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Old 01-31-2008, 12:56 AM   #1
Jamie Z OP
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Taking Photographs

I hope this is in the right spot...

Photography is my one artistic outlet. I like photography, and I think I'm fairly good at seeing things through the lens. I'll never pay my rent with my pictures, but I have enough of an eye to capture most images that I see in my mind. As someone commented in Ride Reports, I could make a book and buy a new set of tires.

Except....

I see many great photos in Ride Reports which I could never take, at least with my current mentality. Namely, close portraits of local people, and pictures in seemingly prohibited areas.

People are fantastic subjects. People are what make visiting new places so interesting. I'd love to be able to be free to shoot people how I see them, but I hold back... it's out of respect, or fear, or unfamiliarity, or something. Can some of you give some pointers as to how to best get great shots of strangers? Do you just pull out your camera and pull the trigger?

I think I'm always afraid of "scaring" people, or as often the case, as soon as you show the camera, they stop whatever it was that they were doing that was so interesting and pose for a picture. Ugh. How do you experienced guys capture such natural (looking) shots?

And for prohibited pictures... I've seen pictures here posted of armed military, police, border control, and other places I'd never dare to take out my camera. Is there a trick to getting a soldier to pose for you, or is it just a matter of asking? I'm afraid of drawing unwanted attention to myself if I pull my camera.

...a long time ago, in New Orleans, I was very nearly accosted by a police officer when I snapped a picture of him pursuing a thief. After the chase ended unsuccessfully, the officer returned to me, literally grabbed the collar of my shirt and threatened me with bodily harm, as though I'd insulted him by taking a picture. Fortunately, cooler heads showed up and separated him from me.

In another case, a good friend of mine went to take some night-time shots of the nearby power plant. A guard came out and threatened to call the police on him for photographing a sensitive area. My friend left, not wanting to cause a confrontation.

That's the sort of response I half expect whenever I want to photograph something which I perceive as prohibited.

So... what I'm asking is this. All of you who take such great shots, do you just ignore the privacy of others? Do you ask permission? Do you find that people generally don't say or do anything when you take their picture?

Jamie
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Old 01-31-2008, 07:39 AM   #2
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[QUOTE=Jamie Z]I hope this is in the right spot...

Photography is my one artistic outlet. I like photography, and I think I'm fairly good at seeing things through the lens. I'll never pay my rent with my pictures, but I have enough of an eye to capture most images that I see in my mind. As someone commented in Ride Reports, I could make a book and buy a new set of tires.





Don't quit your day job!!!





People are fantastic subjects. People are what make visiting new places so interesting. I'd love to be able to be free to shoot people how I see them, but I hold back... it's out of respect, or fear, or unfamiliarity, or something. Can some of you give some pointers as to how to best get great shots of strangers? Do you just pull out your camera and pull the trigger?

I think I'm always afraid of "scaring" people, or as often the case, as soon as you show the camera, they stop whatever it was that they were doing that was so interesting and pose for a picture. Ugh. How do you experienced guys capture such natural (looking) shots?






The best method I have found is to talk to the people. Ask them if they would not mind keep doing what they were doing before you interrupted them.







And for prohibited pictures... I've seen pictures here posted of armed military, police, border control, and other places I'd never dare to take out my camera. Is there a trick to getting a soldier to pose for you, or is it just a matter of asking?





In this sort of case, if you ask, you WILL be told, "NO."







I'm afraid of drawing unwanted attention to myself if I pull my camera.




You just pulled out a box that may or may not put out a bright flash. And you covered your face with it. Of course you will draw attention to yourself.

If you feel you are in sensitive area, do it quickly, very few people will be the wiser. Make sure your exposure is set before you start composing. Before you compose with the camera, compose the photo in your head. Then, take your photos.







...a long time ago, in New Orleans, I was very nearly accosted by a police officer when I snapped a picture of him pursuing a thief. After the chase ended unsuccessfully, the officer returned to me, literally grabbed the collar of my shirt and threatened me with bodily harm, as though I'd insulted him by taking a picture. Fortunately, cooler heads showed up and separated him from me.



