Street Photography Quiz…

How Cool Are You?

As most of my readers know. Street Photography is the coolest of the photography genres. There are many reasons for this, but before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s look at why we are so damn cool.

  • Landscape photographers are just weird. Who gets up at sunrise and wants to carry a tripod all day?
  • Minimalist photographers don’t have much substance.
  • Macro Photographers don’t see the big picture
  • Boudoir photographers (we’re just jealous)
  • Studio Photographers don’t get out enough.

However, not all Street Photographers are born equal. Some are much cooler that others. To see how you rank, please take the quiz below. Each answer has points next to it, be honest and let others know how cool you really are. Ready?

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Walking Home and the Imperfect Photograph

The Challenge

Recently, through the StepOutPhotography Collective, my friend Birka Weidmaier has challenged me to take imperfect photos. This challenge is harsh, I know what you’re thinking, there are never any imperfect photos posted to pagespics.com! To rise to this challenge I need to look at unusual angles and focus points. Secondly, I am not allowed to crop or adjust the horizon on my photos. I can take a week deciding if a horizon is straight, and trying to get it wrong ON PURPOSE sends shivers down my spine.

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At an Angle!

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Photography Gear For Hot Climates

What do you need for a Days Street Photography in a hot country?

India is HOT at the moment. Currently, Bangalore is subject to brief, but heavy tropical rains. This weekend I found myself taking photos in one of the Cemeteries close the to centre of town. On the way to town, the skies turned black. By the time I arrived at the Graveyard the heavens had opened, and it was raining cats and dogs. I ran to the nearest area of shelter, on the edge of the cemetery and sat amongst the gravediggers waiting for the rain to subdue. Sometimes adverse conditions lead to opportunities, and I came away with photos to compliment a project I am currently working on.

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Using Auto Mode To Learn Photography.

Firstly, thanks to Anuj Agarwal for including this blog in the Top 75 Street Photography Blogs & Websites. I’m in at Number 54, which can’t be a bad thing. I now get to use this rather snazzy looking award. Check out the full list of sites at blog.feedspot.com/street_photography_blogs/

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When to use Auto Mode

Yesterday I shot with the intention of seeing how my new Sony Rx100 iv behaved as a camera for Street Photography. Read any reviews on the Sony Rx series, and it soon becomes clear that the controls are not user-friendly. This camera begs for use of automation. Putting the camera in Auto mode strips the user of some artistic control, such as choice of f-stop, or the focus point. However, cameras appear to be growing in ‘intelligence’, and sometimes the auto mode will make a far better choice of settings then you or I ever would.

Street Portrait

The Importance of EXIF

My argument for using Auto mode is that it is a tool that can teach us more about how a camera works. To learn what the camera can do, you need to study the EXIF data. For any newbies out there, this is the information stored in the file telling you the settings used. The EXIF will state the ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focal Length. When using Lightroom, hitting ‘i’ will bring up this information. Checking the EXIF will give you a good starting point for what settings you can try, and it will also tell you a little bit about your camera.

What I Learned

My learning experience will be different to yours; this information is just an example of what the EXIF can teach us. Firstly, I was pleasantly surprised at how the camera kept the ISO low. A low ISO means less noise and a better quality photo. Unless I discover a shortcut, this particular camera is likely to remain in Auto ISO mode as I am happy with the settings it defaults to (Although I may see if I can set the front ring to adjust this setting).

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EXIF: 1/80 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800

Secondly, the camera ‘chose’ an F-stop that was much lower than I would have dialed in. I often shoot using a high F-stop to get everything in focus (except for Street Portraits), however, with the Rx100 images look sharp enough at around f2.8. There is a reason for using different aperture settings with respect to sensor size. I have always used an APS-C or a M4/3 sensor. The Sony has a smaller 1″ sensor. The smaller the sensor, the lower the f-stop can be while retaining sharpness, i.e., I will go up to f8 using my Nikon D7100 (APS-C sensor) and up to 5.6 with my Olympus (M4/3). After studying my EXIF, I will stick to 2.8 for most of my Street Photography undertaken with the Sony Rx100.

The EXIF showed the camera chose an adequate shutter speed, although it erred on the safe side, often shooting at 1/200+ for stationary subjects . With the camera’s five-axis stabilization, I know I can take photos handheld with speeds as low as 1/30 of a second. Shutter speed is one reason why I would never default to just using Auto mode. I can see how fast something is moving and know the shutter speed my camera needs to be set for keeping an image sharp.

Focus on the frame, not the camera settings.

To learn effectively, it is often wise to focus on ONE skill. If you are not proficient at getting out of auto (or slow at finding the right settings), then you can choose to allow the camera to handle all of that for you. AUTO mode will free you to think only about composition, a skill arguably more important than understanding a camera’s settings.

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EXIF: 1/250 sec, f/2.8, ISO 125

Now get out of AUTO!

