Rain, sunshine, and more rain in the city. Images from a rainy Sydney town.Read More
The afternoon breeze blended a unique aroma of mangroves, wild fennel and market garden herbs with car exhaust, fresh cut lawns and aviation fuel. I wheeled my way along the Cooks River cycle path, camera dangling around my neck, humming a tune I heard just moments before in a tunnel by a concrete drain beneath one of the main roads to Kingsford Smith International airport. I was song-riding, and I was loving it.Read More
We have all been there. We walk the streets with our camera, looking for that image that never comes. The light is wrong. There are no interesting characters. There is nothing happening on the street today. It’s overcast. Its too bright. Its the middle of the day. The sun is too low. It’s behind the buildings. There is a feeling of insecurity and uncertainty. They are on to you. You are being watched. Glared at. Your timing is off. There is just no damn time in the day to get out and shoot. And you don’t want to share or print anything. Your camera is too heavy, too obvious. You are underwhelmed and want to give it all away and shoot macro. At least the damn things stay still.
That is the street photographers rut and it is something that we all get from time to time. I haven’t been able to put my finger on exactly why this happens, how it starts and whether it correlates to anything else that is happening in my life. During these ruts the sort of excuses in the previous paragraphs come thick and fast. It makes life hard if you are someone who just wants to make images every day and keep learning and growing.
So what can be done?
Well, I’m not going to give you five tips to break out of a street photography rut, because we all know that is BS. There is no magic formula. Going out at a different time of day or buying a new lens or trying a different focal length might stimulate something. Perhaps you’ve read you need a new strap…yeah that will do it. Perhaps a flippy screen. Or that 28mm is the new 35mm? What about a whole new camera..a whole new town.
At the core of it there is only one answer.
Keep shooting. Photograph everything you see in front of you that even remotely peaks your interest. If you get a notion that you should photograph it, get the camera out and just shoot it. Digital is free film - a gift from the photographic gods. Make the most of it.
I’ve seen lots of advice to the contrary on this. Stop shooting. Take a break. Go and paint or play guitar or draw something. I don’t subscribe to this. These distractions just take you away from the camera so that you forget your struggle, and you come back destined for the same rut.
You see I think the reason we hit a photographic rut is because we start to not settle for the average picture that we start to make day in and day out. We start being picky about our scenes and our compositions and our light and moments and gestures. The struggle is not that we are not able to make photographs but rather that we are not able to make photographs that are better than what we have made before.
When we shift the bar on our expectations, the usual routines and the images they foster start to feel old. And so we start the search for more. It is this search that leads to a wall. The rut. The struggle.
But the wall is not impermeable as long as we chip away at it every day. There is no way around it. Changing it up via gear or art form or technique might create different images but eventually we will end up at the wall. At that time the only thing that can be done is to keep shooting.
And as I have written many times before, part of that process is to shoot and evaluate and shoot some more. There is no need to share everything you make, but there is an absolute need to keep creating and evaluating and trying again.
So to labour the point, don’t let your inner lizard brain trick you into staying within you comfort zone. Fight what Steven Pressfield calls the resistance to not bother because “it’s not that good a photo” and just make an image, every time you get a hint of something that needs photographing. You will break out of the rut because all of a sudden there will be no space for it - you’ll be creating all the time and because of that you will end up somewhere new.
If you have been or are in a photographic rut, share what you are doing to try and break free in the comments below.
I have always set up my cameras to zone focus by simply going into manual focus mode, setting the focusing distance scale to my desired focusing distance and shooting away. The problem with this approach is that it is difficult to keep the focusing distance consistent because more often than not I am accidentely bumping the focusing ring. However using the settings I describe below I have been able to circumvent both of these issues and have a reliable zone focusing setup.Read More
This week something more focused on pure photography - a set of images from a project I've been shooting with the working title of Bus Windows.Read More
Taking portraits of strangers in the street can be a rewarding experience that challenges and changes the way that you view the very place that you live in. These are some of the things that work and have worked for me, and that will hopefully help those of you who are thinking of exploring this interesting sub-genre of street and documentary photography.Read More
Backup of data is one of the most important parts of any photographers workflow, and if you get to the point of doing work for others it becomes essential. If you have invested lots of time in making photographs you want to make sure that you back them up, because ultimately you want them to be around for a long time. Hard drives crash, computers get old, phones get lost etc. I hope I don’t really need to convince you too much that you need to backup.
