Street Photography: My Creative Freeze & How I Broke Through It In London

Portobello Rd. - London
Click to enlarge

Long time, no blog... Why? Well, I've been in a creative freeze for the first half of 2016. Here's how that happened...

For the most part of 2015 I've been shooting with a fish eye lense and never used a different one during that time. Shooting with a fish eye is different in many ways. You need to be extremely close, compose the surroundings before you take a shot of a subject, try to be stealthy anyway so you won't get posed images, and so on. Hard to explain, but try it for yourself and you'll see what I mean.

Since the beginning of 2016 I wanted to start using a 'normal' lense again. I thought it was about time and it also started to feel like a 'one trick pony'. I think I've set a pretty good standard for those who want to use it on the streets, it gave me a lot of exposure on the web and got to know many interesting people because of it. I'm glad I did the project, but time to move on. You can view my fish eye portfolio here...

Using a normal lense again felt so different that it felt like I had to learn how to use that all over again. Every time I changed my fish eye to my 14mm it took no longer than 15 minutes to change it back to my fish eye again since I couldn't get myself to shoot with a normal lense. I just didn't see it, didn't know how to approach my subjects anymore and felt extremely uncomfortable with it. I kept going back and forth for about six months and couldn't take a single shot that I thought even remotely came close to an 'ok' shot. Very frustrating and even started to lose interest in practicing street photography. You could argue that I had a fish eye cold turkey :)

Until my Facebook friends El Bull & Marcy Em invited me to London which I happily accepted and got to meet Philip Cleminson and Rainer Nowotny in the process ;) So to say, I packed my bag, took my fish eye and my 14mm along with me and was excited to meet all of them and thought a change in environment would do me well.

I took off with my 14mm and came home with some interesting shots as well as a portfolio shot!

London tube
Click to enlarge

After arriving at El Bull and Marcy's place, we got to know each other better, had a nice coffee and moved into the city to meet Philip and Rainer. Of course I started out with the fish eye, but after 15 minutes I just got so bored with it I changed it to the 14mm and never looked back. I still don't know if it was just the change in environment or the specific environment of London. As Philip rightfully said that day: "London is an attack on your senses"... It definitely is! If you fail to go home with a good shot after shooting the streets in London, you'd better find a new hobby is my humble opinion. We visited Camden, Trafalgar Square, Soho, Chinatown and Portobello Road. Besides the great time we had together, I had the great experience of what a fantastic place to shoot the street London really is!

Camden - London
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Trafalgar Square - London
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Camden - London
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Near Portobello Rd. - London
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I finally broke my freeze!

Experiencing a freeze too? My advice to you would be to change environment drastically. Visit quiet places and move to incredibly busy places, keep changing, keep moving, force yourself out of your regularities... Eventually you will break through it!

If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks please feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

All the best,

Willem

Street Photography: Timelessness

Photo: Willem Jonkers - Click to enlarge

Sometimes I wonder if my photography is timeless. Looking at shots from fellow photographers, I ask myself that same question about their shot. What does make a street photo timeless? A very difficult subject to me and especially a hard question to answer about my own 8mm street shots. As far as I know there haven't been street photographers around in the past to which I can compare my own style of street photography. So will it be timeless? Here I show you some of my 'normal' photography along with some 8mm work. You decide... Also I have the pleasure to show some work from other photographers whom I think delivered some marvelous work.

When is a street photograph timeless?

Looking at photography from Vivian Maier or Henry Cartier Bresson, that is story telling. Those images are still famous and therefor timeless. It could very well be that very popular shots from todays photographers do not stand that test of time. In my humble opinion, for a photograph to be timeless there has to be a clear subject and the context where the subject is moving around in has to be clear. Also the viewer should be able to correlate their own life experiences with what is shown on the photograph. After all, street photography is documenting life as it is in our times for future generations to see. Context and/or a story is a necessity to keep it interesting for those future generations.

Photo: Willem Jonkers - Click to enlarge

Nowadays I see a lot of people trying to copy the Bresson style with the so called 'decisive moment' shots. People jumping over a pool and what not. Like I mentioned in one of my earlier blogs, there's nothing wrong with being inspired by another photographer, but don't try to copy. If you want to do the same thing, you'd better be much better then the one who inspires you. That's a path you shouldn't take I think. Try to be inspired, but develop your own style within that inspiration so people will recognize your work as authentical and not as a wanna be HCB. If the latter is the case, your photography will be forgotten quickly. 

Am I developing my own style? Judging by the reactions and many interviews I've got this year, I'd like to think so. Is that style timeless? Well there is definitely context to be found in my 8mm street photography. Are there stories? No, often not... I'm not much into that artistical justification of my photography. I just do what I like to do. I photograph for me. I just walk the streets and click whenever I see something that could be interesting within my 8mm frame. That click happens on an intuitive basis. Only time can tell if this style can survive the test of time.

Photo: Willem Jonkers - Click to enlarge

Below some photographs from other photographers from our time. These are great and inspiring photographers to me which I think have their own style and have a good chance of passing the test of time.

Photo: Mark Brown - Click to enlarge

Photo: Mark Brown - Click to enlarge

Photo: Fred Vasquez - Click to enlarge

Photo: Fred Vasquez - Click to enlarge

Photo: Sean Pomposello - Click to enlarge

Photo: Sean Pomposello - Click to enlarge

Photo: Elizabeth Char - Click to enlarge

Photo: Elizabeth Char - Click to enlarge

Photo: Steven Gonzalez - Click to enlarge

Photo: Steven Gonzalez - Click to enlarge

Photo: Sandra Jonkers - Click to enlarge

Photo: Sandra Jonkers - Click to enlarge

Photo: Molly Porter - Click to enlarge

Photo: Molly Porter - Click to enlarge

Will your photography be timeless? An important question but difficult to answer... Maybe it's time to take a hard look at it once more ;)

Where To Find The Shown Photographers?

