Friday, 9 December 2011

Narrative and Illustration: Project - Narrative

Exercise: A narrative picture essay

Aim; the aim of this exercise is to capture an event or assignment in pictures using them to tell the story of the event.

Approach and results.  For this exercise I chose to use a wild food foraging event run locally.  I contacted the organiser in advance to arrange this.  I also met up with the organiser early to scout the area for opportunities before the walk started.
The pictures used tell the story of the event and have been chosen specifically.  I planned the article by drawing it out on paper, breaking it down into the different components that I thought made up the essence of the walk.  I developed my idea of these components on the walk and took pictures that I felt captured this.
This was originally done in Word and exported.  Word is not ideal so the layout is not quite how it would look in, say a magazine.  I have been unable to get it into the blog in a viewable size so have created this version for the blog.  Some of the pictures cannot be sized how I want because of the limited options and not all the pictures show up in the slide show for no good reason!!  The pictures have captions in italics and my notes about their choice in blue.

Learning points;
The main lesson to take away from this is to plan and research in advance.  I already had the stages of the walk and what I wanted to capture in my head before the event.  This ensures that you actually get the shots you were looking for.  It's the difference between being proactive and reactive.  Some things you can go back and capture but others you can't.
Take plenty of pictures.  The more you take the better the choice.  A picture that may not seem relevant may contain what you want when cropped.

Wild food foraging

Recently I arranged to join a wild food walk in Fletcher Moss Park in Manchester.  The Park has a range of different habitats including woodland, fields and marshland. 
In the United Kingdom we have a considerable array of plants and fungi that have the potential to make delicious wild foods. In fact once you get to know what is and what isn't edible, there really isn't much excuse for passing up on this great free food, especially since many wild foods are as good if not better in taste than the foods we buy in supermarkets.

 ‘Chicken in the woods’, a large edible mushroom, growing freely on a fallen tree. Notes: this picture does not have to be too big as the subject is clearly recognizable. I wanted the first shot to be something actually growing wild. There is no sense of scale here but this is dealt with later.

I have been on these walks before and I know the area well.  The person running the walk was Jesper Launder.  Jesper is a consulting medical herbalist. He has been collecting and eating wild mushrooms for over 25 years and has a great interest in the food potential of Britain's field, hedgerows and woodlands.  He not only knows whether you can eat something but also the potential of just about everything in front of you, including all the medicinal properties.
The walks are usually made up of a mix of people who (at the start) don’t necessarily know each other.  However it doesn’t take long before people start talking and sharing their mutual interest for wild food.  The walks are informal with Jesper talking to the group about a particular plant or mushroom and then everyone having a try at finding it.
Left - Wow; it really does taste of aniseed!  Notes; this picture shows Jesper explaining and people trying things.  It is important to capture people actually trying things for themselves.  The ‘love food hate waste’ bag is a nice prop.Right - Jesper in full flow captivating his audience with his encyclopaedic knowledge.  Notes; Another example of instruction and interaction showing the teacher at work and also showing bags full of plants.

Members of the group searching for a range of edible wild plants.  Notes; I wanted to capture the group rummaging around at random in a less structured way.

Foraging in full flow; surrounded by a type of wild leek.  Notes; I particularly like this shot of the girl with the basket.  It has an almost fairy tale feel to it.

The highlight of the walk for most people is finding and identifying the vast amount of wild mushrooms, actually knowing that you can eat them without worrying.  There do seem to be more poisonous ones out there though!
Baskets brimming with an amazing collection of wild foods.  The huge ‘chicken in the woods’ mushroom was the star of the show.  Notes; I wanted to capture the scale of the mushrooms and the excitement it created.

There is always a great atmosphere on the walks generated by Jesper’s enthusiasm.  People always get involved and there is a great sense of fun from toddlers to pensioners.

There is a great atmosphere and a sense of fun throughout the walk, with a wide range of ages.  Notes; I wanted a group of pictures that captured the atmosphere of the day.  The picture on the left shows people interacting and having fun.  It needs to be larger than the other two to preserve detail.  Top right points to the age range of the group and that it is a child friendly day out.  Bottom right reinforces the sense of fun.
The end of the walk results in a cook up of all the edible mushrooms.  This takes place on the wall of the park using a couple of gas burners.  This is rare for a wild food walk as most people who run events like this do not have the professional indemnity that Jesper has as a consulting medical herbalist.  It’s also one of the best bits!  You also get to go home with some as well.

Preparing a pan full of freshly picked oyster mushrooms (left).  A quick brush and chop and their ready for cooking(right).  Notes; the picture on the left shows the simple preparation on the wall of the park and the right shows the pan full and ready to go.
And now for the bit you’ve all been waiting for! A pan full of oyster mushrooms fried in butter (left) quickly devoured (right). Notes; I wanted to make these look good enough to eat!  The left picture needs to be large for the subject to be recognizable.  The right picture shows people digging in.  I like the anonymous hand coming in from the right grabbing a handful.

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