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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.

Examples:

✔︎ 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.


Setting

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.