Street Photography

I am heading out to the USA soon and on the trip will be spending a few days in New York. I aim to visit the photography sections of MOMA, the Metropolitan, the International Centre of Photography and a few smaller galleries.

For the trip I will be taking some Landscape equipment - looking for cityscapes and perhaps some landscapes later in the trip when we visit Louisville. I will also be taking my Leica with the intention of capturing some street photos particularly in New York.

I have decided to brush up my street photography skills. I have reviewed a number of website and have reached the view that I should try to follow a few technique principles:

  • travel light - camera and two fixed lenses at most
  • use Auto ISO and keep camera if possible on f/5.6-8 
  • use zone focusing to speed up my capture
I plan a few trips to London to explore my technique (needs to be fast for street work) and my aesthetic. I plan three trips each one majoring on a different lens as the key lens for the day. 28mm was the lens of choice for Gary Winogrand - perhaps the definitive New York street photographer. 35mm is generally accepted as a great all round reportage lens. And finally the 50mm, the principle lens used by the master Henri Cartier Bresson.

On my first trip yesterday I used the 28mm. I found it to be very versatile with a great range from urban landscape to intimate close up shots. It has excellent depth of field and is therefore very good for zone focusing. And the Leica 28mm Elmarit, which was the lens I used, is light, small and trully excellent quality - the only drawback of this lens perhaps is it is not quite as fast as I would like for low light situations. 

Using only the 28mm went pretty well. My challenges are that you really have to get close to the action if you are looking to capture animated people action. I have a tendency to stand back and the action gets lost in the broader scene. An alternative view here is that I can capture images broader than the scene I am really looking for and crop in post production. Can't believe this is really the way to go but the Leica with its 18 Mb files offers the potential to do this. 

It is also difficult to frame without chopping off parts of people in busy scenes. I prefer closed framing myself and perhaps I am overstating this issue. I need to review some of my Winogrand books to see how he handles this!

Looking back on my work I also see plenty of room for improvement! I take too many shots of people just passing by or the backs of people in a scene (am I too shy to tackle people head on?). I also shoot too many junk shots - need to sit back and wait for situations to develop. The auto ISO/zone focusing worked really well with the 28mm!

So what lessons have I learned:
  • must review my books by Tony Ray-Jones and Gary Winogrand
  • must not take shots of just passers by
  • must not take shots of people's backs all the time
  • must get in closer to the action
  • must look for interesting situations and wait for them to develop
  • 28 mm has great potential but I must get in closer and polish my framing technique
Here are a few shots from the 28mm shoot.


Landscape Photography Influences - Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams is an iconic Landscape photographer. He photographed largely in the American west with much of his work based  in Yosemite National Park. Whilst he did some still life and portraiture, Landscape was his true metier.  He was a master technician. He previsualised his images in photographic terms, anticipating the negative  and ultimately the printing process. He was a master printer. 

He is also credited with inventing the zone system for determining exposures. This system is based on determining the correct exposure by using a key part of the image as a reference point - for example a shadow area in the foreground might be used as ther reference with the exposure for this set for example at zone 2. This decision would determine the way in which other areas of the image would be exposed. 

In his work Adams envisioned how he wanted the final photographic image to look. This might not be a literal representation of the scene before him. For Adams "expression was more important than reality, idea more important than fact, the print more important than its subject. For it is only in the print that such magnificence can be unfailingly orchestrated".

Most of his works are landscape vistas on a grand scale. Whereas Weston chose vernacular subjects, from modest shells to toilets! Adams generally chose the grandeur of the mountains. It may be for this reason that his work invokes a greater emotional response for me. That said Adams avoids describing his emotions, stating " I try to avoid describing how I visualize a photograph because of the failure of words to convey the qualities of expressive images". This sentiment is repeated many times in his written work. 

I have collected Adams' books for some time and so have studied many of his images. A full list is included in the bibliography below. My favourite book however is Examples The Making of 40 Photographs . I like this book because it is highly instructive. Adams discusses his thinking when making 40 of his very well known images. They range from landscape to portraits, but the former is most prominent. Some of my favourite Adams images are shown below.


