Trying Street Photography   

delanys-coffee

morning-riders

metro-free-daily

street-window

walking-down-the-street

 

 

Last week I wrote about my short adventure wandering Denman Street and the Stanley Park area of Vancouver, BC, with my camera.

Each morning I got up early so I could stroll Denman Street before the sidewalks filled with too many people. I wanted to try to find the kind of people some street photographers do find, but I’ll admit that I am not very comfortable with that invasive type of photography.

I am sure there are some street photographers that might laugh at my reticence at photographing people going about their life in any area, be it city street or a back alley, with their various paraphernalia of shopping carts, back packs, box houses, or bicycles. I really like the genre of street photography; I mean to say I really enjoy looking at photographs made by photographers that are good at street photography.

I think that successful street photography captures a moment from the society around us. It’s a moment in time that is an important for the present and future.

I am sure some photographers shoot for the challenge, and there are some that wander the city with their cameras as a release of stress from everyday existence, while others have a need to make some statement about the world in which they live.

I try to do a bit but I expect it will take me more preparation than a few early morning walks to get my head in the correct creative space it takes to do street photography.

I searched for some street photography tips and here are a few I found.

  1. Use a wide-angle lens.
  2. Get close.
  3. Look for juxtaposition.
  4. Focus on the essential.
  5. Look for the light and shadows
  6. Look at the foreground and the background.
  7. Tell a story.

I read that in a good street photograph it is possible for a viewer to see and maybe imagine more than the original photographer intended. Practicing street photographers capture fleeting moments, interpreting life around them, and challenging our perceptions of the world.

I have had some limited success at country fairs and city festivals in the past. This time I intended to get pictures of people going about their daily life on Denman. There is so much happening on a city street, or even within a small neighborhood, that it takes a good eye, and a fast camera, to capture it all.

Most of the street photographers I follow online shoot with small mirrorless cameras and are good at getting up close, but, personally, I would have been more comfortable with a mid-range telephoto. However, attaching a big lens on big DSLRs makes a photographer stand out. When I pointed my camera along the walk people would actually stop and wait for me, or change course to walk around me. Oh well, there will be another time and I can plan on trying again.

Wikipedia defines Street photography as ”Photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places”.

The genre of street photography is an old one and since the early days of photography there are those that have left us with their own styles of street photography that affects each viewer on an emotional level.

I welcome the comments of street photographers.

 On Vacation in Vancouver.     

2-laughing-sculpture

3-group-laughing

4-denman-street

5-bike-rentals

6-bicycles-only

7-english-bay-bike-path

8-english-bay

9-tree-top

9a-mounted-police

9b-harbour-air

9c-grandville-bridge

9e-night-harbour

9f-expo-sales

9g-vancouver-harbour-lights

9h-park-goose

“We should go on some kind of trip”.  When my wife said that a month ago she didn’t have to do much to convince me.  So about an hour later we had reserved a top floor room at the hotel on the corner of Davie and Denman Streets in Vancouver.

We chose Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so we would miss the weekend rush.  After a picturesque five-hour drive through British Columbia’s coastal mountains I was carrying suitcases and my bag loaded with our cameras up to our room.

What a great location. Not only were we moments away from the restaurant and bar scene of one of Vancouver’s most exciting areas that divides the city from the magnificent 400-hectare natural rainforest of Stanley Park, but right across the boulevard from our hotel was picturesque English Bay.

I discovered Denman Street when I first moved to Canada in the 1970s. Maybe it was the curiosity I had for a street that sounded and was spelled pretty closely to my name, I don’t know. But in any case the street was just as much fun then as it is all these years later.  One can either join others people watching while sitting at an out door pub, or choose food from almost any country in the world. We chose Greek at the English Bay for our first evening meal of the trip.

The next morning, while my wife slept I put a 24-70mm lens on my camera and headed out. There wasn’t much traffic on the street, or people walking along Denman. It was easy to photograph the buildings and I picked out a funky little coffee shop that we could go to later.  I walked the street and wandered the alley behind our hotel, (I like alleys) then headed for the beach.

My mother always told me to look both ways and be careful of cars when I crossed the street, but she never told me how dangerous it was to cross the bike path along English Bay. I dodged several riders and jumped to the lawn covered with slippery geese droppings when a woman rider zoomed by yelling, “Bikes only!”

I suppose I have become one of those hick tourists gawking at all the sights of the big city, but I reached the safety of the beach where I could meander along pointing my camera where I pleased.  Gosh, I even got to meet local Vancouver photographer Trent Watts, who was kind enough to take time out of his morning to talk with me.

Linda finally got up, and after coffee at the little shop I found earlier, we decided to drive into Stanley Park to take pictures of the harbour and stopped for anything we thought might make a fun picture. We also were looking for a good vantage to take some night pictures of the bright city across the harbour. Gosh, we had so much fun we overlooked having lunch.

