street photography

Los Angeles, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Fairfax Street Photography

So on this day, I decided I would do something fun with my street photography, which was to ride around on my road bike and take photos. I have never done this before, but I thought– hell why not. I then pondered where I wanted to go take photos, and I settled upon going to Hollywood to take some photos. I then packed my Timbuk 2 Commute 2.0 messenger bag with some water and my camera, and hopped on my bike, not sure where this journey would lead me.

When heading toward Hollywood, I decided to ride down Westwood Blvd, and headed up Santa Monica Blvd toward Century City. The first thing I passed was this awesome wall on the side of a liquor store. I hopped off my bike and took a couple of snaps.

Love these Stripes. Sick color combo.
Love these Stripes. Sick color combo.

In front of the store.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

I then headed to the back of the store (where there was more dots), hopped off my bike and thought it would be a great thing to model. It is a 1980’s Nishiki Road bike and it rides like a dream. Here it is lookin all purty with the awesome art in the BG.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

A vertical shot.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Another mural I saw while riding by. Discrimination? HELL NAW!

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

I then headed into Beverly Hills, where I saw this awesome portrait of who I believe to be, Kobe Bryant.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

As I kept on biking, I came upon a car rental in Beverly Hills. Supposedly it’s “Black and White” (ie full of ballin cars)

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

FERRARI ENGINE!

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

SICKKKKKK

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Some cool street art I also saw:

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

I love the dystopia-like look of the below image.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Man, American Apparel is getting more and more trashy.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Self-Portrait

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Checked out some of the stores near Fairfax.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Lots of fun.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

After biking around and taking so many photos all day, I was getting pretty damn hungry. I asked one of the locals where I should go to eat, and he highly recommended “Canters,” a local deli that has been around for more than fifty years. I went, and took a seat. The waitress asked me what I wanted, and I told her what was popular. Without even flinching, she struck my menu with her stubby and muscular pointing finer, which was aimed at the Pastrami Sandwich. Quite shocked, I jumped back and said I’d get one. She asked me what I wanted to drink and I automatically said “Coke.” Little did I know that Coke was going to cost me $2.50 (damn).

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Anyways, the bad boy came out. And OMG… it was the most amazing pastrami sandwich I have ever had in my life. Perfectly juicy, and so soft and meaty. This photo just makes me drool thinking about it.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Oh yeah– I also wrote an essay about “Street Photography in Los Angeles.” I still gotta type it up and post it here.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

After a bomb ass meal and getting a ton of writing done, I headed down Fairfax and came upon the Supreme store. Pretty sweet stuff in there.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Kewl decks.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Biked some more, and got my favorite image of the day below.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

After a long days of biking and shooting, went back to “The Lab” where the magic happens. I still have so many photos to process…but stay tuned for more fresh street photography from Los Angeles.

Eric Kim Street Photography Los Angeles

Street Photography, Korea. Portrait by Charles Choo Jr.

Eric Kim, Street Photography, Korea
Enjoying a beer outside in Seoul.

An old image taken by Charles Choo while we were shooting street photography in Seoul, Korea last summer. I had tons of fun with the guy, and this is an image of us drinking a beer in the middle of the day in public outside a Korean “7-Eleven.” Got to miss the good times in Korea…

Chinatown, Downtown Los Angeles Street Photography

About a weekend or two ago, on a lazy Saturday morning, I decided that I was going to take photos that day–although not sure where or how I was going to get there. I therefore planned that I was going to check out the LA MOCA, and then took my stuff and jumped on the first bus that I could find.

However while I was on the bus, I saw something interesting on the side of the street, and got off my bus way too early. After taking my photograph of what I wanted to, I realized that I was lost in the middle of nowhere. However I just walked around the streets, meandering where I wanted to go next.

I then jumped on another bus and got off on the metro stop in the middle of Korea-town. I never took the subway in Los Angeles before, and I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to do so. Therefore I jumped on the subway, still not quite sure where I wanted to go. I looked at the map, and Chinatown was on the list. I had heard lots of interesting things about Chinatown in Los Angeles, yet never had the opportunity to go. I then thought to myself, “Why the hell not” and headed toward there.

I had never been to Chinatown before, so I kind of followed where the streets lead me. However I was quite pleased to say, it was a great opportunity for street photography. The Chinatown area was very quaint and quiet–with a few people strolling in and out of the area. If you look at the below images, you will also see they have an interesting “film” look to them. I recently made a new preset based on one that I downloaded online, and I quite like the look. I feel it gives that “dreamy” look that I felt when I was experiencing the place.

