Come Rain, Come Shine

© Erik Lind
© Terry Shoobridge
© Inger Stenstrøm
© Tori Tollefsen
© Mary Shoobridge

Street photography is challenging. Most of us feel like intruders when we shove our cameras into the faces of strangers on the street. It’s intimidating, and most intimidating is approaching strangers asking to take their photo. Even just being a fly on the wall, letting street life pass by unobstructed, capturing it without any interaction, can be daunting enough. We just don’t feel comfortable photographing people we don’t know.

For participants during the extended weekend photo workshop in Bath two weeks ago, they all experienced the challenge of street photography. In the beginning, they were pretty much reluctant to the thought of approaching strangers on the street. Resorting to zoom in and use a long telephoto lens was much less intimidating. However, taking captivating street photos more often than not requires using a wide-angle lens or at least a so-called normal lens.

Over the next three days during the workshop, they were pushed ever closer to whatever took place on the street. And they were pushed to use a more wide-angled approach. They also started approaching complete strangers on the street. To their surprise, they found out that most people don’t mind having their photos taken. On the contrary. With that insight came also more audacity—and in the end amazing results in terms of photos they have captured.

To challenge the participants even more, the weather was far from cooperative. Whereas Bath had been bathed in sunshine weeks before the workshop—and in fact ever since the workshop was done, too—during the extended weekend the rain came down reluctantly most days. However, the participants passed this challenge with blistering energy. Come rain, come shine, they were all out shooting every day.

Here is a small selection of what they came back with after an inspiring weekend in beautiful Bath.

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52 thoughts on “Come Rain, Come Shine

  1. While I have dabbled in all types of photography over the years, never so much street photography, although this is one genre in which I have some interest. But being a landscape photographer I can remember the early days where I too would feel intimidated in some cases, wondering what people would think seeing me in awkward place or position trying to get my shot. Sometimes in ill ease would be enough to prevent me from getting the shot, or truly working the subject. I think we all have to just get in the groove and overcome our inhibitions and that is when we produce our best work.

  2. When it comes to street photography, the participants of your workshop all have my sympathy. In general, I could only do street photography with a telephoto lens or in a crowded street where there are many tourists with cameras making my camera blend in with the crowd.

    Your Bath residents sound like they were pretty kind to the photographers. Australians, in general, are more than a little reluctant at having their photo taken by a stranger and yet……..on holidays overseas, Australians have no hesitation thrusting their cameras in the faces of locals (usually without their permission). Double standards methinks 🙂

    1. I think you description of Australians is similar for most nationalities. However, I think most of us will be surprised about how willing most people actually are to be photographed as long as the photographer is open and give something of her- or himself in the exchange.

    1. Yes, and so it was for most of the participants in the beginning of the workshop. I don’t mean to say that everybody should do street photography, but it always takes some overcoming to get started.

  3. I like street photography. An anecdote; a wedding party was celebrating behind the Caribbean Club in Key West. From a safe distance I was compelled to take photo’s of this beautiful scene and the beautiful people. The couple came over to me and asked me to join in the celebration which I did. It was amazing. One never knows how things will turn out, they could just as well told me to stop intruding on their privacy but it was indeed worth the risk. Wonderful article Otto, you certainly can evoke a bit of courage.

  4. I can testify to the challenging weather conditions as I was one of those workshop participants! It was an amazing experience and Otto gently challenged us to overcome our shyness and speak to complete strangers. It turned out to be less difficult than we thought and we had some great photos (alongside lots of rubbish!) and even better memories. Thanks again Otto. Mary

  5. These are great examples of street photography, Otto! I am very shy about asking to photograph people, but have advanced to asking if I can photograph their dog 🙂 I have been and will be quite a bit in NYC in the coming months so I will see if I can advance some more.

