12.06.2020

No Cheat Street Photography. Tell me again why it's crucial to have dual pixel, phase detection, auto focus in order to get close candid images of people...


I get that PD-AF means a surer chance at getting stuff in focus. Just as evaluative metering and a plethora of automatic exposure modes ensures (maybe) better exposed images. But I find people tend to use their lack of access to the absolutely latest tools as a dodge to explain away their fumbled photographic results. 

I thought about this today as I opened up a few boxes of prints done years ago and rifled through them. All of the images here were taken with a medium format camera. The cameras I used (mostly a Hasselblad 500 C/M) were absolutely manual in every regard. Lenses were focused by turning a big ring. By hand!

Exposures were set by adjusting both the shutter speeds and apertures individually. And by hand. And the logic behind getting the right exposure setting came either from experience or referencing a handheld meter. Which was/is also totally manual. But somehow I was able to walk into strangers' worlds and make photographs that I found interesting. And most of them printed up well. 

I conjecture that we've made photography so easy that we don't take it very seriously even when we say we do. The manual methods required a modicum of thought, planning and an allocation of resources; you could only comfortably bring along a limited amount of film. No pray and spray with a 12 exposure roll....

I guess we'll relegate all this to the idea that it was another time and everything has changed. But after looking through a fat box with hundreds of prints I feel compelled to set my cameras to manual exposure, turn off the AF and take a bit more time before maniacally pushing the shutter button over and over again. 

Who knows, I might actually get good enough to compete with myself from 25 years ago... (ellipses mandated by subject matter!). 









 

15 comments:

Tom said...

What an excellent set of images and if I may say so they have that beautiful film look and appeal that digital cannot give. I would love to see you shoot a roll of film again...maybe sometime!

Robert Roaldi said...

When I got interested in photography again about 20 years ago after neglecting it since my Pentax Spotmatic days, I would read online forum discussions about exposure that would go on for "pages", about exposure modes, and auto this and auto that, and I kept thinking to myself, WTF are they talking about?

Anonymous said...

This also reminds me of my initial (and still current) reaction to complaints of 'short' battery life in some digital cameras. Changing film every 12, 24, or 36 exposures was far more slow and cumbersome than loading one SD card and carrying an extra battery or two. Makes complaining about having to change batteries every 350 exposures seem silly.

Lee

Chuck Albertson said...

Those are wonderful images, and a timely post as I have spent the past week doing what passes for street photography these days with a 501CM. (I recently bought a used back and was checking it for light leaks, etc.) The main drawback to shooting with it on the street, though, is that it sounds like a 60mm mortar firing a round every time you trip the shutter. People jump when they hear it.

Kirk Tuck, Photographer/Writer said...

Chuck, the young cognoscenti will be so charmed by the "ancient" camera that they'll cherish the noise. Besides, with everyone so loud these days I doubt many will hear it over the general rumble of life.

crsantin said...

Wonderful photos from what seems like a different, alternate universe. Black and white film will always be special. I love the new cameras and even iPhone photography as much as anyone, but I do really miss the wonderful manual film cameras from a different century. The shutter on my Yashica TLR has failed and I have yet to find someone who can repair it but everyone was always charmed with it whenever I would hit the streets. I hope to repair it one day and continue to run some squares through it.

Roger Jones said...

Different times, different people. People were more open, you could talk, visit and still get your images, better images. They were happy to have their pictures taken. People are less open now days, more hostile toward photojournalist, "fake photography" how many times have you've heard that? That's where technically comes in, PP of images to get what someone wants, but it may not be true. As for needing the latest and greatest toys, we don't need them. We need to get back to basics making images up close and personal. We need to lose the big long lenses, the pray and spray mentally attitude, let the camera do it all for you attitude. Who's the photographer, you or the camera? We need to make images that stir the emotions or a reactions within the viewer then we've done our job. We don't need technically, we don't need to PP our work, and lie about our images. We need to know what we're doing, how to do it, and get the job done. If you have enough resources to spend on gear, a big camera, battery pack, big lens, flashes and don't forget paying $200 or more for the company's pro program then you must be a Pro Photographer, right? The company will send you a letter, that says you are.
We do not need technically we need to know our craft, what we worked at over the past 47 years.
Did that answer the question or was it just a rant?

Be safe take care

Roger Jones said...

Love the Images they're great.

Rufus said...

These are great images.

I'll come straight out and say it - there is something in these pictures I don't see in your work these days. I get it that life has changed and right now its just not easy to take stuff like this, but still..

if I had a portfolio of material like this I would go on a journey, not to go back to those days in some search for nostalgia, but to move forward and continue this line of work.

karmagroovy said...

Really nice set. Love the inky blacks of the majority of shots. All of these are candidates for a gallery show.

Peter said...

These are really great. Beautiful images.

Dave Jenkins said...

You are the consummate commercial photographer, Kirk, but your *soul* is not in your commercial work, nor is it in your photo-walk photos (except very occasionally). Your soul is in photographs such as the ones in this post and in your portraits.

That's the way I see it anyway, after following your blog from the beginning.

Bassman said...

Great images. Clearly proves the point that one can get great images with simple equipment. But another question is whether one can get more great images, or get great images more easily and reliably, with more sophisticated equipment. I suspect the answer is Yes.

Yoram Nevo said...

You can also put a minimum size memory card in the camera, so you will have only 24 exposures.

Zack S said...

Love this series. It is 99.999999% better than than what passes for "street photography" these days. Well done.