Shooting the street, sports, kids, etc.: Is photography a knee-jerk activity? a "conditioned response"?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by landrum_kelly, Jul 25, 2016.

  1. Things happen fast in many situations, especially with kids playing or on the street--or at least they can. Does it follow thereby that street photography, for example, is an automatic or knee-jerk activity? Is it a stimulus-response kind of activity, totally devoid of intellectual content?
    When we shoot, that is, is it as if our photography were simply a "conditioned response," akin to salivating over the sight of our meal being put before us? ("Ooh! I see it! [click] I just shot it. Couldn't help myself.")
    I doubt this. Yes, I can respond quickly to the situation and snap the photograph almost instantly. I probably have done that some time or another, perhaps a lot. I do not do setup shots very much, it is true. Even so, I doubt that anything like "the thoughtless, instant shot" is too common as my modus operandi. Yet, somewhere between "setting up" with careful planning, on the one hand, and simply shooting more or less automatically, on the other (as if shooting were a reflex), there appears to be quite a range of deliberate intellectual activity. Photography, that is, would seem to be an activity which is full of intellectual content, much of which was already in my head when I picked up the camera and went out the door, whether I knew at that moment what I would see or shoot. Much more can be there during the process of shooting, I believe.
    Even in the "trip-wire" situation of the most demanding street photography, there is at least the intellectual decision to walk down this or that street (as opposed to another). There is also the decision to look here rather than there, to look for something interesting or "new" or surprising, something beautiful or maybe scintillating, even titillaing--maybe all together, if I should be so lucky. There is always the conscious evaluation of the light--always the light, the light, the light! And up there! What is that? Is it not the sky? Shall I try to get it in the next frame that I shoot? There is the decision (conscious or not) to keep watching to see if a "situation" develops that is worth photographing. Shall I shoot at ground level, waist level, or with camera high over head? Shall I shoot with a wide aperture to get a shallow depth of field? Perhaps I actually need a small aperture so that both foreground and background might be in focus. Beyond the intellectual activity of making decisions about camera settings in general (which decisions do not go away simply because I am shooting the street), there are, I believe, numerous intellectual dimensions to shooting even in the most demanding of circumstances, when there really is not a lot of time--sometimes seemingly no time at all!
    I myself do not consciously think a lot about what I am doing in all this shooting (whether on the street or not), but it is clear that I am thinking. I have read about how quickly Cartier-Bresson or Eggleston pulled the camera to the eye and "snapped," but the mere fact that what happens in the framing (composition) process can be incredibly fast, there is yet thought, or at least I think that there is thought there, even in something as fundamental as framing, composition. Perhaps especially there. . . Yet, I have denied that in the past, when talking about framing, composition.
    Thought. . . What a novel concept! There is seeing (perceiving) and there is. . . thought.
    I wonder precisely how the two are related: seeing and thinking (during the process of taking a photo, that is).
    I have spoken at times of how non-intellectual an activity photography is or can be, especially at the moment of composition. Do I contradict myself? Well, then, I contradict myself. Or perhaps I have been misunderstood. No, mea culpa, mea culpa, mea muchísima culpa. Or perhaps I thoughtlessly pronounced upon how little I think. Either way, the question stands pretty much as I stated it at the outset. Please let me have your thoughts.
    Better yet, tell me (and others) how YOU shoot, especially in "time-challenged" situations--street, children, sports, etc.
  2. "Does it follow thereby that street photography, for example, is an automatic or knee-jerk activity? Is it a stimulus-response kind of activity, totally devoid of intellectual content?"

    No not really at least not for me. Street photography is akin to Candid photography but instead of being asked formally to take candid shots of some event, the photographer decides what shots he wants to take, sometimes of people they may not even know.

    There are no props, there is no posing, there are no fancy lights, you have to use what is available. You really can't direct people, or subjects so you have to wait until the moment is right before hitting the shutter. A street shot can say a lot if done properly. Some you can say speak 1000 words .

    Unfortunately some people/photographers go out with their cameras and take the first thing that happens to pass in front of them. Not knowing why they took the shot in the first place they call it "Street Photograph"...
  3. I think you think an awful lot about thinking on how to shoot.

