Off-Camera Flash for Street Photography

Are you a natural light photographer? I was, but recent events changed the game. Past attempts at using flash for Street Photography have led to mixed results. However, I have finally got a rig together that’s helping me capture some strong images. This is the start of a journey where I will be pushing my photography into new areas, and operating outside of my comfort zone. I am excited to be sharing this with you and hope this will inspire a few Street Photographers to give flash photography a try!

Priest/ KR Market, Bangalore, India

Why use a flash?

I love natural light, I think we all do. However, it has limitations. Here are some of the reason for adding flash to your photography toolkit:

  • Flash can help achieve better results during the day. Shooting time is not restricted to early mornings and evenings.
  • Many of my photos require selectively lightening parts of the image, particularly round the eyes. Flash helps these features pop.
  • A love for ‘natural light’ can really equate to a ‘fear of learning flash’.
  • Flash provides more control over lighting conditions.
  • Flash makes colour POP
Colour!

The Gear

I decided to buy into the Godox lighting system. Godox have a good reputation amongst Sony users. Sure, the Sony system is apparently great, but it also costs significantly more.

The flash unit I purchased was the TT585s. This is a relatively small flash, though much more obtrusive than a built-in unit. It is generally powerful enough for Street Photography, although it still struggled when shooting towards the sun. The flash unit has been coupled with the X2T controller, which is a newer version of the X1T. For those who are lost, this means I can take a photo and the flash will fire without it being connected to the camera. Magic!

The Set Up

Getting this system to work was relatively painless. The remote trigger can operate multiple flash units and you have to get the channels aligned. Once again, a few people came to the rescue via the Sony A7iii Facebook group. After some frustration I realised that when you are triggering a remote flash it becomes a ‘slave’ and not a ‘master’. This was not to be the only part of my learning curve with this new gear…

The Experience

Using off-camera flash requires a fixed lens, as you do not have a spare hand to operate a zoom, for me this meant leaving my newly acquired Tamron 28-75 lens at home and mounting a Sony 50mm 1:8. Lacking a spare hand turned out to be one of the downfalls of shooting street with off camera flash, and I soon realised why some pro’s wear the ridiculous looking jackets with 100’s of over-sized pockets.

The second issue was I still didn’t completely know what I was doing. I had set the flash to TTL (Through The Lens), which meant the metering was calculated for me. In TTL mode it was easy to change the flash output from -3 to +3 stops, so I could control how bright the flash flashed. Using the built in diffuser further helped get a look I was happy with. Lastly, one set of batteries was not enough, and next time I will make sure to carry spares.

Happy!

Results and Final Thoughts

The results hopefully speak for themselves. I’m still getting to grasp with the new gear, but the Godox system is quite intuitive and I have grown in confidence. At some point I can see myself putting the flash back on the camera and using my 28-75 zoom lens, which is something Martin Parr is working on, so it can’t be too crazy an idea!

That’s all for today folks. Keep Clicking.

Chris

Three books that aren't about Photography.

But will help you capture better photos!

I am fortunate to live in India, where books are not taxed and are therefor incredibly cheap. This week I take a look at three books from my shelf. These books are not directly about photography, so are a good break from heavier reads. As photographers we are part of the art world and should look to it for inspiration. Theses books are all quick reads, leaving plenty of time for taking more photos!

Art Matters by Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell

Let me make this clear from the start. Photography is art, and I believe that it is art in all forms, from travel and macro to documentary and street. If you are a photographer, then you are an artist.

Art matters and so does photography. According to Gaiman, it is not only art that matters but also libraries, reading and daydreaming. This book encourages you to make good art, no matter what happens. Gaiman also praises the artist who does not know the rules – as these artists can achieve the impossible. Buy this book or steal it from a friend, read it then give it to someone who needs reminding of why we should all make good art! It is a short read, with pictures that underline the point that we should all ‘make good art’.

Failed It by Erik Kessels

Fail, fail and fail again. We have all failed at taking photos at some point. I fail 99% of the time, so it is something I am really good at! Erik Kessels is a genius at telling us why failing is so important. Photography is entwined within this book, even though the topic is not expressly camera related. One classic example is when Kessel looks at the work of Street Photographer, Matt Stuart, whose work often looks at the humorous side to failure.

If you’re not making mistakes. If you’re not regularly feeling stupid. If you don’t believe your ideas are inadequate. If no one is arching an eyebrow while slowly, condescendingly asking why on earth you’re doing this. If your ideas aren’t routinely mocked when shared with those who follow the rules.

You’re probably doing it wrong.’

Erik Kessels

This is a great lazy Sunday morning read, plus it has photos (failed ones and good ones). Highly recommended.

Think Like an Artist by Will Gompertz

I have read both ‘Think Like an Artist’ and ‘Steal Like an Artist’. I’m writing about the book shown below as someone pinched the other. This is a slightly longer read than the previous book, but still manages to be light and humorous. The book has pictures and quotes written in very large fonts. In terms of an easy read, this is way ahead of Sontag’s ‘On Photography’ (which does not even include any photos!).

