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Puerto Vallarta News NetworkVallarta Living | Art Talk | April 2009 

Photo Tip of the Week: Some Fun Things About Street Photography
email this pageprint this pageemail usLarry and Linda Bennett - PVNN


Photo Tips of the Week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. To view more of his work, visit LarryBennettPhotography.com.
Serendipity, or The Element of Surprise

The fun thing about street photography is that it is possible for the final viewer of a print to see more than the original photographer. One of the great things about a city is there are more things happening, even within a small neighborhood, at any given moment than any one person can comprehend. Photography allows us to freeze a given moment and then to study the image showing all of the small dramas that were taking place at that particular time and place.

Where better than Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to shoot street images? There’s always so much happening on the streets of Vallarta; we are one of the most diverse cities in the world with all nationalities, genders, and dress represented.

Where better to spend an evening than the Malecón at sunset? The Malecón is a fun place to witness many different people and activities; local families out enjoying the evening, Dads holding their babies, toddlers holding Grandma’s hand while trying to walk, not to mention all the many different tourists and vendors. There are endless opportunities for beautiful street images on the Malecón.

Shoot, Shoot, Shoot

New York City photographer Garry Winogrand is famous for having exposed three rolls of Kodak TRI-X black and white film on the streets of New York City every day for his entire adult life. So shoot, shoot, shoot! Street photography is very interesting and can be lots of fun!

In the digital era there is no limit to the amount of images a photographer can shoot. So shoot away my friends! My personal record is 13,000 images in six days. Remember, just because you shot 300 images in one outing doesn’t mean you will keep all 300 images. The more images you take of your subject the more likely you will capture a few good images that you will want to keep. I keep on an average of 1 in 30 images. My personal image library contains over 100,000 images.

Technique

A classic technique for good street photography that I have found consists of walking around using a 20mm on a full-frame camera or moderately wide-angle (35mm) lens on a camera, with the ISO set to a moderate high speed (400 or 800), and pre-focusing your lens. I know, you are asking what is pre-focusing? Remember we are talking about taking images with the element of surprise involved (f8 and be there!) and that most likely requires taking images rather quickly and not knowing how far away your subject will be.

As it turns out, if you use pre-focusing it doesn't matter. Wide angle lenses have a good depth of field. If your subject is 10 feet away and the lens is set for 12 feet, you'd probably need to enlarge your image to 16x20" before noticing the error, assuming you used a typical aperture. This is why the high ISO setting is important. Given a fixed shutter speed, the higher the ISO setting, the smaller the aperture. The smaller the aperture, the less critical it is to focus precisely. The extreme case of this is a pinhole camera, for which there is no need to focus at all.

Street photographers traditionally will set their lens at its hyper-focal distance. This distance depends on the lens focal length and the aperture, but the basic idea is that it is the closest distance setting for which subjects at infinity are still acceptably sharp. With a moderate ISO and a sunny day, you will probably be able to expose at f/16. With a 35mm lens focused to, say, 9 feet, subjects between 4.5 feet and infinity will be acceptably sharp (where "acceptable" means if the person viewing the final photograph doesn't stick his eyes right up against it.)

Another alternative is to use a camera with a high-performance auto-focus system and a zoom or telephoto lens. To use this option you need to fix yourself in a position where there’s lots of people traffic; watch your light source or sun, making sure you have a good angle away from the sun and try to get off to the side (preferable the sunny side) of your subjects and shoot away. Candid or street photography will catch people in the midst of life, no posing involved, simply put, just what’s happing at that moment in their life.

Whether you shoot from on the move or from a fixed position, some of your pictures will be ruined due to poor focus, subject motion, hasty composition, etc. Don't feel bad if you only get one great picture out of 30. You're using a digital camera and remember the more images you take the better the probability you will have in getting a few good images. So shoot, shoot, shoot, f8 and be there!

Photo Tips of the week are written by Larry Bennett, a professional photographer living in Puerto Vallarta. These tips are to be just tips, refer to your cameras owner's manual for specifics on your camera. Readers are welcome to enjoy Larry's website at LarryBennettPhotography.com.

Click HERE for more Photo Tips from Larry Bennett
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