This mess isn't getting in my way; Or, street photography in the snow

A favorite genre of mine is street photography. And while I haven't indulged in a good photo walk lately, I'm in the habit of bagging my camera for my commute most every day- exceptions usually being rainy or sloppy snow days. Today, at a moment's notice before heading out the door I decided I'd like to memorialize what hopefully turns out to be the last snow of the winter. So I put my smaller backpack down, packed up a true day pack to load up my work shoes and camera. Fingers crossed as I raise my ISO, lower my shutter speed and reduce my expectations on clear, crisp shots.

Stepping out of the belly of the beast at New York's Penn Station, you're treated to the rush of morning commuters eager to get to the safety and warmth of their cubby holes in the sky. Some walk, others cab it, others take the subway. This morning, everyone was feeling the effects.

The vibrancy of the city includes some ingredients that help validate her nickname, "The city that never sleeps".

While an inconvenience, it's still fun to observe the city at the dawning of a new day complete with the colors, sounds and action.

In the suburbs or the country, the falling snow can silence the landscape. There, you may only hear the soft sound of the flakes crunch as it falls. In the big town, the decibels may be reduced by the weather, but the noises never go away.

It was an enjoyable, brief walk as I made my way to the office. I've done this countless times in good weather and bad, so here's some points to think about if you're going to take on some street photography.... in good weather and bad:

  • Composition Have a purpose in street photography, and have some type of game plan as to how you're photographing a scene. Thinking of the photos above, are you planning on capturing the weather- the snow falling? Or is today's snow just the background of your story. Think about the emphasis of your image, and plan your composition around that as the centerpiece. Adding in the details can be as simple as zooming in and out with your feet, or using other environmental components to help contribute to a more interesting story.
  • Scene Incorporating the composition, as well as location, will give you your scene. You can think about shooting from inside of a building's lobby looking out to provide an element of shelter, comfort or to draw a picture of space- both indoors and out- to convey contrasting environments.
  • Mood Are you looking for an environmental story, the human element or possibly capturing a definitive moment? As with the pedestrians crossing 7th Avenue above, we're intimately observing people rushing through cold weather while they're being mindful of the dangers of traffic. This can be quite different than a relaxed photo of an elderly lady enjoying a Cappuccino on a mid-summer weekend morning.
  • Shoot in manual mode This is more of a technical point, but I can't stress enough the fundamentals of learning to master your gear on the move. You create art "in camera" by learning to manipulate the exposure to your liking. Do you want to capture a dramatic silhouette? How are you metering? What are you exposing for? Is your intention to freeze time, or to show a leave blowing along the ground with a slight blur? How are you adjusting your depth of field to account for the crowd walking toward you- are you going to emphasize the person mid-shot lighting a cigarette, or the young lady closest to the camera walking under her umbrella?

Anyhow, street photography. It's helped me consider my portrait work, environmentally and posed. It will help me tackle a few upcoming projects where capturing outdoor scenes will be rooted in the street genre. Plan a few hours of your own- it can be Main Street, U.S.A, or your nearest city. Or drop me a note, I'd love to get together for a session.