San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography In Classic Chrome – Part Two

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Note:  Part one of this series can be viewed HERE.

I’ve had some random thoughts about photography on my mind for a while now, but they never really came together in my head in a way that allowed me to write about them until today.  The truth is that it was the responses to my latest blog post, part one of new street work from San Francisco’s Chinatown, that made things click in my mind.  I’d like to write about them quickly before I share this photo essay if that’s ok…

Photography is often a solo endeavour for me.  Most of the time, actually.  I usually travel by myself to build my travel portfolio and generate new work for my upcoming book series.  I shoot street photography by myself because I am always moving through the city, watching and reacting.  I write on my own, though my brilliant wife serves as editor in chief.  I don’t work with assistants on weddings or portrait sessions.  Barring the workshops I lead or the presentations I conduct, I am almost always on my own when it comes to photography.

Having said that, the photography world is also full of communities, and I don’t think I’ve ever been part of communities I enjoy more than those surrounding the Fuji X series and the genre of street photography.  This really hit home for me when I published part one of this series on this site, and shared some of the thoughts and images on my Instagram and Twitter feeds.  This series is no different than any of my other work, but over the last week I have had amazing discussions with people from all over the world about the Fuji X series, techniques for shooting street photography, questions about San Francisco, requests for workshops, etc.  These conversations seem to happen on a regular basis now and I couldn’t be more thankful for them.  I am proud to represent Fujifilm as an Official Fuji X Photographer and to participate in the opportunities that this role provides me.  I love that I have the opportunity to interact with artists that I have an amazing amount of respect for.  As a long time educator, I enjoy having conversations with new photographers too, whose passion and excitement is infectious at times.  It is all good.

I am launching a new series of workshops in 2017 that will be expanding to various cities around the world, and I cannot wait to actually meet many of the people, face to face, that I have become friends with through social media, our online Skype mentoring sessions, and other avenues.   Exciting times ahead for sure.

Until then though, here is another series of new street work from San Francisco’s Chinatown.  As with the first series, all of the photos below were shot with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a 35mm f/2 lens.  All images are in Fuji’s Classic Chrome film simulation, which works perfectly with the gorgeous light and shadow I had during this trip.

Finally, please keep up the conversations via email, comments here, on Twitter or on Instagram.  Interacting with other artists is such a great thing.  And now, let’s look at some photos!

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I have more from this recent trip to San Francisco to share soon, but next up I’d like to share some stories from my most recent trip to Amsterdam.

Until then,

Ian

San Francisco Chinatown Street Photography in Classic Chrome – Part One

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Every now and then we need to take a time out from our day to day lives.  We need to re-charge, feed our soul, and do whatever it is that makes us happy.  For me, this means getting on a plane and going to San Francisco, a city I photograph often and feel at home in.

I absolutely love San Francisco.  I love staying in the same hotel every time I go.  I love the people.  I love waking up to the sounds of the cable cars in the morning.  I love the food.  I love walking along the ocean, even though I live on the same ocean here in Vancouver.  And, above all, I love shooting street photography in San Francisco’s Chinatown.  Unlike many cities that have small cultural communities, the Chinatown in San Francisco is the largest one in North America and the largest  Chinese community outside of Asia.  It has a vibe and a culture, especially once you get off the well travelled tourist streets.   It is a fabulous location for shooting street photography.

I travelled extremely light this trip, taking just the Fuji X-Pro2 with the 35mm f/2 lens on it.  I added a 16mm wide angle lens in one pocket of my jacket, a few extra memory cards and batteries in another, and I was good to go.

I think it is fair to say that most of my street photography is processed in black and white.  Street photography for me is about capturing the moment, the gesture, and the feel of the scene.  I am almost always of the mindset that if colour doesn’t add anything to a street photograph that it is best viewed in black and white.

This trip was different, however, because the light was amazing the entire week I was there.  At mid day the light was hard and bright and there were brilliant shadows cutting through the streets.  Earlier and later in the day the light was soft and beautiful.  The colours in San Francisco’s Chinatown are vibrant, but they were especially beautiful when combined with the light I had this week so I decided to shoot the entire set in Fujifilm’s Classic Chrome film simulation.

