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Quick Photo Tip: Getting into your zone

“Got him”!!

Although I’m not able to spend a lot of time walking around a city, I know that when I do plan on going out street shooting, I need to prepare myself by getting into a mindset…a zone. I want to blend in so I can best feel the heartbeat of humanity…it’s soul.

Here’s what I suggest:

Don’t think too much..rely on your instinct. Your eyes should be constantly moving in every direction, and paying close attention to what I call my 25X4=100 rule; more of a guideline than a rule…I don’t like rules!!!!!!!!!!!

Watch for unusual movement going in a different direction. Remember that the viewer will always look towards the brightest part of your composition, so look for changes in light.

Anticipate the action, in other words if you’re following someone interesting, look ahead so you can put him or her into the area you’ve created.

Henri Cartier-Bresson was a master at this method. although he would shoot the moment it was happening, he would also set up a composition and wait for the person to walk into his frame; sometimes waiting for quite awhile.

Avoid wearing colorful or bright clothes, as it would not be the best way to integrate yourself into the general population that walks on either side of the street. Having said this, I like to walk on the shady side and shoot into the bright side…why? Because I’m looking for contrast behind the shadows that are tangent with the areas in sunlight.

I have discussed this not only with my online class with the BPSOP, but walking around with my fellow photographers that are taking my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I teach around the planet.

I’ll recommend that they have two exposures settings saved in their cameras that they can switch back and forth to. What I mean is that when they’re shooting into the brightest areas on one side of the street, they have one exposure set for that.

When they decide to shoot into the shady side of the street, change over to your exposure that was set for that. This will make a big difference in capturing that moment and have it close to being properly exposed.

Small cameras with small lens…decide on a lens, or have some small bag that can hold one other…just for a change. Going around with a big Canon or Nikon with a big lens might get some looks of envy and make you feel important, (if that’s your thing) but it won’t go very far when you’re trying to stalk that illusive “moment in time”.

You’ll maintain better focus if you walk alone, that is if you’re taking it seriously. A small group of photographers can be fun, but probably not as rewarding as far as the number of quality photos you come home with. Meet up later over a glass of wine at some outdoor restaurant and compare notes.

In the above photo, I was walking down a street in Shanghai, China among the masses and stopped to scan the faces of all the men (mostly wearing the same color jacket). I noticed a man that had stopped and was looking around for something. I had a feeling that this might be the shot so I began to zone in on him. While  I was moving the camera from right to left, keeping one eye on him, he looked right at me.

I had my exposure already set just in case, and the split second I saw him looking at me I clicked the shutter, and as Eddie Adams once said, “When you get lucky, be ready”.


Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me some time. This coming January Along with William Yu, I’ll be taking a group to China to photograph the flooded rice terraces and also the tribal villages. Next February in conjunction with the Santa Fe Workshops, I’ll be returning to Cuba for the fourth time. My next springtime workshop will Berlin next May; an incredibly beautiful city.

Send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.


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