Archive for the ‘street photography’ Category

Hey, street photographers.  I have a new series for you.  So get outside and get shooting!  But first, take a look at my videos–new episode every Saturday.  You are encouraged to participate, too!

YouTube – Kenneth Wajda’s Street Photography Channel

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I am both a Nikon and Leica shooter.  I shoot film and digital with both brands and the other day I sat down at my Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter–that’s where I do my best thinking on paper–and I wrote out what each camera type is good for.

For shooting street photography, Leica may be classic, but my Nikon with a 20mm, auto-focus and aperture priority beats it every time.

Every. Single. Time.

Because there’s no fuss, I have the Nikons–F100 for film, D610 for digital–set for back-button focus and -0.7 dialed for exposure compensation on the digital, so I make sure I don’t blow any highlights, or +0.7 set for film, to make sure I get a dense negative, and I can shoot out my car window and guarantee a shot.

I can’t do that with my Leicas.  I’m using an M9 for digital, which does have aperture-priority, and an M2 for film. They need attention, finessing.  It’s great for contemplative work.  But not for lightning quick.  At least not for me.

Yes, I use hyperfocal/zone focusing with the Leicas.

These three photographs were all made out my car window with the Nikon as I was passing these scenes at some rate of speed.  I can’t get these with the Leica.

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Businessmen waiting on a corner in Rochester NY.

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A vintage car driving at dusk on I-70W.

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The real people of Las Vegas on a street corner just off the strip on a Sunday morning.

The first two were shot with a 20mm f2.8, the first AF 20mm Nikon made.   The last with a 50mm f1.2 AIS manual focus lens.  They show what I saw, real life, captured in split second.

Even this one, while I was attending an Italian festival in Denver, I stopped to talk to another photographer after I noticed his Sony camera and some behemoth of a lens.  But while I was talking to him, the sausage man appeared and with the Nikon and 20mm, I could turn, focus and shoot in one fluid motion, nail the shot, then it was back to my conversation.

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A man carries his sausage, his winnings, at an Italian festival in Denver.

At the end of the day, story comes first, and it’s all about the photo.  I do love the way the Leica looks and feels, and its small size, it’s just not a street shooter for me.  That’s the conclusion I came to when I was typing out my thoughts.

As a further test, I went out to downtown Denver this past weekend to shoot street photographs with another photographer.  The shoot went so well, I came back with several photos that I’ve included in my updated street photography gallery, ColoradoFaces.com.   Photos #4-13 all came from that Saturday afternoon, all shot with the Nikon and the 20mm.

So enthralled with the results, I went back down the next day with the Leica M9 and M2 and a 21mm Elmarit.  I thought, wow, if I could do that with a Leica and a 21mm, it’s so small and light, it would make a great kit for daily use.  Guess I hadn’t used the M9 recently enough, as I ended up putting battery after battery in it, four in total, and they all quit within a few shots.  I still had the film Leica, so I could keep shooting, but I certainly shoot more conservatively with film.

I wished I had brought the Nikon.

By the way, my Nikon has five bars on its battery readout, and it can be down to two bars, and I can still get a whole afternoon of shooting with it.  Nikon batteries rock for lasting and not petering out.

So, what’s my point.  For me, it’s Nikon film and digital for shooting documentary photographs, they’re quicker and I feel more confident I’ll get the shot with them.  And I do.

Leica is a great camera for portraits and documentary coverage where you’re going to be working the scene.  The build quality is incredible, as you know.  I love documenting my friends with it.  Posing them and creating photographs.  And it’s a treat to use.

But just like a Rolleiflex and a Hasselblad are both portrait cameras in my hands, a Leica is a special camera for portraits or a day of deliberate shooting.  Not grabbing life on the street.

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A portrait with the Leica, HP5, a beautiful negative and the magic of film.

When it’s speed I need, I go with the Nikon with the 20mm.  Or the 50mm.   The viewer feels like they’re in the shot.

And I get it every time.   That’s my story.   And story is king.

I really believe people at all levels should share everything they know with everyone.  Nothing is to be kept secret–there are no secrets when it comes to knowledge.  Teach everyone everything.  When we share what we know, we empower others while maintaining our place as a fearless professional.

And you have to be fearless to take on the photography profession these days.  But for the people who do it for love, even better, and I share with them all I can.

Last week I taught a day-long Street Photography workshop.  Wow, was that amazingly fun.  My student was in Colorado for a conference, visiting from Tampa, Florida.

She said she had photographed street but she wasn’t comfortable photographing people and capturing their faces.  Well, that changed on that day–maybe it was the class setting, but she did great and took on the subject head on, literally.  She was shooting a Nikon with a 50mm.   And I was shooting a Nikon with a 20mm.

There were some things that one lens worked better at than the other.  That’s just the way it goes when you have no focal length zoom and have to work with what you have.  There were some subjects that we both photographed, and hers worked out better and vice versa.

But overall, I was so pleased to spend the day pounding the pavement, seeing what we could find and finding plenty of subjects.

