Street Photography - Part 3 by Subroto Mukerji

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The grand finale - getting the very results you were looking for all this time. Unobtrusive and easy to use, the Sony RX100 is a wonderful street camera with excellent picture quality.


<p>PAGE 1STREET PHOTOGRAPHY Part 3 by Subroto Mukerji</p> <p>STREET PHOTOGRAPHY Part 3Hitting your StrideIn Part I, we encountered the basics of street photography. Part II expanded on the theme while also discussing certain attitudes and problems associated with this latter-day art form. Now, Part III goes on to, hopefully, demonstrate, challenge and inspire you the aspiring street photographer. So weve got a good compact camera, have dressed appropriately to blend into the scene, have left conspicuous bling bling at home and have a small, beat-up looking bag that no one will deign to even glance at, and arent sneaking around trying to take pictures of people surreptitiously. Were all set, then, are we? Not quite. Theres the question of motivation and an inner excitement to capture things youd never even spare a second glance for, under normal circumstances. </p> <p>I strongly feel that if you arent feeling up to going out on the streets, exploring the markets or a number of other public places with a firm conviction that there is a picture waiting to be taken at every corner, you need to rev up your enthusiasm. I happen to be one of those optimists who believe that we make our own luck, and that a positive attitude brings us the results we aspire for. All the pictures below were taken with a Sony RX100. Apart from the first two, all were shot on the night of 25th May 2013. All were handheld; no flash was used. ISO 1,600 was the norm (Auto ISO set to 125 ~ 1600), and P for Program mode was used for a lot of them, while A for Aperture Priority was also used fairly often. There was no time to fiddle with manual settings, so exposure compensation and white balance were left at null position / auto, respectively. I find the RX100 to be a very competent street machine. Only the lack of adequate telephoto reach, and the slow F.4.9 minimum aperture at the long end, lets it down. Everything else is lightning fast and utterly reliable, so much so that Ive come to rely on its auto modes, a fact I am not ashamed to admit. How does it matter, if auto-exposure modes allow you to get the shot youre after? Im not out to prove how finicky I am about exposure modes: Im out there in the sun or in the magic moonlight, under the sodium vapour or mercury / fluorescent / tungsten lighting trying hard to capture some photographs I can live with. I shoot RAW + Jpeg, and in the rare event that the jpeg falters, the RAW gives me the latitude and control to recover the latent image. In some ways, it reminds me of shooting with 400 ASA Kodak B&amp;W Tri-X, way back in the good old days !</p> <p>Ah, amour ! as they say in Paris ! Love makes the world go round, and I have the greatest respect for this highest of all emotions that we humans are capable of (the word love is used sixteen times more than hate in communication). The effects of Cupids shafts are unmistakable !EXIF :37mm, F. 4.9, 1/20th sec, ISO 1600I do not consider photographing lovers who choose to meet in public places like this restaurant, an invasion of privacy. It was the great S. Paul, my role model for 35 years, who taught me this invaluable lesson. So overwhelming is The Masters personality and confidence that he would actually walk right up to lovers and tell them he was going to take their picture. They always obliged, moved by his obvious empathy and awed by his cool professional detachment. No wonder his younger brother by six years, Raghu Rai, has risen to such photo-journalistic heights. I have never come across a more versatile and daring photographer than tall, handsome S. Paul daring not only in a mere physical sense but conceptually, artistically and technically daring. I feel it was his fearless approach to his subject the world and all thats in it that contributed greatly to his meteoric rise and domination of an entire generation of photographers.I spotted this old man (he claimed to be 82) begging outside a Metro station. It is tragic that a country that can spend billions of dollars on arms, and where multibillion dollar scams are a routine occurrence, cannot look after its aged derelictsnor can anyone explain why they are there, in the first place:EXIF: 15mm, F.2.8, 1/100th sec, ISO 125Theres nothing todays youth craves more than a smartphone loaded with features, even if hes a Nepali teenager working at an open air fast food outletMOBILE ENVYEXIF: 10mm, F.2.2, 1/20th sec, ISO 1600Its not so much the need for communication than the need to be with it, to be on par with peers, and the inclusion it entails. A youth without a mobile is as good as a social pariah, such is the mobile acquisition syndrome that has come to grip todays Gen-Y. So what if you dont have enough balance on your SIM card: at least you can seen flaunting your snazzy new handset, playing games on it or even watching movies, downloaded onto the memory card for about Rs. 250. The hunger for the latest gadgets, the need to be accepted that spawns it, is typical of a neo-materialistic society that weighs men by their bank balance.Here is another facet of the phenomenoninexpensive transport and a girl riding pillion, clutching her new Samsung Galaxy. Overindulgent parents, early menarche and a more permissive society have fostered a youth revolution </p> <p>BOY, GIRL, MOBILE, SCOOTER = FREEDOM EXIF: 10mm, F.2.