Streets of Philadelphia … A Visual Diary … Page 22 … Street … Auto ISO … On Seeing


So I be explaining to Linda about the ZEN of Photography but really the Zen of Street. This does not apply to everyone and I am just explaining how I do things and how right it is. Photography is about light. This means that LIGHT is the main thing shooters need to be able to respond to and more importantly, understand. The way we feel and interpret light is what makes each of us different with the same tools and same things.

Back in the last Century I used mostly Leica M cameras and didn’t use a Light Meter too often. I just looked and felt the light and then set my exposure. I had many light meters but I prided myself on feeling my exposure. Some of my friends would test me when we were out shooting and ask me what the exposure was. I would quickly call back my interpretation of the exposure. 90% of the time i was within 1/2 stop.

This ability is ever so important now in the digital world. It’s very easy to get consumed by the ease and convenience of digi-cams. Even the lowest priced offers things that high end film cameras didn’t back then. ย The point is that feeling the light and making the exposure the way you experience it is a birth right to all shooters. The Auto-ISO feature supports this in a way that is more then anyone could think back in the day.


I was asked by some friends here to explain more about M Mode and I will with the next post. But for now, back to Linda and her quest. It seems her brothers filled her head with as much shit as anyone could and she was almost consumed by it all. She insisted she wanted to make photos the way she wanted to and not by the guidelines her brothers instilled in her.

So I realized the her creativity and more were encapsulated in a shell that I would have to find a way to crack open so she could emerge into her own being.


It seems that we all at one time or another suffer the same symptoms as Linda. Just meandering thru the world in a way that we feel lost or disconnected from the well-being of ourselves. We lose our individuality, our self worth and even out independent personality. We become a number and are forced to accept that as it is placed upon us. For photographers this is especially life threatening. We have the ability to record what is in front of us and that should keep us awake. The luxury of vision is share with other photographers and we see their work and that adds to the comfort and discomfort of our world.

In time we come up with a starting point for the definition of ourselves and seek to find it thru our work. It keeps us humble, sometimes and rattles our cage when we get to cocky and think what we do is all important. We continue on a life long journey of finding the self and we record and make photos along the way.

For me this process is one I hold Holy because in the end, I want my photos to survive me and to give a glimpse of what the world looked like thru my mind, heart and eye while I was here. ย Will those photos speak truth. No, it will be the truth as I have presented it to be from my reactions to and from my love of life and death. They will just be photos from another fucked up shooter that made his life’s work to entertain others. I think that’s a damn fine way to end it all.

I work as if the end is coming….but not yet my friends, not yet.

31 thoughts on “Streets of Philadelphia … A Visual Diary … Page 22 … Street … Auto ISO … On Seeing”

  1. Next time you see Linda, tell her she is not alone and that I am sending her warm hug ๐Ÿ™‚
    Thanks for this post… well, I should print it out and encrypt it in my head as I feel you a very right about what you say.

    You must be a mind or soul reader since it seems you had estimated Linda so well. ๐Ÿ™‚ Hope she will get out of her cage…


      1. :o)

        This afternoon I already started “checking” M mode with turned auto ISO on. It felt as I was standing on ice blades for the first time – awkward. When I got confused I turned it to P or A to read the exposure values, but I felt as I was cheating on this mission.

        Well, I ended up with happy feel and decision to continue next day… it was fun.

        1. Also – because it is my habit – I kept checking on live histogram and got frustrated when histogram showed blown out highlights. I know you told me you don’t care.

          I set up maximum value of iso to 6400. Sometimes it wasn’t sufficient, started blinking and I had another frustration :).

          1. Get that damn histogram off….get all that shit off the screen. Ya need Shutter Speed and Aperture and the AF box… anything else should be image.

        2. Pavel, it will take time but you will learn to trust yourself and also to trust the camera. Of course if you don’t name the camera, then go paint the bathroom.

  2. More often than not these days I find myself standing back and just taking in the view rather than making the picture. Hoping to get the enthusiasm back but in the meantime I am enjoying following your journey.

    1. Karen, you dear are way too fine of a photographer to worry about. Maybe it’s your time to reflect upon your stance in the world. I mean, sometimes we need to not do something in order for the hunger to come back again. You don’t always have to be recording images to be making them and appreciating them. I know you know that and now you and I know that together.
      I make myself available should you need it.

  3. … Cartier-Bresson referred to light as ‘perfume’. I suppose, by extension, over time you store the multiple experiences of that ‘perfume’ – and both your immediate and past sensory experiences ‘queue you into the zone’, and what an alluring place to be …

    1. Yeah Sean, what a sweet sentiment it is that perfume. I’m in Philly and the sweet scent of perfume is covered over by the exhaust of cars and trucks, joints filling the air, not medicinal either, homeless ppl with no bath or shower for who knows how long, subway entrances with the aroma of fresh and old urine….yeah Sean, how sweet it is. It might not be Bresson’s perfume but it damn sure is the scent of life.
      I do hope you have more flavorful scents where you are….

