Street shooting in Toronto (Spadina/Chinatown)

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by shawngibson, Mar 31, 2013.

  1. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    Hi guys, I'm picking up an OM-D and either 17/1.8+45/1.8 or, if my bonus is big enough, the 25/1.4+75/1.8. I'll assume the former:)

    I used to walk around all the time with a model and no one ever bothered me, doing what you could call environmental beauty portraiture for want of a better term, but that was a good 15 years ago. I lived in Chinatown, so part of this is nostalgia for me, and part is my love of everything Asian:)

    I'd like to spend the summer shooting in Chinatown, both with and without a model, as a sort of self-imposed assignment.

    To those of you who are familiar with attitudes today, am I safe to do this? By that I mean, the world has changed a lot and I don't want to be running into police officers and violent people who loathe photographers. What is your experience here?

    Thanks all,

  2. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    No one? :(
  3. joma

    joma New to Mu-43

    Mar 23, 2013
    I think that you should be ok for the most part. I have heard about people getting flack in nearby Kensington market though. If you avoid obviously taking shots of rough characters there, you should be OK. I have seen plenty of chinatown street pics posted online, so I'm guessing that no one will bother you. There are plenty of other pghotographers and tourists in that area.
  4. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Your a photographer. This means you should be seeing much more acute then anyone else on the street. So, go out and don't be paranoid but just be aware of your surroundings.

    I work some really seedy, well that's a mild way to say it....badlands here in North Philly.
    Just relax and do your work. Don't cop an attitude or wear one on your shoulder. Just be natural and make photos.

    Here's another thing that most shooters think I'm crazy about. This is from Minor White, he's the origin I got this from.
    It's about intent. If you go out and TAKE photos, then your mind, your appearance etc is in a TAKING mode.

    If you think about MAKING photos, then you release the guilt and fear of taking anything.
    When Curtis photographed the Native American Indians back a few years ago, he showed them the photos. It is about intent. They could see that he was making a photo and that released him from the idea that he was taking anything like their souls.

    This attitude got him to make many historical images and for real, it saved his scalp more then once.

    So, just go make photos and be aware of everything around you. Your a shooter, is there anything better.........
    • Agree Agree x 1
  5. drewbot

    drewbot Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 21, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    Chinatown is quite busy and depending on the location you may not get the co-operation of the people.

    Your best bet is to stake out the place before and see what it's like.

    Summer time is typically a tourist-filled Toronto anyway, and there'll be other people walking about too.
  6. sabesh

    sabesh Mu-43 Veteran

    No issues taking shots in Chinatown. Lots of action, lots of street shooting opportunities.

    Kensington is my favourite place for people shots. Lots of characters. Just be confident and shoot with purpose and smile at the subjects if they catch you :)

    T.O people are great. If you ask them, they will pose for you. Strangers posed for an outdoor lighting setup my buddies and I setup at Yorkville (more in my Flickr). So, I see no issue taking around a model to shoot outdoors (I do all the time with wedding/engagement shoots).

    Street strobing - 03 Dec 2009 by sabesh, on Flickr
  7. rhoydotp

    rhoydotp Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 5, 2012
    Toronto, Ont
  8. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    Thanks for all the responses , everyone. Exactly what I needed. I guess it boils down to 'common sense' and 'intent'.

    I'm not an attitude-driven person (and at 5'8" and 130lbs, I couldn't be lol) so I wouldn't be worried about 'starting something'.

    My intent is honest, and in all my years shooting models, friends, strangers at bars etc., I've never or rather very, very rarely had anyone get upset at me (usually drunks in bars). I make pictures for the same reason I paint, to catch some meaningful moment, however fleeting or contrived.

    I am quite familiar with the area (as it existed in the past), as I used to live there in the 90s, and I actually work about a 20 minute walk from the area, so it would be very convenient for me to have a focus. To be able to go there anytime I wish once the weather warms up, and aim at a full portfolio's worth of work. As I said, much of that would involve walking around with models/friends, and she would be the main focus, which might help ease people as well if they might otherwise be bothered.

    I do have a technical/personal experience question. I'm not 100% committed on my lens set up. I know that historically 35 and 50mm equiv are the most used street lenses, with wides following that, but given my goals of usually having a model with me, and to aid in separating myself a bit from the crowd/be less noticed, I'm seriously toying with the idea of getting the 75/1.8, and complimenting it with the 17/1.8...any comments on that, ie how usable is a 150mm equiv when you are 'street shooting'?

    My 'normal' lens has almost always been an 85-100mm equivalent (I loved the 50 macro on my E-P3 and the 85 in FF was always my normal), so perhaps the 45/1.8 makes most sense, but I am caught up in the idea of distancing myself from the crowd to be less obvious, as well as getting the most compression out of my images. As a painter, I've never liked it when hands, for example, are so much bigger than the head that they overwhelm the image composition.

    OK I think I'm at the point of babbling at this stage, so I'll sign off for now:)

    And thanks again.

  9. Savas K

    Savas K Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 10, 2013
    I have to develop some nerve for street work. I'd probably adopt a Rowan Atkinson characteristic; pointing in the distance, a wave and a smile, then point the camera at the real subject(s). They'll think I am photographing someone I know somewhere behind them.
  10. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    I hear ya. I'm rather shy in public, and for example any bar shooting I used to do, it usually meant going up to the table and asking the people if I could shoot them, and often I'd buy them all a drink...that sort of thing.

    I've never done stealth before, or aimed a camera at a total stranger unless the stranger had OKed it. Could be...interesting lol. But I'm hoping that walking around with a model will alleviate a lot of that.
  11. swampduck

    swampduck Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 29, 2013
    Taneytown , MD
    I love this idea...never even thought of it. I am a bit shy when it comes to street photography...don't like to offend people. So most of my Street Photos are of the Ninja Cell Phone type.
  12. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    Would that really work? Everyone thinks they are going to end up in a police line up or Hollywood tabloid these days.
  13. mirrorless

    mirrorless Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 16, 2013
    If you're worried, just carry a plastic gun as well, and tell them "I could shoot you with this, or this, what's it gonna be?"
    Take a friend with you if it's your first time out.
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