Hope you enjoy this little mini-photo essay of Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles, through my eyes.
Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Chinatown, Los Angeles Street Photography by Eric Kim

Jacob Patterson Street Portraits

Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take three

My full-series of Jacob Patterson, a Los Angeles based artist who specializes in graffiti, shoes, and street art. A truly amazing and inspirational artist and person. I look forward in collaborating with him more in the future.

I got in contact with Jacob, and he gave me a tour of the “ThinkTank” in Downtown Los Angeles, an art warehouse he is currently building up with fellow artists. We talked, chilled, grabbed a burrito (thanks Jacob!) and I told him that I would snap him a few photos before he left. This is the product of literally 5-10 minutes of shooting.

Check out his sites:

YouTube – TumblrTwitter

Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take four
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take one.
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take five
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take two.
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take three
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take three.
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take two
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take four.
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take five
Jacob Patterson, Artist. Take five. "Shock 9000"

Serendipity – Street Photography 101

"Strength" - Skid Row, Downtown Los Angeles
"Strength" - Skid Row, Downtown Los Angeles

Serendipity. One of the most beautiful things about street photography. Stumbling upon something totally unexpected, but so intrinsically unique and beautiful it cannot be put into words. All of your sensations tingling, giving all of your sensory features a feast from a thing or a place that you have never known existed.

Serendipity. A reward for being adventurous and daring. Taking the road off the beaten path. Not being a dumb tourist and following everyone else like sheep. Being a nomad; thirsting for new sights and adventures.

Serendipity. Being in the present and on the prowl, like a jaguar in the streets. Disregarding your “common sense.” Taking the “scenic” rather the quickest route.

Serendipity. Your own little jewel. Taking it and forever keeping it in your box of memories. Taking a photo of it for a keepsake and making it immortal. Wanting to share it with the world, and wanting others to experience a small slice for themselves as well.

Serendipity. Living life without a map. Spinning around in a circle while closing your eyes, then throwing a dart on the map—determined to go wherever the hell it lands.

It is not the destination, stupid. It is about the adventure.

Serendipity. Taking your time and being patient. Not rushing to the nearest attractions but appreciating the beauty in the mundane. Looking for ordinary things, rather than the large and glamorous.

As a street photographer, you must jump into experiencing serendipity. Grab nothing but your camera and storm out into the streets, and letting your curiosity lead you.

Now it’s your turn.

“Europe Through My Lens” – Black and White Street Photography Slideshow

Hey guys,

After hours of editing, choosing photos, and syncing the music, I was finally able to put together a slideshow of my black and white street photography from Europe. With the help of my girlfriend Cindy I was able to visit Paris, Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, Prague, and London. After sorting through 40,000 photos of my entire trip, these are my favorite and most memorable images.

The soundtrack is from Amelie:
-La Valse D’Amelie
-L’Apres Midi

Also feel free to check out this gallery to see a (more complete) portfolio of my images from Europe.

Please leave a comment below and let me know what you think!

Adventures in Madison: Amazing Food, Sights, and Art

Madison, Wisconsin.
Madison, Wisconsin.
Madison, Wisconsin on a beautiful sunny day.

To continue from my last post from Chicago,

Cindy and I took the bus from Chicago to Madison, where she is currently studying foVietnamese for the summer. I stayed there for a week, and was able to meet all of her friends as well as get amazing local food (thanks for the recommendations Cydney!) and check out some of the local sights.

Initial thoughts about going to Madison:Wisconsin? What the hell is there? Just a bunch of cheese and cows.”

After coming home from Madison:Damn I’m going to miss this place. I wish I could have stayed longer.”

Coming from LA, Madison was a complete 180 for me. Instead of being full of smog, traffic, and crazy drivers– Madison was full of fresh air, bikes, and friendly people. Whenever walking around, I would always get friendly “hello’s” from the locals while being able to soak in the feeling of “community” that permeated through Madison.

See Madison was a bit like a bubble…but a really nice and pleasant one. It is the ultimate college town, with students taking bikes and mopeds to class, hanging out at cafes and restaurants after class on State Street, which is a huge street which connects the campus of the University of Madison-Wisconsin to the Capitol Building. Interestingly enough, cars are not allowed to pass through this area, which makes it extremely pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly as well.

Life seemed to run at a very comfortable pace in Madison. I never felt rushed or anxious during my time here. This brought me an inner-calm which I cannot put into words. I could easily see myself living there–grabbing an ice cream cone on a hot day, heading to the lake, and relaxing with a beer-in-hand, while reading a nice book with Cindy by my side.

