Ant Smith

A Day At The Circus

I have had a long relationship with the Amateur Photographer magazine. I would read it regularly as a teenager and occassionally enter their competitions, but my work was pretty woeful back then.


Daisy bloom macro, low dynamic range

What I call a low dynamic range image, which came third place in round 4 of the 2007 Amateur Photographer Of the Year awards; my best placing to date although I will enter every round one year before I die and hopefully do a tad better...

In later years though I would sporadically enter 2 or 3 (of the 8) rounds in their annual Amateur Photographer Of the Year awards, with the occassional boost of minor success - but never really enough to spur me on to entering every single month. Which is strange for a man of my tenacity - I think possibly because it always seemed like there were at least 2 rounds that just wouldn't 'speak' to me, to my motivation. Like I was going to pop on a plane to find a brand new travel photography shot. Or get up at 5AM to shoot a landscape in the Golden Hour.

Perhaps I should have been doing those things... but actually I think not. It would have been an artificial way to build a canon of work and one needs a greater emotional connection with subject than 'I wanna win a competition'. Nevertheless, such impediments totally trashed my ability to focus on the competition for a full year. Perhaps next year will be different.

BUT since those days I have now had a number of portfolio spreads in the magazine (3 I think) and a comment piece or two as well. So they have published my work aplenty and I have remained connected to their website and social media accounts throughout.

Which is how I came to discover the Reader Workshop, an opportunity for 4 of their readers to accompany a 'pro' on a visit to the circus. With a lovely camera up for grabs as the grand prize for the photo of the day.

And who wouldn't 'connect emotionally' with the subject when the subject has all of the sights and sounds (and smells) of the circus? Whether that emotional connection be positive or negative, the assault on the senses assures there will be one!

Of course, to win the prize, the image would have to be good 'out of camera', with no benefit of post processing. So I thought very hard about shot composition.

Because we were shooting a rehearsal we had pretty much free reign over where we might put ourselves; but none of us quite dared to walk the tightrope in pursuit of the intimate portrait. Quite a bit of the action was up in the air, and it's easy to develop a crick in the neck during such a shoot. Except it isn't. Straininig to look upward to get the shot not only causes a tension that stymies the necessary fluidity that good composition demands, but also ends-up with a very unatural point of view (which maybes sometimes you want, as a matter of choice). So rather I elected to lay on my back in order to see above me. A much more relaxed posture - which is key for all photography, a relaxed but solid posture.

In fact this was noted in the workshop write-up, as was the point that some of my shot choices created a telling of the circus experience beyond the typical (Dance and Repose, I think they meant). Both of these observations relate to my personal photographer's eye, which must have given me the edge over the other participants because I walked away carrying a brand spanking new Sony dSLR. Which was nice. I sold it on eBay because it wasn't a Nikon.

A Day At The Circus