I also decided to spend time this trip working on getting closer to my subjects.  Every photograph in this blog post (except for the one in the intersection above) was shot from less than 10 feet away from my subject, and most were shot within 5 feet.   Most were captured using manual zone focusing which allowed me to move quickly through the city streets and react to a scene instantly.  With a light gear pack, manual zone focusing, and brilliant light it was easy to spend hours at a time just walking, observing, and occasionally shooting.   The week flew by, and I came home with a set of images I truly enjoyed making.  More importantly, I am re-charged and ready to tackle a busy holiday season.

This post and the photographs below are the first of two posts featuring new street work from this trip.  I hope you like the images as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Part two of this series can be viewed HERE.

Cheers,

Ian

New York Street Photography

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My favourite definition of street photography (and there are many) is:

“Capturing the human element in the urban landscape”

By that definition, there are few places better to shoot street photography than New York City.  Millions of people, from all walks of life, can be found on the streets of this small island every day.   It is the place where famous street photographers like Bruce Gilden, Joel Meyerowitz, Mary Ellen Mark and many others created some of their most famous photographs.  It is alive 24 hours per day and the photographic opportunities are endless.   Simply put, you cannot go to New York City and not shoot on the streets!  During my most recent trip I was out at every opportunity:  early morning, in the evening, and mid day between family travels.

This post is part three of a five part series featuring photography from New York City:

All images in this post were taken with the Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a 35mm f/2 lens, and can be clicked to view large.  With that said, let’s look at life on the streets of New York City!

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I have always loved iconic transportation systems.  I love the cable cars in San Francisco, the Metro in Paris, and above all the subway system in New York.  It is a living, breathing part of the city that moves over 5 million people per day.

The photo above was taken while I was waiting to catch a train.  I love the framing lines, the backlight, and the lone person standing on the platform.  Here are a few more taken from the subway platforms:

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It is also interesting to watch life on the trains.  During busy times you are packed in, literally shoulder to shoulder, with other people.  Somehow though everyone manages to remain completely in their own world:

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The only downfall to taking the subway as a street photographer is that you don’t get to observe people on the streets of the city.  As awesome as shooting on the subway is, to really experience New York you need to be out on foot.  New York is a city of diverse communities all thrown together and each has it’s own flavour.  I only managed to spend a few hours in Chinatown this trip, but I love the feel of its streets:

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SoHo, which stands for “South of Houston Street”, is a community in lower Manhattan that is well known for its art galleries, shopping, and upscale dining.   Here are a few images from that area:

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Midtown New York, home to famous landmarks like The Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, offers the street photographer a mix of demographics to photograph:

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And, finally for this blog post, there is Times Square and the Theater District.

Shooting street in Times Square can be more challenging than one would think:   It is very busy and packed full of people.   This makes it easy to find subjects, but also much harder to nail your composition.  If you are the type of candid street photographer who likes to find a great background, set your stage, and wait for the right person to walk through you will need to re-think your game a little bit here.  Wide lenses and putting yourself right in the centre of the action are the way to go in Times Square.  Just immerse yourself.  Shoot close and take it all in:

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People who haven’t seen Times Square at night may look at this next photo and think “hey, that girl is naked in Times Square”!  The truth is the you can find all types of crazy and awesome people in Times Square.  What I really loved about this scene was the Body Worlds poster pointing at the naked girl.  That is something you don’t see everyday!

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This final photo was taken very late at night in Times Square (or, more likely, very early morning).  New York doesn’t stop… it just keeps going!

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If you plan on shooting street in New York here are a few recommendations:

  1. Leave almost all of your gear at home.  You need one camera body and one lens.  You are going to be shooting very close to your subjects, so if possible use a mirrorless camera that can be silenced and bring a wide lens (23mm to 35mm is perfect).  Stick an extra battery and card in your pocket and call it done.
  2. Wear a comfortable pair of shoes.  New York is a city that needs to be walked to experience it properly.  You aren’t going to make many great street photos from the back seat of a cab!
  3. Give yourself time.  I cannot stress this enough, because there is something new around every corner.  Get lost in the city.  Wander.  Explore.  Get off the beaten tourist streets.  When you find a great spot hang out and enjoy it.  Watch life go by, and shoot what catches your eye.
  4. Finally, don’t forget to interact with the people.  New Yorkers are some of the nicest people you are going to meet.  Approaching and talking to strangers can be a bit of an art form, but when you make that connection with someone new it is a great thing.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at the streets of New York.  In part four of this series we are going to take a look at a photo essay from The National September 11th Memorial and Museum.

Cheers,

Ian