Category Archives: History

Relating to the historical background and the actual history of photography as a discipline

Community photography

Community photography •

• Dining Out •
Community photography is as much about attracting the community as it is about telling a story of the community.
(Community event: Annual sponsored fancy dress swim on New Years Day – great photo opportunities).

Involving the local people in photography

It sounds ideal. Get the local people involved and do lots of photography. In reality it tends to happen the other way around. Photographers get involved in the local activities and events… the rest is great fun! Community photography is a two way street. Get involved in the community. Then your image work will feed back in as you develop contacts.

Just what is community photography

Actually, community photography is just about anything where the local people are involved. On the one hand we have street photography. It’s all about people out on the street doing what people do locally. The focus is rather loose and chaotic.

On the other hand we have community events and activities. These are about people getting together and sharing an event. In this case there is a single focus where everything revolves around the central interest.

Photography is a peculiar pursuit. Unlike most hobbies, it’s mostly a solitary pursuit. One person, one camera. So how do photographers get involved in community photography and develop community ties?

Getting involved

Almost certainly the first step to engaging with your community is to join a club. Failing that create a group of friends or associates. Later a club can spring out of this group. Clubs and groups are a natural consequence of community.

It’s natural to want to use the community and the local area as a photographic resource. Communities get enriched by groups like yours. Your members work to expose their interests and creations to the community. But it also brings the community into contact with your members too.

Community photography is about reaching out

In almost every community on the planet there are dozens of interest groups. Making the best of your photography is what you want as group members. To do that effectively it’s important to get some resources. You can all club together and put in some money for trips, meetings, a group projector… whatever. Ultimately, you need to become self sustaining. Having a ‘membership’ is a big step at first. But, it’s at that point that the community can help you. And, through your community photography, you can help others out in the community.

Reaching out to your community should be a major part of the activity of your group. You must engage directly with other groups and organisations to join in with them. Activities in the community happen at multiple levels. From within your group, and at a different level between groups. This relationship between groups, and the individuals within them, is what makes the community rich and interesting. Lots of photo opportunities come out of such a mix.

Start by brain-storming as a group. Find out what skills you have in your group. Also, list the contacts you all have between you. Here are some of the sorts of things you might identify…

 Group Skills  Group Contacts
 Doctor  Local medical facilities. Pharmacy. Local school. Local farmers club events secretary.
 Town official  Local groups and clubs. The town business club. CEO of the largest local company. Golf club.
 Housewife  Members of the local women’s club. School staff. Children’s group. Library staff.
 Company admin.  Member of local art club. Local sports club secretary. Chairman of the Annual Fair. Hospital nurse on the staff committee.

As the table shows, just four people from your group easily have a broad reach locally. All these contacts work within groups and companies. They have access to events, planned activities and finance. They also have contacts who have or need those resources too. Your community photography group can provide things for them too. The first stage of reaching out to the local community is establishing these contacts. Get talking to them about your group and what you can do.

Charity Swim - New Year Fancy Dress swim

• Sponsored swim •
At this annual swim event there is a whole host of local groups. They include the local Rowing Club; the Royal National Lifeboat Institute; the local Lions’ Club and the Church. Local businesses, hundreds of local people, swimmers and spectators are also involved.

What can your community photography group do?

Penetrating the local community and getting known as a group takes a little time. It also takes a little planning and talking to your contacts. It is worth doing. Before long you will find there is plenty to do. So to help your group keep on track, break up the tasks so people don’t get overloaded.

You members are sure to have a photographic resource already. Your local photos are really important. So start there. Show off your best photos in the local library (library contact). Make plans for an exhibition in the local community centre. Make contact through the town official. Organise a stall in the summer fair or pageant this year. Raise some money for a local charity. Do a portrait shoot in the main street. I am sure you can think of many ideas to extend your skills for the good of your community photography.

