Thursday 29 March 2012

Street photography - Passing by

Two strangers, caught in what may seem as a confrontational pose, pass each other outside Lunds Konsthall, an art museum in Lund, Sweden. The apparent tension in the picture never existed. The picture can be viewed on a black background here.

This is by far my most viewed photograph, with nearly 14,000 views on Flickr. It is not a posed photograph, but instead an example of street photography with both subjects unaware that the photo was taken. This is a controversial area of photography as both opinion and law differs widely between different countries and cultures. Stories of photographers being hassled,  threatened or even arrested are commonplace today.

In the UK, there is a Home Office consultation right now where part of the aim to clarify the law and issue guidance to police on interaction with photographers. There is a great deal of confusion about the rights to ones likeness, model releases and what is socially acceptable. Street photography can also be very challenging as the opportunity to take a shot is fleeting and light conditions are often far from ideal.

My personal experience of doing street photography in Japan, England, Poland, Sweden, Scotland, Portugal and Denmark has been positive so far. Generally the rules I live by are simple:

  • Do not be creepy.
  • Do not trespass.
  • Smile a lot.
  • Move along if somebody indicates they don't want to be in the shot.
I use a both zoom lens and a 50mm lens for street photography. The former lends itself to shots where the subjects are unaware of the photo while the latter requires a degree of proximity that usually entails interaction with the subject, resulting in posed shots. I don't see either method as being more pure or better than the other, but rather think that both have their rightful place in street photography.

Looking at the technical aspects of the particular shot in this post, it was taken with a zoom lens (135mm) with a 1/500 of a second exposure at aperture of f/5.6 and with ISO set to 100. In retrospect taking the picture at f/8 or f/11 would have provided a better depth of field for keeping the man fully in focus without sacrificing too much speed. A high shutter speed was required as both subjects were moving and a longer exposure would have introduced motion blur or prevented me from capturing the moment.

One of the most upvoted comments on Reddit regarding this picture was a request to develop this into a series. With spring finally here I hope to make this happen in the next few months.

1 comment:

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