Pace and Street Photography

This weekend I will be returning to KR Market, which is one of my favourite locations in Bangalore for shooting Street. The market is a vibrant and colourful place, full of noise and bustle. The location is a challenge, as I enjoy capturing clear lines and clutter-free images. Often, I come away with only few keepers. However, the location is steeped in history and I feel it is worthy of a photo-book at some stage. As I keep returning with similar photos, I feel a clear focus on my own skillset is required. This weekend I am going to focus on pace.

KR Market is full of colour!

Street Photographers work at different speeds. There are those who athletically dart from one corner to the next, taking photos and moving on fast. A energetic pace can help capture people unaware, resulting in a candid image as the subject has not had time to register the photographer. Working at this pace can also produce photos of a startled strangers, who were unprepared for a camera to suddenly be thrust into their faces.

The Decisive Moment

The next style of Street Photography has grown from Cartier-Bresson’s ‘decisive moment’. This style of shooting requires patience. The photographer finds an interesting frame, and imagines how it would look with the right person walking into shot. Then the photographer sits (or stands) and waits until the image comes together. There are those who practice this skill so much their shoes grow roots and over time they turn to stone.

Wait for the right guy (or girl) to come along.

My own pace is probably somewhere in-between. I lack the energy for the high pace Parkour style photography and do not have the patience to stand waiting for the perfect frame. However, my meandering style is failing to bring home the proverbial bacon. This weekend I will embrace stillness, I will find that backdrop, chill the heck out and wait for my shot. I will create images that will put my name next to Bresson’s when discussion one again turns to the decisive moment.

Or maybe not…

A Challenge

On that note, I challenge you to go out and shoot at a different pace. Try going to the extremes and seeing how your photos look when you change your speed. Feel free to email any photos and I can feature them on this blog. As always, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Take care and keep clicking,

Chris

Thinking on Bokeh, Blur and Backgrounds.

This article is aimed at newbie and intermediate photographers. Here we will look at the importance of thinking about the backgrounds of your photos.

A blurred background makes a subject ‘pop’. Shot at F1.8.

The Basics of Bokeh

Bokeh (pronounced Bo-kay) is the area around the subject of a photo that is out of focus. This is often used in portraiture, as having the background out of focus makes the subject ‘pop’ out of the photo. Here is what Bokeh looks like with nothing else.

Photo by Val Vesa.

Now I rarely go out looking for Bokeh in my photos, as it is generally not relevant to Street Photographers. However, here is one of my images where a little Bokeh crept into the frame. In this example I was not interested the the background. The ‘joke’ of the image is captured with the inclusion of both the cigarette smoke and the pollution mask.

Take off your pollution mask when smoking!

Background Blur

This paragraph is a very rough guide on blurring the background of a photo. The above photo was taken early in the morning. The aperture of my camera was set to 1.8. Setting the aperture to a low number means that the lens opens as far as it will go (the smaller the number, the bigger the ‘hole’ in the lens.) The effect on the photo is to blur out the background. To create background blur, put your camera in aperture priority mode and set your f-stop to the smallest number. If your lens opens as wide as f2.2, you should start seeing the effect. If you want great blur or Bokeh, purchase a full-frame camera and a lens that opens to f1.2. Don’t expect much change from $6000. Kit lenses often only open to f5.6, which is generally not going to blur out anything!

See that hole in the middle of the lens? You can make it bigger or smaller. The larger it is the more your background blurs. To make the hole larger, set your camera to f2.2 and below. To make the hole small, set your aperture to f8 and above. Making the hole smaller means that more of you image will be in focus.

Further Examples

Look at the two photos below, as they demonstrate two different ways to approach the background of a photo. The first photo, with the young children was shot at f2.2, and the second subject in the background lacks definition and is quite blurry; the leading subject is strong in the frame. In comparison, with the second image, I wanted the second person to remain in (relative) focus, as I was attracted to the way he was looking at the leading subject (the main person in this photo is the Mayor of the area I was visiting. He was very chatty and very stoned!). The effects are subtle, but different.

When you don’t need blur!

Over the weekend I went out on a mission to test the Kit lens bundled with the A7iii. The lens does not appear to get great reviews, and only opens to F3.5. However, it is light weight and unobtrusive, which suits my style. Let’s look at some of the situations where background blur is not required.

Fill The Frame

In the example below I have filled the frame completely. There is no background to blur out. Problem solved!

Fill the Frame

Blow out the Highlights

In the example below, the background was an uninteresting sky. There was nothing to add by including it, blurred or un-blurred. I exposed for the face and blew out the background completely.

Include the Background

Possibly the most relevant tactic for Street Photographers is to include the background. In Street Photography, the background can be equally, or more important than the subject. Shoot at 5.6-f.9 and make sure everything is sharp. In the photo below, I wanted to see the old bikes and some of the gritty alley. I possibly could have used a narrower aperture and kept the background even sharper. However, alleys can be dark and I needed as much light as could be captured.

Keep the background in focus.