Mark Brown

Freddy Vasquez
Sean Pomposello
Elizabeth Char
Steven Gonzalez
Sandra Jonkers
Molly Porter

 

Thank you all for your continuous support and appreciation for my photography the past year andI wish you all very happy holidays and a healthy, happy and creative 2016! 

See you next year...

Willem

Street Photography: WeStreet 2015, A Review

Photo by Le Tanguerrant
Click to enlarge

The WeStreet public book project started on August 4th and what an intense ride it was.

Some 15 to 20.000 photographs have been submitted where about 70 to 75% has been rejected in the pre-curating process. The choice to pre-curate has been widely accepted by all participants with a 98% approval rate in the poll we did on this subject. The choice to pre-curate was a bit of a concern to since I am by no means an authority on street photography. Also, if can shoot the streets doesn't necessarily mean that one can judge a photograph as well. That the participants accepted this so overwhelmingly was a pleasant surprise for all of us.

The duration of the submission period with two months was experienced by me as a long time and next year this period will probably be shortened towards five to six weeks. The intense and time consuming process to curate hundreds of photographs each day was a journey I've learned a lot from though.

The pre-selecting into the pre-selection group was also an intense experience. That process is very subjective and all moderators handle this differently, but we learned from each other. The pre-selection process was a success since this was the first time we did this. For next year I have some ideas for improvement though. I'd like to invite some professionals by that time to pre-curate our selections before they enter the pre-selection group. I'm thinking of people who have earned their merrits in processing, composing and other photography techniques. The process could look a bit like this by which it becomes a bit less subjective.

  • Preselecting by moderators into a secret group only visible to WS staff;
  • A small selected team of professionals judge our pre-selections on processing, composition, etc. and delete those who they do not see as strong enough;
  • The remaining photographs will be shared into the public pre-selection group;
  • The final selection will be created by all staff members.

During the final selection process the five of us all selected 40 photographs to be published in the book where we all had one option to delete one selected shot from the others. A total of 225 shots (including three from each admin) were selected from 154 photographers and taken in 39 different countries. We are proud and thankfull to all that have participated and made this very diverse book possible.

Me chasing a lot of photographers to send us their 300dpi file which we needed to have a high quality print was very stressfull to me. Messaging, posting requests, collecting, keeping a database, changing file names, etc, etc. Not a cool job, but had to be done. I hope for a faster response from the selected photographers next year :)

Then the choice for Blurb as a tool to handle creating the book was the best option we had on such short notice. Blurb however is not cheap and the pricing can scare off potental buyers. I'm very happy with the quality they deliver, but I will be on the look out for a cheaper, but not of a lesser quality alternative for next year. I'd like to emphasize once more that we don't make any money of this project and we have to buy the book through Blurb at the same price as everyone else.

Composing the book, typing the index of photographers and adding all necessary information was a hell of a job, but very much worth it. The result looks stunning to me... All because of your amazing submitted photography!

Last but not least, we created a dedicated  WeStreet website  where all the amazing work can be viewed, the book can be ordered and a possible future blog can be followed. Check that site out!

All said, I think this project has been a huge success. This was the first time and many things could've gone wrong. The response from all participants was amazingly positive and very encouraging to me to repeat this next year.

I would like to thank my fellow admins Steven Gonzalez, Arek Rataj, Marius Vieth and my wife Sandra for their support and amazing jobs they did. Above all thank you all participants for your fabulous entries, creating a positive vibe in the group and excellent feed back throughout the whole project!

Cheers!

Willem

 

 

 

Street Photography: Cropping or Aspect Change

Hi all,

Often I get questions about why I crop to get a square image. I thought this months blog would be a good one to clarify more on that.

Actually it's not cropping what I do, but changing the aspect ratio. Since I mostly shoot with an 8mm wide angle I get a lot of so called 'negative space' in my images. Negative space is the space that surrounds the main subject in a photograph. Negative space can be used in a positive way like in the image below.

Changed the aspect ratio to 16:9. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. The big space surrounding my subject is called negative space. Click to enlarge

But especially when I take candid street portraits with the use of a fisheye I like to fill the frame with the subject only. Otherwise there will be too much distraction in the frame. Below you see two examples of changing the aspect ratio towards 1:1.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 without cropping. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

You can clearly see in the examples above that If I wouldn't change the aspect ratio, the images would be much less interesting to watch because of the distracting or uninteresting surroundings.

So basically, if you have a nice serene surrounding, you can use that negative space very well within your composition and you probably should from a photographic point of view. But if the surroundings are very busy and therefor distracting from the main subject, it is my believe that one better changes the aspect ratio to get more focus towards the subject. If changing the aspect ratio doesn't work within the composition, the shot is probably a failure.

Some cropping can help, but heavily cropping a shot which has been taken with a fisheye makes no sense since it will kill it's purpose. Minimal cropping (like 5% or so) to get rid of an annoying pole on the side or whatever can make a big difference of course and I do that if necessary. Cropping images taken with a 'normal' lense is a different thing. That doesn't matter at all of course, but watch out with too much cropping if you want to print that shot in a large format. That won't work anymore.