My camera club does a number of community photography events each year. We provide photographers to shoot a range of events including…

  • Mayors Annual Golf Tournament
  • Annual town regatta
  • Annual luncheon for local service veterans
  • Annual luncheon for senior citizens
  • The annual “Santa fun run”
  • Armistice March past.
  • Town fair
  • Annual carol singing event

…and quite a few other activities.

Armistice Day - Veterans Lunch

• Armistice Day – Veterans Lunch •

What do you get for doing your community photography?

The whole process of community photography is extremely rewarding. You want your club or group known locally. Then, as you grow and contribute you get more members, raise money and so on. Most of all you will feel fulfilled as active members in your local community. Sometimes it’s quite hard work. But it is worth it. The benefits are…

  • It is great fun!
  • Meet local people
  • Extend the community reach of your group
  • Make more contacts
  • Raise money for your club
  • Raise money for charity
  • Help other community groups
  • Get your work known locally
  • Get in the local papers
  • Get onto local websites
  • Create a photographic legacy for the town
  • Help people understand photography better
  • Joint activities with other local groups
  • Provide the community with a richer experience

Raising money for charity is great. A lot of people in need get help. There are some other rich, but less visible, benefits too.

A rich source of local history is often the local library too. Many libraries retain many thousands of photographs of the town donated by local photogs. Some go back over a century. It is a rich and important local resource. It gets your photos and club exposed in all sorts of ways. So does providing a historical archive of the area for the “Local History Club”.

Another reward is mixing with other interest groups. At fairs and events you will meet other clubs and their members. You can also get to know them by just ringing up and talking. Why would you do that? My community photography club has an annual event with other local clubs. One club night we get together with the poetry club. In advance we have swapped poems and photos. On the night we provide photos to illustrate the poems they provided. They read poetry about the photos we provided. A great evening – really illuminating. We do a similar event with the local artists club.

Publicity is key to community photography

Many a local group has died because of lack of publicity. Community photography should not go that way. If you engage with your local people you will have some brilliant photo opportunities. Each and every one provides a publicity opportunity too.

Community photography thrives on telling the stories of events in the local area. That is the stuff of blogs, newspaper articles, fund-raisers, exhibitions, displays and other types of contacts. Engaging with your community is not just about taking photos. It is also about exploiting the opportunity to get your work and the club known. If you engage with your local people… make sure they know about your group too. Shy photogs are not well known. Get out there and take photos, but make sure you engage with others.

Most of all make sure everyone knows your group took the photos. Insist that, if your clubs’ photos are used, they are acknowledged. Put photos up in the town with your community photography club name and contact attached. Get in the papers and insist the club is mentioned. Have a blog. Link to town event and activity websites. Use your photos and offer them to other websites to use too. Making the best of your community photography is about getting your name and your photos out in the community.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Rare black and white pictures – great examples

Rare historical pictures in black and white

• Rare historical pictures in black and white •
Great pictures go beyond the capturing of great events…
These are excellent examples of monochrome photography too.
[Image from the slide presentation]

Quality black and white photography is an art.

Early photography taught us there is more to an image than conveyed by colour. Black and white Photography can be emotionally powerful and visually satisfying. Sometimes colour reduces that impact.

Why is there so much impact in black and white?

The use of colour has seduced the eyes of the users of modern media and screens. The realism is amazing and the quality excellent. What people forget is that colour can reduce your awareness to the meaning in a picture. It is all too easy to lose the impact of a story when the picture is so vivid.

The underlying impact of an image is more powerful with simple presentation. Black and white or monochrome images simplify the message beautifully. They create a stark reality in an image. That reduces distractions and focusses the eye on the story.

This is a great lesson for modern photographers. Reduce the image down to a simple, powerful message. Make sure it also has great visual impact. Add a great story and you have captured the attention of the viewer.

What makes black and white visually powerful?