Anyways daydreaming aside, I whole-heartedly enjoyed my experience there and highly encourage other people to go visit. It is right next to Chicago as well–so you could get a 2-for-1 experience! Anyways, onto the photos:

Cindy posing with a menu
Cindy posing with a menu

First place on the list: Husnu’s. A local favorite, and the first restaurant that Cindy took me to. A turkish-and-Mediterranean joint, and Cindy couldn’t quit talking about the olive oil there (which was divine).

Beautiful Lighting
Beautiful Lighting
Lentil Soup --amazing and fresh
Lentil Soup --amazing and fresh
Fresh salad with cucumber-yogurt sauce for Cindy
Fresh salad with cucumber-yogurt sauce for Cindy
Cindy and her beloved Olive Oil
Cindy and her beloved Olive Oil
Me and my meal
Me and my meal
Lamb Kabob with yogurt sauce on the side. To die for.
Lamb Kabob with yogurt sauce on the side. To die for.
Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and raspberry sauce
Chicken breast stuffed with spinach and raspberry sauce

Afterward, we went to “The Daily Scoup,” which is Madison’s most famous ice-cream place. Cindy kept on raving about the ice cream there, and it did not disappoint. Creamy and full of texture… oh man I already miss it.

Waiting in line
Waiting in line
My 1st scoup!
My 1st scoup!
Om nom nom nom
Om nom nom nom

Then we headed to Cindy’s dorm– where I was able to meet all of her friends and also make some food in the communal kitchen. We seriously hung out there 90% of the time, just cooking, talking, chilling, and hanging out.

Cindy posing in her room
Cindy posing in her room
Posing
Posing
Cindy and her friend Kevin in the kitchen
Cindy and her friend Kevin in the kitchen
Amazing dumplings by Kevin
Amazing dumplings by Kevin
Cindy Frying Dumplings
Cindy Frying Dumplings

While I was in Madison, I promised to meet Cydney over at Material Lives. We met over the internet and had never met in person, but we were down for the challenge! We met over at Dotty’s Dumplings, another of the local joints. It was a great pleasure meeting her, and I even documented my feelings about the experience over at my wordpress blog. Long story short, she was an awesome and amazing person, and she really gave awesome tips about Madison while we were there. She was even generous enough to lend Cindy one of her bikes!

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The Infamous Cydney Alexis and I
The Infamous Cydney Alexis and I
An amazing burger that actually got me sick.
An amazing burger that actually got me sick.
Can't beat the chili-cheese fries
Can't beat the chili-cheese fries
Deep fried cheese curds! So fresh they were squeaky.
Deep fried cheese curds! So fresh they were squeaky.
Getting Gelato Afterwards
Getting Gelato Afterwards

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Surprisingly enough, Madison is full of hipsters. And along with hipsters are lots of cool and trendy vintage shops. Me and Cindy were able to check out a few.. and had a great time in the process!

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Getting fat at a Gyro’s joint (supposedly pronounced “Euros”– who knew that?)

Cindy with a sweet coupon which was actually for another place. Fail :(
Cindy with a sweet coupon which was actually for another place. Fail :(
Eating outside at the patio
Eating outside at the patio
So fresh and good...but a little too creamy
So fresh and good...but a little too creamy
Nacho fries--damn I miss this
Nacho fries--damn I miss this

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Walking around State street….

An awesome hat shop
An awesome hat shop
Gorgeous mural depicting State St.
Gorgeous mural depicting State St.
Studying at Starbucks
Studying at Starbucks
Mural at the University of Madison
Mural at the University of Madison

Cindy and I going to eat–when suddenly it started to pour like hell.

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Going to visit the Capitol Building.

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Beautiful architecture inside.

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Walking alongside State Street, checking out more of the sights.

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A quaint little boutique shop Cindy and I came upon–full of color and life.

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Words could not be truer:

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Studying at the amazing library at the University of Madison-Wisconsin. They even have robotic shelves that move when you push a button!

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In Madison, they have a bike recycling center in which they take old bikes, fix them up, and then paint them crimson-red and hand them out practically for free to students. Cindy was able to borrow this from one of her friends, and she let me ride it around for a day or two. Do not let the looks deceive you: although it looks broken-down, it actually rode very comfortably. A great way to check out the local sights of Madison.

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I was biking down State Street, and decided to check out the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

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One of the posters advertising their exhibit for the “Triennial” that they have–in which many Madison artists exhibit their best work.

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Inside with their beautiful architecture.

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Photos taken from the roof. Downloaded a few cool presets from PresetPond.com, a site with free Lightroom 3 and Aperture plugins.