The cop was having a bad day. You were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It happens. Some police forces are REALLY nasty about dealing with stuff like this. For others it is no big deal. The last thing you want is a bunch of pissed off cops. Hopefully the better, professional cops will prevail over the pissed off, unprofessional ones.

Be prepared to get a "wood shampoo" or a broken camera if you piss off the wrong guy.




In another case, a good friend of mine went to take some night-time shots of the nearby power plant. A guard came out and threatened to call the police on him for photographing a sensitive area. My friend left, not wanting to cause a confrontation.

That's the sort of response I half expect whenever I want to photograph something which I perceive as prohibited.




9/11 changed a lot of things, including what you can LEGALLY take photos of, as well as the what people/ cops THINK you can take pictures of. Military bases, AFAIK, are not legal subjects. Public transportation and utilities have long been gray issues. Other than that, it often depends on how much of a hassle you want to give and receive. Generally speaking though, if you are on public property, anything is fair game. If you step that one foot further onto private property, you are opening up a whole other area of rights and permissions.







do you just ignore the privacy of others?




There is no expectation of privacy in public areas.




Do you ask permission?


Rarely. You could be be told "no" if you ask.



Do you find that people generally don't say or do anything when you take their picture?


If they ask, just talk to them. Often, people are curious, they just want to know. Being a nice guy in these situations helps.


Finally, a small snapshot camera often gets better results in these matters than a large SLR.




HTH!
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Old 01-31-2008, 05:28 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jamie Z
...Do you just pull out your camera and pull the trigger? ...
pretty much YES.

Iím using a 400mm Image Stabilisation lens on my D-SLR, people donít even know Iím taking their picture.
It might not be the nicest way doing it but then again, Iím not selling the pictures to National Geographic eitherÖ

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Old 01-31-2008, 05:41 PM   #4
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Been on the road for 15 months now, many shots, I have to say that i don't photograph people that often, but I could not add anything besides what Riteris has taken the kind time to write...

Just today in Savannah I came up behind a street painter in the historical district... I was going to take a shot of her from behind with an older house in front, I asked... she could not even hear with her I POD... but then realizing what I was asking, she said "no"... I could have had a real nice shot...

One has to feel the moment! I experienced that specially at a Native Indian Pow Wow...

Be well... Ara & Spirit



I did not ask him!!!
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Old 01-31-2008, 06:01 PM   #5
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BeemerChef, wish you had taken the shot, your stuff is great. In public places there isn't an expectation of privacy so fair game. I, also, use a 400m lens and most never know their photo was taken however the large lens atracts attention. If you go to a motorcycle gathering no one is going to care if you take a photo.
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Old 01-31-2008, 10:28 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bruce H
I, also, use a 400m lens and most never know their photo was taken however the large lens atracts attention.
Yeah, a 400 isn't going to fit in a tankbag unless it's on a real Tank.
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:33 AM   #7
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Jamie

Good question and a book could be written about this as well. Every photogs approach is different. I think first and foremost sensitivity is the most important thing. In both your approach and in your communication. I shoot people all over the world some I ask some I don't some I have a hassel with some I don't. Some people love their pics taken others hate it. You must judge every shooting situation differently. Just like planning for you own security. It's just a feeling. Can I or should I shoot this person or not? That is largely a judgement call. But be prepared for any reaction. Shooting digitally really helps especially to diffuse a possible bad situation because if you notice someone didnt want their photo taken you can often just approach them and show them the photo and either make a friend or delete the pic.

I have made friends with people who at first were going to take and smash my camera. Once in Morocco I was taking pics of kids playing soccer in a remote area in the Atlas Mountains. A huge and irate man came running out at me yelling no photos and waving his hands at me. It scared the shit out of me at first and I put my camera where he couldnt instantly grab it and when he arrived in my face I said wait, wait, wait he slowed down a bit to check me out and we communicated as best we could and with the help of some of the kids who spoke a bit of english until he understood I meant no harm. Within minutes he was holding my hand like my girlfriend and walking me across the fields to his home where he instructed his wife to prepare this huge ass meal and mint tea then had me do portraits of his entire family. It was so crazy. I seriously thought at first he was going to bludgeon me with my camera.

Just be true to yourself and sensitive to others and you'll get what your after...