This book does not really deal with photography, so again, you will have to believe that as a photographer you are also an artist. Once you can do that, this book will lead you to a think Like an Artist and Lead a More Creative, Productive Life. Now who doesn’t want that…

That’s all today folks. Keep Clicking,

Chris

Three New Years Resolutions…

… you may wish to ignore

The booze has worn off and it’s back to work. At this time of year we start thinking about improving our lives and our photography. Once again I find myself promising to eat less and exercise more. But what photography resolutions are there to be made? There is a plethora of advise available on what to do in 2020, but I remain sceptical on some of the ideas published.

I have added three photos to this post, all taken during my last photo walk of 2019.

When life gives you lemons, sell lemons.

Always have a camera on you.

Firstly, we always have a phone on us anyway. But should you always have your pro, or street camera with you? I think not and here is why. When I have my camera on me I am always switched on and looking for a shot. I find it hard to forget about it. There are times I just want to chill out and relax. Yes I may miss an award winning photo opportunity, but dare I say it, some things are better off seen without the camera. Lastly I believe that to be creative you need a break from what you love – even for a little while. So occasionally, put down the camera and look up to smell the roses.

I couldn’t find a photo of roses….

Don’t Buy New Gear

We are often warned against GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), and are urged to stick with one camera and one lens for a year. This novel idea for a resolution is ‘guaranteed’ to make you a better photographer. I’m not convinced that less is always more. I generally use a 50mm prime lens, but sometime I want to go wider and use my 35mm lens. This Christmas I purchased a 28-75mm zoom, which will be great for travel. People should feel free to get the gear they need to do the job they want. One lens does not do everything, don’t believe the hype!

Woman and dog who were under a lorry

Start a Project

Starting a project is a great idea. However, if you are not engaged in a project then do not panic. During 2019 I became obsessed with finding the next ‘big’ project, often letting my desire for something new obscure the tasks at hand (and I had a lot of projects on the go anyway). This was crazy! During December I forgot about travel and street photography, instead I focused on candid images of family and friends. As a result I am now bristling with ideas for 2020. The take away from this is that projects are important, but taking a break from them can be priceless.

That all for today folks, keep clicking.

Chris

My Favourite Street Photo's of 2019

Without further ado and very few words, here are my favourite Street Photos of 2019…

Captured in a fishing village (Mumbai).
Laundry Worker (Mumbai)
Steel Worker (Mumbai)
Worker (Mumbai)
Bangla Road (Phuket/ Thailand)
Morning Wash (Delhi)
Chicken Butcher (Delhi)
Sugar Cane (Yelahanka New Town, Bangalore)
Night Time Yelahanka (Bangalore)
Mason, by Muslim Burial Ground near Hebbal (Bangalore/ India)
Steel Worker (Mumbai)
Fishing Village (Mumbai/ India)

Looking at this collection it appears that I achieve the best work when I travel and disappear by myself. Lets hope there will be more exploring in 2020. Happy New Year!

Take care and keep clicking, Chris

Photographic Marinade

Incase you have not noticed, Christmas is approaching fast. This is the time of year when it is good to take a look at the photos captured over the previous 12 months. This task involves deleting an awful lot of rubbish, but also helps uncover a few forgotten, or overlooked gems. This year’s annual cull started over the weekend and I found a batch of photos that had not been published. The images accompanying this article were all captured around the Bangla Road area of Phuket, and yes, I had forgotten about them!

Bangla Road, Phuket

The Marinade

I love a decent marinade. Yogurt with a good dollop of tikka masala will improve chicken, and beef rested in Guinness works a treat. The trick here is to LEAVE whatever you have done and come back to it later. In this sense ‘marinade’ has become a metaphor for leaving photos alone. Garry Winogrand is known for not even processing his images till a year had passed (he shot film…obviously).

Taxi!

The Importance of Time

Most of us are guilty of coming back from a photoshoot, processing the best images and uploading them to social media. However, it is hard to be a subjective judge of your own work. Often we judge photos based on the experience had while taking them, or the effort that was expended on travelling to a location. Street photography is difficult, and it can be hard to admit that a morning’s work may have ended with very little in the way of images worth publishing.

When we leave our photographs for weeks, months, or years, we lose our emotional attachment and see the images with new eyes.

Party Bus

Hidden Gems

When we first view our photos, there are always the initial obvious choices for editing and publishing. However, these choices are often cliched, or repetitions of similar other images often seen on social media. To stand out you need to be different – going back through earlier images may reveal gems previously missed. In addition, remember that photos change over time, the historical edge of a photo can make it stand out from the crowd.

That is all for today folks. Keep Clicking,

Chris

Alec Soth: Photographic Story Telling

Magnum Learn have now produced two educational programmes to inspire photographers. The first course was ‘The Art of Street Photography’, which I can’t comment on as I have not seen it! However, I am halfway through ‘Photographic Story Telling’, so this should not be thought of as a complete review, rather my first impressions. All the images posted are mine and are ones I have taken since enrolling on the course.

