Rather provocative title, right?
Well I don't hate great photography performed on the streets. I don't hate Garry Winogrand or Henri Cartier-Bresson. But I get quite often rather depressed when following flickr groups and various other online forums browsing through thousands of typical 2014 Street™ pictures.
It seems like the paradigm "just shoot, do not arrange" becomes some kind of strange self-sufficient artistical goal which transforms the whole thing into some kind of sport, rather than art. To just snap a camera into non-suspecting people on the street is something I really find troublesome. Or even worse, shoot from the hip. Shiver... The result is a kind of trash genre: bad photojournalism, bad composition, bad pictures. And a complete lack of the "decisive moment" thing which some few are able to master.
And I must admit: I hate taking pictures of non-aware people. I like it much better when I have some kind of contact. "May I take a picture?". "Lovely dress/suit/hat, may I take a picture?". You get a smile sometimes. You get a "yes" surprisingly often. You get a short chat, or a long conversation. You get pictures. You get a model! So according to this I disqualify myself from the pure Street™ Photo manifesto of "unarranged". I like it better the other way. And I also love taking picture of performing people. Street Theatre. Street Music. Various gimmicks of all sorts. Everyone doing such things on the streets in my hometown (which is a rather big European metropolis with almost 2 million inhabitants) are fair game for me regarding photographs. I don't ask, I just jump into the middle of the action. Quite often operating on a third of the distance compared to tourists. You cannot be shy, go closer is the only way to do it well. And use wide angle lenses, in my case very often 35 mm to get real contact.
So here we go: Some "semi-street" pictures taken lately. All were taken on film, except one digital. Actually two of them are Real Street™. The others are not Street.
First is a moody harp player at the Slussen metro station. In this case I luckily juxtaposed the picture with some posters from the EU parliament election. The posters say "Cold winds blowing in Europe", "Time for warmer politics". I have very mixed emotions regarding these posters (and the origin) but I trust the harp player much more.. This is not Street.
Well this is maybe not Street in the strongest sense. But it is unarranged. Beautiful evening, lots of shadows and some moving objects. Managed to capture a very brief moment. I am a little proud that I did this with my manual focus old F3..
This one may not be the best image I have taken, but I like the composition and the light of the textures. I am also a little proud here too since I managed to take this underground in the metro with manual focus, 125 ISO film, a yellow filter in front, and quickly grabbed the camera out of my backpack while this guy was playing... Not Street (posing musician).
This one is also a quick-grab picture. Just passed by and saw these guys celebrating the marvelous summer night with some champagne, watching the low sun. I got a comment on flickr regarding this one: "It looks like a swedish commercial from the 70:s for beer". For non-swedes this may not be funny, but it is for me. But since the people depicted are unaware of the camera we may dub this one Real Street™.
The next one is also Real Street™. It was taken in a very busy place in central Stockholm, and suddenly there was a magic opening of very little people around. Except for this man. Irresistible. I just instinctively took the picture.
And finally a picture of some musicians. (Musicians = Not Street). Actually very good musicians. This one was tricky. The female singer was moving quite a lot. I was equipped with a manual focus camera and rather slow film. I just nailed exactly what I wanted, focusing her with a rather shallow depth of field. Dang! Voilà, some soul music!
And now back to basics. Film. A roll of HP5+ needed almost 2 weeks in my camera. Shot it a ISO 800, which sometimes was not enough. Damn, this winter has been dark and murky!
Black and white film is sometimes like charcoal drawing. A little dirty. A little grainy. I am getting more and more confidence now in visualizing shots in black and white. Just such a great feeling to forget about every color you can see and just find forms. At least these pictures were "born" the moment I pressed the shutter button.
This tree was trying to hug me. Or strangulate me. I don't know.
In a dark alley I found this beauty.
Absolutely the last ice in central Stockholm. The beginning heat creates very strange irregular patterns.
And this sheaf was found outside an old mansion quite close to where I live.
I decided to upgrade my compact camera lately. The Lumix LX5 has served me wonderfully but the microphone suddenly stopped working. Since I use the camera for video (it is really my "camcorder") I needed to solve this problem. So I decided to buy a Canon Powershot S110 as a replacement. Wonderful, tiny camera with spectacular performance! It really fits into my trouser pocket and I will of course always be carrying it.
A couple of days while walking home from work I found this interesting light from a bridge. Colour temperature differences in artficial light and perspectives.. interesting stuff. The picture was taken with ISO 1250 (!) and captured in a RAW image which I tweaked with Color Efex.
Last weeks I have started shooting color film again. I picked up a couple of Portra 400 rolls from the freezer and decided to give it a try..
But it is still very dark conditions here in Stockholm, except for a couple of hours around noon. So pushprocessing is still mandatory. How much could you push it then? Some people say maximum 800, others say 3200. I set my meter on 1600 and let's see for ourselves. Seeing is believing! Trial and error! At the same time I also tested a newly purchased Nikon F3 body (marvelous camera by the way).
The processing was by no means a simple affair. Weak contrast and huge amounts of grain. In some pictures it did however produce some interesting results. Highlights get slightly blueshifted and shadows turn a little yellow. Not accurate but I think i like it. Or maybe I could get used to it. In any case I will most likely not do this experiment again until next winter since the sun is coming back soon..