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A picture of the Orpheum, one of the classic old-school theaters.

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More of the amazing architecture–with the light coming in.

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A portrait of one of the helpful guides at the museum. I told her how impressed I was by the modern art at Madison and how it could rival some of the exhibits in Los Angeles.

What I especially loved at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art was that it wasn’t too big, but not too small. At times museums can get so exhausting because there is that obligation to check out every single exhibit. However in about two hours, I was able to check out almost all of the exhibits pretty well-indepth, with some energy left to go exploring for the rest of the day.

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The Orpheum Theater from outside. I love this old vintage look.

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Buildings I found in an alleyway.

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Grabbing a hot-dog at a local stand.

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A cute kid who was “working” with his grandpa (in the background).

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In front of the Capitol Building with Cindy, having a picnic after grabbing some Five Guys, which is one of the best burger joints that I have ever visited. The burgers and fries (imho) are 10x better than In-and-Out’s.

On the Lawn, about to grub
On the Lawn, about to grub

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The Juicy Juicy Insides.

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The Aftermath
The Aftermath
Relaxing on the Lawn of the Capitol Building
Relaxing on the Lawn of the Capitol Building
Beautiful reflections off a building
Beautiful reflections off a building
More Ice Cream!
More Ice Cream!

Ton of people out for Madison’s “Outdoor Concert.”

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Cindy Posing outside.

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A beautiful sunset on the way back to her place.

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So long story short… Madison is pretty awesome. Go check it out.

Chicago Street Photography

Two weeks ago, I had the great pleasure of heading to Chicago for the first time in my life. My girlfriend Cindy at the time (and currently still is) studying Vietnamese at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and after being away from one another for a month, decided to meet in Chicago. I flew over from Los Angeles and Cindy took a bus from Madison and we both rendezvoused at the airport. After that, we were able to spend an entire wonderful day in Chicago, while eating at the “Taste of Chicago“, which is one of the largest food festivals in all of Chicago which happens once a year. We also met up with my cousin Holly who lives in Chicago, and she was able to show us around Millennium Park as well as some local food places.

Anyways a quick rundown of my impressions of the city: It reminded me of a mini-Manhattan, except with more greenery and better-tasting food. I got a great vibe from the city, as it felt alive, dynamic, and full-of-soul. Also it was great to visit a place where two of my favorite rappers (Kanye West and Lupe Fiasco) are from. I can truly see where they got their inspiration from in creating their music about the city (Chi-town) that they love.

Didn’t have too much time to take photos, as I was busy eating the amazing food (the deep-dish pizza is not hype) as well as taking in the environment. However I was able to grab a few snapshots which illustrates my impressions of the city.

Meeting Cindy at the O'Hare Airport after a 1-month hiatus
Meeting Cindy at the O'Hare Airport after a 1-month hiatus
Chicago Subway
Chicago Subway
Elevate
Elevate
Downtown Chicago
Downtown Chicago
Rappers hustling music in the streets
Rappers hustling music in the streets
America the beautiful
America the beautiful
The Chicago Skyline Juxtaposed
The Chicago Skyline Juxtaposed
Street Chess
Street Chess - CHECKMATE!
Light shining through the Downtown Chicago Buildings
Light shining through the Downtown Chicago Buildings
Fresh cat from the streets
Fresh cat from the streets
Shadows
Shadows
Chicago's Millennium Park
Chicago's Millennium Park
Chicago's Famous "Bean"
Chicago's Famous "Bean"
Interactive water-spewing screens
Interactive water-spewing screens
Closeup
Closeup
Downtown Chicago in Monochrome
Downtown Chicago in Monochrome
Downtown Chicago in Monochrome 2
Downtown Chicago in Monochrome 2
A Random Eye
A Random Eye
Picasso's "Flamingo"
Picasso's "Flamingo" - a gift to the city of Chicago
Chicago's "Portillos"-- the best Italian Beef in Chicago
Chicago's "Al's Beef"-- the best Italian Beef in Chicago

The next day Cindy and I headed to Madison, where I stayed there for about a week. Photos to come…

“I Shoot In The Streets” Graphics

Hey yall,

One thing that I have always wanted to do was design T-shirts and maybe have my own little “Street Photography” line. Maybe Urban Outfitters would eat this stuff up?

I always have been fascinated with design–especially typography. I still definitely am a huge noob at it, but I think that it is something that I enjoy doing. What do you guys think of these graphics that I made? Could they look good on a T-shirt?