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 1000Old timers will recollect that it was the iconic, youth-oriented cult picture called Bobby that started the bike + girl &amp; boy-in-love craze. The film became an overnight sensation; over forty years later, it still runs to packed houses. No single movie has managed to redefine the rights, mindset and priorities of a newer generation better than this R.K. Studios blockbuster. As you can see, the trend begun by the iconoclastic Bobby has gone from strength to strength, culminating with todays GenNext that cares tuppence for age, tradition or family values: a self-centered, hedonistic, winner-takes-all mentality has completely overturned tradition and savaged family and social values. This is a generation in a hurry hurry to grow up, hurry to make the first million (no matter what it costs), hurry to marry the girl of ones dreams, hurry to reach the El Dorado in the mind. A mindless, copycat, lost generation </p> <p>Summer is in full blast, and thirst is explicit everywhere. People gravitate to juice bars to grab a glass or two of cool, refreshing fruit juice</p> <p>EXIF: 11mm, F.2.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 400A long-suffering husband waits patiently, wallet in hand, as his wife gulps glass after glass of mixed fruit juice. Another customer, irked by the delay and overcome by thirst, takes a long swig from her water-bottle as the juice-boy goofs off, watching me with keen interest while I snap this picture. There is a long list of pending orders and, despite mechanization, it takes time to crush a glass or two of juice. Patience is called for in such situations. Fortunately for me, the RX100s lightning reflexes bag me a photo in a split second, with a barely discernible delay to write to card despite shooting RAW + jpeg.</p> <p>Yes, its going to take time. The beautiful lady with the classic features and dusky complexion characteristic of south India, wearing a rather alluring combination of striped pants and pink T-shirt, settles down with her son, their attention fixed on the point from where liquid sustenance will emanate </p> <p>EXIF: 25mm, F.4, 1/30th sec, ISO 1600, 65 % crop from originalThis has been a May to remember. The mercury touched 47.7 C in the shade the highest recorded in a decade. Delhites ensured plenty of liquid intake, and this miserable twosome is no exception, obviously parched and nearing the point of dehydration (note that her water-bottle is now empty). That juice guy had better hurry up he is their only hope of succour, as of now !I kept going, past shop fronts, temples, sundry hawkers and people trying to keep their cool in the furnace-like heat despite the fact that it was nearing 8 PMEXIF: 16mm, F. 3.2, 1/50th sec, ISO 640What better remedy for the heat than to step into the quiet, air-conditioned ambience of a boutique and blow a cool 25 grand of hubbys hard earned money! Retail therapy is a sure-fire way of beating the heat, though hubbys sure to lose his cool when the credit card bill catches up with him.</p> <p>Fashion conscious Delhites have taken to patronizing readymade garment retail outlets in a big way, and though these shops usually call themselves boutiques, many of them are little more than moms source of pin money, after harnessing the services of a local tailor and finally getting to encash the college Home Science course. </p> <p>Still, with inflation increasing by leaps and bounds (a familiar refrain whenever the Congress is in power) in the Capital, every little bit helps to pay the bills.</p> <p>I spotted this interesting face through a moving screen of hurrying late evening shoppers, and fired off a shot with little hope of success ... </p> <p>THE BLUE HEADBANDEXIF: 37mm, F.4.9, 1/20th sec, ISO 1600, 50% cropOK so Im a sucker for headbands. The face gave me no end of trouble in post: coppery-orange tones, little or no eye / eyebrow / lip make-up. I had to add some, using the brush / pencil tool and even giving her an alluring little mole on her left upper lip that added just the right amount of smouldering sensuality to the rather hard and serious features. </p> <p>But all said and done, it was the blue headband that captivated and enthralled me ! </p> <p>On an earthier note: a man studies his shopping list while viewing the items on offer at a kirana store, as Delhites refer to delicatessens. All the spices that lured the Portuguese to open up a sea route to India are on view here, some of them commanding really fancy prices shades of Vasco da Gama !EXIF: 10mm, F.1.8. 