    It depends on the situation, and also they are not so black and white. Often I don't talk to people, not a word. When it's called for, I shoot a couple frames and strike up a lengthy conversation, and shoot some more if the situation is good. Other times, I say one or couple lines, and thanks her/him/them. Still other times, I just nod and smile. Other more complex situations call for hand communication, like when shooting abroad, not knowing the language (when a nod, smile isn't enough). It sounds difficult, but it's all very fluid, feeling the vibe of the subjects, the mood, demeanors etc...
    And what you shoot with matters, but just a little. I used to shoot with Leica M's (and other manual cams). They are somewhat slower working (which isn't necessarily bad). Now, my cameras autofocus, meter and shoot like 4 or 5fps. But the gist of it all is still --the interaction between you and the subject(s)--.
    And what's with the all caps?
  4. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Oh, Mr. Pavlov! The camera is a tool of art or craft -- I pick it up when an interesting subject appears unexpectedly, and that will frequently be an "opportunity" camera, GXR or Film. When I have a planned project, Nikons and various lenses. Taking the actual exposure(s) is based on the nature and degree of interest the opportunity generates, or in the case of a project, role in the completed work.
    I absolutely disagree with Leslie -- when carried preset for light and at hyperfocal, nothing is faster than a film Leica or Nikon. Simply raise and snap the shutter, faster than the quickest autofocus, no delay at all.
  5. This question, like the "is photography hard or easy" from the other day, has no real answer-- it's different for every photographer, and within that, in street especially, each photographic situation can be different.
    Street portraits, candid street portraits, funny or poignant moments caught, found objects, cityscapes, ironic juxtapositions-- all street photography. Some use people skills, some don't; some pose people, some never do; some; some raise the camera, others shoot from the hip; some lay in wait, others just shoot.
  6. For me it's not that big of a deal. I just have my FM2 with me a fair amount of the time and if I see something I would like to have a photo of I just take the picture. I have been at it for many years so light, composition, exposure are secondary and I move right along with it. Mostly family oriented photography.
  7. >>>when carried preset for light and at hyperfocal, nothing is faster than a film Leica or Nikon.<<<

    How does one preset for light at night, guy? Are you saying you hyper focus f16/11/8 every time, even 10 at night? And you never selective focus with a summilux, or even a 'cron, what...don't like leica glass bokeh? Gimme a break, the reality is either my d700, epl5, and sony rx100 can beat a manual M 80-90% of the time. I shot leica M for almost a decade, and they are great cameras. But speed isn't their forte. Shutter lag is super fast, but that's it...metering, focusing, shot to shot time is slow. Reflex are slow...for single shots, my compacts out quick all mirror cameras, dare I say.

    Well, perhaps you only shoot in bright light, and never selective focus...
  8. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Leslie -- the OP "Street, Sports, Kids. You can pick whatever exceptions that you care to name to try and prove your point. I have used film Leica since '60, Nikon since '67 or '68. More recently Nikon DF and D750, plus Ricoh GXR. I still set my digitals in a similar manner in the city for street or for wildlife n the country. No way to prove which is faster. You believe what you care to, and operate as you choose, as will I.
  9. >>>No way to prove which is faster. <<<
    Obviously, you have never been to shutter lag measurement sites.
  10. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Possibly my reflexes are fast enough that it has never been a problem? Or possibly it is a level of detail that I find useless? ;-)
  11. I just shoot B/W film. The FM2n works great and I have no issues with manual focus or adjusting exposure. I am not saying I am faster or slower then some other method. It makes no difference to me as what counts is if I get the shot I want.
  12. >>>You can pick whatever exceptions that you care to name to try and prove your point.<<<
    Sandy, it is you with the exception, specifically with hyper focusing and preset metering. FWIW data from IR site.
    Nikon d750: AF single focus 0.206 || AF multi 51points 0.228 || MF 0.055 || Prefocused 0.054
    NIkon DF: AF single focus 0.274 || AF multi 39points 0.493 || MF 0.079 || Prefocused 0.054
    Pana LX100: AF single focus 0.177 || AF multi 49points 0.211 || MF 0.054 || Prefocused 0.019
    Sony RX100 I: AF single wide 0.153 || AF single tele 0.266 || MF 0.032 || Prefocused 0.013
    Olympus EPL5: AF single focus 0.221 || AF multi area 0.255 || MF 0.100 || Prefocused 0.064

