Street Photography Tip

Something From Nothing

Serendipity. It happens, you lift the camera to your eye and everything falls into place. The perfect frame. Except sometimes it does not. Here is where you can fall back on making, ‘something from nothing’.

Still Life Hongzhen Lu

Something from Nothing. Hongzhen Old Street

Blend In

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5 Tips for better Street Photography

“Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.” 

-Henri Cartier-Bresson

Focused Practice

Bresson stated the above in the days of 35mm film. With digital media, 10,000 photos are nothing. Malcolm Gladwell wrote that 10,000 hours is the time needed to succeed. A recent article in Peta Pixel took this idea further, making the point that repeating what we do does not necessarily lead to better photography. Practice needs to be skills based. Here I will tell you five skills to work on that will make your Street Photography better.

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Ladies selling pottery in front of a temple. Auroville/ India.

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Morning Glory Street Photography

Why you need to get up early for Street Photography. A personal story of a succesful morning. Thanks to Matvey Z for planting the idea of writing this!

Early Mornings

Scratching sounds awoke me at 5 AM. Next to my head was a small puppy, rescued from the streets just five days previously. He needed to get outside, quickly. On returning from our brief walk together, it became apparent my snoring had led to me being evicted from my half of the bed, a morning of romantic spooning was not on the cards. With the Internet down, I found myself with little to do and in a situation that called for an early morning photo walk.

Yellow Portrait

Portrait and study of Yellow, Bangalore

Morning Light

Street photographers are often a lazy bunch, we like afternoons and evenings, capturing images in the dying light. However, mornings are a fantastic time of day. The light can be beautiful, and people are just waking up and may be caught unaware by the photographer. Calmness can reside in places that will be in chaos later. I had to remind myself of this as I sat in my Uber, worried, as the skies opened up and the rain started to pour. At this point, thoughts of bed were sorely tempting. Lady luck was with me though; the rain stopped as the car arrived at my chosen location.

Photographing Slums

I had chosen a slum area north of Bangalore’s centre. As expected, it was quiet. Five minutes into my ramble I was invited into a home. Grandmother was cooking a rice breakfast, Mother holding child, sisters coming and going and father waking up. For a small place, it was extremely busy and a photographer’s dream. I resisted the urge to start clicking and managed some form of communication. Coffee was served, which I hesitantly sipped (and it turned out to be just fine!). Finally, photos were taken. I have since printed these pictures and will return with them as gifts. The room was small and dark, and I had to crank up my ISO. I am pleased with the pictures, and they will provide a reminder of my morning photo walk.

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Festival Photography

A Festival Photoshoot

Drumming was heard not two minutes from leaving the house. The noise quickly escalated, and I found myself in the middle of a religious throng. Photography heaven ensued. Groups of worshippers walked by, gripped by religious fervor, whipping themselves into frantic dances driven by rhythmic drumming. Drummers and dancers led colourful Gods, mounted on trailers and tractors. Streets filled with residence offering pumpkins and coconuts, which in turn were taken by the priests and smashed in front of the gods. Colourful faces called out for photos, and I quickly became covered in blue powder paint (as was my camera, which appears to have survived).

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I moved quickly after taking this photo!

The puppy, unfortunately, had to go and is with a family now. I will have to find another way to get kicked out of bed. Mornings are a time often neglected by Street Photographers, but it is a time of day that can be pretty awesome. I came home with a set of pictures I was proud of, and my hit rate was higher than it has been for a while. So, mornings – give them a go. The early bird may catch the worm yet.

Take care and keep clicking, Chris

Shanghai Street Photography Locations

My favourite locations…

The Bund_ChrisPage_1402-Pano-Edit-Edit

The Bund

The Bund (Closest Metro East Nanjing Lu)

Possibly the most iconic City View in the world and one I never became tired of. The best times for photography are sunrise and sunset. However, it becomes very crowded in the evening, so an early morning start may be best. TIP – the photo below was taken from the bar at Hotel Indigo. Get there are the start of happy hour, buy a drink and set up your tripod.

Yangshupu Road (Line 4)

Exit with the river behind you and turn right, then explore the lanes and alleys that open up on your left. Be quick, this area is rapidly being demolished. As construction moves in to new areas a whole micro culture develops that caters for, and comprises of immigrant workers. TIP – there are lots of cool abandoned areas to explore, but they are pretty unstable. Take care and wear good shoes.

