Sunday, January 3, 2010

TLR Street Photography

© Vivian Maier Photography

In a previous blog I talked about street photographer, Vivian Maier's work and how much I got inspired. Well, for the first time since I have had been doing street photography with 35mm rangefinder camera and film SLR, I took my newly repaired Seagull-4A out to the streets today.

I have had this undescribable sensation and it adrenalized me to do more street fotos. I guess I did. Well I did not shoot as many as 10 rolls of medium format film, but just 2 rolls. Previously I got 2 rolls of Ilford FP4+ left and thought I could just use them.

From the experience I got today, I discovered that there are advantages and disadvantages in using a TLR for street photography, which pose challenges. Let me list them out here as you make the jump:


1. Flexibility - It's not as flexible as using a 35mm rangefinder camera or film SLR camera, where you can just lift the camera up to yr face, compose, focus and press the shutter button. With a TLR, you need to take things at a slower pace with much anticipations, where possible.

2. Parallax Error - After taking the light reading in advance, you need to get in close to your subjects, close enough for better composition and framing. Well, at 5 feet (about 1.5 meters) or closer distance, parallax error occurs. Parallax refers to the difference between the image seen through the viewing lens and the image transmitted to the picture-taking lens.

How do I fix the parallax error? Usually I would preset my focus distance at 3 to 5 meteres range, then position myself estimately to the preset distance. Then I would frame my subject with extra room at the top.

3. Handling - Handling a TLR camera can be cumbersome due to its size and framing operation. Through the ground glass, your subject's left side is on your left side and vice versa on the right side. During framing and composition, you tend to pan the camera numerous time from left to right, back and forth. It takes time to get used to such operation.


1. Stealthy performance - In this modern age, digital cameras are so common. Most people do not know about TLR and have never seen a TLR before. So when I'm taking a photographs of my subjects, they did not notice it as TLR has quiet shutter.

2. Shoot from the hip - At waist level, I can bend down my head to look through the TLR ground glass for framing and composing my subjects, without them even noticing that I'm taking their pictures.

3. Bigger negatives size - With a larger negatives and proper light reading, more tonality details are captured, compared to the 35mm negatives.

I will get the negatives developed by next week and hopefully I got good results. Thereafter I will get them scanned and post them here and on my website.