Category Archives: San Francisco/California

Playing with Empty Space in Street Photography

Enter - San Francisco - 2015

Composition – and subsequent cropping (if we choose to cheat a bit) – really shapes the images we capture on the street. Sometimes, rarely, it’s empty space that makes the composition.

This is a recent example – shot at Vinton and Grant Avenue in San Francisco with my Fujifilm X-T1 – and, I’ll admit, cropped to perfect.

The focus of the image is the woman moving into the doorway on the left edge. But the empty space – and the dramatic light – really fill the frame. The No Parking sign on the right really anchors that side of the image.

I opted to leave the image in color instead of converting to monochrome. I found the colors of the wall on the left, the woman and the street shadows added a lot to the image. In monochrome, without the colors, the empty space seemed too overwhelming.

The Two Genres of Street Photography

Attitude - San Francisco - 2015

Street photography has become my favorite genre – after having gone through a serious period of landscape (including HDR) photography. Landscape is beautiful – you shoot from stunning locations – but the hours are tough (up very early before sunrise – and out until after sunset). Seems a younger person’s pursuit.

Street shooting prefers crowds – typically at mid-day. You can sleep in – and not stay up late.

But there are at least two genres of street photography. One is based on shooting with a wide angle lens (think 35mm). The other is based on shooting with a zoom (think up to a 200mm). They’re very different – but both can be fun. In May 2014, I took a workshop in New York City with Jay Maisel. Jay’s a proponent of the zoom approach. More recently, in June 2015, I took a workshop in New York City with Peter Turnley. Peter’s a proponent of the wide angle approach.

Late last year, after I signed up for Peter’s workshop, I decided to exclusively shoot with my Fujifilm X100T – a classic 35mm rangefinder camera. I came to love the images it produced – and it taught me how see in that 35mm format.

Today, for the first time since I made that commitment, I shot with my Fujifilm X-T1 with the 18-135mm lens. For some street work, having the extra reach of that zoom is just perfect for the street candid style of photography. But the X100T is beautiful for street portraits.

Both genres have their place – I’m going to continue to explore them both!

Rear Guard - San Francisco - 2015

Street Artist - San Francisco - 2015

The Stools on San Francisco’s Stockton Street

DSCG5216

My friend Doug Kaye and I seem to get to San Francisco’s Chinatown a couple of times each year for one of our street photography adventures. We love the small alleys in Chinatown for their beautiful textures and, during some times of the year, amazing light and shadows. But we also love Stockton Street – the central “market hall” for Chinatown.

Stockton Street always seems to be bustling – with thick crowds of people out shopping the markets that line this busy street. It’s often great fun to watch the crosswalks for interesting people as the cross the street or round the corner right in front of you.

On a recent visit I noticed something quite useful – especially for a guy like me who enjoys sitting down and working a particular scene. On many of the street corners on the east side of Stockton Street there are fire hydrants adjacent to the crosswalks – and they’re just the right height to prop my body on or against as I try to stay out of the way of the busy traffic while attempting to capture the scene.

The image above is one example – Doug is crossing the street (shooting with his new Leica Q) – while I’m holding back and capturing the woman in pink who’s looking at him with just a touch of disdain. I shot this with my Fujifilm X100T – and it’s been tightly cropped to exaggerate the effect here – but you get the idea.

Below is an image of one of these “stools”. I waited a couple of minutes for him to leave – because I wanted it – but he was firmly planted and holding forth on his stool! I thought about giving him my camera and asking him to shoot a few shots! 😉

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Next time you’re wandering Stockton Street in Chinatown and need a quick break – look for a stool. Just don’t bother looking on the other side of the street – it’s populated with big hydrants from San Francisco’s high pressure distribution system and they lack a smooth top suitable for sitting on! You can see one of those high pressure hydrants in the background of the image with Doug – it’s got the blue top.

4th of July

Red White and Blue - San Francisco - 2015

I was in San Francisco today for some street photography with my friend Doug Kaye. After a lovely lunch at Café de la Presse, a French bistro at the corner of Grant and Bush (next to the Leica SF Store!), we were walking down Grant when this woman walked quickly by us – all dressed up in the Happy Birthday America spirit!

Happy Birthday America indeed – hope you have a lovely holiday weekend!

Happy Birthday America! - San Francisco - 2015

Exploring San Francisco Streets with the Fujifilm X100T

Market Street - San Francisco - 2015

I’m now in my sixth month of dedicated street shooting with the Fujifilm X100T. When I began this journey, it was to help me prepare for a workshop with Peter Turnley coming up later this month in New York City. I decided I wanted to try to this particular workshop with a minimalist set of gear – and my choice of “weapon” was the lovely Fujifilm X100T.

Why the X100T? It’s a nearly perfect camera for street photography – in my opinion. Small, yet powerful in terms of image capture. Minimalist in terms of only two potential lens focal lengths in my case – the native 35mm equivalent and the TCL-100 conversion lens which offers an optional 50mm equivalent. The built-in 3 stop neutral density filter allows me to shoot nearly wide open – for a very shallow depth of field – in even bright sunlight. It’s just a magical combination for street work.

