I had a four-leaf clover in my wallet, a horse shoe hung on my rear-view mirror. I also rubbed my rabbit’s foot keychain every time I was about to press down the shutter release. That’s how I got so many wonderful photos. You should do the same. Continue reading
Category Archives: Street
Take a glimpse of the street you are standing on. What do you hear? Now close your eyes and cover your ears. What do you see? That’s right. You can’t hear or see the pulse of the street with eyes and ears open, but you can now feel the life of the street you’re standing on when your eyes and ears are covered. Let me explain…
You instantly become a sleepwalker the moment your feet step onto the sidewalks. Unconsciously, you do things everybody else does. You walk, you act, you photograph—like a zombie. You don’t give yourself enough time to listen, to watch. You’re too busy to capture the moment yet you let the unseen slips away.
Street photography is no longer an art. You’ve turned it into a racing game.
When was the last time you wander down the streets just to watch life strolls by? Had you ever spent a moment to wonder what would this place look like 10 years later? Would the same street vendor be there? What would happen to that coffee shop on the corner?
No. You’re too busy to capture the moment. You let the precious street life slipped away. How could you?
Whenever I set out for street photography, I set out alone. I don’t even take my dog with me. I want to be alone with the streets. I want to hear it talks to me. I want to spend my time looking at it until my brain soaks up with light, shadow, color, and laughter. I want to understand the street life. I want to see the beauty and the ugliness sides of it. I want to document the special aspects of the ordinary spheres. I want to photograph the unseen moments of human conditions rather than chasing after the meaningless street appearances.
And I want to do all that with my own vision.
Today, street ‘togs come from all sectors. They’re doctors, accountants, lawyers, waitresses, cab drivers; only a few are purebred street ‘togs. That is the beauty part of street photography. Every street ‘tog has his own perceptive vision. The ugly part is that everyone must rush in and be somebody but himself. They try hard, too hard, to be like Zack Arias, Alexander Richter & Eric Kim. No one bother to acknowledge the hidden values inside them.
What can be wrong when a doctor photographs the street with his trained medical vision? Or an accountant approaches the street from his financial perspective? What stops them from applying their own specialties to street photography?
A cab driver spends his day looking at the faces of his passengers in his rear-view mirror, that’s his perspective; uninvolved and unobtrusive. Although he can only see his passengers partially, yet he is so close to them. Let just say you’re his passenger, would you take your time to observe your cab driver with the perspective of a passenger? Or you rather lift your camera as a street ‘tog and ask for a picture?
The beauty of street photography takes root in the chaotic life that occurs in front of our eyes. As a street ‘tog, you don’t take pictures to see how your subjects would look in your photos. Your mission is to reveal the stories that others failed to see. You need to observe your subjects with their minds and in their perspectives to understand their stories. Then you tell the true stories using your own creative perceptions.
Be authentic—especially with yourself.
Arias, Kim and Ritcher are prominent idols who conquered the streets with their charms and styles, but look closely. Has Kim tried to be Ritcher? No. Their styles are different. They’re authentic. Even if they share the same common techniques of speed, discretion, composing, they’re different from one to another. That is the key that makes them stand out from the rest.
You, as a street ‘tog, should make an effort to discover your own perception. You need to throw yourself into the middle of the chaotic and imperfect streets, stay focus and develop that perception to the fullness. Find a corner and shoot it a thousand times until your eyes see the unseen. Until that corner reveals its secrets to you.
Now, you’ve become a true street hunter.
Three main things that evoke the fans of Anime Expo®, AnimeCon and Comic-Con are the colorful merchandises, the ludicrous cosplay characters and the photographic opportunities for both the coplayers and the photographers.
I don’t know exactly how or when cosplay slipped into America and progressed into a type of performing art; nonetheless, the trend quickly spread and became a subculture revolved around roleplay. These gatherings are not only attract the cosplayers and their fans but also photographers. While the cosplayers show off their elegant costumes and accessories, the photographers demonstrate their skills and their newest gears. A win-win situation for both groups.