1/30th sec, ISO 320FREE HOME DILIVERY(sic) is the promise, and judging from the long list in his hand, this man intends putting that pledge to the test. Spelling is not the strong suit of Indian sign painters, and Delhi streets are famous for their hilariously misspelled signboards. Many are double entendres, with ENTER FROM BACKSIDE being the favourite of many a sign watcher. My personal favourite is TIRE PUNCHER, which always conjures up visions in my mind of mounted Indian cow punchers (cattlemen) turned tire punchers. Since the original image was a bit jarring in terms of contrast, I took advantage of the tone curves tool in Photoshop to spread the DR around a bit, managing to somewhat reduce the effects of the harsh lighting and add some visual smoothness to the tonality of the image, before giving it finishing touches with the brightness/contrast option, adjusting the sliders till everything fell into place.</p> <p>I had just ordered a plate of cheese momos when Superman arrived with a couple of his friends. Though he was only four feet away from me, across the momo-maker, right opposite me, he did not spot me draw my camera and record this lone image </p> <p>SUPERMANEXIF: 12MM, f.2.2, 1/20th sec, ISO 1600, 50% cropDespite the awful mixed lighting, the RX100 managed a decent jpeg (I didnt have to touch the RAWs at all). I did have to brush some blue into Supermans T-shirt, though; many visits to the laundry had faded the shoulders a bit. I also had to burn out a brilliant sodium vapour street light right above his head that was distracting the eye. All said and done, I was happy with my snapshot of the Man of Steel !</p> <p>I insist that Indians as a group are quite receptive to being photographed (one notable exception being a hoity-toity woman whose kid I was once trying to photograph). She was obviously a noveau riche, first-generation-English-speaking class, foreign traveled person, enamoured of foreign ways but unable to translate them into an Indian context. She objected to my efforts and gave me a lecture, to which I listened patiently, all the while stifling a few yawns. People with adopted mindsets bore the heck out of me EXIF: 10mm, F.2.2, 1/30th second, ISO 1250Despite everything Ive written in this series about Indians being receptive to street shooting, I do try to be as inconspicuous as possible, in order to try and capture natural expressions. This young couple cottoned on to what I was up to, though, and sure enough, a vacuous grin appeared on their facesa typical knee jerk response of almost all subjects as soon as a camera is pointed at them. Camera manufacturers even have a Smile Shutter mode that encourages / leverages this cultural affliction. I hate it. </p> <p>Empty, meaningless smiles put me off. How nice it would have been if theyd just worn their natural expressions, probably reflecting interest in the roadside chefs culinary ministrations, with just a dash of impatience thrown in for good measure. Alas ! It was not to be. We are taught / programmed to smile when being photographed which, for the portraitist in me, is an utter abomination. On a technical note, the P for Program mode and matrix metering handled the next two or three contrasty scenes pretty well (much to my surprise: it was a torture test for any cameras imaging system)Woman with son exiting gurudwara EXIF: 10mm, F.2.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 1600, 60% cropThe mix of fluorescent, tungsten, mercury and sodium vapour lighting gave me a very tough time in post processing. In the end I had to settle for a compromise, simply toning down the effects of the eerie mix of jarring hues to a point where they did not rattle ones sense of colour too much. With the dissonance partially removed, and some dodging to open up the shadows a trifle, the final result hopefully passes muster. The original, with all manner of garish hues battling with each other for supremacy, sets ones teeth on edge.The gurudwara is adjacent to the Satyam Shivam Sundaram temple dedicated to Shiva and his consort Parvati in the avatar of Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth. The legend Shubh Labh also etched on the faade is witness to the fact that one worships here in the hope of worldly gainDevout lady leaving a templeEXIF: 10mm, F. 2.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 320, 70% cropThe grainlessness of the image encouraged me to crop out 70% of the picture to compose a more coherent photograph. The lighting was even more bizarre in this one, prompting me to sidestep it by converting the image to black and white. A little dodging and burning on overly bright highlights, and to pull up a few deep shadows the curves tool gave nice tonality to this one left me with a final image I was more than satisfied with.Marching on, one hand encumbered by a 5-kilo shopping bag of groceries and hence forced to operate the little big compact with only my right hand, I came across this man hawking flowers, oil, and other such materials supposedly much sought after by the presiding deities on the opposite side of the roadPuja samagri sellerEXIF: 10mm, F.2.2, 1/30th sec, ISO 400, 35% cropI liked the tonality of the B&amp;W version so much that I chose it over the original, which is, of course, in full colour. As...</p>