Assignment 3 – Shooting – Day 1

The first thing I must say about day one of shooting street photography in Sheffield City Centre is…. it was cold. It was really, really, cold. To the point that using the controls of my camera became almost impossible.

Anyway, kitted out with my 24mm pancake and a 1/25th sec shutter speed in shutter priority mode, I set off. I started shooting by holding my camera in one hand (with the strap wound around my wrist in case I dropped it), and casually pointed it at things/people of interest… while walking. This had worked in the past (albeit I’d only done it once before), so I had high hopes.

It would seem that that one time in the past was a lucky fluke, because after 20 minutes or so of this, I checked my shots, and every last one of them was a useless blurred mess. I felt crestfallen.

Time for Plan B. I got out my phone… and discovered the Canon Camera Connect app had updated… into a form I was completely unfamiliar with. It took me 15 minutes to make the thing connect to my camera, and all the time I was getting colder and colder.

So I set off walking, with my camera just above waist height, hanging from its strap around my neck. I kept my eyes mostly up, and when I saw something of interest, I slowed down, and pressed the shutter release control on my phone.

Half an hour of this, and I checked my shots.

All rubbish.

I was now feeling thoroughly miserable, and really didn’t know what to do.

A trip to the Winter Gardens to warm up helped.

I felt sure my method had potential, but I needed to do something different to actually get the shots. First though,  I switched to my 50mm lens, as with this, I wouldn’t need to get so close to people. I reset the shutter speed to 1/50th sec.

On going back out, I hit on a method that I hoped would work. I kept the camera hanging on it’s strap, but now, just to make it look even less likely that I was taking pictures with it, I hung it off centre, so it was pointing about 45 degrees to my right. Then, rather than looking for people doing interesting things, I largely looked for locations that were interesting, and had a high throughput of people… and I loitered.

I’d lean on a wall, or in a doorway, or generally out of the main flow of people, and look down at my phone. So as far as people were concerned, I was texting, or whatever. What I was actually doing was watching them on my app…. or lining up a shot and waiting for someone to walk into it.

Now, if I’m honest, after a couple of hours doing this, I was so cold, and really quite miserable, that I was fairly convinced I had nothing worth looking at. I hadn’t checked. My hands were too cold to press the buttons without a lot of fumbling. So I went home.

I didn’t review my photos till several hours after I’d got home, and was somewhat gobsmacked. I’d taken over 250 shots, and to be fair, a huge number of them were unusable, as focusing with the app is very hit and miss. To make it focus quickly, which you need for street photography, I relied on a centre weighted mode, and if I had any way of controlling it within the app, I couldn’t find it.

But the good images….

Okay… these are some of my rejects. They’re still (to my eyes) pleasing examples of street photography… they just don’t quite do it as examples of ‘decisive moment’ images.

 

Image #1

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This was only the 2nd shot I took where I thought “okay… that’s actually a moment”, where I’d isolated an individual from the flow of bodies.  It’s a reject because while it’s certainly a moment, it’s not really a decisive one.

 

Image #2

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You can’t really tell what’s happening here. There are two figures in close proximity to each other, and the movement in the shot makes it feel like they might be fighting (they aren’t). Nothing is in focus, and there is no real focus to the image…. but I still like it. It has energy.

 

Image #3

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I like the juxtaposition of the three figures. “Which one should I buy?”  … “Hey… is that Bob over there?” … “Bloody litter. Bloody cold. Wish I was at home.”

 

Image #4

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I watched this guy for some time. Always chose to approach young women with a slick flattering approach before going into his charity spiel.  I like how the two older women have obviously heard whatever he said to the young woman. Rejected because the overall composition is quite weak and unstructured.

Image #5

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It’s hard to explain what I like about this. I think it’s the “Ahhhh…. that’s better” as the guy leans back and smokes after a lot of walking.  Equally hard to explain why it’s a reject. It has something… but maybe not the something that I want.

 

Image #6

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really like this shot. It’s like a stolen glance at a pretty girl while she’s eating.  I like how there are little glimpses of a lot of things, in between the bustling bodies. It’s a fluke shot from a stream of continuous shots as I followed the tram in with the camera. It’s a reject, because while to my eye, the ‘moment’ is glaringly obvious, I feel that to other viewers it might not be… especially as she’s out of focus.

