My mind is trying to wonder but keeps coming back to the same place. The scope of exploring the theme of ‘People and the Environment’ is almost overwhelming to me but one thing I keep thinking of is how a huge section of our youth lacks structure, discipline and direction in taking their future into their own hands.
Is this the outcome of over-protective parenting? Or is it the fruit of busy parents trying to be ‘liked’ and ‘understanding’ with their children by letting them do what they like?
As a parent myself, I have decided to explore this theme and have decided to use Cadets at the Kingston Royal Marine Detachment as my ‘willing’ subjects because I too might be over-protective with my kids.
Over the next few weeks, I will be photographing the Cadets and the environment that shapes them into strong minded young men ready to take their adult place in our society.
“Why photograph the Cadets?” I hear you cry. Because all too often Cadets have complex backgrounds and are a by product of the environment they are brought up in. Being a Royal Marine Cadet gives them structure, discipline and focus in an otherwise turbulent time in their lives, they are after all aged between 13 and 18 years old – I’m sure we all remember how tricky it was to navigate our own teenage years!
For some of these youngsters, being a Royal Marine Cadet means they can ‘belong’, be part of a team of equals, strive for a better way of life and receive the recognition they long for and deserve. Some of these kids will go on to join our Armed Forces whilst others will leave aged 18 with a set of skills they would not have had otherwise. Skills such as punctuality, taking responsibility for one’s actions, being part of a team and how one’s action will impact the performance of the entire team. By the time they leave, these young Cadets will have been part of the Royal Marine Cadet family for a number of years and many come back later in life to volunteer as instructors.
They may leave the Kingston Royal Marine Cadets Detachment, but they never leave the Kingston Royal Marine Cadets Family.
Not much I can add here, expect that I was so proud of all the youngsters who Paraded through Kingston to mark Remembrance day.
I love to hate shooting moving subjects. One moment the light is perfect and I’m in ‘Sweet 16’ mode, but within a few minutes the biggest scariest cloud arrives and I have to reset the camera all over again.
Shooting in Aperture Priority makes it easier to shoot as the cadets go about their business but I can’t help but wonder how I would have coped with shooting in a normal SLR rather than a DSLR.
For the past 4 years I have witnessed how joining the Kingston Royal Marine Cadets Detachment has had a very positive impact in the lives of some of the youngsters who regularly attend the parades.
One cadet in particular, Patrick (not his real name) is a textbook example of how being at the unit gives these kids an encouraging, structured environment in which they can thrive. Patrick has often said that the unit ‘saved him’ because it gave him something to belong to and kept him off the streets.
Patrick is one of the many cadets across the country who come from fragmented, broken homes without much direction or guidance. Joining the Cadets means that youngsters such as Patrick, can take part in a huge range of activities, competitions and exercises carefully crafted to teach them self-reliance, team work, discipline, leadership and the value of dedication. In short, it prepares them to deal with whatever life sends their way.
Whilst this all sound awfully exciting, the truth is that working as a team often means doing very mundane tasks like washing up, putting up tents (see photo mosaic above), sweeping the deck after events, setting up the unit for visitors, etc.
That said, there are times when being a Royal Marine Cadet is very exciting indeed! Some of the duties Cadets are often asked to perform include the Carpet Guard during the London’s Lord Mayor Show, field craft exercises, weapons handling as well as water born activities such as sailing and canoeing.
It turns out that being a Royal Marine Cadet gives these youngsters such a great experience that the cadets leave at 18yrs old but soon return as Staff Volunteers. Some even return years later and bring their own children with them. P1, P2
Lens Based Image Making Attempts:
Since I was given this assignment I have been testing different lenses and how they would affect my big day (I knew right away that I was going to shoot the Cadets on Remembrance weekend). Here is how I went about researching different photographic methods:
Method 1: first I tried shooting with my iPhone (see Taking Photos with my iPhone) and I soon found out that it was never going to suffice. It was a good try tho. P1, P2
Method 2: Following my failed attempt at Lens Based Image Making using my iPhone, I tried to photograph a family event without flash. I knew my Canon 7D Mark ii was particularly good for low light conditions so decided to use it with my 24-105mm lens and went bowling. The result wasn’t incredible but I was rather pleased with it, click here to see the photos – Bowling and Making MemoriesP1,P2
Method 3: For the sake of this project I bought a new lens… ok, ok I admit I had been secretly saving for a Canon 70-300mm for a long time! The ‘Darling’ turned out to be a dream come true and I have taken her out many many times including on a beautiful Sunday morning so I could shoot the rutting season in Richmond Park, here is the link to the photos I took on that day – Easy Like Sunday Morning
I did shortlist the ‘Darling’ for my assignment, as I knew I would. P1, P2
The Final 5 Images:
The was always aware the Parade passes by so quickly and I was anxious at first. To calm the nerves and prepare for the task I took a series of test shots to try and get ready. Although the weather was glorious I was positioned in a narrow street between tall buildings and plenty of shadows.
The clouds were coming and going between strong sunlight. I really didn’t want to take chances with the shutter speed so I decided to set my Canon 7D Mark ii to AV so I could control the aperture (the f/stop) & ISO and hoped the camera would properly expose my shots.
