Welcome to my blog about the flow of street photography and how this has become mentally invigorating and good for my wellbeing.
I have been photographing Plymouth over a long period of time, having started when I was studying at the University of Plymouth. Over this time I have been learning the art of finding what I want to capture and the capturing of the image itself. There is a buzz to finding an interesting subject, that mixed with the ability to capture it in a way that others will relate to and appreciate is addictive. I am going to include a ‘but’ here, as much as this sounds really very exciting, it can also be challenging and somewhat draining, this may be because you have put too much pressure on yourself, you are struggling to find what you thought you would, or perhaps an off day. How do you therefore keep going, keep motivated and keep capturing?
Tips for keeping the motivation:
1. As I mentioned in my last blog, I have been revisiting the images in my project so far to see where and who I have captured before. I find it helps to keep an eye on my images to ensure I don’t go off on a tangent...a bit like writing blogs! It could be easy to get held up looking too much at a certain ‘type’ of individual to capture, or a specific location, likewise it might become too broad and therefore disjointed. It’s important to remember my goals, but to also keep the project progressing and moving forward, allowing for the development to build without too many constraints. I guess it is a balance that must be learnt, in the images but also in a project as a whole.
I once thought that a project would have a time limit, perhaps spend a year on one and then move on to the next, but as my skills deepen, so does the project. Perhaps I will always be building on this project with no time limit in a way, it becomes part of you. Although as I think this, my brain is intrigued as it fills with fresh ideas, again, it is a balance.
2. When out on the streets I start by snapping a few warm up photos, these are normally of architecture or graffiti, partly so I can set the camera up for the right light on the day, but some of these will also form part of my final project imagery, as it sets the scene of the city, and provides the viewer with context and more visualisation.
I found that shooting in the city can be overexposed because of the harsh lighting but I don’t want my images so dark that they are hard to edit or see. I put the camera on F8 so that everything within the frame of the image has depth. I need to remember that with my full frame camera, if I am too close to a subject or an object then it could be out of focus. I set the shutter speed to 1000 and may go as low as 500/250 if the lighting changes, I don’t often change the aperture so this will always stay at F8. Once I have control of the camera and the images are set to how I like, I will then focus my attention on the subjects and architecture of Plymouth.
3. When looking for the right subjects to capture, it is common for me to walk 10 miles, it can be time and mind consuming to hunt and find the perfect subject and image. Instead of this being a negative experience, I have realised how fortunate I am to be able to walk this far, to spend time perusing my passion and interests. I find the walking and consuming nature of finding people and situations to capture quite mindful, distracting me from all other aspects of life.
Picking up the camera and continuing with my project has helped to free my mind after such a challenging year, and I am finding that I am also not as concerned to only capture the ‘perfect image’. Instead, I am capturing what interests me and makes me smile, and I’ve found comfort in this.
4. In conjunction to capturing what interests me, I look to frame a subject amongst the background of Plymouth, such as architecture, which is aided by me setting the lighting and taking some early shots of the architecture at the start of my shoot. This framing concept has helped my work to evolve, and change somewhat from how my project was first conceived.
Something I realised when reviewing my images, was that if I was to only take close up images of subjects, then in theory they could have been taken in almost any environment, in any city. In order for the viewers to connect the images within my project and to connect them to Plymouth, I needed to place the context of the city in the images. The subjects are in the city, perhaps they live there, are there for work or a trip, but their connection to their location is part of the interest and reasoning behind the image, the telling of their and the cities story.
I have found this new way of thinking sometimes more challenging as the background is another element to carefully consider, it needs to be the right balance between intriguing and yet not overpowering the subject.
Vibes from the street:
From my latest street photography shoot I was unsure of what I would capture, I had checked local news but nothing in particular stood out. I also checked the weather forecast as I wanted to capture some images by the seafront whilst the weather looked good. I went to the Plymouth Hoe in the morning, hoping to capture something different to my usual style, this had been unsuccessful until I was ready to return to my usual spots, when I saw some interesting architecture and the reflection on the roof of a car.
As the rain started and I took shelter, my mind started thinking more about a hot coffee, as I then spotted a guy wheeling over some stock to a shop which dropped to the ground making a loud slap, and as people went over to help, I quickly started capturing the incident, helping in my own way (I say with a smile on my face). It’s these moments which can’t be planned, you just have to be open and ready to capture what you notice, without second guessing.
The city was relatively quiet, the light also kept changing which made it more challenging. As I was getting ready to leave, I noticed a couple holding hands with a really visually pleasing backdrop; a corner of a building with colourful and signs covering the windows. I positioned myself so that the building was exactly where I wanted and then waited for the couple to be within the shot. This turned out to be one of my favourite images from the day, what mostly caught my eye was the tag along she had in her bag!
Overall, I have found the return to street photography to be good for the mind and soul, helping me to focus and distract me from being caught up with every day life. Being out and about walking around has given me a focus and a project to think about in some of my down time from work and home.
Keywords: camera, documentary, fuji, interview, leica, lieca, Matt, photography, portraiture, project, q, review, settings, street, street photography, Stuart
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