Below an example where I changed the aspect ratio and cropped as well. I cropped because I feel there was way to much space above his head.

Here you see the change in aspect towards 1:1 and cropping afterwards. I didn't crop to much in order to be able to print it if I want to in the future. Click to enlarge

The end result after processing. Click to enlarge

Hope to have provide some clarification on this matter.

If you have any questions, suggestions or remarks please feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

Have a good one all ;)

Willem

Street Photography: Insecurity

One of my first shots that day. They were stopping along the way and kept looking and talking about me which made me even more insecure. Never have that feeling, but that day was different...

Click to enlarge

In a previous blog I wrote about overcoming your fear. This article isn't about fear, but rather about insecurity. Especially how I got over this that particular day.

On Friday the 10th of July my wife Sandra and I went downtown to shoot the streets. The moment we arrived I had this unsettled feeling that the atmosphere was very different from what it usually is and not in a good way. I didn't mention it to Sandra although she later told me she had the exact same feeling. 

We decided to have lunch and a drink first and walk the streets after that. After we finished we both went our way. The feeling was still there and made me insecure which I normally don't experience at all when going out shooting the streets. I decided to hang out in front of a building where the sun was reflecting in the windows and try to shoot with that scene as a decor. Immediately after my first shot that feeling of insecurity was confirmed, seeing my subjects stopping after they passed me, talking to each other while watching me in the back. It made me very uncomfortable and even more insecure. Besides that, I still hadn't succeed in taking the shot I was looking for. After a few more of those failures, I finally got it... These subjects also stopped at the opposite of the street and kept watching me while talking to each other. I just kept shooting the building without subjects pretending I didn't see them and was just making pictures of the building. This 'sneakyness' is not really my style and it kept giving me that uncomfortable feeling.

Going on like this for the rest of the afternoon wasn't an option for me, so what to do next? Many past life experiences have tought me that the best way to deal with a problem is to confront yourself with it as head on as possible. This made me decide to seek the confrontation with my subjects if I would notice that they would behave as I've described earlier. So when I went on and took a shot (see below) I noticed that the subjects were unsettled, but walked on. From the corner of my eyes I saw them stopping a few times and watching me. They were already at least 30 meters away, but I decided to start walking towards them (as they moved on, I even ran a bit) and catched up with them. They immediately started asking questions, but in a decent way. Of course they were decent, why wouldn't they be? After all it was me taking the initiative to engage with them. After explaining myself, offering them my card and to email them the photograph, they smiled and everything was fine. We all went our way and I noticed my feeling of insecurity started to come down a bit. After my second and third engagement my feeling of insecurity disapated completely. 

Not a good shot, but these are the people I described above... Click to enlarge.

She actually appologised to me for being in my way. When she moved on, I walked towards here and explained what I was doing, gave her my card and we said goodbye. Her boyfriend contacted me to get the picture. They were very happy with it.

Click to enlarge

Mother and daughter. The same approach here... I walked towards them after they moved on and explained what I was doing before. They also contacted me later to get the picture and were very friendly about it.

Click to enlarge

When Sandra and I met later that day and told her about my experiences, she told me she had that same feeling all day and had two verbally aggressive encounters that day which never happens to her in that way. By that confirming the unusual uncomfortable vibe in downtown Rotterdam that day.

So feeling insecure? Approach your subjects and have a conversation. It helps... They do not expect you to take their photograph, but also not that you would approach a complete stranger to have a conversation about what you are doing. Remain calm, polite and friendly... Nobody will be agressive then...

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the below comment section or Facebook.

Good luck and all the best!

Willem

 

Street Photography: No Ethics

Yeah, the title of this blog spoiles it all...

In my humble opinion, nowadays we all get infected with a disease called “Political Correctness” in many ways and on a daily basis. Art should distinguish itself from that as far as possible... Let me explain myself a bit further through some examples, the story behind those shots and how I see the difference between a choice I make all the time and my supposedly lack of ethics.

Unfortunate, disabled or society's rejected people (click to enlarge)
They are easy 'targets' and generally I'm not that interested in photographing them. If I would censor myself through ethics, I wouldn't have made this picture. That would be too bad since it shows both the harsh and gentle side of society.

Unfortunate, disabled or society's rejected people (click to enlarge)
A homeless man in Rotterdam. Ignored and rejected by society. Not noticed anymore... Notice the expression on the face from the guy on the left while looking at him.

Muslim women (click to enlarge)
Muslim women don't want to be photographed for religious reasons. If you ask, some will allow it, but I never ask any person which includes religious people. I saw her standing on the oppositie of a crossing and thought she was a real stand out on the street between the other people. The combination of traditional and modern clothing accessorized by that designer purse was an eyecatching sight for me.

Muslim women (click to enlarge)
For me these two express strength, vulnerability and a deep inner connection towards each other all at once. Later that day I walked into them again and showed them the picture. We had a nice talk for about 20 minutes and they turned out to be exceptional friendly and open minded people. This is still one of my favorite shots.

Large people (click to enlarge)
I'm too heavy myself and obesity is a big problem in society. Here I delibirately took the shot without his head. This one is to give society a mirror of this problem.
 

Large people (click to enlarge)
Make some statement with humor... Always works out pretty well. The use of the fisheye exaggerates the size of this man.

Teenage girls and little children (click to enlarge)
How would you as a father or mother feel if an adult man was taking pictures of your teenage daughter on the street? Society has become paranoid on the subject of pedophilia and as a male photographer I tend to be careful. One can get in trouble very easy. Again, I don't censor myself on this as well. If I see a good shot, I'll take it. I'm just a bit more aware of the controversy.