Clocks

Alec Soth

It is hard to describe Soth’s work. He flirts with Street, Documentary, Fine Art, Still Life and Portraiture. You get the feeling he does not care too much about how he is defined, rather his focus on is making great photographs. To further muddy the waters, he does not stick to one camera. Throughout the series Alec uses large format cameras, polaroids and digital cameras. Don’t expect much in the way of guidance on how these cameras work; it is not that kind of course.

Candid Headshot

Photographic Story Telling

The course itself is split into 19 recorded video lessons. The video sessions are accompanied by an 11 chapter ebook. The accompanying workbook has links to online resources, hidden gems within the Magnum site and photography books. To access the series you need to log on and watch online. There are numerous Youtube channels featuring Soth, so if you want a teaser of what this course offers, have a search online and listen to him talk.

What is this not…

This is not a series on technique, you will not learn about fstop and camera settings. You will not be informed of the best cameras to use, or guided through photoshop tutorials. Soth will not try and persuade you that his way is the right way, or that other photographers are wrong. You will not be lectured on ethics, or the purity of a particular genre. You will not hear how successful he has been and why his images of so fantastic (they are). So what is it?

Inspiration

Soth inspires. You get a feeling this is a programme he has put his heart into. In addition, it is made by Magnum so you know you are getting a quality production. As a viewer we get an incite to what make him tic and the journey he has been on. There are case studies where we look at Soth on location see how he works. Again, I find it hard to define any certain style or any strict rules that he follows, but he is reflective and that leads us to some understanding of how his work has progressed. Soth shares his inspirations and beginnings, and does so in a very humble manner.

Stonemason

Improving My Photography

I purchased this course in the hope of improving my photography. How is it going to do that? I am progressing through a section of this course that looks at putting together photo books, and at how different photos can be put together. What we see here is how Soth refines and edits his selection. I am not talking about editing in PS of LR, rather the process of building narrative through imagery, and he does this very well! Note – I would love to see him editing in LR and PS.

Who is it for?

This is invaluable material for those wanting to engage further with photo projects. While it will inspire photographer’s seeking the ‘decisive Bresson moment’, Soth really is not that kind of guy. On a personal note, my last Street Photography session was much more relaxed, and I found myself taking much more time ‘making’ each image and not quickly ‘taking’ each frame.

I am certain that the upcoming in-depth look at photo books is going to help when compiling and choosing future projects. In addition, most photographers can easily pass the day listening to the masters of photography. The style of photography is either for everyone or no one.

Criticism

There are tasks set for the viewer. So far I have completed one activity – to take a portrait and upload it to Instagram (with the correct hashtags of course!). So far there really are not many uploads from the course, but perhaps I am ahead of the game. I feel Magnum could look at developing an online community where purchasers of the course can discuss ideas and share photos.

Final Positives

Inspiration from a world class photographer. Yes, there are lots of inspiring youtube clips and books that you can read. However, this is a course from the World’s leading photographic agency and it is really quite special. I am sure any photographer would love to find it in their Xmas stocking!

That is all for today folks. Keep clicking, Chris

India’s Golden Triangle

The Golden Triangle is India’s most popular tourist route. Not surprisingly, the journey encapsulates three major sites. The route generally starts at Delhi, a street photographers dream and a city steeped in history, myth and architectural beauty. From Delhi you head to Agra, home of the Taj Mahal and numerous lesser-known heritage sites. The final destination is Jaipur, also known as the Pink City.

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

Despite living in India for the last two and a half years, this was the first time I explored the Golden Triangle. The route has been photographed by millions, and on a short 5 day trip I was going to struggle in terms of getting the images I sought. The Taj itself must be one of the most photographed buildings in the world and I was fortunate that only a small part of it was in scaffold!

The Baby Taj

The Itimad-ud Daulah, is more conveniently referred to as the Baby Taj. I arrived here close to mid-day, so shooting conditions were poor. However, the site is much less crowded than the Taj itself.

‘Baby Taj’

Jaipur

Jaipur is a place I wish to return to for more photography, and to stop by as a gateway to Rajasthan; an area I would dearly like to further explore. If you enjoy wandering around ancient Forts, then this is the place for you. However, what really captured my imagination were the massive astronomical instruments of Jantar Mantar. As you can see below, the potential for some interesting architectural photography is huge.

Delhi

I did not take many pictures in Delhi, and some of the more interesting places to see did not allow any photography (such as the past residence of Indira Gandhi). However, phots taken earlier this year can be seen here.

Morning Wash, Delhi

Planning a Trip?

If you are planning a trip it is well worth doing your research first. For instance, tripods are often not allowed in many of the venues. Secondly, it is worth finding the best time of day for capturing the light in each location, with mornings and evenings obviously being best. As yet I feel I have only just scraped the surface of the potential each location has for photography and I plan to return at some point.

That’s all for today folks, keep clicking, Chris x

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