Exercise 1.12 Smash!

10th September 2019

Exercise 1.12 Smash!

This exercise asks you to choose some suitable small objects that you can break! An old toy, some rotten fruit, a shirt or a balloon filled with water would all work well. The point here is to freeze a fast-moving object in an otherwise still location. You must get the object in sharp focus to reveal the detail of its disintegration and movement. Choose a suitable location where you won’t make too much mess. Aim to frame the object quite close, with the environment around it. You’ll need to frame the object in front of a background that helps emphasise it visually: that could mean a complimentary colour…


You should have a variety of images that show the frozen movement. However, this project doesn’t just illustrate the effect of a fast shutter speed, but all the significance of chance in photography… This exercise also shows how a ‘planted’ object can alter the interpretation of the environment. All juxtapositions have this effect, but usually in subtler degrees.


For this exercise I bought a sphere and three hearts from the local charity shop. I have titled the two pieces as, ‘Drop the Sphere,’ and ‘Bastard! You have broken my heart, over, and over, and over again!’ 

I set the shoot up as below with a neutral background colour. It was not until I had re-read the exercise objectives once I had finished my shoot, that I realised that the background had to be natural environment and not background as in background drop. This means I will have to re-shoot this entire exercise again, so that I tick the exercises objectives.

ISO 200 F22 Focal length 42.0mm

I also noticed how sloppy I had been with the background drop, in that I had not ironed out the creases. Very unprofessional, lazy and embarrassing!

The two chosen shots from the contact sheet are below.

I cannot say this shoot was wasted as I learnt quite a lot from it, however as you can see from the shots I caught movement and did not freeze the object on impact. Therefore not only do I have to make sure the background environment is a natural one, rather than a backdrop but I have to increase my shutter speed in order to freeze the object on impact.

16th September 2019

Exercise 1.12 Smash! – revisited

I decided to reshoot Smash! using lego. This way I could keep rebuilding the object until I caught the image that I wanted. The first try was not very good. I thought shooting in the sink would be a good idea as the white of the basin would enable the colours of the lego to pop out and also having objects around the sink would mean that a ‘scene’ had been set and questions such as, ‘Why is the child playing lego over the sink? Is it wash time? Tooth brushing time etc?’ However I got the settings completely wrong as it was a dark day I decided to shoot using a fast ISO of 12800. I knew I would get grain but didn’t calculate the exposure triangle at all well and the images were flat, dark – although to the eye it isn’t far off how dark the bathroom actually was – and grainy. Very awful to say the least, as you can see from the contact sheet below:

Apart from the exposure triangle being wrong, the toy didn’t break as I thought it was. I am thinking, now that I am reviewing the images, that the curve of the bowl acted against the force of the fall and gave a flat, splat, of nothingness.

I tried this shot twice, but got very frustrated when building the lego as being heavy handed, I broke off quite a lot at the same time as I was supposed to be building it. This is when my youngest daughter came to the rescue. She became the photographers apprentice and was in charge of building the prop.

For the next try, I decided once my daughter had built her construction we would shoot the photographs in the garden. Here the patio is subtle in colours which again would enhance the colours of the lego. Secondly, although very dark outside due to the black rain clouds overhead, it was still marginally lighter than in doors. Knowing I could manipulate the finished images if needed, I was not worried too much if my exposure was incorrect. 

I took one initial shot of my daughters feet to see how the settings were behaving and then I set the camera at ISO 800 to allow for the darkness and opened the aperture up to allow for more light. The settings were: ISO 800/ F5.0/ SS 1/1000

I also decided to put the camera on burst mode knowing there was less chance of missing the shot. On the count of three my daughter dropped the lego while on the count of two I began the burst shots. The original images can be seen below in the contact sheet.

I am still unsure how one of the shots – middle top – is lighter than the others and a rather good exposure with settings of SS 1/320. But shooting the lego object at this would have probably caused movement blurring. On closer look at my final images, I have noticed that some of the lego pieces are intact showing movement blurring. So my photographs in fact show frozen and blurred lego pieces.

The photograph below shows the impact of the lego on the patio.

1… 2… 3… Smash!

Phew! I am so glad that I re-thought this project as I was definitely not happy with my first attempts. The final Smash! Lego series works well because:

  • Bright plastic colours juxtaposing with neutral concrete tones.
  • Frozen lego pieces bursting apart on impact. Although there is some blurring I feel that it does add to the overall feel of the crash although it does not entirely meet the exercise brief which only states ‘freeze a fast-moving object.

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