Here are some things to consider when thinking about making a black and white image…

  • Try to use a wide contrast range from darkest blacks to whitest whites.
  • Make sure that the darkest and brightest areas of the picture are not too large or they will distract from the greyscale in between.
  • Try to ensure there is a good spread of different greys between the darkest and brightest.
  • Using only deepest black or whitest white will tend to be too harsh for the eye except where there is a good pattern for the eye to follow.
  • Harsh shadows from hard light will distract the eye. Look to use soft light and graduated shadows.
  • Try to include as much detail as possible to bring out the subject of the image.
  • Work hard to bring out textures. This will throw up the subject without distracting the eye. It will help develop depth too.
  • Be especially sensitive to layers in the image (foreground, mid-ground and distance). Low levels of texture and poor layering will make the image look flat and lifeless.
Some great examples of successful black and white images

As you go through the great images in the slide show below consider the points above. You will find food for thought for your own black and white images.

Want to see regular historical black and white images?

As a lover of black and white pictures I signed up to Retronaut  External link - opens new tab/page. This great site is not exclusively about black and white images, but most of the historical material there is of that type. I get a daily email with some great images. It’s pretty instructive because black and white images are a personal interest. Why not give it a try? Enjoy.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Documentary… Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

• Ansel Adams •
One of the all time greats in photography. This video is about his life, thoughts and work.
Image taken from the video.

The thinker-photographer…

There is a great deal to be said about Ansel Adams. He was a great photographer, thinker and artist. He was also an accomplished musician.

This post was about Ansel Adams.

Unfortunately the video was taken down from YouTube.

We have other Ansel Adams Resources on Photokonnexion.

At the time the video was removed it did not appear available online in another place. However, the subtext for the video as it was published is below. You may find it useful to use the text in case this video becomes available again at a later date.

Subtext for the video

Published on 29 May 2013
“The American Experience” Sierra Club Productions – Steeplechase Films
Ansel Adams is the intimate portrait of a great artist and ardent environmentalist — for whom life and art, photography and wilderness, creativity and communication, love and expression, were inextricably connected. ANSEL ADAMS, a ninety-minute documentary film written and directed by Ric Burns, and broadcast on national public television in April 2002, provides an elegant, moving and lyrical portrait of this most eloquent and quintessentially American of photographers. Written by Joshua Mueller
Category: Education
Licence: Standard YouTube Licence

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

Like this article? Don’t miss the next — sign up for tips by email.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Do you know what street photography is? A look behind the scenes

• Lady in black •

Click image to view large
• Lady in black • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
The street photographer looks to expose life as it is on our streets and much more…

What do we really mean by street photography?

The concept of street photography covers a lot of ground and means many different things to the people who do it. Simple descriptions of street photography might include things like:

  • Candid photographs taken in public places
  • Portraits and depictions of ordinary people out and about
  • Pictures telling the stories of people living their lives
  • The normal behaviour of individuals seen in public
  • Extraordinary scenes in ordinary places
  • The street environment with or without people
  • Things which catch the eye photographed in public places
  • Extraordinary sights amid people going about their daily lives
  • A micro-social documentary through a still photograph
  • The drama of an event in the every day lives of people on the street

Street photography is a broad spectrum subject. Mostly, street photography is about the sights and significant micro-events that attract the eye of the photographer in urban places or other popular places. The idea of “street” means where people can be seen. Or, where they “may” be seen. It is not absolutely necessary to have people in the scene. Although people usually provide the focus of interest.

In fact, beyond these simple descriptions of the craft there are other things. The need to have sympathetic framing, simple backgrounds, good composition and excellent timing go without saying – these are a part of photography in general. Beyond those there are other themes underlying the term “street photography”…

The environment

The ‘street” environment is as important as the people themselves in that it provides a context. The environment and the people together makes the scene interesting. Background provides the cultural context for the shot and so it is important to include it. Nevertheless, many street photographers will work to minimise the impact of the surrounding scene so they can focus the viewers eye on the behaviour of the people of interest. The choice to show the wider scene or to focus right in is both an aesthetic one and a contextual one. You have to consider what would make the picture as visually pleasing as possible and at the same time make sure you are able to show the subject in the best possible environmental context. Difficult choice – but an essential part of working the street scene.

