Sydney 2013 (3 images)

Candid photography is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.

Which is why when I’m out on the streets, my camera is always on, the lens cap is always off, and the manual focus of my 50mm fixed focal length lens is set at about 3 metres; I usually shoot in the range of 2 – 5 metres. You never know what scene you will encounter, and the scene can change substantially between spotting it and getting ready to get the shot in. And who wants to miss that shot for not being ready or not being close enough…

the meerkat

“The meerkat”

It seems to me that candid street life photography is like an invisible threshold for many. At least it was for me, for the longest time. But one day I crossed that threshold and it’s been a rewarding experience. The capture of that essential and spontaneous moment is what it’s all about. The quote from Robert Capa, war photographer, photojournalist and a founder of Magnum Photos resonates with me:

“If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

I believe Capa wasn’t suggesting using a telephoto to clandestinely get in close, but rather he wanted us to get physically closer and be in the moment. In fact most of my candid photos are taken with me walking directly at my subject.

lost in her own world

“Lost in her own world”

Last year I used the title Candid photography is like a box of chocolates for a once off post of a small hodge podge of images, unconnected by any theme. Over time, that title has grown on me and my collection of “assorted photos” has grown as well. So I’ve decided to revive the title and turn it into an occasional series of posts. I hope you don’t get bored by it.

By the way, this will be my last post until after Easter. I hope this box of chocolates will suffice until then.

Leica Etcetera, Photography Etcetera

Candid photography is like a box of chocolates #2


96 thoughts on “Candid photography is like a box of chocolates #2

    • Thanks. I guess getting a good close up candid without being seen or confronted, is a bit of an adrenaline rush. 🙂 Worth the effort though. I’m sure you’ll get there. Have a good Easter.

  1. 😀 You’re lucky with your shutter release, Candid shot for me sometimes too much risk, because people reacted little weird. See your post after Easter, have a nice day my friend 🙂

  2. It pains me to see all these folks on their phones (I want to yank them and hurl them into a nearby fountain to hear the cacophony) but LOL at the meerkat.

  3. I had not heard/read that Capra quote – very fitting. I guess I’ll have to savor these last few shots until you post-easter return – whatever you do and where ever you go – have fun!

  4. Excellent post and so true when it comes to street photography. Your title,”the meerkat” is perfect. I am always astounded how buried people are in their cell phones…. lucky there are photographers out there to help people see! Have a great holiday.

  5. …or even a bag of liquorice allsorts 🙂

    Love “Synchronicity” – how great is that shot! I wonder how they would have looked 10 or 15 years ago. Have a good Easter LD 🙂
    Jude xx

    • Thanks, it’s a scene repeated over and over and over again. Everyone in their own world, oblivious to the immediate around them. It sounds like you have a sweet tooth. Make sure you stroll the ground floor of the Strand Arcade I told you about before – you won’t be disappointed. 🙂
      Have a great Easter.

  6. LD !!!! (_¤_) that you are – whaddya mean by shutting down whenever you feel like it ? Sighh … I s’pose you’re allowed to but. :-\
    Are you depressed these days by the fact that it seems almost everyone is grafted on to his/her BLOODY smartphone ? I look forward to seeing some frames (yes yes, after easter) in which they’re not in evidence. Now, there’s a challenge for yer ! 😀

    • Maybe there was a clandestine theme here. 🙂 A crowd scene without a smartphone in it? It might be easier to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
      Thank you. I shouldn’t be away for too long but send out a search party if I haven’t returned before the winter. 🙂

  7. I look forward to a new series. I have never tried this type of photography but I should give it a go – not so easy in the country though, might make a trip into Melbourne! Have a good Easter 🙂

    • I’ve learnt that background city noise is my friend. Even from a couple of metres away, no-one really notices the shutter click. No so easy to get away with it in a country town. I used to spend a lot of time in the town of the Big Merino.
      Have a great Easter.

  8. The Meerkat is laugh out loud perfect.
    You are far braver than I am. Of course, I live in a not-so-urban area and there is no cover for a photographer….but I don’t think I could be that bold walking straight toward my subject even in a crowd. You do good work.

    • I thought of using a different title for that one, but naaaaah. 🙂

      Busy crowds and background noise really suit my style of candids. And no-one wants eye contact so I get away with what I do pretty easily. Thank you.

  9. One of the few times I tried to pull off a candid the person suddenly came charging at me waving their hands and swearing. They were freaking out thinking they were in my shot. As it turns out I was trying to photograph a subject just to the left and behind him. He wasn’t even going to be in it!

  10. Nelson says:

    I tried that approach last week with mixed results but with practice (and picking the right shutter speed) I think I could get some results, one day, I hope

  11. A perfect title for your candid street shots! I love looking at street photos from around the world and really want to get better at taking them myself. A goal for the next year. 🙂

  12. tutto questo, cioccolatini compresi, molto stimolante e divertente, anche io butterei i cellulari nella fontana, credo che si debba essere più liberi da queste catene, ha ha, bella la citazione di Capa che adoro, e splendide le tue foto …ammiro il tuo coraggio nel non temere ritorsioni per le candidi foto
    passa una felice pasqua, a presto
    all this, including chocolates, very inspiring and fun, also I would jump cell phones in the fountain, I think you should be more free from these chains, ha ha, nice quote from Capa I adore, and beautiful your photos … I admire your courage in not fearing retaliation for candid photos
    passes a Happy Easter, see you soon

  13. That guy in the second photo does look like a meerkat with his head to the right. He looks like one of them meerkats on the commercials. I am assuming you must have very steady hands to capture such spontaneous-on-the-fly-in-the-moment shots?

