Today I thought I would try and explain how I work on the streets to try and increase my chances of being "lucky" ! In many ways a successful street picture is a miracle, especially when it contains numerous individual elements that only take on significance collectively. I believe that the management of photographic expectations is a key part of feeling fulfilled at the end of a "Street" session.
My hope at the beginning of any Street shoot is to create one frame that gives me what I refer to as "The Buzz" I use this phrase as I am unable describe it any other way and I'm not even clear about what the formula is that makes some shots have this magic ingredient !
I tend to think of my search for moments in terms of "Man bites dog" rather than the reverse !
The first thing to make clear is that "My Patch" is not very big and consist of 3 small streets the town square a back lane and sometimes a bus station if I'm feeling adventurous and things are slow . I consider my first walk of the route as little more than a reconnaissance exercise although I am ready to shoot if opportunity knocks. During this walk I'm looking for anything that may have changed since my last visit, different weather often produces new opportunities, new traders, characters or events that could all become viable subjects for me. When I find a location I like I stop,think and almost walk through the possibilities that might develop in my mind. These thoughts never or rarely become reality but my mind and eye are now tuned into the potential of a location.
Observation of a small area repeatedly not only increases the odds of me capturing a moment in one of my pre-visualised locations (Hotspots !) but it also helps me to notice the repeated behaviours of people on the street and predict future events.
I do not believe in trying to make silk purses from pigs ears ! I will not entertain the idea of shooting in locations with bad light, please understand that when I refer to bad light I do not mean low light as light or should I say the quality of the light on my subjects is everything to me !
I generally take very few pictures on the street, I use digital as sparingly as I once used film. The main reason for this is that I do not want to become conspicuous and pollute the behaviour of my potential subjects. Once I find a scenario that is worthy of photography I will shoot whatever I can before my cover is blown although I have found that by remaining visible for a long period in certain situations can lead to subjects ignoring me completely, a form of acceptance I suppose. I have been known to pretend that my camera is broken to buy extra photographic time , Acceptance of my incompetent amateur photographer act works every time in certain situations. (maybe its not an act ?). I certainly believe that looking less than professional can help me work unnoticed !
I usually invest no more than four hours searching for moments in one day and this is usually interrupted by a coffee break as I am unable to maintain my street photography mindset for long periods. The level of concentration, creative thinking and seeing required for my pictures soon takes its toll on me . I think very little about exposure, shutter speeds etc. my mind is firmly on the subjects, composition, light and what I want a capture to to communicate.
Working my patch is normally a mix of repeated walking of the same route with intervals of waiting and watching as my mind whirs trying to create significance from the many random moments before my lens !
I'm not saying this is the best way to shoot street but it is my way and it works for me !
I hope it helps one or two readers to experience "The Buzz" !
Keep it real !