New Tricks for an Old Dog: Is Your Style a Choice or a Crutch?

For the longest time I was convinced that street photography looked better in black and white. It makes sense; Henri Cartier-Bresson, Garry Winogrand, Bruce Gilden and all the other masters all shot in black and white, and if itís good enough for them, itís good enough for me. During the course of this winter I was definitely feeling bored with my photography. I thought it might be the lack of good shooting weather and the general blah of the winter months but then I started thinking more about my self-imposed monochromatic style. I wondered if it was truly a choice or whether it was a crutch I was leaning on that was keeping me from growing as a photographer. Well a while ago, completely by accident, I re-discovered color which prompted me to go back and take another look at some of my favourite black and white images. Continue reading “New Tricks for an Old Dog: Is Your Style a Choice or a Crutch?”

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Street Photography Tutorial #6: Shooting From The Hip II

In my last tutorial, I talked about all of the photographic benefits of shooting from the hip, and while I got a lot of positive feedback about the techniques themselves, many people were concerned about the social aspects of hip shooting. They felt that theyíd love to try it, but they were worried that they would be perceived as being surreptitious, sneaky or sketchy for shooting without raising their camera. I completely understand where theyíre coming from, but in the end, the key is to remember that thereís absolutely nothing wrong with shooting from the hip; youíre not doing anything wrong or illegal. If you can convince yourself of that youíre halfway there. The other half is learning how to defuse confrontations before they start. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #6: Shooting From The Hip II”

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Street Photography Tutorial #5: Shooting From The Hip

If youíve been following along with my street work, youíve probably noticed I do most of my shooting from waist height and there are a couple very good reasons why. In a previous tutorial we talked about visualizing the shot, if you havenít read it, you should give it a quick read before we continue as most of the stuff Iím going to go over this time is dependant being able to ďseeĒ what your camera sees without looking through the viewfinder. Shooting from the hip isnít exactly a new concept; photographers have been doing it since before street photography was even considered a genre. If youíre not familiar with the term, itís exactly what it sounds like, taking a picture without raising your camera to your eye, its use stemming from the hand gun technique of the same name.

The main reason many street photographers use this method is to maintain a low profile and keep people from reacting to a camera being around, trying to preserve the natural moments in life of people immersed in their environment. Iím definitely of the school that thinks street photography is best done as candid as possible; otherwise itís just an unnatural pose that happens to be on the street. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #5: Shooting From The Hip”

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Street Photography Tutorial #4: All the Small Things

Photography is an expensive hobby; besides the big stuff like cameras and lenses thereís an endless hoard of little gadgets and gizmos weíre told we canít possibly live without. Iím usually a bit fan of buying local, but for some things I just canít justify the ridiculous mark up. At some point someone decided that since weíre willing to shell out a thousand dollars for a lens, we wonít shirk at the $80 price tag on an official lens hood for it (which should be included on all lenses anyways, but donít get me started on that). Take the example of the Canon ET-65B lens hood for my 70-300mm: eBay from Hong Kong is $4.23 and the price at the local photo storeÖ wait for itÖ $74.95 for what amount to three cents worth of moulded plastic! Like I said, I like to shop local and official but come on, a price difference like that is just insulting. Hereíre a few indispensible accessories you can get on the cheap on eBay that every street photographer should add to their bag.
Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #4: All the Small Things”

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Street Photography Tutorial #3: Visualizing The Shot

Whether you shoot from the hip or bring your camera up to eye level, being able to pre-visualize a shot is one of the most important skill every photographer should learn. Unless youíre shooting in a studio with all the time in the world to play around with lighting and focal lengths, being able to know, even roughly, what your cameraís going to see ahead of time is a must. Even in the studio, time is usually money, and being able to create a shot in your mind before you even touch a camera will save you both; if you can switch focal lengths or lighting in your head you only have to do it once physically. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #3: Visualizing The Shot”

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Street Photography Tutorial #2: Tools of the Trade

