Notebook Project – Discarded Objects

Without a plan to succeed and do things, nothing will get done. Just thinking about photography is not going to improve your skills or eye. I have been keeping a diary of ideas to help me when I am looking for inspiration and a reason to walk out the front door and into the world with my camera. Every time I use an idea from the diary, I have been following a specific process…

1. Decide on the idea / theme / technique / inspiration / location whatever.

2. Explore the theme in a workbook (handwritten notebooks seem to naturally inspire creativity!).

3. Distill the theme into a brief and shoot plan. 4. Shoot. Develop (for the filmies). Scan.

5. Evaulate. Shortlist. Curate the very best shots into a the shortest list possible. Two or three maximum, unless you have had a very Winogrand kind of day!

6. Print the images for self assessment. Paste them in a photo album and write up the commentary for each print.

7. Summarise what I learned.

This weekend’s exercise – “Discarded Objects”


Source : Project 15 “Objects” from “The Street Photographer’s Manual” by David Gibson.


My style is very much a study of people. It only rarely involves subjects without some kind of human point of reference in frame. I often struggle to see the detail in my wanderings throughout the city. When I am out with another photographer I often find I am shooting “over their shoulder” amazed at what they see that I miss.

Looking for discarded objects is a great opportunity to train my eye to better capture detail and to slow down in general whilst trekking the streets of Melbourne and my other favourite cities of the world. The Brief Capture a series of images featuring discarded or isolated objects against the cityscape.

Use a macro lens to further challenge the way I normally view the world with my camera. Wherever possible, avoid human interaction with the subject. Find beauty in very small, tight frames. Guiding Notes

Street objects are part of the flow of people on the street, but approached singularly, they have character. Just like people.

1. Use a ND filter to isolate still, discarded objects against the movement of busy life on the street. Make the object feel abandoned, obsolete, and lonely – discarded and left behind.

2. Isolate a solitary object that has been discarded and is in rapid decay or disposed of. Place it context by using wide angle – show the perspective from the point of view of the object to give it a life. How can you make the viewer care about the object?

3. Look for evidence of recent life in a deserted area through the discarded objects left behind. Coffee cups and other non-refuse items. Train tickets. Movie tickets. Not just rubbish!

4. Gonzo the images.

Gonzo journalism is a style of journalism that is written without claims of objectivity, often including the reporter as part of the story via a first-person narrative. The word “gonzo” is believed to be first used in 1970 to describe an article by Hunter S. Thompson, who later popularized the style.


Take some interesting props and find the perfect context for them on the streets to get the ball rolling. The polaroid guys do this to add a layer of interest to the image.


Check out more of the polaroid goodness here.

  • Some ideas from others include using a stencil.
  • Maybe I could use a mirror – a reflection of the item itself on the background rather than just the item itself.
  • Perhaps a prop Disney mirror to contrast with the pathos of the abandoned object – a play on “mirror mirror”.
  • Quirky post it notes.
  • Puffy kids’ “reward” stickers that teachers use – shot in close but with wide angle to give context.

5. Use double exposure to create a “ghost” image of the object.

Learnings from an Instagram feed “Gangculture” – Trevor Hernandez.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.53.42 pm

• Look for traditional compositional elements in the mess and clutter of the street.

• Use elements in the background to highlight the subject.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.53.52 pm

• Embrace “Gonzo” photography. Insert items you have created into the street situation.

• What things can you “seed” the scene with to make a point or add interest?

• Consider this, but accept that your ability to achieve this might not come naturally.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.52.44 pm

• Look for simple, uncluttered solitary objects of beauty.

• Isolate the subject from the field – bring simplicity to the scene.

• Look for simple, textured items – “crinkled” is good.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.52.59 pm

• Light, shadows, texture.

• Make the most of the golden hour light to lift the subject.

• Carefully search for the right textures and backgrounds.

• Use traditional composition techniques.

• Look for “transformation” of the subject – like the “Mask” shadow in the image.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.53.11 pm

• Look for signs of decay and human presence since departed. Remnants of humanity.

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.53.22 pm

• Consider “kissing the sun” perspective.

• Use both natural and artificial light to highlight the subject.

• Can you use a flash to create this artificially?

Screen Shot 2015-09-09 at 8.53.32 pm

• Look for strong bands of colour and lines.

• Parallel lines and diminishing lines work well.

• Is there something extraordinary in the ordinary scene in front of you?



• The Ricoh GR gives excellent balance of bokeh and background detail at f6, using an exposure time of 4 seconds at home. The Ricoh feels like it will be very unobtrusive and not upset anyone no matter where I am. It will only need a very small gorillapod for any long exposures.

• F100 with Macro Lens. Black and white film only. The 105mm lens can tend to hunt a bit. Take the SLR gorillapod and remote shutter release.


  1. Notebook Project – Discarded Objects – Post Review | Inconspicuosity - September 20, 2015

    […] You can read about the preparation for this shoot here. […]


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