Ok, this is not some lesson on street photography. I would be the last person to tell someone how to shoot the streets. This post represents a practice run in my efforts to improve my own street photography. My journey to be a better documentarian of the streets can be outlined into 4 stages.
Currently I am working on 1 and 2. I feel I have a good grasp on the technical, but I am working on correlating that to being a quick draw on the streets. This means having the exposure and sometimes the focus already set before I even know what I am going to shoot.
Secondly, I must have the courage to point my camera in the direction of people not knowing what their reaction is going to be if I’m noticed. I started to get over this quickly after kicking myself on many occasions for not taking the shot. Nowadays I just take the shot and give a friendly smile if someone sees me. Thus far, I have not had any negative reactions. The thing I am working on now is getting closer.
Items 3 and 4 in my opinion are the hardest. How do you create a photo from the street that tells a story? This is what takes vision and observation. You have to first understand what it is you are trying to say, and then you have to figure out how to capture it. I have not made it to 3 and 4, but I hope practice will pay off.
So what are the 3 “C’s”? The 3 “C’s” comes from an observation upon reviewing my images. They are Cell Phones, Coffee, and Cigarettes. I really don’t think we could survive the modern world without them. Most people in the civilized world indulge in the use of one or any combination of these items on a daily bases. These shots were taken in downtown Nashville, Tennessee. I just dropped off a role of film to be developed at the Film Box Lab in Nashville. It was a sunny, but cool day. I had some time to burn, so I decided to do some street work with a roll of Ilford Delta 100 that had been setting in my second Olympus OM1 since Summer. I prefer to shoot a 400 speed film on the streets for the extra 2 stops of shutter speed, but sometimes you just have to shoot what you have. I did not intend to finish the roll, but I did. It was easy to do. On any given day, there is just so much going on. If I had the time, I could have easily finished a couple more rolls. I ended up shooting 29 exposures to finish the roll. This post is the first of 3 that I will be posting to my blog. All 3 posts are from the same roll of film, on the same day.
This first image is a classic, the smoker standing next to the no smoking sign. When you see opportunities like this, you have to get the shot. I tried to get close as possible without making it obvious I was photographing her. It was a little challenging as she and I were the only ones out in front of the building, so I pretended to be shooting something just to the left of her. She even looked in that direction to see what I was shooting. I wanted to catch here taking a puff, but I did not want to hang around too much longer, so I grabbed the shot below.
The next shot is a classic crosswalk scene. I did not noticed the girl in the shadow checking her phone until I got my scans back. I also did not realize the lady bringing up the rear was checking hers as well. You’ll noticed that she has also noticed me.
These next two guys were really having a lively conversation. They produced enough smoke to send smoke signals. A closer look revealed they were smoking cigars. They were literally blowing smoke in each others faces. I waited to catch them exhaling and got the shot below.
The shot below was not slated for this post until I noticed the cigarette in the right hand of the Rippy’s employee. It’s amazing how smokers can multitask while smoking and not drop their cigarette or burn themselves. I’ve watched my dad talk with a cigarette hanging off the edge of this lips. No matter how many times I saw him smoke and talk, the cigarette never fell.
This next one is one of my favorites. I noticed a puff of smoke to my left as I was walking down the sidewalk. I immediately was drawn to the mysterious woman behind the rail. It wasn’t smoke that I saw. It was actually water. I was seeing the vapor from her electronic cigarette. I wanted a puff of vapor in the shot, but I was afraid she might get up any minute so I went ahead and clicked the shutter. I really like the fact that you can’t see her face, but you know exactly what she is doing. I love the contrast between the dark shadows and her setting in the spot light of the sun. It really makes a nice black and white image.
I noticed the guy below out of the corner of my eye. He saw me and then went about his business. I quickly knelt and took the shot. I like how his upper torso blends in with the wall of the building.
I really love the contrast between this woman and the illuminated pavement.
Can You Hear Me Now?
I almost missed this next guy hiding in the shadows.
The next 3 shots are people on a mission.
Coffee for Two
I believe there is a boot store on every other street in Nashville.
Game Day Boots
This guy in my last picture was total oblivious to my presence. I used the column as a shield to change my camera settings and then stepped out to take the shot.
A Quick Drag
We all have heard the old adage, “Practice makes Perfect”. This is true in photography, too. It’s normal to say baseball practice, football practice or piano practice, but it’s a bit odd to say photography practice. If you want to get better at anything, you have to practice. I discovered the street photographer, John Free, years ago. I get inspiration from his message about shooting the streets. I believe any documentarian could gain a tip or two from what he has to say. One of my favorite videos from his youtube channel is below. It is only 5 and a half minutes long. It’s worth watching for any aspiring street photographer.
Please stay tuned for my next post. I captured a few images of some Music City Hopefuls. I actually had a brief conversation with one of them and was given a cd.
Images Best Viewed in Lightbox Below!