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Street Photography #5 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Eastman   

Street Photography - A Narrative

Oh, that image tells a Story!!!

I hear this phrase often when someone looks at an image. I've heard it many times over the years. And, in some cases, it is true. Single images may hint at a story line.

What's the story in the above image?

During some of my classes, when I showed students some images someone would say, "Oh, now that picture tells a story."

I'd reply, "Ok. What's the story?"

The person making the comment would reply. Then I'd ask others if they agreed or did they have a different story. Often, I'd get more than one "story".

I'd point out that in many cases it was the viewer who brought the "story" to the image based on their life experiences and, in some cases, their bias.

For me, "That image tells a Story!!!" is not true.

Six Hardhats

A couple of years ago, I started shooting street photography. I sold all my DSLR equipment and purchased a mirrorless camera and lens. I wanted a camera that allowed me to blend in, to be more unobtrusive and not scream PHOTOGRAPHER Taking A PICTURE!! My Canon 5D MKII and its white 70 - 210 mm lens did not quite fit that bill.

Mirrorless cameras have improved greatly since about 2012. Today, mirrorless camera are equal to, or rival a DSLR camera in image quality, focus speed and lens offerings. If money is no object, you can buy a Leica with their lenses. If your budget is more down to earth, like most of us mere mortals, Sony, Fuji and Olympus, offer excellent products. (I find Fuji is currently the most customer-centric camera maker with regular firmware updates to their cameras and lenses.) Canon and Nikon also make mirrorless camera bodies, but in my opinion, are not equal to the previously mentioned ones. That being stated, I'm sure there a Canon and Nikon fans out there that would disagree with me.

A Narrative

A Narrative is a "series of sequenced, connected photographs that are viewed as a whole".

I believe a Narrative tells a more nuanced tale. The series may make a viewer smile, think twice, see a ring of truth, bring joy to the heart, etc. A Narrative captures life in action.

Narratives can consist of only three images, while others may include eight or more images.

Capturing a Narrative requires patience, practise and a little nerve.

While you're shooting, the subjects may notice you and radically change their behaviour. The original Narrative may be gone or simply over and a new one beginning.

There was one instance where a young couple were sitting on a park bench. She was reclined across his lap with her back toward me. He was kind of facing me. It was obvious they liked each other - a lot! He was hugging her and she was responding. Then he started to kiss her and that was when he noticed me. I smiled over the top of my camera, he flashed me a "thumbs up", smiled and proceeded to really lay on a great kiss! I kept shooting. Once it was over, he glanced at me. I flashed a return "thumbs up", he smiled and nodded.

The Kiss

The result was a lovely, passionate, yet discrete Narrative of young love.

I find Narratives more interesting to chase after and much more rewarding to create.

Here's another sequence following the same theme - young love.

She stuffed an ice cream cone in her mouth. She offers it to him.


He glances at the cone and consumes it.


Now they both enjoy the Kiss.

The Ice Cream Cone

Next time you're out on the street, keep an eye out for an unfolding story and try to capture it. It's well worth the effort and will add a new dimension to your street photography

Getting Over Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Eastman   

Getting Over Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS)


Are you infected? Are you addicted? Are you addicted, but in denial?

No worries; you can get over this most dangerous, addictive and infectious disease.

What is GAS really. Simply put, it is the constant searching for and purchasing of the latest and greatest digital camera and/or lenses. And all sorts of other photography gear. All this money and effort is solely directed toward some inane effort to capture the perfect picture. You know the head speak. We all do. I used to do it too. Sometimes I still find my self tempted.

"If I get the (you fill in the camera name) with that really great (you fill in the lens specs) lens, I'll take great pictures and everyone will flock to my lame web site and buy all my images and I'll be incredibly rich and famous and everyone will email and ask me to photograph their wedding even though I hate shooting weddings..."

You get the idea.

Here's a bulletin for you.