  4. I will do, I want to, will be tough, but fun I think. You know, I was composing with LCD with composition grid on, with histogram and lately with built in level gauge. Accurately leveling my shots. I got tired of it.

    So you would recommend to use a viewfinder? I do 99,9 % on LCD (last three years). I find my photos very different when I use lcd compared to those taken by viewfinder…

    Name…another tough one, can’t think of any. May it be a nickname, no real first name? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thank you!

    1. Pavel, what camera are you working with? I use a screen most times and prefer it but my Fuji X100s has 2 finders and I use that mostly on that camera. I never use framing guidelines or level gauge. It takes away from the intuitive way of working and keeps it more mechanical. yuch.

      1. I have Olympus OMD-EM10 for about 3 months. I am coming from entry level dslrs (for years….), than pockatable compacts with fast lens and now this. EM10 has nice viewfinder, but I don’t use it because I already got used to using screen on my pockatable compacts I used before.

        One flaw, that I little bit puts me away is that I have a detachable 14-42 kit lens ( Every time I want to take a picture I have to unlock the lens manual, because the camera won’t work…I didn’t realize when buying this lens. Also it is not fast, I was used to 1.8 on my previous compact.

        1. I use 2 Pen EP-5’s and love them. Ever since the EP-1 came out, I was sold. Best cameras I ever used. My fav lens is the 14mm 2.5 = 28mm. Great street lens and extremely under rated by the gear zombies. I also have the 20mm 1.7ll and the 25mm 1.8. The 14-42 is for events and family stuff. All good lenses.
          The screen is the best way to work for a number of reasons but I’ll post about that…..

          1. Thanks for reply. I checked your Flickr and exifs. This 14mm 2.5 sounds good. When I first thought about it I was afraid of possible problems as it is Panasonic and my camera is Olympus. I know, but I have always bad luck in this kind of stuff ๐Ÿ™‚

          2. Pavel, the most Oly cameras have IS in the body. That way any lens you use will have that advantage of IS. The 14mm is underrated and i always found it to be a great lens. Small, fast, sharp…. nice contrast…. what else is there anyway?

          3. Pavel, here in Philadelphia we are getting ready for the POPE to visit. Because of that I am sticking to the mathematics of the known universe. The 17mm is a 17mm and the 14mm is a 14mm. Forget the Money difference and get the lens that suites your vision.
            The 17mm 2.8 is a nice lens. I refer it to the 17mm 1.8 for reasons. The 14mm 2.5 is the street lens. Of course others will work but to get 28mm, nothing comes close to it.

  5. Interesting posts, Linda’s story, hope you keep them coming. On the tech side it’s good to know your way of working. I tend to use my camera in aperture mode, with a minimum shutter speed around 1/250 and auto ISO capping at 1600 with good light. I used my old film cameras in manual (what else) and got pretty accurate, but I’ve found that this aperture setup works well for me.

    1. Jordi, I get your way I really do but why have auto iso in A or S mode? The camera chooses shutter speed in A mode and also sets the ISO. It’s like your giving up the choice of shutter speed. So M M ode lets me choose both and the camera sets ISO.

      makes sense to me…..

        1. The good thing Pavel is that with Auto ISO, you and your camera will work together to interpret the scene together. But that’s what anyone will diecover. You are on the path to self discovery. Just look at the scene and try to feel the exposure. Then set the camera and see what is sets as ISO. After a while not only will you be able to read the light but you will be aware of the light and be able to predict what ISO the camera will choose. It doesn’t matter to most but you will feel more connected to Mother Light…….
          …..enjoy Pavel……..

  6. Well, I suppose my reasoning is I need to set the aperture to control DOF, and I don’t want the ISO to go through the roof. I don’t care that much if shutter speed is 250 or 400, usually.
    Anyway, that’s easy to settle. Your way sounds convincing, so I will try the M mode for a while and see how that works out.

    1. Use the Force Jordi, use the Force…… M Mode will become intuitive to the point that as you walk and the light changes, you will change settings knowing the camera has you covered…
      and then when you get to a point, you will learn how to force the ISO to get a grain structure and/or tonal range you desire……how sweet it is….

  7. Well, you already know how it is, “don’t try, just do it or not”, right? Yesterday I went out to make some photos in the M mode, and while the results were not that good, the feeling is it was more interesting. And (somewhat) higher ISO does not seem to bother me so much. Now I only have to make more photos.

    1. Jordi, Use Auto ISO. If the photos ain’t right, you ain’t seeing them right .Set the camera to a combo of aperture/shutter, (example 1/250 f5.6) auto ISO… now don’t make photos. Just walk around and point the camera at things and watch as the ISO changes.

      1. Thanks for the advice. The A mode with auto ISO in the Coolpix A does very much what I would do, but I’m finding the M mode more engaging.

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