Last month, I had the opportunity to travel to New York City. My brother and I had planned this trip, centering it around a Broadway show at the Walter Kerr Theater. I hadn’t been to New York since 2010 and besides the excitement of securing tickets to Springsteen On Broadway, I was looking forward to carrying my camera and capturing impressions of the city.
Street photography, for me has a few guidelines that I follow: my equipment must be minimal, lightweight and unobtrusive. One of the best purchases I made with regards to street shooting equipment was a strap that attaches to my camera and fits my right hand like a snug harness. It is called SLR Wrist Strap made by Op/Tech.
The only lens I carry when I’m in the street is my fixed focus 35mm auto focus lens. This lens has a small profile. It is wide enough for my preference and when I get close to a subject any noticeable distortion is absent. The lens is mounted to my Nikon D700. I have the camera set to back button focus (focus by pressing my right thumb on the AF button on the back of the camera). This can be set up in the customs setting on the camera.
Along with my “extension camera” on the end of my right arm, I carry a small, over the shoulder backpack to put the camera away if desired. It is very handy to have.
As I mentioned, I carried my D700 everywhere and under various conditions (rain with an umbrella, in mass transit confusion), walking and shooting from the hip, my setup was as unnoticeable as it could be. The nice thing about a big city like New York is that there are many people with cameras doing the same thing I’m doing so residents and workers are used to seeing cameras in the mix. Having said that, I am prudent about who I photograph. Sometimes I will stand far away and shoot. if I feel confident with my subject, I will move in closer and sometimes, I will smile and ask them to pose or look a certain way. That is only if I feel comfortable with the subject and they are willing. Our first outing was met with rain. Perfect. In my left hand, I held an umbrella. My right was my camera hand. I could hide the camera under the umbrella until I decided to shoot. People in the street where so occupied, coping with the rain, they couldn’t care less about me and my camera, one less thing to concern myself with: public reaction.
Walking attentively, looking for people, structures, interactions, expressions, crowds, anything that pauses me visually is my operational mode when I’m walking with a camera in the on position.
Sometimes, I will frame and level the shot as I did in this image below…
Other times, I sneak a shot, aiming my camera up from my right hip, autofocus with my thumb on the back button. Sometimes it works!
Finally, with regards to rain in the city, I have a print of a painting hanging on a wall that I have always liked.
As I was shooting the city in rain that day, subconsciously I had this painting in my minds eye. Later, after going through all the images, I noticed many that captured the painting’s mood.
The rain helped define the images in ways I did not expect. There were happy accidents, only visible to me after I viewed the images upon my return. Therein lies the fun and mystery of travel photography for me. In my next posting, I will continue with this trip focusing on images I shot at dusk in the city. It was dry and clear. The shimmering urban landscape comes to life in a whole different way.