One fun thing that I did on my long blog hiatus was take a trip to New York City at the end of December. I was in the city to see an exhibit of Vivian Maier’s photographs at a gallery there. If you’ve never seen any of her work before, I highly recommend the documentary film Finding Vivian Maier. You can occasionally find it on Netflix, but it’s definitely worth the cost of a rental if you can’t find it there. Her story touched me in so many ways, and I was in tears more than once while watching it. In her honor, I decided to try a little street photography myself on this trip. It’s something I’d never tried before, but had always wanted to. To make things more interesting, I gave myself a defined set of parameters for taking the pictures, and I found the challenge to be a lot of fun. Here were my guidelines:
1) No viewfinder/LCD screen. I hung the camera strap around my neck and kept the camera at chest level. I was not allowed to look through the viewfinder and I had the LCD preview on the back of the camera turned off. I just pointed the camera in the direction of what I wanted to capture and clicked the shutter. This made for some fun accidental compositions, and a lot of missed shots. Also, since I couldn’t see or adjust my autofocus points, my camera had a mind of its own when deciding what to focus on.
2) All shots had to be taken while I was moving. I was trying to capture the energy and movement of the city. We walked all over the city and I kept clicking as we went along.
3) Challenging camera settings. I kept my aperture at a middle-of-the-road f/8, and my shutter speed at a perilously slow 1/100th. This gave me a lot of motion blur and camera shake since I was shooting while I was walking. Some shots this worked well for, and some it didn’t. I also had to start cranking up my ISO as it got to be later in the day, so some of these later images have some pretty hefty grain to them.
4) No cropping. I used only my 24mm prime lens (the closest I could get to 35mm with the cropped sensor on my camera – I really need to get a full-frame camera). I allowed myself no cropping in post-production, so what you see is what I shot.
Here’s the biggest thing that I got out of this challenge: it forced me to study my surroundings. Usually when I’m walking through the city I have a defined destination and I’m only focused on how to get there, how many more blocks, which turns I have to make, etc. With this trip I slowed down and observed the world around me. I watched people interact with each other, and with their surroundings. I noticed things I never would have if I wasn’t doing this challenge. It was a great experience and I can’t wait to do it again!