I am not advocating using the Automatic mode all the time. Ultimately it will make you a lazy photographer. Learning how the different settings work will give you artistic freedom to create the photo you envision when spotting a scene of interest. However, don’t snub it – the technology is becoming better all the time, and the camera can make some significant decisions on its own. Don’t forget to study the EXIF data to find out what the camera has done. Follow this up by thinking about WHY the camera has chosen the settings it did.

That all for today folks. Keep an eye on my Youtube channel. My next Vlog post is going to go into more depth on my experience of using the Sony Rx100 iv for Street Photography.

Take care and Keep Clicking, Chris

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Traveling with the Olympus EM5ii.

During the last couple of weeks, I have not been posting much online. I have been visiting a remote location with no wifi and a phone that ran out of credit. However, I have still been busy on a couple of projects. The photos will emerge at some point, so watch this space. Here is a little teaser of what I have been doing.

Karate Kid

Karate Kid was happy to perform for the camera.

The Nilgiris Hills, India

I am fortunate to have spent the last week camping out with my Grade 6 class at the Nilgiris Hills, in Southern India. As well as being responsible for student wellbeing, I also had the task of photographing the week’s events. My gear of choice was the Olympus Em5ii with the 12-40mm and 25mm lenses. I am used to using this camera for a day’s photography. However, using it for a full week, from when I woke up to when I went to bed was going to show up its strengths and weaknesses.

Battery Life

I took two batteries with me; one is an official Olympus battery and one a cheap knock-off from China. In general, there was always a charging point nearby. However, the life of these batteries is still way shorter than with my Nikon D7100, which can run for days without a charge. A couple of tips, turn the screen around and just use the EVF. I also turned off the image stabilization for a lot of the time; mainly when there was a lot of sunlight. Mirrorless has caught up with DSLR’s in every aspect but battery life, and the Olympus range of cameras is no exception.

Lens Choice

The 12-40mm lens will remain my go-to choice for Street and People Photography. However, in this situation, there were times when I wished my lens had more reach. While nature photography is not my usual bag, if I see a wild animal then I damn well want to capture of shot of it. As well as a plethora of exciting bird life, I was privileged to witness a herd of wild Gaur, these are huge horned cows and are pretty dangerous. I managed to get reasonably close for a picture but would have loved a longer lens. The 12-40mm range also falls short when needed for sporting activities, such as abseiling. On the Street, I can get close to people, but with nature and sport, this intimacy is not so achievable. Olympus have a 12-100mm lens that would be ideal for this kind of camp, but I don’t think I would want to be using a lens that big and heavy every day. The strength of the 4/3’s system is, in part, due to its compactness.

Wild Gaur

A Wild Gaur. One of the few times I wish I had more reach with my zoom.

Firmware and User Experience

I had updated the firmware and lost my customized settings, and this meant I had to set my camera up once more. Re customizing my camera turned out to be a good thing, and I am now pretty happy with my settings, which I will share with you at some point. People criticise the controls of the Olympus cameras, but time spent customizing your Olympus camera will make it sing. While away I also had a chance to play with the pixel shift technology, for some reason the camera chose to shoot in Jpeg format, which while not ideal, helped to ensure that I got it right ‘in camera.’ However, this is not a feature I am likely to use much.

Nilgiri Hills

Landscape taken using the Olympus ‘pixel shift’ technology. Edited with a filter using On1.

Photos and Video Quality

Once again, I love the images captured with this camera. For a short period, I will leave the album up on this site (https://pagespics.com/nilgiris-camp/). The photos are a little different from my usual fare, but it is a great way to share the images with the students who came on camp. Again, I always shoot RAW to get the best out of my camera.   To edit the multiple photos quickly, I used the synchronize option in Lightroom.

I do not usually use my Olympus for a lot of video. However, this may change as I am happy with the footage captured. The 5 axis image stabilisation worked a treat. You can see the final edited version of the movie on my YouTube channel. The image stabilization meant I could leave my tripod in the bag. Again, with Micro 4/3’s less is more! I love to travel light. My editing was carried out using iMovie, although basic, it is a piece of software that gets the job done, plus the price is perfect!

Final Thoughts

I had a great week, taking pics with my camera. I loved its compactness and versatility, and the photos look great. I would have liked the batteries to have had a better life and would have appreciated a little more length on the zoom. If I threw money at these issues, I could get a battery grip and the 12-100mm lens. However, there is no extra pay for taking photos when I am at work, so it would be hard to justify the cost. Adding these extra’s would also negate the advantage of the system’s compactness, plus I do not need either of these items for my Street Photography.

The Week Ahead.

Tonight I head for a brief stint in the UK, which is covered in snow. It has been a few years (at least) since I last experienced cold weather and I own NO warm clothes. Hopefully I will get a chance get out and capture a little Street Photography.

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