Hong Kong Protest #1

Hong Kong Protest #1


Tracking in Street Photography

“The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” – Yousuf Karsh

{From my street photography course in www.schoolofphotographers.com}

As we have seen from the beginning of this course there are two ways to do street photography, one is "fish", you have seen the composition beforehand, you know what you want in the frame but you lack the human figure to make sense of your photography, and the other is "hunt"; We walk along the street and we find a scene with people on the move, that either because of their gestures, situation or their surroundings, we believe it is worth photographing and we do it without taking too much care in the composition, we want to photograph the moment.

Well, many times we see something special in some people that makes us want to photograph them and we are not in the right position to take a good shot, so our instinct is to follow them to get what we are looking for.

What’s that special thing that’s going to get our attention to track a stranger? Someone who carries or behaves in an unusual way.


✔︎ A man with 2000 ducks above the head.

✔︎ A child climbing to his father’s shoulders.

✔︎ Someone dressed as Superman riding a donkey.

✔︎ Someone who can match their surroundings.

✔︎ Someone who can match your photography, fill it with humor, fill it with a story, mystery, joy ...

✔︎ Someone who is dressed in the color of the poster that we’ve seen.

✔︎ A young boy with "dubious" appearance heading towards police officers.

Let’s make it clear from the beginning of this lesson that we’re talking about a small and short tracking, not following or stalking them all day, if that person realizes for whatever reason we are following them we’ll immediately abort, that will avoid any kind of problems. I’ll also tell you that it makes no sense to follow someone for more than 5 minutes, if during this time you haven’t been able to get a shot, something that happens a lot, you go about your day and let “that dove fly away”.

The first thing we must learn is to go unnoticed. Invisibility is learned and must begin with the bag where you carry your camera, which shouldn’t look like a bag where you keep your camera. Looking like a smiling and confident tourist usually works most of the time, if you’re in a place where you can impersonate a tourist. Invisibility will make the person you are going to take the picture from feel safe, free, and that’ll help us a lot to capture a certain action, expression or scene.

Invisibility will make the person you are going to take the picture feel safe, free, and that’ll help us a lot to capture a certain action, expression or scene.


I’m one of those who cares more about capturing a good scene than a good light. I have my camera ready to shoot at any time and today that’s possible by carrying it in automatic, yes, in automatic. You can shoot automatically perfectly. Changing the camera’s setting every now and then as you pass through more or less illuminated places is fine, but doing it every 5 meters is avoidable if you take it in automatic. In fact, many photographs are lost paying more attention to the camera than the street. In my case, I only use manual mode when I’ve found the place, the geometry and I still have time to "fish".

1. Seeing someone unusual.

People's gestures are a language that will help us a lot. Someone who’s making a fuss is going to make us activate the photographer we have inside. Just then we’ll remember what we’ve seen a few meters ago that can contrast with these gestures, or what’s around that person who’s gesturing that can give more strength to photography. Many times, we can find a good story and composition on the same site, but other times we’re gonna have to track in order to match it to something or someone else.

I have a special affection for this photograph. It’s one of my first trackings, when I started doing street photography. Suddenly I saw a girl who seemed to say something to me even though I didn’t understand her, she spoke Bahasa (Indonesian), as she approached me while looking at me, I didn’t understand anything, I didn’t know if she was looking at me and talking to me and didn’t understand that she was speaking alone, and then I followed her more closely and I could see that she was talking to someone with the "hands-free" system. I took a couple of photos but they weren’t good enough and I preferred she looked at me to give more strength to the image.

How did I get her to look? Camera on your chest and a simple ‘good morning’ makes our subjects turn towards us. Having your camera on your chest or separated from your face makes it so that they don’t pay too much attention to the machine. That eye contact after taking the picture should be very friendly, a smile on your face and maybe some conversation.

