Samsung EX1/TL500, Old TLR's, candid and street photography an essay

Discussion in 'Samsung Forum' started by Wallace Billingham, Nov 7, 2010.

  1. Many years ago when dinosaurs still roamed the earth, film was all we had, and disco was still cool I used to shoot quite a bit with a Minolta Autocord TLR (Twin Lens Reflex Camera). Shooting with a TLR is unlike any other type of photography you can do. Unlike with most cameras that you held up to your eye to compose and focus, a TLR had a waist level finder and a large ground glass that you looked down into. It had two lenses one that collected and focused light back to the film (in this case medium format film) and another lens that collected and focused light back towards a mirror that bounced it up towards a large ground glass viewing screen that was on the top of the camera.

    You hung the camera from your neck and looked down into the ground glass finder. This would give you a different perspective on the world since your camera was often a foot and half (half a meter) or so lower than when you hold one up to your eye. It also allowed you to see with both eyes wide open when you were shooting.

    Many of the great masters of old used TLRs. A great example is Diane Arbus who used a Mamiya TLR in many of her shots. Like this one

    Notice how you are not really looking down on the young boy, but instead you are looking at him, this also has the effect of allowing more perspective and sense of place with/in the environment around him.

    I have not really thought about using a TLR in a very long time, that is until I got my Samsung EX1, attached the neck strap hung it from my neck, flipped out its amazing AMOLED screen, and turned it so I could look down into it. It was exactly like shooting with my old Autocord.

    SAM_0848 by eye of wally, on Flickr

    I had great fun doing that, and slowly I began to realize something. People around me had no idea I was shooting pictures.
    trick or treat by eye of wally, on Flickr

    I think in 2010 (soon to be 2011) people see someone with a camera like a DSLR held up to an eye, or a camera with a rear LCD screen held out in front of someones face like they are a zombie and they know you are taking a picture, one the other hand if one is just hanging from your neck or even better just held in your hand they have no idea. I think this is even more true as so many people today hold cell phones and send texts that they see you looking down at your hands that they think you are using an iPhone or sending a text and think nothing off it.

    Corry, PA 11-7-2010 by eye of wally, on Flickr

    If you really want to be sneaky you can turn the screen so that the camera is looking towards your left side with your body facing straight ahead

    Corry, PA 11-7-2010 by eye of wally, on Flickr

    By shooting this way you are able to grab candid shots without people interacting one way or another with the camera as they do not see a camera, just some guy sending a text

    SAM_0853 by eye of wally, on Flickr

    Corry, PA 11-7-2010 by eye of wally, on Flickr

    Walkin' at the mall by eye of wally, on Flickr
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  2. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Jul 3, 2010
    I've used my Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras this way, but I think the Sony NEX flip up LCD is even more natural for this style of shooting. There's no need to have the screen out to the side, which makes it look like you're making a video. Just a quick flip up, and you've got the view. A few with the NEX5 used this way:



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  3. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Great observations, Wallace, and you've described the way it works so well. I've always loved those ground glass cameras of yore... Now you and Amin are making me wish I had one of these cameras with the flip out screen, however right now I am on a no buying spree.

    Thought provoking, Wallace - darn you.:wink:
  4. javier

    javier SC Veteran

    Oct 5, 2010
    Los Angeles
    Actually, I have found the best way to do this is simply to point and shoot.

    Things that I do and dont do.

    Dont think to much, just shoot. If you think to much, you will likely miss the moment and or chicken out. Dont hide, but be obvious. If you hide, you will let out creepy vibes and peoples senses will be directed at you, be friendly and smile allot. Talk to people. The most common thing I hear when taking folks pictures is, ”Sorry, I got in your shot”. I just smile and chuckle. I have found that when people ask me why did I take their picture, I am honest with my reason. Lying does not work well for me as I am a lousy liar. I always get caught so I avoid it. Do not hide who you are. I carry a personal card with my name, email address and blog address on it and I am quick to offer it up when approached or feel a tense situation arising. You would be amazed at how quickly this calms things down.