Thinking About Backgrounds

One occurring question is what mode camera mode I favour. Generally when I am on a photo walk, my camera will be stuck in aperture priority mode. This is because the background of a photo is one of the key areas I focus my mind on before capturing an image. Do I want to see the background? Do I want to blur the background? Does it add, or take away something from the scene? Choosing the right f-stop plays a vital role in this decision and is certainly an area of photography that we should all work on mastering.

That is all for today folks. Keep Clicking,

Chris

Moving to the Sony A7iii for Street Photography

A move from Olympus Cameras.

This Christmas Santa delivered an A7iii. Actually, I got a good deal on it while stuck at Singapore Airport. Does this mean I am ditching my Olympus Em5ii forever? The M4/3 (Micro four thirds) system is flexible, lightweight, responsive and home to some great lenses. I am likely to keep the system as a high-end backup and a lightweight travel option. So why change systems?

KR Market (Bangalore) Sony A7iii + 50mm FE1.8
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Best of 2018. Part 1

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.” – Ansel Adams

As the year comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on what I have achieved with my photography in 2018.  Today I scoured by hard drive for my favourite photos of the year. I will try and explain a little of what is behind each image. There will be six images in this post, and six in the next.

Varanasi

To get a good angle you sometimes need to fight for a spot. For this image I had to wade through the edges of the Ganges River to get around the crowd. A fast prime lens meant I was able to capture an image of good quality. While not ‘Street’ as many other images, it stands as a favourite.

Boy

This image falls short of being completely candid as this young boy was clearly posing for the camera. His mum was behind him in the shadow, and yanked him in after I captured this frame. While I often go out on photo walks, this image was taken while I was waiting for my Royal Enfield motorbike to be serviced.

Stone Mason, Bangalore

I love portraits, and this image has a back story. I was working on a project as part of the StepOutPhotography collective. The subject of my photo essay was the cemeteries in Bangalore. This stone mason was carving headstones outside the Muslim section of the burial ground.

Hindu Cemetery

This image was taken outside a Hindu burial ground. I like how the 3 men are passing the entrance. This was one of the final images of a days shooting.

Pattaya Ladyboy

Many of the ‘workers’ involved in Pattaya’s booming sex industry are reticent of being photographed. However, often the ladyboys were quite happy to pull a pose. I chose B+W for this image. There is a darker side to paradise!

Taxi Driver, Kolkata

Kolkata was my favourite location for photography this year. I woke up at 5am, shot like mad till 10am, and then crashed for the day. Candid photos can be a challenge in India, everyone likes to pose. Fortunately, this guy was to engrossed in the paper to notice me.

Keep an eye out for part 2!

Take Care and Keep Clicking, Chris

Ten Tips to Ignore

Bit of a fun article here. Don’t take these ideas too seriously. Hopefully the points made will make you think a little differently from everyone else. This post is inspired by my current thinking, which is that we have to do something different to stand out. If we all follow the same ‘rules’ then everything will look the same…

#9 Asking permission would have ruined this image.
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Still Life Tells a Story..

It has been a busy week. G+ is being killed off and members of the SPC group are spreading like butter on a bonfire. Alternative sites are Flickr, 500px, Mewe, Facebook and Instagram. Well, I started on Flickr (again), and continue to post to Instagram, but really have not got into 500px at all. My current champion is MeWe, it is small and most certainly the underdog of social media. You can join the SPC group using the link below.

https://mewe.com/join/street_photographers

Still Life

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Shoes

While I generally look for interesting people to photograph, there are still other oddities that catch my eye. These shoes were halfway down a stairwell of a subway running under a major road (just after the Hebel flyover, for you Bangalore dwellers). They were in great condition, and look quite posh for the location. Whose were they and why were they there? The owner was long gone.

In the photography world there are rules, questions and guidelines sprouting from every corner of the internet. Sometimes we just have to keep it simple and find a frame that poses a question.

Here is my second favourite photo from the morning, taken in the same subway. It is obviously not a still life. I like how one person is in in colour and the second is silhouetted. I may re-visit this area and try to get a more colourful composition as a bright red Sari would look fantastic.

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On a final note, my photo editing is changing. In the past, I have always muted my colours, but lately I am heading in the opposite direction and increasing the vibrance. Maybe I felt a embarrassed posting colour images in a genre that follows a strong tradition on Black and White. Maybe it is just because India is just fantastically colourful!

My next set of photos will be from Goa as I take a break to celebrate Diwali, the festival of light. Now that sounds like a celebration designed for photographers!

Thats all folks. Keep clicking, and happy Diwali.

Chris

Olympus (1 of 1)

Three Photos to Capture.

“F8 and be there.”

‘F8 and be there,’ is the explanation ‘Weegee’ gave when asked how his photos were so consistent, and it has become something of a mantra for Street and Documentary photographers. When using a Full Frame camera, shooting at F8 ensures everything is in focus. If you are not using full frame, the F number becomes lower. Explore google if you want to know why. This is not a technical article.

Weegee followed a rule, and everybody followed Weeggee. As a result, there is now a heap of Street Photography that all looks the same. It reminds me of a joke I read this morning, ‘How do you milk sheep?’. Answer – ‘release a new iphone.’ Here are three photos you can take if you want to capture something a little different. Don’t worry, there are no more jokes.

Long Exposure Photography

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Long Exposure

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