The Street and The Screen

Recently I was involved in a discussion with a few shooters. We were talking about the differences and merits of the screen and the finders on compact cameras.
Lets establish what photography is to start. The process of  image making is about abstracting from a 3 dimensional reality a new 2 dimensional reality. Regardless of what camera you use or how you process your images, this is what we are all doing as photographers. For me, it makes common sense to use a screen set to B&W. Why? Glad you asked.

I am using the GRD & Sony RX100 for now and probably will be for a long spell. I hold the camera out in front or on some angle, depending on what I’m seeing. At this point, I can see my PRINT floating in reality. I see a B&W image in 2 dimensions in our 3 dimensional reality. It’s exciting. Why do I use B&W on the screen? If in fact, the camera abstracts a new reality, then it stands to reason that seeing the image on the screen in B&W further abstracts the reality. Sounds too heavy or too abstract? What do you think your doing making photos? Your making a new reality in the image. It stands on it’s own. It is it’s own object in 2 dimensions.

The EVF.

These finders essentially do the same thing but they don’t show the image or PRINT in 3 dimensional reality. The reason is that your camera is against your face. So you can’t see the image floating in reality, just an image on a screen. The screen is against your eye. It sees 2 dimensional but does not allow you to see it in time/space of 3 dimensions.

The OVF.

This finder like the one in the X100 is an engineering marvel but it also lacks the power to present your image in reality. Your face is still smashed against the camera. It’s a good way to photograph but the subject may see you as hiding behind the camera.

Working the street with a screen does a few important things. It allows you to look like a tourist or amatuer and blend in with everyone else out there. This simple fact is crucial to getting in closer. You actually go unnoticed most times, not always but most. This method also allows the camera to float in space and get a different angle that a finder can not do. The screen is not a new phenomonom. It dates back to the beginning of photography with view cameras.
The screen is an active way of working. If your doing portraits or snaps of people, it allows eye contact. This can be very important to sensitive subjects in very sensitive times.
You can get eye contact with finders also but your face is hidden behind the camera and this can be a put off to some.
The finders on the other hand, have the advantage of being better in bright light. This is changing with the Sony screens. Set to sunny mode, well it’s the best out there. I have to admit, I’ve never had any luck with any EVF in contrasty light.

So what does all this mean? It means that I prefer the screen for all it’s advantages in composing my frame. I can see all around the frame easily and quickly decide what’s in and what’s out.
The EVF does not offer that important element. The OVF does but in a limited capacity.
I fell in love with the idea of the X100 and it’s finder when it first was mentioned. I knew the camera would give me the feelings of my Leica M cameras. In a way it did but only in a way. After many months and many good images, I realized that I felt more self conscious using the camera.
So I put it on the shelf and started with a few compacts. Luckily I just got my GRD3 back after 2 years. In 1 day of shooting, I confirmed my feelings about the finder on the X100. I never touched the X100 again until I sold it a month later. Great camera just not my cup of tea anymore.
I’m not trying to convince anyone of anything. I’m just stating my thoughts on a subject that’s crucial to photography…..SEEING!

Observations

I posted this image a few days ago on Flickr and a few forums I visit. No one could figure out what the woman was doing. Some thought she was on a cell phone. Some thought she was doing something with makeup or the like.
Actually, her name is Diane. She is a photographer. She came to me for guidance on street work. She was changing the lens on her M8.2. She was worried about dust from the concourse getting on the sensor so I told her to get close to the wooden wall. I made the photo with every intention of it being ambiguous.

Subway Concourse, Phila. Pa

I planned on documenting the occupation on Dilworth Plaza whenever I could get there. I would go and take my GXR and move in and out of the scene and capture the overall feeling of the group. I work almost invisible and try to only observe and record. I really try to do the documentary thing but sometimes, like always…. I see an image that is a part of everything and yet it is just there by itself. It is just breathing by itself. The energy starts to overcome me and I go into my usual semi-trance mode. I hear nothing, see nothing, smell nothing unless it is related to the new image waiting to be born.

And then when all is right, the finger gets to do it’s magic….Snap!

Occupy Philly

Street Photography Chronicles by Don Springer