Teenage girls and little children (click to enlarge)

On the streets it is very simple: What you see is what you get. All layers of society are there to be photographed. Why would I need to consider someones religion (sepparation between church and state is something we must cherish deeply), someones believes, someones physical state, the way women dress in the summer, the paranoia in society on men being pedophiles until the opposite has been proven, or someones body size? Why would I censor myself as a photographer just because of the so called opinions in society on all of the above mentioned subjects?

I just choose not to censor myself as long as it is my own believe my intention shows respect to the subject's state of being or doesn't compromise the subject in a disrespectful way.

So on the most common subjects of discussion within street photography, I do not have any ethics, but I mostly choose not too photograph those unless there's some kind of artistical justification to take the shot...

What I do despise however, is making disrespectful comments on photographs like "nice rack", "fat loser" and so on. This can give street photography as a whole a very badreputation. The street photography community is small and therefor very vulnerable. We all have a responsibility towards each other's love for this kind of photography I think.

I want to emphasize this is just my own opinion. To all my readers who can not agree on my vision for religious, political or any other reasons, I want to say that I respect your believes, but art in general is just about exposing to all cultures what is happening in our urban societies.

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the below comment section or Facebook.

Have a good one,

Willem

Street Photography: Focus Techniques

Click to enlarge

Fujinon XF14mm f2.8 - On the lower ring I set my aperture. In this case at 16... On the middle ring I set my distance to my subject which in this case I've set to 1 meter. Above that setting you can see that at f16 my focal range will be from 0.50 meter towards eternity.

Although most people I know use autofocus while shooting the streets, there are two more techniques that are interesting to use: Zone focussing and Range focussing. In this article I will try to explain both techniques and the pro's and con's of using them.

Prior to 1978 when Polaroid released it's SX-70 Sonar OneStep single lens reflex camera, there was no autofocus available and most street photographers used range focus or zone focus to get their images as sharp as possible. While those techniques will never produce the sharpness from using the autofocus, it does give you an "acceptable sharpness" which of course is a bit arbitrary. So why do I use it then? Autofocus tends to be way too slow for focussing on moving objects on the streets. Also if I see a scene evolving right before my eyes, autofocus can be a bit too slow and the moment has passed. By using the zone or range technique, I don't have that problem.

What is zone focussing?

By setting my camera to manual focus and my apperture to a certain setting,
I create a zone where everything will be in focus (approximately 90%). This can be from one meter away towards a maximum of two meters away, or 2 meter away towards a maximum of 4 meters away, etc. This sounds a bit strange, so let me clarify with an example using a DoF calculator (DoFmaster.com) where
I use the Fuji X-Pro 1 which has the same crop factor (1.5) as my own X-T1. And use my Fujinon XF14mm lens which has a zone focus ring where I can set my distance to my subject and my aperture (see image above).

So here you see that with my distance setting at 1 meter and my apperture at f8, I have a focal range of about 4.57 meters. If I'm at about 0.5 meter from my subject,
I can just click without focussing first and everything from that distance all the way up to approximately 5 meters away will be in focus. The wider I set my apperture, the less DoF or range I will have.

If I apply the same settings on my Fujinon XF23mm, I will get a much more narrow range which is much more difficult to use. In order to increase my range, I have to increase my f-stop as shown in the two examples below.

Increasing the distance to my subject on my focus ring will also increase the range as shown in the next example.

So in general, the less wide your lens, the more difficult it is to use this technique. At about 35mm (full frame) is the maximum focal length in which you can use this, but then you would have to take a larger distance from your subject or an f-stop at 16 to get a workable range. Using my 8mm lens which has no autofocus, I just can set my f-stop at whatever I want, because that lens is so wide, everything will be in focus from a distance of 30cm and beyond.

Using this technique with a wide open aperture, you better know how to estimate the correct distance or else everything will be blurry. If you use a 23mm (35mm on my crop of 1.5) and an aperture of 1.4, you'll have a 60cm range which will be in focus, so you'll have to be very close.

Usually I use f8 or higher on my 14mm with 1 meter distance or f16 at my 23mm with 1 meter distance. Just to be on the safe side...

23mm  - f5 - 1/500 - iso 500 | Zone focussing technique | Click to enlarge

23mm  - f16 - 1/400 - iso 3200 | Hyperfocal technique | Click to enlarge

What is range focussing or hyperfocal distance?

When I set my lens distance at eternity, I will have a minimum distance towards my subject from where I can shoot (depending on my apperture setting). In the above examples you can see the hyperfocal distances as well. Basically, from the minimum distance towards infinity will be sharp. This is an ideal way to go on the streets if you don't want a shallow DoF.

Pre-focussing

Sometimes if I see a nice background, I pre-focus. This is fairly easy by focussing (withing the range of my settings) on the background and wait until an interesting subject passes by to take the shot. Just focus on a point where you expect the subject will pass and take the shot as it happens.

14mm  - f16 - 1/400 - iso 2500 | Hyperfocal technique | Click to enlarge

Why use manual techniques?

  • No focus hunting;
  • Much faster in reacting to situations or subjects;
  • In full control;
  • Saves time.

The described techniques take some patience. The first few times I came home with all blurred shots which can be a bit frustrating, but learning without mistakes and error just isn't possible I guess. If you need a DoF calculator because your lens doesn't support a zone focus setting, then visit an app store where there are many available which are easy to use.

