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"JUST ANOTHER WORKDAY PART 2"
"HARD DAY'S NIGHT"
Those of you familiar with my writing know that a great portion of my street photography takes place during my workdays.
I often will take pictures on the walk to my office, which is two miles from my apartment in the Lower East Side of New York---and
pictures on the way home. Occasionally, I'll have time during lunch hours to shoot, as was the case yesterday.
Yesterday, I was unable to take pictures on the way to work because my office is undergoing a renovation. This required the
packing of my office's contents into storage, which took several hours in the morning. With this pending drudgery on my mind,
I just could not concentrate of shooting on the way to work.
I was however, able to take a lunch break which allowed me to take pictures within a 7 block stretch. By that time, the majority
of the packing in my office was done, allowing me to be relaxed enough to concentrate on composing.
I was also able to take pictures on the way home. I would like to walk you through the process of my picture taking. My ophthalmology
office is located on East 9th Street in Greenwich Village in New York. When I walked out of my office at noon yesterday, the
sun was out and conditions were conducive to higher shutter speeds, a luxury that I don't have the benefit of when shooting
on the walks to work, and from work. The shutter speeds during these walks to and from work usually span the gamut from 1/10th
of a second to 1/60th of a second. If I'm really blessed, I'll hit a rare and gut-wrenching shutter speed of 1/125th of second
under these conditions.
The shutter speeds were far more accomodating during this lunch hour session.
After I left the office, I walked north on University Place, when I encountered this woman pushing a shopping cart near 12th
Street. The sunshine contrasting the dramatic falloff of light surrounding the woman, was intriguing and visually interesting.
This type of stark contrast is caused by the interspersion of city buildings. I framed the light to my compositional liking
and waited for the woman to enter the zone of the composition that I wanted her in, and then I made the exposure. I call this
picture "Free Credit Dot Com." Focus was preset to 7 feet.
"FREE CREDIT DOT COM"
Further up University Place at 14th Street, I came across another terrific street photo when I spotted this couple canoodling.
To me, it seemed by their body language, particularly on the woman's part---that they were flirting. I decided on a vertical
format for this composition. From a distance before I approached, I preset focus to six feet using the distance scale of the
focusing ring of my 20mm lens. The sun was quite bright, and I predetermined the exposure to be 1/750th of a second at f/4
before I came closer to the couple. This is the exposure as I made it five feet from these people. I set the compositional
floor of the image using the lower border, and later cropped some off the top in post-processing. I titled this picture "Flirt."
Here is a point that I would stress with regard to the availability of street photographic opportunities: wherever there are
people, there are photo ops provided that the street photographer opens his or her mind's eye. To be open mentally, is to
be receptive to copious photo opportunities when street shooting. The two pictures you've just looked at were taken within
two blocks of each other. That is the great lesson of aritcles like these where I walk you through a day's sequence of logistical
street shooting. It demomstrates that there is no lack of street subject matter.
The following picture I found a mere block away on University Place between 15th and 16th Streets. From a distance I saw
these two women walking toward me, and the woman on the left was looking at me. I therefore decided that she would be my focal
point at a distance of five feet, so I preset focus accordingly. I was counting on her to still be looking at me when she
hit the spot five feet away---and I wasn't disappointed. I mentally composed so that she would hug the left border of the
photograph, and that the man on the right would occupy the receding background near the right picture border. When the two
woman hit a spot five feet away, I framed the composition and made the exposure. I call this photo "Vanguard."
On the next block, I saw this woman standing away from the milling lunchtime crowd on the sidewalk. She was leaning against
the wall near a restuarant, so as to recede into the background of the city's cacophany, in her own silent space. I chose
a horizontal composition before approaching, with her as a dominant element near the left image border, with a gentle recession
of the elements into the right picture border. Focue was preset to five feet. The title of this picture is "Economical",
both because of the subject's four foot something stature, and her apparent propensity to recede quietly into the scene's
A half a block away there was a sign of the times, for sure. A man was standing on the corner of 16th Street and holding a
sign advertising a burger shop. This was a modern iteration of the sandwich board man. For this picture, I didn't want to
encompass the whole subject in the image frame. I wanted the sign to play a larger role, so I decided on a closer composition
from five feet away. The man's torso and the sign would fill much of the compositon, necessitating a vertical frame. I call
this "Looking For Mr. Goodburger."
"LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBURGER"
I crossed University Place at 16th Street which brought me to this next photograph at the edge of Union Square Park. This
was my turnaround back to my office on 9th Street. An elapsed approximate time of 25 minutes took place since I'd left the
office at the beginning of the lunch hour. I came across these construction workers working in a fenced in enclosure. The
two workers would occupy the length of my composition, with the nearest worker hugging the right border, and the farthest
worker receding into the left border. I tilted the camera to accomplish this predetermined composition. Focus was on the nearest
worker at a distance of four feet. I call this picture "Captive Labor."