Version 1: White

I shoot in the streets

Version 2: Black

I Shoot In The Streets Black

Tell me what you guys think! Leave a comment below :)

Getting Close – Street Photography 101

"Hustling" - Chicago, 2010
"Hustling" - Chicago, 2010
"Hustling" - Chicago, 2010. This was taken with my 24mm on my 5D and I was practically a foot away from them.

Something that is imperative to street photography is to get close. Street photography is not only about documenting life, but being an active participant. Therefore in order to capture the true essence of a scene, use a wide-angle lens and get really close to your participants to capture the scene and the mood of a scene. Wide-angle shots allow the viewer to be immersed in what you are shooting and “see it from your eyes.” Furthermore by shooting with a wide angle lens, you are able to capture more of a scene which gives your images better context and life.

But if I am shooting with a wide-angle lens, doesn’t that mean that I have to get close to people? That definitely is true. This may be uncomfortable to many people, but often the most interesting images are created when the subjects that you are capturing are aware of your presence and react. Getting the looks of shocked people looking straight into your camera can create images that captivate your audience—making them truly feel that they are a part of your scene, rather than a voyeur merely looking in.

"Waitress" - Hollywood. Another image taken at 24mm.
"Waitress" - Hollywood. Another image taken at 24mm.

Although I advocate using wide-angle lenses when it comes to street photography, I am not stating that it is the only way to participate in street photography. I know a great street photographer named Tom Kaszuba who uses telephoto lenses to isolate his subjects and get great candid portraits of them in moments of contemplation. These can make effective images which are nearly as moving. However I would avoid using telephoto lenses when shooting in the street merely because you are merely “afraid” of taking photos of people. I have noticed through my experience that it is much more awkward to get “caught” pointing a huge lens straight at a person, rather than getting caught shooting a portrait of a person right in front of their face with a wide-angle lens. The reason being is that because you are so close, people will assume that you are taking a photo of something behind them.

"Years" - Tom Kaszuba
"Years" by Tom Kaszuba. A great example of a street portrait with a telephoto lens.

If you are still a bit timid of shooting wide-angle portraits of candid people in the streets, practice on your friends and family. If you don’t have a wide-angle prime lens (such as a 24mm or 35mm, which I use) but a wide-angle zoom lens, practice shooting pictures of people really close at your widest setting. This will typically mean that you are standing only 3 feet away from that person. Note how wide-angle images of people will capture their essence while pulling the viewer into the images themselves.

What are you waiting for? Get close! Don’t be afraid, and see what happens.

The Soul of the Street Photographer

Toronto, 2009 Despair.
Seoul, 2009
Seoul, 2009

Here is an essay that I wrote on Street Photography that I plan on including in the introduction of my Street Photography Book that I plan on publishing. It is a bit long, but I hope you enjoy it:

The Soul of the Street Photographer

I feel that street photography is the most pure out of all the forms of photography. In all other forms of photography, the photographer is always trying to strive to take a photo of something that is out of this world; be it a majestic sunset, a mysterious creature, or a flower so beautiful that we are shocked in awe by it.

However street photography does the exact opposite.

The photographer takes what is in this world, no matter how dull or mundane, and turns it into a piece of art. The man who is sipping a cup of coffee at the coffee shop, or the woman who is carrying her groceries home, or the couple who is sharing an embrace at the corner of a crosswalk. These are all very ordinary events and we all just let it pass by our very eyes. We don’t pay attention to these things, let alone see it as something “beautiful.”

Three men. Shot on an escalator, during my lunch break. Santa Monica, 2011

That is where the role of the street photographer comes in. He captures that one instant and makes it immortal and frames it, and allows everyone to actually take a second out of their busy schedules and contemplate on it. Nobody truly notices these moments in their lives, and with the help of the street photographer, these people start cherishing these small yet wonderful things in their lives.

The idea to look at a very ordinary scene and to interpret it in a different way is the most difficult part of a street photographer. By paying special attention to lines, curves, shadows, light, and context, a photographer strives to make this ordinary scene into somewhat of a stage in which he wishes his actors to interact with somehow.

Toronto, 2009 Despair.
Toronto, 2009

A street photographer has very little control over his images, as he simply tries to capture little bits and pieces of everyday life which are fleeting and once they disappear, they are gone forever. All a street photographer can do is frame his shot, check his camera settings, and click his shutter. He cannot control his environment as his stage is dynamic and constantly changing and evolving. The types of people who are constantly walking in and out or the way they act with the environment or other people are uncontrollable. So to take a truly great street photograph, the street photographer has to have a little bit of luck on his side to have the ideal conditions just when he hits that shutter.

