Catalyst – Reflection

Catalyst 1BRIEF

For this assignment, we were required to produce five still photographs based on the theme – catalyst. These photographs must demonstrate technical proficiency in camera work and showcase an imaginative response to the given theme. No photo-editing software is allowed to be used for the submitted photographs.


A catalyst refers to a substance that causes a chemical reaction. The word that resonated with me was reaction. I wanted to produce a photo series that features a human subject reacting to a situation, object or person. In this case, I have chosen to use ‘traffic lights’ as a catalyst.

Pedestrians react according to the light sequence. For example, they would cross when they see a “green man” and stop at the “red man”. When a “flashing red man” is shown, people tend to quicken their pace and some may even break into an abrupt jog. The images that I’ve taken reflect the pedestrians at every light sequence.


Swanston Street was the perfect choice for this project as it is usually brimming with pedestrians, especially at the intersections of Flinders Station and Melbourne Central. I began my photo-walk from the intersections of Flinders and Swanston Streets and slowly made my way up to RMIT city campus.

I would usually position myself in front of an intersection and snap photos of the passing or waiting pedestrians between each light sequence. I also experimented with taking wider shots and diagonal shots. Taking photos while crossing the intersections didn’t prove effective, as pedestrians were aware of my presence and would steer clear of the direction the camera was pointing. This was overcome by snapping photos from the waist instead of the viewfinder.

Despite the rainy weather, the overcast day made it easier to expose the shots. In addition, the reflections bouncing off the wet pavement gave the photos more visual depth. The umbrellas also drew more attention towards the pedestrians.


The five selected photographs were taken candidly and feature a strong human element. Most of the pedestrians were captured in mid-stride as I wanted the portray movement and how they were reacting to the light signals. Rick Wester photo-series “Run” was the inspiration for the photograph “Catalyst 3 – Woman Running with Umbrella”.

Upon closer review, I’ve noticed that each photograph has a vibrant colour in them, for example, pink umbrellas or red scarf. Subconsciously, I may have been drawn towards the bright object which propelled me to document that moment.

Taking photos from the viewfinder (Catalyst 1, 2 & 3) reaped more accurate results compared to those taken from the hip (Catalyst 4 & 5). Shooting from the hip requires luck. Most of the time, photographs taken from the hip ends up poorly framed and skewed.


For this photo-series, I’ve chosen to reflect the aesthetics and approach of street photography. There are plenty of debates on the definition of street photography. These ranges from whether it is posed versus candid or in a public space versus indoors. Personally, I have taken a liking to Eric Kim’s definition.

“However at the end of the day, I personally define street photography to myself as: Proof of humanity.” – Eric Kim, 2013.

The Door of Humility – Reflection



For this assessment, we were required to produce a single shot video based on the theme of success. We were given the creative freedom to pen our own story so long as the video stayed within the one-minute limit. The video submission must demonstrate an understanding of the unique properties of a single-shot video and technical proficiency in filmmaking.

Definition of single-shot

A single-shot video or a long-take is usually shot from the perspective of a single camera and consists of action occurring within a continuous time and space. This technique requires a strong spatial awareness, married together with timing and performance by the actors.

The “Car Chase Scene” from Children of Men is a great example of a single-shot video. A more humble but equally professional single-shot video is the ending scene from Martin Scorsese‘s “Hugo”.

Children of Men – Car Chase Scene

Hugo – Ending Scene

What is the story about?

This is a story about a man who struggles to enter a door and is taught a valuable lesson in humility by a woman he was previously perving on.

At the beginning of the video, we are introduced to a man “checking out” a woman in a lewd manner. The two characters are walking in opposite directions. Still distracted by the woman, the man is faced with an obstacle in the form of an unrelenting door. After a brief struggle, the same woman re-enters the scene and pulls the door open. This embarrassed the man as he has been pushing on the door all along. Learning his lesson, the man pulls open the door and walks off.

Success is usually portrayed as a glorious moment but we wanted to portray the theme in a more humble light. The man is given the simple goal of entering the door but failed. His success is attributed to the indirect actions of the woman. This shows that success can be achieved through the actions of others and can be a humbling experience.

Challenges & Triumphs

Deciding on a suitable location was one of the first challenges we faced. The location that we ended up choosing had a high level of traffic which forced us to time our shoots careful. We did not want to include any passer-bys in the finished video.

Camera shake couldn’t be avoided as we were shooting the entire video handheld. We tried attaching a gorilla pod to the camera to help minimise the shake but to no valid. This issue could have fixed by using a camera stabilization rig or by stabilising the footage in Adobe Premiere Pro using “warp stabilizer”.

The composition of the shot when the man was struggling to open the door could have been more dynamic. Unfortunately, the camera movement was confined within the narrow space of the corridor.

Despite those limitations, I believed that we were successful in utilizing the location to enhance our story-telling. I am especially proud of the shot where the man looks over the railing to spot the woman turning back up the stairs. Solly and Khushboo also deserve praises for their performance despite the lack of practice and rehearsals.

Final thoughts

Single-shot videos require a great amount of planning and practice. Always communicate with your actors and clarify actions to help improve timing and performances. Don’t be afraid to adjust your storyboard and remember to utilise the location to add depth to the camera work and story-telling.

Leave a comment and let us know what you think!


greetingsHi friends of Farah and Anthony. Chances are you arrived here from their YouTube videos. My name is Julian and I am a Melbourne-based filmmaker. I am experienced in video production across lifestyle, entertainment, and wedding videos. Examples of my work can be found on my YouTube channel.

Online video is on the rise and shows no sign of slowing down. So if you’re looking for someone to film a video for your business or need a cinematographer for your next Oscar-nominated short film, feel free to drop me a line.

My contacts are below.

Email:  //  Twitter @jcltay

Day to Night – Timelapse Test

timelapse_juliantayI’ve always been intrigued by time-lapse photography. Both the pain-staking process and also the rewarding end results. There are plenty of photographers who shoot time-lapse (watch here and here) and that makes it hard to stand out from the crowd. Cause all of them are equally breath-taking and gorgeous to look at.

I may be a little late to the party but I’m excited to see what else can be achieved with this technique.