    Most people are happy to have their picture taken, They just dont know it. There are times when I will ask a stranger if I can take their picture, though not often. I prefer the true candid. When I shoot street performers, I try and catch them candidly, but I pay them after wards. They are out to make a living and I can appreciate that. When I shoot people that are down on their luck, I will not walk away and leave them empty handed. This of course is me… All in all be friendly and your state of dress is also important. I avoid wearing hats when I can unless I am in a place where most people are wearing them. I never wear sun glasses. Sun glasses tend to let out creepy vibes. I always carry minimal gear. I dont use telephoto lenses as they are simply to big, heavy and bulky and scream ”look at me”. This of course is a personal preference, but each person has to decide what he/she is more comfortable with. Telephoto lenses will also let out the creepy vibes that must be avoided at all times…Never stand around. Always keep moving. Standing around will bring you unwanted attention. I dont hang around a spot longer than a minute. Look for interesting back grounds as well and try and time things. Be mindful of what you want. L@@K for interesting folks and scenes.
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  5. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I've thought I might like a camera with an articulated screen. I also used to shoot with an old twin lens reflex as a kid and liked the perspective (although IIRC, everything was backwards and moved the wrong way when panning - took some getting used to). I thought about both the TL-500 or the Nex3 for a street camera because of their articulating screens. But I got an LX5 instead and have had pretty good luck street shooting with that and with my ep2 as well. And I'm not sure how much an articulated screen would help. I shoot a lot from belly or chest level and with a 35mm field of view, generally frame the shot pretty well just based on instinct at this point. When I have time, I'll bring the camera up so I can see the LCD and set it up a bit, but a lot of shots are on the fly without ever looking at the screen and if I'd been trying to look down into an articulated screen, I'd have missed some of my favorite streets shots where the speed/moment of getting the shot was more important than getting the framing just exactly right. I may still try one someday, but its not feeling like a priority to me. Everything I read indicated the TL-500 has much slower reaction times than the LX5, which is incredibly quick. Not sure about the NEX, but I didn't see a prime lens I liked in the right focal length for that camera and the zoom is way bigger than I want to use for street shooting. So far, I'm pretty thrilled with the LX5 for this type of thing.

    To Javier's point, I don't consider myself sneaky - I'm walking around out in public with a camera in my hand - but I don't advertise that I'm in the process of taking a shot either. Sometimes when I bring the camera up to frame a shot, its very obvious. When I'm shooting from the belly level, I'm sure a lot of times people don't know I'm taking their picture, but its not that I'm trying to be sneaky as much as just getting a very candid moment which awareness of the camera might squelch. Here are three of my favorite street shots from a recent trip to NYC (posted elsewhere here before) - the first two were taken very quickly and from the belly and I'd have probably missed both if I'd been trying to frame it with an articulated screen - the second is cropped slightly because I didn't get the framing quite right since I wasn't looking at the cam. And the other I was able to bring the camera up to face level to frame the shot so I wouldn't have needed it in that case. Not saying it couldn't be a useful tool, just having doubts about how much it would actually help me get the shot...


    <a href="" title="P1000841 by ramboorider1, on Flickr"> View attachment 30598 "1024" height="585" alt="P1000841" /></a>

    <a href="" title="LX5 (1) by ramboorider1, on Flickr"> View attachment 30599 "1024" height="774" alt="LX5 (1)" /></a>

    <a href="" title="LX5 by ramboorider1, on Flickr"> View attachment 30600 "1024" height="585" alt="LX5" /></a>
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  6. I agree you don't want to give off a creepy or sneaky vibe. However you can be sneaky about what you are doing and not give off any type of sneaky vibe, you just need to have confidence in what you are doing. Perhaps sneaky is not the right word, invisibility might be a better choice.

    I have done street photography for a long time, my approach and philosophy is like the old "Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom" shows they used to make when I was a kid. In filming those shows Marlin Perkins would hide in a blind and be invisible so as not to disturb the wildlife. Contrast that with what you see today on cable where they run right up to the animals and disturb them.