Because the environment is important street photographers often prefer to work with lenses that give a wider angle than other DSLR users favour. A wider view captures the scene as well as the subject person. A common lens for street photogs would be a 35mm or 50mm fixed prime. These lenses tend to give you a more immediate correspondence with the scene you are in. They are close to the focal range and angle of view that the eye sees. They reduce distortion and give the impression of the scene through the photographers eyes. Street photography is a unique and real experience for the photographer. The best of them try to convey that experience in a very real way to the viewer too.

Black and white or colour

Most of the well known names in street photography worked with black and white film. Perhaps for this reason today’s street photographers tend to work in black and white too. It emulates an era of the past with a stark reality and a retro-cultural look about it.

Some street photographers dispute the (cynical) view that black and white is the medium of choice because it promotes a ‘retro’ atmosphere and see that as an insult, a cheapening view of their work. Instead they’d argue B&W street pictures have more impact.

It has often been argued that when you take colour out of a photograph it almost purifies the picture. Certainly much of the distraction is taken out. Colour does draw the eye. A Canadian photojournalist was once quoted saying…

“When you photograph people in colour, you photograph their clothes. But when you photograph people in Black and white, you photograph their souls!”
Ted Grant

There is much to be said for removing colour to see the inner person. However, it is not obligatory to work in black and white for street photographers. Your choice is part of the way you present the scene you are photographing. There are merits in colour and in B&W media. Making the right choice for your picture is a part of the success of your final image.

• Green girls •

• Green girls •
Click image to view large
• Green girls • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page
Sometimes pictures simply don’t work in black and white. You have to make the choice. There are no rules that say you must do street photography in monochrome.

Cultural context

Street photography is a worldwide phenomenon. However, there are undoubtedly cultural contexts that tend to make certain places more interesting. That is especially the case when the viewer is seeing something they consider exotic or out of the ordinary. Street photographers take pride in finding the ‘unusual’ in otherwise ‘everyday’ places. So where possible street photographers will search out the poorer environments, the degenerating places and the places that their viewers would not go themselves. On the other hand they may find interest in the very essence of modern culture and how that actually contrasts with local way of life there. In this way they can help their viewers see another culture, observe different behaviours, see another way of life or shock their viewers about how others live.

Seeing other cultures and other places in the world is part of the wider scope of the art. You may choose to travel to far away places. However, street photography is found everywhere. In your local town, urban area or event space you can find interesting and captivating scenes everyday. Watching your fellow citizens is great sport. It’s funny, serious, interesting, frightening and enlightening. Showing your culture in all its facets is interesting. It requires a strong sense of place, character and understanding of your subjects and where they are.

It is often the deep contrasts that make a street photograph successful. The ordinary and unremarkable are the things that are not celebrated because of our familiarity with them. After all they are in our daily view. Strange or culturally contrasting situations draw the eye. It is a part of the street photographers observational skill to isolate and therefore to highlight these inconsistencies in our view of the world. It is not about travel, getting around the world, but seeing into our own locality and monitoring the differences between each of us and the others who share our streets.

Taking this alternative look at our own cultural space is one of the really difficult things about street photography. Henri Cartier-Bresson, sometimes referred to as the father of street photography, once said…

To interest people on far away places… to shock them, to delight them… it’s not too difficult. It’s in your own country – you know too much when it’s on your own block. It’s such a routine… it’s quite difficult… in places I am in all the time, I know too much and not enough. To be lucid about it is most difficult… But your mind must be open. Open-aware. Aware.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

In his strong French accent, he was trying to express the difficulty of overcoming the ‘ordinary’ view and seeing the extraordinary things about our culture that are in plain sight.

Street photographers are the ultimate people watchers and observers. They look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. They are able to articulate culture through the medium of the very people they sit next to on the bus. They are in the scene and a part of the picture they are creating with others around them. At the same time they are documenting it and living it, but bringing out the things that other people miss.

Origins

Much of the body of street photography was generated in the 20th century. During the 19th century the film speeds were low and exposures too long for effective fast capture of people going about their everyday lives.