The first time I taught photography, I was 18 and was teaching at a night school for a high school program for adults.  When I walked in, the students looked at me like, “What’s he doing up there?”  Then they found out I was the teacher.

I remember back then thinking I hope I have enough material to fill each class, and we ended up not having enough time to finish, what with questions from the students filling in time.

This workshop went well, too.  We met at a coffeeshop to look at some of my street photos, talk about approaches and our backgrounds, then went out and worked up and down the 16th Street Mall in Denver.  We took a lunch break at Union Station where we input our photos into our laptops to see which ones were immediate possible selects.  Then we worked the afternoon and finished up at another coffeeshop where we input the rest of our shoot and discussed the day.

She was well on her way to many great storytelling photos in her future–she has a good eye and sense for finding her subject.  And had some winners from the day’s shoot.  I was very impressed.

I look forward to teaching more.  There’s something about watching another photographer light up, excited about photographs.  I know that feeling well, myself.

Any day photographing is a good day.

Here are some of my selects from the day.

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I’m a journalist with a camera.  Or a storyteller with a camera.  I’ve come to realize photojournalism defines me.  My photography.  My approach to seeing the world.

I was listening to a podcast with a street photographer and she said she documents what makes her think of her childhood.  Another photographer said they are drawn to light and shadow.  Not me–I’m a story guy.  I want to capture the story of people wherever I find them.

I am the founder of the RoyStryker.com documentary photo project, and it’s all about capturing human stories in the U.S.  Because that’s who we are and that’ s what I see and seek out.

Interesting light is nice, but without a story leaves me feeling nothing.  Creamy bokeh and amazing technique are both worthless to me without content.  Because story is what I need, what I think most of us seek in a photograph.

Other street photographers look to juxtapose interesting elements–an advertisement and a person, a color pattern, or something that makes for a geometric image.  They’ll wait until the elements line up perfectly to get their shot.  Those are fun to look at, but I need story, too.  Otherwise, those are just people plucked and placed into the composition, but they may have no connection to it other than the photographer’s sense of humor.

I can’t stay put that long, a story may be around the next corner.

I’m teaching a street photography workshop this week, and the only thing I can possibly teach is to see people and look for stories.  Because that’s all I see, so it’s all I can help others see.  Like a photojournalist, find the story and document it with images.  Tell the story.

Two people walking with inner tubes is not that interesting, but the chivalry of this guy is what makes this photo a keeper. If you have to get your tube to the river, get a guy like this!  It’s serendipity that I would see them the moment they were crossing the river.  And that there’s another tuber in the river below.

Story.  It’s who we are.  It’s what we were.  It’s even in the word HiSTORY.

There’s no telling where it will appear next.  We just have to go out and look for it.  Wear comfortable shoes!

I wanted to gather all U.S. photographers who shoot street photographs, to collect their information into one place.  So, I have at StreetPhotoDB.com.


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It’s divided up by state, so add your work with the submit button in the menu.  And check out the other photographers.  It’s brand new, so not a lot on there yet, but we’re building.  With your help…

I’ve added my site and a photo on the Colorado page.  And I added John Free from California, who I know is a street photographer there.

No telling what this will become, but you have to start somewhere and work to build great new things.  Here’s to great light.  Happy shooting!

Not only do I enjoy walking this antique flea market when I visit my folks in PA, but I love photographing some of the people and getting into conversations about photography because of my Leica IIIf that I’m shooting with.

I carry that camera everywhere I go, because it’s small enough to fit in my front jeans pocket with the lens collapsed into the body.  (I take the case off.)
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And these are the wonderful photos it makes.  The camera is from the 1950s.  The lens from the 1930s! (Click the photograph to enlarge it.)

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I am a working commercial photographer, who shoots in both film and digital.  Often, digital is required because the client needs the images in a very short turnaround.  And they need a great quantity of images.  Digital is good for that.

But I’ve come to the conclusion that PROJECTS are not going to get you anywhere but closer to paying this month’s bills.  To make a name for yourself, to get successful, you need PRODUCT.

The difference, I see, is like this.  A book is a product.  It can sell for years to come.  A gallery show is a product–it’s an event featuring you and your work.  A film, a record, a book, a short story, these are all products, and you can create a career with them.

But photographing a freelance job that gets images for one purpose, even if you can shoot ten of them a week, is still a project.  The project ends, and there is no lasting value, except perhaps to photograph it another time.  Many clients in this business end up being one and outs.  Those shoots pay the bills, and that’s all they do.

Products aren’t about creating for someone else’s needs.  Products are the result of creating for your own needs.  Putting your name on the cover and calling it your love.  And risking they may not buy it, like it.  They may even call it worthless and ridicule you.  But if it’s your vision, that’s what is valuable.  Your willingness to say something.  That’s the basis of product.

So, my focus is on my products, not projects.  It’s how I can go farther in my career and create lasting value in my work.  It’s how I can create legacy–my products are all that will be remembered.  Names are forgotten.  People disappear.  But we know the work.

That work is the product.  And that is what we must work for.

I AM LYONS COLORADO is a book I published in 2013.  It’s a product.  It exists in people’s homes and in the local library.

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