Below is a series of images of gulls. In some respects they are a staged series as they are not random chanced upon images. The gulls are coming to bread paced on the ground by me with the camera set up in advance. In order to capture movement a slow shutter speed was set with the some shots at 1/8th and others at 1/30th of a second. The day was overcast and the light quite flat and consequently the levels were adjusted in Photoshop Elements to slightly to broaden the tonal range. Also, the images were sharpened slightly. They were taken at the telephoto end of my zoom lens. I like the contrast between the still of the sea, the ‘solidity’ of the shingle beach and the blurred movement of feeding gulls.
Part of this exercise is to look beyond what’s recorded in the image and consider if they communicate anything unintended; symbolic or metaphorical is suggested in the course notes. What has surprised me about some of the images is how elegant the movement is, especially some of the gulls in flight. I am very familiar with gulls, I am a keen birdwatcher and I knew that by putting down lots of bread I was would have a fast moving feeding frenzy. So, I was expecting blurred aggression and some of the images represent something akin to this (especially the later ones shot at 30th sec.) However, the earlier ones (shot at 8th sec) have a softness to them where the movement is rendered quite etherial, even balletic.
The common perception of gulls is a negative one. Stereotypically they thought of as loud, aggressive, messy, and if I can be anthropomorphic, ‘anti social’. While I acknowledge they can be difficult they have learnt to take advantage of humans, particularly, in feeding on the mess we leave behind – for example, scavenging half eaten kebabs and the like left behind by late night revellers. In this respect they should be seen as recyclers cleaning up after us, the same way that vultures are seen as cleaning up carrion on the plains of Africa and India.
Gulls deserve a better ‘press’. They have a beauty and a soft elegance that the stereotype is blind to. The process of recycling implies a sense of movement; the subject of the recycling undergoes a change of state being transformed from one unwanted thing into something deemed to have a new value. Hopefully some of these images have an allegoric quality serving to realign the perception of gulls: recycling the recycler as it were. Revealing a beauty in their movement that is not often seen.