Saturday, October 13, 2012

Fuji X-Pro1 and Street Shots

Apropos of nothing, I took these two shots at the beginning of the week and liked them so I thought I'd post them without more significance than I liked them and they were shot with the Fuji X-pro1.

I've been getting out on average twice a week to shoot and on each outing coming home with lots of images from which to select for processing and posting. If I don't post them quickly they fall by the wayside. Sometimes the most difficult task in writing this blog is coming up with a pithy and/or witty posts about the images. For me, writing in any form (even coming up with captions) has always been the most difficult creative endeavor.

One point to make about the second image: It's important to be able to not point the camera at the main subject so as to grab a candid expression. But this technique creates focus issues. Even though focus-locking on the main subject and then reframing the image often works well enough, just that small readjustment in the plane of focus - especially at wide open apertures - will soften the image subject. The way around this is to move the adjustable focus point on the XP1 while looking through the viewfinder. My problems with this are twofold: 1) I often shoot from the hip without looking through the viewfinder and 2) bringing up the focus point grid and readjusting the point of focus takes enough time so that it's entirely possible that an expression or moment in time will be lost.

Oh well, there's always trade offs ......

Damned Pigeons!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

People on a Mission

I sometimes visit one of the museums in New York's Museum Mile on upper Fifth Avenue, and afterwards take a slow walk down Madison Avenue and back to Penn Station. Madison Avenue is the home of very expensive boutiques and jewelry shops. So there's always the chance to get some wonderful shots of the 'beautiful people' out and about.

The woman in this shot was looking longingly at some jewelry, and her husband's expression seemed to say 'Oh God, not another pair of diamond earrings!'

Further on as I walked through midtown I saw this gentleman walking with intense purpose in his stride and carrying a hand saw. I hope he wasn't a serial killer on his way to complete a job!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

A Couple of Happy Guys

I'm often asked about how to shoot 'from the hip', which is a euphemism for taking a photo without looking through the viewfinder. Sometimes it's from the shoulder, sometimes from the middle of my chest. There's no easy answer, but several things are important to consider.

1) Exposure needs to be set. I usually have my camera on auto ISO and set the aperture and shutter manually. You need to be able to read the light and set them without looking at the exposure information in the viewfinder. When I'm walking around shooting I'm always aware of changes in the lighting. When I turn a corner I take a quick reading and adjust my camera accordingly. 

2) I use fixed focal length lenses on the X-Pro1. When I used the D700 I usually had the 24-70 f2.8 zoom on the camera, but 90% of the time the lens stayed at its widest focal length. On the Fuji I most often shoot with the 18mm (28mm equivalent) except when I'm sitting in one spot in which case I use the 35mm (50mm equiv.) I'm chomping at the bit waiting for Fuji to release the new 14mm lens. It's important to keep the focal length in mind because you need to be aware of the area of coverage that you will get without looking through the viewfinder. That's why wide angle lenses work best for this type of work - they maximize the environmental information in the shot.

3) It's important to be aware of what the lens is focusing on. If you take shots like those below where the main subject is off-center, but the autofocus is set to concentrate on the center of the frame, you either need to use a very deep depth of field, focus and recompose the shot (very difficult to do when shooting this way), or adjust the focal point of the camera (also very difficult to do). I've become somewhat adept at anticipating this problem, but it's taken many goofs to hone my skills.

4) One of the most basic techniques that needs to be mastered is to understand how to tilt the camera up or down so that you don't chop the top of someone's head off in the shot, or have half a frame of sky (negative space) and a shot of someone from the neck up. Once again, this takes practice and quite a few missed shots.

5) Avoid the impulse to chimp. When I began shooting without looking through the viewfinder, I always wanted to see if I 'got' the shot, and if not, make the necessary adjustments next time. The problem is that you run the risk of missing another shot while you're looking at the LCD on the back of the camera. It may be necessary at first, when learning to shoot like this, to check the image. But now when I'm out on the street I never look at what I've shot until my train ride home.

All that said, there are plenty of times I use the viewfinder too. Part of the pleasure I get from shooting with the XP1 is the Optical Viewfinder experience - the opportunity to look through the viewfinder and see a scene as it unfolds before you, to see people before they enter the area of the frame. If I know a person will be receptive to my taking their photo, I spend a little extra time to compose the shot and get everything exactly right.

Both of these shots were 'from the hip'.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Perspective: Shooting from the hip

As I was waiting for the train to head into New York on Saturday, someone came up to me and told me they had a giant smudge on the front element of their lens and asked if I had a cleaning cloth with me. That lead to an afternoon of walking around Manhattan and shooting street with a partner. 

I generally don't like to be with anyone when I'm out and about specifically with the purpose of shooting, it's too distracting for me. Often the other person walking to one side or the other will be in the way when a shot happens and I have to react quickly. That happened several times on Saturday. But there was a plus side to the experience for me as well. I gave her a few morsels from my extensive streettog manual, and in return I got to watch someone shoot who was totally fresh to the New York street experience. I learned from watching her. 

I like to get interesting angles on my subjects because that change of perspective can really affect the way an image transmits the feeling of the moment, sometimes by the difference of viewing the environment around the person, sometimes by how the lines lead into or out of an image, and sometimes by how the subjects eyes tell the story. 

I had the camera down low for this image. It was the third in a series of shots I took as I walked past her on Third Avenue. She already knew I had taken her picture and was looking into my smiling eyes as I clicked the shutter. It's a more interesting shot for me than if she'd been looking into the lens and had appeared to be looking directly at the viewer.

Just for the record, she smiled back at me after I winked at her. I'm such a charmer!