Today I am reduced to posting the kind of image that inspires within me self loathing; a hipsteresque image of coffee and my camera (the only thing I despise more is the horrible ice cream glass some chains insist on for lattes).
I lost my bottle. I tried to take an image of a guy on a BMX, lost confidence so asked, and was told to beat it (in more colourful language).
I should have carried on shooting elsewhere, but instead gave up for a while. The reality is there is very little conflict in street photography. Yet, when it happens, it makes me want to give up. I listen to John Free tell me that street photography is a noble endeavour. But sometimes it seems to be perceived as less than honourable.
It is a fairly mainstream activity. Today I listened to part of the fascinating story of Vanley Burke documenting the experience of the African-Caribbean community in England. This was a Radio 4 programme. Hardly an underground or especially edgy source. The story told the response of some of his subjects discovering his candid shots. In the main they sounded ok with it and some sounded pleased.
However, with some of the present anxiety over GDPR (which will hopefully turn out to be unwarranted) and the potential for conflict, I wonder if it’s time for a change of direction. Or at least until I get my bottle back.
In these circumstances I enjoy doing something different. For example, occassionally I get the opportunity to photograph events. It gives me the chance to plug in the flash and take some non-candid shots and portraits. I find that mft cameras can generally deal well enough with the light conditions and my little Nissin i40 flash does a brilliant job with the problem situations.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This image was not the best shot from a half hour photo dash yesterday. But as I reviewed the shots today I was delighted.
Ideally, this blog would showcase some incredible craftsmanship, but clearly there are technical issues with the shot; it’s blurred, his feet are cut off, etc. Instead, I like this shot because it highlights the funny, serendipitous and even surreal wold of street photography.
I took the shot because I liked the look; sunglasses with masked face. But I couldn’t have anticipated that at the ‘decisive moment’ the bus would pass and create both a colourful background and more importantly a great subtext! That’s what makes street photography such a humbling exercise. Some of the best shots work not due to great skill and composition but as a happy accident.
Recently Olympus brought out the beautiful Pen F. It’s a lovely blend of extreme retro styling and advances in technology, for example it matches the Panasonic GX8’s 20MP sensor. Personally I’d prefer a bit of a front grip but I guess that might spoil the rangefinder aesthetics.
When new products arrive, I often find myself worrying that my gear might be inadequate. This usually develops into a mild obsession as I pour over articles and reviews, often that I’ve already read, to prove to myself that I should stick with what I’ve got.
This time I took comfort in Thomas Leuthard’s various comments that he’s happy with the Olympus OMD EM10 despite having use of the EM1 and the mk11 versions of the EM10 and EM5. I read somewhere that Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey prefers cheaper, less complex digital cameras too.
After obsessing with camera bodies, I moved on to lenses. But again I eventually found solace in re-reading a post on m43photo blog (here) stating that the fastest glass is not necessary the best. For street shooting especially I’m increasingly aware that I shoot mainly in the f4-f8 range which negates the need for lightening fast primes.
So, after wasting time with this technological naval gazing, I returned to actually taking pictures.
Today, I found myself listening to Woman’s Hour on Radio 4. Feeling suitably confident in my masculinity, and because there was no one else in the car to laugh, I left it on. The discussion was about fashion in your 80s and 90s.
Believe it or not, it was actually pretty interesting listening to a 95 year old lady talk about how important her clothes were to her; being all she had left in terms of self-expression, and that she still dressed with the opposite sex in mind.
Later as I walked through town I passed the lady in the shot above, standing at a bus stop. I doubt she falls into the age category discussed in Woman’s Hour, but I couldn’t help notice how much effort she had made with her appearance.
I asked to take her picture, as I didn’t want to be intimidating. She seemed hesitant at first but I explained that I like to photograph interesting people and I thought she looked very glamorous. This is shot is from after the street portraits once she had relaxed a little.
I recently read an article aimed at improving street photography. Part of the premise was that simply taking shots of relatively interesting looking people does not make good street images. Instead looking for shots that capture facial expressions or physical gestures can be much more engaging (you can read the article here).
So, I thought I’d keep that in mind when I was shooting later that day.
The image above is an attempt to catch a facial expression. I was standing at a bus stop in the rain, disappointed that I’d not taken any good pictures that day. Then the lady appeared standing in front of me staring up. I liked her facial expression because she seemed to be transfixed. I called it Epiphany imagining that she was perhaps watching Angel’s lighting up the sky. In reality she is looking at the electronic bus stop, presumably trying to work out when her bus may arrive.
A few years ago I picked up an old OM 50mm 1.8 with a mft adapter. It was fun to use and nice as a portrait lens (100mm equiv.)
The adapter was poor quality and eventually the coating started to come off. Concerned that it would mess up the inside of my camera I left the lens aside.
So, yesterday I bought an old OM-10 and some ilford film to begin an experiment in going analogue.
I’m not sure how the OM-10 will fair in street photography it has the loudest shutter action I’ve ever heard. But time will tell.
The image above shows the similarity between the OM-10 and the EM10.