Beside hunting for pictures, I come to these events to learn about this subculture. And sometime, to conduct experiments on my new gears. Events like this are also good opportunities to meet other local photographers. To my surprise, I’m the only one who walks around this second year conference of AM2 —Anime, Music, Manga— at the Anaheim Convention Center with the Fujifilm X-Pro 1.
Numerous Canonians and Nikonians stop me with a similar question, “How do you like it?” Jokingly, I reply, “I like it enough to throw away my Canon gears.”
In my previous entry, I mentioned that I learn to use the camera by experimenting and taking notes. I find ways to control the X-Pro 1 more efficient, along with tricks to modify its film modes to get the color tones that I want. I actually have more fun shooting with the X-Pro 1 than any other cameras I have; including the Leica M9-P. It’s now the chance for me to test my previous notes and gather new ones.
As I drift through the Exhibition Hall, a group of teenagers catch my attention with their bright pink and yellow hair. How they dress for their roleplay characters are just as quirky as some characters of the Fujifilm X-Pro 1.
Come to think of it, we’re all born with a few quirky traits. They are the aspects of our personalities that we’re self-conscious about. The aspects that we usually too shy to display in public. Quirks make us special. It makes others pay attention and remember us. I call them memorable quirks.
A Nikonian strikes up a conversation on the slowness of the Fujinon XF lenses. To show him that the lens isn’t that bad, I walk by the group and snap the shot above while he’s still focusing and composing and let the awkward movement of the teen in the photo slips away. Compare to the AF of the Fujinon XF lens, human reflex seems to be much slower.
The Fujinon XF 35mm 1:1.4 R is perfect for small group shots, portraits, close-ups; both indoor and outdoor. More often, I choose to shoot at two stops smaller than the largest f stop available to achieve the optimal image quality. In comparison to Leica, Zeiss & Schneider optics, I choose the Fujinon XF lenses for their prices and fineness. Although the AF speed of the XF lens can’t beat any of the AF lenses from other brands, it’s still one of the best optics on the market at the moment.
Since I plan to shoot the entire gathering using high ISO to bring up the noise —shoot me. I love noisy photos; especially, when it comes to black and white, I decide to attach a Fader 52mm Mark II Variable ND filter to the Fujinon XF 35mm 1:1.4 R. The ISO for these photo were set at 1250.
The Fader Mark II Variable ND filter is indeed a fine product. It works much like the traditional circular polarizer filters; in the flick of a wrist, I can cut out from 2 to 8 stops of light. However, its front end is slightly larger than 52mm, the Fujifilm duckbilled hood won’t fit once the filter is attached to the lens.
My main uses for the Variable ND filter are,
- To enable slow shutter speeds to create smooth, fluidlike movement in subjects such as waterfalls, clouds, or cars
- To decrease depth of field by allowing wider apertures to be used
- To enable ISO above 800 setting and allow the setting to be used in brightly lit scenes
Once I satisfy with my exposure setting, instead of adjusting the aperture or the shutter speed, I turn the Variable ND filter to alter the amount of light if needed.
By design, the LCD screen will automatically adjust its brightness. To be able to view the effect of the Variable ND filter, I assign the Preview Depth of Field feature to the Fn button.
The X-Pro 1 menu may appear as chaotic as the exhibition hall during a cosplay event, but it will become organized after you learn its layout. I appoint certain settings to the seven Custom modes and the most used feature to the Fn button. Then, I use the Q mode to switch my Custom Settings during my shoot. Take your time to memorize the X-Pro 1 menu. It will pay off some day. Trust me.
Toward the end of the day, I hope that Fujifilm will soon produce a 23mm lens—equivalent to 35mm/135 format. Even better if they make it a pancake lens version and another with f/1.2. As much as I enjoy the equivalent 53mm focal length, I feel that a Fujinon 23mm lens would be more proper for street photography and event reportage.
Now that I have found a way to handle the Fujinon XF 35mm 1:1.4 R, it’s time for me to move on to the 60mm Macro lens.