This however, doesn’t mean that a street photographer doesn’t have skill and is simply “lucky” when taking images of his photographs. Granted that whatever scene a street photographer comes upon is beyond his control, a street photographer is the one who is able to creatively take with what he has and make it into a story.

The conductor. Downtown LA, 2009
The conductor. Downtown LA, 2009

If anything, a street photographer shouldn’t even be regarded as a photographer, but rather a storyteller of sorts who is able to capture a certain scene and have the viewer interpret it in a certain way. A true successful street photograph is one that piques the viewer’s interest, and has him or her constantly guessing and interpreting what “is going on” in the photo.

However the street photographer as a storyteller has the most difficult job of them all; to tell a story without having any control over it. Compared to a writer who makes up his own stories, a street photographer must work with what he has to tell a certain story or tale.

Toronto, 2012
Couple kissing. Toronto, 2012

To be a successful street photographer, one must have a passion for seeing the world and exploring all the beauties behind it. How can one expect to capture great moments in life without actually going out to the world and seeing all of these things happening? Often individuals look at some of the world’s finest street photographs and mutter to themselves, “I could have taken that photo if I was there.” But the fact is, that the person was not there at that certain moment and if that person could not truly see like a street photographer, that person would have simply let that moment pass by.

If the street photographer is not at a certain place at a certain moment when something fantastic occurs, how can he not expect to capture it? It is metaphysically impossible not to do so.

Paris, 2009

While taking photographs in the streets, the street photographer is instilled with an incredible sense of freedom. He is like a lion to his jungle and is free to roam wherever he wishes. Nobody can tell him where to go, what to see, or what to do; he simply does as he likes. Only his instinct controls him where to go next.

While roaming around his urban jungle, he almost melds and becomes part of the environment. Although others are aware of his presence, nobody pays special attention to his motives or movements. The street photographer will be able to take multiple photos at incredibly close proximities to people, without having them even notice or without having them even caring. But to walk around and not be given notice to, he must be fluid in his movements and be careful not to disturb any of the life around him.

Prague, 2009
Prague, 2009

The street photographer is also adventurous and is willing to take the path less followed with the hopes of finding a moment of serendipity and genius. The street photographer will go down that mysterious alley or up those misleading stairs while others will not. The street photographer wishes to see new things and places and is not content with staying in the same place for much too long. When he finds himself in a foreign and daunting environment, he does not react with fear but rather with a sense of curiosity and is willing to explore.

A street photographer is also more preoccupied with his photographers rather than worrying about his gear. The fallacy of many photographers is that they often chase the newest cameras and lenses hoping that these expensive tools will help their shortcomings as a photographer.  Granted that a point-and-shoot camera can have considerable lag when it comes to taking photos which makes it difficult to capture a certain moment in time, a simple DSLR or even film rangefinder can do the trick. The quality of his images are not dependent on how sharp they are, but rather the intrinsic quality of composition, genius, and creativity apparent.

Owl Eyes. London, 2009
Owl Eyes. London, 2009

However the only concern a street photographer must have when it comes to the question of camera equipment is by having his trusty primes nearby. Although zoom lenses may be more practical in other types of photography by allowing photographer to use multiple focal lengths, they are not as effective as tools when it comes to street photography. Their smaller aperture and larger size make them too slow for night settings and too conspicuous for street settings.

Prime lenses also help street photographers to be more creative with their work, by further imposing even more limits on what little control they have of their scenes. On top of not having control of the people around them, they are restricted to only a certain focal length which may invite them to think of more creative ways of capturing a certain scene which may have not been thought of before with a zoom lens. For example, if a street photographer had a zoom lens and saw something interesting in the distance, he may be simply tempted to zoom into the scene which disconnects him from the environment. However if a street photographer chose to use a wide-angle lens, it may invite him to become “part of the scene” and get closer to get stronger images which really put the viewers into the shoes of the photographer.

However all-in-all, a street photographer is a lover of life. He does not discriminate and sees all people as beautiful in their own inherent ways. He constantly pushes himself to immerse himself amongst people, and not only be a voyeur but a full-on participant. A street photographer cherishes every moment that he experiences and lives, and most importantly, strives to share those little slices of life with others.

Seoul, 2009
Seoul, 2009

How to Master “The Decisive Moment”

“The Decisive Moment” was a term coined by the pioneer of street photography, Henri Cartier-Bresson. During his time, photography was still a relatively new art medium and it wasn’t taken seriously. Furthermore, photographers were often criticized for not having the same discipline and creativity as traditional artists as photographers can create their images in a matter of seconds, not hours.