There is currently a huge resurgence of interest in street photography. It has come about partly as a response to a renewed interest in photography. It is also partly due to recent significant collections of work from street photography artists being published around the world. A whole genre has developed from the interest of key individuals from photographic history. Some of the great street photographers we recognise today worked in the years from around 1900 through to the 1980s. Some of the well known names are…

  • Henri Cartier-Bresson
  • Diane Arbus
  • Vivian Maier
  • Alfred Eisenstaedt

There are many more (See: Category: Street photographers  External link - opens new tab/page). These bodies of work are of key interest today to many people. Academics, street photographers themselves and ordinary people all have an active interest in the past and particularly of places they know. Their photographs offer a unique insight to both the time and place – but also of the photographer themselves.

Today’s street photographers are providing an insight for future generations into the way we live now. It is the ordinary and extraordinary things that happen in ordinary lives that street photographers want to search out. Diane Arbus, working in the middle of last century, is famously quoted as saying…

I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn’t photograph them.
Diane Arbus

Her interest and focus was on people who were different. She called them freaks. Often they were on the fringes of society as well as hidden from the eyes of the ordinary person. Today we are slightly more tolerant of the type of people she photographed. Nevertheless, we still label people who live differently by describing them in a “politically correct” manner. In effect that is a euphemism that is more damning than a direct label. Street photographers can open up the difficult lives that some people live – help them to become a part of a wider scene, a more tolerant world.

• All Smiles •

• All Smiles •
Click image to view large
• All Smiles • By Netkonnexion on Flickr  External link - opens new tab/page
Truly candid street photography is about bringing out the inner essence of the people you photograph.

Celebrating the rich diversity of people and the things they do is important. It makes human beings so different to the animals. We can and do respond so differently to each other and the situations we find ourselves in. It’s a cultural cliché that almost defines us.

Successfully seeking the essence of the person being photographed is an expression of the photographers vision and an exposure of a culture. It is another tiny revelation about ourselves as humans and as members of society at large.

Respect and communication, doing and being

One of the hallmarks of street photography is to be excited and invigorated. The situation may even make you nervous. This is right and proper. Representing people in a photograph makes you a conduit for who they are. You must respect them. Holding a camera is a responsibility and a communication. You are saying something to the people who see you working the scene. So don’t ‘do’ street photography as if there is a bad smell under your nose. Be a street person who happens to be engaging with people while holding a camera. Then you will be a part of the scene. With respect, and contact with the people you photograph, you become a part of the life you are depicting. Not only an observer, but a participant. Then you will see more clearly, the spirit of the people you want to document.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us
or why not leave a comment at the bottom of the page…

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                 Find out more

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

The street photographer who showed no pictures

Vivian Maier - Outstanding street photographer

Vivian Maier – Outstanding street photographer 1926-2009

A new documentary reveals Vivian Maier.

A new documentary has been shown on British television. It tells the tale of Vivian Maier. A lonely nanny, she spent most of her career photographically documenting the streets of Chicago in her spare time. She was unsung as a photographer, unknown to almost everyone, unrecognised as an artist. She died as a virtual pauper in 2009.

Within a short time of her death the most astonishing hoard of photographs was revealed. Her belongings had been sold off at an auction. The chance find by a keen photographer revealed the work and fortunately made the find public. With the most detailed care and exquisite vision she pictured her subjects with both passion and journalistic fervour. She pictured some of the most painful poverty and opulent richness of Chicago in the 1960’s and 1970’s as well other places in her travels.

Now her photographs are selling for thousands of dollars a piece. This new BBC documentary showcases her insight and some of the more interesting photographs from her fascinating body of work. It also tries to get an in side look at her life – a secretive and largely unknown story which few people were involved in.

With over one hundred thousand photographs in the collection it is an incredible find. Almost a complete record of her work is available. She showed her work to very few people. Most of the shots were never printed.

