“Every year when summer comes around
They stretch a banner ‘cross the main street in town
You can feel somethin’s happenin’ in the air…”
“County fair, county fair,
Everybody in town’ll be there
So come on, hey we’re goin’ down there…”
Bruce Springsteen – Country Fair
Where I live in British Columbia, the months of August and September see communities’ large and small hosting end of summer fairs. This year, same as last, I drove north to the small town of Barriere, parked my car, gave the smiling lady at the gate a couple bucks and strolled into the excitement of the Barriere Fall Fair packed with exhibits of local produce, poultry, livestock, all sorts of arts and crafts, lots of outdoor shows that included a rodeo, trick riders, several different horse competitions, an action packed midway with amusement rides, challenges for the children like wall climbing, and even a motorized bull that quickly dislodged even the most athletic of riders. There were all sorts of people selling cowboy hats, clothing, jewelry and too much more to list here. And one lady almost accosted me, demanding I try out her boot wax and leather preservative. (I will say my boots never looked better.)
Oh, and the food. The inviting and punishing, yep, that’s the word I am going to use for the smell of all kinds of mouthwatering foods that one confronts as far away as the entrance gate. Enticing everyone to make the next stop at one of the food venders.
The picture making possibilities immediately assaults those of us with cameras. What to photograph? Well, it’s all exciting.
Last year I spent most of my time photographing the rodeo, but after discussions and encouragement from the many photographers I have met online that excel in street photography, I decided to dedicate my time this year to photographing the people I saw wandering or performing in the midway.
I have written before about my admiration of those that are proficient at wandering city streets creating stories with the way they photograph the people. Readers will recall I discussed my frustration last summer in Anacortes, Washington when I tried using a DSLR with a big 24-70mm lens mounted on it. People saw me coming with that big package and when I got close enough to grab a picture they almost leaned towards me to see what I was photographing. No chance of being inconspicuous or assuming stealth mode.
This time I brought a cropped frame DSLR and 105mm lens and extended my camera strap so I could point and shoot from the hip as I released the shutter. I think I can hear the laughing coming from some of those more skilled and experienced at this type of photography than I. Yep, I had little control over what I was aiming at. I did get some viewable shots, but I also got lots of images that showed the top of people’s heads and a great quantity of sky. How did those gunslingers in the old west hit their target?
Maybe I need to put some beer cans on a fence rail and practice like I saw actor Alan Ladd do in a movie I watched last week. Or better yet, I have a friend with one of those exciting little Fuji 100 cameras. I wonder if I took beer cans (full) over to his house instead of putting them on the fence, I could convince, or bribe, him to lend that camera to me next time I want to try.
I searched online for some street photography tips. Here are a few I could find.
- Use a wide-angle lens.
- Get close.
- Look for juxtaposition.
- Focus on the essential.
- Look for the light and shadows
- Look at the foreground and the background.
- Tell a story.
Street photography, whether at an event like a country fair, in a bustling city, or on some quiet back lane, is about photographing society around us. Some photographers’ shoot for the challenge, and some wander the city as a release of stress from everyday existence, and others because of their need to make some statement about the world in which they live. I wonder at the “Decisive Moment” of prolific French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, or the journalistic style of Leica toting Robert Doisneau, or the harsh images of marginalized people by Diane Arbus. They, and many others have left us with their own styles of street photography that affect each viewer on an emotional level.
I look forward to any comments. Thanks, John