Building a story - Take two

As in my previous attempt at this exercise, I found a picture of a scene, identified several frames and put them together in a sequence to create a new story. This time my canvas was ‘Triangular’ (1962), a black & white photograph by Chinese photographer Fan Ho. I found this picture interesting for its use of high contrast lighting and the intriguing dark-clothed figure standing with his back to the viewer, lit by sunlight streaming into the subway from the street above.

Before selecting the frames for the story, I cropped the picture down, creating a new master shot that further emphasised the standing man in the background and the lower half of a walking man in the foreground.

I selected three frames, of three figures rendered in different degrees of light and tone. Then added captions to each image to help tell the story.

Fig. 1. Fan Ho (1962)



1. The Standing Man
2. The Sunlit Man
3. The Hidden Man









The Standing Man
steps serenely, upward
into the morning crowds


The Sunlit Man is in
no hurry to catch the
eastbound train across town


From a distance, the
Hidden Man watches as
people pass by like spirits.


This was a very satisfying exercise to do. Where the frames in the previous attempt at this exercise appeared looser, a little disconnected, and even slightly surveillance camera in style, the frames in this attempt are tighter, connected and more cinematic, and there is a stronger sense of character and place.

This time I looked for a way to incorporate shot size into the selection when framing the images. Frame 1 is a medium shot (MS); Frame 2 is a medium shot (MS); Frame 3 is a wide shot (WS).

What this exercise has shown me is that the connection between how you convey information, meaning, feeling, ideas within a frame and your choice of shot size can have a strong impact on the way in which an audience views a moving image.

So, how can I use this to plan for the future? By asking which shot size works best for each frame, as well as thinking about conveying information, meaning, feeling and ideas, when making my own moving images.

And how can I use this to plan new learning experiences? By looking at how other moving image practitioners and cinematographers use framing to portray information, meaning, feeling and ideas within their work; by experimenting with ideas using the same exercise through moving images; and by using this exercise as a follow up to exercises 7 & 10 on developing ideas.


List of Illustrations

Figure 1. ‘Triangular’ (1962) Fan Ho

Building a story

Fig. 1. Chris Yunker (2008)

Exercise Brief:

  • Choose a picture of a wide scene.
  • Identify a series of frames within the picture that you can use to create a new story.
  • Place your new images in order and accompany them with notes outlining your new story.

A wide shot of pedestrians walking in ones, twos and threes along a street in Milan provided the large canvas for this exercise on directing attention in a scene. The bright, overcast sky casts a diffused, even light throughout the street.

The five images selected from within the wide shot were chosen for the different ways in which the characters were portrayed within the scene. The images were cropped to exclude other people where possible, so as to direct the focus of attention to the main characters within the frame.

Logbook 11/4/2017

Each frame was also given a caption that described in some way the character within the image.

The frames were then sequenced according to an implied direction of movement within the images and the number of people within the image.

Frames 1, 2 & 4 imply a left to right movement; frame 3 implies a movement towards the viewer; frame 5, though static, implies a movement from right to left, which acts as a bookend to frame 1.

The number of people within the opening frames increases sequentially from 1 to 2 to 3. The final two images have one person within the frame, with the final one again acting as a bookend to the first frame.




Frame 1. ‘The unobservant man…reflects on peaceful times’

Frame 2. ‘The two colleagues…persue the benefits of stone’

Frame 3. ‘The man in a black suit…extols the virtues of his wealth’

Frame 4. ‘The woman glancing sideways…quietly rejoices’

Frame 5. ‘The pensive man…conceals a fear of rain’



I am pleased with the result in isolating five frames from the original picture that are different in content and meaning. I’m also pleased with the way in which the captions add an imaginative dimension to the result.

This exercise taught me that the primary function of the frame is to define what the audience sees on screen, and that to achieve this I need to carefully select frames that present information, convey meaning, create feeling and express a feeling within the scene.

If I was to do this exercise again, I would crop the picture selections using a 16:9 aspect ratio. This would help give a better sense of how directing attention through framing can affect the look of a shot on screen.

By asking myself what information needs presenting, what meaning should be conveyed, what feeling should be created and what idea needs expressing within each frame, I have become more rigorous and creative in my approach to framing shots. In future, when planning shots for a moving image, I can ask these questions of each frame to help define what the audience sees.

List of Illustrations

Figure 1. October afternoon on Via Dante in Milan, Italy (2008) Chris Yunker. [Flickr website] At: (Accessed on: 10 April 2017)

Ideas from life

Search, practice, discover, gather!

The starting point for this exercise was to generate ideas from my own life: the people around me, the places I am connected to, the social or philosophical issues I am passionate about or inspired by, my dreams, imagination and visions.

Curious to see where this would lead, I began by making a quick-fire list of ideas straight off the top of my head and noting them down in my notebook. It’s difficult not to self-censor yourself when doing something like this, so I decided to write down whatever came to mind, however mundane or unusual the ideas seemed. The result was a mix of ideas from ‘my family life’ (no surprise there) to ‘the colour blue at 40,000 feet’ (where did that come from?). Other ideas included homelessness in Dublin, the Northern Ireland peace process, my interest in fairy tales and Greek drama, and a quote by Andrei Tarkovsky that could lead anywhere.

The exercise required me to find two ideas and develop them into no more than 250 words. Again, I tried not to self-censor my choice and go with my gut response to the list of ideas. So, after glancing through all the options on the page, I decided to play it safe with ‘my family life’ and go off the wall with ‘the colour blue at 40,000 feet’ (yikes!).


‘My family life’

My family has expanded greatly since moving to Ireland ten years ago. I now have an Irish mum, sisters and brothers, nephews and nieces, who we see at various times throughout the year. My wife and I are both self-employed and work from home in our newly-converted attic space at the top of the house, lined with poetry books and journals. One of the benefits of working from home is that during the summer months we can have lunch together in our garden. We share our house with a very sweet border collie, who takes us for walks two or three times a day and entertains us with his squeaky toys, often in the middle of business calls.


‘The colour blue at 40,000 feet’

If, when I die, I was invited to take one image of my time on earth with me into the next life, I would choose the sky. Seven and a half miles up. Where, from here, the troposphere extends out towards the edge of space, and, confined inside this small pressurised cabin with two hundred fellow humans, I imagine my hand reaching out beyond the perspex window, touching the fringes of the colour blue. The pale blue, through which we travel west across the Atlantic, hanging by a thread on aerodynamic laws; and the dark blue, beyond which other worlds like ours exist, governed by laws we know nothing about.


I found this a very helpful exercise in developing ideas. As a strategy, starting out from my own life is clearly an effective way of searching for and discovering new ideas. In this initial exercise alone, I jotted down eleven possible ideas, two of which I went on to develop above. As I was writing up these two ideas, I became aware of the emergence of several potential characters and locations.

My new mantra? ‘Search, practice, discover, gather!’