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Author Topic: Street Photography for the Purist  (Read 4012 times)

Offline theqca

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Street Photography for the Purist
« on: July 28, 2014, 12:21:29 AM »
Street Photography for the Purist

I've been intending to write about street photography for some time now...because its been a very misunderstood genre and because i've seen a number of photos posted here as well as on other forums trying to pass off as "street photography".

I dont blame the people who've posted them - If you google "street photography" there's a huge amount of misleading information that you'll end up with. For some reason, there just isnt enough accurate information out there. Google Landscape photography or portrait photography and you'll get more or less tips and stuff that will get you started. But sadly not for street photography.

I've seen photos posted on the forum which are like snapshots taken on the road - that is not street photography..."street" is a niche genre that is difficult to master but very very rewarding.

There is no manual or instruction book that you can read which will make you a street photographer. I'm sharing the little that i know inter-spaced with some extracts from the book. Its also very difficult to explain what exactly is meant when we say that a photograph has to have a "story" and why this story is an essential element in street photography.

So the next best thing i could think of doing was to write a short review on this fabulous 160 page Free ebook by the amazingly talented Chris Weeks in the hope that you will read this book and understand:

- What exactly is street photography
- What is meant by getting close to the subject
- Why black and white and why not colour
- What is meant by having a "story" in the photograph
- How do you train yourself to be a street photographer



"Street Photography is easy. And it is difficult.
It is easy because you find your subjects virtually everywhere. You don?t need to go for the extraordinary. Far from it.
The ordinary, everyday-thing is our matter of interest.
It is difficult because the line to taking snapshots is very thin.
Snap-shooters produce pictures, but don?t take photos.
Snap-shooters just direct their camera to whatever comes in sight and press the button.
The gear is not important for this matter.
A snap-shooter with a Leica is still a snap-shooter.

Street Photographers work differently. Their photo has been created in their mind - long (seconds or milliseconds) before they release the shutter"


The book has an amazing collection of photographs infact the book is filled with them and has small bits of write-ups by street photographers who are patient enough to explain the nuances of this genre - look at each and every single photograph carefully and try and search for the story...

- look at what you think is the subject..then look again...
- look for what's missing..try and understand why its missing...look for emotions..
- look at how there is an emotional contrast between the subject and the surroundings..
- re-look at all the photos again and feel each one of them.
- Dont look for sharpness....train ur mind to look for  stories instead. This genre is not about technical accuracy...its about people & their stories narrated in b&w by master story tellers.


"You never know when that circumstance will look lovely.
Well-composed.
Maybe not the sharpest.
Maybe there?s a lot of grain.
Maybe it?s even slightly out-of-focus. Never stopped Mssr. Cartier-Bresson! ;)
But it works.
I don?t forgive a lot of mistakes with other photography but with street just its imperfect roots lend some forgiveness."


The book is a bit "old school" err..like me.
And Chris wants you to understand whats the big deal about using a rangefinder and not an DSLR. He also talks about why an SLR with a long zoom lens is not the same as going close to the subject and being part of the "moment" with a fast 50mm / 35mm mounted on a rangefinder.

He explains how you need to enter the subjects comfort zone...
How photos need to be taken without the subject knowing that they are being photographed - there's a difference between a subject who's looking at the camera but doesn't know he's being photographed vs someone who does. Learn to understand how this difference makes a difference to your street photos.

"If you don?t feel well in public places, if you happen be the autistic type of guy, Street Photography is probably not for you. If you think that using a 300mm makes you a Street Photographer, you are dreaming.

Get close, be part of the scenery, visible or unnoticed, but don?t behave like an intruder or bully.

If you still carry the manual of your camera with you in your bag, come back when you are able to operate it blindfolded and/or from your hip. Butif you feel that your camera is an organic part of your body and the lens your third eye, go out and play.

HCB once said: ?Photographers are like butterflies. They flutter from photo to photo.? Be a butterfly"


The book forces you to understand the meaning of the word stealth..and how classical street photographers "shot from the hip".

Chris talks about doing things the old way - writing down exposure values on a piece of paper...try it out..it really works. Those of you who've shot with me know that i can fairly accurately predict shutter speed and aperture by guesswork without using a camera meter  ....its because i have actually written stuff down in the good old days. It takes a bit of practice but you'll get the hang of it.

This book is powerful enough to make you go and buy a rangefinder (no..mine are not for sale so what if they're not Leica's).

Well you may not really buy one...... but it sure will make you look at things differently and it sure will either make you give up sloppy attempts at street photography or renew ur passion and make you take the plunge and open up a whole new dimension in your journey towards photographic artistry.