The camera does not take the photo; the photographer does. A camera and lens are only a tool. And like any tool, in the hands of a true creative photographer amazing images can be captured. That same tool in hands of a first time amateur, will probably capture a snap shot.

You have a camera with a lens in your hand because you put out the money to buy it. Now spend an inordinate amount of time learning the ins and outs of every aspect of that camera. Learn what it will do, what it might do if you work at it and what it won't do because of its inherent technical limitations. Learn to work with those limitations and you'll learn to take more creative photos.

Buying the newest lens or camera body is not the answer.

Take the camera off Auto. Start using M(anual), A(perture Priority) and/or S(hutter Priority). Learn these modes by using them for 4 months straight. Slowly, you'll begin to understand which mode suits what photo situation for your type of photography. In this way, your camera will become an extension of your eyes and your photographic vision. Yes it'll take time, but it is time well spent.

Street Photography #4 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Eastman   

Street Photography #4

Not all street photography includes people; the image is about people, but he/she, him/her, us/them and we/they are not actually in the image.

These type of street photographs contain the things we buy, sell, loose, give away, discard, consume or fetishize about. The objects speak volumes about we value and what we don't.

The poet Williams Carlos Williams wrote a poem called "The Red Wheelbarrow". it is short'; very short. Four lines; 16 words. Economy. Well, a great street photograph can accomplish the same thing. Williams spoke about "No ideas but in things."

What a photographer chooses to exclude in an image is as important as what she includes. We, the viewer, never know what she excluded; but sometimes the image poses a question or a suggestion. Other arts, like painting, sculpture and music are about things; photography is of something. Ever listen to Beethoven's 6th symphony, 4th movement and not see, hear and feel a thunderstorm?

Well, street photography and maybe all photography can do none of that. Oh sure, we can listen to the Beethoven's 6th and then we can go and make images that remind us of the music, but the images on their own are not the music.

Street photography, even the abstract type, are still of the real world. As street photographers, we start with a tangible thing and photograph it. There other day, I presented the following image I took of some kids having a great time playing with a fountain splash pool to the members of a B&W photo group I belong to.

One of the members remarked the image reminded him of three stages of childhood. The youngest boy behind a gushing spurt of water, the older one on the right aggressively splashing around and the slightly shorter boy on the left represented that time just between childhood and adulthood. Did I see this idea when I took the series of shots? No. I was just photographing a bunch of guys having a great time playing. It was the viewer who added the idea in the things.

Boys and Water Play

The following abstract images are broken factory windows that were painted over to keep the light out. If you look carefully you can see the brush strokes. But when you look at certain images, other images seem to appear - face profiles, animal profiles. Was that what the photographer saw at the time of capturing the image? Hard to say.

Window Abstract #1

Window Abstract #2

As a beginning street photographer who may be somewhat nervous about approaching or photographing people, consider the things we leave behind in the street. An other great place to look is second hand store windows. I love walking down a street in that part of town where there are lots of second hand stores. Some of the strangest juxtapositioning of objects can occur. I'm never sure if the store owner meant to put odd things side by side or not. For all I know, the guy could be pulling the publics leg metaphorically to get a laugh and maybe have them come into to the store and buy something. Either way, it is a photo rich landscape of a very different kind.

Street signs offer and interesting opportunity. Try parking signs. If you want to add some real humour, set up beside a collection of parking signs on a pole and wait for someone to come by and start reading them to try and figure out whether they can park legally or not.

Include real objects and parts of a sign in a store window. Sometimes humour or a visual pun can be the result.

Go visit a flea market and peer into the stalls. You can find mannequins dressed up in some crazy outfits that simply do not go together. There is a project for you! One you can keep in the back of your mind as you wander around a particular part of town. Martin Parr is a well known British street photographer. Check out some of this work.

Here are some more of my images. Let me know what you think!

Window Abstract #3

Sand Tracks #1

Sand Tracks #2

Marching Backwards into the Future PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Eastman   

Marshall McLuhan said, "We look at the present through a rearview mirror. We backwards into the future."

