Street Photography while Delivering an Important Letter

Sometimes, I feel enormous pressure to create. Street photography allows me to grab my camera, walk out the door, and within minutes I’m in a different world.

Late afternoon, writing, occasionally stopping to look out the window at the evening light drawing in; I had a letter to deliver, which meant I’d take the underground three stops, walk 400 metres along the road, then push the large brown envelope through a dark slit in the wall. Walk away, hopes in my heart.

Anything could occur when I walk 400 metres along the road. And I’d kick myself if I missed a good street photography opportunity.

So, I took my camera.

After dropping off the letter, I walked along Charlottenstrasse, In Berlin, Mitte. It’s central to the history of Berlin, so you can imagine, it’s full of grand architecture. Side streets with important-looking doorways, and bored security guards who bob back and forth on the soles of their feet.

It’s now autumn, according to the weather, not the calendar, and the sun is low and I’m walking along a shadowed street that leads to Gendarmenmarkt, where the beautiful structure of the Französischer Dom (French Church) dominates the square.

No sunshine, just one block of shadow all across the square. Flat light is often uninspiring. But I could see how the white paved ground created a gorgeous reflection from the evening glow— already dusk.

A group of photographers were directing a woman wearing a magnificent wedding gown. I thought at first, that she was rehearsing for the big day. Französischer Dom is a church, also a major venue for the wealthy and affluent who can dob-out a few thousand to get married in the coolest church in town.

Later I realised that it was more likely a commercial photoshoot for the grand-looking wedding dress itself. And the bride, an actor got into the role as she displayed what appeared to be the work of a master seamstress.

I didn’t want to impose. The typical fear of an honest-to-God street photographer, who respects other people’s privacy. So I stayed my distance and took a couple of sneaky shots from the hip, then sat down, looked, and took a final shot with a little more thought.

Commercial Wedding Gown Shoot. Gendarmenmarkt, Berlin

My lens, 24 mm — 105 mm Canon, wasn’t the right tool for the job. I was too far away, so the above photo is a beautiful composition, definitely works in colour — although it looks fab in black and white, I had to brutally crop it to get the composition right.

So there’s what looks like noise, but is in fact stretched pixels due to cropping. Shame, but I love it. Content overwhelms technical details.

There is drama in the shot, and the dress is caught in the fairytale evening light. It was a lucky moment. I now wish I’d crept in closer to get a cleaner shot. Another day will come.

The wind rustled through the leaves, and the backs of my hands already chilled, I was ready to get home and tuck into a warm pie that waited in the oven.

In the underground station, Unter den Linden, I had one minute till my train arrived. A man, laden with shopping bags, brolly, and looking a bit fussed as he scrolled through his mobile phone, made for a good long shot across the tracks.

Been Shopping — Saturday evening

Before heading down into the underground, I did something that I normally don’t do. Stop, sit down, and wait to see what happens: I took a leaf out of GE McKerrihan’s book and sat down at a street corner. Jäger Strasse, (Hunter Street).

The last remnants of sun-splashed along the street. Maybe, something would turn up. Just as GE McKerrihan promised.

The shot below, people crossing the street. I like it. It’s a generic street photographer’s shot — but, there’s something about stark lines of evening sunshine, and dark shadow that calms the soul.

I even captured the expression on the man’s face. So, those people are enjoying themselves, and I could take that, and write a story about this group of evening walkers. You’d have to start with one of them having a secret, such as he’s an ex-cold war spy…the others have no idea…

Autumn Evening Berlin

I think the shot below is stronger. It has a film set quality about it. The composition is pretty good, and strong. It creates a flow that leads up to the two men in front. They look confident and have film star looks, and I can’t figure out if they are holding hands or not: a little warmth and friendship puts a lot into a photo.

Group Crossing Charlotten Strasse in Berlin — Photo; Sean P. Durham

Now, it’s bucketing down with rain. I’m inside, warm and cosy. This morning I found some vocabulary that describes the wind, and water — country folk ways of describing their world.

If you know the name of something, like the name of swirling water around a rock, you create interest and curiosity in what you are looking at.

I was looking for a word to describe the wind in the trees, but alas, not found.

I love these:

Jabble — an agitated movement of water, a dashing and splashing in small waves and ripples.

A flam — a small gust of wind.

A gurley — a threatening gust of wind.

Taken from Robert Macfarlane’s book, “Landmarks”.