Our busy lives eat up much of our precious time. Our jobs, families, school, homes and so on are hungry for our precious minutes. Carving out chunks of time for our passion, Street Photography, is necessary. For me, and I’m sure this holds true for almost every one of you, this has to be done. It gives us balance in our lives. It rejuvenates us, just like any other hobby or recreational activity would. For some, it’s what keeps us from becoming drones. From being mindless zombies that are slaves to the grind. I can definitely testify to that.
If you’re like me, the only available time to get lost in shooting is on the weekends. That’s especially true during this time of year here in the Northeast United States Of America. The days are terribly short and the nights tend to be too cold. That being said, by the time a weekend is over, I’m already planning for the next weekend. I start thinking of a plan of attack before Monday even hits. A Street Hunt (a.k.a. Street Photowalk), for me, is rarely just a grab and go venture. I usually know in advance when I’ll be able to steal a few hours to go shoot and I can plan accordingly. So, let me share how I prepare for a Street Hunt.
It’s winter here, so Mother Nature can be quite angry and unpredictable. But she’s that way all year, really. Checking the weather is the absolute first thing I do to prepare for a Street Photowalk. I do this at the end of every weekend, looking at the seven day forecast. The weather is the biggest factor in planning a hunt. I’ll usually have an idea of what free time I’ll have the coming weekend, so I monitor the forecast closely throughout the week. I have three small cities that are within a thirty minute drive of my home. So, if the weather is looking sketchy, I’ll stay very close.
Now knowing if there’s going to be precipitation, I can plan my attack accordingly. Since I’m very familiar with these cities, I’m aware of where the most “action” is. Foot traffic, markets, events, etc. I then factor in where I can find cover and shoot safely. And by safely I mean protecting my gear. I use a NEX 6 and it’s not weather sealed. So I have to know which areas provide the best coverage as far as awnings, bus shelters, parking garages and any other urban, man-made protection.
And, of course, there’s the obvious… how to dress for the hunt. Spyros mentioned this before in his post, THE DO’S OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY. Since Saturday is the best day for me to shoot, I’ll check various weather websites before I head out and look at hourly forecasts. Needless to say, I live for sunny Saturdays!
I mentioned previously that I live very close to three small cities. When warmer weather is here, there’s a multitude of events happening. Street fairs, demonstrations, parades, etc. These events provide plenty of shooting opportunities. Not just the crowds at the events themselves, but the foot traffic going to and from them. I’ll check the calendar of events for each of these cities online and see what looks promising. I also scan the weekend section of the local newspapers. I factor where the events are being held into the equation along with which ones may provide the best “characters”. Where the event is being held plays a big part in thinking about possible compositions.
This time of year, events are basically non-existent. So there’s always the public markets. Each city has one here. Lancaster, Pennsylvania definitely provides the best opportunities. It’s Central Market is located in the heart of town, and there’s plenty of foot traffic in the surrounding area. Harrisburg has the more metropolitan feel and look. It is the state capitol, but those offices are all closed and the market is located outside of the downtown area.
Since my last kit was stolen, my gear is quite limited at this point. I have the NEX-6 and two lenses, the Sony SEL50F18 and the Sigma 30mm. Both lenses go with me on every hunt. I do not have to make a decision on what to take, though some of you may have to choose. There’s no way I’d carry a multitude of lenses with me. Just like Spyros mentioned in his post, THE DONT’S OF STREET PHOTOGRAPHY, imagine all your gear being stolen or damaged! Trust me, it’s sickening. I recently had all my gear stolen while traveling and it was absolutely heartbreaking. I have a small shoulder bag that accommodates everything I need. Along with the camera and lenses, I pack a spare battery, Lenspen, lens cloth and nothing else. I like traveling light when shooting, so this works quite well. Depending on the situation, I may leave the bag, and stick the extra lens in a coat pocket. The NEX is fabulously compact, as are the lenses.
As far as any provisions like a snack or water, I usually don’t pack any. These are urban areas, so there’s plenty of places to recharge the body! I also try to eat a good meal before going out. That way a rumbling stomach doesn’t distract me during my venture.
Next to my gear, the most important thing I bring with me on a Street Hunt is a positive attitude and an open mind. This isn’t always easy, mind you. The work week is long and full of stress and going on a hunt is my release. Not just from work, but the everyday stresses we all face. Street Photography is what I enjoy and I try to clear my mind of all that negativity and worry before I go out on a Street Hunt. This is crucial for myself. I like to go alone, so I can thoroughly lose myself in the hunt. The only conversation I have to make is with people on the street. People who know nothing about me and can get me thinking about my stresses. This is my thing, though. Some folks may prefer to go out with a friend or group. I also enjoy that from time to time, but mostly not. I’m not adverse to going hunting with others, I just usually prefer not to. Again, it’s part of getting “lost” in the art that means a lot to me.
This is how I prepare for a Street Hunt. I’m sure many of you have many different approaches. Schedules and locations will be influences on how you may approach a Street Photowalk. For example, someone living in a major city like New York or London would have many more opportunities than myself and may not need to prepare at all! This is just my humble approach. I’d love to hear how some of you prepare! Let me hear you!