one lens. the 35mm. for the whole 3 days that i was there. didn't bring backup except for my s95. i wanted to see if i could do it. the much talked about "one lens" approach to photography. i understood why it made sense but i never really gave it much thought; that the method didn't matter as long as i got the shot. this year saw me shooting with 2 cam bodies like a spaghetti western pistolero. ultra wide on one, tele on the other. and i nailed my shots, too. no problem.
the shift in this attitude started with an on-going email over a period of several months with a friend who has been itching to shift to the Leica M system. Tech issues bothered him though and prevented him from pulling the trigger. smallish LCD. low ISO IQ versus Canon. SD card problems. the list was endless. In the meantime, he was quite happy with R-mounted Leica lenses on his 5d mk2. Best of both worlds. But something was missing.
he would bombard me with a lot of Leica links and stupid me would actually go and read all of them. i told my friend that he was being quite the devil's advocate and he said that he was because he knew that i would "get it".
anyway, all those correspondences got me to thinking about the whole philosophy of rangefinders, manual focus, etc. i knew what they were but it is quite different when you're already at a certain point in your photography and you read this things again. this time around, it made sense not just intellectually but emotionally. we always talk about having that relationship with the subject whenever we compose and all the more so when we focus. but i didn't really quite undertand that in my heart up until recently.
it takes awhile.
so this trip was supposed to test what i was feeling.
is it possible?
i didn't shoot anything else but people during those 3 days. the 35 gave me enough room for controlling perspective while at the same time enabling me to include things in the background for context. i was always near. i was always chasing my subjects. and i was always scared. if you know me at all during these past few years, i am quite the shy type. with the 35, i am forced to engage.
we were lucky that the people there were willing to be photographed. it wasn't at all that hard. what was hard was going out of your shell to engage them somehow. it was easy for my two other friends. one is a fashion/creative director. the other was a ceo of a fairly long running known company here in the country. they had to "engage" people in their lines of work. it wasn't as easy for me.
but there i was.
take for example this photograph. kinda scary to approach this guy. but we got to the scene and we were all looking at the guys in the field harvesting. this guy was watching them as well. he wanted her daughter to look at the cam but she was too shy as well. i took that as a cue and began snapping away. not too much though. but just enough to get in the moment, so to speak. and that long that i was sort of extending my stay already.
i was still using my canon in this instance.
but that trip made me realize that i was ready for a shift
Of course if I try this "at home" I wouldn't be alive by now. The great thing is that you could still manage a very appropriate OOF background in the second shot. This is where it gets tricky. I guess that without a wide aperture, AF and a very fast shutter response that would be difficult with a 35mm. How does the Leica handles that, I don't know. I guess for street photo and pre- focusing that could be done, but only with small apertures, which may mean not many portraits.
Casey (Login shimokita) Photography forum moderator
manual focus is not that slow
November 22 2011, 4:23 PM
You need to preset the aperture and shutter speed... if you are shooting street this is automatic and one click up or down depending on the conditions can be done without bringing the camera to the eye.
So it's just focus time. All composition and positioning are done before you even think about bringing up the camera. The throw on a RF lens is typically short 72 degrees rotation (for example on a "regular" lens). Most long time rangefinder photographers know by the position of the focus tab on the lens, what the distance is... the brain is working before the shutter is pressed . Hahaha it all happens in an instant.
But I was thinking about manual focusing with a wide aperture. One of those times when the subject is not posing, different from these photos by Echi. I guess I could do some of these things back when I used my OM-1, but I never attempted candid portraits then. Besides, my lenses were 24, 50 and 200. I ended using the 24 most of the time. I was shooting buildings. To be able to shoot people so close is still very difficult from me, I just don't have the nerve... Nor the build, nor the legs.
But it's precisely that perceived slowness that makes for a ...
November 22 2011, 10:15 PM
dangerously engaging relationship with the subject. An adrenaline rush of sorts but in slow motion... like how a few seconds more can feel like hours!
Once you get used to it, I don't think it's going to be slow. And with a predetermined idea of what you want to take, as Casey said, reaction time becomes a bit more manageable. For sure, I'll lose shots on the way. I am hoping that the tradeoff will be fewer but more meaningful photographs.
I could start practicing with much more smaller people than I, but I'm not tall anyway, so that would be difficult, not to mention that many boxers are smaller that I am (height wise), or hiring bodyguard. I guess it's cultural and here it's not welcomed, and when it is, they pose, so it's not really "candid". This is one case when that new technology of the Lytro camera may work well.
