Exploring Street Photography by Nick Bedford

Somewhere along the way last year I lost the drive to pursue my main passion which was portraits. I struggled with it for months, but what came of it was a new found interest of simply taking pictures again, not spending time setting up lights, finding locations and everything that comes with portraits. What this lead to, not without a good deal of influence from the other WECC members, was an appreciation for street photography.

Corner Queen & Edward Streets, Brisbane Fuji X100s - VSCO Kodak Portra 800

Corner Queen & Edward Streets, Brisbane
Fuji X100s - VSCO Kodak Portra 800

If you look at the vast array of street photography out there, the core of it involves nothing more specific than simply making pictures in your environment, whether in your own city or when travelling, with minimal influence on your subject matter.

What this grants anyone who ventures to do street photography is limitless range and potential. Pictures are everywhere. Portraits of strangers or friends, architectural points of view, candid moments of people, political and social commentary, the list goes on, and while all photography requires practice and technique, I'll be the first to agree with many that say it's one of the more challenging genres of photography, especially when you're not used to it. It's also very rewarding since it relies so much on timing, serendipity and perhaps most of all, confidence.

Queen Street Mall, Brisbane Fuji X100s - VSCO Kodak Portra 800

Queen Street Mall, Brisbane
Fuji X100s - VSCO Kodak Portra 800

It requires constant observation and a keen eye for interesting people and/or moments. I saw these two sitting together on a bench and decided to shoot from the hip as I walked by. I was lucky enough to time the shutter right to place them where I like in the frame, just off center but also from their lower perspective. Sometimes shooting like this, people are half out of frame, nowhere to be seen or there are other mishaps like exposure settings and focus going wrong.

I'm still very new to street photography, especially the kind that requires a little more confidence in taking closer pictures of people. But I like capturing moments like the black and white picture below of people in motion framed by the city around them. One factor of street photography which makes it exciting and challenging is that you don't know exactly what you're going to get until the moment is gone and you review the shot or develop your negatives.

Corner Edward & Adelaide Streets, Brisbane Fuji X100s - VSCO Ilford HP5

Corner Edward & Adelaide Streets, Brisbane
Fuji X100s - VSCO Ilford HP5

I think that's one thing that I've had to let go of and probably a good lesson learnt. You can't keep doing the same thing and hope to find it constantly as interesting as it has always been, unless some things are changing or growing. For me, I had to eventually realise that I needed to shift directions for a while and see where it takes me and rediscover photography in a different way.

Switching Form Factors

I think one of the deciding factors in choosing to go down this route was after shooting a roll of film on a cheap Canonet QL19 rangefinder I bought. It's the model released around 1971 with the 45mm F1.9 lens, which is great for portraits.

pocket6.jpg

I shot about 33 pictures on a roll of Ilford FP4 before the shutter became stuck. I'm still waiting for the negatives and scans to come back so I'm not sure what I got. When the shutter became stuck, I eventually decided to bite the bullet and swap out my Canon EOS M / 22mm lens for the Fujifilm X100s.

In some ways the camera was also a reason why I wasn't venturing out and taking pictures. Both the X100s and EOS M with 22mm lens produce very similar results being a 35mm equivalent focal length, but the Canon EOS M is basically a point and shoot with very little in the way of manual controls.

The difference with the X100s is the optical / electronic viewfinder and easily accessible manual controls which makes taking pictures a much more enjoyable experience than holding the camera out in front of you with live view only. I shoot primarily in aperture priority mode with Auto ISO ranging from 400 minimum to ISO 3200 for low light and a minimum shutter speed of 1/125th. The aperture ring on the lens makes it quick and easy to adjust your aperture on the fly before taking shots and I love the way the EVF in play back mode becomes somewhat of a miniature slide projector.

Digital Film

What put the icing on the cake for me was using VSCO's Film 01 Lightroom presets to process the raw files. The two stock emulations I've used so far are Ilford HP5 black and white and Kodak Portra 800 for colour. I've never really liked the clinical and purely representative look of digital camera images, at least for my own pictures. For portraits and professional work I tend to use the full quality of the raw files I shoot (Canon 5D Mark III) since that is the desired look, but for these and my other personal pictures, I prefer to give them a look akin to different film stocks.

Here are some examples of Ilford HP5 and Kodak Portra 800 Lightroom presets applied to the same raw file.