I think after all the gear review saga and previous consecutive weeks of me being drained by paid assignment photography jobs, I finally have some time to breathe, and do what I want, shoot and shoot on the street for myself only. This weekend's shutter therapy session was a much anticipated one, and I was joined by a group of beautiful friends, Luke Ding, Scott Chung, Kenyrl Loke and Dan Loke. We attacked the streets of Chow Kit, KL, my favorite street hunting ground. Not surprising, I came home with tonnes of images that I really like. I have said it many times, and I will say it again, there is just something about Chow Kit and me, the place always provide me with very good photography subjects and opportunities.
All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital Lenses 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro
Since I have been overly obsessed with the previous M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens during my review sessions, I decided to prioritize shooting with my lovely wide angle lens, the Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 this time, even when I am attacking people on the street. Moving in close and capturing more of the environment surrounding the street subject can prove to work in an interesting manner to, if the subjects within the frame and its background are carefully composed. I am not going to argue which lens is better than which lens, especially when so many street photographers strongly suggested that wide angle lenses are well suited for street photography. Yes, I acknowledge the importance of shooting wide, but I strongly believe that shooting on the medium tele-photo range can give you some very interesting photography perspective, especially when you need some working space between yourself and your subject. Knowing how to blend your set of photographs together, having wide shots and tele-photo shots, both can go hand in hand, resulting in a much more dynamic presentation of your set of photographs. In case you have not known me, I prefer to view photographs in a set or series, rather than standalone image.
I also think it is important not to over-analyze a situation, or over-think a photograph. Just make it happen. Click the shutter button, and get on with the next image. Having too many considerations while producing a photograph may not necessarily make the photograph better. Many times, simplicity works. That is what I like about shooting on the street, you get to control nothing of your photographs. You cannot control which direction the light comes from, or where to place your subject. The scene you are presented with, you have very limited flexibility to work with, and you have to act very quickly to capture the "moment". It is a combination of how good you are at finding good photography subjects, identifying potential opportunities from just random and ordinary images, yet at the same time you have got to work fast enough before that window of opportunity passes by. Hence, you do not have the luxury of time to think and think and think. You just have to shoot and shoot and shoot. How fast you react to the situation determines on how high your hit rate is. I find it best to set aside the worries of all the technicalities, and just concentrating on spotting the subject content (expression, story, idea, message, emotion) and work strongly on composition to bring out the best in the image. Everything else comes secondary. Of course, when you intend to shoot on the street already you must be able to operate at least your camera basics efficiently. If you still wonder what metering mode to use or what ISO does to your shutter speed, I am afraid it is best not to wander along the streets aimlessly.
Taking the Shortcut
Stop and Read
Phone and News
Where Noodles Comes from
If I were to stick to the rules set out by street photography critics, I think I might have given up on shooting the street already. I might be slammed for shooting portraits with eye contacts. Or worse, I am not working on a "project" or having something specific, or a theme to work with each time I am on the streets. The fact that I shoot at very random things is a painful mistake, there should be some sort of consistency or coherence in arrangement of photographs, especially on the street. Perhaps, what people see in my street photographs are nothing more than just portraits shot on the streets. Or worse, mere random snapshots that carry no weight or meaning in the world of street photography. As some photographers put it, "just photographs on the street, not street photography".
First and foremost, I do not participate in such street photography group, hence I am not bounded by their rules and regulations. Second of all, I do not shoot those images to please any of those photo-critics, and I do not seek their approval. Thirdly, when I shoot, anything at all (not only street), I choose to shoot what I want to shoot, I choose to shoot it the way I want to, and I choose to be myself. The outcome of my photographs may not necessarily fit into the universal mold of what is right and wrong in terms of photography rules, but seriously, I never believed in being chained down by such rules which in reality only restricts freedom and true creativity.
The bottom-line is, I am doing what I am doing, because I can, and I want to.
So I have portraits of people smiling at me, because I love to see smiles in people. I want to capture that magical exchange of emotion: brief but straightforward show of friendliness, a true human emotion that is so simple but compelling. I shoot the street with a slightly longer than usual lens, because I respect the comfort zone of the people on the street, and I do not wish to intrude rudely into their personal space without proper consent. Yes, I interact with my subjects sometimes, because I believe in blending into the environment I shoot in, so that I become connected with my subjects and my subjects will show that connection in return in the images that I shoot. That human connection is what makes or breaks the street photograph. This is what I want in my photograph, regardless whether if it was accepted by the "professionals" or "rule-makes" or not, it does not matter to me.
On the top of the world
Closed, but not deserted
Sky is not the limit
The main struggle I see in most new street photographers, is trying too hard to do something that they do not really want to do, or shoot something that they do not quite understand, just to fit into the rules set by the fore-runners in street photography. Remembers, rules are just rules, they can be bent, broken, and changed over time. Rules can make you a better photographer, and at the same time rules can also restrict you from further growth. It is not prudent to place too many "Dos and Don'ts" in your list of how to be a better street shooter. Lets not think too much. Just go out, open your eyes, and really see. Spend more effort in capturing what you like. Shoot what moves you. Pay more attention to what catches your attention. The best photograph that you will ever be able to accomplish is the kind of photograph that speaks volumes about you. No, I am not at that level yet, and I am slowly struggling to move toward that direction, step by step.