I’ve written before how one of the fun parts of street photography is to find an interesting background and then wait for something interesting to appear within it.
This is a shot like that – taken along San Francisco’s Kearny Street – when there’s no parking and the shops along the street provide a wonderful backdrop – a perfect stage. Gotta love those boots!
This image was shot with my Fujifilm X-E2 and post processed using Lightroom and VSCO Film 05.
One of the most useful concepts for street photograph is the idea of finding a stage – a background that’s interesting and appropriate for an image – and then waiting for something unusual to happen like a person walking into the frame.
This technique requires pre-visualizing the scene and then getting the camera prepared. This is often best done by switching to manual mode and prefocusing on either the background – if that’s what you want in focus – or on the area where the person/people might be. It’s your creative choice – but get the camera ready.
Sam Abell, as described by one of the attendees at one of his workshops, described his approach: “A key idea in Sam’s approach is to first identify the background. With a promising background, you then wait for the light and the subject to complete the photograph. … Find the right background, wait for the right light, wait for the right subject, nail the exposure, pay attention to details of micro composition, take the picture.”
I’ve written a number of articles here about images I’ve shot using this notion of stages – you can see them here.
This particular image is inside Radio City Music Hall in New York City – shot with my iPhone 5s. Of course, it’s just a stage – waiting to be filled!
Earlier this summer, I picked up a Fujifilm X100S – a street photographer’s delight. The rangefinder design, its gorgeous styling and superb image performance make it a camera you just want to take with you everywhere.
When Doug Kaye and I go out for a photo walk in San Francisco, we’re always on the lookout for “stages” – great backgrounds that are just waiting to be filled with interesting people.
This is a shot in the park adjacent to the Transamerica Building (“the Pyramid”) in San Francisco. We had rich summer morning light flooding in along with some wonderful shadows – which help add depth to an otherwise two dimensional image. We also had four actors already on stage – nicely spread out! And then this woman walked across the foreground – wow, I couldn’t have scripted it any better – as she made her point to her friend on the other end of that pink cellphone call!
For this version of the image, I used a touch of Topaz Simplify in Photoshop CC to reduce some of the high frequency elements (trees) in the image. VSCO Film Velvia 50 was used to boost the colors a bit. A final pass of high pass sharpening was used to bring back the facial expressions of all of the actors!
This is an image from last year – shot with my Canon 5D Mark II on a photo walk in San Francisco’s Chinatown with Doug Kaye.
I love the gestures of the people in this image – and that guy with the cigarette who I’ve coined as Smokey Joe!
This is a classic example of finding a “stage” – setting up across the street with the camera – and waiting for something interesting to enter the frame!
Post processed in Lightroom 5 with VSCO Film.
As a street photography, you’re always trying to look for stages – places of visual interest against which you can shoot an interesting image. Finding a stage is one thing – being patient enough to wait for something of visual interest to walk into it is another.
On this particular morning in San Francisco, Doug Kaye and I were finding stages – but the pedestrian traffic was so light that we got frustrated waiting for something to fill the stage.
For this particular shot, I got lucky. I happened to like the stage of the stores’s display window behind – and captured this shot very quickly with my Fujifilm X-E2 as this young woman – in her bell bottoms – walked across the stage. Perhaps not the greatest illustration of this technique – but you get the idea!
I post-processed this in Lightroom 5 and Photoshop CC – applying a bit of Topaz Simplify 4 and a touch of the Oil Paint filter to add a bit of interesting texture.
There’s a wonderful street – more like an alley for pedestrians (no cars) – in San Francisco that just lights up this time of year with reflected light shining off of the Transamerica Pyramid. It’s Leidesdorff Street – and you’ll love it!
Doug Kaye and I discovered it this week – and we almost got lost in shooting because the light was so special. The reflected light in San Francisco’s Financial District this time of year – with the low sun angle – made for many interesting venues – but I think this was perhaps the best.
This image is one example – the rider heading north on Leidesdorff Street into that reflected light from the Pyramid. Doug first noticed this spot – one of those places we call a “stage“. We love finding these places – with very special light or a most interesting background – and just move across the street and wait for something interesting to happen – such as this man riding by on his bicycle.
I shot this with my new Fujifilm X-E2 using the “kit” 18-55mm lens. I’m still learning the best settings on the X-E2 for street photography with this lens – so the rider is a bit blurrier than I’d prefer – but it’s still a great image with that wonderful light.
When I’m doing street photography, I’ve come to appreciate looking for a stage – a venue where, as the photographer, you can just fade into the background and let the subjects walk into your frame. When it works, it’s magical. It takes patience and time – but it’s often worth the investment.
Doug Kaye and I were walking along the Embarcadero in San Francisco – shooting with two “mirrorless” cameras instead of the big digital SLR’s (DSLRs) we usually carry. These new cameras are a delight – much smaller yet great performers. I was shooting with a Fujifilm X-E1 with the “kit” lens.
Doug and I met at the Ferry Building and walked along the Embarcadero down to Red’s Java House. Just across from Red’s, I found a “stage” – and sat down to try to capture something interesting. Among the 30-40 shots I took, I particularly liked this one – the attitude of the women, how they were marching along in formation, etc.
I simplified the image a bit using a technique I’ve mirrored from just one genre of work by Chris Hilgert. It removes details but leaves the core image elements in place. Beautiful.