I need to write this down before it slips my mind. It occurred to me today, while looking for interesting subjects for the magazine that me and my design team are supposed to do by the end of term. I was at the Birmingham Central Library Square, and I decided that instead of looking for subjects, I should just wait and see if anything happens since the Square is usually heavily populated. It the struck me like the rain that did, half an hour earlier.
Up until now, I believed that in order to get a good snap on the street (otherwise known as street photography), one would have to search for subjects in the most gruesome locations: back-streets, subway passages and so on. When I sat in that square today, I saw what anybody would obviously see in a Friday afternoon: people going home after work, kids running from rain, a guy with a suitcase in his hand and a huge musical note in the other…….wait. That was interesting. I then decided to take a different approach to this “hunt”. Instead of running all over the place in order to see people`s expressions, I leaned next to a wall with the camera around my neck and my favorite audio source of inspiration (Jean Michel Jarre – En Attendant Cousteau); I didn`t know what I was waiting for, the simple view that I saw seemed inspiring. The longer I waited, the more obvious became to me the fact that sometimes you must be patient.
They say that at some point in every creationist`s life the subjects start finding him instead of the other way around. This is true in those rare occasions when you include patience in the equation. You have to wait. Usually when we enter a new environment it takes time to get accustomed and start to actually see what is around us. The 21st century is a time of fast-paces. We never do get to actually stop and look around us because we are always in such a hurry.
After getting accustomed to the environment that you want to photograph, you should find a spot that doesn`t attract attention, with your camera ready and start to observe your subjects. During this wait you may or may not actually photograph anything. But in those rare occasions when you do see something worth capturing…speed is the name of the game.
One thing that is photography`s greatest both advantage and disadvantage is that the entire creation act takes place in a limited length of time. That short interval remains imprinted forever. It is of this reason that a street photographer shoul be quick on the trigger, agile, observant and always ready for anything; because if that moment has passed and you didn`t hit the shutter, then it is forever lost. During my stay at the square today, I came up with some ground rules that I will further respect when doing this again. These are as follows:
- always dress-up accordingly – today was a bleak rainy day and I started shivering before I could even start to understand what I previously stated.
- never pack too much – some people take their entire gear in the hope that they may need a polarizer on a cloudy day. I find my bag to be sufficient for both carrying my camera and three lenses and also being lightweight and easily accessible.
- always be ready – it is important never to have your camera in the bag but around your neck.
- use long but unconspicuous lenses – because you never want to scare away your subjects, it`s essential that you carry a telephoto. Do not exaggerate by using something that attracts attention. (my Nikon 100mm is perfect for this)
- use fast ISO ratings – instead of having grain-free blurred images, I prefer using a higher ISO to be sure that what I get is sharp. Grain has it`s creative effects too.
- never change the spot – the more you walk around, the more you will lose focus and get distracted; just pick a spot that you know would be suitable for what you`re trying to get and wait. Sooner or later something will come up.
- finally, be patient – don`t expect to ever get it right the first time.
Similar to a movie that has a sequel, I thought of all this just before I had to go home. I did get some photos though, `will have to see what comes out. I used an Ilford HP5+, pushed 3 stops, so the images should compensate for the low-contrast evening light, while adding a what-I-hope-to-be an interesting grain effect. I have the entire weekend to practice and also hope for some rain because this could make things a lot more interesting.