The shots taken inside the Unit were much easier to plan as the light was constant. I needed a high ISO number but with slower shutter speed it was possible to take good shots without the need for flash (I forgot the batteries!).
I particularly like my last image as it is a close up of the Globe and Laurel Lapel Badge. Globe and Laurel being the emblem of the Royal Marines. I like the depth of field and the contrast between the gold of of the badge and the darkness of the uniform.
P1, P2, P3, P4, P5
Image 1: TS Steadfast Band
Image 2: Laying the Remembrance Wreath One Last Time
Image 3: The Ex-TA Soldier, The Ex-Royal Marine Commando, The Ex-Cadet (soon to join the Royal Marines) and the Ex-US Army Serviceman.
Image 4:Like Father, Like Son
Image 5: The Globe and Laurel Lapel Badge
Ok so I’ve just spent the best part of 2hrs writing my research but wordpress didn’t let me save it… I thought I had published it and guess what? I can’t see a thing! Arggggghhhhhh… *takes a deep breath and decides to try again*
As I was saying, whilst researching for this project I came across some great methods for making lens based images (i.e. using different lenses, different cameras, printing in different papers, sizes and colours). Needless to say, I came across some great photographers too, here are just some of my favourites:
Johnny Tang: 35mm film, clone photography and film influences
A fine art photographer who became known as “The Clone Photography Magician” who only shoots in 35mm film, Tang never quite knows if his ideas and set ups will work until it is developed and made digital.
His work is unusual, original and requires great skill both in setting up the scene and shooting it. Tang works is mainly based in self portraiture so he has an assistant who shoots his scenes for him as the poses.
His images remind me of the feature movies The Matrix and Inception. On my next visit to Boston I will make sure I visit the Hallway Gallery where his work is often featured.
Best known as the man who ‘discovered Yellowstone’ he was also an environmentalist. His images are celebrated and recognised around the world for being full of detail and depth. His photography was mainly done using a large format camera and often considered ‘bulky, old-fashioned and clumsy’ by the new wave of ‘point and shoot’ photographers.
Adams achieved a great deal of contrast in his images by using a technique called Zone System, which he developed to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of his final prints.
Lee Miller: That bathtub, War Times and Women in the Front Line
Whilst I could spends all the time in the world talking about amazing photographers, I wanted to redirect my research towards military photography and link it to the subject of my assignment (The Seacadets Kingston). I decided to research the work of Lee Miller.
An American photographer who worked for British Vogue during the Second World War, Miller, was at first a model but soon moved to work behind the camera.
On the outbreak of war in 1939, Miller offered to work as a photographer for Vogue – an offer that was initially rejected. Instead, she was taken on as a studio assistant. But as the magazine’s male photographers left on war service, she began to take on much of Vogue‘s fashion and lifestyle photography.
As the war escalated and the government recognised that women could and indeed needed to play a bigger role in society Lee was accredited in the US Army as a War Correspondent for Conde Nast.
A photograph of Miller in the bathtub of Adolf Hitler’s apartment in Munich is one of the most iconic images from the Miller–Scherman partnership (David E. Scherman was working alongside Miller at the time).
Research Photographs of the Sea Cadets
As I mentioned at the beginning of this Page, I have been personally involved with the Kingston Sea Cadets for over 4 years. During this time I have taken endless photographs of the cadets doing exercises, parades and special events. Here are just some of my many shots:
Research Photograph of the Location
I have been lucky enough to live in Kingston for the past 14 years and know it well. When I photograph the cadets I find out before hand where the parade will take place (when it is outside the Unit) and arrive early to scout for the best spots.
Shooting outside can be challenging with the weather playing its part and I often have to prepare carefully. Here are a few of the things I keep in mind:
The Weather – do I need a Polariser? Flash? Tripod? Which lens to take i.e. Wide angle? Zoom? Prime lens for optimum aperture? Will I be sheltered from the elements or need to take extra camera gear to cover in the event of rain/snow/sleet?
The location itself – arrive early, preempt where the Cadets will look best from? Find where the traffic will be coming from (sometimes the traffic is suspended especially for the Parade). Will the Cadets be coming from round the corner? If yes, find the best angles.
But I know not of such a beautiful mist as the mist that descends in the Autumn at Richmond Park and this past Sunday was no exception. Whilst the sun decided to hide for most of the day, the mist stayed giving the park the perfect backdrop to the Halloween Running Race that was taking place that morning.
After scouting for intriguing landscape angles to shoot, I had a lucky break and spotted a young female kestrel I had been trying to photograph for months. It turns out that the mist and lack of wind meant the kestrel needed to stay closer to the ground to hunt, I was delighted to be able to watch her.
A local photographer and wildlife aficcionado told me this particular female kestrel is used to being photographed so we got close and took quite a few nice shots. It was just such shame the sky was so grey.
But kestrels wasn’t the only wildlife around last Sunday. There were plenty of squirrels burying their nuts for the winter, I love watching them!
This once, the mist and abyss that this tumour brings into my life left me and I felt free. Funny it should happen on a misty morning.