My wife and I attended the Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photowalk 2011 in MIami Beach, Florida. It was mostly a “peacock display” of camera equipment coupled with coyness, but it was fun nonetheless. 🙂
I was equipped with a Canon 5D Mk II and the Canon 35mm f/1.4L lens. My wife carried a Canon 7D and the Canon 24-105mm f/4L. I thought I could do a little reportage a la Henri Cartier-Bresson or Alfred Eisenstaedt, but I soon found out that it was an over-zealous notion. In this day and age, it’s very precarious to get up close and personal like Henry and Al did and take a picture of somebody interesting unless, of course, they ask, which happened on three occasions to us during the walk. Most of the time, the looks we got from our approach were similar to a low-growling German Shepherd staring you down. This made my wife’s choice of lens a very practical one.
Though Miami Beach is picturesque, it doesn’t always have something interesting to photograph. You get the usual run-of-the-mill local whose sole goal is to party and, thus, engages you to interact with them. You may get a candid shot or two, but it comes with a price: they then want to have a heart-felt chat with you, which, for all intents and purposes, is a good thing *if* they had something interesting to talk about.
I guess it provided a good practice in social approach. Those starting out in street photography (like me) have a fear of rejection or embarrassment by the thought of approaching a complete stranger and asking them for their portrait. Perhaps this trains you to be a better judge of character.
Anyway, using the Canon 35mm f/1.4L was quite interesting to say the least. This lens offers very sharp images and nice bokeh, so it can be used as a portrait lens if your subjects don’t mind you being a foot away from their face. As a full-length portrait lens, the background is still blurred out, but it’s not as soft as with a longer lens like the Canon 50mm f/1,2L or even the 85mm f/1,2L, as depicted in the first image on the right. Yet there is something mildly pleasing about this aesthetic.
I approached this couple late in the walk (the walk only lasted two hours). Actually, I cheated. The woman was looking at cameras in a store window and I made a suggestion as to which one to get. Meanwhile, the man was taking pictures of a street sign (I guess you can make any subject interesting). Notice how the couple is separated from the background. The background looks “fake”. It’s actually not as blurred out as what you get with a telephoto lens. Matt Gore explains why here. Ok. enough about lenses….
“Street photography” is generally the capture of impromptu moments that will never happen again. I guess if you wait long enough, these “instances” should resurface. That and if we live for a few millennia or even eons. I digress. Taking *any* photo at *any* particular time is acceptable, however, the photo may not be interesting or even convey a message, though that is subjective anyway. Take the photo on the left: I call it “Oblivious” because the people in the photo are oblivious to what each other is doing. As an exercise, I’ll leave it up to you to find all the humorous stuff in this photo. Post a comment when you’ve found them (answers at the end of the post).
I actually took this shot because I thought the two men reading the map was interesting. Upon closer inspection, I found many other things “wrong” with it. A bonus. A characteristic of street photography is its heavy (and sometimes exclusive) use of black and white. This image is “street photograph proper”: it’s in black and white and it depicts a subject through an “eatery” window. This is a typical theme in street photography. You’d think that there are gazillion combinations of people, streets and things (oh my!) and almost every street photographer, at one point in their career, has to snap the requisite “shot of a person in an eatery through the glass” shot. So I got it out of the way early. The gallery has some more “requisite” shots that I got out early in my career.
Now that I got that out of the way, I then concentrated on taking shots with hidden details, meaning or double entendres.
My remarks are merely quips, so don’t take them seriously. Street photography is an art form like any other and one that I need to practice to get proficient on. My hat goes off to all those who make it their way of life and who bring us those images that inspire, humor and mesmerize us.
Here are the answers to the “Oblivious” photo:
- Man behind the “map readers” is scratching his privates.
- There are two balls and a tall fire hydrant between them in front of the “scratching man”.
- There is a “no skateboarding” sign on the left of the photo. There is a man skateboarding towing a little girl on the right of the photo.
- The guy sitting on a ball with his camera is totally oblivious to what’s going on.
- Speaking of “towing”, Urger is the name of a tug boat in New York City.
- Speaking of stimulating discovery, urger is a transitive verb meaning “to stimulate or incite; provoke”.