Henri Cartier-Bresson
The Genius behind the Camera

Anyways, Cartier-Bresson believed that “The Decisive Moment” was that split second of genius and inspiration that a photographer had to capture a certain moment. For example, that half of a second that you have when a man is jumping over a puddle, when a couple embraces for a kiss, or when a person points a finger at another. This moment is fleeting, meaning that once you miss that half of a second to capture that moment, it is gone forever. You can never recreate the same circumstances in terms of location and people.

Henri Cartier Bresson
Henri Cartier-Bresson. France. 1932.

So an important lesson about “The Decisive Moment” is that the best photo opportunities often flash before our eyes and we must be ready at all times to capture those moments. That means bringing around your camera everywhere you go. Street photography is built on the mundane and ordinary moments, so any moment is a potential for a great photograph. Some of the most disciplined photographers bring their cameras even to places like the bathroom or the grocery market.

Rue Mouffetard. Henri Cartier-Bresson. 1954
Rue Mouffetard. Henri Cartier-Bresson. 1954

You must constantly be looking for moments to capture, so be sure to always keep your eyes and camera ready. Have you ever seen a photo opportunity but you didn’t have your camera on hand and deeply regretted it afterwards? This happens very often, because the greatest photographs can be captured at the most unexpected times.

Henri Cartier Bresson Kiss
Once in a lifetime opportunity.

Also when capturing a “Decisive Moment,” timing is crucial. Capturing an image half a second too late or early can greatly influence the outcome of an image. In many of my images, I take photographs of advertisements which look like they are interacting with people on the street. So if I want it to appear if a woman in an advertisement is staring at a man walking by, I must pull the trigger at the exact moment when eye contact becomes apparent. Half a second too early or late can kill the effect of the image.

So always be quick and never miss those “Kodak Moments.” Once that moment is gone, it is gone forever.

To learn more, read: “7 Tips How to Capture ‘The Decisive Moment’

5 Tips How To Overcome Your Fear of Shooting in Public

A Lone Dinner

One of the questions that I am asked quite often is, “How did you get over your fear of shooting in public?” To answer that question, I got over it by simply going out and constantly shooting in public. However it definitely does take a lot of practice and effort to build up that courage of shooting in the streets without feeling like a “creeper” or out-of-place.

For those of you who may not know, I recently graduated UCLA with a B.A. in Sociology. Therefore when it comes to photography, a lot of my sociological thoughts get intertwined as well. In many introduction sociology classes, teachers often assign students “breaching experiments,” which involve doing things which violate certain “social norms” which may make you and others feel uncomfortable. However I have found that by realizing that these social norms which govern everyday life are not concrete and can be bent to our whim, I quickly got over my fear of shooting in public.

A Lone Dinner
"A Lone Dinner" - Los Angeles 2009 - Eric Kim

Therefore these are some sociology breaching experiments that I have put together which could help you first get over your fear of looking “strange” or “awkward” in breaking social norms (such as taking photos of strangers in public). Although these may seem quite easy on the surface, doing them in practice is actually quite difficult. I have been making it a point to practice these breaching experiments as often as I could, and I can admit that I still have a long way to go until I could have enough courage like street photographer Bruce Gilden, who is famous of taking really up close and personal images of people. [YouTube].

Bruce Gilden, New York City, 1986
Bruce Gilden, New York City, 1986

5 Sociology Breaching Experiments:

  1. Make eye contact with strangers and do not look away. If they stare back, smile and see how they respond.
  2. When entering an elevator, turn the opposite way, even when everyone is facing the “right” way.
  3. When walking down a busy street, suddenly put your things aside and lie on the ground for five seconds. Then stand up and walk away.
  4. Smile and wave at a random stranger. See how they react.
  5. Now take out your camera and take a photo of a random stranger. Observe what happens.

Help get the word out there and share this list with your fellow photographer friends! Post it to Facebook, your blog, or even tweet it!

How to Get Started with Street Photography Part I

Topless Fun - Shot in Hollywood

So if any of you guys are interested in street photography, the question might be on your mind: “Where do I start?”

Well, for starters you need a camera. The most important step is actually going out and taking photos . If you are new to photography, all you might have is a point-and-shoot (a regular digital camera). This is great when it comes to street photography, because street photography doesn’t require extremely complicated nor expensive gear. A point and shoot can actually be better than DSLRs in many ways because of the discrete body and almost silent shutter. If you have a DSLR or anything else that’s great. As long as you have something to shoot with.

