The concept of ‘layers’ in visual arts is well documented and in my opinion works perfectly well for ‘Street’ photography. Layers can give depth to an image and can sometimes be used to lead ones eye to the main focus of the image. The above image has three distinct layers. Layer 1. The foreground layer of the Brass Statue, 2. The middle layer of the young women walking and 3. The background layer of the buildings and signage that helps contextualise the other layers. Layers can really help to give a sense of perspective to ones images.
Many street photographers tend to favour moderate wide angle lens for a few important reasons. By moderate wide angle lens I mean 28mm-35mm Full frame field of view. My ‘go to’ lens is a 23mm on a cropped sensor (35mm equivalent full frame). This focal length pushes me to get closer to my subjects and gives a feel of intimacy. It’s very similar to the focal equivalent of our natural eyesight. Perhaps just as importantly it often allows the subject to be placed in context with the environment. This background can often be packed with information and can say so much about the times and lives of the subject, even if it is at a subliminal level.
I think my natural tendency is to shoot Street images in Black and White. Probably because in my brain colour can often conflict with what I’m trying to achieve. For me B&W has a more graphic quality that is very direct. Having said that I guess it all depends on how one sees the subject and what you’re trying to achieve.
The above image is certainly a strong and obvious candidate for colour treatment and importantly one that is much weaker in monochrome.
Technically speaking many cameras allow the photographer to capture an image in two different formats such as JPEG and RAW simultaneously and often with the JPEG adopting a film simulation profile. I often shoot with a B&W JPEG profile such as ACROS as well as a RAW file. This obviously means that I have the versatility of great B&W film simulations and high quality colour backups. You can enjoy the best of both worlds.
This image was not planned, I just happened to see an interesting scene one summers night when taking a walk through Deauville in Northern France. Shooting through glass can be both problematic and rewarding. It can be very difficult to arrange or plan where your reflections will appear but the rewards are the ambiguity and confusion it can give the viewer. To my mind these type images usually appear better in colour rather than monochrome. The other consideration is the speed of your composition especially if people are involved in the shot. Take too long and it can make people feel uncomfortable. As in a lot of street photography going unnoticed is generally preferable.
The new X100V is the latest iteration of Fuji’s X100 series. I’d been using the X100f for two years and felt very comfortable with it. My dilemma was whether or not to upgrade. Could the V really be worth upgrading to.
Well the answer is definitely yes, not that the previous version was bad, far from it. The X100f was and still is an iconic street/documentary camera. So why change?
One reason is that the 23mm fixed lens has had a major upgrade including two aspherical lens. The lens is basically sharper especially wide open at f2 and at close focusing distances too, something the previous lens suffered from.
Another significant improvement is faster auto focus acquisition. This really is much faster and very reliable. Other pluses include preset zone focusing that offer a choice of two presets or one user set.
The x100V is the first in the series to have an articulating rear screen. This for me is one of the most exciting developments meaning that it’s possible to shoot at waist level. It’s even possible to touch the screen to either focus or focus and shoot.
The list of enhancements are huge and genuinely useful. The camera feels super-charged. If you get the chance to use one, do. You won’t be disappointed.
I normally carry a camera when visiting Totnes as there’s always so many interesting characters to see. The town used to have a large student population (that is many students as opposed to large students) but since Dartington Hall closed its doors in 2010 they have all disappeared. However the town still retains its quirky character and holds on fiercely to it’s independence from the major, national retailers. It boasts a lively and regular market and there’s always lots of ‘artistic’ events going on. It has a bit of an eccentric but happy vibe.
There’s always an array of music buskers as well as occasionally Poetry and drama buskers. It’s not very often you can see and hear a Hurdy Gurdy busker. This sounded fab btw.
Pictured above are shoppers, friends relaxing over a coffee, shop owners and workers and even a ‘Hairy Barista’ that’s the owner and the name of his coffee shop. If you’re ever in the area have a stroll around and if you can, make a market day it’d be even better.