Landscape Photography Influences - Edward Weston

Edward Weston (March 24, 1886 - January 1, 1958) was an American photographer, and co-founder of Group f/64. Most of his work was done using an 8 by 10 inch view camera.

His photographic practice was broad covering portraiture, nude, still life and landscapes. He is perhaps most well known for his still life work. He photographed forms such as artichoke, shells, and rocks, using large-format cameras and available light. These images are close ups which were captured with great precision in order to reveal, in his words,  "an essence of what lies before the ... lens." 

The subtle use of tones and the sculptural formal design of his works have become the standards by which much later photographic practice has been judged. Ansel Adams has written: "Weston is, in the real sense, one of the few creative artists of today. He has recreated the matter-forms and forces of nature; he has made these forms eloquent of the fundamental unity of the world. His work illuminates man's inner journey toward perfection of the spirit." This is heady stuff!  Weston himself was seeking total realism in his work, but also he intended his photographs to represent more than just a literal depiction of the subject - "This then to photograph a rock, have it look like a rock, but be more than a rock. Significant representations - not interpretations."

Weston adopted the same approach to his landscape work. His tended to exclude temporal and transient effects of light, atmosphere, and movement in order to concentrate on revealing the object 'in its "deepest moment of perception."

I have reviewed two Weston books and several websites. The first book is a biography Edward Weston, His Life, the second is a compilation of his work published by Taschen Edward Weston (Icons Series). I must confess that I find Weston difficult. I admire greatly the quality and precision of his work. The composition and technical precision are superb, and there is much I could learn from this. However, for me his images lack emotional content. Perhaps I am misreading this or perhaps this is just what he intended. 

His landscapes seem to me to be almost like his still life photographs - very precise but at the same time very clinical. Below are a few examples of his landscape work. From the top the images are Dunes Oceano, White Dunes, Grass against Sea and Point Lobos. My evaluation of Weston may well be influenced by his choice of subject. His landscapes are not grand and imposing natural vistas. Rather they are extracts selected by Weston from the broader scene.  

My next port of call in reviewing the work of Group f/64 is to spend some time on Ansel Adams. This may cause me to look again at this post.


Landscape Photographer of the Year 2010

I have decided to submit a few images to this competition. The process of deciding on which images to put forward was a very useful one. The outcome is that I have now set up my portfolio on a Clicpic website  keith greenough photography .

To be honest I am not very hopeful of being selected the standard is very high. When I look at my best shots they seem competent enough but they lack the wow factor of emotional content......long way to go yet to develop my personal signature!!!

Here are the images I sent off in postcard format:

Keith Greenough LPOY 2010 Submission
I have collected all of the books from the Landscape Photographer of the Year for the last three years. Here are a few of my favourite photographs:


Projects 12 to 15

The projects related to light are a challenging group.

Project 12 relates to the relative dynamic range of black and white film versus colour slide film. As I shoot exclusively digital, I will not be completing this work. However, I did undertake a detailed analysis of the dynamic range of my Canon 5d camera during my Progressing with Digital course. As such I feel I have a good appreciation of the issues involved.

Project 13 is essentially a repeat of a project I undertook in the Art of Photography course. It involves taking a series of identical images of a landscape at different times of day. Again as I have already completed this work, I am not intending to re-do this, unless a unique opportunity arises to set up my tripod against an interesting landscape - more of this later in the blog perhaps.

Project 14 I have yet to tackle. This involves returning to the same location 5 times during a day and recomposing the shot to make the most of the changing light conditions. I am looking for a suitable landscape and time to finish this work and will report back once the project is completed.

Finally, there is Project 15 which is a long run project to shoot the same landscape during each season. I have decided to come up with several options to maximise my opportunities to capture a solid image. Here are a couple of 'Summer' shots I have added to my files for future revisiting.

Windsor Castle from south of the River

Victoria Drive, Burnham Beeches Buckinghamshire UK

This project is very challenging and very instructive. It is teaching me lessons on how to anticipate an image. As I shall have to repeat the image I have had to think very carefully about framing and composition, including lens selection, rule of thirds, light conditions etc.. I have yet to find a 'killer' shot which I feel is strong enough - perhaps I am setting my standards too high. The images above are real possibles though and the final selection will depend on the quality of the other seasonal shots.

