Starting a Project II

Part 2. Choose a Focal Length

Street Photographers love fixed prime lenses, and for good reason. Fixed focal-length lenses are generally cheap, fast, and produce sharper images than many zooms. For this project idea, I am going to suggest picking a focal length and sticking with it. If you only have a kit lens, you can still participate, just zoom all the way in, or out, and then leave the lens alone.

Vietnam, beautiful whatever focal length!

What is Focal Length?

Focal length is how wide, or narrow the lens is. Basically, what you can see from top to bottom and left to right. Higher numbers mean the lens is very tight (narrow), and will be good for portraits, or shooting subjects from a distance. Lower numbers mean the lens is ‘wide’, and will generally be useful for Street and Architectural photography.

Here is where it all gets strange. Photographers always talk about full-frame equivalence. This is because a lens that is designed for a crop-factor camera, will create a different field of view when attached to a full-frame camera. The opposite is also true. There are many articles already written on lens equivalence and I am not going to delve into the details here, just be aware of this if you are reading about lenses, or researching your next purchase.

What Focal Lengths are Good for Street Photography?

The most popular focal length for Street Photographers is 50mm. This is what Cartier-Bresson used and is often compared to the field of vision we experience with our eyes. This lens is often referred to as the ‘nifty-fifty’. If you are shooting using a camera with an APS-C sensor, then you would use a 35mm lens to get the same effect.

Extreme Wide Angle (actually a number of images stitched together).

Another popular focal length is 35mm. The number is lower than the above 50mm recommendation, meaning the area viewed is wider. The popular Ricoh Gr series have this lens, as does the FujiFilm X100 series – both legendary cameras for Street Photography.

You can go wider and closer than the above. I often reach for my Olympus 45mm f1.8, which is a wonderful lens and useful for capturing Street Portraits. I have also undertaken projects using ultra-wide lenses, although this can be tough as strange distortions come into play.

Make it a Project

You may have recently purchased a prime lens, or be planning to do so in the future. Alternatively, you may have an older lens tucked away somewhere that you have not used for a while. For this project, simply attach the lens and leave it on your camera. Sticking with one lens will make you a better photographer. You will understand the benefits, and negatives, of each focal length you use.

Captured for a ‘wide angle’ project/ Shanghai.

Zoom with your Feet – Sort of…

If you want to get closer, you must physically move towards your subject. Your lens has no zoom to do this for you. However, do not expect to see the same results as when you use a zoom, the effect is quite different. When you shoot using the end of a zoom the picture gets compressed. Getting closer will open the frame and create an image that is much more ‘Street’.

Lenses I have Owned.

Here are some of the lenses I have owned, and often loved.

Nikon AF-S DX Nikkor 35 mm f/1.8G. If you have a crop sensor Nikon , purchase this lens. You will not regret it.

Cheap and fantastic.

Olympus M. Zuiko digital ED 45mm F/1.8. This is my favourite M4/3 lens so far.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f1.8. Small and compact, this gets the job done. Also consider the Panasonic Lumix G 20mm f/1.7 II.

Sony FE 1.8/50mm. I am a little ‘off’ with this lens to be honest, and will upgrade next time I am feeling flush.

Ricoh GRii. OK, I know this is a camera. But the 28mm fixed lens is rather fantastic. There is now a GRiii out, with a newly designed lens.

Next Week

Next week we will be looking at light as a project idea. The sun is around most of the time (at least during the day). It makes sense to carry out a project on it at some point in your photography life.

That all for today folks. Take care and keep clicking, Chris

What is a fixed prime lens and why should be use them. Can we make a 'project' from just one lens?

Starting a Project

Part 1. Choose a Location

‘The important thing is not to stop questioning; curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Sometimes our creative juices need a kick up the backside. One way to find inspiration is to start a project. It is unlikely Albert Einstein was thinking about street photographers when he made the above quote, but thinking of a question, or being curious maybe the key to creating your next photo project. This is the start of a three part series, where we take a look at project options available to street photographers.

Lady, Hongzhen Old Street

Choosing a location to focus on for an ongoing period of time is certain to create stronger photos. Each time you return you learn about what works and what doesn’t. Also, places look different depending on the time of day.

