Medium telephoto lenses for street photography

Given how widely practiced it is, its no surprise that street photography has many rules-of-thumb, and one of them has to do with focal lengths – the traditionally preferred ones have been on the wider end such as 28mm, 35mm and 50mm. However, I’ve often found myself using an unconventional focal length of 90mm. While the wider focal lengths may be more suited for environmental portraits and story telling, using a longer focal lengths allows me to break away from that stereotype and to create a more dramatic outcome.

In this article, I will explore why medium telephoto is my preferred focal length and the advantages of using tighter framing in street photography. It’s important to not that since I primarily shoot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 these days, “medium telephoto” here refers to 90mm in 35mm terms.

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Opinion: Sensible perspectives on film and digital in current times

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Today’s post has been a long time brewing. The recent resurgence in the popularity of film is undeniable, to the point that there are both new brands and revivals of old ones happening on a fairly regular basis. It seems to be not so interesting for the big guys – look at the continual Fuji price increases as prime exhibit – but this has meant that there business is more open to the enthusiasts and those creating film specifically for the demands of those markets (such as JCH Street Pan). Anybody who gets off their comfortable chair to put money and action where their mouths are deserves a round of applause, in my book. Given all of this – it’s only natural that there have also been a lot of people rising to the defence of the medium, in the comments here, and sometimes much more aggressively over email. In the interests of saving much angst, it’s probably about time I make my personal position on film clear, and more importantly, the rationale behind it.

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Micro four thirds and insect macros (part II)

This is a follow up to the last article on insect photography but unlike in that, I will not discuss techniques today, but rather why I find the Olympus Micro Four Thirds system ideal for newcomers to photography, who want to explore the world of insect macro. [Read more…]

Insect macro photography techniques – an ongoing experimentation (part I)

1/125sec. F11, ISO200, Wireless Flash fired

When I first ventured into photography, I started with insect macro photography, and it quickly became an activity I indulged in often. Macro photography, I think, is one of the more technically demanding types of photography, and is a good, if masochistic, way to learn and get all your photography basics right. In addition to different techniques to gain magnification, you have to worry about accurate focus, proper hand-holding technique, and the use and control of additional lighting and lighting modifiers.

After a recent attempt at insect macro work (for the OM-D E-M10 Mark II review), I found myself with a renewed itch to hunt for insects to photograph. This in turn lead to me writing this article sharing my techniques for insect macro photography.
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Work in progress

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Whilst both images in this post are themselves work in progress – parenting probably never ends, even if at some point you are less involved in the day to day operation of things and are more of a board member than an executive, and the golf ball building is undergoing renovation – that’s not specifically what’s going on here. To be honest, I’ve not been shooting as much as I would like of late, because the majority of my time has been allocated to five projects this year, some very early results of which are in this post. The Mirrorless Bag and Travel Duffel you’ve seen already. Another project will go live in a couple of weeks or so (and there’ll be a photography related post on that later, though the project itself is not photography related), and the other two you’ll probably see either at the end of this year or early next – those are somewhat moving targets due to the complexity of what’s involved (and yes, they are photography hardware related).

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Seeing and familiarity

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Everything must be evaluated before we have expectations of it

A few months ago, I explained why I believe there is no such thing as an absolute decisive moment; and examined how my own point of reference has shifted over time – both of these posts lead to some discussions in the comments over the whole question of why we seem to shoot better when taken out of our usual environments. I think that answer is fairly simple, and has to do with the same underlying principles of subject isolation: if something looks different, it will stand out, and if we can observe/see it, we can notice, compose for and photograph it. But the first part of that flow – the ‘standing out’ – can only happen if we either train ourselves to continually and consciously evaluate every portion of a scene, or we are thrust into a place where there is no familiar frame of reference so our minds cannot subconsciously pattern recognise and dismiss. The real question for a photographer is: how can we control this to some extent?

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Street Photography Workflow

Apparently infographics and flowcharts are all the rage these day, so I thought it might be cool to produce a workflow chart to show you my street photograph process. The chart is quite self-explanatory I think.  [Read more…]

Drama in Street Photography

If you look at the pool of street photographs online (one that seems to be growing exponentially each day), the images that stand out tend to have some drama in them. Drama, as I define it here, can be the split-second when something interesting happens, the creatively incorporating visually stunning lines and perspectives or something completely unpredictable and random yet beautifully captured in a photograph. The presence of drama in a street photograph elevates its status to something standout and noticeable, compared to the otherwise ordinary, uninteresting and cliché shots which have been done to death. To define the characteristics of these “dramatic traits”, is not easy and there’s enough room for experimentation to let each photographer inject his or her own style/perspective.

As a follow up to the article on street portraits, today, I’m going to share my usual process in looking for and adding the elusive element of drama to my street photography. [Read more…]

Street Portraits

Today’s article makes a for a nice continuum from my thoughts on Shutter Therapy. A browse through that article and previous ones (on robinwong.blogspot.com) will show that there is inevitably a portrait or two, usually of strangers. In this article, I share my thoughts on shooting street portraits and also share some of my favourite photographs.

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Discussion points: Critical features

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For most of the history of photography, we only had shot-to-shot* control over four things with our cameras: focal plane, exposure via shutter and aperture, and the moment of capture via the shutter release. There were of course myriad ways of implementing this – but eventually, either camera makers did what was easiest from an engineering standpoint, or buyers voted with their wallets – and the modern control paradigm was born. We have ergonomic grips, control dials for shutter and aperture (either on the top deck within fingertip reach, or on the lens barrel) and some means of controlling focus. Fundamentally, all images can be made with control over these parameters. Yet somewhere along the way, we’ve decided that we cannot live without tilting LCDs, live view, sensor shift and optical stabilisers, auto white balance, panorama stitching, eye tracking AF…the list goes on. I firmly believe that it’s possible to get far too distracted trying to master the technology and remembering which menu item and button was set to do what – and as a result, make an image that’s compositionally and creatively compromised instead of technologically enabled.

*One could also switch emulsion sensitivity, color/monochrome and focal length – I consider these secondary controls because not every camera permitted this between subsequent images.

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