If you guys have been noticing, I have been experimenting with many different types of cameras including disposable cameras, my Contax IIIa Film Rangefinder, as well as my camera-phone. After doing this for the last month or so, I have re-kindled my love for shooting in the streets.
I just finished a book by Paul Arden titled “It’s Not How Good You Are, it’s How Good You Want to Be” and got blown away by one of his chapters on finding inspiration. Paul Arden worked as an advertiser for several decades, and he wrote that one way that he got re-inspired in making advertising campaigns was by using “new tools.” He clamored that how everybody in the advertising world only used felt-tipped pens to make advertising campaign layouts, which often lead to the same boring ideas. To go against the grain, he often used different tools such as brushes, pencils, charcoal, chalk, and even crayons to get new ideas.
I see this easily being relateable to street photography as well. Although I love my Canon 5D to death, it started to bore me. Everything was just too easy with it. The autofocus was quite responsive, and the images always came out great. I wanted a little more challenge– I wanted more excitement. I wanted to re-stimulate myself and my street photography experience.
Now I’ll tell you straight up that using a different camera won’t necessarily give you better images. However what it will do for you is re-inspire you by realizing certain camera’s strengths and limitations.
I would have to say using a disposable camera has got to have been one of the most enjoyable street photography experiences ever. I have the benefit of having a viewfinder, don’t worry about focusing or metering (I can’t control them), and it is as stealth as you can get. It is totally unthreatening to the viewer, and I love the technically imperfect images that it gives me–full of warmth and beautiful grain.
When it comes to my Contax IIIa Rangefinder, I love the feeling of the heavy and study metal in my hands, as well as the precise knobs and focusing mechanisms. Not only that, but I feel that I have a part of history–as the camera was my grandfather’s who passed away when I was just a baby. I never got to meet him either, but it is fascinating that I am carrying on a part of his legacy and heritage. According to my grandma he too had a burning passion for photography. Oh yeah, and the 50mm lens that is strapped to the camera gives me a new perspective, as I am usually using a 35mm or 24mm on my Canon 5D. This helps me to re-frame images in new and novel ways, which I wouldn’t have done before.
Last but not least is using my phone-camera to take street photos. It too, is extremely stealth (if not more so) than the disposable camera. I simply pretend that I am texting when pointing my camera directly at people, and they don’t suspect a thing. The limitation is that the auto-focus is slow as hell, and I have to often take the photo nearly two seconds before my subjects walk into my frame to capture them. However the convenience of having the camera on me at all times is liberating, and being able to directly upload to Flickr and Facebook is a treat too.
Have you experienced something similar? Leave a comment below and share your stories!