It would be hard, hard, hard for me, but thinking about makes it even harder. Maybe using a believable excuse?
Casey (Login shimokita) Photography forum moderator
November 22 2011, 4:16 PM
technical issues seem to be a matter of perception as well as fact. Hard to draw the line... memory cards play a part and are well known issues (digital Ms for example). The M9-P gets a lot of positive attention these days .
One lens.... I guess it depends on the relation you might establish with the subject. With preset shutter and f-stop (on a rangefinder), it's a quick manual focus to catch the image. Day time (light) has some advantages (i.e. f4.5 or so...). Rangefinder and action sports are a mismatch...
35 or even 28 up close means that just a slight movement either way changes the view (composition), which also brings some advantages....
The key point is the decision to do portraits and shooting with a group can be fun (interaction with the street - or rice field). The middle of Manila on a busy work day might be different . I have been reading about street shooters in Los Angles and New York... ah, to be young and foolish. I was following one guy who works with off camera flash on the street... interesting.
I like that second photo.... composition, the individual in the background, the crop... at 35mm I guess you could almost touch the front tire of the bicycle. The daughter is the point of focus for sure, but the dad is the interesting individual... combinations. and upclose, so it's not 300mm at 100 meters distance.
I just noticed that the bicycle brakes are disconnected... that's against the law here in Japan hahaha.
"i was ready for a shift"... don't forget old friends along your new path .
In the case of the new Fuji X10, which I'm tempted to try, there are many functions one has to experiment with to get it right. SD cards act strangely. If the card's content is downloaded and placed again in the camera without formatting it again, it's much slower to continue shooting... How about that? Another thing is that even though it has a sensor with 12 megapixels, the dynamic range is much better using the "medium" setting: 6 megapixels. I wonder what quirks does the M9 has, sometimes it's like learning once again to take pictures with every different camera.
I think I can do a lot more though. F2.0 landscapes. hehehe. Well we'll see.
I also like the second image. I found his physical appearance to be a bit intimidating BUT that look that he had on his daughter, that's a dad's look. I wish the folks behind weren't there, but, well, they were :p
Yep, more street portraits, definitely. And a lot of being turned down as well. I don't know why I throw myself at my own fears (like doing photography presentations when I stutter and all that).
The complaints on the M9 don't worry me. I'm a hobbyist after all
The second photo is so nice, and the background is helping I think.
Nevada Wier says her favorite lens is a 1635mm f/2.8 (Canon I think), and she gets right in the faces of her subjects (with their permission of course). The results are captivating. She's probably only a foot from this guy's head
arguable, most of the cases where I've seen this type of portraits are in poor villages (please, I'm not trying to be disrespectful) and in way underdeveloped environments. I don't think a Wall Street Exec would let you do this. One has to ask if a photographer can do this in these contexts, why doesn't he do it in the other ones? There are so many angles to all of this. There's a valid reason for photographing these poor places, and they do "make" for more interesting portraits, but, why? I know there may be also a valid social intention (denouncing, etc). Rich people, however, would only let you do it if they pose, I think, and even then, they might feel one is taking a photo of them also for some social reason, but exactly the opposite. And then there's the usual "poverty is picturesque" statement which is true (and then dignity comes to mind), although extremely rich also is.
However, if one's intention is to show workers to show the hardships they go through, or similar things, that's another thing, and it's very valid. Think Eugene Smith. One has to know how to do this. Take your time, talk to them, even live among them.
It is a too frequent discussion, for which I'm not sure there is a simple answer.
I can't do this here with almost anybody because I'm also afraid of legal suits, even though this is perfectly legal in public spaces. But to go through all that hassle...
Again, it does boil down to intent. Will go out on a limb here and say that pros have it easy because the job gives their images purpose. What about us? The serious photographer but not quite pro? I think a lot of people drink the photojournalistic kool aid not really realizing that there is a big gap separating them from us in terms of intent.
For us, our personal reasons will have to be strong enough to take on a series.
That is why i like casey's tokyo, jeff's philly, your sj and kt's melaka. I plan to do that with my neighborhood as well. But even before i lift the cam to my eye, i need first to shed off a few biases so that i can see the beauty in where i live... Learn to 'love' the people that i dont like so much... In my neighborhood of 40 odd years, they all know me but i hardly know them!
And a rangefinder wont exactly address those issues :p