Going for a spin

10 Apr

I’ve been studying street photography lately in my free time. It’s a nice break from my work on busy days when I have a few minutes to read an article on a coffee break and study photos taken by other photographers. I’m enjoying the different styles I’ve seen from various photographers and hope to develop my style slowly as the years go on.

I started thinking about my own bank of photos and knew I had many in my files that I’d not even touched yet.  At the time, I didn’t think there was anything special about them and just overlooked them for others that stood out to me more. After a lot of reading, I decided to take a look back and see if there were any I could edit and try to improve, even if they didn’t seem like obvious “winners” the first few times around. By doing some minor editing {it’s not my thing to go all out in post and make major changes to my photos}, like cropping, a few conversions to black and white and some adjustments on highlights, tones and saturation, here are the results.

These photos are all from our trip to Amsterdam last November. They also happen to be shots with cyclists as subjects. As you can see, the small tweaks I made greatly changed the feel of each one (for the better, I think). For each set, I’ll show the original file (before any editing) and the final result.

DSC_1134As you can see, there was a lot going on in the original photo (above). I purposely shot this photo because I saw a line of cyclists coming toward me and I wanted to capture the scene along the avenue with them, the street lamps, the local shops and the fall foliage. The person walking on the right side and the bag on the bike in the foreground seemed distracting, and it wasn’t easy to see the face of the first cyclist.

I made a tighter crop on the photo and converted to black and white. After that, I made some other tweaks and the photo below is more along the lines of what I wanted to capture. I even got to keep the handlebars of the bicycle in the foreground. Since I purposely took the photo from this perspective, I really didn’t want to lose it. Even though you cannot see more of the bike, I think it’s easy to deduce what the object is and how it plays into the overall scene.

DSC_1134_edited-2_finalI snapped this next photo from the corner of two intersecting streets at the base of a bridge over a canal. The original shot was fairly blown out and there were some distractions that I wanted to minimize: the yellow street sign and half of a tree on the left. I also felt that the crop should have been tighter to straighten the photo a bit more. The tops of the buildings are cut off and just add unnecessary negative space.

DSC_1152I cropped the shot and again, converted to black and white. I was able to keep some of the buildings in the background, which shows the lovely windows, and the lines of the bridge lead the eye up to the girls on the bicycles. Perhaps distracting, or perhaps an intricate detail, is the shadow of a tree on the right side of the frame on the side of the building. I prefer the edited photo, because now it makes me wonder where the two girls might have been going together and if they are friends, sisters, co-workers.

DSC_1152_edited-2This last shot might be my favorite of the three. It could be because of the amount of time it took me to get the shot, waiting for someone to come into the frame, without a crowd overtaking the scene in the window. It could be because I really liked the style of the bar with the large windows, the industrial style lights over the counter in the background, the number over the door, the girl looking out the window.

DSC_1240_edited-1I liked the idea I had for this shot, but it just didn’t turn out the way I originally planned. Although I had to stand out of the way to get the scene I wanted, it felt like I was still too far away. After conversion, I was able to get closer to the original vision I had for this one. I lost a bit of the bicycle, but it’s still obvious that the man is riding one. I also wasn’t to keep the number over the door with the tighter crop.

The interesting lights are still there, and the door on the right and the door and stoop on the left act as a frame for the subjects. It’s also easier to see the name of the bar. I love the fact that after the edit I can now see the girl’s face better through the window. I wonder what she saw outside and what she was thinking here.

DSC_1240_edited-1_finalPerhaps one of the aspects of street photography that draws me in is that it’s very different from traditional portraiture. Objects that might normally seem distracting in a photo end up adding to the scene, filling in more of the story. It’s real. It’s the ordinary that seems extraordinary. It’s life.

Which of the photos do you like best? Do you prefer the originals or the conversions? If you’re a street photographer, how did you get started?


4 responses to “Going for a spin

  1. Mary

    April 18, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Well done. I like the fact that you presented the original and the edited, and I like that fact that you converted all your finals into B&W. I think this really added something to the feel of the photos.

    The first shot I really the lines, and I think you did well cropping it. The only critic there would be for it to be a bit sharper. With that being said I think that is one of the harder aspects of street photography. …well that and being at the right place at the right time. 🙂

    The two girls on the bridge – excellent. Bringing everything in tighter really was a good idea and helps keep the focus where you want it to be.

    Great job in the last shot. It is difficult to capture movement well. I really like your edited shot and that by bring the shot in tighter you got rid of some of the distractions in the original shot.

    And last but not least totally agree with your last paragraph, and last few sentences. Totally agree. Well said. 🙂

    • mypersonalcoffeebreak

      April 19, 2014 at 8:37 am

      Thanks for your great feedback! I agree #1 is not as sharp as I would have liked. Thanks for all your great critiques, friend. XO

  2. Lisa Wagner

    April 10, 2014 at 10:03 am

    The one where I really saw a difference was the one with two cyclists on the bridge. I liked that one!


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