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  #1  
Old 08-07-2007, 09:19 AM
russte russte is offline
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Default Street Photography

Here's a follow up to the video of Jeff Mermelstein linked in the 'photography' thread. How I envy the talent of the guy to push his Summicron under the noses of strangers in the street - I was almost thrown out of a fish & chip shop in Oban, Scotland a few days ago for firing off a couple of shots over a customer's shoulder (although I was using a far less discreet D200 instead of a Leica M).

As a new and rather bad student of street photography (I blame Furachan, Jinju and Kev Ryan for the inspiration), I'd be interested to know the kit and techniques others use.

Prime lens or zoom? And what do you find to be the most successful focal lengths? Do small apertures (with greater depth of field) help to achieve more successful images or larger apertures (with accurate focussing). And autofocus or manual pre-focus? Do you find it better to grab shots (like Mermelstein) with the expectation of hitting the 'trash' key often, or are you more selective, staking out an appropriate location and waiting for the right person to enter the frame?

Of course, it's impossible to generalise but my own bitter experience hints that some combinations tend to have a higher success rate than others.

Looking forward to your opinions which I'm sure will be varied. . .

Best wishes

Stephen
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  #2  
Old 08-07-2007, 04:31 PM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

I'd say the "secret" is to exist only thru your camera eye, getting as close as possible as being the camera. The danger is to be too assuming (thinking that, but, when, if, who etc....), then you lose, so the invisibility comes from being totally unassuming, melting in the crowd. Swiftness of execution, and retreat/passing by afterward is paramount, most likely where you avoid 99% of bad encounters. Still the instinct of sensing danger, has to be there, as a second nature.

You can check your progress rather well at that. I am not quite there, not enough practice, but all the times I am doing nothing, but yet, the people look at you..... And for sure, if you dig your brains, you know you were assuming, thinking, trying to take a picture and all this puts you at odds of the movement and the crowd around you.

Nice thread. I hope it gets tons of responses and replies.
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  #3  
Old 08-08-2007, 07:04 AM
russte russte is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

Dear Herve,

Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I quite agree with the need to be unassuming. But that cloak of invisibility soon lifts once the D200 is raised to the eye (or even the hip), especially in an area where tourism is not popular. On rare occasion, it is a help. Once, unexpectedly, I was let through a police line to photograph a demonstration at close quarters presumably because the D200 with the not insubstantial 18-200 looks 'professional'. But most of the time, it's a hindrance (and I've nicknamed it the 'photographic AK-47' on account of the reactions it provokes). I think my success rate was higher with an unassuming digital compact but I was missing a lot of shots due to the more primitive autofocussing (no manual override) and metering systems. I understand why the discretion of the M series has so much kudos with the specialists but is there a cheaper digital alternative which does not suffer the problem of an extra-small sensor and noise?

Best wishes

Stephen
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  #4  
Old 08-08-2007, 02:04 PM
nicoz nicoz is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

"I blame Furachan, Jinju and Kev Ryan for the inspiration", so do I (plus some other...)

For the kit, I found that I mainly use the 20 to 50mm range (a zoom is convenient). I use my lovely 50mm prime, it's a lot of fun to shoot with a prime. It forces you to move around the subject a bit more. Now we come to THE BIG THING. How to avoid being punched in the nose???
This is how I shoot:
_ I try to keep my camera in the correct settings (depending on changing the light etc...)
_ I started with large F/numbers to make sure that my subject is in focus, now I'm trying to decrease it to get more depth (Furachan or Maciedka-like)
_ I sometimes wait for a minute or two at the same place if there is something that attracts me, but I usualy walk around and shoot whenever something appears (my girlfriend is not very patient ;-)).
_ When I feel that something is going to happen, I try to find my angle without interfering.
_ I usually avoid to make eye contact both before and after I take the photo.
_ Sometimes it's inevitable so I show them that I have a camera, smile and ask if it's OK. People are usually too surprise to say no. Then it's a big "THANK YOU".
_ I used to take 1000 photos for a decent one, now I only take very few for the same result.
_ I suppose that we can feel when we should really not take a photo, so I try to avoid dodgy situations.

It's a cool thread. Hope that some big guns will give out some tips ;-)

Nicolas
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  #5  
Old 08-08-2007, 04:20 PM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

I used to take 1000 photos for a decent one, now I only take very few for the same result.
-------------------------------

it's the adjective decent that brushes me wrong here. waiting for the big guns (that would make magnum p. huge rockets though...ahaha), I think with street photography, you hit it or you don't, a decent shot is still part of the few you mention, though there is no denying that in the learning curve, there are shots that tell you you are making progress. I think the huge rockets shoot hundreds for a good one, and are very happy with a few a year. Decent shots can add up to a good series, but you still want to see that stick of dynamite, some edge, that reward you and the viewer, in the bunch. decent is nice, but forgettable in photography.
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  #6  
Old 08-09-2007, 08:17 AM
nicoz nicoz is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

I suppose that it's one of the reasons why I am not a big-rocket magnum photographer myself...
Decided, from now-on I will only take and post nuke-world-class photos ;-)

Seriously, I think that a few of my photos are correct, but it has to be put in context. I started taking photos less than 2 years ago, I don't have a supernatural talent, and don't pretend to bring-on some dynamite to the world of photography. So what should I say then?
When I look back at what I thought were awesome photos 2 years ago, I am now almost ashamed to have posted them. And hopefully the same thing will apply in a couple of years. Luckily I get some satisfaction from my firecrackers. Just have to find the recipe for dynamite now ;-)
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  #7  
Old 08-09-2007, 12:05 PM
russte russte is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

Dear Nicolas, Dear Herve,

Thanks again for your comments and for bringing a little spice to the thread!

Best wishes

Stephen
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  #8  
Old 08-09-2007, 04:34 PM
kinginexile kinginexile is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

Hey, Nicoz, even "our" big guns post wet firecrackers. I also think that one of the main elements of street photography, even if shooting from the hip, is a nice concept, is to be super critical of one's own work. I am not afraid to say that some of our members here can confuse self-indulgence with street photography.

Sorry, i did not mean to retort to you personally previously, was just commenting on the adjective decent.

PS: May I direct your attention to Pawel's (Battousai) street shots in Beijing here on TE. Worth a visit.
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  #9  
Old 08-10-2007, 11:22 AM
nicoz nicoz is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

Hi Herve,
I had a quick look at Pawel's photos. He's got some very good ones indeed. Don't worry, I didn't feel offended with you previous post.
I'm a tough boy ;-)
Nicolas
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  #10  
Old 08-16-2007, 01:11 AM
Brian Brian is offline
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Default Re: Street Photography

This is a great thread. I have recently just got into street photography and I'm addicted. I think it's easier yet harder to use my 17-35L when on the street since it's large. Lately I have been using my 50mm, and have been getting less attention. I think it is important to use something wide as well. Something around 35-50 with a 1.6 crop factor is perfect enough to get your subjects with some background. Layered shots give a photo a lot more interest in my view.
I find it a lot more comfortable to shoot in crowds where your less noticed. When walking around on an empty street with only a few people you will get the look sooner or later.

I also like to stick and move, not standing in the same place.

Take care,
Brian
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