Published on 2016/01/12 - Text and Pictures by Alberto Mateo, Travel Photographer for The Last Footprint.
I like to go to public places when I’m working on a reportage about a city or town, usually parks or public recreation areas. The reason is that the density of people performing different actions is higher on those areas, especially on weekends, which allows you to find more pictures to take. The more actions you can accumulate in front of your camera, the more possibilities you have to get a good picture. The equation "Street Photography = People + Actions" is a rule we as photographers cannot underestimate.
I decided to visit Mission Beach during Sunday. I had been said that surfers and sunbathers usually go there to spend the day. It was June and the beach was full; even Belmont Park with its peculiar Giant Dipper wood Roller Coaster had a lot of life, there was people enjoying their weekend. In addition I found to my surprise that there was a classic car show (I can’t be sure, but I believe they were selling the cars) which added a bit of color to the Park. Something that has always been drawn to my attention is the special relation many Americans do have with cars… they really love them! It sometimes can even a form of idolatry… cars do have a special meaning for many people in the US…
[pullquote]A sensation of depth in an image is achieved when the image is organized in different planes that can be easily scouted by the eye. Each plane has to contain its own elements clearly defined and recognizable that contributes to the general meaning of the photograph.[/pullquote]
I like this picture because it has depth and symbolic meaning (subjects/objects in the picture can be easily related to the city of San Diego and the United States), and they are distributed in a hierarchical way in different planes of the picture.
A sensation of depth in an image is not always easy to get. It is achieved when the image is organized in different planes (usually foreground, mid-plane and background) that can be easily scouted by the eye. Each plane has to contain its own elements clearly defined and recognizable that contributes to the general meaning of the photograph.
I think depth is clearly stated in this picture. The first plane is established by the man who is located in the center of the frame; mid plane by pedestrians and parked bicycles, and the foreground is occupied by the huge Giant Dipper Roller Coaster which frames the scene.
When I saw that the guy with the “Arrogant Bastard Ale” T-shirt turned away I knew there was a picture to take. I set him in the center of the frame, like if he was watching the scene. Needless to say when we have a scene like this in front of us, we photographers don’t think in so many ideas simultaneously. We simply know that “there’s a picture” there, that all the subjects are in “their place” creating a composition. I knew the scene I had in front was one the “pictures” my brain has learned to recognize as scenes that work as a photograph. All the sets of images that work as a photograph conform the mental model all photographers develop during the first years taking photographs.
I can never emphasize enough how important is to develop a mental model seeing the pictures of other photographers, taking your own and comparing them. Trying to see the differences between her pictures and other’s, any beginner is able to see possible improvements that can add to her photography. This is a long process that any photographer who is beginning has to establish as a routine.
[pullquote]When you have in front of you a big guy with an “Arrogant Bastard Ale” T-shirt under a huge old Roller Coaster with a beautifully restored American classic car on his right, you have no choice: you can shoot, shoot or shoot…[/pullquote]
When you have in front of you a big guy with an “Arrogant Bastard Ale” T-shirt under a huge old Roller Coaster with a beautifully restored American classic car on his right, you have no choice: you can shoot, shoot or shoot… it’s just a matter of finding a nice composition. In this case it I had to change the lens to my wide angle, the 24mm, as it allowed the most of the Giant Dippier Roller Coaster to show in the frame. The 20mm would have included more of it, but the foreground would have had too much space and the subjects on it would have been too far away from each other, the image would have lost part of its cohesion. It seemed that the 24mm was the one that gave the best perspective.
When using wide angles, use whenever possible the less extreme one you can. If you can shoot the picture with a 24mm, don’t go for the 20mm unless there’s a compelling reason to do it. The use of wide angles will be a subject of another post...
Have you liked this post? If so you can SUBSCRIBE to The Last Footprint to receive the last updates, learn photography and get travel tips. It is FREE and you can unsubscribe whenever you want.