Here are a few recent examples from last week – out shooting on the San Francisco streets with my friend Doug Kaye. Hope you enjoy!

Thumb - San Francisco - 2015

Absorbed - San Francisco - 2015

Slice - San Francisco - 2015

Distracted - San Francisco - 2015

Glow - San Francisco - 2015

Composing - San Francisco - 2015

Tadich - San Francisco - 2015

Purple Shades - San Francisco - 2015

On the Streets of San Francisco: An Hour in Noe Valley

Flower Stand - Noe Valley - 2015

I wasn’t able to do much photography this week – and felt a need to both get out to shoot – and just to exercise! I love walking with my camera in my hand – looking for the light, beautiful backgrounds, and great people. My muse today was the recently published book “See San Francisco” by Victoria Smith. She lives in San Francisco’s Noe Valley – and the first chapter in her book is based there.

24th Street was my playground. I was lucky and found a close by parking spot on Jersey Street, just south of 24th. It was a beautiful early afternoon in San Francisco – and I had a great time exploring this new territory for me with my Fujifilm X100T.

Hope you enjoy these images!

Noe Valley - San Francisco - 2015

Glance - Noe Valley - 2015

Ricochet - Noe Valley - 2015

Complete Auto Repair - Noe Valley - 2015

Glow - Noe Valley - 2015

Dream - Noe Valley - 2015

On the Streets of San Francisco: Black and White (Monochrome)

Rider - San Francisco - 2015

Here’s an image from a recent San Francisco photo walk along Market Street with my friend Doug Kaye. This particular image, while interesting in color, actually needed to be processed in black and white. Why? Sometimes the colors in an image just add “noise” – in the sense that they’re distracting. By processing the image in monochrome, that color “noise” falls away and you can focus on the lights and shadows – and, more importantly, on the actual subject of the composition.

This is a great example where monochrome was just right.

On the Streets of San Francisco – Black and White or Color?

Old News - San Francisco - 2015

For street photography, the genre is perhaps best known for black and white images. But, for me – perhaps as a result of the strong influence that Jay Maisel had on me last year – I often choose color. But not exclusively. Jay’s mantra is “light, gesture, color” – and for a lot of images that combination is very powerful and products the best result.

But, there are many images where the monochrome treatment of black and white yield a more “powerful” image. I’m not one to prefer one over the other – each image I take provides me with the option to choose either monochrome or color. I shoot my Fujifilm X100T in RAW+JPEG mode – with the JPEG style often being one of the monochrome styles. But, sometimes, I opt for my JPEGs to be processed in the X100T using one of the color modes – with Classic Chrome and its subtle color treatment increasingly being my favorite.

This image is an example. I opted to leave it in color – Classic Chrome – as I love the rose color in both the signage and the bricks on the sidewalk along San Francisco’s Market Street.

Each image has its own personality – treat each image that way and decide which is best: color or monochrome. Today’s digital cameras give us that option!

The Stages of San Francisco: Muni Streetcar Stops on Market Street

Line 'Em Up -  San Francisco - 2015

When shooting street photography in San Francisco, we try to look for interesting “stages” – places where the background is interesting and we’re just waiting for the “actors” to show up and fill the stage.

Some of my personal favorites along San Francisco’s Market Street are the Muni streetcar stops. The stops are in the middle of the street – so they’re a bit closer – and the “actors” are often focused on what’s coming – looking up the streetcar line.

This is a classic example – with the “actors” sort of evenly space waiting for the Muni streetcar to arrive. Just one of the many street photography stages of San Francisco!

On the Streets of San Francisco with the Fujifilm X100T Rangefinder

Wonderful World - San Francisco - 2015

I recently shared some of my notes on shooting street photography with the delightful Fujifilm X100T rangefinder camera. Here’s a group of images from our latest street adventure in San Francisco – I was walking with Doug Kaye shooting with his Leica M6 also using a 35mm lens (just like the X100T).

We had a great day wandering up from the Ferry Building along Market Street, down Jessie by Golden Gate University and eventually working our way up Maiden Lane to Union Square. Doug had walked many of these streets recently with photographer Swee Oh – and I benefited from their sharing.

These images show the range of what’s possible in street photography with the X100T. I’ve been concentrating my photography on this particular camera – and it’s becoming second nature to me now as I’m able to see a scene developing and deciding quickly how to setup for capturing the moment. Doug mentioned at lunch how he’s gotten much better at walking and adjusting his manual controls on the Leica as he’s examining the light and subject just ahead of composing and taking the picture. Having this become almost second nature really adds to the delight of street photography!

Hope you enjoy these images from the streets of San Francisco!

Light Up - San Francisco - 2015

Corner - San Francisco - 2015

Shuffle - San Francisco - 2015

Deuce - San Francisco - 2015

Crossover - San Francisco - 2015

Wisdom - San Francisco - 2015

Men at Work - San Francisco - 2015

Passersby - San Francisco - 2015

Out of the Dark - San Francisco - 2015

Smoker - San Francisco - 2015

Peaceful - San Francisco - 2015

Breaking All the Rules - San Francisco - 2015

Dark, Spicy and Mysterious - San Francisco - 2015

Selfie - San Francisco - 2015