Photographing people and their dogs.  

This August has been one of those months that most people I talk to are looking forward ending. This quote from “The Secret Life of Bees” by Sue Monk Kidd, easily sums up my feelings, “The month of August had turned into a griddle where the days just lay there and sizzled.”  The dry lifeless heat and the all-consuming smoke from all the wildfires here in British Columbia have left me with little interest in wandering outside with my camera. That said I hope I won’t be to boorish by again returning to my mid July’s trip to Washington with it’s cool mornings and gosh, (no smoke) fresh morning air.

Dogs have become, actually I think they always have been, part of the family. And on my trip to the city of Anacortes there were dogs everywhere.

There were there dogs taking their owners on stop and go walks along the streets and alleys, There were dogs patiently waiting outside of grocery stores, restaurants, bars and shops along the main street, there were dogs lounging in the shade after a strenuous day of helping their people look for treasures at the giant flee market, and when I got up to leave for home in the morning I saw dogs excitedly stepping out of their motel lodgings and wait anxiously for vehicles to be packed.

Photographing dogs is always fun. Well, that’s my opinion.

Walk up to some stranger and ask if you can photograph them and all to often they will either say no or silently and quickly turn and walk away. But ask that same person if you can photograph their dog and you’ll usually be met with a smile and “sure”. People are proud of their dogs.

The accomplished street photographer and blogger, Han Dekker always includes at least one photo he calls “street dogs” in his posts each week. And it’s his photos that got me thinking I should spend some time photographing people with their dogs as I walked the streets of that small coastal town.

I like dogs, so photographing them and complementing them and their owners is always a pleasure. I did do street candids of some people and their dogs. However, mostly I would walk up and say, “I gotta take a picture of you and your dog.”

One will find lots of artistic dog photographers on social media. I would call some of them portraitists when I look at their creative depth of field and soft focused images. Others are more candid with their distant captures, and some are surely making social statements. However, my approach is as always, to just have fun as I move from subject to subject.

 

 

 

 

Practicing Street Photography      

I have read that Street photography is the practice of photographing chance encounters and random incidents in public places, Well, like the street.

In an article about my experiences in Vancouver BC some time ago I wrote, “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 fascinated with this kind of candid photography that has been around since people began to carrying cameras in public, and I am always up to any occasion that allows my somewhat reserved and not so confident approach to photographing strangers going about their life on any public street. So when that opportunity presented itself at the giant outdoor flea market in Anacortes Washington I was excited.

Most modern street photographers seem to be recommending small, inconspicuous mirrorless cameras. However, in spite advice posted on many of the forums I have visited I still wondered if I could again try using my big DSLR with a battery grip and 24-70mm attached. I admit that’s a huge and very noticeable combination that the last time I tried at this event had curious by-passers looking right at me.

I remembered a 1969 Algerian-French movie, called “Z”, about some foreign dictatorship and a photojournalist who helped to uncover evidence about a murder. The photographer, wielding a big camera with a loud motor drive, continually shot from his hip. So I thought, what the heck, lets see if I can get away with that. Also, knowing I could easily crop, I moved the lens to its widest 24mm and photographed everything holding my camera at my waist.

I also figured that people at the street sale would be so absorbed with their treasure searching that if I didn’t hold my camera up to my eye, like I did last time, they would be oblivious to my photography.

My results were much better than last time. I wandered releasing the shutter anytime I observed people doing something interesting. There were a few camera conscious people that remarked about how big and nice my camera was, and one guy even asked the model I had. Nevertheless, none of my pictures showed people turning to look at me as I was taking a picture, except for those times when actually I asked someone to pose.

The big street market made things easy, and my new “stealth” photography technique made me more comfortable. And as I said, my results were much better this time. Whether it will work when I am not at an event that distracts people’s attention away from me remains to be seen.

Street Style Photography at the Fall Fair

Royalty and Attendants

Country singers

Cowboy in slicker

Mobile staff

Wooden Horse listening

Waiting against the wall

Clydsdales

Umbrella guy

Your cartoon

First Aid

Monster Cones

“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.

  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.

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

Thoughts on Street Photography

Thrift shop

Great shopping

Bakery

Rope guy

Waiting at the Festival

Of all the recent trends that has increased in popularity since digital cameras, it is street photography that intrigues me the most. Street photography is not a new phenomenon and has been around since the beginnings of photography. Just check out the work of French photographer Eugene Atget in the late early 1800’s, or Fred Herzog’s photos in 1950’s and 1960’s Vancouver, Canada. In spite of the long history the pastime is still a niche in the broad spectrum of interests that photographers have. However, I am spending more and more time viewing intriguing images of life on streets around the world captured by talented modern day photographers.

Wikipedia says, “Street photography is an art photography that features the human condition within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment…The origin of the term ‘Street’ refers to a time rather than a place, …when workers were rewarded with leisure time…and people engaged with each other …more publicly and therein the opportunity for the photographer.”

I’ve never been good at street photography. I have made a few pictures worth viewing, but I become more occupied with man-made things and get side tracked with some building’s shadow and miss those interesting people shots captured by photographers adept at seeing what I pass by.

On my recent visit to Anacortes, Washington, I did try a bit, but I quickly realized that with my big DSLR camera I was attracting too much attention. Whenever I stopped people slowed, turned to face me, and watched.

Since I started discussing photography on-line I have come in contact with some very skilled street photographers and regularly visit their blogs and websites to view their creative work. Those photographers don’t usually add comments, letting their work speak for itself, however, I found a discussion by Los Angeles street photographer, Eric Kim, and the following are some of his thoughts on being a street photographer.

Mr. Kim writes, “…When you start off in street photography you will be inspired by all these other photographers you see. You will look at their work and be amazed by their photos…my advice is this: start off copying the photographers whose work you admire. All the great renaissance painters started off as apprentices. They copied their masters for years, and learned all the basics and fundamentals. And once they mastered the basics, then they were able to go off and find their own voice.”

He counsels us to, “Follow your curiosity.” and says, “As a photographer you are a scientist. You experiment to find new results.”

Kim continues, “When I started photography I always thought it was my gear which held me back. I felt my camera or lens wasn’t good enough…but what I realized is that I was simply lacking education…I didn’t dedicate myself to learn enough about photography. I simply thought that buying gear would help me become inspired, and therefore become a better photographer.” I couldn’t agree more with him when he writes, “…education is the best investment money can buy. Education is something that will always stay with you, in your mind, thoughts, and actions.”

While writing this I thought about all the advice I could have gotten just by asking the talented street photographers I have come in contact with in the last few years. Those interested will find that a quick search will show many photographers to look at and from whom to learn. There is also “The International Collective of Photographers” at http://www.street-photographers.com/

I’m not ready to start roaming city streets yet, but there is a local Fall Fair coming up in September. That environment, with its festive participants, might be the perfect place to search for that decisive moment.

I always appreciate any comments. Thanks, John

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com