Shake It Off
A heatwave in London. Record temperatures and humidity to put you in a coma. Combine those two things with a lack of motivation to go out into the world and you have the perfect set up for staying at home in the dark and leaving street photography for another day.
But… as it had been a while I decided to drag myself out and see what street photography brings. During this process I discovered an interesting psychological aspect to street photography (or exploratory photography). When I usually considered the task beforehand it would lead me to talk myself out of it, especially if it features an area or theme I’ve shot before. This invariably led to the following chain of thought:
‘What’s the point of going to location x, I know the parks, the roads, I won’t see any angle I haven’t seen before (etc).’
I do this all the time. This epic procrastination even extends to new locations. Consider the following self-argument:
‘I don’t know what it will be like in location y, maybe it’ll be a waste of time. Boring buildings, ugly pigeons, traffic. Crap light today. How BORING.’
Definitely a state of mind I needed to overcome.
I guess what it comes down to is having a reason to go and do it. For me not only is that reason always the same it is coincidentally the one thing I can’t think of beforehand to motivate me in the first place.
Those things you can’t imagine or predict beforehand. They just happen in front of you (or behind) and you react to it and then it’s gone. I know it may not be ‘correct thinking’ and I know there are those that specialise in landscapes, architecture and the like. I shoot all of that but not because ‘it’s what I do‘, I shoot it because I needed that moment. The camera is merely a tool to capture it. The more comfortable you are with the camera, the more confidence you have in its ability to get what you want and the more fun you’ll have. That’s the theory anyway right? Not that I don’t have my gear nerd thing happening with technology. But that’s more to do with my love of science and engineering.
I like to think there is a difference.
So I got my butt out and went for a walk. I went through two of London’s Royal Parks, Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill. It’s actually a nice walk, peaceful, lots of green space, improved dramatically by the baking heat and a gentle breeze.
A pleasing cocktail.
Now, each time I go out I try and do something different. I usually shoot raw but on this day I kept it jpeg. I also usually take a camera bag with a bunch of lenses, variable ND filters, external microphone blah blah, enough gear to shoot a freaking film! This is bad. Experience has taught me two things:
- Carrying lots of gear is just added stress; more stuff to carry, to look after, to worry about.
- Having lots of options with lenses / filters etc, can lead to indecision. Too much choice leads you to spend more time thinking about lenses and other technical crap and less about actually taking in your environment.
In response to this I had begun taking out a minimum amount of equipment. It appears to be the same thing that happened with my music composing and production. I realised I had become obsessed with plug-ins, virtual instruments and technical points of production and ended up not actually making any music.
What’s The Point?
To restrict myself I decided not to do any filming. Knowing just how wonderful the video quality of the NX1 is, even if only using it for frame grabbing can lead to you shooting lots of (technically) sweet looking video when you should be taking photos. BAD BOY!
Focus on photos only. Benefits are you have less content to deal with (or get distracted by) when bringing it in for editing and that all means increased productivity. Not only ‘getting the shot’ but ‘getting the shot out there into the world’. They’re both sides of the same coin. The same can be applied to music production of course (I think I’m more telling myself this).
I took out my camera with the 50-150mm S, an excellent telephoto lens. Sharp, fast, focuses instantly and the balance with the battery grip is excellent. The effect is to move the center of gravity away from your wrist and into your lower forearm, much better. Probably the best in fact. It’s so comfortable that I’ve taken the grip out with me just because I like the feel of it, the balance more than compensating for the extra mass.
Days Made For Street Photography
I like these two parks for different reasons. For street photography, Regent’s Park is much larger (lots of animals and separate areas, flower gardens, lakes, protected areas). Whereas Primrose Hill is smaller and closer to built up areas.
I visit Regent’s Park first, it’s further away so I can hit the other park on the wander back. I walk along Regent’s Canal (where the shot with the baby looking into the camera was taken).
These walks never seem to go the way I expect. Like chaos theory, the same location on a different day can yield completely different results due to variables. I don’t just mean lighting, I mean people and other animals interacting. All of those things I actually want to capture, the reason I go out there in the first place, the one thing you cannot predict beforehand.
As I mentioned previously it was a hot day, people weren’t doing much apart from melting into the ground. The camera held up perfectly well in the heat, it even got almost hot to the touch when I was filming on the way home. (Yes I know I said I wouldn’t, but it was worth it, you’ll see why later).
I wandered through the park, instinctively snapping away while at the same time making a conscious effort to shoot less. Who needs two hundred shots of roses anyway. The birds were staying close to the water and keeping their heads down, except if there’s food.
I do tend to have exposure compensation down about a third of a stop as I know lifting shadows is better than pulling down highlights with the NX1. This goes back to my conversation about editing.
In The Shade
Take the bird in the shade in the shot above. I could have exposed for that area, which would risk blowing out details in the grass in the foreground. This would also blow the highlights on the arm of the man laying there and most probably the leaves too, but because for this shot I wanted all three subjects lined up in that way (geometry is your friend) they had to all ‘fit’ exposure-wise.
Standard bird in the water shot there. I don’t actually like this shot for the bird. I like it because of the pattern the water makes as it is breaking around its body. The anatomy of a shock wave. On that same lake humans were floating about on boats…
Eventually I got fed up and wandered back. To be honest I wasn’t feeling very good, hadn’t done for a while (mentally). I decided to walk back topside and head down a road called Parkway for a short cut but I wasn’t paying attention. Wrapped up in my thoughts and feelings of self-loathing I ended up walking the wrong way!
I went back down to the canal. As I turn the corner I saw this guy just chilling out by the canal side. A woman’s voice echoes across the water. This is exactly what I needed. Time for some street photography!
At first I just walked past (as I said I wouldn’t shoot any video) but I found myself turning around and just having to capture it. I was still using spot metering, really helping to bring out the subject with the challenging movement and dynamic range of light in that area.
I’ll just leave it here, shot in 4K UHD. I didn’t have any time to set anything and I had no intention of interfering with the performance in any way. So I just crouched down and shot everything hand held. The odd aperture adjustment here and there with audio recorded using the NX1’s on-board stereo mic.
I spent quite some time there, listening to the performances, filming and photographing the artists. Street photography is random. You can have a totally uninspiring day walking and looking and have it all rewarded in a moment by a wrong turn. There is a lesson in there somewhere!
I recorded more but I’ll put the videos all together in a separate post in the future. For now, that’s it! Hope you enjoyed the pictures or the rambling, or the music. Until next time 🙂