6th September 2011 Henri Cartier-Bresson

Street Scene at StationLong day at the studio today, 13 hours to be exact. Managed to grab 20 minutes between a quick meal and seeing a wedding client. Made my way down to our local train station and watched people poor off the 5:38 arrival. Not much inspired me so unfortunately my sunset light had now gone and I will have to increase the ISO. Waited for the 5:51 to see what unfolded.   Sometimes I like just watching people, is that just me or are we all like that? I saw this image and captured it.

In this one scene we have to our left a sharply dressed professional lady. A real go getter who is in the prime of her career. She is on a mission to get home after a successful day at the office. In contrast the man in the foreground just right of centre, is totally over having to commute to the city. He walks slowly and sloppy. For him its grounhog day. His job only serves to pay the mortgage and serve up a plate load of grief.  In the middle of the image we have a young lady who has warmly greeted her boyfriend from a day at work. He has barely walked through the station exit before he gets a cuddle with little regard to partially blocking the exit. How lovely. Finally to our right we have a slender lady looking like a very young fashion model. She was one of the first off the train, walking very quickly before stopping and looking around in amazement that there was no one to greet her. Just shows you that no matter how good you look, you cant always get your own way. So that was my scene that I captured today. I have rendered the faces blank. They are unknown to me.

Who was the master of Street Photography? None other than Henri Cartier-Bresson of course.  In an age when photographers were using large format sheet film cameras, Henri lead the way to show us small can be beautiful and opted to use miniature or small format Leica cameras. Now days we call this format simply 35mm and no longer regard it as miniature at all.

Here are my Street Photography tips as inspired by Henri Cartier-Bresson ….

  1. Select a camera with a small sensor size to obtain greater depth of field. Best colour for a camera body and lens here is black as its better to not be noticed. Henri was known for masking his camera in black tape.
  2. Select manual exposure and select a small aperture like f/8 to increase what is in focus (increase depth of field).
  3. Select widest zoom again to increase depth of field and so that you capture everything
  4. Select manual focus and predetermine how far away your closest foreground subject will be and how far away your background subject will be. Set the focus to hyperfocal distance using a depth of field calculator. For my Canon G11 I set the focus to 7 Metres  (for f/8 and widest zoom)  which means I can get in focus anything from 4M to infinity.
  5. With camera set up like this you can shoot from the hip, no need to even look through the viewfinder, just point it and shoot it and hopefully people will not even notice you and therefore will not be affected by pointing the camera in their direction.
  6. Straighten the photo or crop the photo later using an image editing tool such as photoshop. Consider rending a street scene in Black and White. Even Henri preferred black and white as colour can be a distraction from the abstract street scene storyline, texture, contrast and tones.

Tech Stuff
Canon G11
1/5 sec – Very slow shutter to render any moving people blurred
ISO 800 – used because its low light situation 15 mins after sunset
Manual exposure
Manual focus at 7m (hyperfocal distance)
Tripod used – not normal with street photography but necessary here after sunset to render the scene sharp while people are blurred
Afterwards changed image to B&W, Toned and added more grain

Street Scene at Station

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Camberos Great article. HCB is one of my heroes too

vimax very natural paul and just the way i like it

SteveG you just gained a new reader

TC Photos I could read your blogs for hours. great job!!! :)

Demetrius Barnette Hey! I just wanted to say you have a nice site :-). Me and my friends follow it we kinda like it. Cheers!

Dan hello

I will be celebrating my birthday on October 08th 2011, So I want your service on my birthday party photographer, i would like to know if you are available for the date.

Dan lawson


Paul Copsey Hi Dan, thanks very much and I have just sent you an email. Kind Regards Paul

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