The enigma that Vivian Maier represented is almost the same clichéd story of the pauper artist of previous centuries. Unrecognised until long decades after their deaths these artists often represented important interpretations of their eras. And so it has proven to be with the work of Vivian Maier.

She had little family, very few friends and only the contacts made through the jobs she held as a nanny. She was largely unschooled and a European immigrant to the USA. Yet with extraordinary wit and dedication she taught herself English apparently through going to the movies and the theatre and mixing with people. She also appears to have taught herself photography – there is no record of a photographic education.

The amazing thing about Vivian Maier was her dedication to the task. The BBC documentary chronicles her life – what’s known of it. But it also raises a lot of questions about what motivated her. Clearly she was a lonely person. Obviously she loved photography and the streets of Chicago where she spent most of her life. Beyond that we know little.

She had the most incisive skill with a camera and great insight as an observer of people. She went everywhere with her equipment, obsessively capturing everything in which she saw meaning. Her main interest was in the people she met – her qualifications for undertaking the work were non-existent. Yet over the period of fourty years she proved herself to be a great artist.

Hit rate

Many of todays digital photographers don’t realise what really lies behind a body of work. According to the academics examining Maier’s work she had an excellent hit rate. One very famous photographer once said…

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

…yet Vivian Maier apparently managed many, many thousands of high quality pictures on her large format Rolliflex  External link - opens new tab/page camera.

There is something interesting about Maiers hit rate, dedication to photography and the detail of her work. It says a lot about her as an artist. Artists spend years learning, experimenting and often apprenticed to other artists before their work begins to mature. But their dedication is by necessity, absolute. And, their progress and interests can be charted by the type of work they produce and how it varies and changes focus during their careers.

The character of an amateur body of work

Amateurs by contrast to professional artists have much more spotty bodies of work. They do not have time to dedicate to devoted study and development. Years of experimentation and concentration on particular aspects of their work is not possible. Family life, work, the simple needs of normal life reduce the amount of work a typical amateur can put into developing as an artist. Typically amateurs tend to be more erratic in their interests, or they concentrate most of their work on one focal interest.

Vivian Maier apparently dedicated pretty much all her personal time and a good proportion of her work time as a nanny to her photography. As a result her achievement is similar to a professional artist. Her work is of a similar standard too. Her work appears to exhibit a gradual and focused experimentation and development much like a professional artist.

Dedication and concentration

A large proportion of Vivian Maiers work is still unprinted. Most of it is still unseen by the public at large. We clearly have a lot more to see and to learn about her. Most of her life is a mystery, much of her story untold.

One thing is clear. For someone who was clearly a very talented street photographer she had a lot to teach photography learners about concentrated dedication to the things that interest us. If we really want to get to the bottom of what interests us as artists, we photographers need to be pretty single minded.

Have fun with your photography, but remember, the way to reveal real truths, like street photography, requires some pretty deep interpretation.

How to see the documentary

For those of you who have access to the BBC iPlayer you can still see the full Vivian Maier documentary for the next few weeks from the Home page for the “imagine” series of arts documentaries  External link - opens new tab/page (posted 05/07/2013).
Update: This documentary has now been taken down from the BBC site. However the link above now goes to the “Imagine” series website so you can see what is coming up and some past episodes are sometimes available on BBC iPlayer.

Other useful Vivian Maier resources

Here is a link to the BBC website where there are two clips about this documentary…
Vivian Maier: Who Took Nanny’s Pictures? Clips and other information.  External link - opens new tab/page

Want more on Vivian Maiers work on video? Here’s a Google search for YouTube videos about her…
Search YouTube for Vivian Maier Videos  External link - opens new tab/page

Vivian Maier on Wikipedia  External link - opens new tab/page
Vivian Maier – Her Discovered Work  External link - opens new tab/page

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

Three street photography tips – a moment of history

Moment out of time - a thread of history - Bring out the historical context of street photography

• Moment out of time – a thread of history •
There’s so much history on the streets. Yet, we walk past it apparently oblivious. Bring out the historical context of street photography to add interest to your shots.
Click image to view large
• Moment out of time – a thread of history • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Sometimes you just have to shoot.

