Discover more from Church & Street
Using a Slow Shutter for Dramatic Portraits
How I Photographed The Balloon Lady
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While in Kolkata, I got to finally meet my friend Shivam, a talented photographer and professional fixer for journalists and documentarians. On my last day in the city, I asked him if we could go somewhere that isn’t often explored by travelling photographers; a place that most people would ignore.
He brought to small series of connecting tunnels just outside the Kolkata railway station, and like a choose-your-own-adventure, gave me the honour of picking which way to go. It was during this walk, I got to snap a very special image.
This photograph was captured on the Leica SL2-s with the Summicron 28mm F2.0. I set the aperture to F5.6, shutter speed to half a second, and let the ISO respond accordingly. In this case, it fell to 100.
Exploring these connecting tunnels was like entering a whole new world. I’ve been to many subway systems around the world but there was a clash of the old and new here that felt fascinating and even dystopian.
I was seeing interesting frames around every corner as people would flood from one train to the next, but this balloon vendor just caught my eye and before I could even make a step, Shivam directed me to try a slower shutter with her.
It’s as if this man was reading my mind!
You see, you have this one subject standing almost absolutely still with this comically large and unnecessary object for sale as a swath of bodies flow past her. It touches on a lot about our society nowadays.
So get this, I know what shot I want, I got my friend here watching, and probably one or two chances to nail the shot. Naturally I’m thinking, “don’t f*ck this up Gajan.”
First, I set the shutter speed to half a second because from experience, it’ll add enough of a blur to people walking briskly while keeping their bodies recognizable. I chose F5.6 to give me enough of a window to keep my subject in focus and pre-focused the lens to roughly how far I’d be from my subject. And then, I just had to wait for the next train.
Once I saw the next pack, I centered myself in front of my subject looking the opposite way and when there was enough people maneuvering around me, I turned around and started firing. The image shared here, this was the second last frame and sh*t, it’s something I’m quite happy with.
Trying to capture images that have meaning, depth, and even story to them is what we aspire to do. This is one of the rare images that delivers all three for me.
Most of the images I capture will never be worth sharing and that reality is what makes this photography journey so unforgiving. But when I land moments like the one above it gives me enough of a reason to keep moving forward.
My hope is that these images and stories can be powerful enough to help move you forward as well.
This was my first trip to Kolkata and I fell in love with the city instantly. The people are incredibly warm and the environment makes for an incredible canvas to explore your photography. If you’d like me to put together a post that dives deeper into practicing street photography in this city, let me know in the comments.
Oh, and next week I’ll be doing my first giveaway for readers, so be sure to watch out for that. Anyway, that’s enough for this week. See ya next time!