Much later we wanted to try our hotel’s fish n’ chips special being offered for supper, however even that had to wait because I stopped to photograph and talk with the two Canadian Mounties who have special dispensation to rest their horses after touring through the park in the cool pleasant entrance of our hotel’s basement parkade.

After supper I went out for night shots of the Granville Street Bridge that crosses both a boat filled water way into English Bay and the shopping district of Granville Island and joined several other photographers on the beach as the sun went down. Then just after 8:30 packed up and drove off for more photos at the location we had chosen in the park.

 

The next morning I must have been tired after all the previous day’s activities, because after I had photographed a white goose honking loudly at me on the beach I checked my watch and it was a late 7AM.  Oh, well I had a good time and anyway I was on vacation!

Camera Care On Wet Days    

linda-shooting-in-the-rain

Barriere, British Columbia Star Journal newspaper Editor, Jill Hayward, asked me to discuss the use, care of, and protection of cameras, lenses, and other photographic equipment during wet conditions. She worried about people carrying and using their cameras under the wet conditions at the North Thompson Fall Fair this past weekend. She also mentioned that she meets many local photographers that have scratched lenses.

I rarely let wet days limit my photography. Nevertheless, with the exception of those expensive pro level DSLRs and, of course, a few small waterproof cameras, most of the cameras photographers use don’t have much resistance to water.

Several years ago my wife, Linda, and I took a photography vacation on Vancouver Island. The weather was forecast to be completely rainy, so we prepared with plastic bags to cover our cameras, umbrellas to deflect water off our viewfinders, hairdryers to dry out cameras and tripods every evening, and wet weather attire because we didn’t want wet clothing. The trip was a bit uncomfortable, but the coastal downpour didn’t stop us from doing photography, and we didn’t waste a day of that trip huddled indoors. We were outside, cameras in hand, every day of that excursion and returned with great pictures, and a fun experience of shooting in the rain.

We had a good experience because we were prepared. That’s the secret. I always carry an old towel in my camera bag. And when water (or soon snow) begins to gather on my camera I continually wipe it off. Those areas I worry about are around the pop-up flash, where the lens mounts, the LCD, and the info window, and anywhere else that I think water might find a way into my camera.

I keep a lens cap on my lens. But what about when one is taking pictures? I know there will be those that advise putting a UV filter on every lens.

UV filters are from a time when we had a necessity to colour balance our film and in the spring we would use (U)ltra (V)iolet filters to warm the colours. Using an old UV filter is fine, as are any of the many different clear filters manufactures are selling for lens protection, but digital sensors no longer need colour correction filters and many photographers worry that inexpensive filters placed in front of their expensive lens glass might degrade the image.

Whether you agree with that notion or not, I think that using a lens hood is much better insurance than clear protection lenses. My advice is to get a plastic lens hood for every lens. Plastic lens hoods protect our lenses by bending, bouncing, and sometimes even breaking in the process of absorbing the impact and saving the lens. Personally I feel safer with a lens hood than a tight fitting glass filter. Anyway, we should always be using lens hoods to keep glare off the lens front.

When I return home after a day of photography I remove the lens and check my equipment. I remove the memory card for downloading to my computer, recharge the battery and, especially after rain, wipe my camera and lenses.

As I already wrote, I don’t let rain limit my photography. And there are times when the rain adds something to a picture.

Country singer Roger Miller wrote, “Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet.” Those are good word for creative photographers. And for those afraid of taking pictures in the rain, another singer, Cher made me laugh when she said, “Don’t take your toys inside just because it’s raining.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Photographers Are More Fun 

TwoPhotogs 1

It is always fun to do photography with someone else. This past week I have been talking to a friend who would really like his wife to get involved with photography, and I’ve told him how much enjoyment I get from this exciting medium of photography would be missing if my wife, Linda, were not also a photographer.

I have written about this in the past, but I am going to bring back a previous article for those readers that might have missed the original and would like their spouse to take up photography.

When we first got together 40 years ago Linda didn’t do photography, but that quickly changed.

I suppose she didn’t have any other option. Then and in all the years she has known me I have been I am either doing, teaching, talking or writing about photography.

My advice to any photographer that is actually interested in getting their spouse involved is as follows.

Match the equipment. I mean that with regard to cameras, both DSLRs should operate the same way. The models can be a year or so apart, but should be the same brand and the controls should operate similarly and if two of the latest models are affordable, so much the better.

Don’t be cheap with lenses or cameras for your spouse. If it isn’t good enough for you, it isn’t good enough for the most important person in your life. Just as you would select a lens for the subject and the way you like to shoot, your photo partner should select lenses for his or her preferences.

