İstiklal, the grand shopping street from Taksim Square to Galata...in the rain! Where else? It follow me everywhere!
Turkey, the land of turquoise seas and golden beaches drenched in glorious sun. True, in summer at least. In the UK most of us probably think of Turkey as this idyllic summer holiday destination...and yes, it has all those ingredients usually absent from an English summer holiday, but Turkey does get rain too...and snow! In fact the climate is actually very diverse, but enough of that. Photography isn’t about meteorology or geography, or is it?
Of course it is!
For travel photography, landscape photography, street photography, in fact any outdoor photography...weather plays a huge part. Light, natural light, is not only about the golden hour, but also the weather. The mood that light and different weather conditions create are essential ingredients for us. In addition, if humans, you know those peculiar creatures, are in the shot, they behave very differently in different weather and temperatures. The attitudes, the clothing, the interactions all vary.
In İstanbul, in late January, I had the pleasure, I think that’s the right word, of hanging around outside some of the shops of the main shopping street in the famous Beyoğlu district. It’s the neighbourhood that sits on the European side of the Bosphorus nestled up against the shores of that famous waterway and the Golden Horn. It has views across into Asia, and also across the Horn to the Sultan Ahmet district with the famous Topkapı Palace, Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia. Why was I hanging around outside shops? My hobby is photography, my wife’s...ok, I know it’s a stereotype but, what can I do sometimes? No complaints from me, well, maybe a few as the knees scream when standing in the cold, damp weather...but they'd do that with photography too!
Now, street photography isn’t really my thing and for that matter, neither is true travel photography. Many would say that true travel photography should capture the locals to give the series of shots more colour and an emotional connection. Nothing demonstrates culture like the people belonging to it, I guess. For me, both street and travel photography, where people are included, always feels...awkward.
Photographing without permission just feels like an invasion of privacy...and asking permission just seems too, well, forward! I know it shouldn’t be, but my personality is what it is.
Tips I have heard to overcome photography shyness:
Ok, I just can’t do it. Give me a landscape or a macro something, even a piece of architecture – anything that cannot take offence! What am I frightened of? A punch in the kisser? I’ve no idea! A psychologist may be able to help, if I were actually interested in solving this problem I could try and get out of the comfort zone. One day, perhaps!
I’m rambling, verbally that is, not up and down the shopping street. I was standing in the same place for about an hour. The great thing about this street though is the small red trams that shuffle back and forth. A relic of a previous time that add something special to the area and they have, of course, been photographed a million times. Fortunately that evening the street was not too busy, I challenge you to try and photograph the trams without obstruction in peak tourist season!
Even photography this tram was outside of my comfort zone. Clearly doing something photographic...in public! I knelt down, I don’t think anyone almost fell over me, and with the high speed shutter mode on I fired off a few shots as the tram passed by. I attempted a few angles, but the low shot works better I feel, a more dramatic, interesting angle picking up the reflection of the light on the damp flagstones, I deliberately choose a gritty feel in post processing to try to enhance this atmosphere.
Light red riding in the Beyoglu 'hood, f/3.5, 1/40, 15mm, ISO250
Looking back I wish I had used something like f/8 to get a deeper depth of field, light wasn't good and I was too cautious about ISO...incorrectly I would add!
Still no sign of my wife, deeply esconced in H&M no doubt. Ah well, what else can I photograph. People! Me? Could I?
I lifted the cam, the faces looking straight at me somehow blocking my trigger finger...I hesitated, the shot was gone. When I did get a shot, there was no clear subject just a naff image of bored, damp looking people. I tried again. Failed. Then Two young ladies, one photographing the other, at least they were not moving much...I should be able to get a capture as they checked the back screen images together. It’s not a great picture, but somehow the blurred people passing by frame these high street screen scrimpers in an interesting way. I put the camera down. Enough being outside of my comfort zone. It was uncomfortable!
High Street Scrimping, f/5.6, 1/15, 85mm, ISO6400
The sun was now going down. The clouds began to glow. Could I get street detail and the colours of the sky? 3 shots, bracketed, should work. Sure, people were in the shot, but I knew they were not the subject and I was honestly ignoring them. Better!
Istiklal Street, f/5.6, 18mm, ISO100 (3 shots bracketed)
HDR photomerge in Lightroom. Much happier inside my comfort zone!
One last shot to get tonight. Shopping finished and down the hill at the end of the street to get the normal tram service to our hotel. We passed the Galata Tower, of Genoise origin and originally called Tower of Christ (I think), anyway, it’s a wonderful landmark and lit up nicely at night, the only problem is, without an expensive tilt-shift lens, converging verticals are always a problem due to the angle and space available to take the shot. Just using the top of the tower in a landscape format works well, but with some work in Lightroom, a full shot can be, almost, achieved.
The Tower, f/16, 25sec, 31mm, ISO100
Why f/16 for this shot, originally I was trying to include the street lights at ground level and have them become light stars, but the distortion of the tower geometry was too wild! The shot had to be cropped.
Did you have nerves or issue photographing strangers? What techniques did you or do you use to get by? Write a comment, share your ideas!
The Frustrated Photog.