To discover this 121clicks.com interview with an extensive selection of pictures (and a fun quick questions section), please click on the picture or link below.
As for the picture below, "The angel guardian", selected by 121clicks.com to illustrate the interview, it was taken in 2008 in the Paris metro. I am not particularly fond of juxtapositions yet this picture seems to always generate quite some interest from viewers.
Click addiction : To take pictures when nothing of interest happens.
1) Your index finger has become L shaped. (and your thumb too since you got an Iphone)
2) You usually take 15 pictures of each scene, and hope the decisive moment is somewhere in the burst.
3) Your girlfriend has just dumped you. She got tired of you checking out that beautiful Japanese girl in her back, a so called "Bokeh".
4) You start shooting people "walking", "sitting", or "lost in their thoughts". And dogs too.
5) You have been drinking a lot of tea lately when returning from an outing. (waiting for your computer to download the 522 pictures you have just shot)
6) You just returned from a shoot in downtown Peoria, Illinois, with 1698 pictures.
7) You take you camera to the toilets, and practice focus technique on the paper rolls.
8) You buy 1 Tetra-bytes external drives every month.
9) You snap some pictures before going to sleep. The "Bokeh" behind your feet is just so gorgeous. (and your new girlfriend slaps you)
10) The next morning, you frantically click on your alarm clock's snooze button, and expect a picture to appear on the LED screen.
On the same topic : The five scenes that matter in a street photography outing
Let me state it directly : on a full day street photography outing, there will be five scenes that provide the elements for a good photograph. All the rest will be about you surrendering to "click addiction", and produce shots that will inescapably join the 99.7% of crap pictures category. (related article : Robert Frank shot 99.7% of crap too.)
Five is evidently not an absolute number and my underlying point is that good scenes don't come up often during an outing. Indeed, street photography is more than a long procession of people walking, sitting or "lost in their thoughts" (though it represents the vast majority of pictures posted online). What is more then? Well, let's put it this way : I know when I see it and you know it too. Indeed, some scenes in life are just special, be it in terms of interactions, aesthetics, humour, mystery, poetry or emotions. But as talented as you might be, these are few, and you'll need to hunt the streets for long hours to find them.
King Kong contemplating a giant Oregon State University basketball player. Quite an unusual scene in front of the Eiffel Tower. Yet I feel that my timing was slightly off for the scene to translate into a good shot.
And then, even if you do spot these five scenes that matter during your outing, it won't automatically translate into five good street photographs. Indeed, you'll mis-focus some, be off timing on others, or simply not be able to translate your initial sight into a worthy two dimensional frame. This is where technique and vision step in and will eventually allow you to convert these five opportunities into one, maybe two good shots. Obviously, we are not talking about great shots yet, which probably come in only in a handful during a year.
Yes, street photography is extremely challenging so you need to maximize your keeper rate when these scenes do happen in front of you. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you getting ready and convert on these opportunities :
Many of you will have read about the new products announced by Leica at Photokina earlier this evening. The M9 has a succesor, that is the new Leica M (thank you Apple for the name idea …).
What do I think of it ? …. always go to sleep when you are about to write a rant …. see you tomorrow !
(as for today's picture, let's say kids are also creative to find ways to make a splash …)
Leica M9 with 35mm Lux Asph at F4.0, 1/750, ISO160
Often wrongly considered as a gimmick in street photography, the capability to blur backgrounds (or foregrounds) is to the contrary a wonderful creative tool when used appropriately. To illustrate it, let's have a look at two similar pictures taken in Paris by Notre Dame. In both cases, the focus was set on the little girl being portrayed by the painter. An aperture of F4.0 was used in the first frame while the second was taken with an aperture of F1.4 (on the 60mm Konica Hexanon F1.2). What are the key differences generated by these two different exposure settings ?
In this first picture, the mid aperture choice generates a depth of field where both the painter and little girl are in focus. Due to the full frame sensor of the Leica M9, the Notre Dame cathedral results partially out of focus, yet it will be only noticeable in relatively large magnification ratios. One could say that this picture is an exact reproduction of the scene as witnessed by the photographer.
Have a look now at the second picture, taken with an aperture of F1.4. The only plane that results completely in focus is the head of the little girl. Due to the 60mm focal and the large aperture, the head of the painter is already partly out of focus. Notre Dame is now significantly out of focus and resembles almost an impressionist painting. The resulting picture is a creative representation of reality.