  6. With you for a role model, neither rain, nor snow, nor dark of night could hamper your intrepid artists. What’s a little rain, when you’ve screwed up the nerve to approach a stranger on the street with your camera? 😉

  7. I’m always so uncomfortable approaching strangers or getting too close with my camera, so I admire those who do! These photos are really interesting and very good examples! Your students did a wonderful job, Otto!

    1. In a way one could say it’s the more ethical way, but at the same time, asking beforehand creates different pictures than being a fly on the wall and photograph life as it passes by—without asking.

  8. I bet your participants learn SO MUCH in your workshops. I guess if you are shy, then photographing people on the street will really push your comfort level? What surprised me though, is that you say many people are happy to be photographed, I guess that would make things a little easier? Do you ask them to sign anything or is that not necessary?

    1. Yes, shyness would indeed push you comfort level, and as artist of creative persons that is only good for us. I never ask for a release since I don’t ever use street photos in advertisement.

  9. I am not a photographer, but I like to take street photography since my adolescence. It’s a hobby of mine ever since I’ve got introduced to the photojournalism of Marc Riboud, Robert Capa and Elliott Erwitt. I’m not shy of nature so it’s pretty easy for me to approach people and ask them for their permission. However, I prefer to take the picture first in order to capture the spontaneity of the moment. If the person is recognizable, I will talk to them and ask permission to show the photo. Most of the time, it allows to start an interesting conversion and to better know the individual, which enriches the experience. By the way, from what I have seen your students did a great job. 😎 They shine! Each of their photo illustrates an interesting moment in people’s lives or other topics regarding them. These are short stories that give way to the imagination, an important aspect for this type of photography I think. Oh, I would love to be one of your students some day or even one of your subjects. Who knows, dreams do come true sometimes. Meanwhile I’ll keep admiring the pictures from your blog.

    1. You way of approaching street photograph is excellent. But it does require that the photographer isn’t shy. And, yes, I would loved to have you in one of my workshops one day. In the meantime I enjoy our connection through the blog sphere.

  10. Great shots, well done, everyone – including you, Otto! 🙂 I was in Bath at the end of last year, it was incredibly crowded, stunningly beautiful and just woaw. I suppose that’s what makes it so good for street photography, come raine, come shine. 😉 I personally have big and heavy Nikon gear, I suppose my equipment is not the best for candid street photography, what do you think? What do you recommend your students? This winter I attended a lecture by Dag Spant about street photography in Fredrikstad Fotoklubb and he favoured a small Olympus to get close ups, well, he likes to get really close … When you go out to do street photography in place or city, is it essential to capture the feeling of this particular place or are you just on the look out for people? Obviously you post the photos from your participants to get a feedback from us, though, at the end of your post, I thought, it’d be so helpful to us all read your constructive photo critique. 🙂

    1. You bring up some very relevant questions. First to the camera: Personally I think camera is not important. I have photographed with everything from the big, chunky Eos-1 cameras to small point-and-shoot cameras like the Lumix LX series. Of course, if you want to be inconspicuous smaller is better, but your bigger Nikon equipment shouldn’t hold you back. I never recommend anything in particular for my students. Whatever you have is always the best camera. The only thing I say is bring as little equipment as possible. You certainly don’t need two cameras, three lenses and what not.

      As to the second question; what do I look for when shooting on the street? It varies. Sometimes I have a specific idea about what I want to do and concentrate on doing that. Other times I just go out and look for whatever might interest me. In the latter case, I would normally photography both people and try to capture the atmosphere of the place—whatever catches my attention. However, I find that I often capture stronger images when I have a specific idea I am looking for, which in a way is putting restrictions on myself.

      Finally, as to my photo critique; I agree it could be useful to have it posted at the end. I will have to think about that for next time. 🙂

  11. Although street photography has never attracted me as a participant I enjoy viewing the work of others, particularly when the images ‘invite’ me to imagine the thoughts of the subjects. I like very much the group you have chosen. In their different ways the characters are so alive!

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