Last tutorial I talked about the two main types of street photographer: Hunter or Gatherer. This time I’m going to go into the tools of the trade. My street photography kit is very different from my working kit in many ways; my usual working kit contains everything I think I’m going to need for a job, a lot of things I’ll probably need and many things I’ll never need but feel better for bringing. My street photography kit however is usually only about half of what I would like to bring on a given day. The reason for this is simple, on a job I have to be ready for any possibility I can think of and be prepared for the fact I didn’t think of everything. Less is more however when it comes to street photography; I could be walking around for hours so the less I’m carrying the better, and the fewer lenses I bring the less I’ll be inclined to focus on lens selection instead of watching whatís going on around me. There’s many reasons to keep your street photography kit small, which I’ll get into as I go, but first things first, lets talk about the foundation of any kit: your camera and lens(es). Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #2: Tools of the Trade”

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Street Photography Tutorial #1: Hunter or Gatherer?

Street photography is probably one of the most miss-understood genres, not every photo taken on a street falls into the category and not all street photography actually happens there. Street photography is just as much photojournalism as it is art, in its simplest form, the goal is to capture people being people. There’s almost as many schools of street photography as there are photographers doing it, everyone has their own methods, preferences and visions but what unites us is our passion for recording the time in which we live. This series of tutorials, tips and essays will hopefully shed some light on what I’ve learned in the years I’ve been practicing. Continue reading “Street Photography Tutorial #1: Hunter or Gatherer?”

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More Street Photography From The Capital

As much as I love Ottawa, sometimes I miss the bustle of a bigger city, it’s hard to remain inconspicuous on an empty street. Rideau street and The Byward Market are pretty much the only areas in Ottawa where you can find a decent flow of people; during rush hour a good chunk of the population has to pass through here, everyone intent on getting home as quickly as possible. Continue reading “More Street Photography From The Capital”

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England Trip 2011: Round Two

I’m slowly going through all the thousands of photos I took on my spring trip to London. As I said in my previous England post, while I brought a bunch of film gear on the trip, I ended up using my Sony Nex 3 for most of the trip. As much as I was impressed with the camera it really made me realize how much my mindset changes depending on what I’m shooting with. When I’m shooting film I’m much more careful with each shot. I take my time framing, judging exposure and I’m much more reluctant to squeeze off a shot at just anything. My keeper rate when shooting film is definitely much higher. Out of a 36 shot roll I’m usually happy with roughly half the frames and will get at least 2-3 really nice shots.

Comparing that to shooting digital, I get the same number of keepers from a full 8 gig card with hundreds of shots on it. I’m much more trigger happy with digital and quite a bit sloppier with framing and exposure because I don’t have that little voice in the back of my head saying “That picture’s going to cost you $0.25 to take, and you only have 10 more shots on the roll”. On the plus side though, I find digital does produce more dynamic and unusual shots because I’m more willing to take risks on subjects I wouldn’t take the chance of wasting a frame of film on. The nightmare begins when I get home after a two week trip with 3000+ images to go through.

I’m about half way through now, I still have all of Iceland to go through but they’re coming. I’m definitely going to have to make a second pass at these shots though in about six months time. Time enough to get some distance from the subject matter.

On a different note, a lot of cool stuff has been going on in Ottawa lately, stay tuned for pics from Fringe Festival, Roller Derby and more from the world of Canadian Music.

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Dana Meise – The Great Hike

You meet all kinds of people when you spend your free time wandering around the city with a camera. My last post dealt with some of the unfriendlies I’ve come across in my wanderings, so I thought I’d share the story of Dana Meise to balance things out.

I met Dana while I was walking up Elgin one night, he stopped me to ask directions to the Byward Market. I was heading there myself so we walked and talked our way up there. Turns out Dana is hiking his way across Canada and had just arrived in Ottawa. He started out in 2008 in Cape Spear, Newfoundland, at the eastern end of the Trans Canada Trail and has been hiking his way west in stages ever since.

He’s not officially sponsored by anyone but has found support from all over Canada, from donations of gear and supplies to places to crash for the night. Currently he’s taking donations for the Brain Injured Group; if you’d like to support his cause you can check out his website The Great Hike or support The Great Hike on facebook.

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