Monthly Archives: May 2016

If you see me walking down the street…


While I don’t normally do street photography – by which, I mean candid photographs of strangers, taken in the street – I have a liking for this kind of abstract people image.

Using a slow shutter speed, I like to use the subject’s walking pace to blur the figure in the image, producing an abstract, surreal and sometimes dream-like effect.

One can produce particularly interesting images by shooting moving subjects in front of wall murals.


In such images, there forms a curious relationship between the human figure walking by on the street and the painted figure behind them on the wall.

The relationship seems to get more interesting when the mural figure has eyes and seems to watch the abstract person walking by.


Even in the absence of a wall mural, such images can produce interesting results, as with the image of the man walking by a bright pink-coloured building. I find myself wondering what is his relationship to this house. Does he live there? Does he know the people who live there? Or is he just a stranger, walking by? Does he realize he is being pursued by a flying bird?


My method for shooting such images is to have my camera on a tripod, use a cable release, put my camera’s shooting mode on Continuous High, select aperture priority with a small aperture, typically f22, and low ISO, such as 100, so as to enable a slow shutter speed. The images featured in this blog post were shot at 1/3rd or 1/5th of a second, which blurs the moving figure but, interestingly, renders one sharp foot, while the rest of the person’s body is just a soft blur.

While shooting, I look away from the subject, pretending to be distracted by something down the street. Locking the cable release means that the camera is shooting while I am not even touching it, which allows me to remain invisible to my subject. Sometimes, the subject’s attention is attracted by the noise of the clicking shutter but that can produce pleasing results, as in the second image, where the girl’s face is turned towards the camera.

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In The Port of Montevideo

D800-Montevideo-5697-2016-04-30Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, is home to one of South America’s great ports.

Indeed, Montevideo Bay, in whose heart the port nestles, is one of the reasons the city itself was founded, as it affords ships natural shelter from the Atlantic and the bay’s depth enables the port to handle the largest container ships and cruise liners.

The density of trade-related industries in the immediate area around the port has contributed to a relatively small residential population, who live cheek by jowl with the noise and grime of a bustling port that operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.


As with many port cities, the port area of Montevideo is badly run down. Tourists are invariably directed toward La Ciudad Vieja – the Old Town – further to the east and warned that the port area is not safe, especially at night.

I received the tourist’s warning and promptly dismissed it.

The photographer in me was drawn to the port area because of the faded grandeur of its buildings, the decayed facades of its once-elegant row houses and the fascinating detail of rusted iron railings that seemed to front every house.

D800-Montevideo-5691-2016-04-30Arriving in the early morning, my first impression was that most of the houses in the port area were uninhabited. Yet, as the morning wore on and the sun warmed the deserted, wind-blown streets, people began to emerge from the dilapidated buildings, stepping out from doors that looked like they hadn’t been opened in a hundred years.

On closer inspection, it seems that many houses were uninhabited on the ground floor but that people choose to live on the upper levels, where they may feel safer, as they are further removed from the noise and danger of the grimy streets.


On two occasions, I ventured into apparently vacant houses only to be met, once over the threshold, by a cabal of barking dogs and an angry resident, shouting at me from far back in the shadows to “Vete!” or “Get out!” 


I realized that these were squatters’ places. In both houses, the tell-tale smell of marijuana hung heavy. Uruguay famously legalized the drug in 2014.

I should have known that my presence would not be welcomed by such residents.

Despite the squalor of the buildings and the evident poverty of the port area, I happened upon several houses which, although in serious disrepair, we clearly being tended by their occupants.

Flowers and plants growing in window boxes, latches polished smooth by the frequent pressing of thumbs, windows shielded by ragged curtains behind broken glass, doorways festooned with brightly coloured streamers, hung from wood so rotted that it seemed the weight of the festive fabric might pull the door itself to the ground.


It seems that, no matter how humble their surroundings, people take pride in where they live and, no matter how constrained their economic circumstances, do their best to make their house their home.

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