I thought it would be nice to talk about what happened behind some of the images that I have shared on this blog, especially how I get the shot, whether it was about some camera settings that I used or how I pre-visualized and planned to make the photograph happen. One of my favourite images from my recent shutter therapy sessions is the "hungry mother" from the previous blog entry, which was taken at Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.
The following image was taken in a series of four frames, sequentially, as numbered.
From the four successive frames, I chose the third frame for my final selection of photographs to be used for my series of street photographs.
So what happened behind the image?
1) I was walking along a sheltered walkway and I saw a mother carrying her child on "sarong". This is not a rare sight, but what caught my attention was her holding a slice of guava in her hand.
2) My camera, Olympus DSLR E-5 had the Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens mounted on it, ready for action even before I saw this scene. The ISO was set to 250 (a mistake, I wanted ISO200, but it made no difference anyway) and aperture set to the widest opening at F2. I stopped walking, peeped through the viewfinder, and framed the approaching mother and child slightly to the right of the frame. The reason for this composition was to show a little bit of background which consisted of shoplots and a road with parked vehicles. The background was crucial to add sense of location. I chose to use the widest aperture to create shallow depth of field, to avoid the background from being too distracting. Just my preference, nothing more to it.
3) As I was composing, my fingers were busy operating the camera buttons to move the focus point to the head of the mother. I am efficient enough to change these settings by feel even without taking the camera away from my eyes.
4) I fired an initial shot, just to bring the focusing as close as possible to the subject. We all know how slow the focusing on the 50mm F2 macro can be at times, so to work around this limitation, I fired an initial shot which I knew I won't use, just to make sure the lens focuses first before I execute my shot. Well, with the newer micro 4/3 cameras and lenses, this is not necessary, because the focusing is blazingly fast and almost instantaneous with no lag. I got to do what I got to do to work around the weaknesses of my current system.
5) The 50mm focal length (100mm equivalent in 35mm format) helped a great deal in maintaining good enough working distance between me and my subject. The mother was still quite a distance away and I did not intrude into her personal space, hence the comfortable distance did not stop her from putting the guava slice into her mouth. Since I was not attacking from a close distance, she did not feel the need to avoid me, or perhaps she thought i was shooting the road as I actually pointed the lens towards her right direction (I composed her to the right of my frame). Either way, I managed to shoot her without polluting the natural state of the scene by much.
6) I half pressed the shutter button, focused and the fully pressed the shutter button immediately after I heard the "teet-teet" confirmation. No, the continuous focusing was not reliable for this lens either. I need to "manually follow the subject" with my autofocus. And the single autofocus was reliable enough, I got away with all four frames perfectly in focus. 100% hit rate here, on a moving subject, not too bad at all.
7) I find the image to work much better in black and white. Perhaps the only reason why the color would work better is to show the color of the food the mother was putting into her mouth. But black and white takes away the distraction of colors in the background and draws your attention straight to the facial expression of the mother and child. I think that worked much better !!
I think the important thing that made this shot work was probably me appearing to be not "threatening". I looked neutral, and safe, somehow, because in the second frame you can clearly see that she noticed my presence. If I have gotten any closer, I think the reaction might have been more severe, and she could be moving herself away from my line of sight deliberately.
For a more natural outtake, I say the last frame (no.4) turned out better, as if I was not even there. True enough that being invisible is important (many street photographers strive to stay discreet and blend in the crowd), and the image seemed like she did not notice me shooting her (and you would not have known if I did not show the earlier 3 frames). Why did I not choose this image? I did not like how the mother was looking away from the frame, and the child also looked at the same direction. The attention was drawn away from the main subjects, and we do not even know what they were looking !!
What say you? How would you have approached this scene differently? Share your thoughts !!