Q : “Dude, I am out for street photography, what lens do I use?”
Me : (loud and clear without a second thought) 35mm or a 50mm prime.
Its that easy to make the decision when it comes to streets. Nothing works better on streets than these prime lenses with a fixed focal length, the large aperture lets you shoot super quick and the short and fixed focal length makes you get close to the subject. That’s the key to street photography. Never to forget, street photography is an art which originated more than a century back with a 35mm camera.
But at times its good to break the rules and challenge yourself to do something new. My challenge was to shoot at 300mm on streets using my Nikkor AF-S 70-300mm VR . I heard what you just murmured and I second that, “Not a good idea”.
1. Because walking miles on streets with a heavy lens is real pain.
2. On streets, you need to be invisible, 300mm doesn’t help.
3. At 300mm you need to have an eagle eye because its not about seeing whats close (like in any other street walk) but seeing whats happening far far away.
4. The tried and tested ‘I-am-just-a-tourist’ disguise turns into ‘I-am-a-Russian-spy’
5. I am shooting in Middle east, where people raise their eye brows even when you sneeze :P
Nevertheless, I began my walk across the streets of Deira – HQ of street photography in UAE. Kept my lens zoomed in and fixed at 300mm. It took not more than 10 steps to find my first frame.
All that anxiety of shooting at not-so-friendly focal length turned into a blessing. If not for 300mm, I wouldn’t manage to get this far with any other focal length and frame it the way you see. When I came across this frame, it was just the patterned balcony. I was desperately praying for a human element to appear to get this frame right. I guess god is a photographer himself, he not only got me a human element but also placed it perfectly to balance the frame. I hope he uses Nikon aswell :D
Using the 300mm wasn’t the only challenge, the second challenge was to click only the keepers. Usually its a marathon of clicks that I do when on streets, come back home, 50% of them end up being deleted . Somewhere down the line, that had to change, and this was the day to adopt that change. Bottom line was, at the end of the day, all that I click during the walk would be worth publishing.
This decision made me walk atleast another mile before I could click my next shot of the day.
Like Ansel Adams famously said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it”. It holds true with this photograph. The moment I saw this Giant Ad thing (whatever it is called), I had this idea of having a subject passing through the frame to create an illusion as if the lady in the poster is staring at the person walking by. It often happens that when you wait for something to happen, time seems to freeze. I am here, standing in the busiest hustle bustle streets of Deira, people zig zagging all across me, but not a single person walks across my frame. Two cigarettes turned into ash in desperation but no luck. Just when I though it wasn’t working, the photographer almighty comes to my rescue yet again, and this man (with a character fitting so well with the frame), walks across. It was not just a click of a button this time, it was the greatest relief. PS : This photograph was ranked among top 10 most popular photograph in ‘street photography section’ on 500px. Was it worth the wait !?!?!?! – Hell Yeah :)
Confidence was now building after framing the above shots. 300mm seemed to be quite effective. Next frame was just around the corner, literally :)
I just clicked 6 photographs on this particular evening (about 2 hours of walk). Now that I got a taste of this experiment and it seemed to work so well, decided to have one more street walk at 300mm during the early hours of the next weekend. This time I was joined by my photography buddies AJ, Brian, Dhruv and the newest member of our group Nelvin. Dhruv decided to walk in my steps and stuck to 200mm on his Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens.
As I mentioned earlier, 300mm attracts attention and as you see in the photograph above, this man was staring right into my camera, though I was meters away from him but here it worked to my advantage. That stare of his gives the feel to the image. Eyes do tell a million stories.
Below are few more photographs of the outing.
Overall it was great fun to shoot at 300mm. I strongly recommend each of you to try this. You will be surprised with the results you get. Planning to continue shooting at this focal lenght for another few street walks. Will keep you all posted on it.
Until next time,
keep that mirror flipping :)