All of the following images were taken with my X100f Fuji camera in Bristol. I’d just come back from a trip to Glasgow and had a fantastic time there. I’d taken my X100f with me but to be honest I was quite disappointed with the results i.e I’d got too many failures. I was with my wife, brother and sister in law so perhaps I hadn’t considered accurately what I was trying to achieve photographically. I’m not saying that you can’t use the X100f as a point and shoot camera but at the end of the day a camera is just a machine and not intelligent. So spurred on by my dismal results I headed out to Bristol from my home in South Wales for a few hours of more careful shooting.
I’d decided to change a few things, firstly to shoot primarily in B&W (Acros Red) with RAW for Back up and more importantly to take much more care with my exposures, focusing and composition. I think that I see things differently when shooting in B&W significantly in terms of shapes/patterns and contrast. I also made the decision to shoot mostly in manual mode. In Glasgow I’d used various types of auto or semi-auto modes. I think this last decision has proved to be the most important.
The lighting in both cities was similar, very bright and high contrast. In Bristol I took much more care with highlights. I find that exposing for highlights is preferable mostly. I find that shadow detail is often much easier to recover in most circumstances.
99% of the time I never ask permission to take a photograph but for the photograph above I did ask, mainly because I received such a terrible frown from this lady I thought it only polite to ask. She was lovely and agreed straight away. I felt obliged to try her Goat Curry which was delicious.
Outside of the market I choose not to fight the contrasty light but rather to exaggerate its effect. You just have to think in simple terms of light and shadow.
This image was a snapped on a recent trip to Cardiff. It’s a simple shot showing a woman having her nails painted. There was something about the closeness and calmness of the scene that struck me, almost intimate in nature. Taken through a window in one of Cardiff’s many arcades. It’s certainly not the greatest documentary shot ever but that’s not the point. It’s just one of those many interesting scenes that we can see on any day but caught in a single passing moment.
Technical stuff – I used a Ricoh GR111 compact camera that was set up with a minimum shutter speed of 1/250 sec at F5.6, using touch screen to focus and take the shot. I’d previously set the camera to be reasonably near correct exposure values. This allowed me to concentrate more on framing the image. The image was taken whilst walking without stopping.
I don’t know why but I keep coming back to ‘Street Photography’ as one of my favourite photographic activities. I guess it’s possibly to do with the unpredictability of the subjects and scenes that you’re likely to encounter on any jaunt. I still find it uncomfortable to point my camera at people I don’t know and take the shot. Needless to say I consider my success rate quite low but when the technical and artistic sides come together you can end up with a very satisfying image.
Being in the right place at the right time isn’t enough. Composition, exposure, focus are just a few of the things that need to be correct and in an instant too. Pre planning can sometimes help such as shooting at an appropriate aperture to give enough depth of field. The same goes for shutter speed and sensor sensitivity (ISO). The thing is that even when all of that is good, there’s no guarantee that you’ll end up with an interesting image.
The question of ‘What makes a good image?’ is a difficult one to answer. For me the answer is not just that the image should be able to tell a story but there should be enough information for the image to ‘stand up on its own’.
Where the subject is in the frame, the things that surround the subject, the location, clothing and background objects are all really important in a successful image and can help lead the viewer to come to his/her own conclusions. Lastly the image should have a good aesthetic, whilst this is subjective it should mean that even if the subject/topic of your image may be considered ugly its not impossible for the photograph to look good.
This street shot was taken in Cardiff a few weeks ago. I have to say from the start that I find ‘Street’ photography both challenging and rewarding. To my mind, my favourite images are where the photographer doesn’t ask permission for the shot. In this particular instance, I knelt low to the ground and simply allowed people to enter my frame. I’d pre-focused on the place where I. estimated my subjects to be and gave myself a healthy F8 or so to give latitude for error regarding depth of field.
When permission is asked for (and if granted) the results are always different and often, (although not always) quite as good. The subject will either pose or be given a pose. Which to my mind makes the image look slightly unnatural and staged. The image below is an example of an image taken a few minutes later of a market stall vendor whose permission I asked.
I like this image but not nearly as much as the candid shots.