So which is better? There is no absolute answer, here what we are really talking about is personal taste. The second picture has in my opinion a more poetic dimension, which depicts well the essence of Paris. Also, I consider the use of blur as as a key attribute of my street photography. In some ways, I like to think about my pictures as a mimic of my fading memory; some details remain always clear, while some disappear with the pass of time. But again, this is personal and I'd be interested to hear about other opinions (please use the comments section below)
Now, the use of thin depths of field and the resulting blurs must be used cautiously, and in some cases even avoided :
– when your main goal is to impress your friends with an effect that they cannot reproduce with their IPhone or compact cameras. Blur does not make a photographer better by itself.
– when used to hide lousy composition skills. Blur won't make unwanted elements magically disappear. They'll just become less easily identifiable. Any composition fault will remain and nobody will be fooled, except maybe for your aging mother.
– just because you recently acquired that expensive 50mm F0.95 lens does not mean that you have to shoot exclusively wide open to amortize it. Fast lenses come with a full range of apertures, use them when needed too.
– finally, in case you did not know, let's mention that Bokeh does not mean "great picture" in Japanese.
Blur is no gimmick and can be enhance a lot your creative approach to street phtotography, when used appropriately. It does require some technique to get your focus right since a slight error will impact immediately your picture. Yet it can be done with some practice, so mount that fast lens on your camera and hit the street.
This picture led me to think about the street photographers of last century, in the times when digital was not part of the equation. Indeed, I could not help wonder how many amateur street photographers had their lifetime work also end up in a flea market box ? And how many of them actually never got to share their work beyond the circle of their friends and family ? Being published or having its own exhibit was extremely challenging, especially if one was not part of an agency or did not possess a good network. In the end, I suppose that most amateur street photographers eventually gave up or simply did not care. Their pictures were lost to History.
While shooting in Paris, I estimate that I walk an average of 10 kilometers per day with peaks at 15kms. Quite a way to stay fit, especially since stretching is also part of the game. Indeed, have a look at the shot below and imagine my position when taking the picture. The answer will be found in the second shot, courtesy of fellow street photographer Thomas C. which I had the pleasure to meet yesterday.
At almost two meters all, I still had to raise on my toes to get the point of view I wanted. Why is it so ? Because I love when my subjects clearly stand out from the background. I wanted the girl's head to be completely surrounded by the Seine River. A couple of centimeters below, and I would not have gotten the shot I was after.
Both images taken with Leica M9, first with 35mm Lux Asph and second with 35mm Cron IV.
Flying Thai Airways in August? Then you'll discover a gallery and texts featuring my street photography in the inflight magazine, Sawasdee.
If not, you can view the article by visiting Sawasdee online. Click here or on picture to launch the viewer, then select Gallery : "Les rues de l'amour" on the menu. (yes, the article talks about romance in Paris …)
Front pages of article from Sawasdee magazine
India is a street photographer's paradise. You'll simply find pictures opportunities at every street corner. Nevertheless, India is also a widespread country, and each state has its own set of very distinctive cultures and habits.
So planning a trip to India ? Here is a listing of destinations grouped in four categories ; the metropolis, the Holy places, Rajasthan and the old colonies. It is obviously not an exhaustive listing and it is purely based on places we did visit. These are all locations that will easily allow you to combine street photography and visits to the main touristic attractions of India.
1) The metropolis
The main cities of India are gigantic. Let's say it straight away, if you are claustrophobic, this is not the place to be. The metropolis of India are exhausting due to high heat, noise, traffic and mass population. Yet, they are second to none for street photography.
Delhi : The main bazaars of Delhi are the modern version of Dante's Hell. Huge crowds, streets jammed by rickshaws, permanent honking, filthiness, and about any good on sale that you could think of. While you might leave half insane, you'll definitely come back with interesting pictures.
Calcutta : The city has a bad reputation and probably was one of the worse place on earth to live in 30 years ago. Yet it has changed and we found it great to visit and shoot. Built by the British, it boasts large avenues, parks and an intense street life. Add to that the thousands of 1950's yellow cabs and you definitely have a great setting for street photography.
