Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Morning Folks

I am not one who shoots random people photos regularly. However, due to recent traumatizing work experiences (if coming home from work at midnight is not traumatizing I do not know what is) I have started to pick up odd and unusual photography habits. Yes, to a certain extent I do believe the photographs do reveal parts and pieces of the photographer and his current state of mind.

If you do a quick research online, or reading guides on people photography on the streets, you will find probably a few dozens of guidelines, many of them contradicting themselves.

Engage Your Subjects, or Shoot Stealthily?

Some would suggest shooting from a distance, being as discreet as possible so you will get a natural looking outcome with the people going around their usual activities, without the slightest hint of the photographer being present. naturalism works at its best in this approach. On the other hand, some others would suggest the photographer to approach the people before photographing them, asking their permission, and making small talks to engage a more personal feel to the overall result. This would often produce images with impact especially photos with direct eye contact with the people you photograph. Adding the drama and story behind the photos may seem like a good approach, no doubt. However, I believe if you go to a beggar at the KL back alley, you might most likely end up going home with an empty camera bag and probably a few broken fingers.

Therefore, keeping a safe distance away from unpredictable psycho maniac beggars out there on the streets should be my priority. Screw all those engaging the subjects techniques, I am not buying it.

Fixed Focus/Prime Lens, or Long Tele-Zoom Lens?

Some strongly recommend the use of a fixed focus lens, or prime lens. 50mm, or 35mm are popular choices to be used on shooting people on the streets, since their visual coverage is closely similar to human eye's perspective. It is encouraged to move yourself as you compose the shots, since zoom is not present on this category of lenses. I used to own a 25mm and 35mm lenses (50mm and 70mm in 35mm format, which were my pancake and macro) but I dare say I did not find those two lenses to be much of use on the streets. On the move, I treasure the ability to zoom, and reach my subjects at any point of location I was standing on. The ability to reach to far places that you are probably physically limited, for example standing behind a fence, or on the opposite side of the road, the zoom lens come in really handy. I am not saying which is better, zoom or prime, but to my preference and shooting style, I would choose tele-zoom anytime.

Black and Whites

I do not know why, but 9 out of 10 street people photos I have come across on the internet or magazines, were in black and white format. For some reasons, B&W is favored over all other types of treatments. I can clearly see why, on the streets many distractions are present, such as the trash bin at the road side, the leftover chicken rice polystyrene white box on the walkway, or that busybody aunty staring from the side. By converting to B&W all the distracting elements composed of different colors are reduced, and your main subject is drawn out as the main attention. I am not exactly a fan of B&W myself, but I do convert my photos every now and then when I see more benefits of doing so. Nonetheless, B&W can produce very powerful people photographs, especially being shot at close range. I have not made any of those shots in this entry. I shall try harder to grab those close-up shots in the future.

Morning Walk

It was the weekend, and life seemed to slow down a pace or two, and I found myself waking up extremely early. I know I should have slept in till at least past noon right? I must be crazy or something to wake up too early.

I made my way to the city, and found myself strolling down a busy street not too far from a wet market. I found a cool shady location to lay my huge heavy ass on, and got my gears ready for shooting. For the first time, I was not actively stalking my subjects. All I did was wait for something to happen. It was a little bit like fishing, I have got to be alert and waiting all the time. When I saw some opportunities coming by, I had to ready myself, and start snapping away. Some shots I managed to capture, but there were misses too. This went on for hours, until it was close to noon.

The shooting process itself was quite enjoyable in this session. I did not have to sweat, and it was really fun watching people from a distance, and immerse yourself in the daily walk of the people in the busy street. Observing their actions, and their facial expression were more than rewarding for me. Gosh, am I getting old?

I am not really a people person. In contrast to that, I do however, enjoy shooting people. I should do this more.


  1. I love love love the picture of the little girl on the man's shoulder. =)

    I don't agree with you on the zoom thing, but it takes a lot of practice to use 50mm (I shoot with 42mm) on the streets. A lot of non-camera practice - like body language and movement and speed.

    The hardest thing I've found about 50mm? Learning how to run without being noticeable. =)

  2. hey dienasty,
    Long time no see. Glad to see that you still love street shooting.
    I love that last photo of the little girl too. It was shot at the longest end of my tele-lens, at 300mm (600mm in 35mm format). In this particular circumstance, the prime lens just could not cut it. You do need a long lens.

  3. @Robin: Maybe not with a DSLR. I wished there were good cameras the size of a handphone, really. Would make street shooting so much easier.

    I've switched to an old film camera, btw. It's small enough for me to shoot something like this (without being noticed!)

    Feels really odd.

    Keep the flow of pictures coming!

  4. hey dienasty,
    if size and performance are the main concerns, then you should be considering the Micro 4/3 series, such as Olympus Pen E-PL1. Compact size, but image quality as good as DSLR.

  5. Yes, you should do this more often! You express your feelings and thoughts through photography, just like writing. I can see and feel from your series of shots your present state of mind and feeling towards life. Not sure whether I am right but that's what I feel:

    Routines, burdens, chores, responsibilities, jobs, work, work and work... lotsa plastic bags... people carrying stuff... even ladies carrying baby... you must feeling really tired lately. It's good to express yourself through photography. It's de-stressing!

    Capturing others' lives and routines but yet a reluctance in getting involved. That's what I feel. Sometimes, I feel that way too... sometimes I just wanna be a hermit crap but steal glances once in a while at the outside world.

    REST is what you need. :)

  6. hey david,
    It is not everyday that someone can see through my photos like you do !!
    It is scary how much details of a person can be pulled out of his photographs, if the photograph is being studied carefully.
    Indeed, life has been extraordinarily busy as of late, and yes, I agree with you. REST is what I need !!
    Alongside MORE shutter therapy sessions, of course.

  7. I just realized I spelled hermit crab as crap! Oh, I need REST too! I am quite crappy at times! Hahaha... cause I shoot lotsa craps! Hahaha!

  8. hey david,
    No no no... you cannot be shooting crap, coz if you were.. I do not know what shots I can call mine !! yikes.
    I did not even realize the typo until you pointed it out. LOL

  9. This message, is matchless))), it is very interesting to me :)