So what is the best strategy? Well, for me it is the one that works continuously, reliably, and without too much intervention from me to actually take place!Read More
I was speaking to a friend the other day about street photography. He is what I would call a photography enthusiast and is interested in all aspects of photography, cameras and related topics. On street photography, he said that he didn’t get it - he said that all he saw were the same old pictures of people walking down the street - snapshots of strangers.
It made me think about why he had this impression and what he was talking about and I think I know exactly what he means. There are a lot of images out there on the web, instagram and other photography sharing sites passing off as street photography, and I think there is a lack of substance in the type of street photography that people are putting out there. This is a thought piece on how we all can learn and grow as photographers in general. What I am writing here is very much for me. Hopefully it helps you too.Read More
Some of you out there may not know that I have a twitter account for zonefocus.net where I post links from around the web that are related to photography, focusing on street and documentary. If you would like to follow me on twitter, head on over and follow @zonefocusnet. Here are 12 links I have curated from around the web for the twitter account that I think you will really likeRead More
One of the most popular questions on the photography internet is “what is the best lens for street photography?”. Let’s discuss why I think a prime lens will make you a better street photographer, and look at some recommendations.Read More
Searching around YouTube for discussions about documentary photography I came across this gem from silberphotography.tv, interviewing former National Geographic photographer Bob Holmes. Holmes is an award winning travel documentary and food photographer, and in this interview he discusses his approach to what one could call the “National Geographic” style of documentary photography. What this translates to is awesome light, amazing subject matter and effective composition combined with a masterful use of the camera and lens as a tool to tell a story. I'd like to share some of my takeaways from the interview below.Read More
Here is a little tip that has helped all of the aspects of my photography.
It is not a tip about a fancy new lens, a special photoshop technique, or a camera setting.
It is a tip to help develop your confidence and conquer your fear of shooting out in public - a tip that will make you a more confident and positive shooter, allowing you to make connections with the subjects that you photograph, should you choose to do so.Read More
I love the Domke Gripper camera strap. So much so that I have two of them, bought with my own hard earned cash. In fact, I went ahead and bought two so I would have these straps for a very long time. If you don’t know the Domke brand, you should - they are an old school photography company started by a photojournalist called Jim Domke in the 70’s with a great retro looking lineup of bombproof bags and other gear.Read More
I've written previously on the blog about shooting with intent - that is, heading out with a theme in mind and shooting images that match that theme. This provides a focus and a goal for your photography, and starts to create a body of work that perhaps one day could become an exhibition, photo story, book or a series of prints on your wall. One of my favourite themes to shoot is scenes with high contrast shadows and silhouettes, in black and white.Read More
When serendipitous moments happen in Street Photography, it pays to let your camera do the work for you.Read More
There are 1064 artists, 147 exhibitions across 98 locations spread across galleries and locations across Sydney - so how do you know where to go for the best street and documentary related goodness? Read on - I've done the hard work for youRead More
For many casual or even serious photographers, shooting street is something that they might toy around with when they are on holidays. Shooting the occasional street photograph of locas at a holiday destination to record a piece of their vacation for posterity. This sort of shooting may be a little easier to do as there is an inherent permission associated with shooting pictures of an un-orchestrated street scene with people you don't know in it. Especially so when you are a ’tourist’. The thought of photographing street scenes in the suburb, village or city that you might call home can be a scarier proposition for you, but it shouldn’t be.Read More
The Museum of Sydney is planning a Street Photography of the 1930’s-1960’s exhibition for late December 2018 through to mid 2019Read More
Talk to a traditional portrait photographer and they will most likely tell you that any lens focal length less than 85mm equivalent is not a true portrait lens. Reasons given are usually focused on controlling distortion and using compression and subject isolation. These are all extremely valid and sensible reasons…lets call them rules…that serve as an excellent guide to getting awesome people shots.
However as a street photographer, i am not always looking for the traditional portrait shot, nor am I working in the traditional way that a portrait photographer would work. Shooting street portraits there are always a range of factors in the environment around you that I have no way of controlling. I also am limited in the amount of gear that I carry around with me all day (self imposed but who wants to walk 10-12km carrying a bag full of gear?).Read More
It was one of those sunny Sydney afternoons in June, where that hard sydney winter sun was hitting the concrete and steel in such as way that there were clear forms and shapes wherever something blocked the lightRead More