Hope to have given you fellow street togs something inspiring or maybe you already knew all this, but still liked to read it just to freshen up a bit.

Feel free to contact me through the contact form, in the comment section below or through Facebook.

Have fun!

Willem

Street Photography: Gear and a bit on the Brain

Through time as I've gotten more exposure to my photography, I keep receiving questions about the gear I use and how to make these shots, so my thinking was that this subject would be a nice blog for this month...

Let me start with the easy one, gear. I started out with a Canon 60D, bought a Canon 17-55 f2.8, shortly after that a Tamron 24-70 f2.8 and a Canon L 70-200 f2.8 and thought I was good to go... After all, I've spended a shit load of money on super gear, so my shots will be awesome, right? Think again... Big big mistake... First of all it's plain idiotic to walk around the streets with 10kg of gear around your shoulder and above all very uncomfortable to say the least. Besides that, walking around with semi-professional large gear can be perceived as intrusive by subjects on the street. Often people asked me if their photo would be in a newspaper or something... Quick handling of compositions on moving subjects is also something to think about. In order to do that, I wanted a light weight camera which can be easily maneuvered in any direction.

Samyang/Rokinon 8mm Fisheye - Click to enlarge

Nowadays I use the Fuji X-T1, a Fujinon 14mm f2.8, a Fujinon 23mm f1.4 and very often the Samyang/Rokinon 8mm Fisheye f2.8. The latter is not for everybody, since you need to go very close to get the most out of this magical lens. I see shots which are taken with the fisheye and are cropped heavily afterwards. That way you do not get the most out of it... Using a fisheye requires understanding of it's purpose, which is intentional distortion and the distorted ratios between subjects and their surroundings. In the example here on the left you can clearly see the effect of the fisheye. In order to get that, one needs to bend over deep, right in front of the subject and point the camera in an approximate 35 to 40 degrees upwards angle...  When doing this, I shoot in a distance of about 50cm (2ft) of my subject.
 

 

People stare at me sometimes like I'm some kind of lunatic, but I don't really care about what people think of me in life in general. Especially in street photography I don't since I just want to make a good shot... Last week I got stopped by three cops asking me what I was doing and if I was shooting under women's skirts... Of course I don't and thats not even possible without sticking the cam in a 180 degree angle under their legs, but still... They told me I should ask if I go this close, but I know my rights and showed them the shots from that day on my cam. They moved on and so did I... But just be carefull shooting women wearing skirts in the spring or summer. Better not use this technique, since it can be understandably awkward for the subject and you.

Fujinon 14mm - Click to enlarge

The 14mm let's me shoot scenes from very close without distortions and is my favorite lens for more regular street shots. The example here on the right shows one of the results from that fantastic lens. The 23mm is for use in countries or cities where people are not that open minded to having their photograph taken on the streets and I feel more comfortable myself to keep a bigger distance. Although, with the 23mm a distance of 3 to 4 meters (9 to 12ft) is about it.

Besides this I use an ND filter sometimes. ND filters have only one purpose and that is to stop a big portion of light coming into your lens. If I want to shoot with a low shutter speed, the lens will stay open for a longer period of time and therefor my shot will turn out all white. The filter gives me up to 9 extra stops to handle that. Longer shutter speeds can be interesting to create motion in my shot. For this I use the Hoya Variable Density ND filter for which you can find more information here...

Mostly I've thought about it at home where I'm gonna take the shot, how I'm gonna take it and what I want to achieve. When the circumstances are right, I grab my tripod (I use a Manfrotto) and the rest of my gear, head up there and take a few shots. Never had a failure, ever. This gives me a great adrenaline kick when I get home. To be able to take the shot up front in my brain at home and go out and do just exactly that what I imagined is an absolute awesome experience! Below you can see one result  of using this filter which I combined with the 14mm lens I've just spoken about...

Hoya Variable Density Filter - Click to enlarge

A bit about the brain: "Vision is the Art of Seeing what is Invisible to Others" -Jonathan Swift

During a conversation I had about this blog's subject with my Facebook friend Mbzz Nowhere, he pointed me towards world & humanitarian photographer
David DuChemin with a very relevant quote:

"Gear is Good, Vision is Better".

The gear is just that: gear! It's a tool, nothing more... We photograph with the brain. It's all about perception. I've learned about technique, camera settings, bought expensive gear, but if one doesn't see it, one cannot photograph it. If I don't feel comfortable or am scared or whatever, my shots will suck. The eye is a 40mm lens, but it's the brain which projects the reality I experience. Through my two 40mm lenses my brain receives ten's of millions of bits per second, but only projects a few thousand bits. Telling someone how to see is very difficult. If I go out shooting the streets with someone and we shoot the same subject at the very same time by counting down, the results will be very different and so will the viewer's experience for that matter.

Then there's the left and right side of the brain. When I'm using the left side more, I intend to make rational non-intuitive images, when using the right side, I tend to shoot more spontanuous without any planning. Mostly I am a right brainer... When someone asks me why I took a certain shot, I have difficulty to explain. It's just intuiti on which preserved at that time. It's also that side I love the most. It's my creative side...

Some tips in developing the left side...

  • Explore the technical aspects of your camera;
  • Try to make an objectively image as possible from a person and describe to yourself later what that picture is all about;
  • Try different settings and write down what shot you did with which settings;
  • After you did the former, analyze your shots and be amazed by the different results it will get you.

Some tips in developing the right side...

