive moment the photographer must be attuned to in order to capture the essence of an event. What do you regard as an attractive moment? Can you foresee that moment?


Goals:

  1. To let students understand how to capture movement in photos
  2. To motivate them to look for a good moment instead of waiting for one
  3. To train their observation, as well as inspire them to think and decide which image or composition they want.  Encourage them to take photos under unexpected circumstances to create more possibilities

Materials / Equipment:

  • Cameras
  • Two camera flashes
  • Eight small balls
  • A wooden board

Location:

Classrooms


Workshop Description:

  1. Present to students several high-speed photography shots and explain how to precisely capture a critical moment with a camera.
  2. Fix the camera flashes to each side of a vertical wooden board. Then throw the balls one by one onto the board, all in the same fashion.
  3. Students have to capture the moment when the balls hit the board to show the dynamics on their photos. They can choose their position and angle, but they are not allowed to use the burst mode.
  4. Students should also pay attention to lighting conditions. Different positions, angles and lighting conditions all contribute to the quality of an image.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Expected Outcome:

Instead of evaluating students’ photo skills, the main point of this exercise is to let them experience and understand “the moment”. Imagine they have to shoot a one-second video clip consisting of 25 frames and play the video. How do they decide which frame they want to keep?

After this workshop, they should be able to tell which moment is the most important for them, and train their eyes by observing the world. This way they will slowly get used to sensing an ideal composition that only occurs for a split second. There are many more possibilities in photography than the moment when they say “cheese” in a group photo. Encourage them to make use of their cameras and search for these “decisive” moments in daily life.


Actual Outcome:

There are usually more than ten students, or even more, in each class. It will be too crowded if there are eight students standing on each side of the board; but taking turns in groups is not a perfect solution either as the others get bored while waiting. Therefore, the instructor can ask them to occupy the best position themselves. The instructor can also carry out other photography experiments outside the classroom. One possible option is to put mint candies into a bottle of coke and capture the moment of “eruption” as a result of chemical reaction.


Work:

Works by Wong Pui Lam
wong_pui_lam_20140321_008

wong_pui_lam_20140321_007


Student Feedback:

Most students failed to achieve what they intended. Most of them regarded this as a challenging task. Only one or two of them managed to capture the precise moment when the balls hit the board.

“It was very difficult and I failed many times. It was hard to capture the movement of the balls.”

“I’ve taken more than 20 photos but only two of them are usable. It’s so difficult!”


Reference Materials:

Artwork by Denis Darzacq
DenisDarzacq01

Artwork by Harold E. Edgerton
Harold E. Edgerton bullet Apple 1991.89.14_1a Harold02
harold03 Harold04

Artwork by Tim Tadder
TimTadder01 TimTadder02 TimTadder05