In this picture I didn’t track on purpose because the lady was walking ahead of me. I took the camera because I knew that there was a some workers around the corner fixing a ditch and I wanted to immortalize the moment where a woman carelessly wears the skirt and goes through a group of workers. I was looking for some expressions from them or from her, some contrast, although I didn't get it because she passed by. She gave me time to take this shot before she kept going on her way, then I reached for her and warned her of the position of her clothes.

What I want to show you with this photograph (which I was hesitant to put as an example in case you felt offended) is that I knew that there were some workers around the corner and the image that was around my head was but a decisive moment for having tracked someone. Under no circumstances do I want to offend anyone with my photographs, nor whoever visualizes them or who I photograph.

Going down the street with a rifle and an umbrella is a combination very strange and worthy of immortalization, it’s very unusual and we already know that unusual is very good.

Leaving the subway I meet this man who, with good rhythm, was going straight to his destination. He works for a security company in charge of collecting the revenue of supermarkets and fashion stores and putting it in a safe place. For security, they have to carry a weapon and are accompanied by two other people without a weapon, I suppose each one has their own role.

This day they were a little separated and what I found at the exit of the subway was this man, at that moment the photographer I carry inside got turned on, so I decided to do a little tracking. Tracking him meant getting parallel to him to get a good shot. I wanted someone else to be in the picture. There were many pedestrians with umbrellas and I would have liked to get someone in the opposite direction, with or without umbrellas, to have been part of the scene, or perhaps some poster of some announced movie where weapons are seen. I didn’t get it. But I got this shot by putting myself in parallel to him and saying good morning.

I have to admit that I’ve printed this photo in A4 format and that I took it with me for a few weeks until I saw the man again. I’d seen him before and I knew I’d do it again. When it finally happened, I handed him the photograph with no more conversation than a smile and left, I remember hearing his laugh.

Seeing a mattress walking down the street is more normal than a man with an umbrella and a rifle but it still makes you think photographically.

With what subject/object can I combine a mattress that walks down the street? With someone lying on the floor? Anyone who sleeps? A sign that announces rest, bed, coffee...? Anyone yawning? Many ideas can go through your head. So I decided to do a short track, always in parallel, to get the most important, which in this case was the mattress. I didn't have the luck I was looking for but I photographed it anyway. Today I’ve given it sense with another photograph, both are part of a project and my first book called Ping Pong.

Showing and combining two images in the form of a diptych makes the photographs speak twice. It doesn’t matter if a photograph doesn’t have a clear message on its own, sometimes combining them with others make them get all their sense.

I took the photograph of the man with the rifle in Hong Kong much earlier than that of the lady with an umbrella at the bottom right. The latter was taken in Kagoshima, Japan, and if I hadn't taken the first one, I probably wouldn't have taken the second one. Seeing the lady with the umbrella and the brush quickly reminded me of the photo of the man with the rifle and that person I couldn’t find at the time I took the picture.

Don’t worry about not finding anyone who complements your picture at the time you take it, don’t rule out complementing it with a diptych or triptych or combination of images.

Not only do we see something unusual at our eye level, it’s also highly recommended to look from another point of view. It’s the case of this photograph, I did a small tracking on the man, who due to his physical circumstances has to wear a shoe with a sole much higher than the other. It’s very common to find people who need this type of footwear, but perhaps we can take advantage of it by looking at it from a different perspective.

What could I combine this shoe with? Will I find someone barefoot? Military boots? Some latest model sneakers? Slippers? A shoe thrown to the street?

I wondered and noticed all the people who passed us or crossed by, in the end I managed to contrast it with flip flops. I made a diptych for this photograph as well:

2. Someone who’s going to cross another subject/object

What or who can we complete a photograph of a man who needs a four-foot cane to walk with?

An athlete boy or girl? Anyone who shares the need to use a cane? A child in a baby walker? Anyone in a wheelchair? ...

This is what I was wondering by doing a short tracking on the man in the next photo.

In the end, and as you can see, I did it with a traffic sign indicating the distance to any exit or destination.