Winter has been late this year. Gray and dull weather all of December. My shooting has been quite a lot of high ISO black and white film. With no natural colors except for an abundance of greyness it is tempting to visit the urban backyards. Brought a 35 mm camera, a combo of 35+20 mm lenses and some HP5 film which I later on pushed to 1600. I have really started to like this setup. The HP5 is for sure grainy, but it also has some kind of "creamy" character and very interesting medium-tone contrast.
This picture is from the old bridge leading to the Stockholm suburb Lidingö. I was lucky with this one, it was placed in Flickr Explore for January 22. A first for me! It resulted in a large amount of viewers and comments on the picture.
Old supply of Coal and Coke..
And finally a selection of industrial pipes. I am no purist when editing film material digitally. I have added some LR split toning here. (No it is not a defect in film or paper.... ).
No doubt about it, I am using film more and more. And I am slowly learning new tricks. Most important is to expose accurately in tricky light. I strive to use a "simplified zone system" method which I implement this way: Make a light metering towards my hand (which I put close to the camera) and then increase the exposure one stop. This is Ansel Adams theory applied in simple practice!
This trick is mandatory when taking photos in snow, bad light and many other situations. These pictures were taken with my Nikon F (without built-in light meter) but with support of a simple digital compact camera from which i "borrowed" the light meter. I also used slow film (ISO 100) in afternoon light in December. This is not an optimal choice of film in Stockholm, Sweden this time of the year. Both pictures are taken on full aperture and 1/30 s (focal length 24 mm).
And finally some atmosphere. This is taken with IS0 1600 (push-processed HP 5).
I had a little accident a couple of days ago, stumbled on a stair and fell quite badly. After a couple of hours it became evident that something was wrong with my right hand. A quick visit to the hospital and an x-ray revealed a small fracture. After getting home it started to hurt a lot and I spent a whole day in a grounded position in a comfy resting chair with support from people around me and a supply of painkillers. Suddenly I got an urge and a desire to watch movies and online stuff I had previously missed.
So I started taking a look into some photographic youtube channels I had heard about previously, and skimmed through.
#1 : In particular this one.
"The Art of Photography" is run by Ted Forbes, a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable photographer and visual communication professional from Dallas, Texas. He has produced this now for several years, resulting in 164 (as of today 2013-12-01) podcast episodes covering a very wide range of photographic subjects. This is a treasure! I had the great pleasure spending this miserable day watching 15 of these episodes and have 149 more to go for another rainy day!
Anyone being at least just a little interested in photography should take a look at this wonderful youtube channel! (And it is available on iTunes too, and on this website).
Another fantastic site to visit again and again is .....
#2: Zack Arias from Atlanta, Georgia.
The blog is updated a little infrequently but there is so much material in there. Always something you have not read yet. In particular the "Photo Critique" sessions are a fantastic. To go through all this material will take several days.
And finally the half-crazy but very entertaining Kai Wong from Hongkong and the
This site is quite well-known for many photographers around me and the atmosphere and the playfulness of the material is always very entertaining!
Of course there is an abundance of other photographic stuff online to watch. But these three are my favorites, at least when I am sick at home and need to educate myself and get entertained at the same time.
I guess you already know this.
#1: Pictures get taken if you have a camera at hand.
#2: You don't need a fancy camera to get good pictures.
Old wisdom which may need to be reiterated. I always carry a camera, sometimes a small point-and-shoot but lately quite often a film still camera with a prime lens and an extra roll of film. I almost always use a Crumpler rucksack to be able to pack my work things, and this fantastic sturdy thing also gives a lot of extra room and protection for a camera. And I could of course (and sometimes do) use my cellphone as a backup.
A couple of days ago I was at an office in downtown Stockholm at a high floor, handling my paid job. Suddenly a dramatic sunset light spread outside. I took a very quick coffee break and visited the top floor balcony and took this picture with my tiny little and non-fancy point-and-shoot. No hesitation, just take the picture! This light lasted for 15 minutes, no more.
The day after I took a walk home. Now I had my big fancy Nikon D700 in my bag. I don't use it very much these days but it is a fantastic tool to use in weak light . The Vasabron bridge is one of the most beautiful in Stockholm in my humble opinion. I pass this bridge almost every day. Familiarity acts as a "blocker" for me and this often prevents me from seeing things. This evening however offered this special dark late autumn light. Just get the damn camera out of the bag and take that damn picture!
A couple of years ago I visited the marine acquarium in Thorshavn, Faroe Islands. A very beautiful place! I managed to take some pictures including the one below featuring a healthy cod. Upon returning home the picture landed on my flickr page and then I forgot about it. More than a year later I discovered that this picture had been added to Wikimedia Commons and Wikipedia (english and german versions). Big surprise! Wikipedia is really a high mountain for distribution of text and images. And nowadays it is easy to use Google picture search for me to find out that this picture has been shared on hundreds of websites around the world, without exception thanks to the Wikipedia article. The majority of these publishers have followed the copyright and added a CC BY-SA compliant cred text. Very good!
The great surprise came yesterday when I found out that also the European Union added the picture to their official material on fishing policies in the Baltic Sea!
Lesson learned: It is smart to let your material float around to get cred and your name mentioned. It is not so smart to be anxious and try to defend you copyright with all means available using an "All Rights Reserved" approach, with ugly watermarks etc. This is at least true if you are an enthusiast/non-professional (such as me), or maybe also if you are in the academic sector or similar. I think even professionals working commercially could think similarly in many cases. Never forget that marketing and defending licenses is hard work and may cost you a lot of money. By utilizing open licenses you get a lever which can be very useful. A lot of people get encouraged to share your work! Finally doors may open for some real business...