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Psychology behind street photography...


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Anatole Sloan , Apr 14, 2011; 01:50 p.m.

Damon - what I meant was that when I find an interesting scene, I try to compose it in my mind´s eye, thinking about what angle would work well. Once I´ve decided, and see the elements falling into place, I move into the right position and capture the photograph - but this last step is done sufficiently quickly that I can only have a cursory glance at all the elements in the scene. End result: I often end up tilting the camera to fit everything I want in, whereas *perhaps* it may have been possible to do that all with a horizontal horizon given more care and time (but then maybe missing the moment).

I also haven´t "fixed" any of the photographs, largely because as they stand, I think the current angle works best (a horizontal horizon demands different composition). Also, I´m not particularly against having a tiltled horizon; but having photograph after photograph with a similar tilt (i.e. when viewed in a series), I find it a bit distracting.

Now off to go shoot some strikes, which are apparently heating up a bit; I will certainly try to keep suggestions in mind... (btw, should anybody be interested, resulting photos will likely end up on my blog)

ralph oshiro , Apr 14, 2011; 02:02 p.m.

I really like the feel of those images, and of course, the local color. Plus, I'm a sucker for including the sun in the frame. I think the Dutch angle really works--it adds to its organicness. I've only dabbled in street--one day last summer when I was testing a new lens, and one other time when I was trying a new 50mm. I just bought two ultra-fast short lenses, perfect for street, and I'm dying to try my hand at it again in earnest. My first street outing last summer was with an 80-400mm, so I had quite a bit of distance. This time, I'll be shooting with just a 24mm and an 85mm, so I'll be right in it. I haven't decided if I'll solicit permission beforehand or not.

Damon D'Amato , Apr 14, 2011; 02:36 p.m.

Got it, Anatole. Nice stuff.
My two pieces of advice for shooting strikes has to do with picket signs.
When shooting a person with a sign as a portrait, it can sometimes help the composition to have them hold the sign a little lower. Something like this...

As opposed to this...

Also, try cropping picket signs to their salient message and don't worry about carrying the whole sign in the frame. Something like this...

Above all, have fun and be careful.

Anatole Sloan , Apr 14, 2011; 06:32 p.m.

Well, just come back from shooting to report that I missed the protest. Apparently it was in the morning... but Bolivia is hardly short of strikes, so thanks for the advice Damon.

I´ve only recently started working to get the sun in the frame, and I do like the effect - although flare can be a bit unpredictable. I messed up a couple of shots in the roll for that precise reason. If it is of any interest, all the shots are taken with a 35mm f/2. I find that if you are composing without the use of the viewfinder, you really need to stick to one fairly normal focal length - otherwise it´s too hard to calculate and decide. I went out with a 28mm today, and it felt just a little two wide to use in the same way.

I tried to work closer and more conspicuously this time, but didn´t quite get into the mindset needed. Maybe next time...

m stephens , Apr 14, 2011; 08:10 p.m.

I think you have a good start at it. You are getting yourself into the mix. If I had to guess - - and this is simply a guess by looking through the photographs - - I would think you are rushing your shots. Perhaps a little too nervous yet to see, compose, check for flares and whatnot, then shoot. Don't take that personally - it is just an impression I got from some of the unevenness of the photos.

The two most common strategies in street shooting are stealth and participant. In stealth, you try to get a shot with anonymity or even without any chance of anyone identifying your actions. Catlike. In participant, you mix right into the action like you belong there. Chatting people up, being as obvious as possible, and letting people know you are around for the purpose of taking pictures. There's no right or wrong, but they yield different results.

I very much like to mix in and meet people if possible. I like talking with people on the street. "What are you doing? Where'd you get a bike like that? What a cool tee-shirt! Where you guys heading? How did you catch a fish like that?" I like engaging people and then getting photographs of them doing what they do, doing their work, or sometimes posing too. Some of my favorite photographs have come from just asking, "You have intriguing character, could I take a few photographs?" The one advantage of this method is that people don't freak out, and they don't find me suspicious. Years ago when I tried the anonymous catlike approach, people would see me and get perturbed at my "sneakiness."