It is what street photography is about. Getting out on the street, watching the street scene and capturing the moment. Sometimes it doesn’t happen the way you want. I went to Abingdon, UK, to collect some photography equipment. As the town centre is steeped in history I thought I’d capture some street scenes while there.

Three tips for capturing the moment – consider the historical context of street photography

While in Abingdon, I had several important insights…
1. It is not just about the moment: In the historic town centre of Abingdon on a very hot weekday lunchtime not much happens. It occurred to me that there is an important principle about street photography… everything is part of the environment. If you cut out your human subjects in Photoshop you would lose the essence of the street scene. An important component of the scene is in the environment itself. Think of the historical context of street photography when you consider your scene.

Don’t lose sight of the environment. A shot is interesting because of the people… and it’s interesting because of where they are. There is an inextricable link between a street moment and the street itself. Abingdon town centre has some wonderful historic buildings. The character of the history brings out the moments as effectively as the hustle and bustle in the down-town area of a big city. When Englishmen venture out in the mid-day sun, there is not much to smile about – but it makes for a scene in a historical context. View image above large.

2. An important part of the moment: Capturing expressions is essential. It speaks character and mood. It is a general point about street scenes and something to seek out in your pictures. However, not all street photographers are forgiving about all expressions.

I know of one street photographer that will tell you…

Make sure people aren’t smiling. Otherwise you end up with a snapshot
Martin Parr – Documentary Photographer

Hmmm! Maybe Martin Parr is right. But not always. Years ago in France I saw two elderly guys playing dominoes in an old town square. They were having a whale of a time – they did not stop laughing the whole time I was there. They laughed more when I photographed their mirth.

For me it was a defining moment. My shot, taken on an old Pentax (back in the days of film), became my first really successful street scene. It spurred me on. I was young, and I can’t even find that picture now. Actually the moment was so vivid in my mind I remember its detail many years later. The lesson? Capture the moment in all its glory, not just the moment you think is right. Martin Parr would have missed a great moment in a street game. I was the lucky one! I got a great set of expressions in the wonderful, historical context of street photography. That old French square came alive with that laughter.

3. The environment and historical context of street photography Street photography is about the people you meet, but never let a moment of interest slip away. Here is a picture of an old stone gateway into the market square in Abingdon…

Hidden Human History Revealed - the historical context of street photography

• Hidden Human History Revealed •
The damage on the columns of the gate reveal the historical context of street photography.
• Click image to view large •
Stone arch by Neven Guy.

The essence of street photography is about the character of the people you see. But here is a unique moment in human history that is so much a part of the street scene. Look at the deep gouges and scratches in the sides of the gate columns. Those marks have been made over centuries of use. Carts, trucks and all sorts of other objects and implements have banged off those stone columns and left an historical imprint.

I felt privileged to walk around those columns feeling the stonework and letting the history wash over me. As I did so I could see in my minds eye the busy street scene of a market square bustling with peasants and farmers of three or four hundred years ago.

Street photography is not just about pictures, its about you too

The moment you get out and into the street you are revealing yourself and discovering your boundaries. I did not engage with the people of Abingdon as I had hoped. But I did engage with their history. The historical context of street photography helped me gain some important insights into the history of the town. I also had some interesting thoughts about street photography. A powerful day of learning! It has made me want to go back and witness a busy Saturday market there. Those pockmarked columns would be a great backdrop to a busy street scene.

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Lenses and designations? Confused? An easy guide

• Lenses •

• Lenses •
Buying lenses optimised for your sensor is confusing.

Lenses are a big investment…

It is difficult to know which lens is optimised for your digital image sensor. There seems to be so many different designations. Here is a guide to which lens designation you want.

Explaining the differences

Brands like Canon and Nikon have their own lenses range. Third party manufacturers, like Sigma, Tokina and Tamron etc. manufacture lenses for brands like Nikon, Canon and others. if buying lenses the third party manufacturers have lenses which are equivalent to the Camera brand manufacturer or possibly better. Look around at online reviews to see what standard of lenses and prices are available.

