The walk-on part

One way to have some­thing hap­pen is to choose a frame that’s just wait­ing for an un­wit­ting ac­tor to en­ter and com­plete the im­age

NPhoto - - Niko Pedia -

As sce­nar­ios for street pho­tog­ra­phy go, find­ing an in­ter­est­ing frame that’s just wait­ing for an ac­tor is one of the most com­mon. And it has as much to do with what goes on in the pho­tog­ra­pher’s mind as it does with what hap­pens in the real-life scene. Ac­tu­ally it prob­a­bly has more to do with your mind, be­cause it be­gins with imag­in­ing a com­pleted pic­ture from the point of see­ing some­thing that at­tracted your eye.

Typ­i­cally, there’s a par­tial scene with maybe one in­ter­est­ing or use­ful el­e­ment, and it ‘needs’ a passer-by to com­plete it. To a large ex­tent, street pho­tog­ra­phers have this sense of need­ing some­one of the right type to walk by, partly be­cause peo­ple do tend to walk by, and more so be­cause the essence of this kind of shoot­ing is life and ac­tion. That’s what hap­pens in city streets, and it’s rea­son­able to ex­pect that you might have that choice.

Nor is it con­fined to street pho­tog­ra­phy. If you broaden your range to any­thing that fo­cuses on a medium-to-large-scale scene, like a land­scape, there’s the ba­sic choice of whether or not you want to an­i­mate it. If you do, hav­ing a passer-by walk into the scene is of­ten the nat­u­ral so­lu­tion.

An­tic­i­pate the po­si­tion

In these roti stand and beach hut pho­tos, the con­tent of the set­ting was the ini­tial sub­ject. For the roti stall in Port Louis, Mau­ri­tius, I was hunt­ing for sur­viv­ing street tra­di­tions, so con­tent ruled the shot, and given the set­ting and the shade, a flat-on view looked to have the best of the lim­ited graphic pos­si­bil­i­ties. Here there was a con­stant flow of passers-by, and the prob­lem was how to separate them neatly. Hav­ing peo­ple mov­ing is more in­ter­est­ing than hav­ing them stand­ing still, so the key mo­ment here was when the two men had just walked past each other, and ev­ery­thing lined up. As the il­lus­tra­tions below show, a frac­tion of a sec­ond be­fore or after and it would have been messy. If you re­mem­ber last month’s cre­ative path, Make it Fit (Is­sue 67, page 78) there was a strong el­e­ment of po­si­tion­ing. One im­age can of­ten use more than one cre­ative path.

For the row of colour­ful, tra­di­tional beach cabins near Torquay, one pos­si­ble treat­ment would have been geo­met­ric, ar­chi­tec­tural with­out peo­ple. In fact, as most of the cabins were closed up, this would have been the eas­i­est type of shot. I tried this, but it didn’t seem to be a strong enough idea, so plan B was to in­clude some ac­tion. Step one was to find a work­able view­point, and be­cause al­most the only foot traf­fic was through a gap be­tween two

cabins to the beach, this di­ag­o­nal view looked the best. Step two was to an­tic­i­pate where ex­actly to out­line any pass­ing fig­ure, and as the il­lus­tra­tion shows, there were very nar­row win­dows of op­por­tu­nity. Hav­ing the fig­ure cross over any graphic line would have been clumsy, so catch­ing the girl in a white space was im­por­tant. This was the only suc­cess­ful shot in a quar­ter of an hour of wait­ing.

It’s as well not to get too car­ried away with be­ing clever in these shots, be­cause this is a widely prac­tised type of shoot­ing, and it’s nearly al­ways too ob­vi­ous if the pho­tog­ra­pher hangs around for his or her pre­ferred pass­ing fig­ure. This is a partly planned kind of im­age, even though it’s not ac­tu­ally set up, and be­cause of that, the stakes are raised. There’s noth­ing wrong with this kind of an­tic­i­pa­tion, but just do­ing it isn’t by it­self very spe­cial. It’s a mat­ter of do­ing it well. Walk-in shots, in other words, have to be quite a lot bet­ter than av­er­age to be worth shoot­ing.

A roti stall in down­town Port Louis, Mau­ri­tius, timed for the neat­est, most or­derly mo­ment. Too early and too late are also shown; just one mo­ment sees ev­ery­thing click into place.

PER­FECT TIM­ING

TOO EARLY

TOO LATE

A girl runs past a row of bright, old-fash­ioned beach cabins. Be­cause of the strong graphic struc­ture and colours, get­ting the fig­ure pre­cisely in a blank space was im­por­tant – a frac­tion too early would not have been as clean – and the two white spa­ces ar­rowed were the best po­si­tions.

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