Street Photography 101: Dealing with the one that got away

“Orange”, Birmingham, 2022 (Fujifilm X-Pro3, XF18mm F1.4, 1/250s @ f/8, ISO 1600)

Street photography is often a game of waiting. You find somewhere or something that looks promising but instinctively know it is missing some element. Maybe a person or a vehicle needs to enter the frame or maybe it’s the light that is not quite right. Whichever it is you know you need to wait for everything to come together. Alternatively, maybe something unfolds before you that requires quick reactions to frame and take the shot. Sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t. Or, maybe it’s a combination of both these. You see somewhere promising that’s missing that vital piece and after a long wait something unfolds you weren’t quite expecting and you need to quickly react.

This shot, from my first foray of 2022 onto Birmingham’s streets, is a case in point. I had seen the four posters and was attracted to the bright orange ones in particular. I thought it would be good if someone were to be walking past with similar orange colours or maybe a complementary colour (blue maybe). I’d been waiting for a while as various people had walked by, wearing the wrong colours, when suddenly this delivery cyclist appeared in my field of view. I managed to get this one shot before he’d sped past and the decisive moment had gone! A quick look at the back of my camera confirmed what I feared, the cyclist was not quite in the right position to really capture that brief and serendipitous fraction of a second that defines the decisive moment. I waited a while in the hope either he or maybe one of his colleagues would pass by but it was not to be.

Having returned home and opened up the image in Adobe Lightroom reinforced this. If only I had timed it a bit better and captured the cyclist at the middle pillar between the two central posters it would have been a far better image. I’d let it get away.

So what can we learn from this?

As discussed here, having your camera preset is crucial if you don’t want to miss any shots. Although I had done this what I had not done was set the drive to continuous. On the X-Pro3, for a mechanical shutter, you can set this for between 3fps and 11fps. Had I had used around 5fps I would probably have got one image that nailed this. I think in the past I have subconsciously thought that continuous shooting is somehow cheating at street photography, after all Henri Cartier-Bresson never had this facility on his Leica but still somehow managed to capture those decisive moments.

In retrospect however I realise it’s probably time to embrace the technology and use every feature at your disposal to get the image you want. I’m pretty sure that even HC-B missed one or two DMs in his time and he was a master of the technique so I guess us mere mortals are allowed the odd technological crutch to help us on our way.

Go to previous Street Photography 101 post.

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