Article on Composition - Geoff Roe

I enjoyed reading an article on composition in Royal Photographic Society Journal by Geoff Roe. Given my recent feedback on the last assignment it seemed very timely. Roe has written a book on composition which so far I have not been able to track down.

some of his principle recommendations are

  1. Simple uncluttered designs, free from distractions are generally more successful
  2. Our emotional response to visual input is strongly influenced by association - red means blood, heat etc, black darkness, death etc. Similarly, our response to shape curvature and proportion are often associated with human references - rolling landscapes mean curvaceous bodies, sharp rocks with teeth etc
  3. A viewers eye falls most comfortably on a doughnut excluding the tension of the centre and corners and within this zone there is a pull towards the corners. This natural tendency gives rise to one of the strongest rules of composition the golden section and its derivatives such as the rule of thirds
  4. Placing the subject in the centre creates in your face tension and is often used for bulls eye impact
  5. Edges can also be unsettling, but do provide a connection to the world outside the frame. An open composition where there are elements which are cut off by the frame and as such show the viewer that there is activity outside the frame. A closed composition conversely contains everything inside the frame
  6. Corners are interesting. Foreground detail in the bottom corners anchor the picture. Conversely top corners create some instability - hanging the picture by its ears. Upright triangles at the base or top of a picture also create stability
  7. An image should be aware of its frame. Taking a wide angle picture for later composition misses this point and is far from satisfactory. Placing the focal points based on the rules of golden section etc attract the eye and are attractive to the viewer. Conversely placement near the edges and corners can be used to deliberately disturb the viewer
  8. There are alternative ways to create a focal point. Singularity within a pattern is a good example - one black sheep in a flock of white sheep for example
  9. Negative space can also be used but is much rarer. The negative space forces the viewer to concentrate on the occupied space
  10. The brain also likes patterns and rhythms so these should not be ruled out
All in all this was a very succinct and useful article. A hard copy is in my learning log.


28mm Elmarit 50mm Summicron accreditation Alex Soth American West Ansel Adams Art of Snapshot as Assignment Assignment Four Assignment One Assignment Two ball head Beauty Berkshire black and white Brighton Photo Biennial 2010 british museum Buckinghamshire Burnham Beeches Canada Caponigro Central St Martins Charlie Waite city Cliveden cloud Club La Santa collage competition composition course criticism Daisy Gilardini David Alan Harvey davidnoton derby detail Dorset drama dusk exhibition f/64 Famara Fay Godwin Feedback Fernando Gomez figures Filters format framing Framing foreground interest composition Freeman Gabriele Basilico galen rowell Georgia O'Keefe grain Hambleden Harrison Hot Springs hawaii influence ironman Jasper Joel Meyerowitz John Davies Kingston Lacey Lake District Landscape landscape format Languedoc Lanzarote LEARNING LOG-April2010 LEARNING LOG-April2011 LEARNING LOG-August2010 LEARNING LOG-August2011 LEARNING LOG-December2010 LEARNING LOG-Feb2010 LEARNING LOG-February-2011 LEARNING LOG-January-2011 LEARNING LOG-July2010 LEARNING LOG-June2010 LEARNING LOG-June2011 LEARNING LOG-March-2011 LEARNING LOG-March2010 LEARNING LOG-March2011 LEARNING LOG-May2010 LEARNING LOG-May2011 LEARNING LOG-November2010 LEARNING LOG-October 2010 LEARNING LOG-September2010 leica Lely's Venus lenses light Light Science and Magic london LPOY2010 Malhotra man-made Marc Garanger Martin Parr Mirrors and Windows Mississippi Molly Landreth MOMA moon National Media Museum National Trust near and far Nick Gleis OCA one acre opening Overton Hill panorama perspective Phil Malpas photographer polariser Portfolio portrait format portraits post-modern projects Quotation realism Rinko Kawauchi Robert Adams royalphotographicsociety Running seasons Silhouette sky snow soft colour soft light Stephen Gill street street 35mm Summicron Studland style Sunrise Szarkowski team telephoto Terri Weifenbach test Timanfaya trees triathlon tripod TriUK Tutor two UK Urban Development USA water Watlington Hill weareoca West Kennett Western Art Weston wide angle Windsor Workshop Yosemite

