↑ Street portait on Ilford Delta 100: @nathi_sihlophe with his shiny new Nikon F3.

Life emerges once again

The spring is just around the corner and the urge to hit the streets again is getting increasingly stronger. The days are getting longer and life is starting to crawl back to the streets. 

I haven’t been doing street photography too seriously during the entire winter. I’ve been patiently waiting for the spring and doing other things in the mean time. I’ve been mainly doing darkroom work and writing. I have not been hearing the call of the streets — until now. In this article, I’d like to share some new plans, recent works and the process behind them. This is also the first personal progress entry in a long time. Lately I haven’t been yammering much about my personal projects, so maybe this is a good time to reflect what I’ve been up to.

New plans for the upcoming season

Last year, I did most of my street photography within a really small radius, right in the middle of Helsinki. Needles to say, that was enough of that, and now it’s time to relocate or at least expand my territory a bit.

At the moment I’m madly in love with the old town of Porvoo, which is a beautiful small city near my home. I’ve now started to explore it on few occasions. I’ve shot there randomly many times before, but never really got the full potential of the town, even though it should be just about the perfect breeding ground for the kind of street photos I enjoy.  

This time around, I had my first actual outing in Porvoo couple of weeks ago, only to realise that I’m completely out of shape. Photography is much like exercise in that respect. After a while of not working out, you’ll get rusty and getting back on track feels horrible. I definitely need a warm-up round or two, because during my first outing, I messed everything up; I shot really simple and questionable subjects, that at the time seemed interesting, but after seeing the results, turned out to be nothing more than lame shots of someone walking their dog. I should have known better, but ended up still making obvious mistakes.

I had a great time though and it felt really good to be out there again. Porvoo is the kind of city that has everything you could ask for; beautiful old streets with lot’s of cozy coffee shops and boutiques. More importantly, the city is full of life without being hectic. It is very calm and classical with it’s old buildings and cobbled streets. Even though I failed on my first attempt, I got a feel for the city and it was a really good reminder on how nice street photography can be.

I’m too embarrassed to share the new, failed shots, but I’d like to instead show you couple of older ones that I took in Porvoo last year.

Having the surroundings and conditions like these can be really frustrating if there simply isn’t anything other happening, than people walking around. I’m totally not a huge fan of walker shots, which is the biggest problem with these images in my opinion. If a Hercule Poirot look-a-like would’ve appeared, I would’ve gladly settled for a photo of him just walking around, but unfortunately only people in crap clothes kept passing by. Well, at least they had umbrellas…

The photos above originally sparked the idea of returning to this place. There really is everything you could ask for. Just look how beautiful the streets are. Surely something interesting will happen eventually, if I’ll just keep returning. It kind of bugs me that during that autumn day, I wasn’t able to produce anything more interesting than couple of walkers with their umbrellas.

Getting more into slow films

I’ve been a Tri-x fan for a long time, but lately I’ve been getting increasingly interested in slow films too. I typically enjoy the classical grainy black and white imagery, but after putting couple hundred rolls of Tri-x and HP5 through my camera, I’ve started to yearn for some finer films as well.

I’m especially interested exploring the possibilities with Ilford Delta 100 and Ilford Pan F 50, which are both extremely beautiful films. I’m especially interested in the idea of trying to “simulate” the look of medium format with 35mm. I know that’s a silly thing to say, but the certain kind of vintage medium format look just appeals to me so much. The plan isn’t trying to replicate the look. Otherwise I’d shoot medium format of course. I’m still a small format shooter, but I suppose you could say I’m merely drawing inspiration from medium format and trying to figure out how borrowing ideas from other format would translate into 35mm. There are aspects that I like in both formats. I love the smoothness and quintessential fine grain of medium format and I’m compelled by the idea of having a hint of that on 35mm. That’s why I’m looking into slow films, that’ll provide fine grain and the ability to shoot few stops wider aperture on a sunny day.

The image above has much of the qualities that I’m trying to go after. I shot it on Kodak T-max 100 with a 50mm lens. This is exactly the kind of light and look that I enjoy. A slow film allows you to shoot at rather large apertures, which looks beautiful on a sunny day. Images like these has poetic qualities which is just about what I’m after.

This photo was taken on a large courtyard in Porvoo just few days ago on my latest photowalk. I still wasn’t able to find strong subjects, but at least I didn’t feel so rusty anymore. This shot is definitely my favourite one of the new ones. You can probably tell that it doesn’t look fumbly at all. I didn’t come back with many keepers, but I seemed to get the hang of shooting the streets again.

More new shots

Before I sign off, I’d like to share few other new photos from this season. I definitely don’t have many of them yet, but the night is young.

That is all for now! Thank you very much for reading. 🙂