I dunno. I might change my mind and include this one. Depends what other shots I get on subsequent trips. Feedback on this would be most welcome.

 

Image #7

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There’s nothing really decisive about this. It’s just a moment. But it’s a moment I like. Something about the serenity on the face of the woman in the middle, amongst all the hustle and bustle of an inner city street. It’s a scene filled with sensory overload, yet there she is, apparently oblivious… mind elsewhere and unaffected.

 

Image #8

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This one seems somehow comical to me. Pillows and quilts are bulky and awkward things to carry around at the best of times, and here are these two people having a discussion on the street while carrying them…   and a sign, seemingly pointing right at them, like “These are pedestrians!”

 

Image #9

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Scooby and Shaggy seemingly dancing to the music. Rejected because the posters are in focus, where the musician isn’t. Needed to be the other way around.  He was actually really good. Only playing cover versions of other people’s songs (that I noticed), so I didn’t buy his CDs, but I gave him a pound, just because I appreciated his skill.

Image #10

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Getting off the bus. It’s a decisive moment. I like the composition. Rejected for the simple reason that it’s just too easy. You see people getting off buses every day, and it’s easy to stand near a bus stop and take a shot as someone gets off. Even that would be fine… if it actually said anything worth saying, beyond ‘people get off of buses’.

 

Image #11

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This is another one I really like, but have rejected, because I don’t think others would see what I see. For me, it’s the woman who’s stopped to blow on her cold hands (or might be lighting a cigarette), amidst a scene of … not chaos… there’s no rioting going on… but the image is chaotic in nature.

 

Image #12

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Are these buses racing, or is one about to rear-end the other? It looks like how I’d play Grand Theft Auto if I’d stolen a bus.

Image #13

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Nice, but too obvious. Probably a cliche.

 

Image #14

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I like how the homeless chap is out of focus, like people’s attention in the modern world is on themselves, or anything but the poor guy starving in the cold. Rejected for several reasons. The ‘photo a hobo’ shot has long been a cliche, even if social commentary is an admirable thing. I’ve seen this same guy on this same spot in a submission by another OCA student… so….  y’know. Ultimately though, the composition is weak.  A better angle, in better light might have made all the difference, but even though I could’ve repositioned myself, I think it would’ve been obvious and would’ve drawn his attention.  I do feel sorry for him though. I’ll shut up, before I start getting political.

 

Image #15

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I felt sorry for this bird too. It had an injured leg/foot, and had sought shelter indoors. There’s a story behind this shot. I was sitting next to a chap of (I assume) Pakistani descent, in full muslim attire… the long flowing gown thing, the little hat and the big beard. We chatted and he told me that for all of the 50 years he’d lived in Sheffield, he’d never travelled on a train before… so he was a little out of his element in this place.  He seemed to tense up somewhat when I took my camera out. The state of the world today, with all the horrible right wing anti-muslim sentiment may have been a factor. Who knows? Anyway… he seemed to relax after a moment and looked at me quizzically. I pointed under the chairs in front of us. He hadn’t seen the pigeon.

 

So there’s this reaction to ‘decisive moment’ type street photography, which involves taking photos of things, where everything just falls together… landscapes, buildings, weather…. whatever… but the moment is with the photographer, not people on the street.

I get the idea. I even like it as art. It’s the kind of thing I’ve taken many times before. I just don’t think of it as a ‘decisive moment’. For that reason, even though I took these, and really like them, I won’t be including them in my submission.

Image #16

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Image #17

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Image #18

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Image #19

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Image #20

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Many of these… I see the scenes, and find it hard to believe the architects didn’t have this exact scene in mind when they designed their buildings. They seem to have been put together specifically to be viewed from this exact position.

I think that may be part of why I don’t include such images in my submission though. Where there are people in the photo… no-one else is ever going to take that same shot. With buildings, anyone can see this scene, think “wow” and take a photo. Many probably already have. So I like them. But are they unique? I can’t be sure.