Madras : Renamed Chennai after the Indian Independence, Madras is a large city that isn't all that interesting. Yet, its kilometers long beach is simply an amazing location for street photography. Thousands converge there everyday to eat, play or relax in a flurry of colors.
Bombay : Bombay was another pleasant surprise since it offers a large variety of settings. Be it the British Raj heritage downtown, the long marine drive, beaches, the busy bazaars or old fishermen villages, Bombay will keep you busy with a lot of different spots to shoot at.
2) The Holy places
In the eyes of a Westerner, the Hindu religion with its mysticism and rituals is a visual bonanza. So imagine when all India converges to some of the Holy places, it cannot get any better in terms of pictures opportunities.
The Golden temple of Amritsar : Located in Punjab, the land of the Sikhs, Amristar is not that interesting as a city. Yet its people are simply wonderful and Sikhs probably some of the most photogenic people. As for the Golden temple, it probably was my favorite location in India. Peace, music, hospitality and great scenes to shoot all around the Holy pond.
Rishikesh / Haridwar : Located at the end of the Himalaya chains, at the place where the Ganges water finally flow into the plains, Rishikesh and Haridawar are part of the Seven Holy sites of India. Two 6 foot wide bridges cross high over the Ganga river and are worth the trip by itself. You'll spend the rest of your time walking on the piers (ghats) among pilgrims and Sadus busy with their worship rituals.
Benares (Varanasi) : Benares is probably the most famous Holy place in India and therefore one of the major touristic spot of India. The sights and rituals ashore the Ganges are simply stunning and many of the most iconic images of India were taken here. Yet nowadays, you simply get harassed by vendors all over the city, making it one of our worse experience in India. Still do visit, just don't stay more than a couple of days.
Pushkar : A tiny town in the middle of Rajasthan, the Holy lake of Pushkar is simply magical. Surrounded by Palaces and stairs, it is unluckily prohibited to take photographs around the lake. Still, you'll still be able to get some shots from up the stairs or by visiting very early in the morning. A two days visit to Pushkar is a must, it doesn't get any more mystical than this.
The Land of Kings is a country in itself. Surrounded by desert, its fortresses, palaces and markets are a delight for the eyes. But most of all, the colors of Rajasthan is why you go there and you simply won't stop shooting at women in sarees. More than elsewhere in India, Rajasthan has kept its culture, making it the place not to miss in India.
The classics : Jaiselmer, Jodhpur, Udaipur, Jaipur. All these cities showcase wonderful palaces, tiny streets, busy bazaars and imposing forts. They are also quite touristic so you'll have to get up early to get a glimpse of the real locals life. Street photography is great there but you'll have to get out a bit of the beaten path to find the authenticity of these cities.
The hidden gems; Bikaner and Bundi. In terms of street photography, these two cities were my favorites. Less concurred than the classics, life there seems to have been stuck in time. You'll find goats, camels, cows walking in the very downtown of the cities. Since few tourists visit, you'll also avoid all the stalking present in other Rajasthan cities.
4) The old colonies
These cities were basically built by the Europeans about five centuries ago. Turned over to India after Independence, they now showcase a great mix of Western heritage and Indian cultures.
– Cochin : Cochin is one of the best place in India for street photography. You'll get the Dutch heritage part of town with the Chinese fishing nets. Yet you'll also be able to shoot in the modern downtown. The city is surrounded by water so you'll have plenty of opportunities to shoot popular fishermen neighbourhoods and visit the famous backwaters.
– Pondicherry : the former French capital of India, Pondicherry retains a lot of his colonial heritage. Its streets are not very busy but the bazaar and sea front promenade will provide plenty of photography opportunities. It is also the best place to take a rest while enjoying some French cuisine at its many restaurants.
5) One day visits :
– Taj Mahal : Plan a one day visit, but sincerely, I wasn't that impressed and there are simply too many toursits in Agra. The city itself has no interest whatsoever.
– Madurai : The main temple is marvelous, but this large city has absolutely nothing else to propose. Still, I enjoyed shooting in its streets full of friendly people.
– Munnar : If you enjoy the sights of tea plantations, this is a great place to visit. The town itself looks more like a slump than a picturesque mountain village.
If you'd like to propose other destinations in India that combine well street photography and tourism, please let us know in the comments section below.