I grew my photography skills observing old icons of street photo, such as Diane Airbus, Dorothea Lange, surely Henri Cartier-Bresson. But I would say that I have been mostly influenced by the use of B&W of Sebastião Salgado, not only for his composition, but the B&W editing as well. The light and features in his frames have so much pleasant contrast that they really caught my attention.
This time for me was different though, I tried to test a method that allowed me to get the old style color frames taken with Velvia film. Nothing special, right? Just create a similar color profile and apply it, right? Well no. That would have been the easiest way to follow. But instead, I wanted to simulate the old Velvia tone in my shot since, in street photography, color images are something that I really love, despite still being attached to black and white for most situations.
I really enjoyed looking for people to photograph in this special “mood” and honestly, I took so many pictures that it has been hard collect only few of them for this article.
At the beginning, I was not sure about if what I was doing was correct. I mean, I had to start from a specific point to reach the best possible results. After some pictures though, I found myself really comfortable in this new purpose. I always took care to have a balanced histogram, giving myself plenty of possibilities to recover or processes the details later.
Yeah, without a doubt you could achieve the same effect easily in post processing edits, but again, I love to have almost the final result already on camera. So what was the on-camera solution? I am afraid to tell you because it’s so trivial, but hey, it was my first attempt and I was super happy with the results that came from the method I chose, so here goes nothing…
Basically, I tried to focus my attention only on the light. What does that mean? It means just that, focus your brain and vision only on what is present in the light and forget about the shadows. I soon noticed that all detail in dark areas were lost but I didn’t care. I wanted to have that specific shot almost perfected when I shot it. Sure, it does mean passing a certain “point of no return” because what is gone cannot be recovered in post processing, but I decided I could live with that.
All my shots were underexposed by 3 to 4, and sometimes even 5 stops. Crazy, I know, but the most funny thing is that I did not have to consider the entire frame but only the light or silhouette of the subjects. This technique of shooting may have a few drawbacks (like the “point of no return”), but it actually leaves you the possibility to freeze any kind of action since the high grade of under-exposure allows you to use shutter speeds like 1/2000 or 1/3000 sec. It is a great way to freeze just about every kind of street moment.
Here, in this set of shots, I want to give you a glimpse of the results of this project. Feel free to criticize me since I am always learning and who knows, maybe another idea can be better than mine.
I love the street in itself and I honestly do not limit myself too much when I shoot street photography. I simply head out with a camera in hand and that’s all. That is what I love most, you do not need great equipment. In fact, the less you have, the better.
You do not have to focus on focal length, megapixels, camera and so on, just observe, see and analyze what is present in front of you. Everything is up to you, use your notions to comprehend the situation, get as much as you can from a specific moment and experiment, experiment and experiment. I feel satisfied to have achieved this small and humble work that I had in mind. Maybe it’s just a personal experience but still, it’s useful.
There is a curious matter that comes up when I shoot in big towns like Lisbon. To be honest, I never liked the big towns so much since it is quite common to be lost and fall into the monotony of the same “landscape”, and that is why afterwards, all the pictures look the same. I tend to prefer wandering in the suburbs or small village to get not only the street life, but a part of the culture in itself.
What did I just say? I prefer small towns to downtowns – except I was wrong, Lisbon is an exception, I never saw a city that gives me so much motivation every time, without ever becoming boring. And I think it’s true, getting bored is probably what often ruins the work of street photographers. We are so used to the same conditions and places that we simply do not see anymore…or perhaps our brain avoids seeing what still occurs in front of our eyes and this leads to a lack of motivation to do something new.
I am glad to see that so far and I hope long into the future, I am able to keep my motivation alive and avoid being locked up in that “brain deception”, which it makes us see every circumstance as dull and senseless. The capability I am talking about is what Elliot Erwitt already affirmed:
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”.
On purpose I underlined part of the sentence, that is what makes us fight for a good picture in a place that we consider normal or simply common.
I hope my pictures in their humble way can be considered the vortex of this discussion. I did not undertake a long trip to get shots in a remote village this time, I did not wander in search of something different but rather I fought with myself to find an alternative solution – to see something different in what is normal and special in a place that otherwise may look vague and indefinite.
See you to the next project!