Durban in off season. Gaura Sundara a Hare Krishna devotee from Ukraine gives out flyers and booklets to passersby. September 2016, Durban, South Africa, John Robinson
I am a narrative photographer working out of Durban a city on the east coast of South Africa. I have a passion for environmental portraits.
1. Get out of your personal space. I once had my own car, but I rolled it while texting at the wheel. I now use public transport to get around town; this has let me see a lot more of my city rather then just driving through concentrating only on what is in my path.
2. Be aware of the voice within yourself. I have often waited at a spot in the city on a ‘whim’ or the ‘voice within’ and a moment as above has come together before my eyes. Concentrate on what is around you rather then on exact compositions. Let the moments just speak for themselves. I have general ideas of what pictures I would like, but I let my photos talk for themselves.
I just wanted a picture of a Hare Krishna devotee, but I got one of Gaura Sundara with a flank of young men passing through…
3. Use just one lens, I use a 50mm prime lens on a rangefinder camera. there are no surprises for me when I lift the camera to my eye, a 50mm lens lets me keep some distance from my subject but without giving away a sense of connection. A 50mm lens is close to the natural view of my human eye. My street photography is all about the moments out there rather then about whacky eye views.
If you are using a factored frame camera rather then full frame I would recommend a 35mm lens rather then 50mm, this will give you a view angle that is closer to human eye view.
4. If there is movement in the background, capture the moment. Many times my photographs have been enhanced by an unexpected movement in the frame. I can’t buy these additions for all the wealth in the world. It is just for me to be ready and able to press the shutter button on cue.
I use a hand held light meter while photographing on the streets, and also pre focus the camera as much as I am able. The hand held light meter sorts out the exposure issues for me so when the moment comes I can just press the button.
5. Never ‘chimp’. The moment to view your images is not on the street when taking pictures, you may just miss another moment that has been given to you, rather just carry on just taking pictures until you feel that there are no more moments for your taking; and view your images back home in front of your computer screen.
I have been using my Leica M6 camera for about 18 years, I am so used to it now, it’s like my tooth brush, I can concentrate on the clean feel in my mouth rather then on the brush itself. I feel that many photographers are more interested in their camera rather then the photographs it takes.
The camera is just a tool, if you use it right it will do the job.