I know your mother told you to share, but my recommendation is don’t share. That just leaves someone behind. If you both like long telephoto lenses, get two.

I can remember the exact moment I thought about the concept of equality. I was in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming waiting for Old Faithful Geyser to erupt. While I waited I noticed a man and woman with their tripods setting up closer than me. I was obvious they were both serious about getting good photos of the geyser, but I could see that his was larger and feature packed, while hers was just a tiny, toy-like, point-and-shoot camera.

In my mind, it didn’t matter who was the better photographer or had the better eye. That point-and-shoot reduced her chances, and I wondered why she would even try, or how long she would keep it up when her equipment kept her behind.

I had a friend who tried getting his wife interested in photography. He bought her a cheap, entry-level camera and while he would make 16×20 prints of his images, hers were rarely over 8×10. She lost interest.

Shop for accessories together. Each photographer has his or her own preferences and should make equipment choices for the subjects they like to shoot.

Education is always a good idea. Attend a photography class or workshop. Search for them online or check local camera shops. Take turns going to photography classes or better yet take part in the same workshop.

One of our most memorable vacations was when we both attended a weeklong wilderness photography workshop on Mt. Rainier.

In my opinion we may have gotten more out of that class than the other participants because we were able to share information and experiences during and after.

Gently critique each other’s photography. Don’t just store pictures away on the computer. Sit in front to the computer display together and decide which photographs work and which that don’t, and then delete all the failures. We make large prints and calendars of our pictures.

One photographer in the family is cool, but two photographers, in my opinion, are much better. If you want your partner to have the same excitement about photography as you do, don’t be stingy with the compliments. And on that occasion when your spouse makes a better picture of the waterfall or the running deer than you, be sure to tell them.

Oh, and I never have the worry or guilt about getting new equipment.

 

 

 

Why do photography?

No Loitering

Guitar

St. Andrews

Tall ships Victoria

Kamloops Lake 2

Sternwheel

Coca-Cola

Forgotten shops

Yellow & Red

Just Waiting

After a discussion with a fellow who told me he has become bored with photography I thought I’d revisit the following from an earlier post.

I once asked “Why do photography” to members of an online forum and received some unremarkable responses like, “because I can” and “because I have a camera”.  Well, I suppose it is all about the camera to lots of people. However, there were two responses that I really liked, the first from someone called Soenda who eloquently wrote,

“ Because taking pictures has helped me see better. Before, I was less aware or the way light strikes leaves. I didn’t notice the symmetry of birds on a wire. Sunsets were masses of agreeable colour; now they are gold, pink, lavender and blue”.

The second from someone named Laura who philosophically said,

“Because when I look at my life, I cannot say I have done nothing. The proof exists that I have seen at least a wee bit of the world. I take pictures because it is artistic expression, and I think when we repress our artistic nature, we do ourselves no good, no good at all. I take pictures because it is fun. I can spend the entire day taking pictures, and it could not be a day better spent…”

For me, photography changes. There are times when I just want to play and am interested in nothing more than experimenting, my goal just seeing how something works.   I enjoy photographing my friends, family and pets. Pictures that have meaning only to me, but might never go anywhere other than on my computer’s screen saver.  And of course, until I retired, photography was the way I earned my living.

There are those times when I try to visually create an image that says something to others about how I see and feel about something. I can’t really say that the medium of photography is a passion for me, but I am enthusiastic. It’s just something I think about a lot and do.

Many use photography as a way to express themselves artistically, of which I heartily agree. Expressing oneself through photography is easy, as it doesn’t require the trapping of other mediums like painting or sculpture, and merely requires a camera.

Photography, for those who first wanted to make photographs, became accessible during the 1800s. The first surviving image made by Jacques Daguerre was of some artistically arranged plaster casts resting on a window ledge in 1837, and a short 20 years later photographers were wandering the North American wilderness and newly constructed cities creating photographs with the same intensity, all though not in the same numbers, as we are today.

Why take pictures? For some it is to document history, we know about the civil war in the 1860s through the photographs of Mathew Brady and the Vietnam War in the 1970s by David Kennerly.   Timothy O’Sullivan, William Henry Jackson, Ansel Adams, Elliott Porter, Imogene Cunningham, Bret Weston and others gave us their visual opinions of an early American landscapes.

There were those like Dorothea Lang and Walker Evens that during the great depression of the 1930s told us about the human condition. While Photographers Arnold Newman, Richard Avedon and Canadian Yousuf Karsh, celebrated the beauty of the human expression”  paving the way for modern portrait photographers.

For some the question “Why do photography?” may be very philosophical and for others practical. Soenda commented, “ Because taking pictures has helped me see better.” And Laura wrote, “I take pictures because, when I look at my life, I cannot say I have done nothing.”

I wonder what readers would answer.

