‘Street’ Photography – Waterloo Station

For this assignment we were instructed to ‘take to the streets’. The brief was to find three scenes, situations or locations and to photograph them with a view to building a better shot each time; through positioning oneself differently in  terms of distance, negotiating a better angle or simply playing the waiting game and hoping for a set of shapes, emotions or events to unfold in the frame. Its difficult, and one needs to be ready to take a lot of photographs to obtain perhaps one or two good ones. Maybe, through a combination of luck and skill, one will get a great one!!

Although reasonably used to taking photographs in the street, it seems that more than ever, a pall of suspicion hangs over the photographer active in the streets. There are ways around attracting undue attention to oneself but it is a good idea to employ some tricks of the trade to avoid outright confrontation, these work most of the time. Some that were discussed during our group tutorial included, smiling at your subject if they happen to catch your eye (though some photographers feel that the shot is ruined if the subject sees you). Standing with your camera pointing who you wish to shoot and being ready to maintain that pose if a person sees you – the effect being that the subject often believes that you are shooting at something behind them, and will soon lose interest in you. Shooting with a wide-angle 28mm or even a 35mm and standing close to a subject means that a slight shift of focus away from them (when they catch you focusing) will make a person feel that they are no longer in the frame. They will then relax and be less camera aware (which results in that peculiar shifty and tense look in the face) Again, maintaining your position is important and will allow you to move back on the subject a little if necessary. I have often been happier with the framing achieved by moving the camera off my subject to include more context.

Thoughts on the process: the first excursion into the streets took me to Waterloo Station and its immediate surroundings. The sun was bright in the evening and came into the station filtered through the iron roof. I managed to get some shots of busy commuters caught full in the face with sunlight and straining to catch their train or read the departures board. Some of these I feel are successful and I like the ones where I have achieved a slightly sharper focus (I did this by using my focus ring measuring distance by the markings on the barrel) However as I was shooting at a wide aperture focus was not always possible. I also had to move through the people and shoot from my chest as I wanted a feeling of immersion in the scene and also for the practical reasons that stations and transport hubs are heavily policed. I did not want to be stopped and questioned (again) I am pleased with the shots outside Waterloo which are more typically street shots. The girl running was a grab shot in which I had to focus and check exposure very quickly. The scenes around the bus stop are exploring parts of visible body utilising the natural frames of the windows.

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