Railway tracks, leading lines and chaotic lanes

This Saturday afternoon I spent my time guiding the Hanoi Photo Club along the railway tracks in the Vietnamese capital and so avoiding the tourist crowds and tiptoeing instead along the train tracks of the “Reunification express”, a surviving kind of relic of a bygone era, but still working today.

Meeting point in front of the main railway station in Hanoi

Meeting point in front of the main railway station in Hanoi

There are shops and families living along the tracks and there are shops you might not have thought about. A lot of wood crafters are settled here and as well hairdressers, hairdressers, hairdressers.

one of the young ones living and playing here

one of the young ones living and playing here

 

The North–South Railway still is the principal line connecting Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City. The single-track line has a total length of 1,726 km. This trains are referred to as the “Reunification Express”. The railway established during French colonial rule was completed in between 1899 and 1936. The tracks run between the homes on both sides in a narrow kind of tunnel.

 

Nearly 80 years later, the train line is at certain parts a colourful path decorated walls with graffiti and endless rows of houses, little shops, hairdressers and tenants. At some intersections the railroad tracks are expertly marked. There are warning signs for passersby to keep a look out for oncoming trains. But walking along the tracks the train just steps from you or you directly on the tracks you have to look out. This is the case for many occupants along the Reunification track in Hanoi. Amidst this as well busy part of Hanoi, people live and work alongside the railroad tracks. You can found such sites in part of the city's Old Quarter, and on a longer stretch to the south of the Hanoi main station where we started our photo walk. 

a balanced concentrated walk

a balanced concentrated walk


Due to the railway tracks you can get some very well composed images with leading lines and as well another face of the Vietnamese capital. As we had done this not for the first time we started to explore the neighbourhood with it small lanes, markets and different shops.

A glimpse into the lanes full of markets, shops and live

A glimpse into the lanes full of markets, shops and live

There is more to come. So much to see, so much to document.

Time to hit the street

Street photography is a documentation of the the swirling life in visual form. If you like to be an observer like me there will be a number of situations and interesting details about all the people and objects around you. Photographically capturing these moments to document the contemporary life in different cultures on different continents, towns and villages is what I like the most. I am sure that there are many possibilities when you see something happening and regret having left your camera somewhere. So apart from my rule to take a camera wherever I go I would like to provide as well some street photography tips which helped to further my photography. Hopefully, it will help you as well.

 

I have to have a look into this matter

I have to have a look into this matter

May be before starting I should state what Street Photography is - at least in my opinion.

 

In essence, street photography is kind of candid photography done in public places, it can be a street, a restaurant, public buildings, transport and more. It can be seen as a kind of everyday photojournalism and in most cases involves people in populated environments. It shows the everyday live of strangers. As a street photographers I try as much as possible to stay unnoticed when photographing, but on the other hand I’m not going real sneaky. Staying unnoticed helps to capture the scenes which are unfolding in front of me unaffected by the subject and in this way to show a natural story. That is the way to go in my opinion. 

 

Street Photography would be better named Contemporary live photography in my opinion. It is a glimpse through a window of the world how I see it and showing this for all of you to see. 

One way to go - practice

One way to go - practice

 

No matter what camera, black and white, colour…iPhone…Android…Nikon…Cannon…Sony… just name it will be my medium to paint this scenes with light. Now up to some tips which helped me to get better in this kind of photography genre.

 

First of all the old saying “Less is More” is quite a good start:


I usually don’t take too much equipment - walking the streets light is the way to go. You will be less obtrusive and nevertheless best equipped to take your stories and images quickly. I mostly take one camera, one lens in between 16 to 50mm either a prime or sometimes as well a zoom lens. With this wide angle solutions I can and I have to go close. As close as possible. It’s quite easy here in Vietnam as people are not shy of the camera and in places it is very populated so you can just place yourself in an alleyway, let people pass and once in a while if there is an interesting subject or scene happening you can take the image without being noticed at all.

Another tip is to go off the beaten Path – don’t go where all the touristy are – get some behind the scenes and in this way some real life experience. Look around you and see what is happening. If you got the feeling of your surrounding you can get this stolen moments – moments between people before they happen - moments you can already anticipate.

angle some things, just try a different view

angle some things, just try a different view

As we see our work in colours and with this kind of true colours sometimes overwhelming it is not so easy to show your subject as all this clutter might distract from this aim. Going instead toward black and white is often where street photographers are going. I shoot in RAW and so I can afterwards decide what way to got as at times colourful situations arise and can really make your shot – don’t miss these.

 

Location, Location, Location – that’s what it is all about. Places where people interact with one another and times when they are present. Parks, markets, stations and alike are good spots to start. Off the streets – other places like zoos, fairs, shows, sporting events can be worth trying as well and you will not be so obtrusive. Depending where you are shooting look out for the Background behind your subject. That background can actually ‘make’ your shot. Billboards, signs, graffiti and many different other elements can really make a statement.