A process of observation.       

Salmon Arm

Street rest art

Town sculpture

Shuswap Lake

Pier view

Dragon boat

Lakeside residents

Smugglers love

My wife, Linda, has been wanting to really put her new 135mm lens to the test.   Even though the 135mm focal length is normally used for portraitures, she wanted to give it a roadside work out and suggested we take a short drive. We decided a morning drive along the meandering South Thompson River ending in Salmon Arm, just short of an hour away, for coffee and some photographs.

The British Columbia city of Salmon Arm with it’s unique, picturesque downtown and what residents claim to be the longest, curved wooden wharf in North America is located on the Shuswap Lake, midway between Calgary and Vancouver on the Trans-Canada Highway. The lakeside city also became infamous in August of 1982 when then Canadian Premier Pierre Trudeau raised his middle finger at protesters from his seat inside a private rail car.

When I’m not making portraits I prefer zoom lenses. Using a multi-focal length lens when photographing buildings and other features that one finds along a busy city street makes photography easy to do because it’s simple to crop out people, cars and other unwanted elements. Nevertheless, Linda wanted to use her 135mm and I decided to follow suit and brought my 105mm.

We wandered the downtown photographing anything that caught our attention. It was Sunday and most shops were closed and the streets, other than a couple of people walking to the grocery store or, like us, driving to Tim Horton’s for coffee, were almost empty.

It was a perfect day to walk around, and there was plenty of room to step backwards on to the street or move around in front of shops with our prime lenses. We spent a leisurely hour or so just taking pictures in town before driving to the lakeside park to sit in the shade, take in the view, and talk about our pictures.

My preference would have been to use my 24-86mm and although Linda really liked the 135mm, she wished I had brought along her 70-300mm. However, we both thought using the long prime lenses was a good exercise. Placing a subject and composing the final image took longer than just zooming the lens length forwards or back. Our fixed focal length lenses required that we had to physically move about to get the image we desired. There was also a change in perspective because of the mid-range of our lenses.

I have been trying to think of some words that would sum up our experience. Maybe American documentary photographer and author, Elliott Erwitt, got the closest to what I was experiencing when he wrote, “To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Perhaps our exercise wasn’t so much, “an art of observation” as it was an “act of observation”.

Communicating Our Personal Photographic Vision  

 

 

I enjoy pretty much everything when it comes to photography. I am happiest when I get to talk about it, read about it, and look at other photographer’s work, and of course, any occasion where I get to point my camera at a subject.

Famous and influential photographer Edward Weston once wrote, “Photography suits the temper of this age – of active bodies and minds. It is a perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas, imagery, for a prolific worker who would be slowed down by painting or sculpting, for one who sees quickly and acts decisively, accurately.”

Weston most likely said sometime in the 1950s, but it aptly describes many of those taking pictures with all kinds of cameras in the 21st century. Yes, it is the, “perfect medium for one whose mind is teeming with ideas…”

As I looked at several images (several were from iPhones) that were proudly posted online I thought how those words fit many modern photographers. However, there I was looking at many pictures that, although quite creative and colourful, lacked the basic compositional guidelines I was taught              (I suspect Weston learned also) and are still being taught in almost any class on photography.

Photographic composition is the selection and arrangement of the subject within the picture area. However, what I saw seemed in many cases to be hastily captured images with little regard to the importance of any centre of interest that might help viewers identify what the photographer is trying to communicate.

Maybe it is the conditioning we get by clumsily pointing our cell phones at a subject, or the thoughtless reliance on a camera’s auto focusing device to select whatever is in the middle of the viewfinder for proper focus.

There is a compositional guideline called, “the rule of thirds”. This so-called rule is a simple principal that divides an image into thirds, horizontally and vertically, and tells us to position the most important elements in our scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect, and by doing so, adding balance and interest to one’s picture.

I subscribe to four components when I create a picture:

  1. The Centre of Interest: A strong center of interest helps the viewer identify the point of the picture, or what the photographer is trying to communicate.
  2. Angles: Begin by looking at the subject, move around – up and down, vertical or horizontal. Decide what should or should not be included.
  3. Distance: Don’t back away. Eliminate everything that does not add to the picture.  Close-ups convey intimacy, long shots build space and depth.
  4. Background: The background can make or break that photograph. Use the background to build interest in the center of interest.

There will be those photographers that in the interest of their own creative freedom will disregard anything that they believe will restrict their photographic independence and innovation or what they think might apply limits to their imagination.

I wouldn’t agree with that. I don’t think this is an argument of vision.

If our goal as photographers is to create an image that withstands the test of time and communicating a personal vision, then one must learn the        basics of composition in the same way as one would learn the basics of exposure, or how to make the camera actually work whether it’s a DSLR, or a feature of a cell phone.