    One way is not better or worse than the other they are just different. To me the streets in America are a landscape and the people that are on the street are the wildlife. Once they know I am taking thir picture they act and look different then when they don't

    Allthough taken with a DSLR and not a compact this is one of my all time favorite "street shots".
    Untitled by eye of wally, on Flickr

    This lady had no idea I was taking her picture and I got a real honest portrait that was not posed. What you don't see is that my son was standing right next to her at the local fair, I was able to remain invisible because she thought I was taking his picture and not hers.

    One of the things I really like about my EX1 is that it can help me stay invisible out in the wild :biggrin:
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  7. javier

    javier SC Veteran

    Oct 5, 2010
    Los Angeles
    I agree 100%

    Ray, I agree with this and your technique. We are similar animals in our shooting style. I was not implying my thoughts towards anyone, but sharing my opinion.
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  8. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    No problems guys. I wasn't trying to diss anyone else's camera or shooting style - just noting what works for me. And why, for now at least, the articulating LCD doesn't seem as important a feature as I used to think it was - again, only for me. Nonetheless, once someone comes out with something as compact and quick-reacting as an LX5 that ALSO has an articulating screen, I may try it. Certainly no downside to it! I don't know how fast the NEX 3 or 5 reaction times are, but if they're quick enough and if they ever come out with a prime lens in the 35-40mm equivalent range, I might be persuaded to give one a try. Maybe. Depends on stuff like how easy it is to set up for hyperfocal shooting too. I'm really blown away by all of the ways the LX-5 is a great street shooting camera. Its gonna take a lot to make me switch.

    I still prefer my m43 stuff for some things, but I'm amazed with how good and versatile the LX5 is for an awful lot of what I like to do with a camera. And I'm not an IQ junkie, so except for very low light and nice bokeh, the LX-5 IQ is more than fine for what I like to do. In fact, I was thinking about it relative to the Nikon film camera I used to shoot with, often with a 28-85 Tamron zoom. And I can't think of a single way the LX-5 isn't a better and more useful camera. Except that I can't take off the zoom and stick something like a 50mm f1.4 on it. But that's what my other camera is for! :cool:

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  9. BBW

    BBW Administrator Emeritus

    Jul 7, 2010
    betwixt and between
    Everybody's explanations and descriptions have been very interesting to read - I've learned something from each of you.

    Wallace, I have to say that I love that photograph that you have just posted of the young mother and child. I'm assuming she's the mother. For me, there's a special quality about it that harkens back to Dorothea Lange's photos of the migrant farm workers. I know that one of her most famous was apparently posed, but I don't care because it's iconic. Yours has a similar realness and beauty.

    I'm not sure where I fall in all of this, but I do like your Marlin Perkin's analogy - possibly because we grew up around the same time, or at least watched the same TV shows.:wink:
  10. Penny

    Penny SC Veteran

    Aug 26, 2010
    Outside Liverpool Uk
    And I thought I was the oldest on this forum:wink: yes I remember the Rolliflex and Yashica twin lens cameras never used one though.

    Using the 'belly' technique only a couple of months ago when taking a shot inside the flat of a friend dressed up for his granddaughter's wedding I had no option when using the X1 there was not enough room to get all of him in the pic: using eye level.
    This was ok and the pic was acceptable to him however I notice that the Sigma DP camera's have a LCD of 2.5 which I'm not sure I could use that particular camera in the same way.:confused:

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  11. Digital enthusiast

    Digital enthusiast New to SC

    Mar 16, 2012
    Hi All,

    Very interesting thread, I will pick up my EX1 and try some TLR photography. It definitely changes the way you look at things (and are looked at).

  12. bartjeej

    bartjeej SC Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 12, 2010
    looking forward to seeing your results! I love the swivel screen, it's the most important reason I got the EX1 over the LX5...
  13. Lili

    Lili SC Hall of Famer

    Oct 17, 2010
    Dallas, TX
    Being a night person Street work for me is a bit limited. The few times I have tried it I have used a Phone Camera.
    <a href="" title="Money by colette_noir, on Flickr"> 6336129426_315cf9fe44_b. "1024" height="699" alt="Money"></a>
    the Sidekick 4G has tilting screen but this is optimized to expose the keyboard.
    Folks just think one is texting tho :)