I subscribe to The Inspired Eye and look forward to downloading their e-magazine. Their focus is Street photography. The creators/editors solicit images from people around the world, select about half a dozen and display their images in the magazine. For some of the selected photographers, the editors submit a standard series of questions for the photographer to answer. One question is "If we're speaking specifically of photographers, which ones of the past and the present do you admire?"

Whenever I read an article about an emerging photographer or watch a documentary about a photographer of today, the person is always asked, "What photographers from the past are your inspiration?"

Photography seems to be inexorably linked to the past. It is almost as though any photographer today must have some past master that inspired them otherwise they are not truly valid as a photographer.

Full disclosure here!! I studied photography in the ancient days of film. And yes I studied the history of photography, so I was exposed to those who invented photography and those who pushed to have it seen as an art form. And I was inspired to emulate those photographers I admired. Most of them were black and white photographers and so that is how I started out. Before I crossed over to the "dark side" (my analogue photographer friends call digital photography the "dark side"), I had an extensive darkroom in my basement where I explored black and white printing and an alternative process called lith printing. So as you can see I was steeped in analogue photography and I really enjoyed it. Then digital came along.

Lith Nude Study

I bought my first digital camera, a iMac computer, and Adobe Lightroom and a printer. I was hooked! The instant feedback of the digital image was inspiring. The ability to work in the light instead of a darkroom as freeing. And to make a print quickly was amazing. I sold my darkroom stuff and have never regretted it.

But interestingly enough, I judged the quality of my black and white ink prints based on the analogue prints I made in the darkroom. In other words, I was looking at the present through a rearview mirror.

Photography can be a visual story telling medium and as such it can have tremendous impact. Digital image processing give the photographer today unlimited possibilities when it comes to presenting his/her vision. Through digital processing, a photographer can combine elements from multiple images into one a single image and make an interesting print. Mind you, there was an analogue photographer you may not have heard of who did the same thing - Jerry Uelsmann. Check out his images and remember they were all made in an analogue darkroom with multiple enlargers using multiple negatives.

I create candid images from the street - most of the time. Does that make me a Street Photographer? Does that mean I have to emulate Street Photographers who are long dead? And if I don't emulate them, does that make my images any less meaningful or important?

I do not have an Instagram or Hipstamatic account, but apparently they have added a vintage filter that renders colours in a faded tone and adds grain to emulate film. This look is called retro and apparently is very popular. So you see what I mean about "...looking at the present through a rearview mirror ".

Taste is personal and subjective. Digital cameras and sensors are a miracle of technology that allow rank amateurs to produce extremely detailed photos in colour or black and white and then instantly upload them to the Web for the world to consume. And yet some of those images are run through retro filters to make them look more like "prints" our grandparents snapped back in the 50s and 60s with their Kodak Instamatics. (If you have no idea what an Instamatic is, Google it.)

So what's really happening here? While the technology has made the switch from analogue to digital, out brains have not.

About 6 months ago, I became aware I stopped creating landscape and graphical photographs. I had focused strictly on candid street images. So I decided to include those past creative outlets back into my image making. And once I did, I found I was creating photographs as opposed to taking pictures. And I enjoyed the process even more. Labels do not describe ambition.

Today, photography has become an omnipresent tool for capturing reality and applying meaning to it. Which leads me to contemporary photography.

Contemporary photography is an interesting category. Contemporary is defined as, "happening, existing, living, or coming into being during the same time period".

The Power Plant Gallery in Toronto exhibits contemporary art. I attended a contemporary photography exhibit and saw some, what I'll call, straight portraits of a bearded man. There were three images in the series. Through the series, the man's beard was a bit fuller. I studied the images for a while to see how I felt about them. I decided they represented the passage of time. Not exactly an earth shattering series of images, but it was an interesting idea. Then I read the associated text. It seems the photographer was attempting to illustrate his personal inner struggle with his aging and the loss of his intellectual and creative edge. According to his Bio, he graduated with a BFA degree from an American college and was in his late twenties. I looked at the images again and without the accompanying text I never would have gotten what he was conveying. And he was in his twenties. A little early to worry about aging, but then who am I to judge.