About Me

I have been taking photographs since I was young boy some 45 years ago, but only seriously since 2005 when I enrolled to study at the Open College of the Arts. I am working towards a BA in Photography. I am a Licentiate of the Royal Photographic Society. This log record details of my projects and assignments during my studies. It also records ideas, work by other artists/photographers, notes on books/websites/exhibitions, influences, discoveries, thoughts, research findings and observations as I work through my courses. You can contact me at keith.greenough@btinternet.com or simply leave a comment on one of my posts.

Landscape Photography Bibliography

  • Andrea G Stillman (2007), Ansel Adams 400 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Andy Grundberg (1999), Crisis of the Real, Aperture Foundation New York
  • Ansel Adams (2007), Examples The Making of 40 Photographs, Little Brown New York USA
  • Ben Maddow(1989), Edward Weston, His Life, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Charlie Waite (1989), Scottish Islands, Constable London
  • Charlie Waite (1992), The Making of Landscape Photographs, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (1999), Seeing Landscapes, Collins and Brown London
  • Charlie Waite (2002), In My Minds Eye, Photographers Institute Press East Sussex UK
  • Charlie Waite (2005), Landscape, Collins and Brown London
  • Clive Minnitt and Phil Malpas(2009), Finding the Picture, Envisage Books London
  • David Noton (2008), PHOTOGRAPY ESSENTIALS: WAITING FOR THE LIGHT, David & Charles PLC, London
  • Fay Godwin(1985), Land, William Heinemann London
  • Fay Godwin(1990), Our Forbidden Land, Jonathan Cape London
  • Fay Godwin(1998), Glassworks & Secret Lives, Stella Press East Sussex UK
  • Fay Godwin(2001), Landmarks, Dewi Lewis Publishing Stockport UK
  • Galen Rowell (1995), Mountain Light, Sierra Club Books San Francisco USA
  • Galen Rowell (2001), Inner Game of Outdoor Photography, Norton & co New York USA
  • Galen Rowell (2002),Galen Rowell's Vision: The Art of Adventure Photography, University of California Press USA
  • Harry Callaghan (1993), Ansell Adams in Color, Little Brown New York USA
  • Hunter, Biver & Fuqua(2007), Light Science & Magic, Elsevier Oxford UK
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • James Bentley & Charlie Waite (1987), Languedoc, George Philip London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2006), Working the Light, Argentum London
  • Joe Cornish, Charlie Waite, David Ward, Eddie Ephraums (2007), Developing Style and Vision, Argentum London
  • Joel Meyerowitz (2002), Cape Light, Little Brown and Company New York USA
  • John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Penguin Modern Classics
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book 2 Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John P Schaefer (2007),The Ansel Adams Guide Book I Basic Techniques of Photography, Little Brown New York USA
  • John Szarkowski (1981), American Landscapes, The Museum of Modern Art New York USA
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 01 (2007), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 02 (2008), AA Publishing
  • Landscape Photographer of the Year Collection 03 (2009), AA Publishing
  • Liz Wells (1996), Photography:A Critical Introduction, Routledge Oxon
  • Liz Wells (2003), The Photography Reader, Routledge Oxon
  • Marc Garanger (1989), Louisiane, Kodak
  • Robert Adams (1996), Beauty in Photography, Aperture Foundation New York USA
  • Robert Adams et al (2009), New Topographics, Steidl Germany
  • Stephen Shaw (2004), Uncommon Places The Complete Works, Thames and Hudson, London
  • Susan Sontag, On Photography, Penguin Books London
  • Terence Pitts (2008), Edward Weston (Icons Series), Taschen
  • TPOTY Awards (2010), TRAVEL PHOTOGRAPHER OF THE YEAR Journey Three, Travel Photographer of the Year Suffolk UK