New feature to the club evenings, last Thursday saw the introduction of Your Picture Your Way where club members brought in pictures they may not otherwise have shared with the club and explained their connections to it. The themes were landscape and street and though the interpretations were broad the insights were interesting.
Landscape photography goes back to the very first photograph, taken by Nicéphore Niépce, and has its roots in classical art whereas Street photography, rather than Street Portraiture which is posed from people in the street, is in the moment and distinctly the product of a photographic process. Only a camera can capture the complex juxtapositions, expressions and emotional connection in a fraction of a second. It is unique, at the moment anyway, to photography and because it is a single slice of time, specifically stills photography. Of course there is the view that street photography was invented by people who couldn’t get up early enough to shoot a sunrise, but we will let that lie.
There are two sides to any photograph, regardless of the genre, namely the artistic and the technical. Landscape can be as much about pre-visualisation as it is about the composition when you get there. It is about nature and the way the elements combine to affect the Earth’s landmass. The way the seasons present and the light falls means that a single view can provide an infinite number of subtleties for the photographer to chose from – or ignore. The elements for the street photographer can be, or at least seem to be, chaotic in the sense that physicists refer to chaos, a complex system of so many parts acting in unpredictable ways that any outcome is as likely as another. Those parts are people acting out their internal and external lives in a common space. The chaos comes from our not knowing how those internal and external lives interact on an individual by individual basis – we may not even be aware of our own balances and motivations – and how they effect those around them emotionally and environmentally. In that sea of uncertainty where we all swim moments of connection arise and those are the moments that the Street Photographer seeks to capture.
No matter how good your grasp of the technical is, if you can’t actually see the picture, frame the picture, compose the picture you can never take the picture. This is simply why a good photographer with a cheap camera gets consistently better results than a mediocre one with the top of the range. There are no qualification barriers to buying expensive kit, of course, nor would I advocate one, but there is no substitute for technique. “Luck” won’t cut it, especially as you tend to make your own as was discussed on an earlier blog on serendipity. Even chaos theory allows that the biggest factor in determining what will happen (an outcome) is the initial set of circumstances from which it springs. Control what you can to discover the art in the rest goes for both Landscape and Street photography.
But not every subject wants their photograph taken and not every landowner wants your feet trampling their daises and not every property owner is delighted to have you take photographs of their property. There are buildings and areas that are off limits to the public and there is a lot of confusion over what you can and cannot take photographs of. Common sense plays a part here but once an image is taken in a public space the only power to legally remove it is via a court order. This is a matter for individual conscience. You should note that laws covering criminal damage, nuisance and anti social behaviour still apply, that access to mountain, moor, heath, down and common land in England and Wales (different laws in Scotland and Northern Ireland) is permitted but the above laws govern those activities. Trespass is still an offence. The Official Secrets Act and the Prevention of Terrorism Act (especially Sections 43 and 58A) are, with a little forethought, quite easily avoided, though it is surprising and not a little depressing the number of times that the Association of Chief Police Officers have had to reissue there guidance over the last decade or so. Censorship is a fact of life, it is a fluid situation, but it need not be onerous, at least in the UK. If abroad, then it is a whole different ball game. Find out and stick to their rules.
So what did we learn from our fellow members photographs? Well I doubt there was a consensus as each of us will have seen slightly different things and taken different things from each image – and thank you for sharing those that did. So a brief list from me from a couple of discussions I had at tea break and at the end of the evening.
From the technique side, don’t be afraid to use the camera on auto for Street if the situation demands it. It is pointless in not getting the shot because you are fiddling with the settings because you always shoot manual (really? In this day and age?) when aperture and shutter priority modes give you almost the same degree of control, more quickly and auto will give you a more than half way decent approximation in most situations, though sticking to just one as opposed to having a range of options does suggest that you have some exploration of your camera to complete (Guilty. My camera sends nearly all its time in aperture priority because the ISO button is handy and the exposure compensation is the next button to it).
Don’t be afraid to try it, either landscape or street. A little planning goes a long way. If you don’t practice it then it won’t get better. Take one aspect at a time and practice it, be that a single focal length, shallow depth of field, high depth of field, low angle, there are many different things to try.
Look around the view finder before you push the shutter, should you reframe? Move your position? Something else?
All round an enjoyable evening. See you Thursday.
A N N O U N C E M E N T S
NEXT MEETING: Kingswood Salver table top night – Collectables. Bring your collectables and CAMERAS as we launch our campaign for this years Kingswood Salver.