Monday, March 3, 2014

Shoot From The Hip

Some purist might say, "Shoot from the hip is a technique for those who don't have courage". I'm not disagree with that. We will get better composition by carefully position the frame as we look through the viewfinder. But for my current mastery level now, this technique is the most effective way to be invisible on the street. Being invisible is the most important thing to get those candid shots.

I've been using this technique before using my Coolpix P7100 and got disappointing result. Being a point-and-shoot camera, P7100 is too slow for street shooting. Shutter lag, exposure calculation and other things takes almost 1 second or more after I press the button. I always miss the shot. This morning I tried again using the powerful D700 fullframe body.

Some technical consideration worth to mention is that I'm giving a try those tips suggested by Eric Kim in his blog.
  1. Use wide angle lens. I use 35mm f/2D.
  2. Use pre-focusing. I set my aperture at f/11 and set the focus point manually at the hyperfocal distance (around 3 meter). It gives dept-of-field from 2m to infinity.
  3. Use aperture priority automatic exposure.
  4. In one of his workshop video, Eric suggest to use ISO 1600 to get high enough shutter speed (around 1/250s). I found ISO 1000 is adequate for my circumstances.
I already know my 35mm lens has 62o field of view on fullframe body. Approximately it covers the area between 11 to 1 o'clock direction. By those reference I can pre-visualize in my mind what would be the horizontal coverage of the frame, without looking through the viewfinder. But I'm completely lost about the vertical coverage. I totally guess and pray about the verticals.

I turns out I got some decent result using these D700+35mm pair. I wait until my subject close enough (around 2-2.5 m) before I press the button. They completely didn't notice I take their picture. I'm invisible! Take a look ...

Teenage girls have a chit-chat walking on Dago Car Free Day. I could make a shot from this short distance and still get that candid expression.

Sausage seller is too busy with her stuff to notice me.

She was still busy with her mind while I shoot her. This is Simpang Dago pedestrian. Do you see the Fuji Film board on the upper left? It is Mitrasari Photo, one of photo labs where I process and print my negatives 20 years ago.

This is another advantage of shooting from the hip. Usually I take the Cartier-Bresson approach. Work the composition first, then wait until something happens, the decisive moment. For this approach to work, we have to stand or sit still at one point. In this case, I'm not stand still, I'm walking. Wandering looking for something interesting. I keep my finger on the shutter while maintaining the 62o field of view in my mind.
I see a white colored public transportation stop by, sub-conciously I knew that someone will step down the car. I keep walking towards the car and by the time her body coming out I press the button instantly. I got it! Shooting from the hip give us the ready-to-snap state while walking.
Actually the frame is bigger than you see above. I crop it to make the composition better.

I see two women with nicely saturated cloth crossing the street and press the shutter while they are still in the middle of the road. I'm very surprised to see that nice reflection on the black car door. Cool! This photo is also a crop from a bigger frame.

Red everywhere. The rambutan, the woman's cloth, the plastic bag hold by the seller, and the hat of the seller. I wish that woman facing towards me to give more expression and story. But I'm out of luck.

Another close distance shot. Not a good composition, but the expression and the perspective give the sense of immersion into the scene.

The two women doesn't know each other. They both similarly clothed, have similar age, and have similar body size. It's interesting to see the interaction between stranger.

As a conclusion, shooting from the hip has its own merit. Not a good technique to get a perfect geometry, but a very effective undercover method to be invisible. I recommend the use of 35mm lens for its easily estimated field of view.

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