Through a low

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.

What the street offers

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.

Like so. Signs constantly tempt me, another theme I can work with. And no, it’s not going to be a project 😁.

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.

Is this street photography? Unimportant question.

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.


Where is this going?

After weeks of photographing some directions seem to present themselves to me.

I like some form of incongruity, to me it looks like she’s reading stuff from work in front of a bike park, which is just a bit unusual.

No comment from me on this one.

Also drawn to work-related pictures, though I’m usually not interested in just showing people working.

Again, no comments. I try to make photos that will trigger you to think about what could be going on here; would like to hear if that happens.

Don’t really know why I like this one.

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.

Time well spent

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.

Being one

Changed the blog’s title. I’m not becoming a street photographer, I am one. Not because I think I am accomplished in any sense, but simply because it’s what I do, photograph on the street.

Now that I’m less uncomfortable at making photos of people, I tend to go back to things I did before and these last few days I got interested in showing the dynamic and energetic chaos that a city can bring.

I made a lot of pictures the last few weeks but I’m really going to let these sit for a while before I decide which are the ones I really want to show. It’s often a sign of a worthwhile picture when I keep going back for it or if I say something like “Ah, yes, that one” when I browse my catalog. Must say that I instantly liked the one above enough to show it after only a few days.

A few posts ago I ranted about using 35mm as a focal length. Well, I guess I got accustomed to it because I’m using it a lot but I also often go back to 50mm when it’s not very crowded. Eindhoven has large squares and fairly broad streets so you don’t get to see people cramped for space that often. I visited Utrecht the other day, a city with narrow streets between old houses and canals and there a shorter focal length was a natural choice. It also showed me that a new place is what it is, new: you don’t know it, you don’t have a feeling yet for what to expect, new dynamics between people and the environment.


It becomes really interesting when there’s chaos out on the streets, and better still when it’s busy with people. Colour adds to the impression in such cases I think, so colour it is.

I’m starting to get a feel for where to stand, places like this draw me like a magnet. Just today I went out to our local shopping center for testing really, not because I like taking street pics there: too few people, too much attention, even when I get better and better in being ignored. Part of the test was to see if my tricks worked even here, and they did. I only got in sort of a row with a restaurant owner claiming I could not photograph his terrace; which I perfectly could because it was outside on public territory. Yesterday I stood in front of a coffeeshop (Dutch euphemism for a place where you can buy and smoke marihuana) for over an hour, the shop’s security guys surely noticed me but didn’t say or do anything. Go figure.