And if not directly engaging in conversation, you can just make yourself much more obvious - more matter of fact. Plant yourself on the sidewalk, and say to yourself: I am the photographer now, and I am here to do my job! I am often walking around with three cameras, a light meter and a tripod over the shoulder. So, no one is in doubt that I will be taking pictures. Stop on the corner - put your camera to the eye and sweep the area. Let people see you are a "photographer" - and your job is to "take pictures." In a few seconds they will ignore you, and then you can really get to work!

Again, I am not suggesting that is the right technique, only that it is a technique that some find useful. There are people who believe street photography is only valid when it is anonymous in both directions. That's not my belief. I think street photography means using the street as your subject. Good luck, and experiment away! It is an awful lot of fun.

John Elder , Apr 14, 2011; 08:37 p.m.

Good advice from Brad keep pushing. I would add keep shooting. Just keep going out and shoot, your style will evolve. Today I was in New York city for the day shooting street. Great Day. I shot 5 rolls and won't be suprised if there is not a single shot worth printing. However I know that there are about 3 or 4 that might make it. Shooting a great street shot is damn difficult. As said above there are different strategies for street, they all work for any given photog. For the most part I don't socialize with my subjects, I am looking for an interesting candid shot waiting for the elements to come together. Frequently I am just standing there waiting. Today in Washington Square I wanted to shoot a portrait of an intersting man. I stood 4 feet in front of him set up the camera and waited until he was in the position I wanted . I took the shot and walked away. Almost everybody in Washington Square knew I was shooting today. I am 6-4, 230 lbs and don't hide that I am shooting. Yet the vast majority of my shots the person doesn't know I shot them or realizes it afterward. Sometimes like Brad, I engage the people I am shooting and shoot while Iam talking. Sometimes I am not shooting whom I am talking to. I am posting a shot taken on Prince and Broadway,NYC, last fall or summer taken with a 21mm. The 2 main people in the photo never knew I shot them and I could have touched both of them (21 is very wide)

M4, 21mm, Hp5+ film. Not a very good shot but an example

John Elder , Apr 14, 2011; 08:40 p.m.

Sorry double post from the computer idiot

Jim Hayes , Apr 14, 2011; 11:57 p.m.

I do a lot of street photography, esp. here in California - mostly Los Angeles - (see https://picasaweb.google.com/JimHayesGAPPS/OnlyInCA#) where you do not have to be sneaky - here everyone wants "to be in pictures."
While I hesitate to offer advice, following the direction of of the mathematician turned philosopher Kurt Godel who said (paraphrased) - " All generalizations, with the possible exception of this one, are false." - I can say from shooting tens of thousands of street photos around the world, that if someone notices you and does not want to be photographed, they will let you know! (And I obey their wishes.) Most are flattered! Relax and enjoy the work.
I will, however, suggest that instead of shooting at random, pick a theme and shoot for that. I do "whacko" photos and signs mostly, as well as abstracts. And I often use my cell phone camera.

ralph oshiro , Apr 15, 2011; 02:31 a.m.

Wow! Really great advice from all of the above! Well, I just got back from shooting for about an hour on my first "street" assignment (aside from those two days last summer). I pretty much followed the advice above, and was surprised at how cooperative everyone was (it helps that I was at a tourist area). No one seemed to mind--most seemed oblivious. One street performer even solicited my services--I freely obliged. When I first arrived, I felt very tentative . . . I felt the same kind of trepidation you have when walking up to a strange girl to ask her out on a date. However, after I "settled in," I became much more at ease. I used my judgement, and shot at will. Of all those I asked permission, they all obliged with a smile. No award-winners yet, but here's two frames from a few hours ago . . .

Jim Hayes , Apr 15, 2011; 03:43 a.m.

Street photography on Hollywood Blvd. is like shooting fish in a barrel! Be sure to look down too - there are more photo ops than just stars on Hollywood Blvd!

LA made in India - I have one "Made in Mexico" too!

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