  • Break the damn rules!
  • Take your chances with apertures and shutter speeds. If you think you need an aperture of 11, use a 3.6, if you think you need a shutter speed at 1/400 then use 1/8 of a second. and so on;
  • If you think you're close enough, get closer;
  • Over and under expose your shots all the time;
  • Try all kinds of angles, go way low, keep your cam way up high, keep it diagonal or whatever.

To conclude, I just want to add that my gear is not THE gear, but I like Fuji the most since it can handle very high iso values. I often use high shutter speeds, so a sensor that can handle high iso values to compensate for the lack of light comes in very handy for me. Fuji is the absolute best in handling high iso values. But Olympus OM-D, Ricoh GR series are also camera's I read very good reviews about. Hell, I see fantastic shots which have been made with a smartphone!

A shitty carpenter with great tools will create crappy furniture. A great carpenter with shitty tools will create great quality furniture...

Hope you enjoyed my latest. Next time my blog will be a bit more of a personal story about my wife Sandra and me shooting the streets together...

Feel free to comment below, contact me through the contact form or via Facebook.

Have fun!

Willem

Street Photography: Invisible

Although I like people giving me 'The Eye' as most people who follow me know, staying invisible is crucial in street photography. Especially before taking the shot... There are a few methods I use to accomplish just that and thought it would be a nice subject for my April blog.

Most of the time I just use auto focus, but you can also use manual zone focussing techniques. Just set your lens at 2 meters (6 ft) for example, learn to estimate your apperture and wait until your subject is within that range. Then take the shot... Everything within that range will be sharp. Needless to say to set your shutter speed at 1/250 minimum (I prefer 1/400 or higher) if you don't want motion in your shot. Many photographers just want to be unnoticed for obvious reasons. But by trying too hard, acting nervous and being anctious to get that shot and get the hell out, you will get noticed.

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USE  A WIDE ANGLE LENS

If I use a wide angle lens (14mm for example), I can go really close and take a shot while pointing right beside my subject. They will see me, but will not know I took their photograph since my camera is not pointed directly at them. It can be really funny too, since they will definitely look behind them what the hell I'm photographing :) A bit sneaky but it works. And a shot taken from very close just gives it that little extra... The image here on the left is a perfect example of that...

HANG OUT ON A STREET CORNER

If I just hang out on a street corner, people will not notice me after a while. At least not conciously... Interesting things can happen like people bumping into each other, people meeting someone they know, people crossing the streets or whatever.

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LET PEOPLE MOVE TOWARDS YOU

If I see someone interesting walking in my direction, I'll just wait and look beyond them. Then I act like I'm photographing something else and take the shot. Wait until they've almost passed and then I pretend to shoot in that direction again. Never ever make eye contact on this one! They will know or at least suspect that you photographed them.

The image here on the left is an example where I was hanging on a street corner and already focussing on the window way before she arrived. I just waited until she walked into my frame and left her thinking I was photographing that window. The interaction with the camera made the shot for me...

 

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LEAVE THE CAMERA BEFORE YOUR EYES AS THEY PASS

What I think is also a good way to avoid being noticed taking a shot of someone passing by is too keep my camera before my eye as they pass. It looks like I'm shooting something else and they'll just move on not knowing I took their photograph. Also a sneaky way, but it works and I have nothing but good intentions. I'm not there to make fun of people...

The image on the right shows that style.. I saw her coming from a distance eating and putting her mouth full of food. I just framed and kept my cam before my face. Luckily there was interaction with the camera which makes it more interesting.



THE HIP SHOT

This is something else and honostly I do not master this and I can assure you that this technique takes lots and lots of practice (and frustration. I tried that many times and came up with nothing), so I asked a Willem Hoogduin if he wanted to be part of my blog. He has over 30 years experience in street photography and has developed his own way of handling his skills. So for this part I'll leave it to Willem Hoogduin...

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I was 18 when I started shooting. The first years it was just looking through the viewfinder to take pictures. In my student days I noticed that the shooting at parties was hampered by staring so visibly with the camera towards the subjects. I never used flash, so I could be somewhat inconspicuous. Then I decided to make hipshots. At that time I had become a completely invisible photographer at parties and I could get as close as I wanted to my prey… Initially my hipshots were made by holding my camera at waist height. You can then easy shoot to the left and right. About 5 years ago, I had invented the “thigh-shot”. In the photo “Coca Cola” you can see me (bottom right on the photo) while I’m walking along the subject with the camera vertically in my hand and looking straight in front of me. The technique of this thigh-shots is difficult. Fortunately, while walking your arm is always at ease in the upper position. Around that time you have to shoot. You can also stand still and pretend the lamppost in the distance has fascinating looks ...

Assumptions:

- You need a lens of about 18mm, because that gives no distortions.
- You have to hold the camera at an angle of about 45 degrees upward if you shoot close by.
- I mostly use ISO 800. Your camera must be fast (at least 1/125), because there is always some movement.
- You should not look at the person nor at your camera.
- And yes, practice makes perfect !!

Thus, using the thigh-shot technique makes you invisible and you can get hardly any closer to the subject.

Finally, the two “Walk By” pictures are done in a sequence. I shot several times while walking along the cop. Meanwhile, I was busy adjusting my hand posture and was focused on the position of my hand in relation to the cop all the time. Btw, I shot dozens of cops this way and never been busted. So it seems to work!

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Many thanks to Willem Hoogduin for his wonderful contribution... Also that pov is something I can always appreciate in a shot :-)

Finally I'd like to emphasize that by being invisible doesn't mean that people cannot see you, but you'll just leave them in the dark if you took their photograph or not. Or they didn't notice you at all for that matter...