------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Chris weeks is a free lance editorial photographer based in Los Angeles. He's shot commercially for Rolling Stone, Instyle, People etc etc. Some of his work can be viewed here - http://www.chrisweeks.net/

Street photography is something he does over and above his commercial work. His ebook specifically mentions that it may not be hosted anywhere else so I've not put it up here on the forum.

You can however download the ebook from its original location till Chris feels it okay to keep it up there - http://fc01.deviantart.net/fs11/f/2006/227/e/2/street_photography_for_the_purist.pdf



ps - Chris, incase you ever happen to come across this post - a genuine and heartfelt thank you for putting this ebook together and putting it up on the internet. Take a bow :)
« Last Edit: August 18, 2014, 06:17:34 PM by Ayaz »
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

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Offline Subhadip

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2014, 08:57:33 AM »
 :like: - GREAT
Mad about Nikon... :)

Offline Fake ID

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2014, 10:04:05 AM »
TFS !  :like:
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Offline LightWave

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2014, 11:02:46 AM »
Super job.

Offline somnath goswami

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2014, 11:47:23 AM »
Fine read

Offline dashillol

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2014, 03:34:46 PM »
Brilliant work.
A Nikon lover with few glasses, Nikon and Yongnuo speedlights, Benro tripod with ball-head and a few Hoya/Nikon/Marumi/Griffin filters

Offline gsferrari

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2014, 05:46:02 PM »
I haven't read it yet but I must thank you for this insight.
With the X-T1 in the hand and an X100SS or X200S or whatever they call it in the pipeline...I expect to be shooting/interacting with people on the street a lot more in the future.

Thanks Ayaz!
Fuji X-T1 / 56mm f/1.2 / 10-24mm f/4
Lee 100mm Filter Holder / 0.9 ND Soft Grad / B&W CPL / Lee Big Stopper

Offline nmanikoth

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2014, 07:19:32 AM »
Thank you for the excellent write-up on a not very well understood topic and for the link to download the book.
Have a great day!
nataraj

Offline theqca

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2014, 02:05:46 PM »
Happy you guys are giving it a serious read!

@gsferrari - do let me know ur thoughts when you go through it in detail.
Yes the x100s could be described as the modern rangefinder.. Ur X-T1 with the fast lens can also be used in a similar manner to be honest..if you've made up ur mind that these emotional stories type of pics are the kinds you want to shoot then there's no stopping you.....ur equipment may not have the charm of the old Leica that Chris keeps referring to but i guess its the next best thing out there. Look forward to seeing the stories in ur photos.

« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 04:10:01 PM by Ayaz »
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline SharatKolke

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #9 on: July 29, 2014, 06:08:51 PM »
Lovely review. Not at all a genre, I would like to pursue. Guess I am what you have called 'an autistic guy'. Nevertheless made a very good reading.

Offline Hankosaurus

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #10 on: July 30, 2014, 11:59:46 PM »
Thanks, Ayaz.

Great contribution, great initiative.

I understand and "get" Chris Week's enthusiasm for the Leica M, but I find it hard to believe that a digital equivalent for street photography is not possible or practical as a good alternative to the Leica M at this point.  The Leica M9, for one.

Chris's categorical push-back against digital media seems a bit over the top, IMO.  To me, digital media is like having yet another kind of film.  It has its own character, limitations, benefits (immediacy being the big one), flaws, and so on.  I think that artists of all ages have used the tools available to them in their time to express themselves.  If HCB were alive and young today, I wonder what camera he would be using.  I think he would like the Leica M9, and maybe some of Fuji's newer products.

I made it to about page 56 of the ebook and had to park it to do some other things.  I'll pick it up, finish, and come back to this thread a bit later.  Thanks again for this and your other fine contributions to our learning.

Happy Day.

:)
Henry
A Certified Dinosaur
D700, F, F2, M3

Some say that those of us who like to talk about cameras should instead go and take pictures. I say we should go and also take pictures.

Offline gsferrari

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #11 on: July 31, 2014, 11:57:48 AM »
Something in-line with the e-Book author's opinion about shooting film/rangefinder vs. digital/SLR

Is it possible to become a better photographer with a good light-meter in the hand?

The background to this is the difference between my Nikon D600 and my Fuji X-T1. Both can be operated in full manual mode and both offered full control over Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure compensation.

The difference is that the OVF of the D600 did not give you feedback on what the exposure was going to look like while the EVF of the Fuji darkens/brightens depending on the changes you make to the settings. I am using the Fuji essentially in "noise control" mode most of the time by trying to use as low an ISO as possible to keep the images clean. There are times when I shoot in DOF mode with aperture control and then bump up or down the ISO and shutter speed to get the EVF view to a point which I think is a decent exposure to work with in PP.

