Saturday, 22 August 2015

Learning From the Masters: Eric Kim

Photo by Eric Kim 

It's been a while since I posted an article on something not related to my own work, so it's about time I do that again. Recently I attended a lecture by Eric Kim at Eyeem's Berlin HQ, which is just around the corner from where I live. I didn't know Eric before reading  the announcement of the lecture, although plenty of others do, since he is a young man who is making a living out of delivering lectures and workshops on street photography. On his web site he gives all of his ebooks and lectures away for free, and it's definitely worth a visit.

Earlier, I posted a lengthy article on how returning to digital photography has left me a bit at a loss regarding the direction I want to take. Street photography, which I had been doing on and off since the 1990s, was high on my list, but I knew that with digital cameras, I had to approach it differently from the way I used the Holga cameras. Hence my decision to attend Eric's lecture, which was entitled '7 Lessons from the Masters of Street Photography' and which can be viewed/downloaded here. It was thankfully light on technical stuff, but what little technical advice he gave was excellent and I started applying it the next day: basically, set the camera in P mode, put a high ISO (up to 6400) so that the camera uses fast shutter speeds, and there you go (or as an alternative, use a slow aperture setting to again force fast shutter speeds). Excellent advice as you needn't worry about camera settings when you're out shooting, and a voice of reason in a field where the general advice seems to be 'real photographers do it all manual.'

Eric also weighed in whether it was preferable to shoot candidly or with the subject's permission - he does both and has made some very good experiences in getting his subjects' cooperation for the shooting. I had earlier written about how frustrating it is in Germany to photograph people as they are very reluctant to have their picture taken. But on my recent visit to Marseille, France, I decided to try and approach people to let me take their photo. So I chatted with people and then asked if I could take their picture. It didn't always work out but in half the cases it did. Since being back in Berlin, I've tried the same. More people turn me away here, but certain folks are happy to have their picture taken - but that's the stuff for another article...

Back to Eric then. One of the things he also preaches is to keep things simple. That includes your camera gear. He advocates using one camera and one lens.  Again, very good advice as I was considering taking three cameras with me to Marseille (a Fuji, a Leica and a Holga), and based on Eric's advice, I only took the Fuji. The decision saved me from backaches (lugging that gear around in a backpack) and from headaches (pondering which camera to use for which situation).

As I said, Eric is full of very good advice, different from what you get from other photographers, and all his output is available for free, so there is no reason not to go and  read up on his stuff.

Eric's links:

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Tango In the Night: Street Photography from Marseille

I recently came back from a six day visit to Marseille, in the South of France. Before going there, I did not really know what to expect. Films and books tend to paint a negative image of the city, and whenever the praises of the French Mediterranean are sung, Marseille is seldom mentioned. I basically only knew that it was old (the Greeks and the Romans had been there) and the second largest city in France. And that it was considered to lie "just outside of Africa."

I found the city charming, with plenty to see and do, and with nice places to hang out. It's a very cosmopolitan city, owing much of its charm and character to the many inhabitants that stem from North Africa. 

I took a fairly large number of photos, most of them of people. I found most
folks easygoing - I was seldom rebuked for taking pictures of people, in fact, often enough people would volunteer to have their photo taken. One lady, on noticing that I was going to photograph her, laughed and said "Ain't I beautiful?", before posing for the camera. A young man (depicted here on the right) first thought I was a policeman, but then we chatted for a while and he let me take this photo.

One of my favourite hang-outs was around the old Fort Jean, at the mouth of the Old Port, and the adjacent (stunning) MUCEM museum complex. Here, locals like to hang out, to swim, sunbathe, fish or snorkel; while the youngsters made a sport of jumping off the fortress' ramparts into the sea. So it's not by accident that I shot many photos around that place.

I took other photos of Marseille as well, not just people photographs, but at this point I don't yet know if I will put them up. Meanwhile, though, here is the set entitled "Tango In the Night and Other Tales of Marseille". Enjoy.

Monday, 10 August 2015

The Singer On the Couch....

I recently uploaded the second part of the street photography project I have been pursuing this summer (read the blog entry here). After the initial set of colour images, I now put uploaded a collection of photos in black and white which I entitled 'The Singer On the Couch and Other Berlin Tales'.

On any given day, I decide before heading out whether I will shoot in colour or
in black & white. I seldom mix and match during an outing, the reason being that I find it takes a certain mindset for either option (the same for choosing between shooting in analog or digital). While in winter I generally use black and white, in summer I like to vary. I love shooting in colour, but shooting in black and white in sunny weather has its own rewards as you get to play with light and shadows and stark contrasts. Some of the images in the set hark back to last winter, but the majority was shot this summer. They reflect the joys of summer, the feeling of being alive that people exude during this all too brief season in our part of the world. Sometimes the scenes are serene, sometimes playful, sometimes even silly; but always joyful - something which I find black and white photos are able to bring better to the forefront than colour photographs do, possibly because colours tend to distract or infuse emotions of their own.

Again, I tried to select photos that go beyond being more snapshots, taking into account factors like framing, grouping, use of light and darkness, but also context, which for me is as important as the subject being photographed. 

I used three cameras for this project, the inobtrusive and reliable Fujifilm X30, thr more flexible Fujifilm X-T10 with a zoom lens as well as 27mm and 35mm lens, the latter having become my favourite lens. I also used the Leica X2 for a few shots, but mainly I keep that camera for the colour sessions. 

The Singer on the Couch and Other Tales of Berlin (Black and White Street Photography)