Hope to have given you some insights and inspiration!

Feel free to comment below or share this blog. Otherwise you can contact me through the contact form or through Facebook...

Have fun all,

Willem

Note: Any suggestions for a blog? let me know in the comments section, contact form or via Facebook...

 

Street Photography: How I got closer and closer...

Nowadays it seems like if you're not photographing from close to very close distance, you're not a good street photographer. To me that's a load of crap. This subject is taken into extremes on the internet lately. As I've described in my previous blog, I think one should just photograph who you are. If you're not comfortable shooting people on the streets from close distance, then don't. Although it is my believe that you have to try that in order to be absolutely sure that it's not your way to go. Try this while shooting an event on the streets where a lot of people are photographing anyway...

When I started shooting the streets in 2011, I was very uncomfortable. I went out with my 2kg Canon 60D, a 3kg 70-200 zoomlens and a tripod to shoot the streets. Imagine that! Absolutely insane... :-)

When I started taking some workshops in street photography I thought my pictures were quite nice. The guy who was handling the workshop at that time told me several times that my shots were nice, but I needed to go 'into the people' more to make my shots interesting in stead of just nice. Of course I refused to do that and kept arguing with him that it really doesn't matter how big my distance is, as long as my pictures are good. He told me that the viewers would get the feeling to be present at the scene themselves when watching them. These discussions went on for a long time and I guess he just had to give it up at some point. I just didn't have the guts to go closer because of my fear ad stubbornness.

Like the audactic as I am, I kept reading the internet about street photography, viewing shots from old masters and current street photographers. While watching hundreds of photographs, I started to grasp what he ment. Shooting from a closer distance does make the image more interesting. Reading quotes like "Photograph who you are" and "If your photo isn't good enough, you're not close enough" from Robert Capa forced me to rethink my way of photographing the streets. I connect easily with strangers, so why not try it and see if it's my way to go? And above all, does that kind of photography really make my own shots more interesting?

So I did... I went out to the streets with my wife and fellow street photographer Sandra (how awesome is that?) and started shooting with a 17-55mm lens from very close distance in Rotterdam. I must say, I really felt uncomfortable noticing those people looking at me like I'm some kind of freak. At least, that's how my brain interpreted their facial expressions towards me... Later on you will find out my brain (and yours, if you take on this kind of photography) was just fooling me. When I got home I imported my shots into Lightroom and noticed that I didn't get any decent shot at all... Why? Because I let my brain fool me into anxiety again! Your brain imports millions of bits of data through your lenses (eyes) per second and is projecting a very tiny bit of that into your reality. This tiny bit of data projected is what you are/feel at that very moment. That is basically your projected reality... So if your grasped by fear in that moment, you will project that into your reality as you see it and ultimately as you photograph it. One of my future blogs about "Ethics & Authenticity" will go into the subjectivity of the brain a bit more... Although that needs a bit more research...

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The next weekend there was a street festival in Rotterdam (World of the Witte de With Kwartier) and we went. from the start I felt comfortable shooting from close distance. Just because there where so many people shooting with their camera... How your brain can fool you! What does it actually matter if there are more camera's on the street? In this case, it helped me a lot to let my brain fool me ;-) Later on my wife's battery went low and I had to go to the store to get another one since we didn't have another spare. I took my camera and went to the store... There I was on the streets, not getting any comfort of more camera's shooting the street and I took this shot from maybe 50cm (2 ft) on my way to the store... Nothing happened. No agression, no yelling, nothing... That amazed me and I was convinced. If you want to take a look at my photographs I took that day at that very festival, just take a look at this gallerie...

Enough with the story about my journey to get there. Let me show you the difference  between a shot from a far away distance and a closeby distance and let you decide which is more interactive to you as a viewer...

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The photograph on the left has been taken from about 40 meters (120 ft) and the one on the right at about 1 meter (3 ft)...  Do you feel more at presence with the photograph on the left or the one on the right? Do you notice that there is more connection and interaction with the subject?

Now these photographs are quite static, so I want to show you two more examples which can easily be categorised as street portaits. The one on the left has been taken with a Canon 70-200 f2.8 @ 200mm and a distance of about 20 meters (60 ft). I cropped this one to get the image as it is shown here. The one on the right has been taken with my Fuji X-T1 camera with a 23mm f1.4 pirme lens and has not been cropped. I took the latter at a 60 to 70cm (1,5 to 2 ft) distance. Do you see the difference?

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What do you think? Does taking a photograph from close distance bring more personality and interaction to the shot? Do you feel more as if you where there yourself? Do you notice the interaction that I had with my subject on the right?

As my last blog and as my future blogs will often be about my personal experiences in street photography, this is by no means an 'attack' on those who just keep on shooting from a further distance. I just wanted to show you, that you as a photographer, can enhance your results by getting closer to your subject. Personally I think, the above examples are all nice photographs, but to me the ones shot from a close distance distinguish themselves from the other ones. By shooting from a close distance, you as a photographer, will have a connection and some kind of social interaction with your subject. If only for a brief moment, but there's some kind of connectivity and to me that's just awesome to experience. When a subject gives you 'the eye' because they notice you, it makes the shot more powerful I think...

Whatever you do, never get in contact before taking a shot and shoot very fast so they will not have the chance to pose for you. That'll definitely ruin the shot!

Invading someones personal space can be a very strange experience for people. According to American anthropologist and cross-cultural researcher Edward T. Hall there are four personal zones to differentiate; public, social, personal and intimate spaces.

