Street Photography, by Ron Greer

I have been shooting black and white medium format street photography since 1989.  I didn’t even know it was called street photography at the time, I just knew I enjoyed taking photos of people on the streets with their thoughts and expressions captured without them knowing they were being photographed.

I started off using a Plaubel Makina W67, which had a Nikkor 50mm lens.  I found the camera quite loud and the images not that sharp (unlike other Nikkor lens I’ve owned). I also had transport issues after a few years so I switched to my Hasselblad 500cm with a 50mm lens.  To use this camera  for street photography I had to pre-release the shutter; to avoid the mirror and rear trap door noise.  This worked pretty well but sometimes I would forget to pre-release the shutter and one can’t use the view finder once pre-release; so that was a limiter.

I have also used my Leica M4 and MP,  with a 35mm lens, and latter with a Zeiss 28mm ZM lens but I don’t like the small negatives nor the format; I often found myself missing shots because of needing to turn the camera vertical.  So I turned back to square format and for the past ten years I’ve used a Mamiya 6 with a 50mm lens.  This is the best combination I’ve used.  The 50mm Mamiya lens is simply stunning, the shutter is pretty quiet, and the rangefinder body is pretty much perfect for street photography, what with its comfortable shape and I love the retractable lens.

I have shot pretty much every brand of black & white film over the years but have stuck with Fuji Neopan 400 for the past ten years.  I’m now down to just a tad over one hundred rolls of it in the freezer now and will need to think soon of a replacement film.  I have used Agfa Rodinal for development (now Adox) and Photographer’s Formulary TF-5 non-harding fixer for over 20 years. Note: late 2015 I ran out of Fuji Neopan and have now switched over to Ilford HP5+.

My typical street photography style is camera around my neck, f stop set to f8, shutter speed set as required to expose properly, and the lens set to 1.5 meters.  I use a Sekonic L-208 light meter.  I am now prepared to take a photo in an instant.  If I see an image forming ahead that I think will be either closer or further away than my pre-set I will can adjust the focus without looking at the lens.  About 90% of my shots  are taken without looking through the viewfinder.; with the camera simply hanging from my neck; or the camera body slightly angled to get the shot.  I also almost always walk in the shadow side of the street; which often puts my shutter speed down around 1/125th or even lower; which means i need to be careful of camera shake.   I’ve learned to pause, or freeze, just before taking the photo. I’m sure it looks weird but it works!

I have photos on Flickr but for the last year I have been posting all new work on Instagram

Instagram