    I really like the Box of Chocolates title. It reminded me of my current 100-day chocolate fast. Oh what torture 🙂

    • I hope the chocolate fast is going well, particularly as we are coming up to Easter. 🙂
      Timing is everything. From the expressions to the body language to getting the photo right. I was lucky with the meerkat shot. 🙂

      • Thanks, Dragon. Last year I started my chocolate fast the day after Easter. Smart. This year, before Easter. Stupid 🙂

        Yes, timing. It comes up again. Timing and luck. An explosive combination culminating in fireworks.

  14. Your street photography and candid shots are really admirable Draco! I’ve heard that quote by Robert Capa and I couldn’t agree more… being close makes a huge difference. Happy Easter Draco! 🙂

  15. great candids and very useful tips, Draco… I wished I knew how to set my focus to 3 meters… 🙂 🙂 is this possible in DSLRs? will have to read that manual after 3 years now…
    the last sentence must be the bitter chocolate surprise… I don’t like bitter chocolate and I will miss you… hope you go some place nice though, Happy Easter, Draco 🙂

    • You can set to manual focus but modern dslr lenses tend not to have distance scales on them which is difficult. The best option is to set to manual focus, prefocus at a set point and then try it. Autofocus can be a little haphazard at times.

      There’s often that one chocolate in the box you don’t like. Sorry about that but I’ll have another box of chocolates for you shortly. I’m still buying lotto tickets. 🙂 Have a wonderful Easter. 🙂

  16. JL Kenney says:

    Someday, perhaps, I’ll cross that threshold, but for now, I will enjoy your candids 🙂
    Have a pleasant Easter!

  17. Your pictures here really highlight just how much most of us hold one of those little oblong things in our hands – and stare at it all the time! From the distance they almost look like a little picture frame, especially the fact that everyone stares at them so much. I’m sure if someone in the early 1900’s was to time travel to our future, they’d be very confused as to why we hold little picture frames in our hands. Good distraction from you taking a picture of them though – I shall remember to look around me a bit more next time I’m distracted by my phone! I could be missing something! 🙂

    • Thanks, but in 100 years from now what will be their “everyday gadget”. It’s interesting to consider that.
      I have to remember to look up from my phone too. 🙂 I hope you’re having a great weekend.

  18. When I travel the world, I’m taking pictures mostly of the people. I’ve got tons of them, I love this kind of photography. I’m using the zoom and my photos aren’t so nice, so crispy. Great photos! It’s a pleasure 🙂 Happy Easter one more time!

  19. Cool pictures, thank you!
    Absolutely agree with you and Capa! Though it might be quite difficult sometimes to get closer to the object and not spoil the whole thing.

  20. Lost in her own world, but not such a good idea. Reminds me of the lady in the US who fell in the water fountain in a mall. She wanted to sue the mall for being lost in her world…how ironic!

  21. to remain in him says:

    Candid photography is kind of adventure. Some thrill of the moment.
    Nice photos, Lignum. Have a very nice Easter 🙂

  22. LB says:

    We won’t get bored! Or at least, I won’t. 🙂
    That expression on the woman in the first is too funny – wonder what’s got her annoyed?
    Happy Easter!

  23. Great post, that was one of the first photography lessons I learned in Mexico. My friend took my 70-200mm and in place put a 24-70mm and it created a world of difference. In both interacting with the people as well as quality of photos…

  24. Great documentation of a city… illness..?? It’s so easy get addicted, to allow that thing to disturb oneself, but I’m not quite free of it myself. 😉 Hope you some really good holidays!

    • In our own worlds – sometimes its a good place to be, and sometimes not. Thank you Patti.

      The quote is really an inspiration. Unfortunately for Capa, getting close is what cost him his life.

  25. Manual focus! Your photographs are as clear as glass….you must have super steady hands and the eye of an eagle. You inspire me to do better! Great series. I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

  26. Ha! Symbols of modern times. I am guilty as well of playing with my phone at times. Your series with candid photography are always nice to watch, and it is nice to know how you make it work. So thanks!

    • Thank you. It’s about finding the right mix. Some people are so absorbed in their phone, the rest of the world doesn’t exist. But when I’m eating out on my own, it’s a godsend, stopping me from feeling awkward.

  27. Un Gran Trabajo, Sin Duda Las Fotografias Son Impresionantes… Facil Ver Cuanta Distancia Puede Existir Cuando Un Movil Esta Tan Cerca… Donde Quedarón Las Conversaciones De Parque…??

    • Sí, ellos estaban tan ocupados, que no me vieron. Yo podría estar muy cerca. Gracias.

      Yes, they were so busy, they didn’t see me. I could get very close. Thank you.

  28. Gracefully Global says:

    I totally relate about not being close enough. Whenever I shoot something and see the shot later and realize it isn’t strong, it is always because I didn’t get close enough to the subject or whatever story I was witnessing. And that is always because I was too shy. I need to get over it and get closer! 🙂

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