I find that in contemporary photography, the subject matter may be rather banal and yet the photographer imbues it with a deep personal meaning that may escape the viewer. It seems to me contemporary photography is a very personal pursuit and the photographer seems to care very little if anyone else gets or understands the images' deeper meaning.

Now I readily admit this may represent a lacking in myself. Perhaps I am simply to mature (I'll be kind to myself) to see or understand the deeper meanings hidden within the images. Perhaps I'm simply "looking at the present through a rearview mirror".

New Field of Photography PDF Print E-mail
Written by Edward Eastman   

A New "Field" of Photography

I cycle. I also recycle, but that is a different story and definitely not germane to this post.

When cycling, I notice images. All kinds of images. And not carrying my XT-1 with me, I'm limited to my iPhone, which I do carry with me. It helps The Wif keep track of me in case of emergencies - not that I've ever had one, but it's best not argue with a Wif when asked to take ones iPhone, but that too is not germane to this post. (Notice a trend shaping up? No? Hmmmm.)

One type of photography I work on is street photography - and that is germane to this post.

So what exactly is "street" photography when you're out cycling in the country? There are very few "streets" but lots of roads. Is there such a thing as "road photography"?

There is now!!!

Hey look I invented a new field of photography!! (Wait until you see the images and then you'll get the pun.)

When cycling and huffing and puffing up the very small inclines in a very easy gear (hey, I'm getting on in years here! and there is a limit as one ages!!), I notice clouds, blue sky and hay bales or rows of corn or other green stuff. Some of the green stuff I have no idea what it is, but corn I recognize.

To me these are patterns of nature (even if the lack of rain has made the corn Hobbit like) and for me, these are image making opportunities only if I'm willing to stop and make an image. However, most days I"m hell bent on moving my butt along as quickly as possible as I really enjoy the physical sensation of cycling (again not really germane to this post, but hey it is my post and not yours.)

Cycling gives me time to think of things besides what gear I'm in, or should be in, as the wind and the odd bug blow by my face. Cycling is a very relaxing, if at times, a physically demanding activity. Physical exercise frees the mind and the soul. And some of the places my mind goes... is not germane to this post.

Clouds have been a favourite topic of mine for a long time. And so the other day, I saw some clouds that really moved me to stop and make an image.


I was taken by the small white storage tanks and how they mirrored the clouds in the sky and how they all contrasted with the green of the fields.

So after making the image, which really took all of 30 seconds, if that, I was back in the saddle and off up the road to conquer another hill and fly down another declining roadway, keeping my mouth closed and the bugs out of my teeth.

A few days later, I was back on my bike and noticed another "road" photograph (remember, I just invented this field of photography.). Round bales of hay in a field with dark rain clouds hanging over head. It was time to stop and smell the roses. (Clearly, there were no roses to be smelled and that too is not germane to this post, but you get the idea.)

Hay Bales

I was particularly attracted to the lone bale on the left. The other bales looked line or group of cyclists all riding together. The lone bale reminded me of me. I ride alone. I do not belong to a cycling club or ride with others. I'm often passed these days by others, in fact most other cyclists, or group of cyclists, but that is not germane to this post; but it is a fact.

The hills reminded me of the roads I ride in and around the Burlington/Waterdown area. This area is strewn with some large and steep hills that climb the Niagara Escarpment and lots of other smaller, yet still steep ones that provide a cycling challenge to the most ardent cyclist.

I've often heard that a photo must say something to be meaningful. Well that last one is a metaphor for me and the rides I take in and around where I live.

Happy cycling and happy photo making. (And that is german to this post!)


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