There are always some rules and you have to know them to efficiently break them as well. In street photography there are not so many rules or at least there is a better acceptance to break them. Don’t take your images all from the same height. Think of your camera as it would be a space ship from another world and is now on earth exploring its wonders. Take different angles, go dutch, go diagonal, go wild. Experiment and find what you like and if you like it it will as well show in your images.

As I said there are some rules or ideas you should know about to break them and there are things you might just embrace without breaking at all. Like the idea that opposites attract – shots which challenge the ‘norm’ can be very powerful. Looking for ‘surprising’ subject matter and composition is always awarding.

 

somehow different

somehow different

 

Practice, practice, practice, it will make you nearly perfect – over time and with all this practice your photography will improve as you know your settings and your camera by heart. You’ll not only get better at the technical level but you will start spotting and focusing other thing in the street. With all these practice you will experience that fortune favours the brave. In order to get your expected luck once in a while be ready to pounce – have your camera out and ready to shoot at all times. 

Push your limits and the limit of your gear

Push your limits and the limit of your gear

Frozen Motion – the street is a place of movement – to capture it and still get sharp shots make sure your shutter speed is fast enough. I go for either at minimum 1/125 or with my Sony to 1/320 sec and with ISO of 400 or more. On the other hand don’t forget to experiment with slower shutter speeds and capture the movement as blurs. Try as well to exaggerate your perspective. That will help to set your subject in context and provide a different view.

There are certainly so many other things to get into but these stated ideas and tips, mostly from fellow photographers and from my own experience helped me to get better and I try to think of them all along to get even better in time.

Smell the street. Shot it

 

Street photography. Hip, urban, in, challenging and much more comes to my mind. Street photography is done everywhere, by nearly everyone, every time.

When you are pacing the streets with your choice of camera equipment each honking horn tells you that shooting in the street is a real challenge. Chewing gum, rotten fruits or vegetables, red spit and other nasty things under your shoes, the smells of the street and the wet market smells of animals, fruits and herbs are mingling and wafting up to hit you in the nose. Behind every corner here in Hanoi you can come up with something different.

Street photography is kind of a harsh name for a beautiful pursuit. If you would be a painter you would come with an empty canvas and start to fill it to your liking. As a street photographer you have to have the ability to tame the chaos in front of you. To frame the cacophony of contemporary life all around you. To capture what it means to be alive, what it means to you, what you want to show your audience.

Street photography is more than a shooting just in the street; it is a way of seeing, a way of experiencing life. Street photography can be part of fashion, sport, documentary and whatever you like it to be. At its very essence street photography is capturing life without interrupting it. If you are out in the right mood doing your style of street photography you are witnessing and capturing moments in history. May be this once-in-a-lifetime moments are just interesting to you, but as scenes are unfolding in front of you you might feel a significance for others as well. It is a pursuit of real life, of photography without asking permission front up.

So this side of street photography can be scary. It can hinder shy photographers to pursuit their dream. 

If you study street photography from old masters to present day photographers you will find some  important elements that make this street photographer successful. 

There are certainly a lot of things to consider but let's just stick to these following:

• Controlling composition in an ever changing environment 

• Controlling your fear 

• Controlling the visual clutter you can capture in pointing your camera and pressing the shutter 

On the street, you just have a backdrop full of things and action, at least most of the time.  The light might change faster than you like. The fancy and colourful environment is your backdrop and you have to figure out how to frame your subjects within this given space. This means paying attention to light, background, buildings, negative space, contrast and on and on in a fraction of a second before the moment is gone.

Street photography can be terrifying. That's why I practice it every day. Pushing yourself outside the boundaries of comfort, using different lenses, different gear helps me a lot. Photograph in the streets of Hanoi and in South East Asia helps a lot as people are more open than in Europe for example. The laws aren't as strict as in Germany for example. Don't let your inner voice say stop. Just do it and go beyond your borders .

Try to get images for a theme helps. At least in my humble opinion. Try to figure out how to show something coherent . In this way all your images won't be just random snapshots or a collection that speaks to no one.

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Periscope time

I'm excited trying the Periscope app, sharing live video broadcasts from my mobile phone in order to show part of street photography in Hanoi. Showing a video and later some images I got with my loved Sony right along. Have to work to steady the video feed but there are exciting possibilities.

Street vendor in Hano

Street vendor in Hano

The usual crowd at a local street coffee shop

The usual crowd at a local street coffee shop

Shop near the beer corner in Hanoi one of the tourist spots not to be miss

Shop near the beer corner in Hanoi one of the tourist spots not to be miss

24hour Human Condition project in Hanoi

Let's go. As I'm at home here and did already a 24 hour project I already know where to go, may be test as well some other areas and hope to get some good interaction. I can come back to my home quite easily and so I decided on going with a light bag including spare batteries - a lot as I'll take one of my Sony ILC cameras and they are battery hungry - a 24mm Miyazaki f4, the Sony 16-35mm and the Speedster f0.95 50mm lens. I'll take as well a mini tripod from Manfrotto my iPhone, an external battery for the iPhone and I'm good to go.

light weight gear

light weight gear

First image

 

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