An Old(ish) Dog Learns New Tricks
As a busy corporate photographer who works nearly every day there is precious little time to swap notes with other professional photographers if I want to extend my skills.
But I always want to learn new tricks and cover new ground. Like most creative people, I never want to be stuck in a rut.
Which led me to plunging myself firmly in the deep end spending a day devoted to street photography. Street photography is the very opposite of my usual studio and location work. It requires working in a completely different way, putting me in the somewhat scary position of not being able to rigorously control lighting, poses and sets.
Street Photography Session
Through The Photographers Gallery in central London I signed up for a day’s session all about street photography with Matt Stuart. Matt’s a very well-known street photographer who has achieved great success by taking images that capture the quirky and humorous side of London life. It’s down to his skill and often enormous patience that his striking pictures are published around the world.
New Leica M240 Camera
I have been shooting with Leica film rangefinder cameras since the early 90s and have a good set of lenses. But now the digital Leicas have come of age, today these are my equipment of choice for an increasing number of shoots. What’s so good about them? First, their build quality makes Rolex watches look flimsy! The lenses are called ‘brass and glass’ with justification, because that’s all they are made of and they are the sharpest lenses on the market in a compact, virtually indestructible, format.
The camera body too is unusual. Its design means little of the photographer’s face is covered when shooting (unlike an SLR) which is far less intimidating to the subject. Consequently, I can get much closer for better shots that will be sharper and with truer colours compared to the much larger SLR versions. The Leica M has been the camera of choice for street work for years.
I digress, however. Under Matt’s guidance, I tried my hand at two types of street photography. The first involves being in one place and waiting for something special to happen within camera frame.
The second is to walk the streets, spot a likely character and then follow them for a short while to get the best frame from a series of shots.
Sounds easy? It isn’t. No one expects a stranger to take their picture when walking down Oxford Street. It takes a bit of guts to snap people you don’t know from close range. The best way is to shoot quickly, smile and move on.
Once I found my mojo, I could start taking pictures more spontaneously, producing, dare I say it, results that were fresh and eye catching.
I realised the trick is to never put your camera down, or away from your eye, because it requires an enormous act of will to raise it again and continue shooting under such circumstances.
After shooting in the Oxford Street area for a couple of hours, we had to choose which images for Matt to review and critique. With lots of other professional photographers also learning street photography it was great to hear everyone’s feedback and to meet new people, and I’d happily repeat the session because I am sure every time will present new challenges.