Photography, Take Two

I was going to go to Melbourne this weekend, but that didn’t happen because “the circumstances didn’t allow it” (whatever that means), so here I am, tapping on a few bits of plastic, sending 0s and 1s through a few copper cables, so that electric charges can manipulate crystals and make things happen on-screen. And that’s just my own computer! Technology, eh?

Allow me to dwell for a second: man, this Melbourne trip would have been awesome. Imagine it now: a hundred people at an engagement party, all mingling and interacting with each other. Man, it would have been awesome. I would have brought along my trusty Sigma 30 1.4, shot it wide open with the help of a borrowed 580 EX II, and the photos, man, the photos would have been spectacular, incredible, and all those superlatives. Alas, Things Just Didn’t Turn Out for many a different reason, and here we are. I briefly contemplated just going to Melbourne to do street photography there, but that would have been a pretty expensive expedition (not to mention I’ll be in Melbourne next week anyway).

Luckily, there was but one saving grace: I got some new glass. New old glass, but new glass nonetheless. I also had the day off from work. Rather than waste it moping around at home, I decided to go to a place I hadn’t been in a long time and try my hand at a little more street (photography). I couldn’t do any serious gaming due to the fact that all my serious gaming hardware was on the other side of the state, a by-product of having a 5-day gaming expedition with a few mates that was pretty great. We played heaps of multiplayer games, ate over a kilo of ham between the six of us, and had an excellent time. But I digress.

So, street photography. As DigitalRev says, the number one rule of Street Photography is not to look like a convicted sex criminal.

With that sorted, I headed out. The location: Salamanca Markets. I’ve said something about street photography, Hobart, and something about a lack of population density before, so what better way to solve the issue by going to a place with high population density? I’ve actually done this last time I was on safari, going to the Taste to try my hand there. I got a few keepers, but I figured Salamanca Markets would be an ace spot as well. I haven’t been in literally, years — working Saturdays has that effect. I used to go pretty much every other weekend with the family, but times change and people grow old…

Oh right, I had some new glass to test. Probably better tell you about that, too. It’s the older, now-discontinued EF 24-85 f/3.5-4.5 USM lens. Initial impressions were that it was a pretty standard zoom lens for full-frame DSLRs, and on a crop body that works out to be about 38-136mm. It’s lighter than the EF-S 18-135 I already own, plus it’ll work on a full-frame body when I make the switch. USM makes it really cool in terms of focus speed — it’s quick, and silent. Interestingly, this copy doesn’t seem to have a huge issue with gravity zoom unlike my 18-135 and other copies of the 24-85.

The thing about street photography is that it’s hard. Photography is hard. Street photography is even harder, because you have to take photos of people in public spaces (something that’s totally legal in Australia, by the way), and even better if you can do so while they’re doing something interesting or something “makes” the shot. For this reason, street is great for learning about composition — you’ve really got to get into the zone otherwise you’ll just snap away at random crap. And no one wants that!

Back to the 24-85. It was great for up-close portraits or subjects a few meters away, and is definitely a lens I wouldn’t hesitate to bring out again. It isn’t a particularly fast lens, but shooting at f/4 was pretty okay anyway. I was surprised at the amount of blurred background this lens produced, actually — doing an quick comparison reveals that the Siggy has slightly blurrier backgrounds at f/3.5 at 30mm, but in reality it’s all much of a muchness, none of which is applicable if your subject isn’t in focus in the first place 😉

Viking job losses! This guy looked at me and posed for the shot.

With street, it’s more about just capturing the moment than it is getting perfect portraits or great subjects. Taking pics of a single model with a few props is great and all, but what about capturing the vibe? Getting that shot of the moment is rewarding, just don’t chase it — let the moment come to you.

Some guy shouted to me as I was taking the pic that this was a common occurrence in Hobart. I think he was referring to why grown men were wearing bright red dresses in broad daylight, but I can't be sure.

Judging by some of the shots from today’s expedition, I still have quite a bit to learn. All the photos you see are the pick of the bunch, and none of them are particularly great, I can find flaws with many of them. In any case, I put some more time behind the lens — and that’s only a good thing, in the long run.

Occupy Hobart? I didn't even know that was a thing...

Final comment: Salamanca is much more of a tourist attraction than I remember. I saw a disproportionate number of “serious cameras”, including what I’m sure was someone with the elusive, green-ringed 70-300 featuring Diffractive Optics (but curiously, no L glass to be seen). Camera models varied: most were Canons, but I did spot the gold-ringed Nikon variety every now and again, as well as the odd Pentax or Sony. DSLRs were the choice du jour, outnumbering micro 4/3rds and compacts. Why is this interesting? I have no idea, it just is to a camera nerd like I.

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