This one was shot while on a street photography outing in Amsterdam with the photoclub. We were in a group of three which proved no problem in submersing into the crowd and it’s always nice to see how others go about making street shots.
Picked up where I left off some time ago, did other photography in the meantime. I want a bolder style now, meaning more wide-angle than I did before. I took my old Olympus OM Zuiko 3.5/28 which meant manual-focus and it took me some experimenting to get (reasonably) sharp pictures from it. Today I got a picture that pleases me.
I just had my bike parked in the underground parking and, as usual, had prepared my camera for the shoot of that day. And then I had to wait for this lady to finish loading her bike. Click.
Last week a member of the photoclub cited from a book and that was interesting enough to have me buy it. And it provided some insights; one of them was that an underlying theme often makes itself clear during photographing. Thus I noticed I often make pictures of people involved in or related to work.
In a video of his Chuck Jines suggested to look for scenes instead of people and that’s exactly what I did here. The shadows of the trees on the white wall drew my attention and I’ve stood here for over half an hour waiting for things to happen.
And this comes from playing with the camera.
These dark winter days are the time to do evening shots. They pose their own problems: people’s faces are often badly illuminated, if at all, and tend to drown in bright shop windows etcetera. It often calls for more post-processing and color balance hardly ever is ideal. Nevertheless I think these work best in color. The square where these photos were made, is an interesting place: it’s part of the city center’s shopping area, but also serves as a pathway for pedestrians and bikers between the railway station and an area with a lot of offices, so this makes for a mix of activities.
It feels like I kind of exhausted this line of photographing, maybe I’m repeating myself. Maybe it’s time to do something different or step up my game. On a few occasions I made pictures in less crowded areas, also shooting scenes without people, but once again I just didn’t care for what I came home with.
A change of place maybe? I made a series in another city (Utrecht) and I still haven’t come to the point of deciding which of them to publish. They feel so different! Upon revisiting the photos I also noticed I switched between 35mm and 50mm lenses a number of times. I don’t do that anymore, I leave home with only one lens these days. Changing focal length throws me off, it takes too much time to get a feel for the field of view after the lens swap.
Ordered a book today, a re-issue of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s The Decisive Moment, hoping to broaden my horizon. I’m most drawn to Garry Winogrand’s work at this moment, he made the kind of pictures that I’d love to have made.
These last few days I was losing confidence in my picture taking; I also felt that angst again in taking people pictures. Today I watched a few videos of John Free. Not everything he says resonates with me, but his take on approaching people surely struck a chord.
After that I went shopping for some groceries (just a 5 minute walk) and took my camera with me. And there was this little kid stomping around with its feet on street tiles that act as a carillon. My urge to shoot overtook my hesitation, I grabbed my camera and took a few shots. Then her mother walked up to her, obviously telling her off for something in a language I didn’t understand. Of course she noticed me taking pictures with that big lens on my camera. I smiled at her in sort of a mutual understanding of “see how much fun your kid has”, she smiled back and we parted ways. Needless to say, my mood went up a notch or two.
What I learned from this? Maybe it’s better to wait for a good opportunity, something that makes your heart jump up, than just to try and shoot as much as possible. I practiced a lot in the last weeks in photographing people and mostly I wasn’t particularly interested in the shot. That doesn’t work. The carillon kid really drove me to pick up my camera and the thrill and satisfaction is immensely greater; it doesn’t really matter if I’ll be happy with the shots when looking at them in a week or so, the encounter itself is something to cherish.
It’s a very personal thing of course: I’m starting to lose interest in photos without people. Sure, I made some these last weeks but only very few of them make the cut. When I’m in the right mood and mindset, I see so much happening with people on the street that endears me, that good stuff simply must come out. Photographing people is a very multi-faceted thing, to me it feels like your own mind, personality, mood, character is reflected thousandfold in how people react to what you’re doing. Enticing, difficult, mind-boggling, depressing, uplifting, thrilling, all that.
Several times I went over older stuff I did in the past few weeks but I’m not too sure about it. Yesterday I went out with the idea to capture scenes with detail, with or without people in them.
And then this scene presented itself to me, beautifully backlit by the sun that came out for the first time after a long grey period.
Walking on and in passing I suddenly saw this girl, overcame my hesitation within a few tenths of a second and made the shot. Impossible for her not to notice me, as is visible. I smiled, she smiled back and I walked on.
After weeks of photographing some directions seem to present themselves to me.
So where is this going? I don’t know, I just go to the city center almost every day, take out my camera and start wandering. Sometimes I stand still at a certain spot and try to capture people passing by, then I walk, a scene grabs my attention and I make the shot as fast as I can (which often is not fast enough), trying to get a feel for the general atmosphere: are people hurried in the rush hour, leisurely shopping in nice weather, coping with bad weather.
I have considered to define something like a project, for instance “People commuting”, but that simply feels limiting and blocks my creativity, so for the moment I’ll continue to shoot without any preconceived notion of what to come home with. As soon as that stops working, I’ll start thinking again but for now it works: I wander and just when I start thinking the inspiration is gone, something catches my eye and makes me start shooting. Even after weeks of almost daily outings I still feel drawn to it every day.
It’s important for me to realize that I primarily need to please myself with my photos; trying to think what others might like, just doesn’t work. Maybe it has to do with where I am now in my life, discovering what essentially drives me.
Had to wait the other day for 20 minutes until my prints were finished in the local store and decided to walk around a bit and try out what the extra blurring capability of a neutral density filter could do for me.
You hardly stand a chance to go unnoticed when you drag a camera along to keep someone’s face in the middle. I have other photographs where people look at me and that’s not always a bad thing. Happy with this one and it points me to a somewhat different direction in picturing people on the street.