Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 13, 2011

It happened on Main Street

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 11:50 am
Tags: , , , ,

I consider myself a fairly fearless person. There’s not a lot that rattles me, and I’m always willing to try new things. That process of “trying and liking” is how I ended up entering the world of rock climbing, solo hiking, canyoneering, white-water rafting, etc. However, a co-worker ushered me into a new realm the other day that exposed some pretty deep fears.

First I tried hiding behind a hydrant. Less than successful.

He took me to Moab to practice street photography.

Nathaniel and I rolled into town with our cameras a couple hours before sunset, and committed ourselves to trying to capture images of ordinary people interacting with their world. That’s all. Just cruise the busy artery of Main Street looking for interesting human scenarios to photograph. It’s harder than it sounds.

I don’t want to offend people by snapping surreptitiously, but I also don’t want to create contrived photos by asking permission. Nathaniel taught me several techniques to decrease the wariness of my subjects, but I’m far too transparent and they all knew I was trying to sneak photos of them. It was awkward at times and I’m sure I looked sheepish. I got glared at once or twice, but my “Minnesota nice” middle-aged wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly persona must have been pretty non-threatening. Nobody called the police.

Then I found a tourist across the street, in turquoise shoes. Easy to shoot with zoom.

While I enjoy people-watching better than people-photographing, I may try this again at some “event” that brings plentiful opportunities. To get good at it you really must shoot thousands of images. This day I felt wildly unsuccessful.

Have you ever tried to photograph others without their knowledge?

Shirt says: "This is the shirt I wear when I don't care." I needed more chances with her but she was on to me.


  1. Mom: You need to look serious, like it’s your job to take photos. And a nice camera is essential. Don’t smile, look sheepish, talk to anyone, and please wear all black and pretentious sunglasses.

    Comment by modapolis — October 13, 2011 @ 12:25 pm | Reply

    • I don’t own those wardrobe essentials, I’m afraid. But thanks for the helpful tips!

      Comment by Kathryn — October 14, 2011 @ 4:54 pm | Reply

  2. A real art form. Recently at the Art Center here an exhibit of Normal Rockwell paintings paired with the work of a street photographer who sought “similar themes” as the Rockwell pictures. Hung side by side. Fascinating, and definitely art. Have fun exploring this new possibility.

    Comment by Mom — October 13, 2011 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

    • That sounds like an artful pairing. I’d enjoy seeing that next time I’m around there.

      Comment by Kathryn — October 14, 2011 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  3. Oops. NormaN Rockwell.

    Comment by Mom — October 13, 2011 @ 12:39 pm | Reply

  4. Yes, I do it anytime I have a camera in an urban setting. There are good shots waiting everywhere and while I have the same reluctance to stick a camera in anyone’s face, a long zoom lens is INVALUABLE. Another trick is to just walk down the street with the camera hanging around my neck (at belt level) and my right hand just cradling it (with finger on trigger). I have my camera always set in ‘stealth’ mode so it makes no ‘clicking’ sound when I shoot. This way, I can simply walk down the street surreptitiously shooting everything that comes my way. Shoot a hundred shots – it’s free – and then edit and crop them later to emphasize the subjects you’re after. After a while you can even shoot while looking away or into a shop window. They’ll never know what hit ’em.

    Comment by Leroque — October 13, 2011 @ 1:33 pm | Reply

    • I’m thinking I need to take Ilsa’s suggestions about looking business-like. I wasn’t able to pull it off at all, but I think I might be able to incorporate some of these suggestions if Nathaniel drags me to town to try again.

      Comment by Kathryn — October 14, 2011 @ 4:57 pm | Reply

  5. Yes, I have tried this on vacation. My daughter looked at the photos and said, “oh no. You’re one of those people randomly shootin ‘the natives’ on vacation.” that was pretty deflating, and ended my career. I personally think I got some nice shots…..

    Comment by jackie — October 13, 2011 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

  6. Some consider this to be an invasion of privacy. To “take” one’s image without permission, usually to be used in a negative context of a freak show, violates one’s human dignity, even if the person being photographed appears to have little dignity.

    Comment by Bill — October 15, 2011 @ 11:43 am | Reply

    • Is it safe to say “. . . usually to be used in a negative context . . .”? Sure, many websites specialize in publishing people caught at their worst moment, but I suspect most people who think of themselves as practicing street photography aren’t out looking for that kind of exploitation (I could be wrong). Besides, if it is an invasion of privacy, then the invasion has taken place as soon as one glances at another person; perhaps recording the image is irrelevant?

      Comment by Jim — October 17, 2011 @ 10:22 am | Reply

      • It is a stretch to consider glancing at a person an invasion of privacy. It is the recording of the image, without permission, that is an invasion. This “taking” of something that does not belong to one, i.e. another’s property in the form of his image, sometimes to be used in a negative context, is relevant and questionable. Consideration and respect for other people and cultures, such as native American, is important. Some practices and uses of “street photography,” Jim, smack of voyeurism and OFTEN are only taken to be used in a negative context that demean the subject.

        Comment by Bill — October 19, 2011 @ 9:48 pm

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