Public space: 7.6 - 3.6 meters | 25 to 12 ft
Social space: 3.6 - 1.2 meters | 12 to 4 ft
Personal space: 1.2 - 0.45 meters | 4 to 1.5 ft
Intimate space: 0.45 meters or 1.5 ft towards you can imagine...

I think, as a photographer the personal space area is as close you can get for obvious reasons ;-)

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If you want to take it to the extreme, go even closer with a 10mm or even wider. As you can see in my last example, this is as close you can get, besides going full macro on your subject of course, which I do not recommend :-)
This one has been taken with an 8mm fisheye objective where my feet were almost touching his. See the connection, the brief close interaction, the eyes from the subject and the people on the right? If I would've taken this from a far distance with a telezoom objective, they probably wouldn't have noticed and the image would be merely a registration of people sitting on a bench and much less interesting to watch (and shoot for that matter).

Now if you should a scene where people are interacting with each other, some kind of happening is taking place, something funny is going on or whatever, I would not interfere by getting this close because I would disrupt the scene. Going this close is thus not always applicable, but if you shoot a static scene or someone walking the street with a nice face, funny hat or whatever, getting close definitely adds to the result.

One very inspirational quote that I never forgot from famous photographer Mark Cohen...
"There's this definite social interaction that happens. Somekind of thing between me and the people that I take the picture of. I invade their space and try to make something happen with the camera when I go in very close"

There are many approaches to street photography, whereas shots taken from a larger distance can really be awesome. I watch many hunderds of pics per week and see awesome work from photographers who keep their distance and also great work shot from closeby. In one of my future blogs I will showcase some inspirational and fantastic photographers of hour time and their different approaches.

Just a funny note to conclude this blog... The guy who taught me that shooting from a close distance would make my photographs better, told me that he would be full of shame if he would shoot the streets the way I am today... The irony!

Shoot from a far distance, shoot from close by... Just try to push yourself to your own limits to get the most out of yourself. As long as you keep having fun in what you do, since that matters the most and will show in your work!

Feel free to leave a comment below, share my blog or contact me through Facebook.

Willem

Street photography: Overcoming your fear

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I receive a lot of questions about overcoming fear in street photography and since I wanted to start blogging anyway, this seemed like a good starting point.

I don't feel like pretending to be some kind of teacher, I just write about my own experiences. These experiences are by no means the way to go for everybody, but maybe some parts can take someone a bit further on their way towards a comfortable way of shooting the streets. My blogging is not something to agree or disagree about, it's just the way I've experienced my street photography.

When I started shooting the streets about 4 years ago, my greatest fear was getting clobbered by someone or worse, by a group of people. After all, people would definately not accept some stranger taking their photograph. At least, that's what I thought... Reality turned out to be very different, so keep reading.

At first I started out with a Canon 60D with a big 70-200 f2.8 zoomlens. At least that way people wouldn't notice me since I photographed them from a far away distance. The photograph above is my very first shot on the streets and took it from a very far distance with a tripod ;-) In my next blog I will share some thoughts about my switch from a zoom lens towards a 23mm prime lens and the effect it can have on your work.

Photograph the way you are
To me this is an important one. I'm an extrovert guy and by that I can easily engage with strangers and interact with them. This makes me a lucky guy while shooting the streets because make no mistake: you will get involved in interactions! The question is, do you want to photograph in the open or from a far distance with a big zoom lens which can make people interpret you a bit as a sneaky freak? Although you're probably not, it's all about the perception of the photographed person who noticed you. So if you're an introvert person, street photography is not for you? Off course it is something for you! You just need to have your story straight and push yourself not to be afraid to engage with strangers.

If you really want to overcome your fear of shooting the streets, there's one great way to do that: go out and start shooting at a street event like a festival or any other event that's taking place on the streets!

My personal tips

  1. You're having fun in what you're doing, so smile. If I'm shooting the streets, almost automatically my face has a smile all the time. One time a complete stranger walked towards me and asked me why I was smiling all the time. My answer was: "I'm doing what I love to do" :-)
  2. Always be polite. If someone sees you, just smile and say thank you. Most of the time this will do the trick.
  3. Always keep in mind that you're photographing strangers and without these people you don't get to do what you love. I once said to my wife that I was leaving to my friends in the city. That's how I see and feel it when I'm shooting the streets.
  4. Create a card with your name, web adress and email. When someone asks me what I'm doing, I tell them I document life on the streets and offer them my card. If they contact me, I'll be happy to send them the photograph.
  5. If someone reacts negatively, walk towards them and explain what you're doing and most importantly, why you do what you do. If they insist to delete the shot, delete it. If they didn't ask you to delete it, keep it.

I can assure you that you will have a negative reaction sometimes, but that doesn't mean that there will be aggression. I've photographed all kinds of people. Also big guys, bad boys and so on. When they ask me why and have a bit of an annoyed voice and facial expression, I walk towards them and explain. Do you really think that someone will bust your face in just for taking their photograph? The chances of that happening are not very big. When you take their photograph and don't react to their reaction and simply move on, the chances of an escalation are much bigger than when you simply engage them and politely explain to them what you do and why you are doing what you do. This way I've had many great conversations on the streets with complete strangers which I think is an extra bonus. But this is a part of my personality I think. Most photographers I've spoken to rather don't have contact with their subjects because they feel that's hindering them from getting  into somekind of flow or they're afraid of missing out on a great shot. If that works for them, fine by me. As I've said, these are just my experiences...

Above all: have fun and respect is everything!

Willem