I’ve been working through the shots I got in Rome, and boy there are not only loads, but so many keepers. As a break from sorting and preparing the blog posts, (I still have many to come), I took a few that I hadn’t put aside for blogs, to load to Flickr. I amazed myself that there were quite a few that would make a really good post.
It was whilst opening the following shot and titling it “Head On” that I got the idea for this post.
Do you know that feeling when you see the shot and open it up larger to process it and you think, WOW! ? Well this was just that shot. There are no false facial expressions of laughter, ignorance, disgust or anything else, just walking towards me and realising the camera is pointing straight at her. I was actually taking a shot of someone else and she came round them and straight towards me. I was shooting on the shaded side of the sheet and when opening the shot thought that added to the overall feel. So you could call the shot the “Title Track” for the post.
This was another shot that was in the uncategorised shots, and another “Head On”. I debated whether to convert this one as it was so strong in colour, but hey, it looks great in B&W too.
It is such a great feeling when you get that head on and the eyes are looking straight at you. I have said before about people disagreeing about eye contact and that one way is the proper “Street” way. I won’t swear but it is for the individual to decide. It doesn’t bother me. I like both types of shots for different reasons, but when getting head on shots the person quiet often closes their eyes, diverts their eyes or just looks away. So when you get the Head On with eyes looking at you, even with shades on, it is a buzz. Tell me this isn’t a great Head On shot!
I gave it that title because I think that is what the expression is, “Never A Joy, Always A Pleasure”. Then again I may have it wrong.
There is a great buzz when getting the “Head On” shot. I think it is the adrenalin rush of the fight or flight. You are standing your ground, and it would be easy to drop the camera down and not take the shot, but to stand there and just shoot is what I think is one of the big buzzes of “Street”. I know when starting out, for me anyway, and I suspect for others, it was a longer lens, then gradually you are looking for more, or something different. The lens gets smaller and sharper, and being closer to the subject there does seem more of a connection.
Occasionally people contact me asking for advice on shooting “Street”, and what camera and settings I use. I tell them I use the same camera I bought for taking any shots.
In my opinion it doesn’t matter that much which camera you use, I have seen people with top Canons and Nikons and their work in my opinion isn’t that good, then others who have an entry level camera and their shots are fantastic. I would say though that the lens you use should be fast. Whether you want to use a Zoom, Telephoto or Prime is your choice and what you feel comfortable with, but use a wide aperture.
As I said, I started with a longer lens, and as I became more confident, so the lens grew smaller. I now use the Nikkor 85mm as that is what I am most happy with. I did use the 50mm for a while, but wasn’t happy as it didn’t seem close enough. I know I could get closer but that is out of my comfort zone, although I do push it now and again. But the biggest advice I can give anyone is what I picked up. Practice, practice and practice even more, and do it to suit you and nobody else.
I make no apologies for shooting mostly women. I just find there is so much more variation. They are different shapes, hair colour, a much wider variety of clothing, stance, and so many more things. With men they seem a lot more similar unless they are wearing unusual clothing, facial hair, or stand out characteristics. Maybe this is down to me being a male and my natural attraction to women, that they stand out more to me.
There are many techniques to get Head On shots. In this shot below I was walking along the street and saw the woman walking towards me further along the street. There were people walking in front of both of us, so I slowed so that the people in front of me went ahead. As the people in front of her passed me I lifted the camera and run off a few shots on burst mode.
The shot above and below were both shot in the area around the Colosseum. The difference with these is that I was stationary and as I saw them coming towards me I just lifted the camera and ran some shots off. In this situation you can then just walk away, or just keep the camera to your eye and let them pass so it looks like you were focusing on something behind them. Another technique is that when you get your shot, stand to the side with your eye still to the viewfinder, so that it looks as though they were in your way and you were looking at something behind them. This frequently gets a sorry, so with a smile I tell them it’s OK.
I used the step aside technique for the shot above, but with the shot below I used a different one. I got the shots I wanted then lowered the camera and smiled. The reason I did this was due to the slight smile from the girl. Although you have only a fraction of a second to read someone, it is amazing how quick your brain reacts. Added to that is experience, and you only get that with practice.
I took the following shot outside the Colosseum Metro Station. I was walking amongst the people who were gathered there and getting shots. I saw this fellow and immediately thought he looked like a chunkier version of Ghandi. Maybe it was just his glasses and bald head, but that is what flitted through my mind. I walked in front of him and as he turned, looked at me. I got the shot and moved on.
Walking down the street and stopping is a great technique. If you stop too soon, or lift the camera too soon you will see the people step to the side, close their eyes or just look away.
I do like it when I get any interaction with the subject and these 2 shots gave me that.
In the one above, the guy was walking towards me so I lifted the camera and shot. He said to me, “If you’ve taken my photo it will be the best photo you have ever taken”. What a great reaction from someone who doesn’t seem to mind his photo being taken.
This is often the difficulty in street shooting, and also what gives the buzz, that you are taking a fraction of a second to get the shot and don’t know what the reaction will be.
With the final shot of the Blog I was shooting in Piazza Navona, when I saw this man and boy with soaking wet hair and T shirts in front of me and a woman standing to the side. I assume they had been dipping their heads in the fountain. The man had some sort of grip in his hair. As I walked along the woman stood in front of the man and was laughing. I walked behind the man so I was looking directly at the woman. She looked up laughed even more and what a lovely fun shot it makes. She shrieked out and said something to her husband in a language I don’t know, and laughed even more. I lowered the camera and burst out laughing, waved to her and smiled before walking away.
I like all of these shots for differing reasons. Whether they be serious or funny, light hearted or a harsh look, they all gave me a buzz. This is why I like “Street”. Millions and Millions of different people in so many different situations in so many places, the possibilities are endless.
So the advice I would give anyone Shooting “Head On” or any other “Street” is get out there and practice. When you have done that practice even more. Did I get that over, that you need to practice.
I enjoy writing the blog and presenting my shots as it gives me a buzz, but nowhere near when out shooting and getting the shot.
P.S. To anyone who subscribes to the blog. You would have got a sneak preview of the beginnings of this post in your mail. This wasn’t a teaser, just being late in the day and I hit the Publish Button instead of the Save Draft. Oops!