The Canon 5D, what I currently shoot with
The Canon Powershot SD600, my first camera.
The Contax III, my film rangefinder (I need to use this more)

So once you got your camera, you need to go out and start shooting. This is the phase in which the majority of budding photographers fail. People will always find excuses NOT to take photos rather than finding excuses TO take photos. The most popular ones I hear are: “I don’t have an expensive camera,” “I don’t have enough time,” or “I’m intimidated.” Don’t think so much about the details– just go out and do it.

The Reader
"The Reader"

The example I always use to counter the “I don’t have an expensive camera” argument is by telling them how much more convenient and effective even the point and shoots are today. The average Canon Powershot gives great image quality as well as giving instant results… and compare that with a film camera that has a steep learning curve and the inconvenience as well. Furthermore, most modern digital point and shoots have image sensors with such great image quality it is difficult to discern them from DSLR images under normal shooting conditions (during the day).

Topless Fun - Shot in Hollywood
"Topless Fun" - shot with my Canon Powershot SD6000

People will say “I don’t have enough time.” That is never an excuse because the beauty of street photography is that you can take great images of ordinary events, no matter where you are. So if you just carry around your camera with you everywhere you go, you can easily take photos while walking across the street, in a café, or even while walking to class. And I am also a firm believer in the idea that you can always find time for something you are truly passionate about, no matter how busy you are.

Remembering John Wooden
"Remembering John Wooden" - shot at the UCLA Campus

The last excuse I hear is that “I’m intimidated, and I don’t know where to start.” I have no idea what people can possibly be intimidated by. Unless you have someone peering over your shoulder every time you are taking a photo, you have nothing to worry about. And to simply start, you just go outside and start taking photos. It’s really that easy.

reflections
"What are you waiting for?"

No Excuses – Street Photography 101

Another huge obstacle you will face as a street photographer (and a general photographer) is that at times you are not going to feel a lack of inspiration to go out and take photos and let your camera collect dust on your shelf. Although it can be healthy to put down your camera at times and not to feel compelled to take images, I would say it is very detrimental to your photography if you go for around a month without taking any images.

Street photography is all about capturing the beauty in the mundane, which is every-day life. The ability to take a slice of life and capture it in an image. By not taking photographs for an extended period of time, you almost lose a part of yourself. I consider my camera an extension of my body, a 6th sense in which I am able to connect and interact with the world. It is as important as an appendage to my body as my arms or my eyes.

Skywalker
Skywalker, San Francisco.

Imagine not using your arms for an entire month. Just visualize them losing strength and muscle as well as the ability to make precise movements. And after a month of not using your arms, they may feel foreign and unknown to you. But you soon realize how much you have been missing out in life without them; the inability to write, the inability to embrace others, and the inability to itch your face at will. Suddenly a surge of empowerment rushes through your body, and you swear to yourself that you will never live without your arms again.

Photography is very much the same thing. If you quit taking photographs and using your camera for a month, it might feel awkward and foreign to you. You try taking photos again, but they lose that precision and touch that you used to have. But once you start taking photos again and get in the groove, you realize how much you have been missing out on life. Those little slices of life that you were unable to capture such as the man waiting at the bus stop, the woman walking with her child, or the two elderly men playing chess in the park. Suddenly a huge sense of inspiration rushes through your body and you vow to yourself that you will never live without your camera again.

Wine By the Seine
Wine By the Seine, Paris

Introduction to Street Photography

Fly Away

For the last year or so, I have actually been working on a “Street Photography 101” book that I plan on publishing into an ebook. However, considering that I don’t know how long it will take before I have a finished product, I plan on posting several bits and pieces of it into this blog for your critique and reading pleasure. First part of this series, a quick intro into Street Photography 101.

What is Street Photography?

There is not one definition which defines street photography. Depending on who you ask or where you find your information, you will come upon conflicting responses. Some street photographers will say that it is about capturing the emotion and expressions of people, while others may put a higher emphasis on the urban environment. However I believe that the most effective street photographs are the ones that synthesize both the human element as well as the urban environment. To capture a moment in which a person is interacting with the environment or in which the environment is interacting with the person is a true mark of a skilled street photographer.

But when it comes down to it, it is basically taking photos on the streets. So instead of chasing sunsets and exotic creatures, you look for ordinary places and ordinary people and creatively compose them in a clever way. Anybody can take a good picture of a sunset. Although there are many technical details which go into capturing a perfect sunset, anybody can simply point their camera and capture a sunset which is inspiring. But when it comes to street photography, you must constantly be looking for either contrasting elements in an environment which make a photograph interesting.

Simply put, the main focus of street photography is taking the everyday and the mundane and making it into something unique and beautiful.

Fly Away
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