Short v Long-Term Projects

Long-term projects projects can last for months or years, my own examples being my Hongzhen Lu project (above), and more recently, the burial grounds of Bangalore (which is due a revisit.) Re-visiting a location enables relationships to be built and levels of trust to emerge. Secondly, being seen often helps you to sink into the background and you lose your novelty factor, creating opportunities for candid framing. Of course, the more often you visit a place, the greater the amount of photos you have for selection.

Short-term projects require a high degree of focus. My favourite method to enact a short term project is to disappear by myself for a long weekend. The last time I did this was to Kolkata, a colourful and busy city. Being by myself meant I was 100% engaged in capturing great photos. Next stop, Mumbai!

Short Term Project, ‘Kolkata’.

The next post will look at how choosing one piece of gear can lead to a meaningful project. I am off to Goa next week, so there may or may not be a post, as wifi is never guaranteed in India. That’s all for today folks. Feel free to check out some longer, and shorter location projects using the links at the bottom of this page.

Keep Clicking, Chris

Project Examples

A Eunuch, a Princess and a Snake Catcher.

What does a eunuch, a princess, and a snake catcher have in common? They are all included in the creation of a book, based on people living in Bangalore. Through this project I am getting to work with an inspiring team of people, and am photographing a diverse range of characters. Each of the people I am photographing has a colourful tale of life in Bangalore. On this project I am working alongside three fantastic ladies, who are writing, organising, interviewing, and finding a publisher. My role is the photographer. Here is a sneaky peak…

A Street Cleaner. One of the first characters I photographed for the project.

When people collaborate creativity increases, and this holds true for photographers. Teamwork does not necessarily come naturally to Street Photographers, who are quite happy spending hours at a time alone with just their camera. Recently, I have had the wonderful company of Kaveri, a travel guru and entrepreneur. Kaveri appears to know everyone in Bangalore, tells engaging stories and knows the best places to get breakfast. Having someone tell stories about the people being photographed adds a depth to the images which I hope will be evident in the final publication.

Diane giving a blessing.

Street v Documentary

When shooting the street, there is no expectation to walk away with an excellent photo. Indeed, great Street Photos seldom happen. This differs to a scheduled photo shoot. For this project, each photograph is the result of hours of work and organisation (and not by me – I just turn up and take the photo!). The pressure is on to get it right, each and every time. This process helps to build a strong mental checklist…

  • Is the ISO set correctly?
  • Is the shutter speed fast enough?
  • Are there any distractions in the background?
Check the background!

Moving out of our comfort zones pushes us to refine our thoughts. It is imperative to have your settings correct before taking a photo. Honing this skillset will lead to greater photographic consistency. After-all, there is nothing worse that a brilliant shot, ruined due to incorrect settings. We have all been there at least once! Sleep with your camera….

Keep Clicking, Chris

Olympus Medium-Format Camera Rumour

Recently, my world has been a little shocked, with the news that Olympus are planning a Medium-Format Camera. The rumours are that they are planning to achieve this without substantial increases in size. If you are already an Olympus user, then the news continues to get better as the new camera model will still be able to use M4/3 lenses.

New system, but keep those M4/3 lenses!
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Royal Photography Society

Christopher Page LRPS!

I have finally gained the letters LRPS after my name. This stands for ‘Licentiate Of The RPS‘, and to put it mildly, I am quite stoked. To gain the Licentiate I had to submit 10 photos to be judged before a panel of experts, and if one photo is blackballed, you fail.

My header image, which I was advised to flip left to right for easier reading.
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A Photographer’s Rant

This week I rant about what I am up to, plus I share some thoughts on gear, social media and a few current projects. It is going to be a wild ride, pour yourself a coffee and hang on! This post features some older photos, which I have submitted for screening with the Royal Photography Society (RPS), more abut that later…

Tiffen Centre
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Bargain Books in Bangalore

It is often said, ‘buy books not gear’. This is not necessarily always the best idea, for instance, a good quality 50mm 1:4 lens will capture better photos than a well-read copy of The Hobbit screwed to the front of your camera. However, books are a brilliant source of information and inspiration. In addition, looking at a printed image beats an online photo every time!

Portrait captured with a camera and not a book!
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