We already talked about this photograph on the juxtaposition topic. Contrasting social status and age can be a good choice and, in this one, I tracked the woman pushing and pulling two trolleys.

As I told you on that topic I saw the lady after having seen the Swarovski poster, where a very pretty and very young model showcased these jewels. As I continued walking, I ran into the woman and when I stood in parallel to show the scene I wanted (jewelry and poverty) I saw that a very young lad in an executive suit was coming in the opposite direction. I thought that incorporating this boy into the scene could give more strength to the image, what started as a small tracking ended up being a movement from left to right on my part so that both woman and lad, were part of the scene.

That’s the thing with photography, you look at everything and you are thinking what or who can be complemented with in an image at all times. Many times it makes us run forward, sometimes backwards and other times remember what was there days ago close to where you are (a movie poster, a traffic sign, a flag... anything, but in this beautiful hobby you don't stop thinking).

I usually convert my photographs to black and white, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have them in color, I have a lot of them. There are times when it’s not possible to convert images to black and white because they would lose all their charm. Good old Ted Grant said that "When you photograph a person in color, you photograph their clothes, when you do it in black and white, you photograph their soul" I kind of agree, I say kind of because clothes are not always the most important in color photography, and neither is the soul of people the most important thing in black and white photography. The following photograph would make no sense in black and white

I remember the tracking I did to this boy who distributed bottles of water to the surrounding offices, car up and car down, while other teammates were loading the full and empty ones on the truck. I didn't start paying attention to their work until a few meters later I found a fire truck, Eureka! I knew what I wanted.

I always tell my students that:

He who walks a lot sees a lot, and he who walks a lot with a camera has ideas.

3. The beach

The beach is one of my favorite places to take pictures and to track. Here you find everything, and without shame, as everything in life should be, without any shame at all.

The beach I usually visit is like a kind of surreal film, it’s a Cuerda’s ‘Amanece que no es poco’. Mainland Chinese (people from inland China that have nothing to do with Hong Kong) who see the beach for the first time, noticing their happiness and strange behavior, this strange behavior comes from drinking sea water, getting into the water all dressed up and clap or crawl across the sand dressed in the clothes they’ll wear all day.

I love it. I go to photograph them three times a week because not only do I have a fantastic time, but I also enjoy photography.

It’s very normal to see children buried in the sand showing only their faces with an admirable smile, this gives us a good shot if we can contrast it with something: a somewhat older and angry person would look great and that is what I wanted in this picture I didn't get either. Until I left. I crossed a young woman in a red dress on the road, yellow heeled shoes that was going to the buried kid and did a little tracking. I imagined contrasting her shoes with that child's face and that’s what I got thanks to the tracking I did on the woman and the idea I had thinking about that child's face.

Seeing someone lying in the sand can give a lot of play, but someone by his side who can give more strength to the image would be missing. I had to track the boy in the suit to be able to contrast both people in the same photo.

Seeing someone who doesn’t stop running on the sand, getting into the sea, celebrating it, going back to the sand, turning around, making the croquette, getting into the sea, celebrating it again... is enough to do not a small, but an exhaustive tracking. As it was in the case of this last photograph that I show you, one of the days I had the best time photographing.

And the Chinese around me also had a great time, seeing a Westerner running after their friend while taking a picture.


✔︎ Go unnoticed.

✔︎ Smile.

✔︎ Be clear if you have to stay in parallel, ahead or behind.

✔︎ Don’t track anyone more than necessary.

✔︎ Change the point of view.

✔︎ Remember what you’ve seen before that can give strength to what you’re seeing now.

✔︎ Think about what can give strength to what you’re seeing, what you can come across.

✔︎ The unusual will give you good pictures.

✔︎ Don’t rule out photos that don’t have a complement in the same image, if you’ve photographed something unusual, maybe you can use it as a diptych or in combination with more images later.

Miguel Marina "Miguelitor"

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