Up Close

Dundee, Scotland.

Street photography, for me, is a multi functional and purposeful activity.

The process of walking and observing, skulking. looking for extraordinary people in ordinary settings. The process of capturing a natural, unrehearsed image, the person unaware of the making of the image, this precious fraction of time.

The candid nature of my photography relies on my ability to capture the images surreptitiously and quickly.

As I’ve said in previous posts, my intention is not to exploit or ridicule but to celebrate the beauty that is human life in its infinite forms.

Over the years, my style (if there is such a thing) of photography has changed. My attitude and approach to photography changes, I believe towards a purer form, something towards minimalism.

I have a collection of digital and film cameras. I’ve shot street photography with big cumbersome DSLR and SLR with huge lenses, digital compacts with incredible zoom capability and although they all have good and bad points, none of these cameras come close to my Ricoh GR.

Its size, capability, full frame sensor and fixed 28mm lens has meant that I cannot be this lazy, at a distance kind of photographer. Yes indeed, some great images can be captured from 40 feet away with a good zoom but for me, getting close and being right there in the same few feet as the subject feels better, it feels more like how I believe my photography should be now.

The additional challenge for me now is… “How close can I get?” Close enough that I don’t need to crop the image post production but far enough away than I’m not standing on toes. All of this without being seen and still being able to capture a genuine candid skulker like image.

I was inspired (like many other street photographers) by Henri Cartier-Bresson‘s style and ethos about capturing candid shots and follow some general guides close to Henri’s ways.

Henri’s focus on geometry in his images is genius. I try when I can to have some geometric order to my images.

Henri waited for the decisive moment, he was patient and there have been many times I will wait, and wait just to capture that specific person as they walk past, or the interesting juxtaposition. Its certainly not all snap away and hope for the best.

Henri predominantly used one lens, a 50mm. So with my fixed lens Ricoh, I need to move to the subject and position myself rather than just standing still and zooming in. Its challenging but so much more rewarding.

Henri was low key when shooting in the streets. No one knew what he was doing. I have a biography of the man with a series of images of Henri demonstrating how he would position the camera and move around without being obvious he was taking photographs. I’m getting better at this. I can look one way but shooting the other way, particularly when very close to someone. No one wants a camera stuck in their face as they walk along the street.

Henri didn’t crop his images. I try not to. As I’ve said in previous posts, I shot street exclusively in square format and keep my camera set on 1:1 or crop to 1:1 later. Its cheating a little but again, I’m not Henri.

Henri didn’t usually process his images himself. He focused more on capturing images and left the processing to others. I’ve become very minimalist in digital processing. I adjust contrast, light and shadows mostly and rarely use any kind of photoshop software for my street images. They are often soft focused, grainy or slurred but I think it adds to the final meaning of the image.

In addition to trying to take note of Henri’s style, I will limit myself to 2 exposures maximum of a subject. I loath seeing a file with dozens of the same image and having to churn through them to pick one. I shoot one or two and if neither are usable then so be it, I wasn’t meant to have that person’s moment that day. I usually wait until I’m home and uploading before I’ll actually see what I have and what’s usable.

I’m by no means a very technical photographer. I know what all the buttons and settings are and can shoot on manual, but…I tend to shoot on “P” with my Ricoh GR and adjust iso between 400 – 1600 depending on light. I like to keep it simple and love how many of the shots turn out.

So, getting close and being in that moment is essential for me as part of the photography experience. Looking back at an image and knowing possibly what was going on around us at the time, the sounds, smells, lights and sharing the immediate physical space is magical.



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