Somehow I think this EVF is spoiling me and removing my thought process / development of that innate knowledge of what the ISO/Aperture/Shutter speed would need to be when you just glance at a scene with your bare eyes...the ability to make that judgement call which would be invaluable when you shoot film because there aren't too many second chances with film.

Does this sound right?

Will a light-meter help me "train" to be a better "exposure analyst" by playing with one and pointing it at different scenes and selecting an aperture and then guessing what the other two settings should be? Or is this just nonsense?

Fuji X-T1 / 56mm f/1.2 / 10-24mm f/4
Lee 100mm Filter Holder / 0.9 ND Soft Grad / B&W CPL / Lee Big Stopper

Offline theqca

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #12 on: August 01, 2014, 08:22:47 AM »
@sharat - In September You, Rajesh and I are going to muster up the courage and shoot a series of 20 portraits titled "20 strangers"...Start preparing ur self ;)

@Henry - Yeah so i guess Chris Weeks talks about the Leica and film from the heart rather than the head. But its a passion for him so the heart rules the head. He appears to be more than open to using everything modern for his commercial work.  If HCB were alive and young..i dont think he'd be able to afford the M9...me thinks he'd most probably have picked up something like the X100 from the Buy and Sell section of a forum ;)
Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline theqca

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #13 on: August 01, 2014, 08:46:23 AM »


Is it possible to become a better photographer with a good light-meter in the hand?

The background to this is the difference between my Nikon D600 and my Fuji X-T1. Both can be operated in full manual mode and both offered full control over Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure compensation.

Does this sound right?

Will a light-meter help me "train" to be a better "exposure analyst" by playing with one and pointing it at different scenes and selecting an aperture and then guessing what the other two settings should be? Or is this just nonsense?

Honest answer - there's no rule that you cant use xyz camera for abc type of a shot.

My thoughts are (and I'm sure Henry will agree or correct me if needed) - street shooters in the good old days used a rangefinder because it was silent & convenient, was very inconspicuous, gave complete control over settings, allowed the usage of a fast fixed focal length lens and you could shoot without putting the camera to your eye (u gauge the distance and set focus using markings on the ring). This sort of created a "style" of photography which appeals to a die hard street photographer.

Technically you may be able to use any camera (including a huge DSLR with a zoom lens) to get a similar image..you can shoot in colour and convert it to b&w - add grains, edit, chop, photo-chop etc etc - but its more fun doing it with a rangefinder or maybe some modern rangefinder equivalent today. (I wont consider a mobile camera as worth it because of the lack of controls, no fast lens, no shallow dof etc etc)

The end viewer or the common man who's going to view ur work maybe at home / in office etc doesn't really care how you got a photograph or what equipment you used - but for some "photographers" the fun is in creating the photograph more than just the end result...

I guess im just wandering off track - to get back to ur specific questions:

Is it possible to become a better photographer with a good light-meter in the hand? - you can buy a sekonic or maybe download an app on the i-phone / android device that will give you exposure values for a particular reading.
If you look at it often enough it will be more or less the same as "writing" stuff down.
If keep looking at it often enough you should be able to judge or guess exposure on ur own.
The point is will this really help? The answer depends on what you want to do - if you want to enjoy the act of creating an image then yes...but if ur just bothered about the end result then im sure the electronic wizardry at ur disposal will make life easier. Even if you shoot film you can use an electronic film camera that will do everything for you.

a suggestion - if you'd like to train yourself in understanding how exposure values work for a particular scene - at first use just the shutter and aperture...keep the ISO constant at whatever is the "normal" setting you'd want to use and dont keep changing it. Once you've figured things out you can then move to pushing the ISO. 








Nikon FM(black), Nikon FG, Nikon D700, Nikon FM(silver), Nikon FM10, Pentax Spotmatic, Zenith TTL, Minox Wetzlar, Agfa Optima III, Yashica & Rollei rangefinders etc

28mm 2.8, 70-300vr, 200mm f4, 50mm 1.4, 55mm 2.8 macro, 50mm 1.8, 16mm 2.8, 70-210 f4 macro, Lensbaby, Helios 44 f2, 90mm macro, etc

Offline yndesai

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Re: Street Photography for the Purist
« Reply #14 on: November 28, 2014, 11:00:05 PM »
OMG How did I miss this post.

I just read the book. Learnt some slang along with understanding lot of things about street.

Lastly he is at his best when he tells:
"Is it sharp? I think it?s sharp enough. I prefer content over sharpness.
Sharpness is cool but it?s overrated.
Just like MTF charts. Wanna know what MTF charts are? Google the fucker."

Thanks for sharing
http://yndpics.blogspot.com

Best accessory of camera is 3" behind it,
And mine needs an upgrade. . . ;)