Good luck

Ross
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rossphoto screwed with this post 02-01-2008 at 09:48 AM
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Old 02-01-2008, 07:53 AM   #8
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Sometimes you have to even watch not to take someone's picture by accident! I was shooting a hole in the wall restaurant in Mexico and a cop suddenly was in the frame!!! I bracket... so there went three pictures with him in it... he got pissed... wondered why I had 3 and not one... explained... grrrr.... he walked away not happy!!! The situations can be as strange as the pictures themselves!!!... specially when it is a big Dig SLR!!!... which I found create a bit of "initmidation" versus a little Pentax A20 that I carry always with me!

Great thread... thanks!

Ara & Spirit
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:17 AM   #9
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BeemerChef.... yea no kidding. I was once taking pics of a mountain scene near an American embassy. I wasnt even shooting the building and these guards came out demanding my camera and shouting an yelling. I refused to give it to them and I demanded they take me inside the embassy to talk to a consular agent because I was an American citizen. They did and I worked it all out without having to give them my roll of film. That was in film days.... Also, scarey as hell but kinda cool after its all over with.

Felt kinda like James Bond
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:40 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rossphoto
BeemerChef.... yea no kidding. I was once taking pics of a mountain scene near an American embassy. I wasnt even shooting the building and these guards came out demanding my camera and shouting an yelling. I refused to give it to them and I demanded they take me inside the embassy to talk to a consular agent because I was an American citizen. They did and I worked it all out without having to give them my roll of film. That was in film days.... Also, scarey as hell but kinda cool after its all over with.

Felt kinda like James Bond
I like that 007...
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Old 02-01-2008, 12:43 PM   #11
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I shot digital for a long time with the Nikon Coolpix 900 - 4500 series and found the the pivoting body of the camera allowed me to shoot from waist level so what people saw was some guy fiddling with his camera, not taking pictures. I upgraded to a Nikon D70 and immediately found that picking up the big black camera and aiming it at people had a chilling effect even if they were allowing me to take their picture. I switched to the CoolPix 8800 which has a fold-out-and-rotate viewing screen (along with a normal viewfinder) and once again can shoot without being noticed if I wish to. The CoolPix images are not quite as nice as the DSLR and you give up the flexibility of changing lenses but for carrying on the bike or the ATV the 8800 has been a near ideal camera for me. The camera size is reasonable and the pictures are fine because I'm not trying to make a living from my photos.

Doug
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:09 PM   #12
Jamie Z OP
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Thanks for all the ideas...

I've got an older film SLR setup with an large 70-200 F2.8L lens. As you have all mentioned, carrying the big glass brings different attention. I have people routinely come up and ask if I'm a professional.

Shooting with that camera, despite its conspicuity, I feel more confident to take sensitive shots. If I'm shooting that scene with my point-and-shoot, people will think I'm just a tourist.

I used to have a point-and-shoot which had the flip around screen, and used it to conceal my shots now and then, but people still notice a camera pointed at them. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid.

Found this pic in another thread (Photocredit: eakins)



EXIF info shows this was shot with a 55mm (82mm in 35mm film) focal length.

It's the perfect example of a picture I could never take...

Jamie
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:16 PM   #13
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why couldnt you take that shot??? Whoever took that wasnt all that bold. The lady isnt looking and has no notion of the shot. No interaction between photog and subject...That one looks pretty safe for the photog and the woman....
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:32 PM   #14
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Here are a couple examples of portraits taken on the street with a SLR and a 70-200mm 2.8 Not that these are better than any others photos I am just saying that even with a big obtrusive camera and lens you can get personal and intimate with people.. Its all in your approach...





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Old 02-01-2008, 01:33 PM   #15
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My thoughts

I have a few thoughts on this:

1. (Sometimes) It's better to ask forgiveness than permision. I use this theory for pretty much everything. If you have to ask, you'll probably miss the opportunity.

2. My criteria would be more hinged on: are you on public property/ invading someones immediate space.

3. Use the the big camera and lens!


Another example is this pic taken from my bedroom window, downtown Studio loft. If this is inappropriate, let me know (I dont feel it is) I did 1, 2 , but not 3...

Photobucket
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