Make sure you buy lenses fitted with the correct lens mount for your camera. Older models of cameras may have the correct mount but some of the more recent lenses might not be suitable to work with the camera. So check the mount and camera are compatible before buying.

Why are lens mounts specific to brands? It’s mainly historical – the development paths of the manufacturers differ. However, they also want their customers to stay loyal to the brand. This unfortunate situation means you have to reinvest in a new range of lenses if you change your camera body. Hmmm! Expensive.

There are two types of camera sensor. There are cropped sensors – which is a small size. These are more often referred to as APS-C format.

The other sensor format is full frame sensor. These are the size equivalent of the old film SLR frames on a roll of film.

Full frame digital sensors are less common than cropped sensors. The cropped sensors are easier and cheaper to manufacture. However, in recent years we are seeing an increase in full frame releases of new cameras. The higher resolution (more pixels) and potentially bigger print sizes are attractive to consumers. As full frame format gets cheaper they are likely to become more common.

The full frame sensor size is the same size as a 35 mm (36mm ×24mm) film frame in old SLR cameras. Because of the historical significance of the 35mm format modern DSLRs are based on the same standard. Lenses are normally designed to fit either the full frame format or the cropped format.

Lenses designed for the full frame sensor have an image circle that covers the whole 35mm sensor. These lenses tend to be more expensive because they need a wide circle of light thorough them to cover the sensor. They have bigger glass elements as a result.

Full-frame sized lenses are able to fit a camera with the same mount and a cropped sensor. The image circle from the lens remains constant. The smaller sensor size (APS-C) is therefore only able to process the light from the centre of the circle – the rest of the light spills over the side of the sensor. The resultant photograph is like a zoomed-in crop of the image that would have otherwise been taken with a full frame sensor.

This image-cropping effect of smaller sensors is known as the “crop factor”. It represents the ratio of the size of the full-frame 35 mm sensor to the size of the smaller format. The apparent zooming effect also gives rise to an alternative name – the “focal-length multiplier”.

The ratio of full-frame to crop tends to lie in the range 1.3–2.0 for most cropped sensor DSLRs. You might say that a 100 mm lens on a camera with a 1.5 crop factor creates an apparent zoom multiplying the focal length by 1.5. A 100mm lens would then appear to produce the same picture as a 150mm lens. This is not a true magnification since the focal length of the lens is the same on both cameras. Instead the cropped sensor is likely to produce a lower quality result than than the full frame sensor while revealing a closer result.

You can use lenses designed for full frame sensors on cropped sensors. It does not work the other way. A lens designed for a cropped sensor creates an image circle smaller than the full-frame sensor. It would create a circular image with very strong vignetting around the sides. Manufacturers recommend not using lenses designed for cropped sensors on full frame cameras.

Designations

To ensure that buyers purchase the correct lenses for full frame or cropped sensor manufacturers designate them with specific marques. Here is the breakdown of the most common designations…

 Manufacturer  Full frame
(and APS-C)
 APS-C
(cropped)
    Canon           EF pEF-S
    Nikon          FX DX
    Sigma          DG DC
    Tokina          FX DX
    Sony     Various‑incl.
3rd party mounts
DT
    Tamron          Di Di-II
    Samsung   Not available‑2013 NX
    Pentax Check manufacturer
specification
DA
  Konica‑Minolta Check manufacturer
specification
DT
Other related sources…

Lens manufacturers (Wikipedia) External link - opens new tab/page
Photography equipment manufacturers (cameras, lenses etc) (Wikipedia)  External link - opens new tab/page

Comments, additions, amendments or ideas on this article? Contact Us

find out more...Photokonnexion tips by email
If you enjoyed this article please sign up for our
Tips by email service.
                                                 Find out more

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Can you write? Of course you can!
Write for Photokonnexion...

We would love to have your articles or tips posted on our site.
Find out more…
Write for Photokonnexion.