Hongzhen Lu (Closest Metro, Linpin Lu, Line 4)

There is only really one block of this area remaining. The area that was regurlary frequented for prostitution now demolished, but there is one thriving lively community left. Generally, if you are respectful, people do not mind photographers.

Linping Lu (Line 4)

If you have been to Hongzhen Lu then you can walk around the area behind this station. If you walk all the way to Yangshupu Lu, mentioned earlier, you will have covered a lot of Old Shanghai.

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Nanjing Road (East, Line 2)

Forget Nanjing East, instead head up towards Peoples Square, heading through the alleys on the left hand side. Be suspicious of anyone too friendly here.

Longchang Apartments

A former British police barrack. Photography is frowned upon here, but if you show respect and are very discreet then nobody really minds.

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Longchang Apartments

 

Fuxing Lu (Xiaonanmen, Line 9)

Not too far from the tourist trail of Yu Garden lies this little gem. The builders were here when I last visited, so it is either being improved or torn down. Wonderful lanes and alleys to explore. A personal favourite!

Moganshan Road (Nearest Subway  Jiangning Road, Line 13 or Zhongtan Road Line 3/4)

Head here for Street Art in one of the few places graffiti is tolerated. TIP, the Jade Buddha Temple near-bye is well worth a look.

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Moganshan Lu

Pudong 

Pudong is a vast area and considered not ‘the real Shanghai’. However, there are many great locations. For the Skyscrapers and a slice of high life, stop at Lujaizui. Wuzhuo Avenue (Line 6) is another area that is undergoing modernisation, and there are some great tumbled down streets and alleys that can be explored. Luoshan Road is another area, that if you explore, will reveal some older housing alongside the river, revealing a very different viewpoint from the tourist river towns.

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Keep Clicking, Chris

 

 

Zen and the art of the Pancake Lens…

For the second time in my Street Photography life I was hit by a passer-by. The photo below shows one situation where a pancake lens can be a lifesaver, and save you the pain of having a camera stuck from your face.

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Open Market, Bangalore

Pancake lenses are fantastic for low-profile photography. Yesterday I got my camera struck out of my hand by a passing guy on a motorbike. Fortunately, the camera was around my neck. However, my glasses went flying and ended up on the road. I would like to say I was cool calm and collected. I was not. The situation got a little heated and could have got a lot worse. A pancake lens plus a little bit of Zen may have avoided this situation.

A pancake lens is flat, not quite as flat as a pancake, but still sports a low profile. Pancake lenses are often of a fixed focal length, that means you can’t zoom. The laws of physics dictate these lenses have a wide-angle profile. If you read enough about photography and fixed focal length lenses you will soon hear that you, ‘zoom with your feet’. This is not entirely true, to get a close-up photo, you need to get close (duh), you cannot zoom in with a fixed lens. Here is the rub. A shot where you zoom in looks very different to a close-up taken with a wide-angle. A zoom compresses the aspects within the frame. The photo above was taken using a wide-angle lens, and this gives the characters enough space around them for the picture to work. Zooming in on this scene from further away would have made the photo a lot busier.

The above photo was taken using the very excellent Olympus 12-40mm 2.8 Pro. I love this lens, it creates sharp images and allows me to spend a little more time framing each picture. However, it is quite intrusive for tightly packed locations. The motorcyclist hit me when my eyes were pressed to the viewfinder with the lens extended, trying to capture photos of people passing on motorbikes. This created quite a target for anyone not wanting to have their picture taken. A pancake lens is much less obtrusive, and also a smaller target. Further to this, if I had been framing my photos using the screen, and not the viewfinder, I would have been much more aware of what was happening around me.

When returning to Bangalore’s markets, I will be packing my Olympus with the excellent Panasonic 46mm 1.7 pancake lens.  Alternatively, I will take the very low-profile Ricoh Grii. As always, this experience has taught me something. Sometimes locations require a low profile; a pancake lens should help achieve this. Secondly, I need to think how I respond to aggression when taking photos. When we are involved in a physical incident, our fight or flight mechanism kicks in. On this occasion, I lost my cool, flipped my lid and ‘let off a little steam,’ and this altercation could have got a lot worse. Time to meditate and bring a little ‘Zen’ into my photography….

 

Keep clicking, Chris