    Again, it's not the camera that matter most, but the interaction between you with the subject(s)
  13. Shutter lag seems to be low or manageable in high end mirrorless cameras and most DSLRs. Of more concern is the wake-up time from hibernation or power off. There is no noticeable lag in my Nikon D3, but the Sony A7Rii is a second or two. The work-around is to turn the camera on, or half-press the shutter as you bring it to your eye.
    I recall using an early Kodak digital camera at my son's college graduation. I found if I pressed the shutter just as someone took the first step from the line, the camera would snap just as he reached for the diploma, a distance of about 20 feet. The Sony's lag is less than 20 msec, comparable to a Leica M3.
  14. I shoot with a phone camera. It works fine.
  15. It probably is after awhile. Whenever I don't have a camera and I'm going about my day to day routine, I'm still in that state of mind of looking, watching, seeing. In my mind I've "taken" many many pictures of what I would have had I had a camera with me.
  16. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Leslie -- Long ago a famous TV Cowboy challenged a famous Cowboy movie actor to a fast draw contest, claiming to be faster. The movie actor was a highly decorated hero from WWII, with a sense of humor as well as other proven capabilities. He agreed to the contest as long as they used real bullets. Obviously, it never came to pass.
    It is all about the photos -- real outcomes. The odds of your numbers making a shred of difference in outcomes, mine or yours, are miniscule. Sorry! Obviously we have different interests.
  17. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I just point and shoot. Who cares how someone else shoots? It's their choice.
  18. >>>I absolutely disagree with Leslie -- when carried preset for light and at hyperfocal, nothing is faster than a film Leica or Nikon. Simply raise and snap the shutter, faster than the quickest autofocus, no delay at all.<<<
    That was your statement, Sandy, no? You brought it (speed) up first...I could careless how you shoot, but your statement is false...the M9 has a 0.125 lag and shoots an amazing 1.7 (rounded up) fps second! Quick for a what, a $8k camera? I got no idea how much a Nikon DF cost, never mind how much a leica these days...
    And I don't even have to raise my sony or olympus to my eyes to shoot and they cost much less:)
  19. Carry on, didn't mean to stop Lannie's inquiry...

    If I were to shoot action sports (where I can't be in the way), I would bring a dslr with a traditional OVF, along with a 70-200mm...pretty standard gear. Probably machine gun more and hope for the best.

    If it were just kids playing on the street, I'd use my regular gears (non dslr stuff). And semi get into action, using my go to FL 24-50mm equivalent. Always be aware of the surrounding, be level headed...
  20. I shoot a few thousand swim meet pictures a year in venues big, like Harvard and smaller. I go along with Jeff Spirer
    about pointing and shooting. When I shoot fly or breaststroke, being a swimmer myself, I move up and down with the
    swimmer to anticipate when the head comes out of the water so as to predict the apogee of swimmer's rise and
    anticipate it. When I do 10fps on starts I point the camera where I think the swimmer will be when leaving the block
    and then hold the shutter down for four or five shots hoping i have kept the subject in the frame. Sometimes I do and
    sometimes I don't. One has to keep the shutter speed up to avoid blur. The pictures I take while a swimmer
    is.underwater don't come out well. I like to shoot tight to catch agony and I love to have lots of flying spray, in focus, in
    my images. Back to Jeff's point. I do this unconsciously while doing it. I had to think about it in order to write about it.
    This is just my own version of esoteric BS. I really don't know what the hell I am doing most of the time let alone
    analyze tt/
  21. I kinda agree with Jeff. Street? Sports? there's always an element of perceive and react, but basically, something registers and I point and shoot. I suppose analysis of it in the abstract is fine after the fact, but if you are in a reaction mode, such thoughts just get in the way. When I'm doing that type of street photography I'm a taoist, you know, "in with the whirl out with the swirl".
  22. Thinking of this thread, thinking how shooting on the street can be similar to sports or reportage. [​IMG]

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