Portraits At Harrowbeer
There are many types of photographer, but it could be said that there are those who photograph people and those that don't. I generally fall into the category that don't. Or more correctly should I say don't at the moment. I have in the past photographed weddings, but I have never turned my lenses to candid photography. It feels. slightly awkward and very intrusive to point my lenses in a complete strangers face and take their picture, not having permission nor any idea of their reaction carries risks in today's highly suspicious world.
I have visited RAF Harrowbeers 1940's event a couple of times, but with an interest in aviation and photography my lens has been trained more on the aircraft than the people. But this year I had different plans.
RAF Harrowbeer holds its 1940s event in August, every year it gets bigger and attracts more Reenactors, and displays of military hardware. This year i wanted to to turn my attention to the people, and being a bit of a coward when it comes to candid and street photography organised events such as this where the Reenactors are used to being photographed solved my dilemma.
Armed with my Canon 7D with a 75-300 zoom I spent several hours at the event. For some one who avoids photographing strangers this gear does nothing to hide the fact you are taking their photograph. What it did allow was for me to keep my distance and pick out situations where the Reenactors were engaged with other visitors and did not notice the camera. And when they did see as expected they ignored it and carried on a few stopped and looked into the lens, sometimes creating a momentary powerful connection, but mostly destroying the image by acting out of character. I soon realised that they did not mind having their photographs taken, and soon my confidence grew. I stopped thinking about not being caught with the camera to my eye and started concentrating on the essentials focusing on the eyes, looking for non distracting backgrounds.
With most of my photographs I have the end image in mind when I take the picture. And it was the same with these. This makes processing easier as many of the issues are taken care of in camera, with portraits I wanted plain unobtrusive backgrounds, I wanted to exclude the trappings of the modern world we live in and take the images back to 1940. I wasn't my intention to recreate 1940's film, but take the viewer away from any modern distractions, and by using a warm tone create (all be it a cliché) an old world feel. I try to stay way from presets and the effect on these images was created by me. I manipulated tone, added grain, vignetted all the images, and made minor tweaks to exposure and contrast as I would with any other image.
In summary this was a great experience and certainly one that I will be trying again. So if you think street photography and candid shots of strangers is a step too far from your comfort zone, get along to an event like this and see what you can do.