The Power of One
Alone In Madrid
High and dry and chilly. That is Madrid.
If it is people watching you are after you can find local crowds in the markets (Mercado de San Miguel, Mercado de la Pas) and tourists in the squares (Plaza de Espana, Plaza Santa Ana, Plaza de Paja). Wander the market or try to find a seat and take in the worldwide observational pastime of people watching. Noting body language, relationship interactions, facial expressions, curious attire, in the moment documentation while you sip on a latte or Madeira. But if you do not want an audience you can easily find singles in the corners and the crevices of this plateau city. After working the historic centre, museums and requisite landmarks, widen your scope into the side streets where subtle human stories reside. Loners refine their craft, hone their schedules, and some hardscrabble existence.
What do the flea market vendors thrive on, camaraderie among other collectors or the solitude of watching passersby? Would they rather you stop and chat or do they hope you pass them by, uninterrupted? Would the antique collector be happier if truly alone with their hard sought goods? Do they cry inside when parting with a long sought collectible?
Madrid may chillier than its Mediterranean sea level coastal cousins, Valencia and Barcelonia, but not in people watching, whether it is crowds or singles. Keep your wraps handy and your eyes open.
For more on the power of one and Spain, see also:
Barcelona, Spain On Wheels – Tips To Capture Motion Blurs
No doubt one of the easiest ways to explore a new locale is by foot. If you have had enough sightseeing, shopping and other event seeking exploration, you might entertain yourself with an observation exercise involving people watching and imagination, perfect ingredients for a holiday. Slowing the frenetic absorption of a new city to let the pace of others take over, offers a carefree way to observe locals going about their daily busyness and bring to light a feeling for the place.
If you are mindful of the first tip and dedicate some time to the effort you will probably be more happy with the results:
Patience Is Key – generally you are slowing down the shutter for the available light so practice using Aperture mode as a good starting ground. While working on your patience, focus on a theme (walkers, strollers, crowds, shopping bags, mini dogs and owners); it will help narrow your frustration. Take many, review for continuity, keep few.
Manual Rules – switch to Manual, slow the shutter down well below the auto reading, for example, 1/60 sec for close bicycles and even slower 1/30 sec for more distant. Manipulate the Aperture.
Go wide – Wider apertures will blur the background and thus help to keep track of the subject.
Minimize Competition – Emphasize one strong subject or multiples who are uniformly doing the same thing to draw attention to their uniformity and cohesion. You might consider leaving room for active subjects to move into.
Composition – Keeping things simple will emphasize the motion. Tilt horizons, shake the camera, predict movement and, as with any new skill, practice, practice, practice.
For more on shutter speed manipulation in Barcelona and elsewhere see:
Moving Through The Barcelona Street
Hang still and make the street focus and move for you. Now that is novel! This is what this street photography technique is all about – zeroing in on the subject and using the extraneous to support, not conflict.
If a location attracts (uniformity) but the story is muddled in fringe events (commercialism and busyness), then experiment to resolve the conflicting elements and get to the “happily ever after ending”, or at least make a point rather than mire aimlessly. In these images individuals are coursing, with intention, through a historic Barcelona street, a typical scattered maze of shopping, winding past advertisements blasting for attention. This rambling maze of commercialism and noise, transitions into a supportive mosaic when a slow or dragged shutter speed is implemented. The ‘in focus’ elements are not random but rather, on a path, with purpose and motion.
An ironic coincidence, although the image is out of focus the story will have a focus.
For more bicycling street photography see:
People In The Spanish Streets
People around the world are doing things in the streets.
In the streets of Spain, they are doing what everyone else is; socializing and dancing and playing and demonstrating and working and talking and just about anything you could imagine. If you take the “look for an unusual perspective” photography tip serious, you can avoid getting a sneer (or worse) from the police overseeing the Labour Day demonstration in Zaragoza at bay by keeping a low profile. Take a moment from the dynamic scene to observe the “gear” packed on Spanish peace protectors. Photographers are known for gear obsession but that affection would be intimidated in this studio. Lots of street images are evolving into a specific “aha!” moment when the disparate parts of the scene is linked. The little boy is dancing and engrossed in the musicians. Most parents know toddlers are unsteady but his focus on the active musicians might just save the day.
Some street scenes are not so dynamic and the story causes a pause or reflection. Take someone so distracted that they are unaware of their surroundings: the old man engrossed in a study of the coins at the weekly Barcelona coin and stamp open air market in Plaça Reial. Does the man come every week? Is his notebook full of coins he has been trying to find all his life? How many coins have those elderly hands fondled over the years? No matter what the scene, there is always a story.