Summer’s End

I can hardly believe it’s already Labour Day weekend. To me – and a lot of other people – it is the unofficial end to summer.

And what a summer we’ve had. I can’t remember the last time we had consistently HOT weather for the entire summer. But I’ll take that over our Canadian winters any time.

A couple of weeks ago, I did get to participate in a street photography workshop led by Fujifilm brand ambassador Ian MacDonald. I first came across his work on his blog and realized I had just missed his workshop held around the same time last year. I like Ian’s style of photography and that he’s been an educator as well, so I decided to invest in learning… considering I’ve never even taken a photography class.

It was a two-day workshop, but unfortunately, I could only attend the first day, as it turned out. Still, I learned a lot of valuable tips and met some great people. I didn’t get many good shots that weekend, but I did apply some of the things I learned in the days after.

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Making the best of a rainy day – I actually shot this through the windshield of my car. Probably not the best thing to do. But I was dry and it turned out to be a good shot!
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Ian’s style often focused on getting silhouettes. This was shot just as the same storm as above was letting up and the sun was breaking out of the clouds. The woman is not in an absolutely clear silhouette, but I like the mix of the rain and the car splash.
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This is one of Ian’s favourite places to shoot in Toronto. It’s literally a wall of light in front of the H&M store at the Eaton Centre – perfect for capturing silhouettes.

Over the course of the last year, I’ve learned a few things about how people react to the photos I take and post online.

There seems to be a move towards “abstract” photos like the ones above… where shapes and colours and textures are the focus, instead of what I consider to be “pure” street photography – capturing people’s emotions, gestures and situations. For example, this one by Aaron Berger is still one of my favourites. For me, this sparked an emotional reaction – it’s funny and strange and it makes you wonder what the story is here.

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By Aaron Berger

It could be coincidence on my part that I’m seeing less of this type of work and more of the abstract. It could also be a way of our photographers of getting around the ethical quandary of respecting someone’s privacy if you don’t have to show their faces, but still be able to make a great photo.

I’ve been doing a balance between the two. I certainly like how light and shadows can come together in a street scene, but I also like capturing someone in a particular moment that reveals a little bit about how they are.

An end-of-summer tradition for me is to visit the annual Canadian National Exhibition fair. When I visited last year, I hadn’t yet devoted my energies to street photography, so I was eager to view the fair this year through a different lens, as it were, and practise getting both kinds of shots.

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I always go to this particular game for this shot each year. This time, I decided to have some fun and focus on a couple of ducks that were on their side. Adds even more humour, I think.

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Part of our workshop with Ian was discussing the legalities and ethics of shooting subjects without their knowledge/permission. Since this child was in a public space, I was within my rights to take her photo without her or her parents’ permission. But this was my third try of the evening to get something like this. The previous times, I couldn’t get close enough without being creepy, and I really wanted the shot. So, as this scene played out before me, I decided to ask her mom for permission and she was more than happy to provide it. In this shot, the kid wasn’t yet aware that I was taking her picture. As soon as she did, though, she hammed it up, which was funny, but I like this candid shot much better.
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This was a simple lesson from Ian – find a background and let the actors come into the scene.

I suppose as “art” – like the kind you’d want to hang in your living room – the abstract is more attractive. You can make up your own narrative to that kind of scene. Fewer people would probably choose to hang a photo of strangers at a fair in their living room.

Which style do you prefer – the more abstract look, or the more “traditional” street photography style? Let me know in your comments!

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