I was on my way back to work now. Up to this point from 9th Street to 16th Street, I was able to take six worthy and interesting
street photographs. Union Square Park stretches from 16th Street to 14th Street. On this two block area on my way back to
my office, I obtained five more interesting street compositions. The first of these was located a few feet from where I took
"Captive Labor" at a bend in the construction site fencing, where an orange sign announced a sidewalk detour. In my
mind's eye's composition, this sign would be the compositional anchor from three feet away. The sign would be near the right
picture border, while the pedestrian would add interest in the background near the left image border. This of course, dictated
a horizontal frame. This picture's title is "Flamingo Road." The density of subject matter within a constricted geographical
area, is purely dependent on a street photographer's perceptiveness and open mind, as the abundant availability of subjects
inside a small area in this park demonstrates.
Just around the bend along the fence, was a subway station entrance with a large construction cone placed on top of the entrance's
light pole. I felt that this element of the construction cone on high, would be an interesting counterpoint to a person coming
past and underneath it with the cone looming over the person. So often, composing consists of visceral feelings about the
potential juxtapositioning of elements.
I positioned myself seven feet from the entrance and waited for a pedestrian to round the bend on her way into the subway
station. When she became parallel with the light pole, I framed the vertical composition and made the exposure. Light was
still good, and the exposure was 1/500th second at f/4. I call this photograph "Dixie Cup."
A few feet further from where I exposed "Dixie Cup", was another subway exit for the same subway station. Speaking
of stationing, I stationed myself directly in front of this exit so that I could take some pictures of people leaving the
station. Focus was preset to five feet, and I photograpahed these two subjects coming up for air. I call this picture "Welcome
To Manhattan." Interestingly, I've never had an adverse reaction from any subject exiting a New York City subway station,
in spite of the fact that I generally block these subway riders' way as they make their way to the street. Of course, I step
out of the way after making my exposures.
"WELCOME TO MANHATTAN"
After taking these womens' picture, I decided to stay there a few seconds longer to take a picture of another subway rider
emerging from the subterannean cave. I was rewarded when this man with the trapper's hat came into view. I call this image
"Trapper John MD."
"TRAPPER JOHN MD"
I would take one more picture on my way back to the office, and this would occur in an area of the park where people play
chess. Coming upon these chess tables, I decided to use the unoccupied table, unoccupied by humans, that is---the table had
chess pieces in place---as the primary element of the composition. I positioned myself directly in front of this chess table.
Focus was preset to three feet. My compositional intent was to have the table fill the bottom of the image from left to right,
and have the players receded into the background near the top of this vertical picture. I call this "Match Point."
It didn't bother me that I chose a tennis term. It fits.
After I returned to my office, the remaining hours of my workday were occupied with cleaning up a few odds and ends in preparation
for the renovation. When I left work at 4:00 PM, the light conditions had worsened to what I'm normally used to. Dim and shadowed
light that requires slow shutter speeds. At 9th Street and 4th Avenue, I saw two bus drivers shooting the breeze near a shadow
thrown from a tree on the wall behind the drivers. I visualized a picture where the lightpole and signs would anchor the left
side of the image, and the tree shadow would anchor the right side---with the bus drivers in between. Shooting distance was
12 feet. Exposure was however, a decent 1/125th of a second at wide open. The title of this image is "Family Tree."
To show you disparate light conditions within a short time frame and small geographical area can be because of shadows from
buildings, the next picture enitled "Mohawk Trail" required a much slower 1/30th second. Note the motion blur of the
photographer's companion. I came across this couple on St. Marks Place in the East Village two blocks from where I took "Family
Tree." I was struck by the photographer's mohawk height, so I took their picture from a distance of five feet. She's one
of ours, so she's cool.
A half a block from where I exposed "Mohawk Trail" was where I took the last street picture of the day. This was taken
at the corner of 2nd Avenue and St. Marks Place, where a man in a sandwich costume was advertising a new Subway sandwich shop.
There is actually a troika of dominant elements in this composition, and you know what they are. I call this photograph "My
The larger point of this article is meant to act as edification for those seasonal photographers who insist....."There's
nothing to take pictures of in the city." These warm weather photographers typically make plans to take pictures of flowers
and landscapes while they're on their once or twice a year vacations. That's where we street photographers enjoy a huge advantage:
we have all the subject matter we want all year round---and that subject matter is all around us. Even when go to work.